Zack Snyder’s Army Of The Dead

We don’t deserve a movie as outright cool, fun, entertaining and badass as Zack Snyder’s Army Of The Dead. Know how I know? Because of all the flagrant, inflammatory hate I’m seeing in discussion threads across the universe of social media, hate being doled out largely (not exclusively, before you lunge for my throat) by people who would have surely left this film alone and even enjoyed it if Snyder had nothing to do with it. Know how I know *that*? Just trust me, I know how these fuckwit Snyder hating trolls operate and I know it’s only because of his involvement that they are being this way. Anyways enough about them and onto the film, which is sensational and one of the best I’ve seen this year. Snyder sets the action in and out of a cordoned off Las Vegas where an undead outbreak several years before has decimated sin city and the zombies, unlike anything you’ve seen so far in the genre by the way, have taken up a sort of primordial tribal residence amongst the once glitzy landmark city. A Japanese billionaire (Hiroyuki Sanada) assembles a team spearheaded by Dave Bautista’ ex special forces short order cook to venture in and bust open a casino vault with millions inside, but is that what he’s really after? Bautista is wonderful and proves yet again what a talented presence he is on top of being a solid action dude. His character reconnects with an estranged daughter (Ella Purnell) who works inside the quarantine zone and here the film finds a pathos usually uncommon in this arena. Others in the cast make vivid impressions including Tig Notaro as a cavalier helicopter pilot, Mathias Schweighöfer as an adorably aloof safecracker, Theo Rossi as a despicably abusive government soldier, Ana de la Reguera as a fearsome warrior and perennial slime-ball Garrett Dillahunt as a smarmy private security expert with a shady agenda. My favourite was the lovely Nora Arnezeder as the aptly named Coyote, a highly trained scout who regularly ventures into the hot zone and serves as their guide, she brings a humanity and urgency to both her lines and action choreography that really struck a chord with me. The zombies are ruled by a sort of patient zero Alpha named Zeus, played ferociously by Richard Cetrome, who also played the leader of the pack Big Daddy Mars in John Carpenter’s Ghosts Of Mars, a nice shoutout to a similarly maligned flick that actually totally rocks. Zeus has a Bride (Chelsea Edmundson) who for me was the most striking character in the film, a serpentine zombie queen with fiery contact lenses, a shrieking battle cry and wonderful physicality provided by model Edmundson. And yes there is a zombie tiger too, and yes she is one incredibly badass and beautifully rendered creature creation that is a highlight of the film. Look, this is a torqued up, totally ridiculous, hyper-stylized B movie about an outbreak in Vegas, wherein lies an undead jungle cat, zombies who ride skeletal horses and can both breed and have little zombie babies all wrapped up in a heist flick with a father daughter relationship, anti government undercurrents and more action that you can shake a severed head at, so if you’re trying to poke holes of logic and burrow for plot holes in a film that intrepidly incorporates all of that under one two and a half hour tent, well babe the only person you’re fooling is yourself. So what the story isn’t a succinct high-wire act of pushpin writing beats and realistic arcs? It’s a kickass old school horror flick with a huge cast, buckets of beautiful and strikingly graphic gore (eat your heart out, Bear attack scene from The Revenant), wonderfully unique mythology, dark humour, tons of gorgeous twilight and magic hour cinematography, splashes of genuinely affecting emotional work and a fucking zombie tiger named Valentine! So chill out. My top film of the year so far 🐅 🐯

-Nate Hill

Brian Yuzna’s Return Of The Living Dead 3

Brian Yuzna’s Return Of The Living Dead 3 is my baptism into this franchise, so to speak, and while I try overall to not just haphazardly launch into a franchise midway without regard for chronology, this was recommended to me by a friend and it’s one of her favourites so here we are. This was an absolute blast, and although it’s obvious this franchise had reached its ‘weird’ zenith, it’s ‘Jason Goes To Hell’ or ‘Michael Myers is actually in a Druid cult’ area of bonkers sequel writing, I love the ideas, special effects and fresh spin on the zombie genre found here, even if I had no context in regards to the many Living Dead films that led up to this point. There’s an army base where a gruff Colonel (Kent McCord) conducts bizarre experiments on the undead in a world that has been living with the existence of zombies so long they’ve just become like, part of the scenery, less of a novelty threat and more of a given. The general’s kid (J. Trevor Edmonds) is one of those motorbike riding, earring sporting, dreamy 90’s bad boys whose rebellious nature is constantly at odds with the shirt tucking, militaristic nature of his pops, who doesn’t approve of the girlfriend (Melinda Clarke) that he’s clearly very in love with. After a horrific bike accident leaves her on deaths’s door, the kid sneaks her into his dad’s facility in hopes of using the strange zombie necromancy within to resurrect his love. Well.. that just sounds like a recipe for chaos and indeed the film turns the dial way past eleven as some kind of otherworldly magick takes the girl over and she gains these snazzy, Hellraiser style clothes, weaponry and undead powers, with the makeup and costume department making her look fearsome and raw for the latter half of the film. What’s fascinating is that she doesn’t really lose her humanity either and doesn’t become a shambling corpse, she metamorphoses into this mesmerizing amalgamation of a bloodthirsty monster who needs to eat human flesh but with her emotions, drives and her thinking skills of a human being still clearly intact, gilded by these striking costume choices and surgically implanted, jagged looking weaponry. The character is a stroke of genius, actress Clarke sells every facet of it from the longing for her former self and her love for her boyfriend to her burgeoning primordial need to cause mayhem and carnage, she’s one of the most interesting characters I’ve ever seen in horror and I would have loved to see a whole spinoff franchise just about her. There’s a rather silly subplot where a loud, obnoxious Mexican street gang begins to transform into zombie-like creatures as well and it’s got its charms including a neat effect where a detached spinal column terrorizes anyone around it. The film works best when it focuses on the girlfriend and her chrysalis-esque remoulding into this spectacular undead demigod though, and I’d heavily recommend the film just for that event alone. Soon I’ll explore this franchise more in depth and have a better grasp on the world building and storytelling, but if the rest are anything like this, baby I’m sold.

-Nate Hill

The road to DOOMED: An Interview with Adrian Milnes by Kent Hill

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Here I give you, dear listeners, a success story in close proximity to me. A few hours east of the old ranch lives a screenwriter who has recently exploded on the scene as part of an exciting batch of cinema, emanating from a dynamic producing duo with a lucrative business model who have created a haven from bold genre movies.

Adrian, like most of us born with the creative itch (further exacerbated once bitten by the movie bug) knows, all too well, that the road from script to screen can be perilous. Anxious waiting, exhaustive rewrites, all part and parcel of this business we’re in. All the turmoil, all the hours of doubt and disharmony can however, be washed away in the instant the house lights fade into darkness and those long nights of many words come alive on screen. The journey at an end, and the audience entertained.

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He traveled from the old empire, through Asia, till at last coming to settle here in the colonies. And it was here, in the sun-burnt land of Down Under that the distant stars and the bright lights of Hollywood glisten in the eyes of the dreamers, their twinkling transformed into a siren song, biding the likes of Adrian (and the rest of us) to take his place among them.

But it is no longer a mere wish upon a star for Mr Milnes. His hard work, determination and dedication to learning how the tricks of the trade blend with the troupes of the industry. All artists chiefly need a patron, and if you put yourself where the lightning strikes, as Adrian has, you might find yourself with green light and a go-picture.

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Due to a recent technical misadventure, unfortunately, my recording of our chat was lost. Thankfully Adrian has been a good sport and we have the interview to present in the written form below. The tale of the local lad who made good with his BRIDGE OF THE DOOMED, and the currently in post, BLOODTHIRST. The world is about to receive a healthy dose of the cinematic musings of the man who never gave up, turning what can potentially be a road to doom into victory lane.

Ladies and gentleman, I give you, Adrian Milnes

KH: Tell us a little about your love of cinema that has endured and seen you pursue this dream to write for the screen?

AM: I’ve always watched any movie I could find. When I was a kid in England the BBC used to show lots of old movies, and I watched as many as I could . The first movie that truly terrified me was an old Basil Rathbone movie, The Pearl Of Death. I was only nine, but I can still remember Rondo Hatton’s scenes. Later on, living in Hong Kong I developed a love for 90s Hong Kong movies. A lot of them were very small scale stories that could have happened two streets over, and you would never have known about it. The more you live in Hong Kong, the more you see and hear about things that most people don’t notice. A friend of mine was married to a Police Officer, and she really opened my eyes to a lot of things that happened there.

KH: Did you learn (undertake academic study) or was it picked up piecemeal as you progressed in your quest to master the screenplay?

AM: I just taught myself. I made a lot of mistakes in the early days that a course would have steered me away from.

KH: There are significantly more avenues today for emerging screenwriters to parade their talent; can you tell us about your early experiences in attempting to showcase your work?

AM: There are plenty of opportunities now for screenwriters, but they all cost money, and a lot of them aren’t worth it. There are so many competitions, coverage services and hosting sites, not all of them reputable. Ink Tip obviously worked out for me. It also allows you to post loglines for short scripts, which is a great way for new screenwriters to start. Sending out emails to producers can occasionally work, but they’re deluged with emails, and if you’ve got no credits it can be hard to stand out.

KH: You are two movies in as a scribe for the rapidly expansive might of the Mahal Empire, a radically successful crowd funded production company. Tell us about Bridge of the Doomed, the evolution of the screenplay and working with this dynamic producing duo?

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AM: Michael Mahal read my script on Ink Tip, and straight away knew he could make it. Most producers option a script for a year, and see if they can get any interest from a director, then actors, and finally investors. He was so confident he bought the script outright, and the audition call went out a couple of weeks later. He was right to be confident, as straight away there was an incredible amount of interest from investors. When they had raised enough money Michael suggested starting the story earlier at the army camp, and having Robert LaSardo as the General. Later on they were able to afford Michael Pare as well. My original script had eight speaking parts, and we ended up with over sixty. Naturally this meant a lot of rewriting, but it was worth it. I never would have written it like this, as the budget would have been way too high for most indie producers.

KH: They say the more you write makes you a better writer; what has your journey leading up to this break, and since then having written through two successful productions now altered what you thought you knew about screenwriting?

AM: I started off writing Science Fiction, then later moved on to Crime Fiction. I sold a few short stories then gave up. At that point I really didn’t think I could write movies, it just seemed so far out of reach. Having written a lot of screenplays I can now instinctively get things like pacing and structure correct. I re-read my first ever screenplay recently, thinking I might be able to tidy it up and sell it. Of course it was dreadful.

KH: Even guys who have been at this game at the highest levels say it never gets easier; has this jump into the professional ranks made it easier (in your opinion) to present specs to potential elements to possibly mount production?

AM: Once again I’ve been lucky. Since Bloodthirst, I’ve written four scripts for Massimiliano Cerchi, the originator of that movie. The first of them is going to be filmed in October with Louis Mandylor, Michael Pare and Robert LaSardo. Having that first credit definitely helps in being considered, but it’s still no guarantee. There are plenty of professional writers with huge gaps in their IMDb listing. They’ve probably sold scripts in that time that didn’t get made, but it gives an indication of what it’s like.

KH: A young guy approaches you and tells you he wants to be a screenwriter. What do you tell him?

AM: Plan your life as though you’ll never make a cent from writing. Most writers don’t sell anything, and those that do rarely make enough to live off. The middle of the market has been contracting for a long time, it’s mostly $100 million or micro budget movies now. Even if they do sell a script, it might only be for $1k. All the good things I’ve achieved in my life came through working as an electronics technician. Every writer needs to know what producers are looking for, the market is constantly changing. Right now the big thing is having scripts that can be filmed in a Covid safe way, and producers are always looking for single location scripts with just a few characters. Those types of stories are really hard to do well, but it’s great training just to try.

KH: A major Hollywood studio, out of the blue, calls you up and says they are going to spend whatever it takes to produce your next screenplay….but it has to be a remake?

AM: Some classics shouldn’t be remade, but there are plenty of near-forgotten movies that are ripe for a remake. Truth is though, if there was a lot of money involved, I wouldn’t turn anything down.

There you have it folks. Hollywood dreams are more than attainable, you just have to want it more than the next person, be willing to fail, be willing to fight, but most importantly be adventurous, and ready to write…

20,000 Leagues of Cinema and Literature: An Interview with C. Courtney Joyner by Kent Hill

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C. Courtney Joyner is a successful writer/director/novelist. He was a zombie in a Romero movie, he hangs out with L.Q. Jones and Tim Thomerson, he was once roommates with Renny Harlin and made the breakfasts while Harlin got the girls. It makes me think of Steve Coogan’s line from Ruby Sparks, “how do I go back in time and be him.”

Truth is we are the same in many instances. We’re just on different sides of the globe and one of us is in the big leagues while the other is at the scratch and sniff end of the business. But we both love movies and fantastic adventures. We both wrote to the filmmakers we loved long before the director became celebrity. We both longed for more info from behind the scenes – long before such material was in abundance.

He grew up in Pittsburgh, the son of a doctor and a reporter. He came of age in the glory days of monster movies and adventure fiction. Then he headed west and after college it wasn’t long before his writing caught the attention of producers and thus a career was spawned.

Spending those early years working with Charles Band and his company, Empire, Joyner was prolific, and soon the writer became a director. All the while he was working on a dream project, a work we all have in us, that he was fighting to bring into the light.

It was a love of Jules Verne and the “what if” type scenario that gave birth to the early version of the story that would become his current masterwork Nemo Rising; a long-awaited sequel, if you will, to 20,000 Leagues under the Sea.

His story would go through several incarnations before finally reaching the form into which it has now solidified. Swirling around him were big blockbuster versions which never quite surfaced. Names like Fincher and Singer and stars like Will Smith were linked to these big dollar deals.

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Unfortunately even Joyner’s long-form TV version came close, but didn’t get handed a cigar. So at a friend’s insistence he wrote the book and his publisher, in spite of the property being linked at that time to a screen version that fell apart, agreed to still put the book out.

Thus Joyner’s Nemo has risen and at last we can, for now, revel in it’s existence. I believe it is only a matter of time before it shall acquire enough interest – and the new major playing field – the field of series television may yet be the staging ground for Courtney’s long-suffering tribute to the genius of Verne and the thrilling enigma of a character known as Captain Nemo.

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Long have I waited to chat with him and it was well worth the wait. So, here now I present my interview with the man that director Richard Lester (The Three Musketeers, Robin and Marion, Superman II)  once mistook for a girl that was eagerly interested in film.

Ladies and Gentlemen . . . C. Courtney Joyner.

 

HE IS NED: An Interview with Max Myint by Kent Hill

2015 was the year. I was in Brisbane, Queensland, Australia at our version of San Diego’s Comic Con: SuperNova. I was there peddling my books but, in the booth next to mine, something amazing was afoot.

A giant banner held the image of the famous, or perhaps infamous Australian bush-ranger Ned Kelly; transformed and repackaged as vigilante, looking battle-damaged and bad-ass holding the severed head of a zombie in one hand and a loaded pistol in the other.

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That image invoked more than history and cultural iconography. It spoke to me as a concept so simple, yet compellingly cinematic. He is one of our country’s most treasured pieces from the past in a fresh guise and pitted against a dark, futuristic dystopia where the undead have evolved and formed a society in which humanity is not only a minority, but is being systematically wiped out.

Max Myint leads the creative team, spearheading, if you will, the rise of this epic saga of the man called Ned. A talented writer, sculptor and world-builder, the gutsy, gritty dark realm that he has helped usher in is about to explode on November 10. In the midst of the stench of rotting flesh and the searing of metal is something that commands attention. I for one can’t wait to see Ned’s rise and rise continue, and Max and his talented team blast this thing out into the masses . . . and watch it catch fire.

The living have surrendered…

Except for one man…

They call him Ned!

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https://podcastingthemsoftly.com/2016/08/04/not-yet-a-major-motion-picture-but-hopefully-one-day-an-interview-wit-the-creators-of-the-man-they-call-ned-by-kent-hill/

MESSIAH OF EVIL (1973) – A REVIEW BY RYAN MARSHALL

The true poetry of the macabre requires the thorough perusing of a far out cosmic language, a séance to effectively make contact with the phantasms inherent in our reality that have over time inspired the ones we see in literature or on the screen. Horror films often make for the most compelling alchemic excursions because they dance so closely with such demons, unafraid to create friction in order to exorcise them. These are our nightmares. They don’t always make sense, and they don’t only come at night. Yet, they are undoubtedly a significant part of what makes up our very being. A man devoid of fear – especially that which he does not openly discuss in some fashion – is not one worth trusting.

Some of the most subtextually rich and socially redemptive genre cinema can be exhumed from the 1970’s – a time when the aftermath of the Vietnam War left our world at large, and more specifically America, with spectacularly apocalyptic imagery – and one of the most coveted gems to rise from that particular pile of ashes is MESSIAH OF EVIL, a truly terrifying take on the undead from the scribes behind INDIANA JONES AND THE TEMPLE OF DOOM and AMERICAN GRAFFITI (among others), Willard Huyck and Gloria Katz. This is the kind of stuff you might put on for “easy late night viewing” but will soon regret doing so as there’s nothing “easy” about the film’s approach to otherworldly dread.

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Beautiful, young Arletty (Marianna Hill) arrives at the coastal resort town of Point Dune in search of her father Joseph Lang (Royal Dano), an artist with whom she has lost contact over the years. Although he is nowhere to be found when she arrives, his house – its walls adorned with paintings of strange shadow people – is open and Arletty decides to continue her search the next morning. This leads her to a trio of drifters shacking up in one of the local motels who are listening intently to an old boozer (Elisha Cook Jr.) babbling on about some mad local tale when she finds them, and who appear to be dysfunctional company to say the least.

The three nevertheless follow Arletty back to her father’s estate and make themselves at home, with their suave male leader Thom (Michael Greer) seducing her soon after, to the disapproval of his female companions. Only when Laura (Anitra Ford) splits and heads into town – where she is picked up by a creepy albino man in a red truck with a penchant for eating live beach rats – is the sinister nature of Point Dune made somewhat clear. Without spoiling too much, lack of hospitality is hardly scratching the surface. It would be in one’s best interest to not wait around too long for all of the answers; some simply don’t come.

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What follows after a spectacular sequence set in a mostly desolate supermarket is a series of individually compelling moments, such as a clever riff on Hitchcock’s THE BIRDS involving Thom’s other companion Toni (Joy Bang) in a movie theater and another where Arletty’s father returns only to attack her. The townspeople are seen gathering at the beach during the witching hour to stand by campfire, staring up at the moon, and the first sign of warning when Arletty first arrives in town is an attendant at a gas station shooting off into the night at some unseen entity(his response is truly spine-chilling: “Dogs…stray dogs. Has to be. Has to be dogs.”); from the get-go, there’s something not quite right about Point Dune, and everyone seems to be harboring some kind of secret. How else would one sustain such a sparse – though in this context, rather convenient – narrative?

Huyck and Katz took more than few pages from a certain Howard Philips Lovecraft’s book for their very own cinematic creation, which comes off kind of like the late author’s THE SHADOW OVER INNSMOUTH on acid. Joseph Lang’s bizarre diaries, in which he speaks of a strange affliction that has befallen him as of late, and will soon begin to affect Arletty as well, may explain what’s going on along the coast; it’s an effective device that is unfortunately posited alongside by Arletty’s own voiceovers, which for the most part don’t benefit the storytelling. Nevertheless, the soundscape is consistently intriguing – for the most part, this feels like it was scored and lensed in another dimension entirely. Then there’s the cinematography from Gloria’s brother, Stephen Katz, who went on to lens a little movie called THE BLUES BROTHERS; absolutely spellbinding stuff, and arguably what makes the film. Both scribes were fresh out of film school when they made their demented debut, and as such, they were more inspired by European art-house than anything else; and it shows. The colorful widescreen compositions bring to mind the likes of Mario Bava, and even Hammer’s own Terence Fisher, with touches of Godard and Antonioni.

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The filmmakers utilize the disturbing paintings inside Joseph Long’s house well, with the silhouettes always hanging over the various characters as they occupy its many hallways and bedrooms, giving off the impression that nowhere is truly safe.  It may be one of the most visually ravishing of all American horror films. Willard, interviewed in Stephen Thrower’s great book NIGHTMARE USA, has gone on record saying that MESSIAH OF EVIL was intended to be his vision of Los Angeles as he saw it after hours. In this case, it’s a rather bleak but no less phantasmagorical one; not a land of opportunity but one that carries with it the putrid stench of death, one that is (for lack of better word) haunted. Many of the undead extras were unemployed aerospace workers at the time and as members of a tightly-knit community they seem to wander around tragically, aimless – but no less capable of acting on their carnal, cannibalistic urges.

Ultimately, this is genuinely exquisite, though imperfect; there’s room for improvement in the casting department, with some dialogue coming off as rather stilted and less than subtle, the edges are overall kind of rough in spite of the sheer grandeur which they contain, and the electronic score – while mostly in service of the weird atmosphere – is often distracting during key scenes which could have benefited from a little more silence. Still, this is one of the most consistently creepy, thoroughly intoxicating and rewarding genre outings of its time; Lovecraft adaptations are admittedly a mixed bag, but by evoking shades rather than drawing directly from the author, Huyck and Katz have made (somewhat unintentionally) one of the best in the lot. It’s like entering another world entirely. Surrender is essential, adoration is an option; they’re coming here, they’re waiting at the edge of the city, they’re peering into windows at night, and they’re waiting. No one will hear you scream.

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