Our homes are our castles. They’re where we can shed the trappings of the day – whether that refers to the metaphorical walls that keep others from getting too close or the pair of pants that keeps us from getting arrested. When we’re in our home, neither is required. As such, our homes are more than our safe spaces; they’re also where we are most vulnerable. The idea of the sanctity of that world being breached by someone or something elicits a level of revulsion that makes it a perfect core to build a horror story around.
Alien 3 is the kind of movie people write books about – but not in a good way. During its tortured, six-year slog to the big screen, the film famously chewed through prospective writers, directors, and plots like acidic blood through metal floors. The eventual finished product, which was directed by a young David Fincher, is no less chaotic. The film is at times brilliant, producing moments that have become iconic, like the juxtaposition of an alien birth scene with a funeral for a pair of fallen friends or Ripley’s face-to-face (or cheek-to-face) alien encounter.
Found footage is all about momentarily tricking even the savviest of viewers that what they’re watching, no matter how improbable, is real. Filmmakers seek to disarm through elements such as imperfect camera work, simple storytelling, and grounded performances. Sometimes, filmmakers will forgo traditional end credits. The people behind The Phoenix Tapes ’97 employ all of these tricks, although they go even further. At press time, the film’s web presence has been painstakingly crafted to further the illusion of truth, hiding the names of the cast and crew involved.
There’s a moment in Chopping Mall, a 1986 sci-fi slash-ploitation flick about a trio of mall security robots that go rogue and start offing teenagers, where one character snaps at another, necessitating an apology. What follows is a line so sublimely stupid that it seems almost purpose-built to launch the movie into cult classic territory. Without an ounce of cynicism, the offending party apologizes, justifying her faux pas by saying: “I guess I’m just not used to being chased around the mall in the middle of the night by killer robots.”
Over sixty years ago, Godzilla (1954) was born from Japan’s attempts to come to terms with the dual horrors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Those same atomic age fears still run strong in director Gareth Edwards and screenwriter Max Borenstein’s re-launch, Godzilla (2014). In their film, a nuclear power plant disaster, clearly reminiscent of the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi tragedy, helps feed the rise of a pair of giant, highly-destructive monsters.
The first – and perhaps greatest – test any sequel must face is the inevitable comparison to its predecessor. This is a high bar to set for something like 1986’s Aliens as the film it follows, 1979’s Alien, is universally heralded as a masterpiece of both sci-fi and horror. Surprise, surprise: Aliens, which was written and directed by James Cameron before he became that James Cameron, does succeed in trumping its ancestor in many ways.
During one of many introspective moments in writer/director M. Night Shyamalan’s Signs, as the Earth inches towards what seems to be an inevitable alien-induced apocalypse, Graham Hess (Mel Gibson) posits a theory to his younger brother, Merrill (Joaquin Phoenix). Now this is no offhand musing. It’s the thesis statement of Shyamalan’s film. Graham explains that there are two kinds of people in the world. There are those who see miracles and there are those who see coincidence.
Brothers Clint and Adam are presented as something of a Canadian-flavored odd couple in Devil in the Dark – a new VOD horror movie available on March 7 from Momentum Pictures. Clint is the picture of stereotypical masculinity – he’s a hunter, a blue collar guy who wears flannel to work and has a 5 o’clock shadow no razor could hope to tame. Adam is the opposite – he’s a baby-faced comic book nerd who (allegedly) abhors hunting.
Sadako vs. Kayako – a mash-up that brings together J-Horror’s two most iconic villains and franchises – opens with a young social worker entering a house and calling out to the person to whom she is there to attend. She receives no answer. She moves through the house, calling out again and again, but nothing. Anyone who’s seen any of the Ju-On or Grudge films knows where this sequence is going … only it doesn’t go there.
Machete Kills, the sequel to Robert Rodriguez’s 2010 B-movie action lovefest Machete, begins in an unorthodox way: with a trailer for its own sequel. Of course, nothing about the franchise – which was born as a sub-three-minute fake trailer at the top of Grindhouse and expanded into a pair of hundred-minute-plus features – fits the bill of orthodox.
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