Archive for Horror

FRIGHTENING FESTIVALS: FANTASIA 2010 HINTS AT EVIL EVENTS

Posted in Concerts, Events, History, Movies, Music, News, Theatre with tags , , , , , , , , on May 3, 2010 by darklordbunnykins

One of the greatest experiences a fan of genre cinema can have is traveling to Montreal for the FanTasia film festival. Each year Mitch David and his crew program dozens of amazing films from all around the world in the realms of sci-fi, cult weirdness, action, Asian and, of course, horror. This year’s schedule is still weeks away, but the FanTasia press office just announced a few special events and screenings.

Brigitte Helm as Maria

From the press release:

THE COMPLETE METROPOLIS – A GALA EVENT AT PLACE DES ARTS

Seldom has the rediscovery of a cache of lost footage ignited widespread curiosity as did the announcement, in July 2008, that an essentially complete copy of Fritz Lang’s METROPOLIS had been found. This prompted an incredible year-long restoration project, the results of which will be unveiled for the first time in Quebec this summer, at Fantasia. Featuring over 25 minutes of new material (1,257 shots, including entire new sequences), the complete METROPOLIS will be screened as a special gala event at the 3000-seat Wilfred Pelletier theatre in Place des Arts on July 28. For this special night, internationally renowned silent film composer Gabriel Thibaudeau is writing a new score for the feature, which he will perform with a 13-piece orchestra live at the screening. It will be a fantastically historical night in every sense of the word!

Notes on the music for Fantasia’s METROPOLIS event by Gabriel Thibaudeau:

“For the last 22 years I have been resident pianist and composer for the Cinematheque québécoise. METROPOLIS is one of the first films I played to. Writing a new score for this film represents, for me, a long cherished dream. The film’s modern feel and visual treatment lends itself well to experimentation and is a pure joy to create sound for!

How to express musically the class struggle and dialectic that are the foundations of this work? By utilizing not one, but two chamber orchestras! Quite simply, at stage left the orchestra represents the elitist spirit of the city through a string quintet and keyboard. At stage right a brass quintet with organ will form the second orchestra, symbol of the strength of the workers in the subterranean city. The percussion section in the center will form a link between the two worlds/ensembles.

For this two and a half hour performance, specially commissioned by the Fantasia Festival, the majority of movements will be precisely written and perfectly synchronized with the images on screen. However, certain passages will be more free, created live through “Soundpainting”, a technique of improvising from coded gestures used by the conductor.”

– Gabriel Thibaudeau


Here is the trailer for The Complete Metropolis:


Vanessa Redgrave in The Devils

A LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD FOR KEN RUSSELL

Fantasia will present Britain’s celebrated enfant terrible, the director of such one-of-a-kind classics as ALTERED STATES, TOMMY, CRIMES OF PASSION, WOMEN IN LOVE, LISZTOMANIA, GOTHIC, SALOME’S LAST DANCE, MAHLER and LAIR OF THE WHITE WORM, with a lifetime achievement award in celebration of his astoundingly unique and bravely provocative visions.  On the night of his ceremony, we will screen a rare 35mm print of his explosive and still-controversial 1971 masterpiece THE DEVILS. This notoriously powerful film, which remains unavailable on DVD anywhere in the world, stars Oliver Reed and Vanessa Redgrave, and featuring art direction by Derek Jarman.  Russell will be in town for a week and our special “Devils’ Night” award presentation will kick off a massive retrospective of his filmography split across Cinematheque Quebecoise and Cinema Du Parc.

THE INTERNATIONAL PREMIERE OF STUART GORDON & JEFFREY COMBS’ CRITICALLY ACCLAIMED EDGAR ALLAN POE STAGE PLAY

Award-winning filmmaker Stuart Gordon, beloved for such films as RE-ANIMATOR, FROM BEYOND and STUCK will be returning to Fantasia (after gracing us with the Canadian premiere of EDMOND in 2006) with his staple star Jeffrey Combs to stage their acclaimed one-man play NEVERMORE: AN EVENING WITH EDGAR ALLAN POE, which features Combs in a breathtaking performance as the legendary author. It should be noted that Gordon was a celebrated theatre director for many years before turning to cinema. Among his many impressive credits, the future filmmaker founded Chicago’s Organic Theater in the ’70s and was the first to stage a play by David Mamet, who he continues to collaborate with every now and then. A spellbinding recreation of the public recitals that Poe regularly performed in the years before his death, based on reviews and reports of his actual appearances, NEVERMORE premiered in Los Angeles in July 2009 and was originally slated to run for four weeks.  Critical raves and mass audience draws saw the run extended to nearly six months. Combs’ performance is so captivating and mercurial that many critics have championed him as “the definitive Poe,” a claim that we can fully agree with! 2010 also happens to be the 25th anniversary of RE-ANIMATOR, and in celebration of this, Fantasia will be screening an uncut 35mm print of the cult classic, hosted by Gordon and Combs.

For updates on all things FanTasia, go to www.fantasiafestival.com

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LOOK WHO’S A FAN OF HORROR! KARL WOLF

Posted in Interviews, Music with tags , , , , , , on March 13, 2010 by darklordbunnykins

The "Wolf" Man

The DLB interviewed Montreal-based pop-dance star Karl Wolf (he of that remake of Toto’s “Africa”) as part of Canadian Music Week and it turns out Mr. Wolf is actually a big horror movie fan. I know, right! Anyway, here is Karl on his love of horror movies and what it took to scare him as a kid…

MOVIE REVIEW: THE CRAZIES (2010)

Posted in Movies, Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , on February 25, 2010 by darklordbunnykins

THE CRAZIES

Starring Timothy Olyphant, Radha Mitchell and Joe Anderson

Directed by Breck Eisner

Written by Scott Kosar and Ray Wright

Alliance Films

(Left to right.) Radha Mitchell and Lisa Wyatt star in Overture Films' THE CRAZIES.

Full disclosure: I haven’t seen the original version of The Crazies (1973). I have a vague recollection of trying to watch it about a decade ago and being bored stiff, to the extent that I had to stop the movie 15 minutes in for fear of having to rip my eyes out of my head. And indeed, having spoken to a friend about it in the wake of seeing this remake, he confirmed what I have heard from others: that the original is a great idea poorly executed. In other words, the perfect film to be remade.

Timothy Olyphant stars in Overture Films' THE CRAZIES.

That idea is pretty simple: the residents of Ogden Marsh, a picturesque American town, start going crazy for no ostensible reason. Soon enough, Sheriff David Dutton (Olyphant: A Perfect Getaway) and his deputy Russell Clank (Anderson: The Ruins) find their town under siege by locals infected by a mysterious virus and Hazmat-suited soldiers hoping to contain the contagion.

Working from a script written by Scott Kosar (The Machinist) and Ray Wright (Pulse), director Breck Eisner (Sahara), until recently attached to direct the Creature From the Black Lagoon remake, fulfills much of the promise of George A. Romero’s original. A solid budget means we get to see the full extent of the virus’s destructive capacity, from a downed military aircraft to a high school turned into a military operation to a devastated Ogden Marsh burning.

Radha Mitchell stars in Overture Films' THE CRAZIES.

It also helps that Eisner has such a solid cast. Olyphant and Anderson are especially strong, and although neither of their characters is particularly well fleshed out, we still empathize with their plights. And it’s always a pleasure to see Radha Mitchell (Pitch Black) in a Hollywood film.

Not surprisingly, The Crazies, like Zack Snyder’s Dawn of the Dead remake, jettisons most of the political underpinnings of Romero’s work. So where early-1970s concerns about environmental damage and Vietnam seemed to have informed the original Crazies, this version makes only passing reference to current anxieties about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. As one soldier Dutton interrogates says regarding the killing of Ogden Marsh’s residents by the military, “This isn’t what I signed up for.”

Leaving aside that baggage, the new Crazies is a cracking horror thriller which builds genuine tension and anxiety in several great set pieces. Kudos, too, to the effects work by Robert Hall’s Almost Human studios. It’s alternately subtle and horrifying, with the infected looking genuinely sick, not just undead.

Romero purists may take affront, but like Snyder’s Dawn of the Dead, the new Crazies is simply a different take on a good idea. That’s not so crazy, is it?

Timothy Olyphant; Radha Mitchell; Danielle Panabaker; Breck Eisner

Rating: 3.5/5

BEASTLY BOOKS: HORNS BY JOE HILL

Posted in Books, Reviews with tags , , , , on February 22, 2010 by darklordbunnykins

HORNS

Joe Hill

(William Morrow)

You would think that a book about a man turning into a devil would be pure horror, but Horns, Joe Hill’s second novel, is as much drama, albeit one which uses the supernatural to deepen and amplify the story’s essentially tragic nature.

Horns begins with Iggy Parrish waking up the morning after a drunken bender to find horns growing out of his head. Almost as strange, he finds everyone he meets confessing their deepest, darkest secrets… including their real feelings about him. Iggy, you see, is generally presumed by his neighbours to have raped and murdered his long-time girlfriend Merrin the year previous; the only reason he’s still walking the streets is because his rich parents arranged for incriminating evidence to be destroyed, they assume. Soon enough, though, Ig is able to use his new powers, which include influencing the will of those around him, to find out who really killed Merrin.

Horns author Joe Hill

Hill, in case you don’t know, is Stephen King’s son, and not to belabour the fact or draw ill-informed comparisons (because I haven’t read a book by the elder King in two decades) but he has his dad’s knack for subtle characterization, black humour, moments of sickening violence , and a genuine empathy for human frailty. Fans of King’s work will appreciate his son’s writing, but it succeeds on its own merits, not simply by virtue of who his father is.

The plot of Horns revolves around not simply who murdered Merrin (we learn the killer’s identity pretty early on) but also how and why it happened, as well as its impact on Ig’s life and the life of the entire town. Hill fractures the narrative timeline and uses Ig’s ability to know everything about a person by simply touching them to reconstruct what exactly happened that ill-fated night. But the circumstances of Merrin’s death, of course, are complex, coloured by misunderstanding, self-interest and guilt depending upon whose version of events we are being subjected to. The result is a Rashomon-style retelling of events which turns out to be far more than a simple crime of passion.

The plot’s driver – we continue to read after discovering who killed Merrin because we want to see Ig’s revenge – soon enough becomes secondary to our interest in finding out what will become of Ig. With each page turned, Ig’s transformation into an actual devil progresses. There’s also a metaphorical transformation occurring and it’s sickly fascinating to follow along.

Horns contains its fair share of grisly images and acts of violence, but Joe Hill is not Stephen King. There be monsters here, but Horns is primarily about the darkest corners of the human heart, shining a light into the places in our minds that no one wants to acknowledged.

I guess that is horror, isn’t it?

Shout! Factory Secures Home Entertainment Rights to Extensive Roger Corman Library

Posted in DVD, Movies, News with tags , , , , , , on January 13, 2010 by darklordbunnykins

PRESS RELEASE:

For Immediate Release

SHOUT! FACTORY SECURES HOME ENTERTAINMENT RIGHTS TO EXTENSIVE ROGER CORMAN LIBRARY

Iconic Film Properties Include Piranha, Death Race 2000, Rock ’N’ Roll High School, Galaxy Of Terror, Starcrash, Humanoids From The Deep, Grand Theft Auto, Battle Beyond The Stars and more


Los Angeles, CA, January 13, 2010 — Shout! Factory and New Horizons Picture Corporation have entered into an extensive multiyear alliance to release a vast library of classic and new films from legendary producer-director Roger Corman, recipient of a 2009 Honorary Academy Award®, to the home entertainment marketplace. Under the terms of the agreement, Shout! Factory has secured the exclusive North American home entertainment rights to over 50 highly sought-after Roger Corman film properties. This announcement was made today by Shout! Factory founding partners Richard Foos, Bob Emmer and Garson Foos, and filmmaker Roger Corman.

“Roger holds an incredibly rich legacy in Hollywood. His cinematic works, spanning decades, continue to influence filmmakers worldwide. Many of his iconic films have been unavailable or long out-of-print in the home entertainment marketplace. There’s a lot of consumer interest in these films,” state Shout! Factory’s founding partners. “We’re thrilled and honored with this opportunity to work with Roger and New Horizons to bring his cinematic treasures back to their original luster and share them with movie fans.”

“We’re delighted to collaborate with Shout! Factory to make New Horizons’ historic library of films available for home entertainment,” said Corman. “We look forward to working closely with the entire Shout team for great DVD and Blu-ray releases ahead.”

Shout! Factory and New Horizons Pictures are working closely to remaster a number of great Corman titles that have been long out of print, some never-before-available on DVD and Blu-ray™. Moreover, Shout! Factory is currently producing a wide range of bonus content for special editions and double features for the launch of Shout! Factory’s Roger Corman’s Cult Classics home entertainment series.

The first titles to be made available from Roger Corman’s Cult Classics presented by Shout! Factory are the much anticipated cult thrillers Piranha Special Edition DVD, Humanoids From The Deep, Up From The Depths and Demon Of Paradise in April 2010; Piranha Special Edition Blu-ray, the memorable 1979 classic Rock ’N’ Roll High School Special Edition DVD and Blu-ray and the punk rock drama Suburbia in May 2010. Other Corman classics slated for 2010 release include Death Race 2000, Warlords Of  The 21st Century, Deathsport, Forbidden World and Galaxy Of Terror, among others.

The saga of independent filmmaker-producer Roger Corman ranks as one of the most amazing motion picture success stories. Having produced more than 350 films and directed 50 others, his influence on American film goes far beyond his own energetic, creative low-budget movies. He is arguably one of Hollywood’s most gifted and masterful filmmakers.

Noted for his keen ability to spot young talent, Corman’s most lasting legacy will undoubtedly be the legion of producers, directors, writers and actors he has fostered, among them: Jack Nicholson, Francis Ford Coppola, Robert De Niro, Martin Scorsese, James Cameron, Ron Howard, Peter Fonda, Jonathan Demme, Gale Anne Hurd, Diane Ladd, Tommy Lee Jones, Sandra Bullock, Bruce Dern, Talia Shire, Charles Bronson, Joe Dante, Peter Bogdanovich and Sally Kirkland.

DEVILISH DVDS: SHUTTLE (2008)

Posted in DVD, Movies, Reviews with tags , , , , , , on January 11, 2010 by darklordbunnykins

SHUTTLE

Starring Peyton List, Cameron Goodman and Tony Curran

Written and directed by Edward Anderson

Mongrel Media



It’s not a compliment when critic Roger Ebert calls Shuttle “a relentless march into the dark” as part of his one-star-out-of-five review. Still, that quote adorns the DVD’s back cover, and it’s an accurate assessment. Writer Edward Anderson’s filmmaking debut is a tense thriller remarkable for its bleakness.

Peyton List (TV’s Mad Men) and Cameron Goodman play Mel and Jules, BFFs just back home from vacation. It’s late, the airport is deserted and they decide to accept a freelance bus driver’s offer (Tony Curran: Midnight Meat Train) to take them downtown. A handsome pair of bros the girls met earlier horn in on the ride against the driver’s objections. Their only other companion is a nervous accountant (Cullen Douglas).

Soon enough, though, the quintet find themselves on a journey to hell as their driver takes them on a circuitous route nowhere near their destination. Confrontations ensue, their driver pulls a gun, and soon enough his plan for the girls – and there is a plan – starts to come into focus.

First-time director Anderson is relatively skilled as a filmmaker, although it’s the idea of the film, as opposed to its execution, which is the strongest aspect of Shuttle. His characters are not completely sketched out, but List and Goodman create empathetic portraits of friends who just want to get home but find themselves subject to a greater horror than simple robbery. Likewise, Curran, best known to horror fans for his intense portrayal of the vampire Marcus from Underworld: Evolution, brings dimension to his unnamed driver; not just a remorseless killer, there’s a terribly pedestrian method to his madness.

Cameron Goodman as Jules

Shuttle is grim. Anderson offers the audience glimmers of hope as the tables are turned more than once in the girls’ favour. That things end the way they do is pretty devastating. There’s little entertainment to be had here, but, as an exercise in misery porn, it’s an effective reminder that happy endings don’t always happen.

Rating: 3/5

DARK LORD BUNNYKINS EXCLUSIVE! INTERVIEW WITH THE HOUSE ON SORORITY ROW DIRECTOR MARK ROSMAN

Posted in DVD, Interviews, Movies, News with tags , , , on January 7, 2010 by darklordbunnykins

It actually came out in 1983, but DVD company Liberation Entertainment is only getting around to releasing the “25th Anniversary Edition” of the minor horror classic The House on Sorority Row now… no doubt to capitalize on the recent release of the bigger-budgeted Hollywood remake Sorority Row.

First-time writer-director Mark Rosman was looking to combine his love of suspense with the more commercially viable genre of slasher films when he wrote his script about a group of sorority sisters whose prank on their mean-spirited house mother goes fatally wrong. Inspired by the work of Hitchcock and Henri-Georges Clouzot as much as John Carpenter, Rosman crafted a blood-soaked thriller whose quality belied its low budget and commercial conception.

The Dark Lord Bunnykins conducted this interview with Mr. Rosman by email in early January.

What inspired the story, Mark?

I always loved suspense/mystery/thrillers and wanted to set about writing my first screenplay for me to direct. All the rage in that day (early 1980s) for low-budget movies was horror films (I guess not a lot has changed!). I decided I’d try to come up with a suspense thriller that had horror elements to it.

I had lived in a fraternity for two years when I went to UCLA. I had since graduated college (NYU) and was living in my parents’ house in Beverly Hills. One day I was staring out at the pool in our backyard and the idea came to me about sorority girls pulling a prank involving the pool at their house. I merged that with an idea I had worked on with some other friends: a mother keeps her deranged son locked up in a closet in her house. The mother became the sorority house mother and the deranged son ended up living in the attic of the sorority house over the summer. I combined that all and came up with the script which was originally titled Screamer.

You admit on the commentary that you were more of a suspense fan than a horror fan but that you wanted to make something commercial. What suspense films or directors inspired you? Some have mentioned Hitchcock and Henri-Georges Clouzot.

Yes, definitely Hitchcock. And Clouzot’s Diabolique was always a favourite. But I also loved Frankenheimer, De Palma, Welles, and Kubrick.

The relationships between the sorority sisters are realistic. What experiences fed into their characters and interactions?

After living in a frat house for two years, you pick up things. A lot of the interactions between the main girls and with the smaller characters definitely came from dialog I heard and characters I met during those days.

The girls are not merely innocent victims. Indeed, they are culpable for the death of Mrs. Slater. How important was it for them to face death knowing that they were guilty of a crime?

Probably my biggest goal for the movie was to write a horror film where the girls were not just innocent victims. I never liked those slasher movies where the only thing wrong the victims did was to have sex. But not only did I want the girls culpable of a crime, but I also wanted them involved in a story while the killer was coming after them. I get bored watching victims just partying while we wait for creative ways to kill them. I wanted the girls driving a story forward, and a mystery as to who was really doing the killing.

The DVD packaging calls The House on Sorority Row a “cult classic slasher film.” How accurate is the “slasher” part?

Well, the slasher part was definitely put in to get the film made. But I suppose it is a slasher movie. It’s just that the slasher part is not the reason to watch the movie.

Many of the “kills” were added in post-production. At what point did you realize that you had to make the film bloodier?

In the original shooting, I had planned for only three explicit killing scenes: when Morgan gets the cane stabbed through her body while holding the music box, and when Liz gets her throat slashed in the van, and Vicki gets stabbed with the cane also at the van in the cemetery. After I cut the film together and showed it to some people in the business, I realized that if I’m going to have a shot of getting this distributed, I needed to add more gore. So I came up with bloodier endings to the other deaths and figured out a way to shoot them in my parents’ backyard in Beverly Hills (the movie was shot in Pikesville, Maryland). I also added another killing by having a frat guy stumble across the killer after he came out of the pool. I found out that our LA make-up effects house had already made a life mask of one of their employees so I cast that guy as the frat kid and had the cane go through his throat via using the life mask.

Your original ending had our heroine Katey dying at the hands of the killer, but your distributor, Film Ventures, demanded a less downbeat, more ambiguous ending, with the killer still alive at the end. Why do you think that was? Were they hoping for a sequel?

The distributor had only two notes when they saw my cut. The first was to colourize the black and white opening. They felt no one would sit through black and white. We added a blue tint to it. The second was to end the film when the clown opens his eyes and cut out the ending which showed Katherine floating dead in the pool, wearing the clown costume. They said simply, “You can’t kill the hero.” Maybe they were right. You go all this way with her and then she ends up dead? I was just so sick of every single horror film ending with the last girl living. I wanted to kill her in a creative way. In the original script, Katherine ends up in the hospital and she’s being wheeled out to be greeted by her mother. But then the wheelchair makes a hard turn and we pan up to reveal that the orderly is Eric. When I shot the film, we changed it to the pool ending so we could shoot it at the house location. Both of those endings I loved, but that’s the way it goes in Hollywood. Oh well.

It's curtains for Morgan (Jodi Draigie)

What would a sequel be about?

Who knows? Over the years I tried to come up with sequel ideas but nothing was that great. Film Ventures went bankrupt maybe a year after the movie opened so they never were around to do a sequel.

Did you run into any problems with the MPAA over the violence?

We had the typical notes of cutting out frames of some of the violent scenes to limit them. I think so much blood had been spilled in other horror movies by then that we didn’t have to do much cutting.

Richard Band’s score is epic and classy. How important do you feel it was to elevating the film above its “slasher” contemporaries?

Richard did a really great job. Our inspiration was Bernard Hermann of course. But Richard added a prettiness to the main theme that gave it something special and appropriate. Using the London Philharmonic to record the score didn’t hurt either. Yes, it raised the level of the movie a lot and I greatly appreciate that.

This is the “25th Anniversary Edition,” but the film was actually released in 1983. Why the delay?

I think Liberation, the current distributor of the original, was inspired to do this edition because of the remake.

This killer isn't clowning around.

The film was recently remade as Sorority Row. What if any involvement did you have with it? Have you seen it? And, if so, what did you think?

I didn’t have much involvement with it. I owned the rights to my original screenplay which is what they based the remake on – very loosely. I came out to the set for a couple days which was really fun. I thought the writers did a great job updating the story. The remake is much funnier, sexier and bloodier than mine – which I think is very appropriate to what’s going on today in horror films. Their choice to have real fun with it was inspired. The director, Stewart Hendler, did a fantastic job. It looks like Bourne Identity meets Scream. Lots of cool handheld shots. Made me very jealous.

What do you feel is the lasting appeal of this, your first film as a director?

Who knows? I’m glad it has any appeal at all 27 years later! I hope it’s still fun watching these girls get all catty with each other after they’ve thrown their dead house mother into the pool!

The House on Sorority Row will be available on DVD from Liberation Entertainment on Jan. 12.

TERRIFYING TUESDAYS: THE FINAL DESTINATION IN 3D (REVIEW)

Posted in DVD, Reviews with tags , , on January 5, 2010 by darklordbunnykins

THE FINAL DESTINATION

Starring Bobby Campo, Shantel VanSanten and Mykelti Williamson

Directed by David R. Ellis

Written by Eric Bress

Warner Home Video



Have you seen any of the previous three Final Destination films? Then you’ve seen this one. Check it: young friends survive a terrifying accident (the destruction of a speedway, in this case) after one of them has a vision of the disaster. Eventually they figure out that Death itself is after them. They die in elaborate, gruesome ways. They think they’ve broken the pattern of the deaths, only to die at the end anyway. The End.

At this point, much like with the Saw films, the reason to watch an FD film is for the kills. (What that says about our grip on our own humanity I will leave to bloggers with more time on their hands.) And, admittedly, the kills in The Final Destination are pretty brazen and spectacular. People are crushed by flying tires, have their eyes gouged out by flying rocks, get squashed by car engines… But I don’t want to spoil the “good” stuff.

And the film is in 3D! Doubtless this would have made the mayhem all that more visceral (friends said the effect was pretty great), but the same cannot be said for the at-home experience, where those annoying, flimsy red & green glasses are simply annoying. Yes, the 3D kind of works, but only kinda sorta. This isn’t Avatar we’re talking about.

Speaking of which, James Cameron knows that story, not effects, is king. The Final Destination has no story. It’s simply a framework upon which to hang elaborate set pieces. To that end, congratulations to screenwriter Eric Bress for his grip on spatial relationships and his ability to come up with ways to mangle the human body. He has a bright future as a serial killer or video game programmer because he sure can’t write dialogue.

Extras on the Blu-ray version are extensive, including deleted scenes, alternate endings and extensive featurettes on each death. Nothing on the film’s themes or the creation of characters. Sorry.

Rating: 2/5

Deaths: 4/5

RETRO REWIND: INTERVIEW WITH THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE’S GUNNAR HANSEN (A.K.A LEATHERFACE)

Posted in DVD, Interviews with tags , , , on December 31, 2009 by darklordbunnykins

2009 is winding down and the Dark Lord Bunnykins is busy brewing up new “content” for the forthcoming decade.  In the meantime, I’d like to present a series of suitably spooky conversations taken from my day job as editor of Access Magazine (www.accessmag.com).

Today’s installment:  Gunnar Hansen, a.k.a. Leatherface from the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974). This was done in conjunction with Dark Sky Entertainment’s re-issue of the film on DVD. Enjoy.

How do you feel about the film’s longevity and continuing popularity? It must be strange being part of something that means so much to so many people.

It’s actually amazing to me. It’s certainly nothing I ever expected. When the movie came out what my big hope was that the movie would be good enough and well-enough received that five years down the road there would be a few hardcore fans. And I thought, ‘If that’s the case, boy, we will have really succeeded’. So the film, the movie — I want to call it a movie, not a film. You know what a film is? It’s a movie you don’t understand. The movie has been so much more than I ever hoped it would be. So I’m really glad. Certainly, to me, it was really great that I was part of a movie that has had that affect and that people not only remember but that has become part of the culture.

Chain Saw has spawned generations of fans and made you a horror icon. When did you start to realize that Chain Saw was a film that profoundly affected people?

It really wasn’t for a long time. A few months after Chain Saw came out, in the spring of ’75, I moved to Maine. You know, I moved to an island. I didn’t have a television until only a few years ago. I didn’t want that. So I didn’t understand, I didn’t realize how big the movie had become.

And then in 1987 I went to LA to work on a picture. I had been turning down stuff. In fact, I turned down The Hills Have Eyes because I just didn’t want to work in films particularly. Finally, I thought, ‘This is really silly. I’m being asked to be in these movies’. So I went to LA to work on Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers, with Fred Ray, who I’ve known for years. And when I was out there was when I realized how big the movie had become. And it was really because of the way the other actors and crew reacted to me on the film. They were really afraid of me, and the first day of filming, nobody talked to me except if there was another actor I had to do a scene with. Everybody stayed away from me. And then they warmed up, and somebody said to me, ‘You’re a lot nicer than we thought you’d be. We thought you’d be a jerk’.

And that’s really what made me understand that while I was off in Maine writing that the movie had just become part of the culture.

There was one single thing that happened that really made it sink in and that was an episode of Cheers when the Kirstie Alley character is lording it over all the people in the bar that she is going to be house-sitting a big estate for the weekend out in the country. And when she gets out there, toward the end of the half-hour, she becomes very frightened because she’s alone in a very big house and it’s getting dark. She runs around and locks all the doors and windows and then sits down in the living room, she hears a noise and says, ‘Oh, Leatherface, I hope that’s not you’. And when she said that, it made me realize she doesn’t have to explain to the audience who Leatherface is.

You’re identified with Leatherface more than any other character you’ve ever played. Understanding that you had ambitions outside of acting, how much did Chain Saw help or hurt your acting career?

Well, actually, it’s helped a lot. You have to remember that I never intended to work as an actor, and that’s why I turned down these films. And I was offered some stuff that wasn’t even horror. When Robert Redford was filming The Great Waldo Pepper in San Marcus, Texas, which is 30 miles away, and I wasn’t offered some big part, but I was told that if I came down, I would have a part. They were small things but I was being offered these things, and I didn’t really want them. I was saying no.

So when I finally decided that I should be accepting these roles, I understood that the only reason people were offering me film roles was because of Chain Saw. I’ve no reason ever to believe that Chain Saw has hurt my acting because it was the only reason people were interested in me for other films. And almost everything I’ve done has been horror.

You’re a regular on the horror festival circuit. How do you enjoy meeting your fans?

I really enjoy it. I think horror fans are great. I can’t imagine horror fans ever doing some of the really bizarre things so-called normal fans do, things like ‘oh, I love that actor. Let’s kill him!’ So I really enjoy meeting horror fans. I’m always pleased when I go to a convention how nice horror fans are. They’re glad I’ll talk to them. I hope that they understand that I’m pleased they want me to talk to them. I’m pleased that horror fans want to meet me and that the movie is that big to them.

Given the diminishing returns of the various Chain Saw sequels in terms of quality, are you glad you didn’t play Leatherface again?

Absolutely. In each case, I was disappointed that we were not able to come to terms. Soon after that, when I’d see the movie, I’d be relieved because I wasn’t part of that. And I’d think, ‘Well, you know, the money’s going to be gone long before my embarrassment’. And so, yeah, I’m glad that having been in only one Chain Saw movie that it was the one that defined the whole phenomenon.

Many people seem to think Chain Saw is a bloody film or that it is actually based on true events. Neither of which is true. What do you find is the biggest misconception people have about it?

You’ve hit on the very thing. I remember a fan coming up to me and saying ‘Texas Chain Saw Massacre had the best special effects I’ve ever seen in a movie. Why can’t they do them that well anymore?’ And I said, ‘Because they’re not in there’. And he said, ‘No, no. I saw you cut that guy in the wheelchair in half’. And I said, ‘Actually, you didn’t’. And he insisted. And, I said, finally, ‘Look, why don’t you just go watch the movie again’. And people talk about how bloody this movie is. I mean, it’s referred to as the mother of all splatter movies. It’s not even a splatter movie.

And the other part that is probably the most common misconception is that this is a true story, that this is a film about Ed Gein. Or this is a film about real events that happened in Texas. So many people say that to me. ‘Oh, I remember when it happened, it was awful’. Or they’ll say, ‘How can you show such disrespect to the families of the victims that you’d make a movie about it?’ I’ve met three different people who claimed to be prison guards at Tunstall State Prison in Texas who guarded Leatherface. One of them said, ‘Oh yeah. They figured he had a lead imbalance in his brain, and once they got that straightened out, he was pretty good. In fact, he worked in the kitchen’.

One time I was going to a convention in Niagara Falls… and this staff member picked me up in the airport. And she said, ‘You know, it’s a shame that they arranged for you to come so late. If we’d had more time, you know, the original Leatherface lives in the Niagara Falls area, and wouldn’t it have been great if we could have gotten him at the show along with the actor’. People just absolutely believe that this story happened.

How important was Leatherface’s mask in helping you create the character?

Everything was in the mask. It wasn’t so much that it freed me up is that it became the expression of Leatherface’s character. Because I had the mask on to begin with, what it did for me from the acting point of view was that I realized from the beginning that I was going to have neither voice nor face to act with and I was going to be dependent entirely on body. So I had to work really hard to figure out the character physically because I had nothing else to go by. And I was an inexperienced enough actor that, looking back, it never would have occurred to me. Otherwise the body was part of the character. In other words, if I had been given a role in a film where I could speak and you see my face it wouldn’t have dawned on me that I should still be thinking about who is this guy physically. In a way it was a real blessing because it forced me to create him physically and forced me to have him so that when the director would say ‘action’, I could slouch the physical movement into being Leatherface and I could come out of that as soon as he cut the shot, and I didn’t have to pretend or try to be Leatherface.

There’s nothing under the mask: that was my idea for Leatherface. If you take the mask off, there’s no face. So the mask becomes the expression of Leatherface that day, and that’s why the different faces. If you watch Leatherface, he’s different with each face.

Leatherface is a childlike creature. Do you consider him to be a villain?

Yes. It’s very chic nowadays to have pity for the villain. ‘Poor, misunderstood villain’, but sure he’s a villain. Yes, he’s afraid of his family and they do whatever they tell him to do. That’s one of the first things that [director] Tobe [Hooper] said to me, and he shows that fear of them. But he is killing the people. He’s a willing participant when the Cook comes home and he’s angry at the Hitchhiker because he’s been taking Leatherface out and digging up bodies. Obviously, he’s doing that because the Hitchhiker tells him to, but he’s also very willing to kill these people. He’s not waiting for one of his family members to say ‘kill them’, he kills them right away. So I think he’s very much a villain and a very evil character. At the same time, part of what makes him so frightening is that he is extremely evil and yet there’s something pitiful about him.

The Chain Saw prequel includes details about Leatherface’s upbringing. Did you give any thought to Leatherface’s past when imagining the character?

No, I really didn’t. I really thought of him in terms of how am I going to represent him physically. Because what I had on him was a long discussion with Tobe and Kim [Henkel], the writer, over the character’s personality. And my feeling looking back is that I viewed him in a vacuum. I mean, that’s part of why people were so horrified with the movie was there was no attempt in this movie to justify or explain. There was no attempt to judge these characters.

And at the end I think part of the reason there was a lot of anger about Chain Saw was that there was no judgment or retribution at the end. One of them was dead, the others were not. And, to me, that’s part of the power of the film, and to me, working on the character, it didn’t dawn on me that I needed to understand why Leatherface had become what he was. It just seemed to me that these people existed and that’s what I had to start with, that there is a person like this somewhere. I don’t care how he got there, because the kids that he killed don’t care how he got that way. They’re worried about the fact that he is there.

The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is an iconic title, so much so that Michael Bay has produced two Chain Saw films, the 2003 remake and the prequel. Have you seen the remake? What do you think of it?

Yeah, I have seen it. In fact, it’s the only one of the sequels that I’ve seen more than once. I did that because ESPN asked me to come on on Halloween for their Cold Pizza show to talk about the movie.

So I saw it on opening weekend, and then when I got to New York for the show I went the night before to see it again — I wanted to be clear about why I disliked the movie. And I really did not like the movie. The big thing to me was explaining Leatherface. What are these people thinking? Let’s make him nothing more than a kid with a skin condition, let’s make him be a kid from Columbine. Let’s reduce him from this unknown and unknowable mystery, something that’s almost human, to the very knowable guy with the missing nose.

Andrew Byniarski as Leatherface in the 2003 remake

What did you think of Andrew Byniarski’s performance as Leatherface?

Well, he was fine. I mean, my complaint is the same complaint I had with all the sequels which is I think the producers treat Leatherface as a guy in a mask. So they don’t see him as a specific personality, they don’t care who plays the part. So what that means for Andrew is he’s given a script and that character’s defined, but the Leatherface as written in the new Chainsaw movie isn’t the Leatherface from Chainsaw 4, 3, 2 or 1. Every one of those films the writer has a different conception of Leatherface, if he has any conception at all.

And so when Andrew comes in and is given this script… He did a fine job, but his job was to play an entirely different conception of Leatherface than any of the others. Just as Bill Johnson, terrifically good actor, who played Leatherface in Chainsaw 2, I really liked the job he did, but he wasn’t playing the same Leatherface that I played. In that film, [writer] Kit Carson has him wondering if he’s going to have sex with the girl. If that had been the original Leatherface, he’d be thinking, ‘When do I eat?’ He’s not thinking about stroking her thigh with his chainsaw. He’s already killed her and he’s thinking about getting the fire started for the barbeque.

Why do you think The Texas Chain Saw Massacre has endured?

I think the primary thing about Chain Saw is that it’s a really disturbing movie, and I think that’s what gives it its longevity. It doesn’t rely on gore and shock effects. It really relies on being a film that disturbs the audience, that gives them a real, unnerving glimpse at the dark side of human nature. And I think that’s sustainable more than getting into the competition of ‘can I make this gorier than the last one’, and I think that’s really the heart of what’s made Chain Saw survive 32 years.

Do you think you’re going to see the prequel?

Oh, I’m sure I will, if for no other reason than I’ve seen all the others. I’ll probably wait to see it on disc. But, yeah, I’m curious to know what they’ve done. And I can only hope. I say all this and I grouse about it, but I would have loved it if the remake had been brilliant. I wouldn’t have been jealous, I would have loved it for him to have made a brilliant film.

TERRIFYING TUESDAYS: PARANORMAL ACTIVITY, JENNIFER’S BODY

Posted in DVD, Reviews, Rue Morgue with tags , , , , , on December 29, 2009 by darklordbunnykins

Just a reminder about two big horror titles available on DVD today:

PARANORMAL ACTIVITY (Paramount Studios Home Entertainment)

Somewhat controversially, I called this “the most frightening film I’ve ever seen in a movie theatre” in Rue Morgue Magazine. Sorry, but it’s true. Going into a screening of Paranormal Activity in early September, with basically no idea what the movie was about, my expectations were low. But director Oren Peli’s $12,000 budget was well-spent. His tale of a couple haunted by a demon was terrifying in the group dynamic of a movie theatre. At home, the viewing experience, knowing what scares are to come, is somewhat less impressive but still worthwhile, especially if your house creaks in just the right places.

Key extra: The original ending,which is less showy but perhaps truer to the film’s “spirit,” no pun intended.

JENNIFER’S BODY (20th Century Fox Home Entertainment)

It was unjustly maligned by critics and largely ignored by audiences, but Jennifer’s Body was one of 2009’s most entertaining films. Again, sorry! Those doubtful of Megan Fox — and those doubts were understandable — would have seen that, yes, she can act, and she is perfectly cast as Jennifer, a small town hottie whose surface sophistication belies a deep insecurity and naivete. As Jennifer’s BFF Needy, Amanda Seyfried is the film’s heart. It’s through her eyes that we see her losing her best friend (and, in some ways, worst enemy) to a boy-eating demon. It’s not a scary film, but the intertwined feelings of love and animosity between teen girls screenwriter Diablo Cody (Juno) has laid out is pretty disturbing. Hell is a teenage girl, indeed.

Key extra: The commentary track between director Karyn Kusama and Cody, which is both funny and highly intellectual.

Megan Fox as Jennifer

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