Wednesday, August 14, 2019

The Overlook Theatre Reviews: Iron Sky: The Coming Race

A follow-up to the film Iron Sky (2012) in which Nazis plan to take over the world after lying dormant in a secret military base on the moon.

5 of 7 viewers "Liked" "Iron Sky: The Coming Race" (2019, USA)
Creature reviews have been minimally altered in an attempt to maintain their voice:

KillDozer - "I love when a sequel outdoes its predecessor and Iron Sky 2 is a fun filled mix of Land of the Lost meets Star Wars with a dash of Jurassic World for good measure! Basically, it doesn't take itself seriously and is in on its own jokes. Iron Sky 2 manages to succeed where part one failed. This is a fun popcorn movie that should be enjoyed with friends. If you are in the mood for silly action-packed fun, look no further!" - 4 Stars

Huntress - "I haven't seen the first Iron Sky but I still went into the sequel pretty defensive, expecting a single-target barrage of jokes. And I couldn't have been more wrong. No one was safe from ridicule in Iron Sky: The Coming Race, whose caricatures weren't at all selective. This was 90 minutes of blind-siding situations and bizarre jokes. And somehow it worked!" - 3.5 Stars

Greyranger - "Packs in so much stuff that none of it is interesting. Nice Laibach tunes, anyway." - 2.5 Stars

Eddie the Gamer Ghoul - "Good! Stupid! Outrageous and something special! All in one and I couldn't ask for more. Both nothing and yet everything I expected at the same time. Jus' one last movie to watch dis year and my life is great!" - 4 Stars

Lord Battle - I discovered that Tom Green was playing a tech cult leader and despite hating most comedies (especially parodies) I somehow came into Iron Sky 2 excited. Five minutes into the film and I was already confused. The world-building seemed inauthentic/ironic like they were making fun of the blockbuster format but secretly love that format. If that's confusing wait till you see Iron Sky 2. The film feels like it was written by online polls that filled in all the script's nouns and adjectives like a Madlib puzzle. That said, I laughed a lot towards the end. The beginning was very rough and cult leader Tom Green was mostly boring." ๐Ÿ˜ž - 2.5 Stars

Math Mage - "There's a popular legend about the association between Nazis and the Occult. Historically, the connection is tenuous at best. but it makes for good storytelling. Nazi sorcerers searching for Atlantis with cyborg henchmen make great antagonists so the idea persists. Most of the occult trappings added to Nazis owe a lot to the Theosophic movement from the 1800's early 1900's. Specifically the idea of Atlantean survivors with magic/psychic powers. There's a lot of racism (especially antisemitism) associated with this belief system, so it's a good fit for Nazis and the makers of Iron Sky ran with this to build a plot for the sequel. Really. it's two separate movies: one grim tale of the last living humans clinging to life on a derelict moon base; the other a colorful adventure story about stealing the holy grail from lizard people in the Hollow Earth. There are some serious tone problems, and a lot of terribly dated humor (president Palin wasn't that funny in the first Iron Sky). A few great scenes are scattered through the film (the president of the United States jump kicking a T-Rex ridden by Hitler), but the film in between those scenes is an awkward mess of "cool" moments that aren't cool and jokes that aren't funny." - 3 Stars

Wandering Panda - "Hitler riding a T-Rex, check. Journey to the center of the earth, check. Lizard people controlling all major positions, check. Humor and goofy comedy, check. Kept me entertained, check! I loved this movie. It's not for everyone and it's gonna offend a bunch of people but it's a fun ride beginning to end. I will recommend this film and unleash the insanity upon anyone who listens. Watch it!!" - 4.5 Stars

The Overlook Theatre Final Rating*
(Below is for after you've seen the film)

After screening Iron Sky: The Coming Race, and having a lot of fun with it, we really wanted to talk to the director to get some insight on this crazy sequel. But when schedules couldn't align, we deployed our resident interviewer to dig up some dirt with director Timo Vuorensola.

KillDozer: Did you know from the beginning that you would be taking your idea beyond its first installment?

Timo Vuorensola: I did, although I wasn’t sure if the first installment would ever have wings enough to allow a sequel. I always knew I wanted to continue the story to Hollow Earth, but of course, just putting together a scifi action film in Finland, not to mention on an insane topic like Nazis on the Moon, I needed to see first if we could pull it off and only then proceed.

KD: The visuals of the film are extremely well done. Did it help to know when working on the sequel that GC would be heavily involved? Does a decision to use CG help to gauge how far you can stretch a budget?

TV: The thing about CG is that it’s as much a matter of attitude as it is a matter of budget. One can do insanely amazing things, if you have a VFX supervisor and VFX company who’s fully invested to be on board – or one can spend all the money in the world and get very little if it’s just a job for the VFX people. We had the luck of getting to work with a company – Pixomondo – who really wanted to make the film look great, so they were patient, inventive and supportive with us, who were constantly fighting against budget limitations, to provide us with the most amazing results.

KD: Congratulations on your successful crowdfunding campaign! What have you learned through crowdfunding that might help other independent filmmakers?

TV: The more you are willing to connect with the crowd, the easier all activities with the crowd are. It’s hard to crowdfund if you are not willing to put yourself on the line, but if people feel that you are personally involved and invested in working with the community, it’s much easier.

KD: This installment seemed to be more focused on action and adventure and less on the comedy. Did you scale back the comedy for the sequel?

TV: Depends, my sense of comedy is a bit less laugh-out-loud and more parodic, satiric and tends to find the comedy from under the surface. The action and adventure are surely the driving forces, but the comedy is there, it’s just more on taking a piss on conspiracy theories, religions and stuff like that. I mean, it’s still fun but it’s maybe less obviously so.

KD: How did you go about casting Tom Green? Was his role specifically written for him?

TV: Tom’s character was already written, and I was looking for an American comedian to play the role. Tom’s name came up with a mutual friend of ours on Facebook, and I fell in love with the idea of getting to work with Tom instantly. He really fit the idea of the character better than anyone I could’ve thought of.

KD: How much further do you hope to take the Iron Sky franchise?

TV: We have plans for a TV show, we have one spinoff in post production and other game- and so forth topics waiting to become reality. But let’s see what the future brings!


The Overlook Theatre materialized in a Residence for a screening on 6/27/2019
*Based on the star ratings turned in by character reviewers, others viewed and got to "Dislike" or "Like" but that does not affect the rating.

Thursday, July 25, 2019

The Overlook Theatre Reviews: DEADSIGHT, Jesse Thomas Cook's

A man with partial blindness and a young pregnant police officer must work together to escape from a deadly virus that has spread across Grey County.

5 of 7 viewers "Liked" "DEADSIGHT" (2019, USA)
Creature reviews have been minimally altered in an attempt to maintain their voice:

Lord Battle - "Zombies populate a cinematic world created by George Romero. Other filmmakers may explore this world and even change it to suit their needs. Deadsight chose not to retread Romero's water by explaining rules to a savvy audience but instead used this extra narrative time to set a tone with dilapidated rural homes and colorfully lit underground mazes populating our unlikely survivor's 90 minute journey. Zombie fans may not enjoy the gore (especially a couple of CGI headshots that stand out) but may enjoy the strong cinematography, bleak storytelling, and post-apocalyptic exploration." - 3.5 Stars

Huntress - "Deadsight follows two rationally unskilled, extra vulnerable people as they make their way through a zombie ravaged world. Most of their run-ins with the infected felt like they were won simply due to dumb luck, which I really liked. But the overactive background music smothered the potential for tension to build. Deadsight simultaneously felt like several movies smashed together as well as its own thing, which is becoming increasingly uncommon in a genre that's been through as many renditions as zombie movies have. Our leads had the uncomfortable chemistry of an arranged marriage, which also adds to the authenticity of their relationship." - 3 Stars

Wandering Panda - "Deadsight is full of hits and misses for me. If the characters were not fumbling in the dark or in an actual dire situation the film would be so much better. The two characters at times feel like they have complete mastery of what they're trying to do. I also love the joke of "let's hand the blind guy very dangerous things." Like seriously, he was handed an axe and a shotgun. A frickin' shotgun!!! He's blind!!! Also, he had perfect aim for some reason or whatever." - 2.5 Stars

Eddie the Gamer Ghoul - "I made the mistake of taking it seriously... and the start of the movie sold its seriousness. Too soon I was laughing with the others at the blind swordsman/gunslinger rolling 20's with weapons he'd only used once (of which there were several). All in all, a great zombie comedy! That no one should suffer more den once... I was left with so many questions. Why did some zombies require headshots and some didn't? What happened to Patient Zero? She was like, 'I once was an infected like you, till I took a bullet to the knee.'". - 3 Stars

Math Mage - "Fargo + 28 Days Later sounds promising but goes nowhere, explores nothing, and is full of lame tropes (especially all weapons are single-use, zombies spawn in front of you, aim for the head, etc). Also, the blind guy rolls nothing but 20's." - 2.5 Stars

Greyranger - "It's cheap, none-too-original, but it's surprisingly affecting! Far from perfect, but it's sticking with me. Stellar opening, too!" - 3.5 Stars

KillDozer - " I appreciate a film made by filmmakers who want to make a film. A beautiful score and some moody atmosphere make for a watchable independent film that will remind you of minimalistic 28 Days Later." - 3 Stars

The Overlook Theatre Final Rating*
(Below is for after you've seen the film)

I decided to play Deadsight first on this particular Overlook Theatre Thursday and it was the first time in years that the reviewers questioned my choice. I was surprised by this since the film paired to play with Deadsight was Iron Sky 2: The Coming Race, which had a lot of baggage and was a ridiculous comedy. I knew if I had reversed the two that the audience would be less open for a slow-paced film, which I was only guessing Deadsight would be.
I should mention that the Thursday screenings that have been going on for over 3 years now take place at 6:30PM to give people enough time to eat/change or whatever before coming over. If you open up a double feature with a thoughtful/deliberately paced film, you are catching people just as they are unwinding. I found this to be a great spot for a film that demands attention. The only problem is if it's really "heavy" or just really good you may be kneecapping the following film. Also, keep in mind 99% of the films screened on Thursdays are unvetted.
Deadsight started strong and held the audience's attention completely until the beginning of the 3rd act. As the action amped up and we got a couple of "How the hell did the blind guy..." comments accented by some CGI head explosions, cross conversations broke out.
I will say that we had a couple of strong outliers during the film who continued to focus through the chatter, so the conversation can be considered mostly rude.


After this screening, we were joined by Deadsight director Jesse Thomas and co-writer/co-star Liv Collins for episode 149 of The Overlook Hour, where they elaborated on their stylistic choices with the film and talked about the entire filming process. There were some slight technical issues we had no control over, which we talk about in the intro, but if you just want to skip directly to the interview, it starts at 1:08:43.

Also available on 

Thanks again to RLJE for sending us an early screener of DEADSIGHT!

- Lord Battle

The Overlook Theatre materialized in a Residence for a screening on 6/27/2019
*Based on the star ratings turned in by character reviewers, others viewed and got to "Dislike" or "Like" but that does not affect the rating.

Friday, July 12, 2019

Math Mage Reviews: "The Hateful Place" Table Top RPG

Through a common love of horror films, I ended up befriended Dave Mitchell (creator of THP) over Instagram. When I found out he had a Lamentations of the Flame Princess style tabletop game I had to buy some of the books. I got 2 Core rulebooks and 2 copies of No Rabbits in Rabbit Wood. One set was for me and the other was for the Math Mage,he trade-off being he had to write up his thoughts on the product. Below is the honest neutral opinion of a mad wizard with 20+ years of Dungeon Master experience. Enjoy.
-Lord Battle

“The Hateful Place” is an RPG that hates you, and not just in a narrative sense with its bleak setting and unfair odds.  “THP” hates you on a mechanical level.

If you play this game your character will die.  I don’t mean that in the “I hate you but secretly I love you” Dark Souls way; your character will die miserably and permanently and that’s the point.  The system is a very simple 3 stat system* that can be covered in a single page.  This makes character creation (relatively) quick and easy.  Which is good since you don’t want an emotional investment in someone who’s going to die in half an hour (or sooner, more on that later).  Here’s why you’re going to die: all attacks deal 4d10 damage (except demons, they do 5d10 damage), PCs have ~30hp, monsters have 40, and demons have 100. Attacks include everything: thrown rocks, dagger in the face, laser cannon, stubbed toe, and way more.  Assuming the scenario doesn’t simply begin with you bleeding to death already, any conflict at all will lead to your gruesome demise.  This is not a game of heroic adventurers battling evil, or even underdogs struggling against impossible odds.  This is a game about watching your character die in horrible and (hopefully) entertaining ways.

"A map from the upcoming VICTIMSHIRE"

The setting is the real selling point.  Left intentionally vague so that the system can be applied to a variety of genres, the whimsical and horrible dark fantasy comes through in both mechanics (as explored above) and in the prose and advice.  Except not really.  All of the books read like the notes an improv-loving GM would write to himself**, and there does seem to be a default setting if one reads between the lines.  It’s North-Central Europe in the age of pike and shot and if you told me that this was intended to be a campaign resource for Lamentations of the Flame Princess I would believe it.  The simple monster/demon rules would be an excellent solution to LotFP’s general lack of monster support.  This setting seems eerie and grim and I would love to play in it, but I can’t with just the info provided.  To paraphrase the title page, the Hateful Place only exists in its creator’s mind.

Additionally, as much as I praised it above, the system’s simplicity is also its biggest weakness. There’s no real way to differentiate between a toxic plant spraying acid in your face and a werewolf eating your leg if both deal 4d10 damage.  You can, of course, make up new rules for those specific situations, but if you’re doing that, why use these rules at all.  Even worse, as simple as they are, the character creation rules still require rolling stats and choosing classes such that character creation could take longer than the scenario.

"Rumor Table from the upcoming VICTIMSHIRE"

So should you buy this system? Emphatically yes! Although as I can’t recommend it as a game system, it is a wonderful campaign resource for any GM looking to inject some whimsical horror into their game.  The random tables especially help fire up the imagination, with entries like: STARTING PLACE (burning an innocent person alive as a witch) and YOU ARE (bleeding to death).  I’m planning to send my ACKS campaign to the Red and Pleasant Land very soon and these books will be a great resource.
I would recommend “3” especially.  Although it reads like random ideas on post-its rather than a sourcebook, most of those ideas are good ones.  And the random tables could sell the book on their own.  Providing creative answers to questions like WHAT’S IN MY MOUTH and WHOSE HANDS DO I HAVE?

*which makes me nostalgic for Big Eyes, Small Mouth but that’s another story.  
**I know because my notes look like that :)

Keep an eye out for VICTIMSHIRE which should be released the end of September!
And check out all of The Hateful Place books at Dave Mitchell's page on

-Math Mage

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Some Much Needed Attention to Nicolas Pesce's PIERCING

Piercing (2019) 
81 minutes 

Directed by: Nicolas Pesce
Written by: Nicolas Pesce (Adapted from the novel by Ryu Murakami)
Starring: Christopher Abbott and Mia Wasikowska


PIERCING tells the age-old tale of a man, Reed, who must face his fears head-on. For Reed, that fear is that he might stab his infant daughter with an ice pick. 

To confront that fear, Reed realizes that he must murder a prostitute with an ice pick. 

That's how we begin Nicolas Pesce's follow-up to his debut arthouse horror flick THE EYES OF MY MOTHER. If that sounds bizarre, you’re on the right track. PIERCING is an immensely strange movie, but if you’re familiar with the director or the source material, you should already have a good idea of what to expect.

PIERCING is an adaptation of Ryu Murakami’s (AUDITION, IN THE MISO SOUP) 1994 novel of the same name. For those uninitiated, Murakami follows in the footsteps of Edogawa Rampo (The Human Chair, Moju: The Blind Beast) and Japan’s peculiar tradition of erotic-but-rarely-sexy-thrillers (See: Pinku films). Murakami’s own psycho-sexual thrillers explore Japan’s sleazy underworld, Tokyo’s paranoid nightlife, and the odd characters within. 
PIERCING is no exception. The novel takes the profoundly weird setup described above and uses it to comment on the overworked Japanese businessman, escort services, fetishes, and fatherhood, all while delivering heaps of wry, pitch-black humor.

Pesce comes into the film with large shoes to fill. As the second director to adapt Murakami, he follows in the footsteps of Takashi Miike’s 1999 extreme J-horror classic AUDITION. Knowing the book and Murakami, I came into the film with no idea how a director could adapt it into something palatable, coherent, or successful. 

Then, I remembered that Nicolas Pesce made THE EYES OF MY MOTHER, a grisly movie that pulls no punches and is boldly stylish, presented in harsh black-and-white with a great deal of the dialogue in Portuguese. In his debut film, Pesce demonstrated an ability to expertly marry style and strangeness in a way that suits the surreality of PIERCING.

Going into PIERCING, I hoped Pesce’s short but impressive track-record would prove to be a perfect starting point from which to adapt a book that would otherwise be unadaptable. As much as anything, I at least hoped Pesce would present the story in its delightfully perverted whole.

My hopes were mostly met.

Before diving into the film, I’d be remiss if I didn’t talk about how goddamn stylish it is. 

Unlike the greys of his previous film, Pesce paints the frames with vibrant reds, yellows, and blues, and combines them with striking angular arrangements of set-design and lighting. Vertical and horizontal lines stripe the frame and make it feel like a film noir collided with a Mondrian painting. The result is reminiscent of the films of Argento and Bava, with more than a splash of De Palma, all swaddled into a beautiful cubist nightmare.

The interiors, on the other hand, feel straight out of ERASERHEAD. Props and set-pieces seem to be pulled out of 70's and 80's Eastern Bloc states, then dyed bright colors and jammed into a hotel that would only exist in noir films and sleazy Italian slasher flicks. 

The world of PIERCING is an anachronistic mix of art-deco and baroque fixtures that would feel out-of-place anywhere but inside the impossible architecture of the movie’s miniature cityscapes. 

Did I mention the miniatures? To accentuate the visual style, the exteriors in PIERCING are comprised entirely of miniature sets, with towering walls of skyscrapers that often take up the full frame as we float up to the appropriate apartment. Toy cars fill the streets. At times, paroxysmal birds jitter past the buildings, seemingly cut from cardstock and animated with stop-motion.

Pesce combines the striking visual style with a unique, wonderful, and at times jarring choice of soundtrack. PIERCING uses music that’s almost entirely borrowed from Giallo films. Most notably Goblin’s main theme from DEEP RED, and another piece from TENEBRAE. While they’re used to great effect at times, they can also take the viewer out of the movie.

These, combined with gratuitous use of De Palma-esque split screens, lend to an acute awareness that what’s happening on screen is somehow not real, and lends the film a dreamlike quality. The style itself makes the viewer so aware that what they’re seeing is a movie that it’s almost surprising that the characters don’t know they’re in a movie.

PIERCING'S frequent references to De Palma, Argento, Fulci, Bava, and others, serve as an homage to the glorious sleaze of the 70's and 80's. The references are overt and amusing, and while they might evoke the overeager mimicry of a film student, it’s clear that the director comes from a loving, reverent place. As a fan of said sleaze, I was giddy every time I caught a glimpse of the aforementioned filmmakers’ distinct styles.

Now, on to the film itself. If you haven’t watched, spoilers are to follow but are mostly limited to the first act. If anything I’ve said above interests you, go watch the damn movie, then read.


PIERCING begins with a pseudo-helicopter shot of the miniature skyscrapers. 

We zero-in on an apartment and quickly meet Reed (played by Christopher Abbott) as he watches over his newborn daughter and runs an icepick across the infant’s cheek. For some, this may be an uncomfortable scene, but I appreciated its boldness. It’s an unpleasant image that’s highly evocative and serves to foreshadow the grotesquery to come. 

It becomes clear that Reed has a dire need to stab something, or someone, with an icepick. This is evidenced by his own infant telling him so, in the first of a number of hallucinatory scenes that are some of the movie’s highlights. Reed narrates the requirements of his victim: a prostitute who must also speak English so he can understand her screams.

Reed quickly kisses his wife and infant goodbye and takes his murder plots to an upscale hotel, where he meticulously runs through his plans in one of the film’s most powerful scenes. 

We watch Reed (in a fantastic feat of physical acting by Abbott) mime through his plan, as he drugs his victim, drags her to the bathtub, stabs her with an icepick, then dismembers her. All his mimed actions are accompanied by the sound of the actions, such that we hear the squelch of the stabs and the grinding of the bone saw, followed by the oozes and rips as he mock-removes her head.

We next meet the prostitute he’s hired to be his victim. Jackie (Mia Wasikowska) wakes up from a halcyon binge to a call from her pimp, letting her know she’s got a job. She packs a duffel-bag of sex toys and catches a cab. Her cab ride is presented alongside Reed’s plotting, in a moment pure De Palma style split-screen that left me wide-eyed and giddy.

Jackie and Reed meet, and we quickly learn that Jackie isn’t all there. We get a sense that she’s not just uninterested in her work as an escort, but in human interaction altogether. After an extremely awkward introduction, followed by an even more awkward attempt at seduction. Jackie asks to take a shower and disappears into the bathroom of Reed’s hotel room.

What follows is a gruesome comedy of errors, filled with blood, gore, and weirdness. PIERCING takes you on a wild ride that will leave you saying “what the fuck” throughout. 

I wouldn’t want to spoil more than that. Although I can say for sure that the film holds up even knowing beat-for-beat what happens, I can almost guarantee that the film works better as a blind watch, or an introduction to the book, followed by a rewatch afterwards.

Abbott and Wasikowska do a fantastic job embodying the leads. As Reed, Abbott expertly portrays a socially abysmal weirdo. His affect and manner almost recall Christian Bale in American Psycho, but without a shred of the charisma. 

Wasikowska plays a different type of lunatic. Her body language, tone, and mannerisms are straight out of the uncanny valley, and the effect resonates. She moves like she doesn’t belong in her skin, mumbles half her lines, and at times hefts herself around like she’s carrying an invisible weight. 

Together they have an excellent dynamic. Throughout the film, both characters play cat-and-mouse like roles, however, being a comedy of errors, neither character seems sure which is the cat and which is the mouse.


I omitted something when I described PIERCING-the-book. Murakami’s novel spends far, far more time in the characters heads than it does on their actions. Both characters, on the page and the screen, suffer from dire mental illness. Thus, the motivations range from baffling, demented, to outright psychotic.

Pesce’s adaptation reproduces the novel almost exactly, but he omits a great deal of the internal dialogue that both characters entertain. This leaves us with is a movie about maniacs pursuing vaguely defined, self-important goals, doing absolutely insane things to achieve them. 

A lot of the themes are lost between the novel and the film. Fear of fatherhood slips away, as does the plight of the businessman, and only minimal commentary on sex-work remains. Instead, Pesce has created a movie about roles of power in a relationship, and of dominance and submission. 

As the film progresses, we see Reed and Jackie swap roles. Reed begins as a cold psychopath ready to control and murder Jackie, but he degrades into a sniveling whelp. Jackie, on the other hand, constantly sucks agency away from Reed, and by the end becomes the dominant force in their relationship. Although in ways, it’s a divergence from the novel, it feels completely natural and fits into the strange world that Pesce has crafted out of Murakami’s source material.


For some, the utter surreality of the film will be a turn-off. For others (including yours truly), it’ll be a joy to watch. Even knowing what to expect, the leads portray their insane roles so well that I found myself constantly on edge, wondering what the hell will happen next. Reed and Jackie are unstable power-kegs that could explode at any moment.

For me, I loved the utilization of absolutely bizarre flashbacks, some great phone-call gags, random acts of violence, and bizarre, but understandable character decisions. It misses some of the wry humor of the novel, but replaces it with new elements of visual weirdness, and introduces new humor while exploring the same themes.

Should you watch PIERCING? I’d sure-as-hell say so. While it’s not a perfect movie, it’s a hell of a ride, and if you’re anything like me, I suspect you’ll learn to love its weirdness. 

It’s a feat of style, with good performances to back it up. The soundtrack is clever, even if it’s out of place at times. The make-up effects are impressively gross, and it’s got some flawed but still awesome CGI.

Pesce is slated to direct the reboot of the American adaptation of THE GRUDGE(Ju-on). Who knows what that’ll look like, but I’m excited to see what he does with it. It’s a series with a lot of bizarre mythology, and I think Pesce’s style-followed-by-substance approach will fit it excellently.

-Listener Sam

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Benji Battles Backdraft 2

“A lot of dead kids” --- The somehow vacant line of Brian McCaffery (Billy Baldwin) as he and new comer nephew Sean look over the child carnage in the streets. They’re both wondering what Baldwin and the rest of the crew are doing back in Chicago (a CGI over Toronto) around the 20 minute mark of Backdraft 2 --- a movie, a sequel, and an over produced piece of streaming cinema that was never needed, especially today. But it makes for a dumpster fire of a bad movie night. Currently streaming over at Netflix, Backdraft 2 is something to behold when it comes to a bizarre cash grab stemming from a beloved 90’s pulp drama about the first responders who dive into flaming wreckage to save lives. The movie makes you feel the flames and the sweat, like the image of Bull (Kurt Russell) diving the flames and rescuing Chicago. 

The filmmakers behind this film are aren’t known for sequels or for this level of poorly produced work. The original writer Gregory Widen gets a solo credit, Ron Howard and Brian Glazer are producers on it. Baldwin delivers bone dry lines with Donald Sutherland returning (a wacky performance of the let’s see if anyone is watching me on the monitor). The director, Gonzalo Lรณpez-Gallego’s last feature, The Hollow Point, an excellent piece of border noir with Ian McShane. Something got lost on the way to the factory, maybe shooting in Canada and Romania for Chicago had something to do with it.

The main character is Sean McCaffery, played with earnest tough guy glaze by Joe Anderson, another actor whose past work is nothing on the direct to video work scale. Sean isn’t about the rescues or the flames, just drinking and punching the bad guys because he, like Baldwin, works for OFI, a firefighter with handcuffs. It’s revealed later that Sean is the son of Bull (Kurt Russell). He wears an old dust and grime jacket with the name Bull on the back to remind you of that. Baldwin, who looks to just show up on set for a moment to say some line of exposition or remind us that this is a sequel to Backdraft. A sequence taking place in a dumpster has Baldwin reviewing the last 3rd act and twist of the original with Sean. It’s good for a laugh over how the hell this ever got made.

If Sean is the son of Kurt Russell in B2, the studio probably went to the next generation of Russell with his son Wyatt, first. The pitch meeting probably went something like a scene from Arrested Development:
Studio (Ron Howard): We want to make a sequel to Backdraft!
Wyatt: So what’s my part?
Howard: Well you’re the real life son of Kurt Russell.We want you to play his son in the movie.
Wyatt: Ok. Anyone else coming back for the sequel?
Howard: Yes! Billy and Donald are coming back. If you say yes then we’ll make it for sure. It’ll be incredible.
Wyatt: But what’s the story?
Howard: You’re going to go after an arsonist who is really an arms dealer and plans to blow up Chicago.
Wyatt: So this isn’t about firefighters?
Howard: Well…We’ll have fire in it.
Wyatt: Real fire like the last movie?
Howard: Oh no. That’s just too dangerous. We have computers to create that now.
Wyatt: Thanks for your time, Ron. I’ll pass.
IMDB - Backdraft 2
We have Chicago Fire on NBC to satisfy the lovers of the network pulp of drama involving first responders in the Chi-town area. Those who venture into this CGI flame engulfed sequel will not see a plotline about firefighters but a tale of lame family genealogy, dead kids, and a WMD that might blow up Chicago?! It’s all about the heroism and there are no heroes here to behold. Billy Baldwin is long gone in a ring of fire but the bad dude does get roasted with a flame throttle during the climactic shootout. It's the must-see moment of the movie.

-Kid Glove Killer

Thursday, May 30, 2019

Digging Up the Dirt with KillDozer and Perry Morris of Sorcery (Stunt Rock, Rocktober Blood)

One night at the beautiful Castro Theatre I was lucky enough to experience the greatness that is Stunt Rock. A solid audience of people cheered, laughed and head banged while the screen was lit up with all the action and heavy metal a person could handle. That night I became determined to track down the people responsible for the music, Sorcery. For those that don't know, this is also the group credited for the amazing music of Rocktober Blood. I reached out on Facebook the following morning to see if anyone knew the whereabouts of any of the band members. Less than 2 hours later I received a call from a number I didn't recognize. I picked up anyway to hear a voice on the other end say "Hey Justin, this is Perry from the band Sorcery". I have no shame in telling you that I freaked out like a super fan. Perry and I went on to speak for roughly 2 hours about music films and every amazing story in between. This was the most fun I've had digging up the dirt. I recently ordered the Stunt Rock DVD from Perry and it came with a signed note saying "I hope you enjoy it". 
And you know I did! 

KillDozer: Let's talk about the Sorcery live experience for those who don’t know.

Perry Morris: The show was big enough that I had to scout out venues with large enough stages or at least adjustable stages to fit all the theatrics, even the Roxy was too small! It was very much a theatrical show which included Merlin battling a modern magician and then later became Merlin Vs. the Devil. Ken Whitaker was the technical guy behind the magic. Word got out quickly about how incredible the music and stage show was so we always had major labels coming to our shows looking to see how they could sign us. We could sellout 4 shows in a row at the same venue and still have to turn hundreds of people away. We played six shows and got signed! I can tell you if MTV would have started at that point we would have been huge, we were ahead of the time and we were the most visual band with the music to back it. 

IMDB Stunt Rock

KillDozer: Have you ever opened up for any bands that went on to bigger fame?

Perry: We actually never opened any shows, we only headlined but both Cheap Trick and Van Halen opened for us. There used to be lines around the block to get into our shows and we sold out the Whisky a Go Go in 3 hours! You gotta keep in mind that this is pre-MTV era and that our show were known to be visually striking even by today’s standards. There was also a community of rockers and bands back then like David Lee Roth, Nikki Sixx, everybody knew each other and were friends.

KillDozer: Okay, time to discuss the film that is tied into what is now known as the greatest film trailer of all time, Stunt Rock. I was lucky enough to see this film screened in front of a packed audience at the Castro Theatre in San Francisco. What was your experience making this visually epic rock/stunt extravaganza?

Perry: I can tell you honestly that what you see and experience on screen during the Sorcery concert scenes is the real thing. That was our show except for Burned Alive which we never actually did live. When they sent out special invites to play the audience in the film, those spots filled up in 2 seconds. We actually ended up filming that footage on the same sound stage Gone With the Wind was filmed on. I never thought people would be talking about it all these years later. All the concert scenes were filmed on sound stage 16 and Stunt Rock actually has the first film appearance of Phil Hartman (Writer/actor Pee Wee's Big Adventure, Saturday Night Live, So I Married an Axe Murderer. I just can't believe people still like it, that film was made in 78-79 and people are still talking about it. 

KillDozer: How did you get signed on for Stunt Rock?

Perry: Well it helped that the lead in Stunt Rock, Grant Page saw our live show and was blown away. The film was titled Stunt Rock because the distribution company thought the band was the most interesting part of the film.

KillDozer: The stunts are mind-blowing and make the film very unique but the music/band was the draw for me to see the film after watching the trailer. As a fan I have to ask, what was up with the crazy hooded key board player? Also was that piano pool party at one of your houses? 

Perry: Doug Loch was the masked keyboard player he was only hired for the film. Smokey Huff played guitar and keyboard in the band at the same time. Doug never played a show with us, that was just part of the film. The pool party was also part of the film. In Rocktober Blood we were able to dress ourselves so that was us on stage. In Stunt Rock we were dressed by a costume company we weren't hip on but played along for the film. I actually hated that piano scene, that's not how we hung out at all. We would never hang out around a piano like that and even worse they gave us cases of Perrier water and nice shirts because they needed to throw sponsors into the film. The Dick Clark Shows rep us the best, so look at those for a real representation of Sorcery. My best friend Curtis Hyde played the Devil in Stunt Rock and is from San Francisco. Also the cinematographer on Stunt Rock was the same guy who did This Is Spinal Tap. By the way I still have that white top hat from the film. 

KillDozer: With all that being said the obvious question is.... what happened to Stunt Rock?!?!? How did it just seem to disappear only to emerge years later as a cult classic?

Perry: The short answer is Allied Artist's bankruptcy put everything on hold otherwise things were going to be huge! Even worse they filed for bankruptcy 3 days before the film's release. We were going to go on a big promo tour and everything, but the bankruptcy put a stop to it. No one saw the film. Even though it sold to 56 countries it was explained that even those receipts wouldn't add up to the US distribution of the film. The promo tour was put on hold and we thought that was that. It took 2 years to get the rights back for the film and the person who ended up with it at the time, Edward Monturo, was a crook who released the film under 3 different titles and paid NO ONE! I think they are actually still looking for him ha ha! As far as Stunt Rock coming out, I'm the guy who put it on DVD. No joke, I had the original film print converted and even ran a series of commercials to promote it.

KillDozer: Sorcery has TWO cult classics under its belt. What was once an obscure heavy metal slasher only known and loved by true genre and metal enthusiasts has now become a well known and celebrated title and sound track. I am of course talking about one of the the greatest Horror Metal titles ever made, Rocktober Blood. What can you tell us about your experience being a major part of that project ?

Perry: I actually got a call out of the blue about a band needed for a horror rock picture. At first we were only hired to do half the album for the film, but after meeting with some people involved they told us what they were looking for and I said "we can do that!" Unfortunately our singer got sick after playing in Vegas so the singer of a band called London filled in on Rocktober Blood, his name was Nygil. So really the film makers hired 3 members of Sorcery and not the full band even though they put Sorcery as the credit for the music.

IMDB Rocktober Blood

KillDozer: I love the song Rainbow Eyes. Okay, I love all the songs in the film, but I wanted to ask who sang Rainbow Eyes since the recording has female vocals?

Perry: I remember her name was Susie Major (Susie Rose Major). She knew the Sabastians who were the writers and producers. They also made the film Gator Bait! We were asked to write a song for her to sing and that's how rainbow eyes happened. She had her own band called Face Down.  

KillDozer: The songs are incredible and honestly make the film the cult classic it has become. What was the inspiration for the songs written?

Perry: We wrote all of those songs specifically for the film and every song is about the film. The song "I'm Back" is just about the killer in the movie Billy Eye. Tray who played Billy in the film liked to hang with the band and we are actually still friends. Those are some of Sorcery's most downloaded songs and bands like Acid Witch have even covered them as a tribute. 

KillDozer: Did you know the film would become the classic that it is?

Perry: Rocktober Blood was much bigger than we expected, it was released in 22 theatres throughout SoCal. Tray (Billy Eye) spoke with me about the recent popularity, his mother was one of the producers. I don't think the other members of Sorcery know about the cult following of the film. I track the band's downloads and that's how I know that anyone still cares. I see how much people down load the Rocktober Blood tracks and it's great. I read about screenings all the time and I'll post about them. 

KillDozer: Now to call out the Heavy Metal "elephant in the room", What happened to Sorcery!?!?!

Perry: We haven't played in a long time, we just moved forward with life. We actually haven't played with the Stunt Rock line up since the film came out.  At some point rehearsals started to feel like a divide between the magic guys and the music. The expenses went toward the music because selling the music made the money. The magic was for the show and promotion. We were speaking with Warner Brothers at one point because the son of the head of the company was a big fan of ours. Warner Brothers only wanted the band not the magic for the show. Things needed to change because the magic guys wanted more of themselves in the show but we knew we had to focus on the band, the music, and less on the magic show. Companies looking to sign us would say  "what you do on the road is up to you, but we are only paying for Sorcery not the magic act, the liability factor is through the roof." We had near major accidents that would have cost a ton of money. We also knew we had to separate from the magic show because tons of money would all go to the magic for switchboards, light effects, etc. etc. and there would be nothing left. It was a lot of work for me always going to meetings and keeping the band organized. Like I said, we just all moved on and I started booking more session work which was great because I got to work with a lot of great musicians. It would have been nice to keep going with Sorcery not because of money, I've never been in it for the money. The perk is making music for a living and making it happen, not how rich you can get. 

KillDozer: What do you think about Sorcery's legacy? How do you feel about music today?

Perry: When I pull up the numbers to our downloads it is incredible! There are people listening to us all over the world. Our dynamic was great and the music was well structured, it even inspired Van Halen to write "Running With The Devil". You can still see screenings of Rocktober Blood and Stunt Rock popping up. People listen to Sorcery all over the place and Rocktober Blood has a whole new group of fans. Also people know me as a drummer, one of my kits was appraised for $5,000 just because I played on it! Music today is different, back then singers had style and we had real diversity, we weren't all trying to sound alike.  I appreciate all the people still supporting our music today, I never expected people to be listening to it all these years later.


Thursday, May 2, 2019

Unnamed Footage Festival's Short Form Footage Part 1 with Filmmaker Robbie Smith

I thought I was going to be late. I woke up at noon, hazy from the edible and drinks I’d taken the night before. My girlfriend and our friend Jessica should be arriving at my house around 12:30 noon. We’ll be driving the short, but congested distance of Oakland to the city of San Francisco where we’ll attend the second year of the Unnamed Footage Festival.

We dusted through the deceptively dense traffic, smoke bellowing from the windows of Jessica’s 2003 Tercel. Parking was a fucking dream. Things were going too well. We arrived about halfway through Paranormal Activity: Tokyo Night, the opening film of the festival. We checked in. I grabbed a beer despite my empty stomach. My nerves were vibrating. After Paranormal Tokyo was the first Short Form Footage Block and my short film, Snake Bite, was playing. There was a decent crowd and all I could think of was the crowd shitting in their hands, tears streaming down their scowled faces as they chucked the excrement at the screen, appalled at what they were seeing, not content until the screen was covered. Then they’d turn to me, howling in pain and tearing at their eyes with their shit filled fingernails. What good was vision after this pie in the face of cinema. All that was good was dead. After tearing me to shreds they’d drag what was left of me into the depths of the ocean and.. 

Which brings us to a film by film recollection of the short film block. I’m just going to do a little blurb about each one, forgive me if my memory is a bit spotty, as I’m doing this a month later. I am a world class procrastinator. 

New Jerusalem

Strong opening to the short block. There were quite a few quality tier actors at play here and there seemed to be some production value. The real gold is in the final moments when things get weird. 

Room 17

I couldn’t stop thinking of how fun this must’ve been for the couple to act and create together. Huddled over their devices and reveling in this found footage inspired weekend getaway. It would have been cool to hear them talk about it. They did a great job for what I’m guessing are first time filmmakers.

Snake Bite

The tall can was a good idea. The joint might not’ve been. My nerves were on the fence. The damn thing started and it could not have gone better. I made a found footage movie in my undies and it went far better than I thought it could’ve. Two hearty tears fell from my right eye and you couldn’t have beltsanded the smile from my face. 

Still Moves

This was a joy. A kind and pleasant meditation on art and creation and letting your inner self pop at all moments.

The Last Vacation

Did I miss this? It’s listed as 1 minute long, so I could have had a restroom break and got caught chatting with Clark? Sorry, Ryan Davis.

Day Jobs

This is why I love UFF. I don’t have to sit through 14 shorts about ghosts in the corner of surveillance camera footage. I can see these fuckin' weirdos fumble hilariously through their odd ‘jobs’. 

Life is Cheap

One of the more effective films in the block. You could see a slice of this thing and think that what you’re watching may be something truly sick and real. I did a Q&A with Benji, the films director, after and I believe he said he was working on a feature version. Should be nice and creepy.

Notion Show

An modern Orwellian game show that might exist in the purge or pre-hunger games universe. An effective villain helped this one. I can’t imagine anyone in our audience wouldn’t have strangled this dude given the chance.

The Lady from Tulon

A mock investigative TV episode.. I gotta be honest, I couldn’t make it through five minutes of this one. I had some insider information that this was the last short and quietly crept out of the theater and into the blinding San Francisco sun where I’d walk two blocks to the east and buy a 6 pack. The rest of the day was a beautiful 14 hours 38 minutes and 16 seconds of people screaming and waving low quality cameras in the dark.


And the audience selected Snake Bite as their shorts winner! Check it out below and follow its creator Robbie on YouTube to see what he makes in the future.