Who knew that a movie based on an “unfilmable” literary property with a complex story structure — even with an all-star cast — could be this dynamic, this moving, this, yes, fun? CLOUD ATLAS encompasses stories spanning five-hundred years — going all the way from the historical tale of a young traveler (Jim Sturgess) enduring treachery on a sailing vessel to the futuristic story of a clone (Doona Bae) awakening to her own existence and the even-further-future adventure of a member of an endangered elite (Halle Berry) reaching out to a humble farmer (Tom Hanks) to help in the survival of her kind — and the film is as nimble-footed and riveting as any produced by its three directors, Lana and Andy Wachowski and Tom Tykwer.
In this deluxe-sized episode (and, trust us, we could’ve gone on much longer), beabetterbooktalker.com‘s Andrea Lipinski joins Cinefantastique Online’s Steve Biodrowski, Lawrence French, and Dan Persons to look deeply into the film, how it lives up to David Mitchell’s original book, how its daring structure explores the concept of narrative storytelling, and where, if anywhere, this experiment falters. Then, Steve and Dan take a capsule look at the new horror film SILENT HILL: REVELATION 3D, and Dan gives his verdict on the Cronenbergian horror film, GUT. Plus: What’s coming to theaters next week.
Turns out that Hell is a small, American mining town. Which is how you lose Ohio, but also how you build a video-game-based horror franchise that crosses creeping dread and surreal imagery. Continuing the storyline started in the 2006 original, SILENT HILL: REVELATION 3D takes a young woman (Adelaide Clemens) back to her hometown, an abandoned mining town subsumed in evil. Working with 3D for the first time, director Michael J. Bassett loads the film with much what-is-reality? weirdness, including a spider made of mannequin limbs and homicidal clockwork operating room nurses (and how would you like to have seen the casting call for that role?).
I was able to net an exclusive sit-down with Bassett while he attended New York Comic Con. Click the player to hear the conversation.
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.”
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.
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.
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.”
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.
Also coming out on home video this week: A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET, CAPRICA SEASON 1.0, STARGATE UNIVERS: COMPLETE FIRST SEASON, THE SECRET OF KELLS, GRINDHOUSE SPECIAL EDITION BLU-RAY, and DOCTOR WHO: DREAMLAND
Tuesday, October 5 is overflowing with horror, fantasy, and science fiction titles of all shapes and sizes arriving on home video in various formats: DVD, Blu-ray, and iTunes downloads. The best of the new releases is SPLICE, which arrives in two versions, DVD and Blu-ray. When it hit theatres earlier this year, Vincenzo Natali’s sci-fi horror opus was a bit misrepresented by its advertising campaign, which suggested a SPECIES-type monster movie. Instead, audiences got a thoughtful science fiction film with an overlay of dark satire.
Also out this week is A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET, the unnecessary (and unnecessarily dull) remake of writer-director Wes Craven’s 1984 classic. The new version is slickly made but typically soulless. Somewhat less typically, it is also almost entirely devoid of shocks and suspense. Give this one a pass.
This is one of those rare weeks when classic titles are overwhelming new releases, thanks to some deluxe editions that surpass and eclipse previous home video versions. Horror fans disappointed by the ELM STREET remake can take solace in Warner Brothers Home Video release a two-disc Blu-ray of THE EXORCIST (1973), which includes the original theatrical cut and the so-called “Extended Director’s Cut,” plus three new documentaries. The film is also being made available for download via iTunes for the first time. The extended cut is just a new name for the 2000 theatrical re-issue of the film, which at the time was dubbed “The Version You ‘ve Never Seen” – a sobriquet that hardly makes sense ten years later. Even if (like me) you have previously purchased both versions of the film on DVD (including the excellent 25th anniversary edition), you will find much worth viewing on this disc, thanks to previously unreleased behind-the-scenes footage that provides an amazing glimpse at the making of this horror classic.
If your tastes run more toward fairy tale fantasy, you are in luck: Walt Disney Home Video is releasing a 3-disc Diamond Edition of BEAUTY AND THE BEAST, their 1991 Oscar-nominated blockbuster, which has been unavailable in any form since 2003. (This combo pack will be followed seven weeks later by a 2-Disc standard definition DVD on November 23.) The 3-disc set includes one DVD and two Blu-rays. The DVD features an all-new digital restoration, three versions of the film, sing-along mode (with subtitles for the lyrics), and an audio commentary. The first Blu-ray disc includes the DVD bonus features and the three versions of the film (in high-def, of course), plus more extras, including previously unseen alternate opening and a deleted scene. The second Blu-ray disc offers the bonus features from the old Platinum Edition DVD, plus some new Blu-ray extras, including “Beyond Beauty – The Untold Stories,” “Enchanted Musical Challenge Game,” and “Bonjour, Who is This” – a game in which you use your phone to receive secret messages and guess players’ identities before they guess yours. In a move no one could ever have expected, the abysmal TROLL 2 receives a Blu-ray release this week; the format seems altogether too refined by the cheezy little movie, which has gained some cult notoriety this year, thanks to the art house release of BEST WORST MOVIE, the documentary tracing the lives and reunion of some of the TROLL 2 cast members.
MGM Home Video offers the MGM Sci-Fi Movie Collection. Unfortunately, the company’s 1956 classic FORBIDDEN PLANET is nowhere to be seen. Instead, we get one (WAR GAMES) and a bunch of forgettable duds (SOLAR BABIES, ALIEN FROM L.A. with Kathy Ireland, HACKERS with a young Angelina Jolie film, SPACE CAMP, and a WAR GAMES sequel). Apparently, bargain days have arrived this week, with several previous available titles re-released in two-packs: GROUNDHOG DAY and SO I MARRIED AN AXE MURDERER, HANCOCK and GHOST RIDER, THE GRUDGE and SILENT HILL, BRAM STOKER’S DRACULA and WOLF, FANTASTIC FOUR and X-MEN, THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL and I ROBOT, plus several others.
But wait, there’s more! Also on store shelves this week:
CAPRICA: SEASON 1.0 on DVD
SGU: STARGATE UNIVERS – THE COMPLETE FIRST SEASON on DVD and Blu-ray
THE SECRET OF KELLS on DVD and Blu-ray
GRINDHOUSE two-disc collector’s edition on Blu-ray
THE SLUMBER PARTY MASSACRE COLLECTION on DVD
DOCTOR WHO: DREAMLAND on DVD
DELGO on DVD and two-disc Blu-ray and DVD combo
THE EVIL/TWICE DEAD, a two-pack of Roger Corman Cult Classics
FINGERPRINTS on Blu-ray
THE YEAR WITHOUT A SANTA CLAUS, a deluxe edition
SISTERS on Blu-ray (no not the Brian DePalma original but an unnecessary remake)
And the list goes on and on… All are available in the Cinefantastique Online Store. Click the links below to check them out, or go here.