Saturday, April 4, 2015

Eight Reasons To Go See IT FOLLOWS As Quickly As You Can

Every one in the horror community - and plenty outside that ring of fire - has been running to see this first-rate fright flick, and with good reason.  IT FOLLOWS is a delectable slice of horror heaven that forces us to re-examine old tropes in a dazzling new light.  It sets itself apart by bringing the fear up close and personal, relentlessly pursuing us until it catches up and then....

Well, I don't want to give too much away if there are folks out there that haven't seen this gem yet.  Suffice it to say though, that you'd better run to see this one on the big screen while you can.  It made such an impression on me that I thought about it for days to come and even had trouble sleeping those first few nights afterward.  That's a horror fan's dream!

I didn't want to do a straight-out review, as you can get dozens of them just by using Google.  So I came up with eight reasons to go check this outstanding breakout entry in genre fare.  I haven't talked to anyone who has given it two or even one thumb down, so I think that is a pretty good indicator that we're dealing with a winner here.

1) Dread.  There is an overwhelming sense of dread within the entire scope of this brilliant little film. Once you realize the straightforward plot - that having sex passes a curse in which a shape-shifting entity pursues you until it kills you - you are in it for the long run.  From the opening sequence through the last reel, this movie haunts you.  There is no other way to explain the undeniable sense of forboding doom hovering over every moment of David Robert Mitchell’s low-budget gift to horror fans the world over. Creepy atmosphere lurks around every dim-lit corner of every darkened street, abandoned building and empty playground, bringing with it that delicious feeling that makes the hair raise on your arms and that nervous, unyielding urge to look over your shoulder.  I've not had that feeling in many long years, so to have me itching for daylight and practically jogging out of the theater is a blessing of the highest order.

2) Score.  Amazing just doesn't cover it. Disasterpeace, a.k.a. Rich Vreeland, has created one of the best, original movie scores in recent history with his pulsating, driving beats, screaming synth and relentless percussion. It truly feels like someone is following you throughout the course of the film.  Without this score, the movie would not have been anywhere near as effective.  Let's not forget how important music can be in a film.  Jaws, anyone?  Halloween? Suspiria?  Disasterpeace has written a new classic - synth-driven perfection if I may be so bold.  People will be talking about this one for years to come.
(I do have to share a link to an interview with Vreeland by my friend James Gracey for the Paracinema website. Go here to read all about Disasterpeace and this marvelous score.)

3) Maika.  I first saw Ms. Monroe in the excellent 2014 thriller The Guest.  Horror circles are calling her the newest "scream queen", and we should be so lucky.  With a passionate performance that runs rings around what anyone else is doing these days, Monroe has a bright future ahead of her no matter what genre she chooses to grace with her acting prowess.  She is so believable, so real, that she feels like your best friend who's got herself in a jam and you'd pretty much do anything to help her out.  While she is equally as good when acting with others, I think the moments she has alone on screen are really her forte.  Just watching her get ready for her ill-fated date is a pleasure, as is when she sits alone on a swing set fearful of her pursuer....waiting for them to show themselves.

4) Throwback. Besides the intense synth score, there is much that hearkens back to the great horror films of the 80's.  Did you see the outstanding poster made for the film?  While we are never actually given the time period in which the film takes place, there is an obvious lack of modern technology (as in the rotary dial phone hanging on the wall) that seems to scream late 80's. It's a great choice by Mitchell, and works like a charm. The feeling of being alone is much more palpable here, when you can't Google to find out just who your boyfriend is, or no cell phone to call for help in the direst of straits. Like House of the Devil before it, the return to the 80's makes us feel so much more vulnerable and insecure.

5)  Detroit.  This once-vibrant city is a character all its own, crippled with decay and looking every bit the abandoned, derelict piece of Americana that we have watched fall into ruin over the course of the last half-century.  While Jay lives on a tree-lined street in suburbia, the desolate landscape of abandoned houses and factories lie just outside the realm of  family-centered, residential areas. Miles and miles of creepy, fallen-down homes just add to the nightmarish feeling of the ominous surroundings.   It plays such a strong role here that if I were just to sit in a darkened theater watching footage of the fallen-down, forsaken remains of these parts of the motor city, I'd be equally as terrified without having a separate plot to worry about.

6) Relentless.  There's not much scarier that having something following you, always at your back or lurking behind you in the shadows.  Amp that up x 100 and you have the never-ending pursuit that is "IT".  When Jay lands a curse after a night of lovin' with her boyfriend, he explains that he has passed along something. Something that will follow her, without reason or remorse, without explanation or end.  But the kicker is this: no one else can see this person, this shape-shifter if you will, that tirelessly and fiercely pursues the victim until their inevitable death. They WILL. NOT. STOP.  Jay is baffled, of course, until she realizes what her boyfriend has told her is the truth.  She sees the presence in different human forms - an old woman in a hospital gown, a tall creepy man, a young disheveled girl - all just simply walking towards her....not running.  Just walking, similar to Michael Myers stalking his victims in Halloween. It's creepy as hell and you're gonna love it.

7) Sex.  Horror and sex go together like peanut butter and jelly. I'm guessing by now all genre fans are aware that it is a cardinal sin to have sex in a horror film. And most would think there isn't much more you can do with that old trope. But somehow,  IT FOLLOWS seems to take an overused plot device and breathe new life into it.  Jay's boyfriend does admit to her after their rendezvous that whomever or whatever is following her will stop - if she passes it on to another person through sex.  Which leaves Jay with the conundrum of either having random sex or, let's face it: death. Never has fornication been so FINAL.

8) Cinematography.  Wide camera angles and long shots of darkened streets and dilapidated houses and equally light college campuses and summer homes bring the terror of Jay's horrible situation into crystal-clear focus.  While there are one or maybe two jump scares within the film, most of the terror we experience comes in the form of visual atmosphere. The look of IT FOLLOWS is simply put, beautiful.  As we watch the entity walk purposely towards its prey, the camera brings it in and out of focus, to show us the anxiety and then utter panic on the victim's face.  Regardless of day or night, the supernatural force seeks to harm, and continues its never-ending pace towards its ultimate goal - the death of its intended victim.  As we watch neighbors in the streets, going about their daily routine, we are subjected to the normal existence in which terror injects itself.  The camera subjects us to both life and in equal parts death.  While there is very little blood in the film, the cinematographer takes the task very seriously, pouring it on when necessary and holding back when we don't need to see any gore on screen.  I can't say enough about the look, and likewise the feel, of the film.

In closing, I can't recall a film in recent years that had me shivering at the theater, shuddering in the car on the way home, trembling in bed later that night and yet singing its praises for days afterward.

 IT FOLLOWS is a unique, sublime film that will get under your skin the moment it starts. I don't say this often, but this one is highly recommended! 



Saturday, March 21, 2015

Interview with Indie Horror Producer Matt Medisch of The October People

  
*Matt Medisch is the producer of such fare as The Invoking and the recently released The Device.  He is part of the development team for The October People, a Seattle-based production company focused on making indie horror - one of our favorite things here at Fascination with Fear.
I recently got a chance to chat with this lifelong horror fan who has turned his obsession into his career. 


First off, what made you want to get into movie production and why this genre?
I’m a lifelong fan of films and I was always drawn specifically to horror films.  I grew up on serial slashers like Friday the 13th and Nightmare on Elm Street.  I was haunted for years by films like The Shining and The Changeling and shows like Unsolved Mysteries and the Time Life books on the paranormal just fascinated me.  I even loved to read King and Lovecraft so I guess when it was time to make our first film, horror just seemed like the natural first step.   As far as making movies in the first place I more so fell into it with the guys.  Me and Jeremy Berg (director of The Invoking and The Device) had known each other for years and collaborated off and on over writing.  One night we just decided that it was time to make a feature film, and let nothing stop us.  We soon brought the ideas to John and The October People came to life.


  How do you think THE DEVICE differs from other sci-fi fare? 
Unlike the DVD box art might suggest The Device was never meant to rely on big special effects.  It was a classic horror story that we knew could rely on the characters and most of the horror being implied or happening off screen.  I think that flies in the face of much larger sci-fi films that can often rely on complex visuals, set decoration or monster FX. Jeremy has a very classic approach to film making that blends modern ideas with classic elements that I love. That also means that it won’t cost us an arm and a leg to tell the story.  We can let the actors take the lead not the FX.  In some ways shooting independent films this small forces you to be creative and make a film you want to see with the tools that you have.  As a producer I do love the challenge.

  In my mind, what you don't see in a horror film is much more frightening than what is thrown out in front of you. THE DEVICE employs this tactic throughout most of its running time. Do you think that is more effective for the audience of a sci-fi film? 
I have come to learn that it’s very hard to say what an audience will or won’t like.  There is a huge audience segment out there for in your face FX driven Sci-fi and honestly the slow pace of films requiring the audience to use its imagination drives them crazy.  That being said we tend to make films for ourselves and we are long time Sci-fi and horror fans, film fans.  I believe pretty strongly in the fact that the horrors someone can imagine are always more powerful than what we can show you.  You could give me 10 times the budget to work with and I would still push for the type of filmmaking that includes the audience, makes them think, imagine and not just view.

           As in THE INVOKING, this film develops the characters right away, giving way to emotional upheavals and particularly in THE DEVICE, a whole lot of stress. Though trying to stay a "family unit", the baggage that everyone brings really dredges up a lot of bad memories and unforgiven mistakes. Was it difficult to merge the family drama with the impending doom of the alien aspect? 
I don’t feel like it was, for us it goes hand in hand.  With a well written character life happens before and after the inciting incident of a film.  It only makes sense that that life would continue to play out and effect the characters reactions and judgments to the wild forces and events of the film.  If you make your characters as real as possible, with history, baggage and issues then you can toss them into almost any situation no matter how unreal and they will react in a natural way.  The actors bring a lot of this to the forefront.  You can’t always shoot enough of the drama to explain the characters so often it’s done in small reactions, looks and unspoken moments.

    
The lack of action does set this movie apart from many others, though it is refreshing to have a different perspective in this sub-genre. What is not shown ends up being scarier than what we do see. Do you wish you'd have showed more, or are you satisfied with the end result?
In a film like The Device, a truly independent film with a very small budget, you do always wish you could do more.  At the core, fundamentally “what is not shown ends up being scarier” is something we do live by to a degree.  That being said in script there is a little bit “more” of everything.  We had huge time constraints on this shoot and the director was forced to cut pages and thin out some of the action elements.  Original ideas for the film did have a bit more alien interaction, more with The Device and more detail surrounding the unborn child story line.  These are things that you lose to restrictive budgets and shooting schedules but I was always impressed with how the team could flex around this and make the most of each of the scenes.  I’m a realist and I know as well as anyone the challenges we faced in getting this film done. Because of that I am happy with the end result and proud of this little Alien horror film.  Our cast was just fantastic and I will always enjoy watching them go to work on screen.

      The music was one of my favorite parts of the film. It was both chilling and subtle. Joseph Molner brought something extra in scoring this movie- the music became a character itself. What led to your collaboration? 
I’m a big fan of scores in films so as a producer I’m always willing to support the team in this area.  We had collaborated with Joseph on our first film The Invoking and when it came time for Jeremy’s second film he wanted to work with him again.  They understood each other and with a compressed production timeline that is invaluable.  Jeremy had already spent the time collaborating with Joseph so we could really let him run with the device score and he nailed it.  Jeremy was able to give minimal direction and still get what he wanted from the score.  They seem to be a great fit and we hope to work with him again.

    Production seemed bare-bones but really commanded a creepy feel. Was it just convenience that led you to that location? It had an eerie, early-X-Files feel to it.
Production was bare-bones and we got really lucky when it came to locations.  Often times you don’t have a lot of options but when you scout for a film like The Device you know you only get what’s there.  You have minimal time and budget for set decoration.  Using homes and locations with built in character helps.  I will also give a lot of credit to Jeremy here as the Cinematographer and Chris our Gaffer.  You give someone like that a place with character and he/she can bend it visually to support the feel you want.  I know everyone is glad for the X-Files comparison.    

        Ok, so what WAS The Device? Someone's old Magic 8 ball??
Wow where were you when we were prepping to film?  An old Magic 8 ball would have been a great idea!
This was so much harder that it seemed and hours were spent in a Seattle basement just days before the shoot making about 6 “Devices” for shooting.
Let’s just say this Producer, our Grip and a very nice experienced Painter/Employee at Michael’s helped make it a reality.
That’s the official story for insurance purposes anyway.  The real origin is strictly off the record.

       I was really impressed with THE INVOKING - it was a real slice of slow-burning horror that was both thought-provoking and creepy.  The atmosphere is what I loved best about the film, it's such a rare thing in horror these days.  Is that what The October People is striving for?  Because both THE INVOKING and THE DEVICE have it in droves.
Thank you, it’s great that so many people like yourself have seen and felt that.  For years we would talk about, “where did the atmosphere go in films” - especially in horror.  Did it come from film grain, the locations, the score?  We do strive for that, I know as a director it’s a huge element Jeremy wants his films to be rich in.  So yes we strive to have as much as possible.  It will always be an important element in our films, though admittedly it can be elusive at times.

      
FOUND was one of my favorites last year.  What led to your acquiring the film and getting it released?
The same thing that probably made this one of your favorite films of that year.  Found was special, low budget and as far away from Hollywood as you could ever imagine yet Scott and team made some indie horror movie magic!  We were lucky enough to play side by side with Found in the 2013 International Horror and Sci-fi film festival at the Phoenix film festival.  Found snatched the best horror feature award and rocked my world on the big screen.  It was here I met Scott, Leya and some of the key team behind the film.  They are a great group of filmmakers and we kept in close contact.  This was one of the classic stories of independent filmmakers sticking together and helping each other.  We acquired Found because I believed we could use our experience and connections in the business side of the game to help and save the guys from running the gauntlet of domestic films sales alone.  I personally just feel lucky and honored that we could help and continue to work together to this date.


 Okay, I'll admit - I'm a Bigfoot fan.  How is production on VALLEY OF THE SASQUATCH coming along?  What is the predicted release date - or when will it start at festivals?   

As am I!  I’m really excited for everyone to see Valley of the Sasquatch.  Valley went though it’s final stages of post-production late last year and is just starting it’s festival run.  We premiered at the Nevermore Film festival at the end of February and just got word we will be going to The Crimson Screen Horror Film Fest alongside Headless.  We will be releasing more festival announcements soon.  People interested can follow along on our Facebook page or at Valleyofthesasquatch.com

 What else do we have to look forward to from The October People?
It’s been a wild ride for us from when we decided to get together and make our first film, once called Sader Ridge, but we have a packed 2015 and hope to get the team behind the cameras again on a few projects soon.  Late last year we teamed up with GUT writer/director Elias for his next feature, currently entitled A.  It’s a toughly creepy, seductive, dark and disturbing story about obsession and loss.  We are also looking into a few ideas to reach back to the community of horror film makers and get involved with bringing more great indie film work to light.  More information on our projects will always show up on our webpage theoctoberpeople.net and via Facebook. 

Monday, March 9, 2015

Digging Up The Marrow (2014) : Do Monsters Really Exist??

~review by Marie Robinson

It’s been a long time since I’ve enjoyed a movie so much that I’ve wanted to write about it. Well, it finally happened in the form of Adam Green’s Digging Up the Marrow


If you’re a genre fan, you’ve probably heard of Adam Green, who is most notable films are Hatchet, Hatchet II, Frozen and the FEARnet television sitcom Holliston. In his latest film he stars as himself, working on shooting a documentary about monsters. Among his weird and wonderful influx of fanmail, some strange man by the name of William Dekker has been sending Green journals full of rantings about a place called “the Marrow”. According to Dekker he has found the entrance to an underground society of monsters—real monsters—and though he has pages and pages of drawings, he has no solid proof. 

Adam accepts Dekker’s request to put his story to film, mostly driven by his own childhood dream to prove that monsters are more than fiction. Accompanied by his cameraman, Will Barrat, they visit Dekker (Ray Wise) in his dilapidated home in small town, California. 



Dekker relays his farfetched tale of monster hunting, which revolves around the Marrow. He has found entrances to this underground world all over the country, but every time the creatures that dwell become aware of his presence, the entrance disappears. Years go by between the finding discovery of each new entrance, and the current gateway lies deep in a forest among the tombstones of some forgotten cemetery (sound like Midian to anyone?).  The first night that the trio travel to the mysterious trench in the woods, they come away with nothing, and although Dekker was “pointing out” creatures to them all evening, they couldn’t see or capture anything because he forbid them to use camera lights. However, a second trip proves fruitful with a camera flash. 

Adam becomes increasingly indulged in Dekker’s story and makes it his first priority; putting aside all of his other projects much to the annoyance of his fellow producers. However, there are many pieces missing to the story. The suspicions start when Adam mentions his latest project to a few directors (cameos by Tom Holland and Mick Garris) and they scoff, claiming that Dekker has gone to every horror director with his spiel. From then on the questions about Dekker’s true identity and intentions just keep mounting, but by then Adam is in too deep to pull out. 

I’ll admit this now: If it hadn’t been for Ray Wise, I probably wouldn’t have liked this movie as much as I did. Wise is a genre legend and a favorite of mine. Sure, he’s one of those actors who will go for ANY role, but I always enjoy his performances and find it a special treat when he pops up in a film (much like the great Clancy Brown). Ray Wise is known for playing lovably batty and unstable characters, and William Dekker falls just so into that category. 

Digging Up the Marrow doubles as an homage to the horror genre, and those who shape it. Among the cameos I mentioned earlier, there are dozens more, from Kane Hodder to Tony Todd. It also is a bit of shameless self-promotion on the part of Adam Green, who is President of ArieScope Pictures. Green and other members of the ArieScope team can constantly be seen sporting production t-shirts, but, hey, who can blame them? 

The story may not be the strongest, and leaves a little more to be desired, but I believe what I enjoyed most about Digging Up the Marrow was the mythos that was spun. When Green interviews Dekker in his home, we are shown his pages of artwork depicting the alleged monsters, several accompanied by anecdotes and descriptions. It was this folkloric element that naturally appealed to me. Also, the idea of the disappearing and reappearing entrances to the Marrow, and Dekker’s idea that there are tunnels running underground all over the country where these creatures dwell, had a delicious taste of urban legend. 

Brella by Alex Pardee
Horror artwork is a huge part of the film, and if you’re a fan of this blog and have seen our Dark Arts feature then you know we have to give a shout out to the artists in this film. The concept artist for Digging Up the Marrow is Alex Pardee, who not only created the monsters, but the entire idea for the story. It started when Pardee encountered Adam Green at a Fangoria Convention, and nervously handed him a little book of art he had titled, “Digging up the Marrow”. Five years later the story has finally come to life on screens across the nation. Pardee’s artwork is colorful and cartoonish with a touch of gruesome. In 2012 he curated a Halloween-themed issue of Juxtapoz Magazine and designed the poster for Bobcat Goldthwait’s 2013 film, Willow Creek. Alex Pardee’s creatures for Digging Up the Marrow were sculpted by the famous Greg Aronowitz; you can view more of Pardee’s work at his website (http://www.eyesuckink.com/). 

Digging Up the Marrow had several genuine scares for me, and that is, ultimately, what you want from a horror movie, right? I recommend Digging Up the Marrow to genre fans, monster-lovers, and anyone who enjoys mockumentary or found-footage style films. 

One last thing! ArieScope is holding a contest to win Alex Pardee’s original artwork from Digging Up the Marrow. All you need to do is purchase a ticket to see the film (in select theatres March 5th) and mail the stub in. Check out the details here.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Wednesday, February 18, 2015