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  • “DRIVER FOR THE DEAD” #1 (Comic Review)

    Originally posted on 2010-09-19 14:56:42 by Michael Koopmans

    If you judge this book by its cover, DRIVER FOR THE DEAD #1, published by Radical Comics, seems like just another surfer on the neverending wave of zombie titles. But those nasty flesh-munchers are just a fraction of the ghouls, ghosts, gremlins, creatures, incantations and crones on display in this balls-to-the-wall action/horror effort.

    The book opens in Louisiana, where we’re introduced to Moses Freeman, a calm and collected elderly gentleman (bearing a suspiciously spot-on resemblance to Morgan Freeman) who we quickly learn is a voodoo priest, about to perform a very complex exorcism on a young boy. Freeman doesn’t survive the ordeal, which provides a segue to the introduction of our hero, Alabaster Graves, a professional hearse driver who specializes in delivering both the dead and the undead to their final resting place via his souped-up hearse, lovingly named “Black Betty.” Graves’ latest job is to deliver Freeman’s corpse to the family crypt; however, the carcass isn’t his only passenger. Chosen for this assignment because numerous creatures of the night are determined to possess the magical remains, Graves must also deal with Freeman’s great-granddaughter, Marissa, who insists on accompanying her relative during his final journey. The most vicious of the monstrosities pursuing his cargo is Fallow, a creature with the ability to absorb another’s supernatural powers.

    This book’s formula is not unlike that of your typical action film: numerous over-the-top, highly energized setpieces with short, plot-progressing dialogue scenes sprinkled throughout. After I did some minor research, I discovered this series’ writer, John Heffernan, was the original writer behind SNAKES ON A PLANE. I wouldn’t be surprised to find that the potential for this comic to become a Hollywood blockbuster script had been in the back of Heffernan’s mind since day one. All the elements are here: the troubled hero, a girl who wants nothing to do with him at first but begins to change her mind as the plot unfolds, a super-bad-ass vehicle and, to top it off, a nice little role for Academy Award winner Freeman! But the breath of fresh air that lifts this one above uninspired mass-market fare is its hardcore horror aspects.

    Argentinean illustrator Leonardo Manco is no stranger to the world of fright comics; there are echoes here of his previous work on HELLSTORM, WEREWOLF BY NIGHT and HELLBLAZER (particularly the latter, as the main character reminds a bit too much of John Constantine). However, his creature-and-carnage pencils don’t leave much to be desired for fear fans: Corroded zombies, stylish vampires, a very Lovecraftian snake creature and a biker gang of demons are complemented by decapitations, impalements, plucked-out eyeballs, and one damn impressive melting face. What else could you ask for? I’m not a huge fan of painted comics, which are becoming more and more popular these days, but this one wasn’t as distracting as usual. Kinsun Loh and Jerry Choo’s colors aren’t any better or worse than others’, so it must be the fast-paced action and dripping horrors that render the images easier on the eyes. It would still be interesting, though, to see how this one would have come off if colored in a more traditional manner.

    If you’re looking for a fun ride, look no further. DRIVER FOR THE DEAD #1 literally puts the pedal to the metal, plows through anyone (or anything) in its way and never looks back. It’s nothing you’re going to remember a few years from now, but it sure is entertaining as hell while it lasts. This is the first of three issues, but at 45 pages, it almost feels like you’re getting two, which explains the hefty $4.99 cover price.

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  • “PIG HUNT”: Travis Aaron Wade’s Boar War

    Originally posted on 2010-09-17 21:41:35 by Max Weinstein and Nick Masercola

    To describe the hunt for a vicious 3,000-pound boar as a hallucinatory exploration of man’s primal nature sounds like a bit more than a stretch, if not insanely ambitious. But director Jim Isaac’s PIG HUNT flaunts an array of twists and turns, resulting in a wildly surreal horror/actioner that delivers exactly that.

    To its benefit, PIG HUNT’s subtext isn’t too preachy—there’s just as much sex, drugs and nasty, violent encounters with both people and pig as there are allusions to the post-9/11 Afghanistan/Iraq invasion and, as one character says, “the depravities of war.” PIG HUNT is now available as part of the eight-film FANGORIA FrightFest, joining DARK HOUSE, ROAD KILL, THE HAUNTING, FRAGILE, HUNGER, THE TOMB and GRIMM LOVE and available exclusively through Blockbuster stores and Blockbuster By Mail, as well as digitally via Blockbuster on Demand.

    PIG HUNT’s ex-military hero, John Hickman, is appropriately played in the film by ex-Marine-turned-thespian Travis Aaron Wade. Exploring those horror/real-world reflections, Fango spoke to Wade about this first leading role, enduring the intensive shoot and the film’s rocky distribution path.

    Following a recommendation from friend and PIG HUNT cinematographer Adam Kane (who previously directed him in the short film THE FIX) to FX-artist-turned-filmmaker Isaac (see interview here), Wade accepted the role instantly after another actor bowed out just before lensing. “THE FIX has been the core of my success thus far,” Wade says. “I can only imagine how tough that decision was, the trust that went into believing I could jump in and play PIG HUNT’s very physical leading role with two days of preparation. When I got the call, I was parked underneath a billboard for HEROES, specifically the episode Adam directed. If that’s not a ‘God-wink,’ I’m not sure what is.”

    Wade’s previous acting assignments included a stint in Steven Spielberg’s WAR OF THE WORLDS, an experience he refers to as both “a dream come to life” and the fulfillment of an unexpected full-circle journey that began when his mother, pregnant with Wade, went into labor while watching JAWS in 1975. Isaac’s offer came along not long after Wade lost out on a key role in the war drama JARHEAD. “When PIG HUNT entered my life, it was a difficult time,” Wade reveals. “To have JARHEAD fall through at the last minute was crushing. I was very close to that story. When PIG HUNT arrived, it picked me up and gave me the fire I had lost. And it was Jim Isaac—the man created Gizmo from GREMLINS! I couldn’t wait to see what he had planned for a 3,000-pound boar!”

    The trying challenge of leading his supporting band in pursuit of PIG HUNT’s swinish adversary was one Wade was eager to meet. “I was the lead in what had become a $6-million film,” he notes. “I was well aware of the responsibilities a lead actor carries; I learned that watching Tom Cruise on WAR OF THE WORLDS. Set the tone, keep it positive and professional at all times, keep the drama and BS for your trailer. We became a very close family on location. There’s so much pressure and excitement, it’s like a drug.”

    Wade also gives affectionate props to PIG HUNT’s dynamic, established crew. “We had [costumer] Aggie Rodgers [of EMPIRE STRIKES BACK] and [production designer] Geoffrey Kirkland [from CHILDREN OF MEN], and our 2nd unit team had worked on the BOURNE films. We had three Oscar-winning crewmembers on our little film. Having the wardrobe designer who outfitted Han Solo putting the same clothes on your back? Kinda makes ya feel like a movie star, regardless of the size of the film.”

    The animalistic qualities Wade brings to Hickman amidst PIG HUNT’s Nor-Cal bayou locales cut through the film’s gritty, grimy exposition, but this raw physicality didn’t come without being fueled by a few real-life scares. “Many scenes were difficult to shoot, for several reasons,” he says. “The sequences in the big wallow—we filmed there for about a week and it was nothing but mud; technically, it was a nightmare. For me, it was a period where I thought I was going to break down. My fiancée and her best friend were living at our home while I was away, and there was a break-in. I got a phone call from the FBI—yes, the FBI—and the man who had broken in was a known serial killer/rapist.”

    As if that didn’t stand as a horror film on its own, Wade adds, “Our friend had left the bathroom window open while she was taking a shower. The man snuck in the window and assaulted her while she was about to go to sleep. We’re very lucky she was able to defend herself; she kicked him where it counted and knocked the knife out of his hand, and he ran out and escaped. During production, I understood that I couldn’t go back home, but it really messed with my head. I couldn’t focus in those scenes for a few days. I was troubled, to say the least.”

    True frights behind him, Wade fell back on his time spent in the military for support and trudged on, summoning an air of frantic energy he regards as both exhaustive and humbling. “After shooting PIG HUNT, all I can say is there should be a category for ‘Best Actor/Actress in an Action Film,’ ” he says. “I have so much respect for guys like Bruce Willis, Harrison Ford, Sylvester Stallone, to be able to look out of breath but not breathe too heavy, to be terrified but stay cool. There’s no way to teach it.”

    Wade extends this praise to his own PIG HUNT leading lady. “Tina Huang is one hell of an action star,” he says. “She truly impressed me on set with her ability to hang with the boys.” From a tested weapons expert, this comes as high praise.

    Having come through its tough production, PIG HUNT—completed in 2008—hit a wall in its fledgling efforts at distribution. “It was heartbreaking,” Wade says. “We had such a tremendous response from the people who had seen this film. Everywhere we premiered it, from Montreal [at Fantasia] to [the Fango-sponsored LA premiere at] the Egyptian Theater, audiences have been ecstatic. Everyone in this film earned their role and believed in what we were doing. It’s something that should be played out to audiences on the big screen and seen throughout the world. I still believe that 10, 15 years ago, it would have. [When we signed on,] nothing was offered or negotiated because of money or ego. It was beautiful, the making of a film for the true passion of filmmaking.”

    With PIG HUNT currently burning up the DVD rental charts, Wade looks toward endeavors both on and off the screen. Now teaching in Vietnam, the actor is eager to engage in such work, which keeps him grounded in between film projects. “It’s such a blessing being able to break away from Hollywood,” Wade says. “I’m not sure who learns more—they or I.”

    Wade has also begun the final shooting phase of the upcoming WRECKAGE, alongside recent BREAKING BAD Emmy winner Aaron Paul and writer David Frigerio. Add to that his promise of an invention “in the candle world that will reshape the entire industry and save lives,” through his company Sin Cera, plus a T-shirt line for the Arm the Animals organization, and it’s apparent this actor’s versatility allows him to burn his own proverbial candle at both ends. “I play a pig hunter in PIG HUNT, but I haven’t picked up a weapon since ’98, when I got out of the Marines,” he reveals. “I’m a huge animal lover.”

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  • “GOAL OF THE DEAD” and more coming from France

    Originally posted on 2010-09-19 14:36:04 by

    Yep, you read that right: GOAL OF THE DEAD, and yes, it’s a zombie soccer flick. It’s one of a number of French genre films coming our way in the wake of INSIDE, FRONTIER(S), MARTYRS and others.

    Variety reports that GOAL is being developed by the Capture the Flag company, which was also behind the undead actioner LA HORDE (pictured, and now available via video-on-demand from IFC Films). Scripted by Nicolas Peufaillit, it’s set in a small town where a major French soccer team is playing a match when an undead plague starts striking the residents. It’s being played as horror/comedy, natch, and will be a two-part feature with a $4.4-million budget.

    Capture the Flag’s second produced film, Olivier Abbou’s TERRITORIES, is an English-language French-Canadian co-production with a political edge, set in a prison camp in a Paris suburb where the American guards torture the inmates. Roc LaFortune, Sean Devine, Nicole Leroux, Cristina Rosato, Michael Mando, Alex Weiner and THE STEPFATHER’s Stephen Shellen star. The outfit is also gearing up to make THE SNAKE WITH A THOUSAND CUTS, from MALEFIQUE and HYBRID director Eric Valette and based on a novel by rising French author DOA.

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  • Terrifyingly Gnarly: Wes Craven Series, Week 4: “SCREAM 2″

    Originally posted on 2010-09-17 20:57:42 by Samuel Zimmerman

    Quite recently, a blog went up on FANGORIA taking a handful of legendary horror directors to task for essentially riding the waves of their legacy and failing to continuously and contemporarily put out excellent work. No doubt, it’s an interesting theory worth debating and investigating. However in my eyes, its author made one fatal mistake (and no, it wasn’t that confrontational opening line—although that was slightly devoid of taste). Nick sought to claim that Wes Craven neither is, nor ever was, great. I’m under the belief that no matter how you feel about many of his films, that’s simply a falsehood. So with three weeks until the filmmaker’s latest, MY SOUL TO TAKE, hits theaters, I’ve decided to look at one of his movies a week (excluding the landmarks like LAST HOUSE, NIGHTMARE and SCREAM) to showcase that even during misfires and his lesser praised works, Craven displays talent, chops and incredible imagination (head here for last week’s). Read on for week four—my look at 1997’s sequel to one of his biggest successes, SCREAM 2.

    Just prior to revisiting SCREAM 2 (something I haven’t done in quite some time, despite my admiration for and frequent watching of the original), I had read an article on Senses of Cinema titled “‘The film we had imagined,’ or: Anna and Jean-Luc Go To the Movies.” The fact that it was fresh in my mind as I sat down to watch Craven’s sequel was something of a happy accident as the very theatrical opening of the film gave me a lot to think about within the framework author Adrian Danks had laid out in discussing cinema’s depiction of moviegoing. If SCREAM was a self-aware way to deconstruct the slasher and what we expect from it, SCREAM 2 often goes after all of film and the ways in which it can affect our lives, most particularly how we relate our own existence to what we see on the big screen.

    In the article, Danks very much focuses on a section of Jean-Luc Godard’s 1962 film, MY LIFE TO LIVE (VIVRE SA VIE: FILM EN DOUZE TABLEAUX) in which star Anna Karina visits a theater to see Carl Dreyer’s 1928 classic, THE PASSION OF JOAN OF ARC (LA PASSION DE JEANNE D’ARC). Danks discusses the first and foremost representation of filmgoing: characters relating physically or thematically to what they see on screen, gaining some catharsis or sense of similarity much in the way we as an audience are often swept up in narratives, relating our lives to those of the protagonists, crying when they cry (as is the case with Karina and Joan of Arc), or understanding their loneliness through our own. Later in the piece, it is also examined how Godard uses this setup to help us understand Karina’s ultimate fate and arc, which will be much the same as Joan’s.

    SCREAM 2 opens with a couple, Phil Stevens (Omar Epps) and Maureen Evans (a funny and fiery Jada Pinkett), entering the premiere screening of STAB, the movie-within-a-movie about the events of SCREAM. While Maureen doesn’t stick around long enough to necessarily have an arc, her plight in the theater is very obviously mirrored by what’s going on in STAB, literally experiencing the bloody violence alongside the movie-version of Casey Becker. What’s more, however, is that she’s very much alone in all of this as she’s overwhelmingly surrounded by a theater full of rowdy peers who, like many slasher audiences, are clearly identifying with Ghostface and relishing the carnage he’s causing onscreen. In one of Craven’s best staged setpieces, Maureen stumbles out of her seat and down the aisles begging for help from an audience too caught up in their own violent catharsis. She ultimately dies on stage directly in front of the screen (if she were any closer she’d pull a LAST ACTION HERO, which she kind of does figuratively) in full view, becoming their own real life death for entertainment. It’s only then, when it’s too late, does the audience realize what’s happened and their own roles in the proceedings. It’s an incredible opening and along with its witty dialogue and amusing turns by the two guest-starring actors, is almost Wes Craven channeling Michael Haneke’s recurring critique of our own love of violence as vaudeville, yet through Craven’s own sensibilities, also making it fun.

    And that’s just the beginning.

    SCREAM 2 picks up two years after the murderous events in Woodsboro and finds Sydney (Neve Campbell) slowly adjusting to life postslaughter at Windsor College alongside best friend/roommate Hallie (Elise Neal), preppy boyfriend Derrick (Jerry O’Connell), returning pal Randy (Jamie Kennedy) and his film theory cohort Mickey (Timothy Olyphant). Pretty much right after the blood starts shedding, Gale (Courteney Cox) and Dewey (David Arquette) also pop up to get the surviving band back together, as does Liev Schreiber, who thankfully gets much more to do here than in SCREAM as the innocent—but still smarmy and oddly unsettling—Cotton Weary.

    This follow-up is a rare breed in that it finds both Craven and writer Kevin Williamson at the top of their game, and is absolutely a worthy successor to the first. Like the original, SCREAM 2 acknowledges itself as a horror film and a continuation, constantly spouting references, rules and common perceptions of what sequels often are. It also goes for broke in the sequel tradition of “everything is bigger” where many of the setpieces are fantastic. In addition, the film has aspirations of going from slasher tale to full-blown tragedy as it likens Sydney to her onscreen dramatic role as Cassandra, the constantly persecuted figure in Greek mythology. SCREAM 2 is often discussing (but not necessarily condemning) the over saturation of cinema and violence in pop culture, whereas the direct players in the film often relate their lives to being like a movie, and even acting in melodramatic and often theatrical behavior, while the characters on the sidelines (like the delightfully ditsy sorority sisters played by Rebecca Gayheart and Portia de Rossi) view their real life surroundings as film-like entertainment, not understanding the seriousness of it all, just running from crime scene to crime scene as if it’s all a big show for them.

    Craven and Williamson were very much a perfect pair. Williamson seems to match the legendary filmmaker’s penchant for humor in the grimmest of situations, and Craven’s talent for staging outstanding and tense scare sequences keeps the writer’s humor tipping too far on that end. Because of such, SCREAM 2 boasts at least three really great chunks. There’s the aforementioned opening in the cinema for one, and then, much later in the last act, two back to back pieces of terror. As Dewey and Gale break into the film school building to review tapes, Ghostface comes after them and eventually chases Gale to a recording studio which witnesses an excellently blocked silent chase and a brutal and emotionally upsetting moment of bloodshed through a soundproof window. Meanwhile, Sydney is being taken somewhere safe by her police escorts when the second stalker manages to attack her, Hallie and the cops in the car. This creates a gruesome death and aftermath for one cop, who winds up with steel pipes through his head (his dying twitches are still unnerving) and a very nerve-racking scene of the girls squeezing their way out of the car over the knocked out body of said assailant.

    The film’s finale is a perfect embodiment of what the writer and director were trying to do with these films, namely having their cake and eating it too. With the duel killers, SCREAM 2 uses one to comment on the genre and societal nature around film and the other to be the slightly over-the-top twist sequels often go for. Mickey is revealed to be one of the new incarnations of Ghostface, rehashing Billy and Stew’s motives of blaming the movies, except this time wanting to be caught and taking it to trial, riding the system the whole way. He and his plan are quickly dispatched, however, because it’s simply ludicrous and the only people who would be affected by film in a violent and murderous way are bat-shit to begin with. The second killer is surprisingly the reporter who’s been kissing Gale’s ass the whole film, Debbie Salt (Laurie Metcalf). Except, she’s not Debbie Salt, but Billy Loomis’ mother (!). It’s no doubt a ridiculous move, but Metcalf hams the character and her vengeful motives way up for a highly entertaining last few minutes of celluloid, complete with Sydney dispatching a “like mother, like son” headshot into Mrs. Loomis’ skull.

    SCREAM 2 has many other memorable moments, including Sarah Michelle Gellar’s brief cameo, in which, like Jada Pinkett, is likened to the woman she’s watching (Gellar has NOSFERATU playing on the screen just as the titular ghoul with his white elongated face preys on Ellen Hutter), the ballsy and bummer killing of Randy midway through and Jerry O’Connell’s painful rendition of “I Think I Love You.”

    As I wrote earlier, SCREAM 2 is most definitely a worthy successor and very much in keeping with the tone and ideas set forth in the very classic first film. It’s in my opinion, one of the best sequels around. 

    You can read the blog that incited my seven week response right here, as well as check out my initial idea and drop me suggestions for what Craven films you’d like to see me tackle here.

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  • It’s getting close to Grimes’ time, baby!

    Originally posted on 2010-09-17 20:11:40 by Allan Dart

    Halloween isn’t all that far away—and that’s when THE WALKING DEAD debuts on AMC. Take a look at clip numero cinco…

    He’s only a man, but Rick Grimes is the lead character in WALKING DEAD’s ensemble cast. The clip is short and doesn’t feature any zombies, but, hey, how can we not report on one of the most anticipated horror TV series in years? For more photos, clips and info, go to the official WALKING DEAD website and see the cover story of FANGORIA #297, on sale now.

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  • First look: “VAMPIRE CIRCUS” Blu-ray/DVD art & details

    Originally posted on 2010-09-17 19:37:24 by

    Fango just got sent the cover and the full specs of Synapse Films’ upcoming Blu-ray/DVD combo-pack edition of VAMPIRE CIRCUS. This is the company’s 100th release, and the first in a series of Hammer titles the company is giving their North American disc premieres.

    Directed by Robert Young and starring Adrienne Corri, John Moulder-Brown, Laurence Payne, Thorley Walters, Lynne Frederick and STAR WARS’ David Prowse, VAMPIRE CIRCUS is set in a 19th-century village visited by a traveling carnival whose performers are bloodsuckers. The discs arrive in December, presenting the movie in 1.66:1 widescreen—hi-def 1080p on the Blu-ray, anamorphic on the DVD—with DTS-HD MA 2.0 mono sound on the former and Dolby Digital 2.0 mono sound on the latter. The extras (produced by Daniel M. Griffith of Ballyhoo Motion Pictures) include:

    • “The Bloodiest Show on Earth: Making VAMPIRE CIRCUS”—all-new documentary featuring interviews with filmmaker Joe Dante, Hammer documentarian Ted Newsom, Video Watchdog editor/author Tim Lucas, author/film historian Philip Nutman and Prowse

    • “Gallery of Grotesqueries: A Brief History of Circus Horrors” retrospective featurette

    • “Visiting the House of Hammer: Britain’s Legendary Horror Magazine”—retrospective on the popular British publication featuring Nutman

    • “VAMPIRE CIRCUS: Interactive Comic Book”—featuring artwork by Brian Bolland

    • Poster and stills gallery

    • Original theatrical trailer

    Retail price is $29.95; TWINS OF EVIL, HANDS OF THE RIPPER and the TV series HAMMER HOUSE OF HORROR will follow from Synapse in 2011.

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  • “CHAIN LETTER” teaser trailer #2

    Originally posted on 2010-09-17 18:51:12 by Allan Dart

    Deon Taylor’s film stars THE TWILIGHT SAGA’s Nikki Reed, THE THING’s Keith David, HALLOWEEN’s Brad Dourif, SAW 3D’s Betsy Russell, BOOGEYMAN 2’s Matthew Cohen and ALL ABOUT EVIL’s Noah Segan.

    Shock Till You Drop posted the preview. New Films Cinema releases CHAIN LETTER on October 1. Click here to see the first teaser trailer for the film.

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  • Release info for “HISSS” and “IT’S A WONDERFUL AFTERLIFE”

    Originally posted on 2010-09-17 18:14:21 by

    Bollywood takes on the horror genre this fall in two movies: the seriously intended creature feature HISSS and the comedic IT’S A WONDERFUL AFTERLIFE (pictured left). Keep reading past the jump to find out when U.S. audiences will get to see ’em.

    Actually, Fango got the scoop that fans worldwide will be able to see HISSS starting October 15, when it’s currently set to open on the international Bollywood distribution network, including between 50-75 theaters in North America (a number that may expand). Directed by SURVEILLANCE’s Jennifer Lynch, HISSS stars Indian superstar Mallika Sherawat (pictured right) as the human incarnation of the Nagin, a serpentine fertility goddess who sets out for fanged vengeance when her mate is kidnapped by a greedy Am

    erican. Look for more HISSS on this site soon and in Fango #298, on sale in October, and see the film’s trailer below and official website here.

    In a more lighthearted vein, IT’S A WONDERFUL AFTERLIFE, directed by BEND IT LIKE BECKHAM’s Gurinder Chadha, it’s about a mother who’s desperate to marry off her daughter and murders anyone who refuses the girl—only to be haunted by the deceased’s spirits. We got the word that the film opens October 8 at theaters in the New York City/New Jersey area, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Houston, Dallas, Washington, D.C., Atlanta, Boston and Detroit. Its trailer can be viewed below and its official website found here.

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  • “DEVIL” (Film Review)

    Originally posted on 2010-09-17 17:47:24 by

    M. Night Shyamalan didn’t script or direct DEVIL—he was just one of the producers, and it’s based on his story—but since this is the film that may forever be remembered for turning “From the mind of M. Night…” into a viral punchline, it’s worth noting that DEVIL (billed as “The Night Chronicles 1” on screen, if no longer in the marketing materials) does mark something of a change in direction for the beleaguered auteur. Rather than build up to a heretofore concealed, big-surprise plot twist, this movie takes the different if ill-advised tack of explaining in advance what it’s all about.

    Before we even meet him, a Philadelphia office-tower security guard named Ramirez (Jacob Vargas) helpfully explains in voiceover just how the devil likes to take out the souls he’s targeted, and that his appearance on Earth is heralded by a suicide. Next thing you know, wham!—someone has leaped from that tower and landed on a van, clutching rosary beads. Detective Bowden (Chris Messina) is at first puzzled when the corpse-topped vehicle is found at rest beside a two-story building, but soon figures out where the jumper came from. Thus he’s on the scene when five strangers wind up stuck in an elevator somewhere around the building’s 20th floor, and we already know that one of them is actually Satan in disguise, there to claim the rest of them.

    Certainly, it’s plausible that any one of the quintet could call hell home, since they’re not an especially likable bunch: There’s wiseass salesman Vince (Geoffrey Arend), claustrophobic and thus hot-tempered security guard Ben (Bokeem Woodbine), Jane, a snappish older woman (Jenny O’Hara), surly mechanic Tony (Logan Marshall-Green) and a young woman named Sarah (Bojana Novakovic), who, since she actually doesn’t have any evident attitude problems, must of course be considered a prime suspect. None of them command much sympathy, and thus it’s hard to become terribly involved in the question of which one has the devil in ’em—but director John Erick Dowdle and screenwriter Brian Nelson could still have built up some fun/nasty hothouse melodrama had they really stuck with the trapped group. Instead, the film keeps cutting away to Messina, Ramirez and fellow security guard Lustig (Matt Craven) and their assorted efforts to free the captives and figure out what’s going on.

    Ramirez has a pretty good idea, of course, and keeps trying to explain the dark lord’s presence by doing things like dropping a piece of toast on the floor and saying, “When he is near, the toast lands jelly side down.” Soon the lights in the elevator car are going out, then coming back on to reveal that one of the five is now dead, Messina starts probing their backgrounds to uncover their dark secrets and thus determine which of those still living could be responsible for the killings—and it’s all just spinning wheels because we already know they’re dying for their sins on the way to the hot place, not as part of some terrestrial murder plot.

    Since the movie opens with Messina and his AA sponsor mouthing banal platitudes about faith and redemption, it’s not giving away too much to note that DEVIL’s eventual payoff is as much about Messina reconciling his own crisis of belief as it is concerned with paying off the mystery. The final reel in which all is revealed packs more dramatic punch than the rest of the film, though the conclusion may be a little softer than horror fans would like, even given the movie’s PG-13 rating. DEVIL is never really that scary at any point, but it has at least been professionally put together: Shyamalan regular Tak Fujimoto’s cinematography is expert, and the performances are all fine given the limitations of the characters (though it’s disheartening to see WONDERFALLS’ charming Caroline Dhavernas wasted in another too-small role as a co-worker Messina has taken a shine to). And if the story isn’t genuinely involving, it’s never dull either—DEVIL runs only 80 minutes, which does suggest that material which might have given the drama more depth now resides on the cutting-room floor.

    DEVIL would have been much-improved if the filmmakers had simply forgotten about everyone outside the elevator car and kept the focus solely on the imprisoned fivesome, keeping us on edge with them as they realize what’s happening on their own instead of spoon-feeding the audience all the answers. Perhaps Shyamalan et al. didn’t trust the audience to sit still for an entire feature that never leaves one cramped location, but if so, they—and everyone else—oughta see BURIED, which wrings gut-twisting suspense by staying entirely inside a single coffin. More on that one soon…

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  • Single White College Student: The trailer for “THE ROOMMATE”

    Originally posted on 2010-09-17 17:43:23 by Samuel Zimmerman

    The trailer for the new psychological thriller, THE ROOMMATE has debuted online and with prints of DEVIL in theaters this weekend. Hit the jump to check out a psychotic Leighton Meester and what promises to be my favorite guilty pleasure of next year. 

    Yahoo! premiered the clip. The film stars GOSSIP GIRL’s Meester, Minka Kelly and the actor I currently hate the most, TWILIGHT’s Cam Gigandet and revolves around “a deranged college freshman (Leighton Meester) who becomes obsessed with her new roommate (Minka Kelly).”

    Also, apparently Billy Zane is in this too. I’m so excited. THE ROOMMATE hits February 4, 2011.

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  • Anchor Bay finds “A HORRIBLE WAY TO DIE”

    Originally posted on 2010-09-17 17:20:54 by Samuel Zimmerman

    More distribution news is coming out of the Toronto International Film Festival today and it involves the acquisition of the new AJ Bowen starring thriller, A HORRIBLE WAY TO DIE. Hit the jump for more!

    Deadline reports that Anchor Bay has nabbed the film for English-speaking territories and says “a theatrical component is part of the mix.” Unfortunately, sometimes that doesn’t mean a whole lot coming from Anchor Bay. Word on the film is strong nonetheless so hopefully it gets its due. Here’s the synopsis and trailer:

    “Sarah is starting life over. After her last relationship ended with a revelation that sent her boyfriend, Garrick, to a life sentence in prison, Sarah had no choice but to leave her past behind. Now that she’s been relocated to a small town and given a new identity, Sarah’s embracing the opportunity to start life fresh. Unfortunately for Sarah, the past won’t let go.

    Garrick escapes prison and discovers Sarah’s new location, then blazes a violent trail across the country to track her down and disrupt her seemingly perfect new life.

    Award-winning director Adam Wingard plays with narrative chronology, sound design and visual aesthetics to slowly unveil the details of Sarah and Garrick’s dark past. Meanwhile, Garrick grows ever closer in his search, leading to a violent confrontation in which the true motivation for his obsessive manhunt is finally revealed.”

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  • Guillermo del Toro talks video games, “HAUNTED MANSION” & “MADNESS”

    Originally posted on 2010-09-17 16:42:36 by Allan Dart

    The James Brown of directors speaks up about some of the many, many, many projects he has in development. Check out the Hardest Working Man in Hollywood’s comments after the jump.

    For the full video interview, you can go to Collider, but here are some of the conversation’s highlights.

     

    * Video Games: del Toro has a video game deal that’s not yet announced. It will be three games to be made over 10 years with the goal of a new game every three years.

    * HAUNTED MANSION: The film will be PG-13 and it will be a “dark ride.” A storyline was turned in last week to Disney along with the first few key concept drawings. MIMIC’s Matthew Robbins is writing, and he’ll start in about a month. Del Toro hopes to know if Disney will move forward on it in January. At that time he’ll figure out if he or someone else will direct it.

    * AT THE MOUNTAINS OF MADNESS: STAR WARS’ Dennis Muren is designing the monsters, and he told del Toro: “You’ve never seen monsters like this.” Del Toro plans on talking to some H.P. Lovecraft scholars to get their input on the script. However, despite the involvement of James Cameron, the film isn’t greenlit yet, and del Toro realizes that the project has two big issues: It’s a hardcore R-rated movie, and it’s a horror tentpole with a big budget.

    Stay tuned for more del Toro news on this site shortly, including a schedule of his book tour in support of THE FALL, Volume II of his THE STRAIN trilogy.

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