Monday, August 31, 2015

Wes Craven 1939 - 2015

The loss of the great Wes Craven has been a terrible blow to the horror community. I know there are dozens of posts like this out there right now, and I know that we have lost so many great people recently, but this has truly saddened me and hurt my heart. Last night I was actually in a really good mood, watching a funny DVD, and enjoying the last few hours of my weekend. Then I absently checked my Facebook feed and was hit with the awful news. I thought it wasn't real at first, but it was: an icon was gone, and the life and career of my favorite horror director was no more.

It was a shock to say the least, because Wes Craven has always been an important part of my horror life. I came to horror a bit later in life than other fans - though I had always watched them as a child - and Scream was an important part of that. Then I saw more of Wes's films and realized just how much I loved not only the things this man has created but the man himself. I didn't talk about him enough when he was around, and I won't make that mistake now.

Wes was a kind, soft-spoken soul with a wonderful sense of humor and an aura of sweetness that you couldn't help but be attracted to. It was hard for me to equate the gentle man I saw behind the scenes with the dark things that came out of his mind on film. But at the same time, that's what I always loved about him. He wasn't afraid to bring real horror to film, and be gritty and raw about it. He also wasn't afraid to have fun with the genre and with himself, and he constantly did new and different things. Even then, you could tell when you were watching a Wes Craven film, as he had a distinct style and voice that I always enjoyed. He was beyond smart, analytical and creative, and his films were about so much more than what was on the surface.

Perhaps it seems weird to people outside the community that we are so affected by this, crying over somebody that we never met. As soon as I got home today, I put on my favorite Wes film, Wes Craven's New Nightmare, and as soon as Wes himself showed up on screen, the tears started coming. Reading all the messages that people have left on various platforms proves just how much he touched the lives of fans with his work and what an influence he has had on so many people around the world. We all experienced his career separately, but at the same time together, having the same feelings and gaining the same reverence each time we enjoyed another one of his films.

Thank you, Wes, for being the man that you were, and for bringing all those amazing characters, stories, and worlds to life. We will never forget you and we will never let your legacy die.

Thanks for the nightmares.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Read My Interview with Adam Green!

TOTALLY forgot to share this on here even though it's been up for almost a week now, but hey, that's me.

Anyway, last Wednesday I had the honor and the pleasure of interviewing director Adam Green for the other website I write for, Wicked Horror. If you read my Looking to a More Positive Future post from a little while ago, you'll understand how fucking amazing this was for me. It is so unbelievably crazy and surreal to be that much of a fan of somebody (not only for their work but also for who they are as a person) one day, and then the next thing you know, you're talking to that person on the phone. Crazy awesome.

The interview was about a new online original series that Adam's production company, ArieScope Pictures, has on their website called Horrified!. It's a really cool short format thing where he gets a bunch of people from the entertainment industry on camera, telling their most embarrassing or horrifying stories from their real lives. We did the interview by phone, and talked for about an hour and a half. Sadly, I had to cut a lot of it out to keep it relevant to Horrified!, and to the upcoming season 3 of Holliston which we also talked about, but it turned out to be a great interview. I love stuff like Horrified! and the style of it, so it was really cool to hear more about it. I didn't completely geek out at Adam like I could have, but I did get the chance to thank him for being an inspiration to me and that meant the world.

I also mentioned in that other post I did about how inspirational Adam and Joe Lynch's Movie Crypt podcast has been to me. So then to make my life even more awesome, on the next episode of the podcast, Adam actually mentioned our interview and said something really cool about me and said my name. I kind of rule, you guys.

If you feel so inclined, head on over to Wicked Horror HERE to read my interview!!! And watched Horrified! every Friday until Christmas HERE.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Franchise Review: Hellraiser [VII]: Deader (2005)

This was the one random Hellraiser sequel that I remembered watching not too long ago because I was curious about Kari Wuhrer in it. I also remember actually enjoying the entry quite a lot, even watching it out of context with the rest of the films in the series. This has been both a good and a bad thing about Hellraiser, because many of the entries can stand on their own as pretty good horror films, but at the same time, there is not a lot of connective tissue between them all.

Deader is the story of immersive investigative journalist Amy Klein, who travels to Romania after her paper receives a disturbing videotape in the mail. She starts to look into the Deaders, a strange group of people lead by a man named Winter who has found a way to bring people back from the dead. In turn, this has earned him the ire of Pinhead and the Cenobites for entering into their realm, and Amy is caught in the middle as the one person with the power to stop both of them.

A great thing about the Hellraiser sequels so far is that they have not dropped down in quality. Here we are with entry number seven, and the film is stylistically and visually very well put together. With really only one hiccup involving CGI bugs, the effects work are spot on and fit in with what we have come to love from Hellraiser. The grittiness of the setting in Romania, and the decrepit buildings, dark dungeons, and oddly converted subway cars is also reminiscent of previous films, as is the dark tone of the film. Hellraiser has not yet entered the campy, meta territory and I think that really works best with the stories that have so far been told in each entry.

Amy Klein seems like a bit of a loner with a dark past who uses the shocking stories she works on to maybe punish herself, or see how deep she is really willing to take herself. Is she suicidal, in a way? Perhaps at the beginning, but I think she gets a nice character arc throughout the course of Deader. She's a sympathetic, likable character - a real tough girl with a relatable vulnerability. Black and white flashback scenes hint at her childhood abuse that still haunts her, and the symbolism of the knife in the chest (although I'm not for sure that she actually stabbed her father when she was a child - was that real or her redemption at the end?) is worked in nicely with the story.

Surprisingly, I once again didn't mind all that much that Pinhead and the other Cenobites are not featured characters. Pinhead and the whole Hellraiser world is a metaphor for the hell and suffering that humans are either put through or put themselves through. When Pinhead kills all the Deaders at the end of the film, he's basically scoffing at their stupidity, saying, "Oh, you thought this world was hell? Let me show you what you think you're after, and you'll see that you had it much better off before." It has become more about what Pinhead represents rather than Pinhead himself, and that's great. The fact that Doug Bradley came back each time, except for part nine, to play Pinhead keeps the character's mystique and power alive - when he shows up, you can still feel the fear he brings, even if it is only for a few key scenes.

The blood and gore is pretty minimal, but again, not a problem. When Amy is becoming a Deader, she has this huge knife wound in her chest, which is introduced in a great scene with Wuhrer in the bathroom discovering it. After that, she has to walk around Romania with a gaping and bleeding wound that she keeps trying to hide, which thankfully does not come off as comical when it really could have. Winter gets a nice death at the end much like Frank in the first film when he is skewered by a dozen hooks and then ripped apart, and the other Deaders get a hook and chain that plows through all of their bodies at the same time.

I honestly can't find too much that I really don't like about Deader. The story works, the acting is good, and aside from a couple of scene transitions that don't make sense but you just have to chalk them up to being in the freaky dream/reality world of Hellraiser, it's a nice entry. It works as a stand-alone and it works in the franchise, or at least what the franchise has become with Inferno and Hellseeker. I like it.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Franchise Review: Hellraiser [VI]: Hellseeker (2002)

Deadlines and changes have been happening lately, and sometimes they get in the way of other fun stuff I want to do and know I should do - like finishing watching that franchise I started whenever the fuck ago. Rest assured that I have not forgotten about my Hellraiser journey, fiends, so I'm back with it again - FINALLY - and the sixth installment in this kooky series, Hellraiser: Hellseeker.
I had to watch the movie again to write this review, and when I first watched it a few weeks ago, I wasn't really sure how I felt about it. This was weird, because for a good chunk of the movie, Hellseeker plays out a lot like the twin version of the previous installment, Inferno. I really loved that one, and Hellseeker has a very similar plot line. But I think it might be the ending that throws me off just the slightest bit.

Hellseeker sees the (real) return of Ashley Laurence as Kirsty, but the main focus is on her husband, Trevor. In the beginning of the film, Kirsty and Trevor get into a car accident that sends them over a bridge and into a river, with Trevor surviving and Kirsty being trapped in the car underwater. However, her body is missing from the accident site, and ever since the accident, Trevor has been experiencing terrible headaches and vivid hallucinations, all while being pursued by two detectives who think there is more to the story than Trevor is letting on.

Dean Winters (whom I absolutely love because of Law and Order: Special Victims Unit) carries the film well as he goes through the motions made familiar by Inferno of a guy hallucinating all kinds of strange stuff. Trevor is an unreliable narrator who spends the entire movie going from one fucked-up situation to the next without much string holding it all together. All of this does have a purpose later on, but you will most likely be spending the first two-thirds of the movie wondering what in the blazes is going on. And like Trevor himself says, when a scene starts, you don't know what's real and what's not until something happens to let you know one way or another, and even THEN, it's hard to tell what might be real because even the really weird stuff can be real in a Hellraiser film, you know?!

Actually, what I really want to talk about with this movie is how the ending works with the rest of it, so I'm going to have to spoil everything right now. In a way, the overall point of the movie is not Trevor at all - it is Kirsty, even though she is only dealt with as a peripheral character. But knowing that she is a huge part of the Hellraiser story hopefully makes one think that her role in this story has got to be more meaningful than just being Dean Winters' wife (although that's not really a bad role to have). Pinhead and the Cenobites were after Kirsty because they're still all hungry for her soul and stuff, and they got to her by going through Trevor. She makes a deal with them to give them five souls in exchange for hers. She uses this opportunity to take revenge on her cheating spouse, who also happened to be in cahoots with another girl to kill her and take her money. It's a fine story, and certainly explains all the weird shit that had been happening to Trevor in the movie - the accident scene at the beginning is retold to show that Kirsty shot Trevor, so he has been dead this whole time and the movie is him suffering through his personal hell. This is obviously why I compare it to Inferno so much, and what is also making it difficult for me to say which movie I liked better, if I ever had to. As third and fourth sequels to a horror franchise, Inferno and Hellseeker are pretty damn good, well done films.

What irks me a bit in regards to the characters of Kirsty and Pinhead is that Kirsty survives yet again by making a deal with Pinhead YET AGAIN. He's all like, "I'm totally gonna take your soul this time!" and she's like, "Um, how 'bout I give you this instead?" and he's all, "Okay." If you all pull this shit again in another movie, I'm going to go ape. I don't even really believe that it happened this time. This honestly should have been the end for Kirsty and she shouldn't have been able to get away with it. The fact that she did diminishes Pinhead in a way, and, even though he's a villain, he's a villain that we really like and to me, this makes him look weak. I don't want a weak Pinhead. I also don't like what this does to Kirsty as a character. She was fucking awesome in the first and second movie, and now she's gone a bit too dark and far away from her character by using her scorned wife status to kill five people - three girls that Trevor was cheating on her with, the co-worker that he was planning to kill her with, and Trevor himself. This isn't the Kirsty I love.

Other than that, Hellraiser: Hellseeker is a really solid sequel with a great story and some cool visuals, which I didn't even get into talking about here. I like the personal approach that these sequels are taking as opposed to something more high concept, because I don't think that would have been as interesting thematically. Bring on part 7, let's finish this!

Monday, August 3, 2015

Looking to a More Positive Future...

I know I always apologize for my extended absences from this blog, but this is going to be much more than an apology, and it is going to be the longest and most personal thing I think I have ever written here. The easiest excuse or reason I have for not updating in the past few weeks is that I had a lot of other writing projects going on simultaneously. They all had deadlines or needed to be posted as soon as possible - one of them was also a book review, so you know, I had to actually take time to read the dang book. Nothing on my blog is really timely, I just do it because I enjoy it and it gives me a chance to talk about movies in my own way, but since I don't technically have to update this thing every day or whatever, it often gets thrown to the side while I do other stuff or indulge in various obsessions.

But something has been changing in me over the last few months that has been making me very nervous, and I guess more cautious, about what I put on this blog. I almost feel like a totally different person, or at least one with a much better attitude and point of view on a lot of things. But let me start at the beginning really...

Screencap of the first thing I wrote for Wicked Horror

This year so far has honestly been one of the best years of my life. For one, by the time 2015 rolled around, I had already been writing for a few months at my new horror home on the web, Wicked Horror. We're not quite on the level of Dread Central or Bloody Disgusting just yet, but hopefully we're getting there and hopefully a lot of people are enjoying the content we're putting out. I know that I have really enjoyed writing all of the articles that I have had published on WH, and my managing editor, Tyler, has been so incredibly encouraging and helpful to me, and I cannot thank him enough. The professional and friendly relationship I've made with him and one of the other writers on the site have definitely helped me grow as a writer, and also as a person. I'm very grateful for all of the opportunities that I have had so far working on that site, and I know it's going to lead to bigger and better things in the future. Recently, I did my first interview with somebody who played several roles on my favorite TV show of all time, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and you can imagine what a surreal and amazing experience that was. I also just made the call today to inquire about doing my second interview with somebody that I am incredibly excited and nervous about talking to if the interview happens.

Then in April of this year, I turned 30. Now, as my birthday was approaching, friends and family were all like "Oh, you're turning 30, hitting the big one, getting old" blah blah blah. But I wasn't feeling like that at all. I was excited to turn 30 and to put all the aimless wandering of my 20s behind me. Because for the first time in my life, I felt like I was heading in the right direction of what I wanted to do with my life and the kind of person that I wanted to be. I had spent my whole life thinking that I wanted to be one thing (a writer), then I had gone to college and found this other thing (filmmaking), pursued that, got kicked in the gut once, failed a couple times, and now I'm back to pursuing that thing that I said I wanted to do when I was a child - writing. And I was focused on that and fucking determined to do that, and I still am and I am doing my best to never, ever lose that determination.

Also, my family finally picked up on how important all this horror shit is to me and they threw me an awesome zombie-themed birthday party. Thank you for that!

A couple weeks after my birthday was Texas Frightmare Weekend, the one horror convention that I go to every year. Usually the time leading up to the convention is just full of excitement and jitters, but this year was different because I was sick as a dog for the week and a half just before the convention. I wasn't watching horror movies to get myself psyched, I just wanted to sleep and I didn't have the strength or the energy to remember that this was going to be the best time of my year, you know? I finally figured out that I had a nasty sinus infection and got some drugs, and the day before I left for Texas was when I finally felt like a normal human being again. Even when I was travelling to the convention it didn't seem real, because I wasn't mentally prepared. When I arrived at the hotel and saw some of my "people" there and saw the hotel staff wearing Frightmare t-shirts, it hit me hard. I was back. I was home. So then I went to the convention and of course it was fucking awesome as hell. I saw some great movies, bought some sweet swag, and of course, met some singularly amazing people - Brad Dourif, Alex Vincent, AJ Bowen, Don Coscarelli, not to mention all the other vendors, authors, and fellow attendees that I met and talked to and had wonderful conversations with. It was the best convention experience I've had so far.

But after three days it all comes to an end, and maybe some of you have had this same feeling, but those couple of weeks after a convention are a weird time. You're still flying on the high of all the cool things you got to see and do - but at the same time you're SO FUCKING DEPRESSED that it's over and you have to go back to real life. Seriously, how do they expect us to get over being surrounded by all the stuff that we love for an entire three days and then go back home where we have none of that??? But on the flip side of all this, being that depressed over it made me realize just how much I really do love this world of horror and the community for it that exists. Most importantly, I realized how much I never want to let it go. I have to be involved in horror somehow, and being a real horror journalist would satisfy all that just fine.

So while all this determination and hope was rattling around in my head, I discovered something else that hit me with an emotional wrecking ball. At the convention, the people from Killer POV recorded a live podcast, so I was all, Oh, I'm going to listen to that when I get home. I had never been a podcast person before, but had guested on few of them by this time, and listening to this particular episode of Killer POV (with my man AJ Bowen as a guest host) definitely piqued my curiosity about them more. After some web surfing, I stumbled upon The Movie Crypt podcast with Adam Green and Joe Lynch. I wasn't as familiar with Lynch, but of course I knew Adam because I completely love Frozen and all of the Hatchet movies, so I went to iTunes to check it out. What immediately caught my attention when first looking through their feed was the episode where they had Leigh Whannell as a guest. I LOVE LEIGH WHANNELL. So I honestly listened to that podcast just for him (and he's awesome, by the way, it's a great episode), but perhaps moreso, I found myself falling in love with Adam and Joe. I loved their enthusiasm and their fun personalities, so I knew I had to hear more about what these guys had to say. By that time (May of this year), they were already on episode 105 or something, so I began the daunting task of going all the way back to the beginning to episode 1 and listening to every single minute of the podcast, which averages about 2 hours for each episode, sometimes longer. I've still yet to listen to four episodes because they are all film commentaries and I didn't have access to the films at the time to watch it along with the podcast, but yeah. That was A LOT of The Movie Crypt for those two months where I would listen to as much of it as I could almost every day to get caught up, because they were still putting out new episodes every Monday.

I can hardly put into words how much this podcast has affected me. Even just writing that sentence, I had to stop for a good ten minutes to think about what I was going to say. The Movie Crypt contains quite possibly the most inspiring and heartfelt words I have ever heard about what it's like to have big dreams and the struggle to make them a reality. Sure, I've laughed and had fun listening to stories about some of my favorite movies from some of my favorite filmmakers and actors, but goddamn. I have cried so many times listening to this podcast. There was one time that I was listening to it while I was in my living room working out. It was the episode with Pat Healy, who is not only an amazing actor but an amazing human, and something he said really fucked me up in a good way. Pat still has a wonderful outlook on the world despite the cruel hardships he has endured in his career and life. I already had tears in my eyes just from the overall emotion of the episode - not just from Pat, but from Adam and Joe, as well - but then Pat said, in a dead serious and sincere tone, that things will get bad. Things will always get bad, but they will always get better, and quite often they will end up turning out better than before, and you just have to hang on to that hope that it will get better. I was listening to him saying this and really thinking about it in terms of my own situation, and my own past experiences, and where I was and where I wanted to go... and out of almost nowhere, I started SOBBING. Not just tears in my eyes, but full-on sobbing. I had to stop working out, I had to pause the podcast, and I had to just sit there and cry for a few minutes. I cried because I felt frustrated, hopeful, depressed, and determined all at the same time, though that doesn't really sound possible. And it felt awesome to get that out. All the happy tears and sad tears that I've shed over the 200+ hours of listening to The Movie Crypt have been wonderfully needed, and all the words of inspiration have more than fueled my fire to continue pursuing what I want to do.

When I first started listening to the podcast, I had not seen the horror sitcom Adam created, Holliston, yet because I was one of those people who did not have FEARNet when it was still on the air. I of course had heard about because it was Adam Green and because it was a horror sitcom - a horror sitcom, how weird is that, right? But because I didn't get to see it, I eventually just forgot about it. The Movie Crypt was originally created for Adam and Joe to help promote Holliston so the first batch of episodes are pretty Holliston-heavy. I realized I finally had to see it, and ordered the Blu-Rays from Adam's website, (I include the website because you should go there and buy shit), and settled in for an experience I knew I was going to love. Just like with The Movie Crypt, Holliston affected me on a level that I was not expecting at all. Any horror fan who has seen it hopefully appreciates the positive way that Adam portrays horror fans - that we are not gothic freaks sitting in a dark basement jerking off to bloody death scenes. We just talk about and enjoy horror movies in the same way that the guys at work talk about sports or whatever boring shit other people are into (sarcastic voice there, I'm not that big of a bitch). More importantly, though, we do also have hearts and feelings and emotions, and we feel them HARD. So, yeah, there were a lot more tears and feelings while I watched all of Holliston in two days.

(I'm avoiding saying too much about Holliston here because I think I'm going to do a series of reviews on each episode... We'll see...)

All of the things that Adam has created have been deeply personal to him, and he puts himself out there in a way that is so rare for anybody in the entertainment industry. He makes himself very accessible to his fans, and acknowledges how much he loves and appreciates them whenever he can. The personal things he has admitted to and talked about on the podcast are all about him being real and honest, not only because it is probably like therapy for him, but also maybe because he realizes that him saying it, being the public figure that he is, that somebody else will hear it and relate to and hopefully be helped by it. The number of guests that have done the same thing - Darren Bousman, Travis Stevens, Kane Hodder - have also been immensely helpful to me personally, often telling me exactly what I needed to hear, exactly when I needed to hear it.

Maybe you're wondering what is the point of me telling you all this, if anybody is actually still reading. Basically, I feel like I have a totally new outlook now. I've always been aware of the certain amount of negativity that exists in the horror genre - all the trends that everyone is sick of, what is considered "good," what is even considered horror to some people - and I suddenly realized that I'm just over it. I think back on all the snarky things I probably said in my reviews, and I don't want to be like that anymore. I don't want to read about negativity, and I definitely don't want to contribute to it. I've always felt like even my reviews of movies I didn't like were still pretty fair, because it has always been really hard for me to write a bad review (Project Terrible perhaps being the one exception because the movies we talk about there are usually well known and loved because they are bad). People made that thing, and maybe it was the most important thing in the world to them. I know they'll understand that some people may not like it, but there is no reason for them to read anything truly scathing or mean-spirited. That's why I always try to write my reviews in a way where it is very clear that this is what I, and I alone, thought of the movie, and that I'm not making any definitive statements about it. I'll really talk about and explain the things I may have a problem with, but again, hopefully not in a way that will offend or hurt anyone (although one comment on one review showed that I didn't do that very well that one time...), and then I'll try to focus on whatever positives I found with the movie. Or, if I see a movie and don't like it, I just won't talk about it. The Internet is a cesspool of douchebags who say whatever they fuck they want, things they would probably never say to someone's face. And for someone like me, a female horror fan living in the middle of the country, that one convention every year and the Internet is the only place I have to go to if I want to commiserate with other people about the thing I love - horror. And seeing as how horror really is a community made up of some of the nicest, most giving people I have ever met, why would we ever want to bring negativity into it? 

Now, I'm definitely not saying that nobody should ever voice their honest opinion or never write a negative review ever again, or that I'm not going to be as honest as I always have been in my reviews. That's actually the one thing that a lot of people have commented to me about why they like reading my reviews (which still surprises the hell out of me and freaks me out). But there is a respectful way to do that, and even then, I have never taken pleasure in it. Movies are subjective, and everyone has a different opinion about them, which can bring about great discussion, and that's what makes being a movie lover fun. But I am going to try to focus more on the positive than the negative, and revel in the things that I love rather than bitch and moan about the things I hate, because that is just exhausting, and talking about the things I love is way more fun. I've also found out that I want to be a real champion for movies and filmmakers from now on. I want to tell other people about and support the people whose work I enjoy because many of them really deserve it - and because if you support their work, guess what? That means that you just might get more of that work that you enjoy, and horror will continue to grow and expand.

Well, it's been a rant and a half here today, but all of this is something that I really needed to get out, and you fine readers are the recipients of it. I don't even know if I got across what I was trying to say. Basically, I'm more inspired now. I have a deeper appreciation and respect for people in the genre, and I want to start showing that more and supporting them more. I'm going to work harder to achieve my personal goals, and I'm going to have the same kind of excited, infectious attitude that I am drawn to in other people. Things can only get better.

Stay spooky you horror fiends!

- Michele