Paprika – DVD Review

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‘It is man’s responsibility to control science and technology”–The Chairman
“The dense forest turns into a shopping district. The 24-bit eggplant will be analyzed!”–Victim of the DC-Mini

It is hard not to be decked by this film. The first few minutes blast past with such mind-bending, visual élan that it could almost, in itself, stand as an elliptical and enervating short subject. PAPRIKA, the latest anime film from Satoshi Kon (PERFECT BLUE, TOKYO GODFATHERS), loosely based on the serial-novel by famed Japanese sci-fi writer Yasutaka Tsutsui, is pure visual ambrosia. While the movie is sure to leave you scratching your head even as you careen from one 2-D, 3-D, CGI animated set-piece to the next, there’s no doubt the movie is one benevolent bully dressed to the cinematic nines. Whether anime/fantastic cinema buffs accept it as a psyberpunkish cautionary tale regarding the conflict of unfettered aspirations vs. soulless technology, or as a definitive statement on the endless possibilities of dreams and cinema, will depend on the viewer’s ability to deal with the overpowering “spice” of the end product’s neuron-battering bravura (this is very much a “head movie”).
The breathless prologue, set to composer Susumu Hirasawa’s bouncy, irresistible score, hurls us into the dreams of noirish haunted detective Captain Konakawa (Akio Ohtsuka), the dream imagery shifting breathlessly from a sinister circus (with a nod to BEING JOHN MALKOVICH) to TARZAN serials, to a spy sequence, to a romantic scene from the 1953 ROMAN HOLIDAY, before ending in a surreal, nightmarish chase. Konakawa is, in fact, having his anxiety neuroses treated by a peppy, fearless gamine named Paprika (Megumi Hayshibara), a “dream detective” aided by an (as-yet unapproved) piece of psychotherapy tech, The DC Mini.
The plot proper (which bears some similarities to Wim wenders’ 1991 UNTIL THE END OF THE WORLD, Ridley Scott’s BLADE RUNNER, and the WILD PALMS mini-series) reveals that “Paprika” is the dream-avatar of the alluring but icy Dr. Atsuko Chiba (Hayshibara again), who works at the Foundation for Psychiatric Research. She and the rest of the DC-Mini team, including the grossly obese childlike creator of the device, Dr. Tomika (Toru Furuya), and Chief Shima (Katsunosuke Hori), are appalled to learn that two of the headsets have been stolen: even worse, security codes have not been programmed in. The device, created as a therapeutic aid by which physicians could treat patients through their subconscious dreams, can now be used as a weapon to control the dreams of others from afar (“Implanting dreams into other people’s heads is terrorism!” Tomika indignantly declares). Compounding their search for the offender is the knowledge that a colleague may be responsible for the theft. It’s not long before their co-workers, victimized by the “dream terrorist,” begin to lose their marbles.
As Atsuko/Paprika, Tomika, and Chief Shima, plunge in and out of each other’ s dreams attempting to discover the identity of the terrorist responsible for the dangerous collective dream threatening to subsume humanity , Konakawa discovers that his own dreams (chasing an elusive fugitive he never caught) might have tangential impact on the case. To complicate things further, Chairman
Inui (Toru Emori), who has been resistant to the development of the DC Mini (he is mouthing pithy platitudes like “there is always conceit and negligence behind misconduct”) is eager to pull the plug on the project.
The mind-boggling imagistic feast on display, epitomized by Kon’s surreal dream parade of Shinto statues, flute-playing frogs, appliances, giant geisha dolls, umbrellas and all manner of machines and bric-a-brac is a gorgeous, iconic image: it succeeds, helped by Hirasawa’s aural vortex, in balancing the right combination of sheer awe and terror. On one level, the image stands as a pure expression of the collective unconscious, yet, with its blend of the atavistic and contemporary, is it also a sly criticism of Japan’s fractious identity? A case could be made that it is just that: Kon, in one of his previous features (MILLENIUM ACTRESS) underscored this point by having his characters dive in and out of films that portray various epoch’s in Japan’s history.
The mix of awe and horror is also nicely encapsulated in the sheer mania of the scene where Chief Shima breaks from a serious dialogue on the stolen DC Minis to indulge in a lunatic monologue including lines such as: “Even the five court ladies danced in sync to the frogs’ flutes and drums!” He then caps this nonsensical rhapsody by crashing through the top floor window of the facility (he’s unharmed). Brief as it is, it’s a glorious, manic masterpiece that contrives to be funny, terrifying and exhilarating.
The film also makes the spot-on connection between dreams and movies, which makes sense as Film is the medium that bears the closest comparison to dreams. Captain Konakawa, who serves as the audience identification point, dreams in terms of various film genres, yet, due to his own internal traumas and a past, tragic friendship, can’t no longer enjoys movies (something that Paprika considers less than healthy). When he’s plunged into the disturbing circus venue of his reoccurring dream/nightmare, Paprika, dressed as a clown talks to him in cryptic camera composition terms, telling him he has “crossed the line of action” and “needs to narrow the line of exposure. This is Panfocus.”
This all ironically ties into Tomika’s assertion that those who implant dreams into other people’s heads “are terrorists.” After all, what is Film but the pursuit of planting dreams in other people’s heads? If the supporters/abusers of the DC Mini are “terrorists,” then the whole process of making films is a kind of consensual terrorism arranged between director and audience. The crackling culmination of this point comes as Konakawa, emerging triumphant from his “dream film” runs through the wall of a minor villain’s butterfly-hung “Sanctuary Room” to save Paprika/Chiba: Konakawa’s decision to “Finish His Movie” and in fact, become the hero, is mirrored by Chiba’s decision to reconcile her Chiba/Paprika selves. The seamless juxtaposition of disjointed dream imagery and movie mechanics is one of the movie’s high-points.
In addition to that, the movie makes telling points by addressing the connection between dreams and the Internet when Konakawa visits a cyberspace bar to compare notes with Paprika. Much like the main characters’ dream avatars, the Internet allows the user to create alternate personas and fantasy lives that may or may not mirror their true identity: cyberspace allows the psyche unlimited freedom to reimagine itself. (Consider the twit you run into on YouTube).
Paprika raises this question in her dialogue with Konakawa: “Don’t you think dreams and the Internet are similar? They are places where the respressed conscious vents.” Does the sanctity of the subconscious survive if technology, in the form of the Internet or DC Mini usurps that pristine dream state? That said, the film’s dizzying, sprinting mixture of hand-drawn and 3-D animation and CGI, is a staggering achievement. It’s hard not to physically cheer when Kon rips through a hyperreal action set-piece in which Paprika, trying to escape the Dream Villain’s tentacle barrage, runs into an office, jumps into a painting of The Sphinx and Oedipus, turns into the sphinx, is brought down by the spear of a villain who transforms into Oedipus, drops into the sea, changes into a mermaid, flees only to be swallowed by a anthropomorphic-faced whale, is expelled through the blow-hole as a doll-like figure, only to land into the middle of the dream parade. Beauty and horror zoom past the iris in bright primary colors, and it’s a testament to Kon’s total mastery that the viewer barely has time to think about the holes in the plot.
The movie is rich in the smallest details: check out the terrific credit sequence, with Paprika’s face reflected in a series of mirror shots in various expressions of disgust to a come-on; the fall of rain-drops on an auto’s windshield, making a set-piece of a simple two character dialogue. Is the movie at times too slick, too loose, and too philosophically opaque for its own good? Well, yes. The main villain declares: “The dreams are horrified that the safe refuge is destroyed by technology.” The argument is clear: that the dreamer loses the purity of the dream when science intrudes. Yet, isn’t the villain doing the same thing that he accuses the “terrorists” (Paprika, Tomika, Shima, etc.) of doing? The cure is as bad as the disease, and it’s confusing when, after the bad guy has apparently been dispatched, he resurfaces as a dark colossus bent on devouring Tokyo with his dream-delusion.
It’s hard to really get a fix on Paprika: to what degree does Chiba really control her dream self? There are times it seems like she can or can’t be independent of Chiba. It seems, also, that Kon, as much removed from the content of anime’s disreputable “hentai” genre, can’t resist at least one violation scene with the heroine (in both her guises), when Paprika, pinioned as a butterfly girl, undergoes a form of rape at the hands of a minor villain. The smashing coda to this scene is that the main villain, who is puritanical, takes control of his underling’s flesh to upbraid him for his lack of control (it’s also a nifty reference to the film THE INCREDIBLE TWO-HEADED TRANSPLANT). The capper to this almost reads like a rebuttal to all the salacious actions rife in Adult Anime, and carries a kind of self-reflexive irony.
The movie never really concludes the question of whether invading the dreams of others is morally questionable, but the city-wasting finale is a doozey – replete with giant dolls emitting glass-shattering, sonic shrieks, psychiatrists transformed into towering robos, and the odd and truly sublime image of grinning salarymen swan-diving off building roofs. It all climaxes with the uplifting image of Chiba accepting her Dream Self to battle The Chairman, rising from an egg, becoming a child, transforming into the perfect synthesis of the two halves to end the chaos.
As in his earlier work, PERFECT BLUE, which featured protagonist Mima zapping back and forth between real and “reel” life, Kon is fascinated with the image of Doppelgangers, and the dichotomy of Reality vs. Illusion. Characterization is strong and there is also a fairly understated, but affecting Love Story underneath all the sturm and drang. Kon, one of the most versatile anime talents working (a back-to-back viewing with his 2003 TOKYO GODFATHERS shows just how versatile he is), has crafted a visionary masterpiece that is beautiful, scary, funny, suspenseful, horrific, and like the best dreams, isn’t easily shaken or forgotten. Those hungering for more exposition in their movie might feel punch-drunk on the gorgeous, unlimited mindscape flying by, but everyone else should dive in without reservation.


The Sony Pictures Classic Release (November 27, 2007) a single disc with a good widescreen print and fine Dolby stereo sound. The original Japanese-language soundtrack is set as default with subtitles in English, French and Spanish. Other audio tracks include English 5.1, French 5.1, Spanish, and filmmakers’ commentary from Kon and composer Susumu Hirasawa. The DVD also provides a number of Special Features that should be of particular interest to the viewer without diminishing the enjoyment of the original product.
The first, “Tsuitsui and Kon’s PAPRIKA: Making of-Documentary” is absorbing in delineating the original scribe and Kon’s attitude toward the source novel and the adaptation. Tsutsui, who retired from writing following the novel’s finish, called it “the summation of my career in terms of bothentertainment and psychoanalysis” and the tortuous process of writing it (he based the novel’s dream imagery on his own, and as a result, the writing process was attenuated). Kon, particularly, going for a loose adaptation (“Remaining rigidly true to the novel is pointless, because the novel will always be superior. It is tough to recreate visually”) details the formidable task of scripting the film: Kon began storyboarding before the final third of the script was completed.
“A Conversation About The Dream” features voice actors Megumi Hayashibara (Atsuko Chiba & Paprika), Toru Furuya (Doctor Tomika), and Kon and Tsutsui. The commentary is generally light-hearted with Hayashibara and Furuya discussing the challenges of their individual roles; Furuya especially found it hard to provide the right vocal timbre for the morbidly obese, childlike Tomika. Both actors offer favorite scenes. Among the highlights of the commentary, Hayashibara talks about the challenge of making her character fall in love with Tomika.
“The Dream CG World”: This is an overview by CGI director Michiya Kato on the use of 3-D CGI to achieve the disorienting, perspective-warping sense of dream-state. Perhaps 1/3 to ½ of the movie utilizes some form of CGI, which breaks down “to about 350 scenes.” Among the highlights: the rippling effect in Konakawa’s dream chase; which took 3 months to achieve; the reoccurring Parade Scene, which called for 5-6 angles of falling confetti (requiring 65,000 pieces being animated).
“The Art of Fantasy,” featuring commentary by Art Director, Nobutake Ike, who also worked on TOKYO GODFATHER (visually, a far more subdued film) details the challenges of providing a color contrast between the alternate states of reality and dream through which the characters bounce back and forth.
PAPRIKA (Sony Pictures Classics, 2007). Directed by: Satoshi Kon. Written by: Seishi Minakami and Satoshi Kon, based on the serialized novel by Yasutaka Tsutsui. Voices: Megumi Hayshibara, Toru Emori, Katsunosuke Hori, Toru Furuya.

The Tripper (2006) – Film Review

“A hippie is someone who looks like Tarzan, walks like Jane and smells like Cheetah.” –Ronald Reagan

Okay, I am ashamed to admit it. I’m a David Arquette fan.
There’s something about his grating, twitching, teeth-clenching performances that remain infectious, no matter how off-putting and obnoxious. There’s a gonzo brio behind them that’s hard to resist and the same applies to his directorial debut, THE TRIPPER(read: Trip and Gipper). This is a fairly flabbergasting genre first: The Political-Satire/Slasher Film. The movie is certainly no masterpiece, but it is often wickedly pointed and straight-out funny: it’s hard to entirely dismiss a movie that features a Ronald Reagan masked hippy-slaughtering psycho, who happens to travel with a killer dog named “Nancy” and keeps a human-limb-eating pig named “George W.” in a pen. Continue reading “The Tripper (2006) – Film Review”

Nightmare Man (2006) – Horror Film Review

This low-budget, shot-on-digital horror film is an ambitious attempt to put familiar genre elements to good use. Writer-director Rolfe Kanefsky has a reputation for spoofery, but here he plays the horror relatively straight; there is humor, but it emerges mostly in the playful way he manipulates audience expectations, introducing plot threads that seem to lead in one direction and then twisting them around some other way.
The plot has Ellen (Blythe Metz) haunted by the titular “Nightmare Man,” who torments her dreams. Thinking her mentally ill, Ellen’s husband William drives her to a mental facility, but the car runs out of gas on the way. While William walks to the gas station, Ellen is attacked by the Nightmare Man and flees the car, winding up at a cabin occupied by two young couples on vacation. The occupants lock the doors to keep the Nightmare Man out, but the question remains: Does he even exist, or is he merely a figment of Ellen’s deluded mind?
This is a film that seems to revel in its low-budget nature. Kanefsky is fairly unapologetic about tossing in the de rigeur exploitation elements, including a fairly irrelevant lesbian sub-plot involving the two couples in the cabin. The idea seems to be that the audience did not walk in expecting refined subtlety, so why not just give them what they want? The saving grace is the obvious awareness of the familiar tropes, coupled with a clear effort to use them in clever, surprising ways.
The film mostly succeeds on its own terms, delivering satisfying chills. Ellen’s encounter with the Nightmare Man in the lonely car is particularly memorable; the extended fright sequence is as effective as anything in the SCREAM movies.
Later scenes are a bit less convincing, though still fun. The story uses a familiar “Five Little Indians” formula to good effect, and it is nice to see the characters actively defending themselves instead of running around in the dark like idiots, but the sight of a hot chick (Tiffany Shepis) brandishing a crossbow – as amusing as it is – borders on camp. You are not supposed to question whether she really knows how to use it; you are simply supposed to assume that in post-Ripley, post-Sarah Connor films, this is the kind of thing that female characters do. This post-modern approach does somewhat invite you to sit back and enjoy the on-screen action like a roller-coaster ride; you may still want to scream, but you are less involved with the characters.
Production values and performances are about what you would expect for an above-average movie of this sort – which is to say that everyone tries their best, but things are still a little rough around the edges.  Still, that all becomes part of the film’s charm, clearly identifying it as an alternative to safe, slick Hollywood film-making.


One of the film’s unconvincing but amusing conceits is that anti-psychotic drugs can keep evil supernatural forces at bay. This works as a plot device, but it does demand willing suspension of disbelief from the audience.

NOTE: This review is based on a digital video screening of the film, before it was transferred to 35mm and remixed for Dolby Surround Sound.
NIGHTMARE MAN(2006). Written and directed by Rolfe Kanefsky. Cast: Tiffany Shepis, Blythe Metz, Luciano Szafir, Hanna Putnam, Jack Sway, Richard Moll, Aaron Sherry.

Black Christmas (2006) – Film & DVD Review

[NOTE: Today, the Weinstein Company is releasing a DVD double bill that includes two disappointing remakes: BLACK CHRISTMAS and PULSE. With that in mind, we offer this review of the unrated BLACK CHRISTAMS DVD.] This ill-conceived remake takes the premise of the effective original and turns it into a routine gorefest. The 1974 version of BLACK CHRISTMAS, which predates HALLOWEEN by four years, is the true grandfather of the ’70s slasher craze, with the presence of its unseen serial killer suggested through the use of a subjective camera stalking a group of sorority sisters during the holiday season. Not content simply to redo what worked before, writer-director Glen Morgan throws in bits and pieces of other films, creating a mismatched quilt that ultimately falls to pieces; then he tries to hide the ripped seams beneath a bucket-full of blood. The result is a tedious film that seldom scares, the eruptions of grue serving simply to remind you of how desperate the film is to achieve its horror.
Perhaps the biggest strength of the first BLACK CHRISTMAS was the mystery surrounding its killer, whose identity is never revealed (although his name seems to be Billy, based on the disturbing obscene phone calls he makes throughout the movie). The remake commits the catastrophic mistake of showcasing a back-story for Billy, through an interminable series of flashbacks that bog down the first half of the film without telling us anything we really need to know.

By setting up a story in which Billy was institutionalized for killing family members years ago, then escapes on the anniversary of his crimes to return home, Morgan turns BLACK CHRISTMAS into an inadvertent remake of HALLOWEEN. In effect, what was once original becomes a rehash of its own imitators. Morgan then compounds the problem by adding in bits of PSYCHO IV (the awful relationship between a boy and his mom that turns him into a killer) and even Dario Argento’s DEEP RED (Mom kills Dad at Christmas, which really freaks junior out).

But what really sinks the film is that it recycles the tired clichés of 1930s mystery movies. The new BLACK CHRISTMAS is a manipulative who-done-it wherein clues are kept deliberately vague and characters wear dark and sinister expressions like signs that read “SUSPECT ME!” Proving that no writer’s device is too old to be hauled out of the mothballs, the roads are closed by snow (of course), which prevents the police from arriving, but a new character unexpectedly pops up at a key moment, so that we will think she might be the killer. And just to keep the audience guessing (is she who she claims?), the last name on her driver’s license does not match her sister at the sorority house.
Of course, the sum total effect of this is almost zero, because we know the story is about a killer who recently escaped from his cell, which pretty much eliminates all the characters as suspects. The only question mark arises from the fact that the first murders occur before Billy’s escape, so we know there must be a second murderer. Since all those flashbacks tell us Billy had a sister, you don’t have to be Sherlock Holmes to figure out who the accomplice might be.
With its uninvolving mystery, BLACK CHRISTMAS relies on a series of gruesome deaths to generate whatever feeble horror it can manage. The gore is overdone and quite gratuitous (the killer for some reason enjoys raw eyeballs, though how that figures into the homicidal psychopathology is not clear). With little suspense, a cast of unlikable and mostly interchangeable characters, and a silly storyline (which illogically brings the killers back to life for a few more shocks in the final reel), the new BLACK CHRISTMAS ranks as one of the worst examples of a debased form. Viewers would be well advised to leave this Christmas present unwrapped.


Actress Andrea Martin, who appeared as one of the sorority sisters in the first BLACK CHRISTMAS, shows up in the remake as the house den mother.
Lacy Chabert plays one of the beautiful but not particularly brainy sorotiy sisters.BLACK CHRISTMAS perpetuates the New Age myth that the Christian holiday of Christmas is simply a Roman holiday in disguise, citing mistletoe and Christmas trees as pagan symbols of seasonal rebirth. Even though one of the film’s characters is supposed to be a Christian believer, she does not bother to point out that the Romans were not celebrating the birth of the Messiah, nor that most of the traditional accoutrement’s of Christmas date more from the Victorian era, not from ancient Rome.
In one of the film’s more bizarre stretches of incredible illogic, one character insists that what Santa Claus does (sneaking into your house) is this is no different from what Billy has done. In a roomful of college students, no one is smart enough to point out that there is a considerable difference between leaving a lump of coal in a stocking, on the one hand, and, on the other hand, strangling someone to death and eating her eyeball.


Dimension Films released BLACK CHRISTMAS on DVD in an Unrated Widescreen Edition (ASIN: B000MM0LIM) and an Unrated Full Screen Edition (ASIN: B000MM0LIW). The DVDs divide the film in twelve chapter stops, with English-language Dolby 5.1 surround sound and optional subtitles in English (for the Hearing Impaired) and Spanish. Bonus features include seven deleted, extended, or alternate scenes; three alternate endings; and two featurettes.
The Deleted/Alternate/Extended Scenes:

  1. “Someone in the Attic” is am overlong montage that introduces the sorority house and establishes the presence of the killer.
  2. “Christmas Ringtones” is a minor dialogue exchange.
  3. “Gift Exchange” features Lacy Chabert’s character unwrapping a giant dildo, which flops around to (allegedly) hilarious effect.
  4. “The Girls Discuss Kyle and Eve” is a bit of dialogue that points a finger at two suspects.
  5. “Extended Version – Phone Call From Dana” offers more suspicious finger-pointing at Eve.
  6. “International Version – Melissa Killed in the Hallways” is a longer version of Melissa’s death, featuring the killer chomping down on an eyeball that goes “smoosh!”
  7. “Alternate Version – Lauren’s Death” more closely mimics the murder of Margot Kidder’s character in the original BLACK CHRISTMAS.

The Alternate Endings suggest that a more low-key approach was originally intended; the successive version amp up the final reel violence, trying to end with a bigger bang:

  1. Leigh (Kristen Cloke) delivers a speech about family to Kelli (Katie Cassidy) in the hospital. The inspiration message is undercut by a call from the cell phone of Cassidy’s dead boyfriend, implying that the killer is still active.
  2. As it is in the final film, Leigh’s inspirational speech is cut out. Leigh is called down to identify the body of Agnes, who turns out not to be in the body bag. Meanwhile, Billy dies in the E.R. from burns. Agnes invades Kelli’s hospital room, where Kelli electrocutes her (as in the finished film), before Kelli’s parents arrive to take her home.
  3. A nurse wheels Kelli into the E.R. room to see that Billy is really dead (a plot point weakened by the fact that he seems to be breathing). After Kelli’s parents arrive and take her home (as in Ending #2), Billy’s body goes missing. Ridiculously, the camera pans up to reveal his eye peering out from behind a smoke detector.

“What Have You Done – The Remaking of BLACK CHRISTMAS” is a standard puff piece crafted to promote the 2006 theatrical release. The back-patting and self-congratulatory tone is a bit off-putting (taking the film to a “different level” or “another level” is a repeated talking point). There are interviews with writer-director Glen Morgan, his producer-partner James Wong, the cast, and Bob Clark, who produced and directed the original film. The featurette suffers from an absence of footage from the original, despite much discussion about its similarities to and differences from the remake. This featurette’s highlight has to be Andrea Martin’s brief but hilarious EXORCIST impersonation – an apparent spoof of the raspy voice heard in BLACK CHRISTMAS’s obscene phone calls.
“May All Your Christmases Be Black – A Filmmaker’s Journey” is the more interesting of the two featurettes: it gives some insight into why the film turned out so badly. Glen Morgan laments the box office failure of his first directorial effort, a remake of WILLARD starring Crispen Glover, and offers this as a justification for pandering to the gore crowd (“giving the people what they want”) in the hope of turning BLACK CHRISTMAS a box office hit. Even though he insists that BLACK CHRISTMAS is not a slasher film, he admits to including shock scenes that he himself would prefer not to use. The featurette then takes an unnecessarily extended detour to examine Dean Friss, the film’s male focus-puller who ended up cast as the female serial killer Agnes. The piece wraps up with Morgan informing us that he will be on “Filmmakers Death Row” if BLACK CHRISTMAS flops. The unpleasant implication is that we should buy tickets and/or DVDs to enable Morgan to go on making films, even though he admits that commercial considerations are forcing him to make movies in a way that he himself does not like.

Sorority sisters line up like ducks in a shooting gallery.

BLACK CHRISTMAS (2006). Directed by Glen Morgan. Screenlay by Morgan, based on the screenlay for “Black Christmas” (2974) by Roy Moore. Cast: Katie Cassidy, Michelle Trachtenberg, Kristen Cloke, Crystal Lowe, Lacey Chabert, mary Elizabeth Winstead, Oliver Hudson, Andrea, Martin, Jessica Harmon, Leela Savasta

Snoop Dogg's Hood of Horror (2006) – Film Review

This is a fairly feeble attempt to create an old-fashioned horror anthology, in the manner of TALES FROM THE HOOD, featuring three short stories – set in the hood, naturally – linked together by rapper Snoop Dogg. Unfortunately, the film gets off to an extremely slow start with an animated sequence that sets up the mythology: a gang-banger is turned into an angel-or-demon, one among many who keep an eye out on those who take the wrong path in life. The animation consists mostly of static figures sitting in cars, with blurry backgrounds moving behind them to suggest speed, and the character design bears little if any resemblance to Snoop Dogg. Continue reading “Snoop Dogg's Hood of Horror (2006) – Film Review”

Hatchet (2006)

A tour of the swamp turns to terror in the horror homage HATCHET.

Slasher homage exceeds originals

This may be the bucket of blood that splatter fans were eagerly anticipating (those for whom FRIDAY THE 13TH is a fond memory), but it is also an excellent horror film with solid scripting and strong performances that make it appealing to a wider audience.
The movie is an unapologetic throwback to 1980s slasher films, with numerous tips of the hats to its progenitors. Robert Englund (best known as dream demon Freddy Kruger) has a cameo as an early victim; Tony Todd (best known as Candyman) puts in a brief, comical appearance; makeup man John Carl Buechler (FROM BEYOND) provides the carnage and appears on-screen as the obligatory prophet of doom, a drunken old loon warning the tourists that death awaits them in the swamp. Finally, Kane Hodder (best known as masked killer Jason Voorhees) plays the mad, mutant, and possibly supernatural psycho-killer.
Which is completely appropriate because HATCHET, like FRIDAY THE 13TH, is about some teen-agers stalked by a mad killer in the woods. The story follows a group of friends on vacation who decided to take a night-time boat tour; unfortunately, the boat runs aground, stranding them in the middle of territory presided over – or so legend has it – by the deformed off-spring of a lonely cabin-dweller who was killed by a Halloween prank gone wrong.
Set in the Louisiana bayou, the film has atmosphere to spare, and even the obligatory legend explaining the killer’s existence is presented with panache. The suggestion of supernatural overtones (the killer is supposed to have died in the fire that killed his father), along with the creepiness of the location, creates an ambience wherein the existence of an apparently unstoppable killer seems complete convincing – not just an obligatory genre convention.

HATCHET far exceeds its inspiration models, thanks to convincing execution by writer-director Adam Greenberg, who makes the gore scenes really hurt. Working with a convincing cast of characters – none of whom deserves their fate – he creates a wonderfully aggressive horror show filled with equal parts suspense and shock. Viewers won’t find themselves bored between atrocities, eagerly awaiting the next geyser of gore to break the tedium; even jaded gore hounds may find themselves squirming in dreadful anticipation of what will happen next. The film’s violence is unapologetically unrestrained; in fact, the film is almost too effective, becoming frightening rather than fun as the hapless tourists are picked off one by one in hideously graphic fashion: decapitation by shovel, a power saw to the face, and arms ripped out of their sockets, etc.
If there is any obvious flaw to HATCHET, it lies in perhaps too close an adherence to its role models, which inevitably served up obligatory “surprise” endings that left doors open for sequels. After exceeding expectations with its sense of credible story-telling, it’s a bit disappointing to see HATCHET surrender to mechanical genre conventions. The ending plays like a sop thrown to the hard-core horror hounds who don’t give a damn about character or story so long as there’s shock aplenty on view. The shock certainly works, but it yanks you out of the realm of verisimilitude, where you are genuinely frightened, and tosses you back into the movie-movie world, where you hoot and holler like someone enjoying a ride on a roller-coaster. The thrill’s still there, but it lacks the genuinely disturbing touch of something like THE DESCENT.


Victor Crowley confronts a tourist in the bayou.The film earned a reputation as a crowd-pleasing horror fave on the festival circuit in 2006. At its final festival screening, at Screamfest in Hollywood, October 2006, writer-director Adam Green told the eager audience. “Since we first showed it in March, this print has been all around the world, and I’ve been with it. Right now, I feel about like the print looks.” He pumped up the audience by adding, “Our best response has been in London, because those fuckers are crazy, but since this is the end of the tour and we’re back home, I think you can beat them. Let’s rip the roof off this place!” That was the first – but not the last -time that the audience erupted into applause.
The poster art for the film’s festival tour proudly proclaimed that HATCHET is “old school horror” (circa 1980): “It’s not a sequel. It’s not a remake. And it’s not based on a Japanese one.”  Truer words were never spoken.
After is festival run, HATCHET was picked up for home video distribution by Anchor Bay Entertainment, a company known for their excellent limited edition DVDs devoted to cult horror movies. The company opted to schedule for film for a platform theatrical release in 2007. The MPAA is likely to demand some major cuts in exchange for an R-rating. The film is strong enough to withstand the censors scissors without losing too much of its effectiveness.
SPOILER ALRERT: HATCHET drops a few subtle hints that lay the seeds for future sequels. In the flashback of the Halloween trick-or-treat gone wrong, the camera lingers on the masked face of one of the pranksters, without revealing his identity – which will probably be revealed in any follow-up. Most likely, he will turn out to be the alligator hunter, played by Robert Englund, who is an early victim in the film, making his death not one of random violence but of revenge.
HATCHET (2006). Written & directed by Adam Green. Cast: Joel David Moore, Tamara Feldman, Deon Richmond, Mercedes McNab, Kane Hodder, Parry Shen, Joleigh Fioreavanti, Joel Murray, Richard Riehle, Patrika Darbo, Robert Englund, Joshua Leonard, Tony Todd, John Carl Buechler

Children of Men (2006) – Film & DVD Review

This is an astounding piece of work – easily one of the best films of 2006. Although set in the future, it incorporates images and plot elements that resonate with the contemporary world, touching on themes related to illegal immigration, terrorism, the war in Iraq, etc. The effect is unnerving and powerful, using the future as a mirror to the present in order to deal with dark and troubling truths that most contemporary films avoid. In its portrait of a future England under a fascist government, the film is in some ways slightly similar to the interesting V FOR VENDETTA, which dealt with similar themes, but CHILDREN OF MEN is even more successful in terms of dramatizing its political ideas, avoiding comic book violence in favor of a grittier, more believable hard-boiled tone, with echoes of film noir.
The film is set in 2027, at a time when no human babies have been born for eighteen years. With humanity inevitably dying out, the world has surrendered to despair, and despair has led to chaos around the world. A newscast tells us, somewhat condescendingly, “Only Britain soldiers on.” The price of maintaining this stiff upper lip in the face of adversity seems to be a militaristic government that has declared all immigrants to be illegal and is systematically rounding them up for removal to refugee camps. The story follows Theo (Clive Owen), a burned out cynic in the classic Humphrey Bogart mode (think of CASABLANCA). Since a personal tragedy years ago, he is sleepwalking through life, believing in nothing, caring about nothing. Inevitably, he is dragged out of his stupor – in this case by his ex-wife Julian (Julianne Moore), who is part of a terrorist organization called the “Fishes” that is fighting for equal rights for immigrants to smuggle a pregnant woman out of the country, so that she can join up with the Human Project, an organization trying to find a solution for the infertility problem. Complications arise when Julian’s comrades decide they want the black woman’s child for political purposes – a figurative “banner” under which they will foment a revolution. Theo and the mother must make their own way, avoiding both the terrorists and government forces (working on the assumption that the racist government would not want to acknowledge that the future of the human race depends on a black woman).
In effect, despite the science-fiction setting, this is an escape movie, and it plays out like a tense action-thriller. There are numerous nail-biting suspense sequences, many of them featuring explosive, edge-of-your-seat action, often captured in long, unedited camera takes that create a convincing sense of realism far removed from the typical Hollywood thriller formula. This is not a Schwarzenegger-saves-the-day movie; if one had to make a comparison, it might be closer to THE FRENCH CONNECTION.
The underlying intent, however, is not to simply thrill. Beneath the sound and fury of its aggressive – and stunning – action sequences, charts the rekindling of optimism in the world, as personified by Theo. What’s at stake is nothing less than the survival of the human race, both physically and spiritually; with physical extinction no longer an inevitability, we see the soul of the world stirring again in Theo’s eyes. Unfortunately, the physical survival of individuals is a small thing in comparison to that of the entire human race, and great sacrifices are required to ensure the safety of the mother and her child.
The formulation may sound depressing, especially in the context of the film’s dreary, dystopian future, but in truth CHILDREN OF MEN is amazingly uplifting. The film is actually profound in its simplicity. The theme underlying the story is nothing less than Hope: what happens to us when we lose it, and how far individual people will go – and at what cost to themselves – to regain it? Within the context of a piece of speculative fiction, CHILDREN OF MEN offers answers that are as dramatic and moving – in fact, more so – than you will see in a dozen typical Oscar-bait movies.
The script (by multiple screenwriters, working from a novel by P.D. James) does an excellent job of infusing its message into the story, instead of stating it outright. Owen is excellent in the lead; it’s hard to tell if he’s really a gifted actor or simply someone with great movie star charisma whose good looks also suggest some kind of hidden depths beneath the surface; in either case, he works perfectly in the role of Theo. The rest of the cast is great too, particularly Michael Caine as Theo’s friend, an aging pot-smoking radical who seems to have wandered in from a ’60s film, and Chiwetel Ejiofor, who is properly fanatical as a terrorist while also providing an occasional glimmer of a soul.
Technical credits are superb, with a moving mixture of soundtrack music that includes everything from Deep Purple’s “Hush” to King Crimson’s stunning epic “In the Court of the Crimson King.” Orchestrating all of the elements, director Alfonso Cuaron turns in a film that is big and bold, with a vivid and convincing vision of the future that never overwhelms the human core of the story. This is the sort of film that sets the standard, becoming the yard stick by which subsequent efforts must be judged and – more often than not – found wanting.

The bleak future of CHILDREN OF MEN


Among its many other virtues, CHILDREN OF MEN features a handful of brilliant set pieces (a childbirth, a motorcycle attack on a moving car) that are achieved in long single takes, without editing to hide any mistakes.
By far the most impressive of these is an amazingly long sequence in which the film’s hero (Clive Owen) navigates his way through a battle between insurgents and government forces while he tries to make his way into a building and rescue a woman and her newborn child – the first baby born in the world in eighteen years.
The timing of the sequence is astounding. It compresses into a single shot as much action as is contained in many entire films, and as impressive as the individual stunts and pyrotechnics are, the thing that truly blows you away is the fact that you’re seeing it all happen in real time, unedited.
National Public Radio has an audio interview with director Alfonso Cuaron, in which he explains how the shot was achieved. The sequence was prepped for twelve days, then shot over the course of two days, but only one complete take was captured on film – and that was nearly ruined when the director yelled “Cut!”
Cuaron explained that he choreographed the action to the inch, but once the camera was running he had to depend on his cameraman and his actor to make the scene work – especially Owen, who had to react believably when things (inevitably) went off cue.
After some aborted takes, time was running out on the location. During the final take (the one included in the film) blood was accidentally spit into the lens, prompting Cuaron to call “Cut.” Fortunately, an explosion covered his voice, and the cameraman continued filming; otherwise, the shot would have had to be abandoned. After the shot was complete, Cuaron mentioned the accidental blood spatter to his crew, who told him it was actually a miracle – an unplanned bit of action that actually improved the shot.


In one early scene, Theo (Clive Owen) visits his friend Nigel (Danny Huston), whose hobby appears to be rescuing famous works of art from around the globe (no doubt a tricky business at a time when most of the world has descended into chaos). As Theo and Nigel stand in front of a window in Nigel’s office, we see what is presumably one of those art works outside: a giant inflatable pig tethered to the towers of a factory. The giant balloon’s presence is never acknowledged or explained, but fans of Pink Floyd will recognize it from the album cover art for the rock band’s album Animals.

The inflattable pig from Pink Floyd's ANIMALS album makes a cameo appearance.


In March 2007, Universal Pictures released CHILDREN OF MEN on disc in three forms: a Widescreen DVD Full Screen DVD (ASIN: B000N6TX1I), a Full Screen DVD (ASIN: B000N6TX1S), and a DVD/HD-DVD Combo (ASIN: B000N6TX22 – one side offers High-Def DVD; the other is a standard DVD that plays on ordinary machines).
The Widescreen DVD presents the film in a nice 1.85 letterboxed transfer, with English, Spanish, and French 5.1 Dolby Digital stereo (the dubbing seems high-quality, in terms of sound recording and the matching of lip movements). The running time is divided into 20 easily accessible chapter stops, including one named after the wonderful King Crimson song “In the Court of the Crimson King,” which plays under Theo’s visit to the Arc of the Arts.
DELETED SCENES offers three short snippets; without individual access of chapter titles, the run continuously.

  1. Theo gives cigarette to a street person while some low-tech dental surgery goes on in the background.
  2. Theo’s landlord bugs him about being four months behind on his rent, indicating that he does indeed need the money that Julian’s group offers him to help get transit papers.
  3. Theo and his cousin Nigel walk down a corridor in the Arc of the Art, discussing the self-portraits hanging on the walls. Although the scene was deleted, one line made it into the film, in slightly altered form. Here, Nigel says “That thing in New York was a real blow to us,” indicating some kind of violent holocaust that wiped out most of the arts, prompting Theo to reply, “Not to mention the people.” In the film, the exchange is overlaid as voiceovers during the lunch scene, except that “New York” is changed to “Madrid” to connect more smoothly with the rest of the conversation. Of the three deleted scenes, this is the only one that offers much of interest.

BONUS FEATURES: The remaining bonus features consist of behind-the-scenes featurettes, a short documentary, and analysis of the film.

  • “The Possibility of Hope” is a documentary by CHILDREN OF MEN’s director, Alfonso Cuaron, which illustrates some of the underlying concerns in the film’s subtext. Seldom referencing the feature film directly, the documentary instead intercuts footage with philosophers expressing concern for the future, which is threatened by over-population and global warming, which could create conditions similar to those seen in CHILDREN OF MEN
  • “Children of Men Comments by Slavoj Zizek” offers thoughtful insights by the philosopher, who argues that the film’s environment is its real story; that CHILDREN OF MEN is less about an apathetic hero who re-engages the world than it is about the world itself, with the hero as a prism through which we see that world obliquely. To illustrate his point, there are several shots from the movie that display the director’s technique of panning off Theo to pause and look at the world around him.
  • “Under Attack” examines Cuaron’s penchant for filming the major action sequences in single (apparently) uninterrupted takes. Cuaron explains the effect he wanted was to replicate the feel of someone with a home DV camera running after the characters and capturing everything that happened. Two scenes are examined in detail: the attack on the car, when Julian is killed, and the opening explosion in the coffee shop. Behind-the-scenes footage shows the car scene being achieved with rig mounted atop the car, which allowed director, camera operator, and other crew monitor the scene from above while the camera inside the car was moved by remote control. The featurette makes no mention of the digital post-production work that must have been necessary to put the missing roof back on the car and (most likely) to combine multiple takes into a seemingly continuous shot. Also, the film’s most ambitious extended take action-scene, the length chase through the battle near the end, is conspicuous by its absence, suggesting that there must be plans for a later “special edition” DVD that will include what is missing here.
  • “Theo & Julian” offers Alfonso Cuaron an opportunity to praise Julianne Moore and Clive Owen,” whom he calls “my co-writers” on the film. Much is made of the portrayal of Theo as the atypical movie hero, a clumsy “veteran of hopelessness” who is “like a zombie,” according to Cuaron, while Julian is the catalyst for his reawakening.
  • “Futuristic Design” tells us that Cuaron wanted his film to be the “anti-BLADE RUNNER” – that is, the concept was not to go for a spectacular vision of the future but for something more run-down. Cuaron specifically directed his design crew to avoid “great” ideas in favor of real life references: saying that he “tried not to see the future but to recognize the present.” This featurette mentions the copy of Michaelangelo’s David, seen briefly in the Arc of the Arts, but does not bother to explain the rational behind including Pink Floyd inflatable pig in the same sequence.
  • “Visual FX: Creating the Baby” is a visual illustration of the step-by-step process used to create the birth scene, beginning with two live-action takes that were seamlessly joined together into an apparently continuous shot, which allowed the character of Kee (Claire-Hope Ashitey) to walk into a room, go off-screen for a few seconds, and next be seen in a prosthetic rig that simulated giving birth. With almost no behind-the-scenes footage, this featurette simply shows the footage first as it was originally shot, then with the various layers of digital effects superimposed to replace the inanimate prosthetic baby with a computer-generated one that kicked and cried. The only explanations come in the forms of subtitles pointing out the additions and identifying the processes. Although terms like “sub-surface scatter” and “ambient occlusion” are never defined, the featurette nonetheless does a great job of revealing how this marvelous sequence was achieved. It is also the only point on the DVD where there is any acknowledgement that some “continuous uninterrupted shots” were actually multiple takes spliced together digitally – a process that was probably used in some of the other scenes as well.

Overall, the initial DVD release of CHILDREN OF MEN offers a good presentation of the film and some interesting extras. Especially appreciated is the attempt to offer some analysis and some background for the philosophical foundation on which the film’s vision of the future rests. Nevertheless, it is easy to imagine a more exhaustive DVD package that would offer more in-depth coverage of the film’s making, especially the virtuoso street-fight battle sequence near the conclusion. A film as rich as CHILDREN OF MEN raises many questions: no doubt, leaving many unanswered creates a certain mystique and allows viewers to supply their own answers; nevertheless, it would be nice to pin Cuaron down on a few more details (like the balloon pig).
CHILDREN OF MEN (2006). Directed by Alfonso Cuaron. Screenplay by Cuaron & Timothy J. Sexton and David Arata and Mark Fergus & Hawk Ostby, from the novel by P.D. James. Cast: Clive Owen, Julianne Moore, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Charlie Hunnam, Danny Huston, Claire-Hope Ashitey, Peter Mullan, Pam Ferris, Michael Caine.

Fountain, The (2006) – Film Review

This film raises an interesting question: How far is a viewer willing to follow a talented filmmaker down a rabbit hole, when it becomes clear that said filmmaker has lost his way? Writer-director Darren Aronofsky certainly proved he had talent with PI, and some of that talent is on display here. But it’s ultimately wasted on a muddled scenario whose story seems to have been deliberately obscured by narrative devices apparently intended to wrap the slim idea in some kind of profundity. In fact, Aronofsky seems dedicated to not clarifying the story to viewers – which would be acceptable if we were watching a cleverly constructed puzzle that only required sufficient thought to put the pieces into place. Instead, we’re watching a film that barely contains a story. It’s more of a concept – a conceit – an attempt, laudable but ultimately failed, to create a kind of visual poetry that transcend traditional narrative. It might have worked as a half-hour short, but at feature length the concept is stretched too thin.
Basically, the film consists of three separate threads. In the first, we see a conquistador (Hugh Jackman) seeking the Fountain of Youth for the benefit of his Queen (Rachel Weisz). In the second, we see Jackman again, this time as a doctor seeking a cure for the terminal disease afflicting his wife (Weisz again). In the final thread, a bald Jackman floats through the universe in what may be a time bubble (it sort of resembles a snow globe in space), while flashing back and forth between the previous threads.
How do these threads tie together? Aronofsky isn’t much interested in clarifying, nor does he even seem to care much about offering up tantalizing clues that might arouse your intellectual curiosity. In fact, the trailer for the movie probably does a better job of laying out the basic premise, at least giving you enough of an idea to make it sound intriguing. Did the conquistador find the Fountain? Are he and his Queen now immortal, living in the 21st century as husband and wife? Or are they reincarnations of their selves from a previous time?

Late in the film, the dying wife shows her just-completed novel to her husband, entitled THE FOUNTAIN, and we get the idea that the conquistador storyline is simply a visualization of the book. Eventually, it becomes clear that she has come to terms with her inevitable death, but her husband has not. Presumably, he eventually finds the cure, which makes him immortal, leaving him alive to float through the cosmos with the tree that grew on his wife’s grave, on a rendezvous with destiny in the form of a galaxy about to be born.
In other words, once you wade through the confusing cross-cutting, it’s pretty simple. The doctor can’t accept his wife’s impending death. She writes a novel in the hope of prompting a change of heart. She dies. He finds the cure too late. He uses it on himself. Then he has an eternity of time to contemplate and grieve.

One suspects that the film grew out of the image of Jackman’s character floating through space, and the scenario was concocted to “explain” how he got there, and why. It’s a beautiful image, and the concept of infinite introspection – thanks to immortality spent alone with one’s thoughts – may have had the potential for a high-class art film. Unfortunately, THE FOUNTAIN’s flamboyant three-way structure is more frustrating than enlightening, filling the frame with scenes whose import (if any) is seldom clear, portraying action and events that have little or no meaning to the viewer, because their rational and context is withheld until too late in the running time. By the time you’ve received enough information to put the pieces together, you’re well past caring.

The film's snow globe in space

Even the talented stars can do little to enliven the material. Neither Jackman nor Weisz comes across as an “old soul,” so the suggestions of eternal love spread out over the ages never registers with the intended mythic force. This is a film that wants to take the pain of lost love and expand it to cosmic proportions. Sadly, as you watch Jackman slowly trawling through the infinite reaches of space, you may begin to feel that you, too, are trapped in a bubble for all eternity.
THE FOUNTAIN (November 22, 2006). Directed by Darren Aronofsky. Written by Darren Aronofsky, from a story by Aronofsky & Ari Handel. Cast: Hugh Jackman, Rachel Weisz, Ellen Burstyn, Mark Margolis, Stephen McHattie, Fernando Hernandez, Cliff Curtis, Sean Patrick Thomas, Donna Murphy.

Feast (2006) – Film Review

This is one of the biggest and best-looking horror films of 2006; ironically, it was consigned to brief midnight movie screenings (in R-rated form) before heading off to home video, where it could be seen, unrated, in all its gory glory. The uncut version is a rip-roaring, blood-spattered blast of high-octane entertainment that is thoroughly enjoyable, exuberant fun that could have found a wide audience, despite the graphic and occasionally tasteless material that caused the ratings problems.
FEAST works so well because it is a movie-movie that revels in its own artifice: the film openly reminds viewers that they are watching a movie, going gleefully over the top with its outrageous gore (not to mention disgusting monster sex), while simultaneously undermining genre expectations. Each human character is introduced with a subtitle giving a generic name, an occupation, and a life expectancy (e.g., “Name: Hero. Life Expectancy: Pretty Fucking Good!”) and then, as often as not, blowing the prediction out of the water.
The script by Dunston and Melton follows in the time-honored tradition of NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, taking a disparate group of characters and trapping them in an isolated building (in this case a bar) besieged by ravenous monsters outside. The outrageous action that ensues is matched by director Gulager’s frenetic camera angles and high-speed editing, which turns the viewing experience into a high-grade adrenaline rush that almost never lets up from the opening moments until the final climax.

There is a small downside to the stylistic hysteria: the film becomes a lightening-paced fun house ride in which the gore and violence is rendered as an action-packed spectacle – full of suspense and thrills but devoid of emotional resonance. Consequently, when the film breaks one of the (usually) sacred taboos of the genre, killing off a child early on, the reaction is not one of horror and shock but more one of admiration that the filmmakers had the nerve to do the unthinkable. Most of the other deaths have a similar (lack of) impact, with the intentionally generic characters popped off like targets in a shooting gallery.
The silver lining to this dark cloud is that the film can – and often does – get away with almost anything, serving up decapitations and oral rape with equal gusto while never making us sympathize with the on-screen plight to the point where we might turn away in disgust. It’s obviously all make-believe, jolting the senses without offending the sensibilities, creating a galvanic response that makes FEAST one of the great audience-enthusiasm horror movies. It may be fun to watch on your television alone at night, but the experience really takes on expanded life in a crowd of enthusiastic viewers, hooting and hollering at the film’s verve and nerve. FEAST is too giddy to be truly ghastly; it simply serves up its horror with all the relish of the Grand Guignol tradition, like a full-frontal assault, without apology or restraint.

Clu Gulager and Krista Allen


The outrageous content earned FEAST an NC-17 rating from the MPAA. When released theatrically, the film was cut down for an R-rating. The DVD presents the unrated version, uncut. Among the restored footage is a disgusting moment at the end of a scene in which one of the female characters is raped by a monster – in her mouth. The fragmented editing leaves no doubt about what’s happening but prevents viewers from getting a clear look. Restored in the DVD is a shot whrein she spews white fluid from her mouth. Director John Gulager, responding to outraged viewers about how he could have filmed such a scene, responded, “That’s show business!”


FEAST was the result of a contest at Project Greenlight, a company set up by actors Matt Damon and Ben Affleck. In return for financing, director John Gulager and his crew were filmed during production for a reality television show, which aggravated all the usual on-set tension. Gulager (son of actor Clu Gulager [RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD], who plays the film’s bartender) was ambivalent about the process: grateful that it gave him the money to make the film but unhappy with having dirty laundry aired in public.
“There are conversations that you have to have, because you’re making a film, that should be private,” he said after an October 2006 screening of the unrated version at the Screamfest Film Festival in Hollywood, “but we knew they were going to be on television. And then we would be interviewed about what we had said.”
Gulager also lamented the theatrical distribution of the movie. “It sucks!” he said, adding, “We could never figure it out. We’re getting a lot of airplay now, and it’s great that it’s coming out on DVD, but fuck, man, why couldn’t they do that for the midnight screenings? Nobody knew it was out. Now we have 140 35mm prints available for college screenings across the country.”
FEAST deserved a better shot in theatres than it got. Ironically, Screamfest screened the film immediately after SLITHER, which came out on DVD the same day – a film that got a major theatrical release from Universal Pictures and then fell flat on its face at the box office because its sensibility is entirely of a midnight-movie cult variety. FEAST might not have been a blockbuster, but it had a shot at being a sleeper hit if distributor Dimension Films had gotten the word out.
The silver lining to the story is that the project has opened doors. At the Screamfest screening, writers Marcus Dunstan and Patrick Melton said they were developing a murder-mystery television show and have another feature film planned, with Gulager involved. (In fact, they ended up scripting SAW IV for director Darren Lynn Bousman.) Gulager declined to discuss details, saying only that he has “another movie with Dimension, but I can’t say what it is. It’s a secret.”

FEAST(2006). Directed by John Gulgaer. Written by Marcus Dunstan & Patrick Melton. Cast: Duane Whitaker, Balthazar Getty, Chauntae Dvies, Diane Goldner, Josh Zuckerman, Henry Rollns, Eileen Ryan, Jason Mewes, judah Friedlander, Clu Gulager, Krista Allen, Anthony Criss, Jenny Wade, Tyler Patrick Jones, Eric Dane.

Automaton Transfusion – Horror Film Review

By Steve Biodrowski
This is another low-budget (shot on digital video) entry in a seemingly depleted genre (the apocalyptic zombie film), but it rocks with an incredible energy thanks to hardcore metal music, incredibly over-the-top gore effects, and an awesomely impressive dedication to playing its horror straight, instead of going for the cop-out tongue-in-cheek attitude many low-budget filmmakers favor to hide their shortcomings. Honest to god, this is a movie that makes you feel sorry for the poor bastards caught up in the horror, instead of eagerly cheering for them to become zombie chow. There’s barely a plot, but who needs one? The movie just sets up the situation and then runs on adrenalin. After a couple of isolated zombie attacks to set the mood, a bunch of the kids from the local high school go to a party, but a trio of guys head out to a late-afternoon show at a club in the city. Continue reading “Automaton Transfusion – Horror Film Review”