Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Listener Sam Reviews: A Color Our of Space


Richard Stanley has a reputation for being somewhat of a maniac. After masterfully directing Hardware and Dust Devil in the early nineties, he was famously fired from the production of The Island of Dr. Moreau. He also famously haunted the set in a dog mask, spying on his own lost production. 

It seems fitting that Stanley’s comeback would come in the form of an adaptation of H.P. Lovecraft’s The Color Out of Space. His early career began and ended with all the splendor of a comet whizzing past, majestic and bright, before crashing spectacularly into a New England farm.

That’s more or less how Stanley’s adaptation of Lovecraft’s novella begins, and somehow it only gets crazier from there. If you’ve read the story, you’ll know what happens, and if you haven’t I suggest you read it. Like much of Lovecraft’s writing, it’s in the public domain and available through the H.P. Lovecraft Archive


The story, in essence, is about an infectious color that haunts a New England farm. Despite a change of time period, I think it’s fair to say that Stanley’s adaptation is fairly faithful. It’s not a beat-for-beat recreation of the story, but it is about a farm in New England that’s devastated by an alien color.

To this end, I think it’s fair to say that Lovecraft works best as an idea man. Sure, he has some genuinely good stories, but his stilted prose, hollow characters, and his occasional bouts of extreme racism and xenophobia make direct adaptations difficult. Many of the great Lovecraft adaptations take only the base elements and turn the story into something entirely their own. (From Beyond, Re-Animator, Castle Freak, Dagon, and Shatterbrain all come to mind)

That’s exactly what Stanley does, as he shows a family’s descent into technicolor madness. Nicolas Cage (Mandy, Mom and Dad) stars as Nathan Gardner, the father of a family farm who has moved to a secluded New England farm to raise Alpacas (a delightfully weird choice for a delightfully weird movie). Cage gives another solid horror performance. He manages to play it impressively straight for the beginning of the film and goes completely mad at the end. It’s what we’ve come to expect from Cage, but that makes it no less fun.


The rest of his family is comprised of an amusing cast of characters, but his daughter Lavinia (Madeleine Arthur of Big Eyes) who begins the film hanging out in a velvet cape with a white horse doing magic. This choice initially seems bizarre until you realize that this movie is gunning for high strangeness, which it nails at every turn. 

His youngest son Jack, played by Julian Hilliard of The Haunting of Hill House, is portrayed mostly as a scared, innocent child, but Hilliard nails it. It’s rare to see such a convincing performance from such a young actor, and between this and Hill House, his career is off to an amazing start. 

As an aside, I caught this at Beyond Fest, with a Q&A that included Richard Stanley, Julian Hilliard, and a good chunk of the film's cast, excluding Cage. Hilliard absolutely stole the show. From his Nicolas Cage-themed Spider-Man Noir t-shirt, regaling the crowd with personal anecdotes and stories of Cage’s antics on set, and even interrupting Stanley to tell the audience a joke. It was legitimately one of the most entertaining Q&As I’ve ever been to, and Hilliard was largely to thank.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t also mention Tommy Chong, who plays the farm’s resident squatter. He lives in an airstream with his pet cat, worships nature, records the sounds from underground, and acts like you’d expect a dirty hippy to act. It’s great.


The film balances horror and humor expertly. It blends written gags and laugh-out-loud Cage-isms with tense horror sequences, a few solid jump scares, and some legitimately harrowing scenes of gruesome body horror. 

While the film relies heavily on CGI, it never bothered me. At best it’s convincing and simply looks good, and at worst the CG creations fall far enough into the uncanny valley to fit with the film’s surreal sensibilities. Where the effects really shine is the color. This isn’t the first adaptation of this story, but it’s by far the most colorful, with a palette that feels like Annihilation on mescaline. 

Other adaptations cheap out on the concept of an alien color by presenting the film in black and white. Stanley instead chooses to bludgeon your eyeballs with a magenta sledgehammer, using the somewhat unusual color to depict a mix of infrared and ultraviolet. It looks stunning, and while some viewers might find certain sequences cheesy, I loved it.

Last but not least, the film is graced with a score by the fabulous bass saxophonist Colin Stetson, who’s in high demand after his killer score for Hereditary. Unlike Hereditary, Stetson’s score for Color Out of Space is bigger and more driven by a strange mix of orchestral and electronica sensibilities that seems strange at first but fits perfectly with the film’s aesthetic.


Maybe I’m biased. I love Nick Cage. Mandy was quite possibly my favorite film of last year, and I loved Mom and Dad. I believe that Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans is a masterpiece. I could watch The Wicker Man any day. By and large, I haven’t seen a Cage flick I haven’t liked. 

I’m also Lovecraft obsessive. I’ve read nearly all his stories, I love all of Stuart Gordon’s adaptations, and just about every other adaptation too. Even the bad ones. And sometimes especially the bad ones. I love cosmic horror, and it’s a joy when something good comes along.

Color Out of Space has already been picked up by RLJE Films, and will be getting a wide release this week. If you get a chance to see this one theatrically, jump on it. The gorgeous kaleidoscopic effects lend themselves beautifully to the big screen.

-Listener Sam

Thursday, January 16, 2020

Digging Up The Dirt with KillDozer and A&P Productions, Slashorette Party


As a genre fan, one must give full credit when talented people create on screen magic with minimal resources. A&P Productions has been a buzz in the horror community since their Cinco De Mayo release. They have been giving audiences amazing examples of what can be accomplished with  passion, dedication, talent, and a shoe string budget. Their last film Streets of Vengeance left the horror community wanting more and A&P are ready to deliver with their newest labor of love Slashlorette Party. I had to dig up the dirt on how this bloody dream was going to become a reality. 


KIllDozer: I can't get over how excited I am for your new film but as a nerd I must ask, what came first the title or the concept for Slashorette Party?

Paul: Thanks! The concept came first and the title came shortly after during a car ride. Angie and I we were going through as many crazy title names as we could. I had originally titled it “The Bride Wore Red” but that seemed more like a Italian giallo movie. We wanted something more ridiculous!

Angie: Ridiculous is the perfect word! I don’t know how many times I rolled my eyes at the various options Paul rattled off. But Slashlorette Party made me laugh because it sounded like a actual crazy 80's horror movie.


KD: I love the way you bring your fan base in on each step of the casting process. What inspires you to bring everyone along with you on the film making process?

Angie: Filmmaking is both difficult and easy at the same time. I get asked all the time how we can make movie as regular people with full time jobs. Explaining it isn’t enough, I like to show people the process so they can see it’s possible for them to do it too.

Paul: Angie has really pushed this transperancy approach. I’m not really good at it, sometimes I forget to document all things we do! But it turns out it’s really helpful for others to see the steps we take to get a film made.


KD: What has the crowdfunding experience been like? Where can we go to support Slashorette Party?

Paul: The crowdfunding campaign for Slashlorette Party has been very successful! We have raised more money for this project than we did for Streets of Vengeance! Here’s the link to our indiegogo campaign! http://igg.me/at/slashparty

Angie: I put a lot of thought into the perks, I really wanted to give as much as possible to show my appreciation for everyone’s support. So I went into this pretty optimistic but I’m still shocked by well it went!


KD: Why a slasher film? What do you think brings people back to slashers after all these years? 

Angie: I truly have no idea! I wasn’t allowed to watch horror movies growing up so I don’t have an emotional or a nostalgic connection to them but they seem to make people happy! I do know that people have so much fun not only watching them, but also making them! When we first announced we were making a slasher movie we had so many people show support and excitement without even knowing the story first!

Paul: The imagery of a “slasher movie” is so strong that everyone immediately knows what you are talking about when you mention the genre. The genre just causes people to get excited! I grew up watching slashers and they had a huge impact on me. I always wanted to make one. In 2010, we made our first feature film, Cinco De Mayo, which is a holiday slasher film. But it was more of a revenge movie, similar to how Streets of Vengeance is a female revenge thriller. This time I wanted to make a true slasher, but of course in our own way. 


KD: Your other films have had a decent amount of social commentary. Can we expect the same from Slashorette Party? Do you think it's important to balance the  fun with a solid message?

Angie: Yes and yes! At this point I feel like that’s become our signature: genre movies with a underlying message. 

Paul: It’s very important to us that we have something to say with each film. For this one, the subtext is much more nuanced than the previous films, but it’s there. We talk to the lead actress, Molly Souza, about the subtext quite often, which I really enjoy.


KD: Are any of the characters in the film based on real people in your lives? Or are they based on slasher tropes? What is the hardest part when writing these characters?

Angie: Some characters are based on real people we know. That’s why our characters seem realistic and relatable to some people. Others exist purely for the kills! Haha

Paul: Yeah it’s definitely a mixture of real people and character archetypes. The hardest part about writing characters is finding their own unique sense of humor, finding their voice. So if you base characters off of real people you can tune into that voice much easier.


KD: Do you create the kills for your films during the script writing process? What can the audience expect in terms of gore with Slashorette Party?

Paul: Sometimes I write a detailed kill with camera moves and editing notes and then sometimes I just write something like “everyone in the room gets hacked up.” Which can be scary to read if you are the special effects person. But later on I’ll go in and work it out in full detail.

Angie: This is going to be our bloodiest and goriest film yet! Which is why we’ve teamed up with the Sacramento Film Armory for this one. We can’t call it Slashlorette without having a lot slashing going on!


KD: Can you tell us about the exciting premiere screening?! How can we can attend? 

Angie: The State Theater in Modesto CA has generously offered to host the premiere. We’ve always wanted to have a premiere there since it’s such a beautiful theater and in our home town. Most of the cast is local so it will be easier for their friends and family to attend. We are excited about being able to share this experience with our own community! 

Paul: The State Theater has thing called the Late Night Horror Series where they show a classic horror movie each month and our film is going to part of it! Once the film has been complete, we will set it up with the theater and post the premiere date all over the internet!


KD: When do you hope to complete the film? Will it go onto the film fest circuit once complete? Will you be touring with it?

Angie: We will most likely screen the film at a few different locations but we’re not really interested in the Film Festival route for this one. We prefer to focus on official distribution so people can rent and/or own it sooner than later.

Paul: I’ve haven’t had too much luck with film festivals in the past haha. I think we are just going to bypass all that and hold our own screenings around California! But if someone wants to have a screening in a different state we would love make it happen! The film should be complete early 2020!


KD: What can we expect in term of the sound track?

Paul: We will be working again with the amazing Vestron Vulture who composed the 80's synth soundtrack to our last film, Streets of Vengeance. We love working with him; even though we live in different countries we have a deep connection. We are also working with The Grind Theory, out of NYC, on a few tracks! He produced a track for us on SOV as well. We are excited to work with him again!


KD: What roles are both of you playing in this production? (Is it everything? ha ha)

Angie: Technically we both do everything but we do have our individual strengths. Paul is always more of the writer/director and I’m more of the producer. I focus most of my attention on the logistics (renting locations, selecting wardrobe, on set photography, scheduling, keeping track of finances etc.). Basically Paul creates a world with characters and I help him bring it to life. We both dream up a vision and style together and then tackle it together using our individual strengths.

Paul: I will be mainly directing, although sometimes I record the audio too! But our films are really made by both Angie and I, we make all the decisions together. That’s the secret behind our success. 


KD: Okay, now for some quick fun questions! What actresses would you invite to an actual Bachelorette party and what would the theme be?

Paul: I don’t know much about bachlorette parties but if I was gonna throw one I’d invite Ginger Lynn Allen, Linnea Quigley, and Felissa Rose! The theme would be murder, mayhem, the usual stuff. 


KD: I took my mom to a screening of Streets of Vengence, should I take her to see Slashorette Party as well? (Be honest ) 🙂

Angie: Slashlorette will probably be easier for a mom to get through considering it’s not about sex workers. Haha! For some reason people get uncomfortable with anything sexual but are completely okay with brutal murders, so she should be fine. 

Paul: If she was able to make it though SOV and all the blood and boobs, she can definitely make it through Slashlorette Party!


KD: What is your favorite slasher kill of all time?!?!

Paul: I would have to say Angie Dickinson Dressed to Kill or the guy in the wheelchair that gets the machete in the face and falls down the stairs in Friday the 13th part 2.

Angie: When the clown falls in the dunk tank and gets his arm bitten off by the cute little ghoulie in Ghoulies 2! I love when he pops out of the water and smiles!
(PS I’m still looking for an answer on why the ghoulie was wearing a shirt and suspenders on the cover of the vhs but it never shows up in actual film! If you figure it out please let me know!)

~💀~

Keep up with Slashorette Party updates by liking them on Facebook!

And get updates on all things A&P Productions by liking their page here!

-KillDozer

Saturday, January 11, 2020

The Overlook Theatre Reviews: Underwater


A crew of aquatic researchers work to get to safety after an earthquake devastates their subterranean laboratory. But the crew has more than the ocean seabed to fear.

8 of 9 viewers "Liked" "Underwater" (2020, USA)
Creature reviews have been minimally altered in an attempt to maintain their voice:

Listener Sam - "Underwater is aggressively unlike the vast majority of blockbusters being released nowadays. The movie has a laser focus. From minute three onward the driving force is "get from point A to point B," and for a $60M+ movie, it sticks to this extremely tightly. The tension is relentless. The claustrophobia and crushing weight of the 7 miles of water is palpable. Reprieve only occurs as characters descend elevators or ride brutally slow trams, and we get short, human moments that drive narrow character arcs that are driven by primal motivation. The deaths are visceral and there's a lot of implied gore for a PG13 movie (including an incredible explosive depressurization.) It also has some of the coolest creature designs I've seen in years. It's got shades of Deep Rising, Leviathan, and Deepstar Six, and Lovecraft's Shadow Over Innsmouth, while creating something uniquely its own. If you like aquatic horror and lean late-eighties creature features, you'll probably love this. You're not going to get a traditional studio blockbuster, but you'll get a nostalgic throwback with constant tension, interesting characters, and badass killer mermaids." - 4.5 Stars

Clark Little - "We occupy a cinematic landscape that is littered with cookie-cutter remakes and plain-jane blockbusters for the masses. It is refreshing to come across a larger budget monster flick that isn't borrowed from a previous property- a new idea. However, Underwater doesn't do enough to separate itself from the droning, derivative dirge that is January releases. The production design and CG work were worth the price of admission. The creatures were great and I wish there was more, especially from our headliner. Corners were not cut on the production and that was very refreshing. Unfortunately, one has to account for the story, characters, and the crow-barred geo-political ending. For the majority of this 95 minute run time, I was disengaged and was apathetic towards the telegraphed ending that canonized our heroine protagonist. If you're going to be bleak, I'd rather you be bleak in the story, rather than putting it on the shoulders of the voting public who want and need escapism and not another reminder that the world is a toilet that is on fire. In addition, the characters were uninteresting and devoid of charm or charisma. Shooting on and in water is an incredibly difficult and expensive task and I'm sad to say that this film will stay on the ocean floor of my memory." - 2.5 Stars

Grey Ranger - "It's a programmer: it does what it says it'll do, nothing more...yet nothing less. It's not going to reinvent genre cinema, but if Kirsten Stewart vs. deep sea horror is your idea of a good time, then that is what you get. Stewart reliably leads a cast who all convey the cabin fever that comes with too much time spent miles below sea level. You get more-than-decent set and costume design, a fine and brooding score by Marco Beltrami and Brandon Roberts, and the thing's even generous enough to give you a couple of good long looks at the creatures. All of which is not bad for a January release of a movie that's been on the shelf since 2017." - 3 Stars

The Impostor - "This is one of the better January horror releases. Underwater takes no time getting straight to the horror and suspense and keeps you engaged 'till the very end. I felt claustrophobic from a few scenes and the underwater creatures looked cool. Underwater is fast paced yet still gives us insight into the characters which isn't easy to do. Lately, horror has been supernatural and remakes/reboots so it's definitely refreshing to see this creature feature survival horror released. While it doesn't bring anything new to the table, it's definitely entertaining and made me jump quite a bit. Overall solid film and I'm impressed with how much I enjoyed it." - 3.5 Stars

KillDozer - "Remember when genre fans proudly supported horror films? When we as a community wore our love of horror like a badge of honor and had no fear of pretentious film critics trashing our community or belittling us for loving the genre? The time has come to once again have fun and embrace our inner monster kids. Underwater is a beautifully written, acted, shot, and produced... Horror Film!! A solid reminder of how to take you to familiar places and still give you an experience that leaves you wanting more. It's okay to fall for a jump scare, to laugh at the comic relief, or even hope the hero survives. Yes, this is not A24 and that's a good thing! We are a diverse group who wants to be entertained! Underwater is fun and exciting. I can honestly say it has something for everyone. In a better world, this film would get as much attention as Us but this isn't a better world so I won't hold my breath and wait for the "millennial horror fans" to catch up to the fact that it's okay to like monster movies!" - 4 Stars (Collection worthy)

Drumachine - "Underwater does an excellent job of reinforcing my fears of the deep ocean. The set design and score were exceptionally thoughtful, and I appreciated the nods to its inspirations. I do wish there was a bit more to the characters." - 3.5 Stars

Lord Battle - "Fuck, Underwater is good. K Stew staring in a sci-fi horror set in a deep sea water base couldn't sound less deprived of creativity, but it DELIVERS. Underwater starts with a voice over that might make you think this is going to be a deliberately paced existential horror that's stepping waaay outside of its capabilities, yet it's a film that's 100% aware that it's playing in a sandbox built by Ridely Scott and Walter Hill. Remember how Rear Window started its storytelling with framed photos? Now imagine a fast-paced action film where everything we learned about the characters happened in quick visuals like that Rear Window opening. It's brilliant! So make sure you go see that beautiful flat chested, elf-like creature K-Stew and support this dumped block buster and all its Old Ones/Neil Marshall glory!" - 4.5 Stars

Wondering Panda - "I tell you what, I like this film a lot. It's dark, cold, claustrophobic. It builds tension and has an amazing reveal. I had very low expectations for Underwater and that worked in the film's favor. I'm amazed by its ambiance and its feeling of hopelessness. The film did a great job with the material it had. And I enjoyed myself." - 4 Stars

Huntress - "Sure, I noticed some similarities between Underwater and Alien, even in the trailer, but if anything that made me want to see the movie even more. It's clearly not a remake of any kind, but it has some familiar elements scattered throughout. The tension is suffocating. Set entirely seven miles under sea level, the exterior shots are both beautiful and terrifying, especially when the survivors are being pursued by something they can't identify. This was another case of me liking all the characters so much I was really bummed when anyone died, but then their deaths looked so good it was hard not to gasp. The creature designs were amazing and daring. And then there's the ending... I don't know why anyone would agree to to into the ocean again." - 4.5 Stars




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

The following is a series of texts sent after Listener Sam saw the Alamo New Mission's early screening of Underwater. The following has been edited in no way.











-Lord Battle

The Overlook Theatre materialized in a Century Theater for a screening on 1/9/2019
*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, January 3, 2020

The Overlook Theatre Reviews: The Grudge, Nicolas Pesce


A house is cursed by a vengeful ghost that dooms those who enter it with a violent death.

2 of 5 viewers "Liked" "The Grudge" (2020, USA)
Creature reviews have been minimally altered in an attempt to maintain their voice:

Huntress - "When we enter the world of The Grudge, it feels familiar. We meet our cast in their most withered, helpless, or raving moments, but we won’t find out how they got there until several storylines and time shifts later. We’re given the year of each major event in the overall story, but what we actually watch feels like it’s set four decades before the given year. (The Grudge house also appears to be in Haddonfield, but that’s a different story.) The movie feels familiar not because it’s a remake, but because it’s a Nicolas Pesce movie. It was subtly time lost, and we got to know our characters’ stories out of order, two elements that The Eyes of My Mother and Piercing both had, although executed very differently. The children in this movie were unfortunately mechanical, but the sheer insanity that Lin Shaye brought to the screen made up for them. And the gore was great with the exception of one questionable nosebleed. There were some anti-climatic moments and it felt like one of the characters had seen the original movie with how quickly he pieced everything together, but overall The Grudge is one of the better January releases as far as I’m concerned. It was indiscriminately violent and realistically shocking. It gave me a lot to think about, which I can’t say about many movies. Of course it would have been better if it was its own thing, especially since most ties to The Grudge felt a little forced, but the worst part of seeing this was the rest of the audience." - 3.5 Stars

The Impostor - "Sadly, The Grudge (2020) didn't start off the year on a high note. With its R rating and director attached whose films I enjoyed, I was excited and all in. While the film's cinematography and acting were great, the overall film kind of bored me. The ghosts weren't as scary as I remember Kyoko being in the original 2004 The Grudge, but the movie had a few effective jump-scares. I would have hella liked to see Kyoko and Toshio in an R rated setting, but instead we got a watered down American family that weren't as effective with the scares for me. I also thought The Grudge (2020) was a remake of the 2004 version but it's actually The Grudge 4, taking place during the same time of the events of The Grudge (2004). I will say the posters and fan art for The Grudge are great. Lots of the promo art and teasers feature the creepy hair that barely makes the final cut of the movie. Overall a weak start to the year for horror but hopefully the planned sequels for this pan out and are a bit more exciting." - 2.5 Stars

Wondering Panda - "Horror movies in January. Aww boy. So The Grudge (2020) is a very stripped down, boring take of the franchise. I had low expectations coming in, but wow that was bad. The film pays homage to the original Ju-On by showing the original house in one quick scene outside and that's it!! One shining light is Lin Shaye, who genuinely looks like she's having fun in her role. All in all if you guys want to watch this film be our guest, but we bit the bullet so you won't have to."  - 2 stars

Lord Battle - "2020 kicks off with Nicolas Pesce's The Grudge, easily the most interesting horror project slated as an outta the gates dump in the past decade. Unfortunately, it's exactly what I feared, an extremely stylish indie horror director trying to find his voice in a heavily produced franchise reboot. If we take a look at The Grudge using the auteur theory, Pesce's voice is present only in the form of a slow uncertain build that added so much to the climax of The Eyes of My Mother and swelled the mystery of Piercing, only hinders this film and its unnecessary non-liniar narrative. To be frank, the film's only bad because it's boring. The Grudge is so boring that it manages to allow Lin Shaye's bonkers performance to get lost! Seriously, if you need a reason to see Nicolas Pesce's The Grudge, just know that Lin Shaye cuts off her own fingers, jumps from a Vertigo-esk stairwell, and delivers a stellar performance while doing it. Harold (-Kumar) is also there and he's contemplating abortion (which is important for some reason?). Oh, and CGI fire! Why the CGI fire?! - 2.5 Stars

Math Mage - *Message received a day late, sent via cellphone* - "I liked it. Had good pacing and atmosphere, the jump-scares and gore actually made it less scary. Particularly the terrible CG blood, and I question the decision to computer generate an unconvincing dummy of Lin Shaye. It seems like the film might have benefited from a lower budget, so that there would be more incentive to be creative. Particularly around the imagery that wasn't lifted wholly from the original films. Additional note: the ending theme apparently doesn't exist. It's a terrible song that starts with: "I'm watching the static on the TV and my eyes are bleeding!". So I Shazamed it and got nothing, googling the full title also did nothing." - 3.5 Stars



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

Packed! The damn theatre was packed! Well... it was at least 88% full, which is insane for a 7PM Thursday night horror movie. At first, we thought this was a Winter Break thing, but Nicolas Pesce's The Grudge is rated R and there were practically no teenagers to be seen. Honestly, it looked more like a date night convention, with many a couple to be seen (I know because we sat up front and I turned around 👀😁). This unusual crowd really made me happy. Digesting films in a large group is a fading part of the experience especially when it happens to be a reboot of a cultural remake/sequel (we attended a Ju-On screening a couple years ago at the Little Roxie where the director mentioned that the Sarah Michelle Gellar entry was actually cannon).

Then the downsides of a packed theatre started to rear their ugly heads. We had to sit in the third row from the screen, which honestly doesn't bother me as I like to sit up front, but I understand is a deal breaker for many. The Impostor sat next to a dude whose girlfriend was 100% in the film, while he checked his phone every 5 minutes. And I had the pleasure of waiting for the family of 6+ to take their seats at the 40 minute mark, as they arrived late and preceded to chat throughout the whole film... I should add that the couple of jump-scares that worked in the film killed with all of these casual lame-o's and nothing beats a row of people jumping/screaming.


-Lord Battle

The Overlook Theatre materialized in a Century Theater for a screening on 1/2/2019
*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.