Tag Archives: horror

John McTiernan’s Nomads


John McTiernan’s Nomads is one of the best, and most unconventional horror flicks that you’ve never seen. Nestled so far back into the 80’s that it stands as the mile marker for Pierce Brosnan’s first onscreen leading role, it’s a beautifully tense, atmospherically crafted fright flick that’s been lost to the hazy aeons of time. Unique in it’s ambiguity, this is a film bereft of bells, whistles, gore effects or even obviously spooky apparitions, relying solely on mood to impart illusory menace that’s never shoved in your face of spoon fed. Brosnan plays a French (hon hon) archeologist who begins to suspect he’s being followed by a group of unruly urban punks which, upon further introspection, could possibly be the malevolent spirits of a now extinct tribe he discovered years ago. It’s a vague, very weird concept, but it just somehow works, the presence of these grimy streetwalkers inciting palpable fear at the thought that they’re not what they seem at all. Opposites are at work here; by showing nothing, the filmmakers tell us and make us feel everything that is unseen, daring us to imagine what these mysterious beings might actually be, unsettling us further by having them appear in such benign (relatively speaking) form. It’ll frustrate many, but those tuned into the film’s eerie frequency will get the same chill down their spine that Brosnan perpetually walks around with, harassed no end by these meanies. The actors for these things are all especially chosen as well, each coached beautifully by McTiernan to act just normal enough to blend into the derelict fringes of an urban environment, while giving their demeanour an unnerving esoteric aspect, until they seem like a cross between mute versions of the Near Dark gypsy vampire clan and spectral coyotes. Brilliant concoction of subtle horror, clammy tension and gorgeously layered atmosphere.

-Nate Hill

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DO YOU SEE? Back to the Event Horizon with Philip Eisner by Kent Hill

 

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It was a good day for a movie. When is it not? I was home from university and had the agenda to go to a flick that started soon and looked good. Science fiction looked good and I had heard and read little about this new offering from the director of Mortal Kombat, the future impresario of  the Resident Evil franchise, Paul W.S. Anderson.

My buddy Paul was just coming out of the theatre, and as it happened he had just watched Event Horizon. I recall him being angry, “That’s shocking, terrible, grotesque,” he said. Well it’s been a while. But I certainly remember the look on his face and he was, for lack of a better word, mortified.

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Now when someone tells you not to look at something, what’s the first thing you do? That’s right, you go check it out. I knew I was going to. I knew my friend to be no coward, so I was automatically intrigued by the prospect of seeing this movie that had gotten to him on such a visceral level. I recall him saying, before we parted company, “Don’t waste your time with it,” or something to that effect.

I bullshitted and said sure, don’t worry, I’m seeing a different movie. After that review I was definitely going inside, and the movie I encountered therein was really cool.

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Coming out I felt satisfied. The movie worked on all levels. It was terrifying, impactful, funny at the right time, suspenseful, beautifully composed, strongly acted and above all, well written.

The world was not as socially connected at the time. Nor was it part of my complete breakfast during that period to track down and try to arrange interviews with the good people who make the movies.

Behind the scenes material was scant at best, and Event Horizon, no one at the time could have known, would go on to become a cult favorite and get a really nice re-release with a handsome collector case and lots of juicy bonus features. There is a great documentary included, commentary and the likes. But there was little about the film’s author and the script is only a brief part of the BTS discussion.

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Fortunately the world has moved on and we are all now accessible via a myriad of networking tools. Thus it was my good fortune to finally get in touch with and interview the very excellent screenwriter and all-round gentleman Philip Eisner. The man who was once locked away with nothing but The Road Warrior for a week, was an absolute pleasure to interview.

I feel, like I often do, when talking to the makers of my favorite films, like I’m getting the commentary track that should be included with the feature. After all, it is the with the screenwriter that these journey’s begin.

As I like to keep things as informal as possible, our chat was not restricted to Event Horizon. We discussed Philip’s journey to writing, the genesis of the script, how sometimes you homage and other times steal, what he thought of Rogue One (’cause us Star Wars boys can’t help ourselves), how it’s easier to say “No” in Hollywood and much more.

I sincerely hope you’ll enjoy this interview as much as I did and, in case you have wanted to know more about the true gem that is Event Horizon, or were looking for an excuse to watch it, if indeed you haven’t already…

Well now folks . .  . you’ll see.

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W Delta Z: The Killing Gene


I’ve written about this film before, but I just keep coming back to it and having tantrums at just how unseen and overlooked it is. Crafted in Europe and given the darkly ambiguous title ‘W Delta Z’, it was picked up stateside by Dimension Extreme and now has the decidedly more accessible title ‘The Killing Gene’, but it’s like they say, a rose by any other name. This is one seriously blood soaked rose too, with a few deeply unsettling ideas to go along with copious amounts of grisly violence. People have compared it to both Saw and Sev7n, and while not inaccurate, it’s smarter than those two combined and twice as gruesome. The premise is terrific: Amidst a brutal gang war in some nameless inner city inferno, there’s a serial killer loose with a few elaborately cerebral methods. Kidnapping people and forcing them to the brink of death via torture, giving them one way out: flick a switch that promptly kills a loved one in front of their eyes, also in captivity right next to them. The goal? To try and find tangible proof that real ‘love’ exists beyond an illusory notion or simply to serve human function, based on a controversial mathematical equation. Pretty grim stuff, but fascinating as well. Weary Detective Eddie Argo (Stellan Skarsgard has never been better) does everything he can to find this maniac, stop the gangs from tearing up the city and wrestle demons from his own past, which have more to do with matters at hand than he thinks. Saddled with the obligatory rookie partner (Melissa George) and at odds with the psychotic ringleader of a gang (Tom Hardy), it’s a rough week for him and everyone in this hellhole. This is the first role I ever saw Hardy in and he’s terrifying, a mumbling urban joker who delights in doling out horrific violence and assault, just a pitch black, on point performance early in his now prolific career. I have to spoil one plot detail which is fairly evident from trailers anyway, and that’s the the identity of the murderer. Selma Blair is the perp in question, and not not once elsewhere in her career has she taken on a role that requires this kind bravery, grit and conviction. Her character is driven by fury, fuelled by vengeance and infected with the sickness that both those attributes fester among damaged people. She’s simultaneously a terrifying fiend and someone you can sympathize with, and even wish to protect. Her character has a bitter, twisted past and we soon realize that the chosen victims are all intricately woven into Eddie’s past, a dark web of violent secrets involving Hardy, another cohort (Ashley Walters) and all of the double dealing that has gone on between them in the past, a precursor of a narrative that comes back to haunt each and every one of them, including Blair herself. The distinct European flavour rushes up to meet the classic urban American crime aesthetic and creates a flavour both stark and irresistible, as we realize that the journey we’re being taken on is very, very different from most of the cop vs. killer flicks made by Hollywood. I can’t stress enough how great this one is. I rarely re-review films unless I feel like they really didn’t get a fighting chance out of the gate or that marketing wasn’t properly put in, and not enough people took notice. This one got seen by few, and just begs to be discovered by many folks out there who I know would really dig it. 

-Nate Hill

The Void 


The best horror film of the year so far has arrived in the form of The Void, a genuinely spooky, deliriously gruesome 80’s throwback that gets tone, pacing and atmosphere right on the money, hitting that sweet spot that not all homages can fully grasp. It’s this year’s It Follows, I’ll put it that way. Balls out ballistic, atmospherically eerie and gorier than a chainsaw mud wrestling competition for spastics, it starts somewhat reigned in and then amps up to feverish nightmare fuel once it gets going, and boy does it ever get going. When emulating classics from distant eras, it’s important that these films find their own specific flavour and unique groove, as well as cleverly wearing influences on their sleeve. There’s an obvious adoration for John Carpenter’s The Thing running through it like an undercurrent, but the filmmakers find their own otherworldly pulse, and the fabulously icky body horror is subservient to an overarching plot involving forces from another dimension beyond ours, which a few lunatics are foolishly trying to contact. That happens later on though, once that special ripcord within the horror genre is pulled, the one that separates an uneasy opening act, a calm before the storm and the craziness to follow as soon as that first inciting attack occurs. The premise? Solid and simple: a small town cop (Aaron Poole) brings a blood soaked drifter to a nearly shut down county hospital run by a weary skeleton crew. No sooner has he arrived, bad shit starts happening. Some of the night staff go madly insane and start lobbing their own body parts off, while white cloaked cult weirdos gather outside to prevent anyone from leaving the building. A gruff, shotgun toting badass (Daniel Feathers) breaks in and pretty much violently threatens anything that moves. Corpses come alive and transform into glistening, pulsating piles of aborted pizza pocket waste, and to use the time honoured slogan, ‘all hell’ quite literally breaks loose. The head doctor (veteran character actor Kenneth Welsh, aka Windom Earle, is devilishly scary) clearly knows more than he lets on, and the new bodies pile up on the rotting older ones as dark forces gather for some kind of… birth. The actual how’s and whys of the story are left appropriately vague, as is tradition in hectic 80’s creature features with a supernatural twist. The term ‘void’ is never mentioned by anyone, rather hinted at by glimpses of a dreamy, austere parallel dimension that calls to mind everything from Altered States to Beyond The Black Rainbow to The Cell. A buddy of mine referred to the film as “Carpenter Fanboy Porn”, and while that’s definitely one angle you can look at it from, there’s more than just that, if you widen your gaze. It’s clearly a love letter to the man and his work, but it has its own thing going on as well, and feels at once as fresh as the titles it looks up to must have when they came out, and as lovingly nostalgic as a throwback piece should. The filmmakers have deliberately left it open for a sequel as well. Bring on the franchise, I say, the genre can really use stuff like this to fill the Void. 

-Nate Hill

Eye See You 


You know those films that you just seem to get fixated on and love for no particular reason, like they’re not even that good, you just… really like them? That’s Eye See You for me (known as D-Tox to all you folks across the pond), a heavy handed snowbound horror vehicle for a sedated Sylvester Stallone. It’s silly to the max, thoroughly implausible and perforated with cliches, but for whatever reason I just can’t get over the damn thing. Now, I admittedly have an affinity for the Agatha Christie style murder mysteries, especially ones set in the snow (cue fond memories of Hateful 8 and The Thing), and this one piles on a blizzard of red herrings, multiple shady characters, extremely graphic violence and paranoid unease. Maybe it’s that cast, a platoon of tough guy characters actors backing Sly up in one serious roster of a supporting cast. Old Rocky plays a big city FBI agent who is trying to find a jarringly vicious serial killer that targets law enforcement and has that classic obsession with his pursuer. After his girlfriend (Dina Meyer) falls victim to this beast, Sly unravels and following a suicide attempt, is sent up north by his mentor (Charles S. Dutton) for a little R&R,

and both R’s in that stand for rehab in a special remote facility designed just for cops with issues to work out. The place is run by Krusty Kris Kristofferson, and home to so many recognizable faces one has to give the casting director a tip of the fedora. A disgraced Mountie (Robert Prosky), emotionally fragile ex SWAT commander (Sean Patrick Flanery),

former Scotland Yard (Christopher Fulford), hostile ex narc (Jeffrey Wright with some pretty Harvey Dent facial scars), an insufferable macho asshole (Robert Patrick), ex military (Tom Berenger) who serves as caretaker, sympathetic therapist (Polly Walker) and a seriously creepy Stephen Lang. That’s a whole lot of suspicious characters to pick a killer from, because (you guessed it) the meanie has followed Sly out to the mountains and is posing as a member of their group. It’s a guessing game right up until one severely bloody climax, with ex cops dropping dead all over the place along the way, and Stallone looking more hollow and dishevelled as each body turns up. He’s not in action mode here at all, hell, he’s not even in sorta kinda Cop Land action mode, he’s a broken man trying to heal who’s forced back into shit kicking, and it puts a visible strain on him that the actor handles surprisingly adeptly. The rest do their job terrifically, with Flanery standing out in the scant but affecting screen time he’s given, and Patrick blustering through every scene until you’re just praying for the killer to target him next. There’s downsides galore, mind you, this isn’t well thought out territory, it’s gory genre nirvana and not much else. There’s a level of predictability that could have been avoided by making the identity of the killer a bit less… obvious, for lack of a non spoiling term, but oh well. It’s also just overblown lurid potboiler madness, but what else do you expect from this type of thing? I get exactly what I want out of it: a nice helping of ultra-violent intrigue to tune into on a cozy night, and not much more. In fact, I think I feel a revisit happening this week.

-Nate Hill

The Pang Brother’s ReCycle


What do you get if you take a mixing bowl and toss in The Cell, The Grudge, some Stephen King, Alice In Wonderland, The Lovely Bones and a not-too-subtle anti abortion message? You get ReCycle, a visually unbelievable, absolutely terrifying, boundlessly imaginative Chinese horror fantasy that no one saw, got overlooked to the max, and occupies an eternal spot in my DVD collection. Novelist Tsui (The Eye’s Anjelica Lee) is suffering from writer’s block following two bestsellers, expected by her publisher to churn out another one posthaste. Plagued at first by paranormal visions in her apartment, she’s suddenly thrown headlong into the otherworldly dimension of ReCycle, a place that can turn from beautiful to hellish and back again within minutes. Picture a surreal, abstract realm where everything that’s ever lost, forgotten or abandoned ends up, thrown together in a gorgeous but threatening dream world with various levels, planes and passages, seemingly endless and never predictable. The dead also reside here, as she soon learns, some of which don’t take kindly to intruders and can be pretty volatile. Forced to flee from one area of the realm to others and beyond, she’s joined by the spirit of a lost little girl, and put through one hell of time trying to find her way out. Included are dilapidated, haunted amusement parks, fields and mountains that extend for millions of miles, eerie forests where the ghosts of hanged prisoners leer out at them, vast crumbling cities, acres of forgotten children’s toys and in the film’s most wtf sequence, a giant gooey room filled with aborted fetuses that spring to life and slime anyone within reach. That’s right, the filmmakers aren’t really subtle with their pro-life sentiment, especially near the end, but as long as you can get past that, the rest is all incredible. The sheer scope of the film commands attention though, and anyone who daydreams or lets their imagination run wild will get an absolute kick out of it. It’s kind of like the world’s weirdest video game in cinematic form, structured like a play-through but given all the disorienting unease of your worst nightmare. 

-Nate Hill

Ernest Dickinson’s Bones


Who would have thought that a horror flick starring Snoop Dogg would actually be a winner? Bones isn’t a milestone in the genre or anything, but it sure is better than the self promoting vanity piece that I expected going in. Usually when rappers or musicians headline their own films they turn out to be spectacular failures (50 Cent’s Get Rich or Die Trying and Dee Snider’s Strangeland come to mind), but this one comes off as a legitimate, entertaining horror effort. Snoop plays Jimmy Bones, a lucrative 70’s street hustler who is betrayed and slaughtered by his partners in crime, his own sweetheart Pearl (Pam Grier is never not cool) and one sleazebag of a cop (Michael T. Weiss, excellent). Decades later he returns, undead, in the form of a smooth talking supernatural street demon, out to exact bloody ghetto revenge on his old acquaintances and clean up his former inner city neighbourhood, which is actually just Vancouver in disguise, I mean what city in any movie ever isn’t just Vancouver? Loosely threaded with the story of a few kids who plan to turn his old gothic mansion into a silly hip hop nightclub, things rev into full gore gear when he shows up back in town to stir shit around and collect heads, and I mean that literally. Snoop is wicked fun, wisely dropping any rap gags or meta smirk, showing up in full jive talking boogeyman mode, meaning business and bringing along the dark, angry charisma to back it up. Director Ernest Dickinson helmed a few Tales From The Crypt outings and therefore knows his way around this very specific and distilled niche of horror. Shades of the 80’s are prescient with incredibly gooey, gag inducing effects that would make Freddy Krueger jealous, and one gets an almost Crow vibe from the story structure, via the paranormal revenge motif and baroque, Poe-esque fire and brimstone aesthetic. It’s silly for sure, but far far more grounded and committed than you’d expect this type of thing to be on paper. More of a head on its shoulders than Tales From The Hood anyway, and yes that’s a real thing. I must make additional mention of the prosthetic effects though; not since certain Elm Street outings, early Cronenberg or stuff like The Sentinel have I seen the level of deformed, hellish grossology onscreen than is present in some scenes here, they should be really proud of what they’ve done. 

 -Nate Hill