Thursday, October 27, 2016

Night of the Living Dead

Directed, shot, and edited by George A. Romero and written by Romero and John A. Russo, Night of the Living Dead is the story of seven people trapped inside a house in rural Pennsylvania as they’re being stalked by the living dead. The film is considered the very first film that can be called the zombie movie where humans try to deal with the dead who have come alive to eat their brains. Starring Judith O’Dea, Duane Jones, Marilyn Eastman, Karl Hardman, Judith Ridley, and Keith Wayne. Night of the Living Dead is a chilling and gripping film from George A. Romero.

Set in western Pennsylvania near a small town with farms, the film is a simple story in which the living dead have been awaken due to some strange radiation as they haunt the living where a young woman has an encounter and goes to a farm where she is aided by an African-American man fighting them off as well as five other people. It’s a film about survival as well as what people try to do to survive as there are those who are just full of fear while some try to fight out against the living dead. The film’s screenplay doesn’t have much of a plot though it starts off as this strange comedy where a man taunts his sister that the dead is coming to get her where a living dead guy comes in and attacks the man as it goes into full-on terror. The young woman Barbara (Judith O’Dea) becomes traumatized as the only person who can help her is Ben (Duane Jones) as he is trying to lift moral as a way to survive.

While they would later discover others in the house that they hide in, Ben is the character who is the most sensible and determined as he has to deal with a coward who has been hiding his wife and ailing child in the cellar while only get help from another person and his girlfriend who had been hiding in the cellar. Their only means of outside communication is through the radio and television where they learn what is going on as it plays into this dark reality of what these characters had to go through. Especially in what they need to do to kill the living dead as well as what happens when one comes in contact with the living dead.

George A. Romero’s direction definitely play into its low-budget aesthetics as it is shot on grainy 35mm black-and-white film stock where some of the footage shown on television plays like a documentary. Shot on location near Evans City, Pennsylvania, the film definitely play into something that doesn’t start off as some horror movie where it acts like a comedy until the living dead come in as they would terrorize Barbara until she finds this farm. Much of the direction has Romero use medium shots and close-ups to play into the intimacy as well as the suspense where it adds to the sense of tension as well as what is at stake. There are some wide shots in the film to establish some of the locations as well as the scenes of the living dead waiting around the house.

Serving as the film’s cinematographer and editor, Romero would maintain that grainy look as if it was shot like a newsreel but also play up that air of suspense. In the editing, it is stylized with some jump-cuts while being very straightforward as it help play into the terror and some of the news footage in the film. Yet, there are also these elements that are quite dark as the film also play into not just the severity of what these characters are facing but also the outside world. Overall, Romero creates a riveting yet engaging film about people trying to survive against a horde of zombies.

The special effects work of Tony Pantanella and Regis Survinski is terrific as it play into the look of the zombies as well as the look of blood where chocolate was used for the look of blood. The sound work of Marshall Booth and Gary Streiner is superb for the way it captures some of the natural elements as well as the gunshots and explosions that occur in the film. The film’s music soundtrack consists of many orchestral and incidental stock music that had been used in other films as it includes compositions from Spencer Moore, Geordie Hormel, William Loose, and Ib Glindelman.

The film’s marvelous cast include some notable small roles and appearances from Bill Cardille as a TV news reporter, Bill Hinzman as the first zombie that is shown in the film, George Kosana as a local sheriff who has begun a war with the zombies through the news reports, and producer Russell Streiner as Barbara’s brother Johnnie who becomes the first victim of the living dead. Kyra Schon is wonderful as the ailing young girl Karen who is down at the cellar feeling sick while Judith Ridley is terrific as Judy as Tom’s girlfriend who tries to help Ben and Tom get gas for an escape. Keith Wayne is superb as Tom as a young man that helps Ben as he would try to create a plan of escape for everyone.

Marilyn Eastman is excellent as Karen’s mother Helen who is trying to take care of her sick daughter as well as comprehend the chaos that is happening. Karl Hardman is brilliant as Karen’s father who is keen on staying in the cellar for safety as he is also a coward that irks Ben. Judith O’Dea is amazing as Barbara as a young woman who would be one of the first to encounter the living dead as she becomes nearly catatonic over what she saw. Finally, there’s Duane Jones in an incredible performance as Ben as the one person who takes action and does whatever he can to survive as he is almost the heroic figure in the film that audiences can root for where he tries to do whatever for himself and other to survive.

Night of the Living Dead is a sensational film from George A. Romero. Featuring a great cast and an inventive premise that would serve as a template for many other horror films to come. It’s a film that is quite compelling as it play into not just the idea of zombies trying to kill many but also what some will do to survive. In the end, Night of the Living Dead is a phenomenal film from George A. Romero.

George A. Romero Films: (There’s Always Vanilla) - (Season of the Witch) - (The Crazies) - (Martin) - (Dawn of the Dead) - (Knightriders) - (Creepshow) - (Day of the Dead) - (Monkey Shines) - (Two Evil Eyes) - (The Dark Half) - (Bruiser) - (Land of the Dead) - (Diary of the Dead) - (Survival of the Dead)

© thevoid99 2016

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

The Ruins

Directed by Carter Smith and written by Scott B. Smith that is based on his novel, The Ruins is the story of four college kids and a German tourist who go to a mysterious Mayan temple unaware of what is there as it relates to some mysterious vines. The film is an exploration into the unknown where some young people venture into an unknown land as well as deal with Mayans who are protecting a piece of land they fear. Starring Jonathan Tucker, Jena Malone, Shawn Ashmore, Laura Ramsey, and Joe Anderson. The Ruins is a chilling yet unsettling film from Carter Smith.

Four American college kids meet a German tourist as he has a map to a mysterious Mayan temple that is considered off-limits where they make a discovery that proves to be the biggest mistake of their lives. It’s a film that has a simple premise about a Mayan temple that is filled with these vines, plants, and flowers that has some strange power as these tourists find themselves stuck on top of this temple not just surrounded by these plants but also Mayans who are trying to quarantine what is at the temple. Scott B. Smith’s screenplay doesn’t just play into the horror at the temple but also five people trying to survive as they are unaware of what they’ve gotten themselves into. Especially as there is a naivetĂ© into where they wanted to go as locals don’t go there and why it’s not on any current map. Once the five are on top of the temple trying to survive as one of them is severely injured, they also are forced to face the realities that help might not ever come. It’s an intriguing aspect of the script as it does stray from conventional character plot-points in favor of something that is psychological but also with something that feels real.

Carter Smith’s direction is very simple for the way he creates that sense of tension and uncertainty that looms throughout the film once it’s set on top of this Mayan temple. Though it is set in Mexico, the film is shot in Queensland, Australia not just for the beachside locations in the film’s first 20 minutes but also for the setting of jungles with the top of the temple shot on a soundstage. While Smith uses some wide and medium shots to establish some of the beauty of the locations, much of the direction emphasize on the latter to capture some of the suspense into what the characters would encounter. The scenes inside the temple are some of the most chilling as it play into something that is frightening.

There are moments where the film is psychological as the location and the surroundings for these characters add to the terror where one character becomes paranoid. Even in moments where it does become quite extreme such as a scene where a character had to have his leg amputated or someone trying to get vines out of her body. All of which as a mean to survive no matter how dire the consequences are. Overall, Smith creates a gripping yet eerie film about tourists going to a mysterious Mayan temple filled with deadly plants.

Cinematographer Darius Khondji does excellent work with the cinematography from the usage of somewhat de-colored look for some of the daytime exteriors to the eerie scenes at night as well as inside the temple. Editor Jeff Betancourt does nice work with the editing as it has some stylish rhythmic cuts to play into the suspense and horror as well as maintaining something that is straightforward. Production designer Grant Major and supervising art director Brian Edmonds do amazing work with the look of the temple interiors as well as its top roof and the hotel rooms the characters were staying early in the film. Costume designer Lizzy Gardiner does terrific work with the costumes as it‘s mostly casual as well as the grimy detail into the blood and dirt that would be on the clothes.

Hair stylist/makeup supervisor Shane Thomas does superb work with the makeup in some of the moments involving blood and other things to play into the unforgiving nature of what the characters had to go through. Visual effects supervisors Leo Baker, Matthew Gratzner, and Gregory L. McMurry do fantastic work with the way the plants moved in the scenes inside the temple as well as how the flowers moved. Sound designer Dorian Cheah, with sound editors John Marquis and Sean McCormack, does brilliant work with the sound to play into some of the eerie and disturbing moments in the film as well as how the flowers would mimic the things the characters said as well as the sounds outside of the temple from the Mayans. The film’s music by Graeme Revell does wonderful work with the music as it‘s a mixture of ambient electronic pieces to play into the suspense along with some orchestral pieces for the intense moments while the soundtrack features a few traditional Mexican pieces, dance music, and a song from the Yeah Yeah Yeahs.

The casting by Denise Chamian and Ben Parkinson is marvelous as it feature some notable small roles from Bar Paly as an archeologist in the film’s opening sequence, Dimitri Baveas as a fellow traveler who is immediately killed by the Mayans, Karen Strassman as the vocal effects of the vines, and Sergio Calderon as the Mayans’ chief. Joe Anderson is superb as the German tourist Mathias as the guy who has a map to the temple as he gets a serious injury in an attempt to find a phone that belongs to his brother. Shawn Ashmore is excellent as Eric as the comic relief of sorts of the four American tourists who becomes a realist as he wants to try and make a run to the jeep so he can get some help.

Laura Ramsey is fantastic as Stacy as a young woman who gets injured in an attempt to retrieve Mathias inside the temple where she becomes infected by the vines as she becomes paranoid. Jena Malone is amazing as Amy as a young woman who is the first to unknowingly touch the vines as she is the most reluctant to visit the temple as she copes with the situation she and her friend are in. Finally, there’s Jonathan Tucker in a brilliant performance as Jeff as a med student who is the most sensible of the four Americans and Amy’s boyfriend as he tries to raise morale as well as be the one who responds to the severity of the situation in how for all to survive.

The Ruins is a remarkable film from Carter Smith. Featuring a great cast, an intriguing premise, and some superb technical work, it’s a film that strays from some of the conventions of horror in favor of exploring characters and what they try to do to survive. In the end, The Ruins is a marvelous film from Carter Smith.

© thevoid99 2016

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

The Neon Demon

Directed by Nicolas Winding Refn and screenplay by Refn, Mary Laws, and Polly Stenham from a story by Refn, The Neon Demon is the story of a young and aspiring model who travels to Los Angeles where she is part of a modeling agency only to raise the ire of other models over her youth and beauty. The film is a study in the world of glamour and what will women will do to maintain their beauty and fight those to earn a coveted spot. Starring Elle Fanning, Jena Malone, Karl Glusman, Abbey Lee Kershaw, Bella Heathcote, Desmond Harrington, Christina Hendricks, and Keanu Reeves. The Neon Demon is an eerie yet evocative film from Nicolas Winding Refn.

The film follows the life of a young and aspiring model whose key to success is her beauty where she is signed to a modeling agency despite being underage where she finds herself having to compete with older models who despise her. It’s a film with a simple plot yet it doesn’t play by any rules in terms of conventional narrative as it’s more about what this young girl is encountering as well as the people she meets. The film’s screenplay by Nicolas Winding Refn, Mary Laws, and Polly Stenham doesn’t just explore the dark and demanding aspects about the modeling world in terms of its cynicism but also how this young girl with a pure sense of beauty and innocence threaten those who doesn’t just need work but also try to maintain their own beauty as they’re getting older. For the character Jessie (Elle Fanning), she is someone who came from a small town in Georgia as she meets a young photographer who takes some photos and somehow managed to get connections with the biggest and best people in the business.

Jessie is someone that is truly the embodiment of innocence as she is someone that lives alone in a seedy motel in Los Angeles run by a strange and mysterious man in Hank (Keanu Reeves). When the makeup artist Ruby (Jena Malone) takes notice of her, she becomes this guardian of sorts for Jessie as she would introduce her to a couple of models in Sarah (Abbey Lee Kershaw) and Gigi (Bella Heathcote) who are both still beautiful but are struggling to get work as they see Jessie with disdain. Aside from Ruby, the only other person that Jessie meets who treats her kindly is a young photographer named Dean (Karl Glusman) whose photos would give Jessie the connections in the world of modeling. Still, Jessie encounters things that are odd as it play into her innocent persona which would descend as the story develops. Especially as her descent would lead her to dark places as well as the people she meets who have an agenda towards her.

Refn’s direction is definitely stylish not just in the compositions that he creates but also in this world that is quite surreal in its overly-stylized setting. Shot on location in Los Angeles where it is a character in the film as this world of glamour and beauty that is entrancing but also has this air of darkness as it is set in the highly-competitive world of modeling. Refn’s usage of the wide shots would play into that world of glamour as well as capture some of the chaotic events of the modeling world with the usage of tracking and dolly shots while he would also use medium shots for scenes involving multiple characters in a conversation. Refn’s framing and how he puts his actors into a composition are key such as the scene in the bathroom between Jessie, Ruby, Gigi, and Sarah where Refn as Jessie at the edge of the frame to emphasize how much of an outsider she is. There are also these weird moments in the film that add to the surrealism that Jessie encounters such as a cougar in her motel room, the things she dreams or sees on the runway during a show, and some of the offbeat behavior of the people in the modeling world including Gigi and Sarah.

Refn would also create some ambiguity into the characters that Jessie meets such as Ruby and Hank. The latter of which is very creepy as he’s only in a few scenes yet is someone that is quite unsettling for how he presents himself and the things he says as it is something Dean would be shocked by. Then there’s Ruby as she is kind of this maternal figure of sorts in the film for Jessie but she too is offbeat. Notably for what Refn reveals in the other job that she has as it’s also even more unsettling to great extremes as it reveals how far Jessie has descended into the world she’s in. The film’s climax is definitely eerie and definitely plays into something that is very violent as it play into the horrifying cynicism of the modeling world as a key character states some harsh truths on beauty. Overall, Refn creates a rapturous yet scary film about a young model’s arrival into a very dark and brutal world.

Cinematographer Natasha Braier does brilliant work with the film‘s very colorful and evocative cinematography with its usage of many colored lights and mood including neon lights as it help play into the high-octane modeling world for many of the interiors as well as the exterior scenes at night while going for something natural and beautiful in other exterior scenes in the day and night. Editor Matthew Newman does excellent work with the editing as it is stylized with some rhythmic cuts while maintaining some moments that are straightforward including a few montages. Production designer Elliott Hostetter, with set decorator Adam Wills and art director Austin Gorg, does fantastic work with the look of the studio sets as well as the seedy motel that Jessie lives and the home that Ruby is house-sitting at. Costume designer Erin Benach does amazing work with the costumes to play into the high-octane world of fashion with all of its designs including in the casual clothes the women wear.

Special makeup effects work by Ruth Haney, Kristy Horiuchi, and Dean Jones, with hair stylist Enoch H. Williams IV, do superb work with the makeup from the macabre look of Jessie‘s first shoot as well as some of the things she and the other models had to look as well as in the hairstyles. Visual effects supervisors Peter Hjorth, Sunit Parekh, and Tonni Zinck do terrific work with the visual effects as it only play to a few scenes such as a few things that Jessie sees as it relates to the surreal elements of the film. Sound designers Anne Jensen and Eddie Simonsen do incredible work with the sound as it has these unique textures and mixes as it play into the suspense and horror as well as some of the surreal elements as it is a highlight of the film. The film’s music by Cliff Martinez is phenomenal for its eerie yet haunting electronic score with the layers of synthesizers and ambient textures as the soundtrack would also feature some cuts by other electronic acts as well as pop singer Sia.

The casting by Nicole Daniels and Courtney Sheinin is wonderful as it feature some notable small roles and appearances from Jamie Clayton as a casting director for a shoot, Charles Baker as Hanks’ assistant Mikey, Houda Shretah as Sarno’s assistant and Alessandro Nivola in a small yet terrific role as the fashion designer Robert Sarno who has some very biting and cynical ideas about the world of fashion and what beauty really is. Desmond Harrington is superb as the photographer Jack McCarther as this professional who is creepy but also has an eye for talent while Christina Hendricks is fantastic as the modeling agent Roberta Hoffman who sees the beauty in Jessie as well as give her some advice about how to forge ahead in the world of modeling. Karl Glusman is brilliant as Dean as a young photographer who takes photos of Jessie for her first photo shoot as he is one of the few kind characters in the film that becomes taken aback by the cynicism and narcissism of the fashion industry.

Keanu Reeves is excellent as the motel manager Hank as this very creepy and lecherous individual who seems to be more concerned with money than one’s well-being as he gives this great monologue of sorts of the kind of business that he does. Abbey Lee Kershaw is amazing as Sarah as model who is quite bitchy as she is desperate to get back in the game and get work as she has a real disdain towards Jessie because of what Jessie is able to get. Bella Heathcote is remarkable as Gigi as another model who is the nicer of the two as she is someone obsessed with trying to look good as she would also do a lot of plastic surgery as it play into the harsh reality of beauty at all costs.

Jena Malone is incredible as Ruby as a makeup artist who is this strange yet offbeat maternal figure of sorts for Jessie as she is someone who had seen a lot but also carries a very dark secret. Malone’s performance is also quite complex where she is very kind and warm to Ruby but there are elements that are quite scary as she does things that are very extreme as it is very chilling performance. Finally, there’s Elle Fanning in a spectacular performance as Jessie as this young 16-year old girl who knows the only thing she has in the world is her beauty as she starts off as this embodiment of innocence as her naivete is key to that performance. By the second half as she encounters these surreal elements, Fanning does become a big darker but also anguished as someone who sees that she is growing up too fast as well as thinking maybe there is a real cost to natural beauty as it is a career-defining performance for Fanning.

The Neon Demon is a tremendous film from Nicolas Winding Refn that features phenomenal performances from Elle Fanning and Jena Malone. Along with a great ensemble cast, gorgeous visuals, an eerie music soundtrack, and gripping themes on beauty. It’s a film that showcases the world of modeling at its most cutthroat as well as going into great lengths into what women will do to remain beautiful in a very dark world. In the end, The Neon Demon is a magnificent film from Nicolas Winding Refn.

Nicolas Winding Refn Films: Pusher - Bleeder - Fear X - Pusher II - Pusher 3 - Bronson - Valhalla Rising - Drive - Only God Forgives - The Auteurs #12: Nicolas Winding Refn

© thevoid99 2016

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Roar (1981 film)

Written, directed, and starring Noel Marshall, Roar is the story of a family visiting their patriarch in a secluded home where they’re attacked by animals. Considered one of the most notorious and dangerous films ever made, it is infamous for its 11-year production in which 70 cast and crew members were harmed during the making of the film by real animals. Also starring Tippi Hedren, Melanie Griffith, Jerry Marshall, and John Marshall. Roar is a scary and dangerous film from Noel Marshall and some wild fuckin’ animals.

Here’s an idea for a vacation. A family goes to Africa to meet their patriarch whom they hadn’t seen in years as they learn he isn’t home but at the house are a bunch of lions, tigers, jaguars, panthers, cheetahs, and cougars who roam and attack the family scaring them to death. That is pretty much what the film is about as it involves this reclusive man who lives amongst the wild in his home as he awaits for his wife and three teenage children to arrive while dealing with a society who wants to get rid of the animals. The film’s screenplay by Noel Marshall, with additional contributions by Ted Cassidy, doesn’t have much of plot as it’s about this guy who is so caught up with his collection of wild animals as he is trying to protect them as well as wait for his wife and children to arrive. The man’s wife Madeleine (Tippi Hedren) and their children wouldn’t just deal with these animals but also try to survive without him.

Marshall’s direction is definitely intense for the fact that the film was made real animals as they would be in the house, walk around, and at times attack anything and anyone. Shot on location in Marshall’s private home in Acton, California as Africa, the film does play into something that feels like a vacation in Hell where a family goes to Africa and get a very close encounter with some fucking animals that would include some elephants. The usage of the close-ups and medium shots play into how animals would react as it would also include these very chilling moments as it is clear into why Marshall would give these animals credit in the writing and directing. Especially as the way they would attack the actors and terrorize them add a realness to what is going on as if it is a horror movie. Marshall would also maintain that air of spontaneity in the direction as a way to let the animals take control while the actors are the ones that had act into the environment they’re in. Overall, Marshall and the animals create a film that is just dangerous and thrilling about a family’s hellish vacation in a house full of wild animals.

Cinematographer/co-editor Jan de Bont, along with co-editor Jerry Marshall, does excellent work with the film‘s cinematography as it is very bright and colorful to play into the locations of the daytime exteriors as well as some scenes at night while much of the editing is straightforward with some fast-cuts to play into the intense action. Production designer Joel Marshall does brilliant work with the look of the home that the characters live in as well as the rooms which the animals would destroy. Sound supervisor Kees Linthorst does superb work with the sound in capturing the many sounds of the animals roaring and such as well as capturing the chaos that goes on throughout the production. The film’s music by Terrence P. Minogue is terrific for its mixture of serene orchestral pieces with some traditionally-based African music while there are also some score pieces that are offbeat as it play into the action as the soundtrack also include some very serene yet offbeat songs.

The film’s wonderful cast feature some notable roles from Frank Tom as a poacher aide of the antagonist Prentiss, Steve Miller as the evil poacher Prentiss, and Kyalo Mativo as Hank’s assistant Mativo who has a hard time dealing with the animals and having to distract them. The performances of Melanie Griffith, John Marshall, and Jerry Marshall as fantastic as they basically use their first names for the roles as three teenagers who would have terrifying encounters with the animals with Melanie Griffith being the most frightened as she was actually mauled during the production. Tippi Hedren is excellent as Madeleine as Hank’s estranged wife who hadn’t seen her husband for years as she is frightened by what she sees as she actually does break her legs for a scary scene involving an elephant.

Noel Marshall is superb as Hank as a man trying to maintain a lively environment for the animals as well as try to break up fights as he is just this crazed lunatic that is trying to relate to the animals. The film’s best performances definitely go to the cheetahs, tigers, jaguars, cougars, elephants, panthers, and the lions including the head lion Robbie, the blood-thirsty Togar, and Robbie’s young son Gary.

Roar is an absolutely insane film from Noel Marshall. While it’s not actually presented as a horror film, the fact that real animals were used and that 70 cast and crew members were actually harmed just makes the film a really scary experience. As a film, it’s truly riveting to watch as it’s just a lot of fun for how fucking nuts it is. In the end, Roar is a wild and rapturous film from Noel Marshall.

© thevoid99 2016

Friday, October 21, 2016

The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari

Directed by Robert Wiene and written by Hans Janowitz and Carl Mayer, Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari (The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari) is the story of a hypnotist who orders a sleepwalker to kill people. Considered to be one of the first horror films ever made, the film is an exploration into what kind of power can drive a man to have another do his dastardly deeds. Starring Werner Krauss, Conrad Veidt, Friedrich Feher, Lil Dagover, and Hans Twardowski. Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari is a riveting and evocative film from Robert Wiene.

The film is a simple story about circus hypnotist who has a sleepwalker kill people for him as it is told by a man whose friend had been murdered. It’s largely told in a stylish fashion as it begins with a man named Francis (Friedrich Feher) telling his story to a man at a hospital as he and his fiancĂ©e Jane (Lil Dagover) are both recovering from what they experienced. There, the main narrative is told where Francis and his friend Alan (Hans Twardowski) go to the fair where they meet the titular character (Werner Krauss) who is performing a trick with his sleepwalker Cesare (Conrad Veidt) who would tell Alan an unsettling premonition. It would then set the tone for what would come as a series of mysterious murders happen in this small town as well as the mystery into who is killing them and such. The script would also have this air of suspense in what is going on while there is a sense of horror in a scene where a victim is killed but it’s really shown in shadows.

Robert Wiene’s direction is truly mesmerizing as it has these gorgeous compositions and imagery that is truly beautiful to look at. While there aren’t any camera movements and is shot entirely in the 1:33:1 aspect ratio which was typical in silent cinema. The compositions in the wide and medium shots do have this air of beauty in the world that Wiene shows as it is set in a small town in early 20th Century Germany while Wiene would also use medium shots and close-ups to play into some of the intimacy. Yet, he would create these compositions and moods into some of the images including a murder scene where it’s about what is not shown rather than what is shown. There are also these moments that are quite scary as Wiene create these moments that are eerie as it relates to the titular character as well as what he does. Plus, there’s a few twists and turns that add a lot to the film as it play into not just the identity of Dr. Caligari but also the idea off how men can be controlled in such ways to do evil. Overall, Wiene creates an ominous yet riveting film about a series of murders in the hands of a hypnotist.

Cinematographer Willy Hameister does excellent work with the cinematography where its usage of lighting, shadows, and shades help create a look for some of the interior scenes as well as in the exteriors. Art directors Walter Reimann, Walter Rohrig, and Hermann Warm do amazing work with the look of the sets including the backgrounds for the walls as well as the look of the sets which add to the film‘s unique visual language. Costume designer Walter Reimann does nice work with the clothes as it relates to the look of the titular character. The film’s music by Giuseppe Becce, with additional work by Timothy Brock for the 2014 restoration, is fantastic for its mixture of somber classical pieces to eerie organ-based music with woodwinds that help play into the suspense.

The film’s brilliant cast include some notable small roles from Elsa Wagner as a landlady who discovers a body, Rudolf Klein-Rogge as a criminal accused of the murders, Hans Lanser-Ludolff as the old man Francis tells the story to, and Rudolf Lettinger as Jane’s father Dr. Olsen. Hans Twardowski is terrific as Francis’ friend Alan who gets a chilling premonition while Lil Dagover is wonderful as their object of affection in Jane who would have an eerie encounter with Cesare. Friedrich Feher is fantastic as Francis as a young man who would try and investigate who has been doing the murders as he becomes personally connected to what is happening. Conrad Veidt is brilliant as Cesare in this eerie performance as a sleepwalker who is controlled to do Dr. Caligari’s bidding as it is a very scary performance to watch. Finally, there’s Werner Krauss in a spectacular performance as Dr. Caligari as this hypnotist who is in control of everything and the mastermind of these murders as it’s a very creepy performance from Krauss who goes all out and creates one of the great villains in horror.

Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari is a phenomenal film from Robert Wiene. Featuring a great cast, gorgeous visuals, a brooding premise, and a majestic music soundtrack, the film isn’t just one of the defining films of German Expressionism but also a film that is still enchanting as it bear a lot of elements that would define the ideas of what horror films could be. In the end, Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari is a sensational film from Robert Wiene.

© thevoid99 2016

Thursday, October 20, 2016

The Lords of Salem

Written and directed by Rob Zombie, The Lords of Salem is the story of a radio disc jockey whose life changes after listening to a strange recording relating to a coven of witches in her hometown of Salem, Massachusetts. The film is an exploration into the many historical aspects about Salem and its witches where a radio DJ becomes entranced by this dark culture of Satanic witches. Starring Sheri Moon Zombie, Bruce Davison, Judy Geeson, Patricia Quinn, Maria Conchita Alonso, Dee Wallace, Jeff Daniel Phillips, and Meg Foster. The Lords of Salem is an eerie and chilling film from Rob Zombie.

The film follows the week in the life of a radio disc jockey who is given a mysterious record by a group called the Lords as it feature strange recordings as it involve an infamous coven of witches from Salem dating back to the 17th Century. Set in Salem, Massachusetts, the film revolves around the myth about this coven of Satanic-worshipping witches where this disc jockey becomes entranced by its recording as she starts to see strange things around her. Especially as a writer about the Salem witch trials makes a discovery about the recording that was played as well as the family that the disc jockey is from. Rob Zombie’s screenplay definitely play into these legendary stories about the Salem witch trials of the 17th Century but also how it would remerge in modern-day Salem where it would haunt this woman who is also a recovering drug addict. The images she sees definitely blur the line into what is real but also what is surreal as the character of Heidi La Rock (Sheri Moon Zombie) would anguish over these hallucinations as well as the contents of these mysterious recordings.

Zombie’s direction is definitely stylish in terms of the compositions and moods that he creates. Shot on location in Salem, Massachusetts with some scenes shot in California, Zombie maintains an air of simplicity to many of the exteriors set in Salem as if it is this quaint little town with this dark history. While there are playful elements in the film such as the scenes of Heidi working with her other disc jockeys playing music. Zombie maintains something that is very eerie in his approach to the compositions as it include these intimate moments at the apartment that Heidi lives at which includes a room that no one lives at where it is at the heart of the mystery in the film. Once Heidi discovers what is in there, Zombie adds elements of dazzling surrealism into the film as well as maintain a slow but eerie momentum into the horror and suspense.

Especially in the third act where her character descends into darkness while the writer Francis Matthias (Bruce Davison) would make a chilling discovery about Heidi and what is happening in Salem. Zombie would also put in these moments that play into what is coming where the third act is key to what is happening to Heidi and what is coming for the women in Salem who are the descendants involved in the burning of those witches. Zombie’s eerie compositions with the usage of the wide and medium shots capture a lot of coverage to what is happening as well as create something that is scary but also beautiful. Overall, Zombie creates a haunting yet evocative film about a woman’s encounter with the witches of Salem in the modern world.

Cinematographer Brandon Trost does brilliant work with the film‘s cinematography as it has a graininess that is just fitting for the film while it has some gorgeous lighting for some of the interior scenes at night as well as maintain something straightforward for the daytime scenes. Editor Glenn Garland does excellent work with the editing as it‘s usage of jump-cuts, stylish montages, and some unique rhythmic cuts to play into the suspense is a highlight of the film. Production designer Jennifer Spence and set decorator Lori Mazuer do amazing work with the look of the theatre halls and rooms for some of the ceremonies as well as creating something straightforward and stylish in Heidi‘s apartment room and the radio booth she works at. Costume designer Leah Butler does nice work with the costumes from the ragged yet stylish look of Heidi as well as the very creepy look of the witches in the flashback scenes.

Special makeup effects artist Brian Rae does fantastic work with the look of the witches for the 17th Century sequences as well as some of the creepy makeup Heidi would wear in the surrealistic moments. Visual effects supervisor Craig A. Mumma does terrific work with the film‘s minimal visual effects as it play into some of the scary and surreal sequences as it has this air of realism in its look. Sound editor Eric Lalicata does superb work with the sound as it has these unique textures to play into the suspense in some of the sparse and low mixes as well in some of the intense moments of terror. The film’s music by John 5 and Griffin Boice is incredible for its mixture of ambient and blues-based guitar to these haunting moments of music that is key to the discovery of what Heidi would encounter while music supervisor Tom Rowland creates a soundtrack of different kinds of music from artists/acts like Rick James, Rush, Manfred Mann’s Earth Band, and the Velvet Underground as well as classical pieces from Johann Sebastian Bach and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

The casting by Monika Mikkelsen is marvelous as it feature some appearances and small roles from Udo Kier as a witch hunter, Torsten Voges as a death-metal singer, Richard Fancy as an expert of the Salem witch hunt that Francis turns to, and Andrew Prine as Reverend Jonathan Hawthorne as the man who would take down the coven back in the 17th Century and leave behind recollection of these events. Other notable small roles include Ken Foree as the smooth disc jockey Herman “Munster” Jackson and Maria Conchita Alonso as Francis’ wife Alice who would play the piece on piano that is similar to the recording that is haunting the town of Salem. Dee Wallace and Patricia Quinn are fantastic in their respective roles as Lacy’s sisters Sonny and Megan with Wallace as lively sister who makes great tea and Quinn as the quirky British sister who can do palm reading. Meg Foster is excellent in the role of the coven leader Margaret Morgan as this mysterious yet feral woman who exudes all of the aspects of evil as it is just this very scary role.

Judy Geeson is brilliant as Lacy as Heidi’s landlord who is concerned for her but also carries a mysterious secret that is very intriguing. Jeff Daniel Phillips is superb as Herman “Whitey” Salvador as radio disc jockey who works with Heidi as he becomes increasingly concerned for her well-being. Bruce Davison is amazing as Francis Matthias as this writer about Salem witches who makes a key discovery based on a record that was played during a radio interview as he goes more into depth over the witch hunt and trial. Finally, there’s Sheri Moon Zombie in a phenomenal performance as Heidi La Rock as a radio disc jockey and recovering drug addict that is haunted by a recording she has listened to as she becomes anguished into the things she sees while being on edge into what is happening to her.

The Lords of Salem is a remarkable film from Rob Zombie. Featuring a great cast, gorgeous visuals, provocative themes on witches and evil, and a killer music soundtrack. The film is definitely Zombie’s most accomplished film to date as it has an atmosphere and air of darkness that is common with horror films but also not afraid to not take itself seriously. In the end, The Lords of Salem is a sensational film from Rob Zombie.

Rob Zombie Films: (House of 1000 Corpses) - (The Devil’s Reject) - Grindhouse-Werewolf Women of the S.S. - (Halloween (2007 film)) - (Halloween II (2009 film)) - (The Haunted World of El Superbeasto) - (31 (2016 film))

© thevoid99 2016

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Ghosts of Mars

Directed and co-scored by John Carpenter and written by Carpenter and Larry Sulkin, Ghosts of Mars is the story of an intergalactic police officer and her team traveling to Mars for a prison transport where things go wrong in the planet. Set in the 22nd century, the film is a sci-fi horror thriller where space cops and a criminal team up to battle monsters on Mars. Starring Natasha Henstridge, Ice Cube, Jason Statham, Clea Duvall, Pam Grier, and Joanna Cassidy. Ghosts of Mars is a stylish but messy film from John Carpenter.

It’s the 22nd Century where Mars has been colonized and the planet is now breathable to humanity yet towns are ravaged where the intergalactic police make an unsettling discovery just as they were to transport a prisoner. That is pretty much what the film is about where cops is forced to work with a convicted murderer to fight these monsters as they were once human who are now possessed by ghosts from Mars. Yet, it is told in a reflective manner by Lt. Melanie Ballard (Natasha Henstridge) who reports what happened during a simple prison transfer job to her superiors as it reveals a much larger story. The film’s screenplay is quite simple yet it has a lot of expositions and perspective from other characters in what they saw including Dr. Arlene Whitlock (Joanna Cassidy) who revealed how these ghosts emerge. The multiple perspectives and expositions do create a script that is very messy as well as be over-explained and not allow the audience to create their interpretations into what happened.

John Carpenter’s direction is definitely stylish as it plays into a futuristic setting as much of the film is set at night. Shot on location at a gypsum mine in New Mexico, the film plays into this world that is emerging in its colonization state but is becoming undone by these monsters. While Carpenter would use some wide shots to establish some of the locations, he maintains an intimacy with the medium shots and close-ups as it plays to the severity of what Lt. Ballard and her fellow officers are facing. There are some moments that are exciting in the action but the suspense is kind of lacking as well as uninspired due to the fact that it feels derivative from other kind of films that Carpenter has made. Even as some of the moments involving the visual effects seem to be lacking as it’s probably due to the limitations in the budget. Despite these shortcomings, the film is still entertaining while not taking itself seriously as it does have some humor. Overall, Carpenter creates a thrilling though flawed film about space cops and criminals fighting evil ghosts on Mars.

Cinematographer Gary B. Kibbe does excellent work with the cinematography from the usage of lights and distorted images for some of the scenes involving the ghosts to the interiors as it‘s mostly straightforward. Editor Paul C. Warschilka does some fine work in the editing though it‘s over stylized with its transition wipes and dissolves as it goes a little overboard. Production designer William A. Elliot, with set decorator Ronald R. Reiss and art directors William Hiney and Mark W. Mansbridge, does fantastic work with the look of places on Mars as well as the interior for the prisons and such. Costume designer Robin Michel Bush does nice work with the costumes as it‘s mostly low-key while it‘s more creative for the look of the creatures the cops and criminals have to deal with.

The special effects makeup work of Howard Berger, Robert Kurtzman, and Greg Nicotero is brilliant for the look of the possessed humans who have become enraged Martians as they all have something unique in their look. Visual effects supervisor Lance Wilhoite does some OK work with the visual effects for some of the scenes involving the trains though the effects in the battle scenes look unfinished and awkward. Sound editor Joe Dorn and sound designer David Bartlett do terrific work with the sound as it play into the way the Martians sound as well as some of the gunfire and such. The film’s music by John Carpenter is superb for its electronic-based score filled with synthesizers as the music also feature contributions from the thrash metal band Anthrax as well as some contributions from Elliot Easton of the Cars, Robin Finck of Nine Inch Nails/Guns N’ Roses, Steve Vai, and Buckethead.

The casting by Reuben Cannon is wonderful as it feature some notable small roles from Robert Carradine as a train engineer, Wanda de Jesus as a criminal who fights the Martians, the trio of Duane Davis, Lobo Sebastian, and Rodney A. Grant as a trio of thugs trying to break out Desolation Williams, Liam Waite as the space cop Descanso, and Richard Cetrone as the Martians leader. Joanna Cassidy is terrific as Dr. Arlene Whitlock as a scientist who saw the chaos that unleashed the ghost Martians while Pam Grier is alright in her small role as the police leader Commander Braddock. Clea Duvall is superb as the rookie cop Bashira Kincaid as a young woman new to the field as she is in shock in what she’s seeing as she would eventually grow to kick some ass.

Jason Statham is fantastic as Sgt. Jericho Butler as the comic relief of the film who is a smooth talker and says the funniest lines while being this full-on badass as only someone like Statham could play that role to the fullest. Ice Cube is excellent as James “Desolation” Williams as a wanted murderer who is supposed to be transferred to a prison as he is a cunning and skilled fighter that is aware of what is going as well as reveal some truths into the murders he’s been accused of. Finally, there’s Natasha Henstridge in a brilliant performance as Lt. Melanie Ballard as this no-nonsense cop with a weakness for hallucinogenic drugs that is eager to do her job while knowing what is out there as she tries to help her fellow cops and such fight off against the Martians.

Despite some clunky visual effects and an overwritten yet messy script, Ghosts of Mars is still a worthwhile film from John Carpenter. Thanks in part to a nice soundtrack and fun performances from Natasha Henstridge, Ice Cube, and Jason Statham. It’s a film that has some style as well as moments where it doesn’t take itself so seriously. In the end, Ghosts of Mars is a good film from John Carpenter.

John Carpenter Films: Dark Star - Assault on Precinct 13 - Halloween - Someone’s Watching Me! - Elvis - The Fog - Escape from New York - The Thing - Christine - Starman - Big Trouble in Little China - Prince of Darkness - They Live - Memoirs of an Invisible Man - Body Bags - In the Mouth of Madness - Village of the Damned - Escape from L.A. - Vampires - The Ward

The Auteurs #60: John Carpenter (Part 1) - (Part 2)

© thevoid99 2016