MOVIE REVIEW: ANNIHILATION

Posted in Aliens, Beauty, Eye Candy, Fantasy, Monsters, Movies, Reviews, Sci-Fi, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 23, 2018 by darklordbunnykins

ANNIHILATION

Paramount’s decision to sell Annihilation to Netflix for all territories outside Canada, the US, and China is great if it gets the film a wider audience than would pay to see it in a theatre. The shame is that Ex-Machina writer-director Alex Garland’s adaptation of the Jeff VanderMeer novel is a stunning work of art whose natural home is a darkened movie house. Indeed, on a big screen with a great sound system, Annihilation‘s thrills, chills, and ideas are that much more profound and intense.

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Left to right: Natalie Portman and Tessa Thompson in ANNIHILATION, from Paramount Pictures and Skydance.

Natalie Portman (Black Swan) plays Lena, a soldier-turned-scientist whose military husband Kane (Ex-Machina‘s Oscar Isaac) returns to her a year after going missing. His assignment: to investigate the Shimmer, a mysterious phenomenon slowly engulfing the southern coast and making its way towards populated areas. An ill Kane is re-captured by the military, and Lena goes with him. Eventually she persuades Dr. Ventress (Jennifer Jason Leigh), the leader of the next team to go into the Shimmer, to let her come along. What she discovers there is best left unexplained, as it is alternately astonishing, beautiful, and terrifying.

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Indeed, while the IMDb classifies Annihilation as “Adventure, Drama, Fantasy,” it possesses a bloody streak of body horror. Some of the most genuinely weird and wild images ever seen in a big-budget Hollywood production are on display here, and its visual and thematic debt to both John Carpenter’s The Thing and Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. Annihilation mark it as a bold work of imagination.

‘THE GOTHIC IS A WAY TO ENTER THE TABOO.’ AN INTERVIEW WITH THE LODGERS SCREENWRITER DAVID TURPIN

Posted in Festivals, Ghosts, Goth, Interviews, Movies, Sex with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 22, 2018 by darklordbunnykins

rachel

Everyone loves a good Gothic ghost story, especially one drenched in murder, dread, and the promise of deviant sex. The Lodgers delivers all these things, but director Brian O’Malley’s follow-up to the gory Let Us Prey is a far different if no less horrifying beast.

The setting is post-WWII rural Ireland. Charlotte Vega ([REC] 3: Genesis) stars as Rachel, a young woman living alone with her twin brother Edward (Bill Milner) in their decaying childhood home. The siblings, whose parents died years earlier, are cursed to stay in the house or suffer a terrible fate at the spectral hands of unseen beings. This terrifying childhood idyll is about to be shattered by the onset of adulthood, and Rachel’s diffident attraction to Sean (Eugene Simon, Game of Thrones), a newly-returned and wounded vet.

The DLB spoke with screenwriter David Turpin about The Lodgers during the film’s world premiere at last year’s Toronto International Film Festival.

On the origin of the script:

It was a game I played with myself as a child. We lived in a flat upstairs and there was another flat below us, and I used to imagine beings coming out of the lower part of the house while we were asleep. So that idea was always buzzing around in my mind from I guess when I was 5 or 6 years old.

rachel and bermingham

On the influence of Jean Cocteau’s 1929 novel Les Enfants Terrible (The Holy Terrors), also about isolated siblings whose bond is shattered by the pressures of adolescence:

And then I thought if you take that kind of weird sibling relationship and then you planted that within a Shirley Jackson world or a Turn of the Screw; you took that weird psychosexual thing, and you used the horror as a way of heightening it and sort of exploding it out.

 

On Shirley Jackson:

I love the eerieness she creates, the sense of evil, sometimes in the banal. I find her quite fascinating.

edward floor

The house as character as a trope in horror and Gothic literature:

When I was writing I was always visualizing the artist Edward Gorey. His designs for Dracula; those kinds of cavernous spaces, interiors that look like they’ve been burned down and people have continued living in them. I was thinking of those kinds of eerie, decrepit spaces.

I was also thinking of Shirley Jackson and Hill House and the house as a kind of organic beast. I was thinking of all the great dilapidated houses, like the one in Edward Scissorhands with the huge hole in the roof. All these wonderful places. The House of Usher.

 

On the haunted estate of Loftus Hall where much filming took place:

It seemed to pretty much perfectly capture what was on the page and also bring more to it. Because when you’re writing a script you don’t know how many sets you’re going to have, you don’t know basically what you’re going to be able to afford. How ambitious can your production design be?

There was a great production designer, Joe Fallover, who worked on it. But the house itself was such a gift because it came so close to what I imagined, even before Joe came in and added all his design to it.

rachel edward

On twins:

The idea of someone who is you but isn’t you, it’s such a fascinating idea. You have all these great doppelgangers in Gothic literature and in film. There’s just something so incredibly uncanny about seeing yourself in another person. I always find it uncanny when I meet the children or parents of a friend of mine; you can see the genetic resemblance moving through the generations, and twins are the most extreme example of that.

One of the things I think horror helps us to do is explore very troubling psychological states; especially sexual things are very hard for us to talk about. And twins are a great way of exploring conflict within one’s self. The feeling that we all have of being torn, of being ambivalent or suspended between two different things; wanting something but needing something else; loving but hating something at the same time. And twins, because it’s two people, you can really visualize that. What the film is really about is these two young people are coming of age at the same time, they’re both at the beginning of sexual adulthood. One of them is able to process it and move forward, one of them is not able to process it, and is destroyed by it. I think everyone encounters a moment in their lives when they could go either way. And the great thing about the twins is they allow us to show both ways simultaneously.

rachel in bed

On the film’s deviant sexuality:

The gothic is a way to enter the taboo. And they’re not taboo just because they’re wrong; they’re taboo and they’re wrong and we want to know what it feels like. The gothic allows us to step into the unacceptable and live the unacceptable.

Those ideas of warped or wrong sexuality… I love the original Cat People, which is a film about bestiality. Paul Schrader’s remake of Cat People touches on both bestiality and incest. Much of horror is about frightening us and exciting us. It’s also about creating a safe space to talk about things that are deeply troubling and about giving us a set of metaphors so that we can talk about things that we may not know how to express otherwise. It’s sort of like dreams in that way.”

 rachel in house

On the rules Rachel and Edward follow:

I’m very interested in folklore, folktales, and oftentimes they’ll involve quite a schematic idea, or in the way in a folktale they’ll be a repeated rhyme, like in Hansel & Gretel. And I wrote the words of the little song quite early in the writing of the film. And it just seemed to me that if you lived in this weird closed world where you were sealed off from everything else you would have a series of codes that you lived by that are very strict. And it became a metaphor for the idea of sexual rebellion and the idea that we are all kept in check by various rules, and we all need to transgress past those rules to know who we are. But at the same time society says, ‘Transgress past these rules and you will be destroyed.’ So becoming an adult is finding a way to transgress the rules just enough to be able to live and know yourself and not be destroyed.

 

On fate:

I guess the closest we come to [Edward in gothic fiction] is Roderick Usher. And I always loved in The Fall of the House of Usher the way though there’s a curse on the family, there’s some kind of security in that, in that it gives him a way of understanding the world. Like so many of us I don’t know what the world is about! I feel very lost a lot of the time. I think most people do. But Roderick Usher, and Edward in our story, they understand; they know what the world is about. It’s about this curse, it’s about this fate. They aren’t fluffing around in the breeze not knowing what to do. I guess it’s the way some people’s identity can be shaped by their victimization.

There’s also in the idea of fate and the curse; the transgression is so extreme that it can go down from generation to generation. And I think we’re all fascinated by those ideas of curses, and horror gives us a way to look at that. It’s so much part of human history, the feeling that one might be cursed because of what one’s ancestors had done. I teach a little bit of American gothic literature. The idea that America as a country is haunted because there is a horrible blood crime at the root of what America is. It’s fascinating, the idea that your crimes will return, and they’re so extreme that they’ll return for generations after you. You may not pay for your crimes, but eventually somebody on your side will.

The Lodgers opens in limited release in the US and on iTunes Feb. 23.

SAOIRSE RONAN TALKS BYZANTIUM

Posted in Fantasy, Gore, Interviews, Vampires, Violence with tags , , , , , , , , on July 13, 2013 by darklordbunnykins

saoirse-ronan-byzantium

Director Neil Jordan’s vampire drama Byzantium is finally getting a Canadian release this weekend. The melancholy film stars Saoirse Ronan (The Host) as Eleanor, a vampire (although that word is never used) tired of living on the run with Clara (Gemma Arterton, St. Trinians). The DLB had the chance to speak to Ronan during last year’s Toronto International Film Festival during a roundtable with the young Irish star.

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NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD LIVE RISES IN TORONTO

Posted in Events, Gore, Movies, Theatre, Zombies with tags , , , , , , , on April 27, 2013 by darklordbunnykins
Photo: Christos Kalohoridis

Photo: Christos Kalohoridis

While I had to miss opening night of Night of the Living Dead Live — damn you, Dark Prince Bunnykins! — the theatrical version of the classic zombie film, put on by the fine folks of Hamilton, Ontario’s Nictophobia Films at Toronto’s Theatre Passe Muraille, looks to be a fun (and funny) take on George Romero’s debut feature. The DLB spoke to co-writer/director Chris Bond, the man behind Evil Dead: The Musical, and executive producer Phil Pattison about resurrecting NotLD on stage.

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THE DARK LORD BUNNYKINS RETURNS… WITH DARK PRINCE BUNNYKINS!

Posted in Beauty, Devils, Eye Candy, Goth, Halloween, Images with tags on April 8, 2013 by darklordbunnykins

The Dark Prince Bunnykins

 

Those of you curious as to why posts on The DLB have been so infrequent in recent months, please meet the reason: The Dark Prince Bunnykins! The past several months have been taken up serving this little fledgling Monster Kid on hand and foot, as well as his beloved mother. I am planning to ramp up posting, when time (and sanity) allows.

EXCLUSIVE! THE LAST EXORCISM PART II DIRECTOR SPEAKS

Posted in Devils, Ghosts, Interviews, Movies, Sequels, Supernatural with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 28, 2013 by darklordbunnykins

nell screaming

The DLB had the chance to speak to The Last Exorcist Part II director Ed Gass-Donnelly last week in his hometown of Toronto about working with series star Ashley Bell, shooting in New Orleans, his vision for the franchise, and working with a low budget

First of all, tell me about New Orleans. Tell me about, obviously the typical thing is it’s a character in the movie, certainly Louisiana was very much a character in the first one, in terms of depression of Ashley’s character, Nell; talk about working there and New Orleans as a character in your film.

Well, the big thing for me is that you’ve got this girl in the first movie that has lived in such a repressed environment. Her father won’t even let her go to school and won’t let her listen to music that’s not Christian music, so I loved the idea of what would it be like for that girl to suddenly be…the movie starts with her sort of lost and feral in the woods, almost no memory of what happened, and then she gets put into a transitional home in New Orleans, so you go from like a cabin in the woods where you have no sense of culture, to suddenly being in the middle of Mardi Gras, and certainly what I love about horror movies is it a chance to explore bigger themes and ideas but in a very sort of pop culture environment, so to me this movie is sort of a metaphor for ultimately girls discovering their own voice and sexuality.

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EXCLUSIVE: PRODUCER JASON BLUM TALKS DARK SKIES (PART ONE)

Posted in Aliens, Interviews, Movies, Sci-Fi, Thriller with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 21, 2013 by darklordbunnykins

Keri Russell in Dark Skies

The DLB recently spoke to Dark Skies producer Jason Blum about the alien abduction thriller about to hit theatres tomorrow. Blum is the name behind Blumhouse Productions, the production company behind low-budget horror successes like the first Paranormal Activity, Insidious, and Sinister. Amongst our topics: making scary movies on small budgets, working with director Scott Stewart (Priest, Legion), the next Paranormal Activity and Insidious films, as well as working with Rob Zombie on The Lords of Salem. Part 2 of our chat will be posted tomorrow.

How excited are you about the way Dark Skies turned out?

I’m really happy with it. It’s exactly the movie that Scott…Scott brought me the movie a year ago, pitched it at me, well not exactly but very close to what you saw. and I really like an emotional story, you know, character, emotional work and the family drama that is depicted in the movie and to have a family upset by this dark force and I’m really proud of the movie and I am really pleased at how it turned out. I wouldn’t be doing these calls if I felt differently, obviously.

 

And why did you want to make it?

I always look for the same things in the movies that we decide to do, which is, is there a great drama and is there a great story. I think unlike a lot of the other companies that make horror movies I really look at the story first and the scares second, and I actually think that makes the movies scarier. I think a lot of places say, well tell me the scares and then we’ll work the story out later, and I think that’s not super effective, and so that’s a long answer to your question, but Scott checked all the boxes with this movie. It’s exactly the kind of movie we’re looking for and I would continue to make. Obviously I don’t want to repeat ourselves, we want to excel. And I think the movie is very different than Sinister and Insidious but certainly just as scary.

 

Speaking of Scott, what is he really good at and why did you want to work with him?

I never met him before we started the movie so I could only look at his movies, and what I got from his movies relates to what I just said, is that I thought he was really good at directing actors, he’s gotten really good performances, and that’s what I was drawn to, and I think that he continued to get that. Both Josh [Hamilton] and Keri [Russell] have seen the finished film, they love it, they want to work again with Scott, and I don’t have to tell you this but that doesn’t happen too often. So that’s what I thought he was good at, and I’m not always right, but I was right about that and I was happy about it.

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Speaking of Keri and Josh, why did you want to cast them, especially given that they don’t have backgrounds in horror films? Or is that an advantage?

To me that’s an advantage. I did theatre in New York but I was just starting out in my career. I had a company called Malaparte and Ethan Hart and Calista Flockheart and Steve Zahn and Robert Sean Leonard and Josh Hamilton, among a bunch of other people who were in the company and Ethan did Sinister and Ethan did a second film with me called The Purge and the casting of all of our movies, ultimately the directors have the final say, but I’ve encouraged them to cast actors who aren’t necessarily associated with horror. You can say that of Ethan, and you can certainly say that of Josh Hamilton and Keri, for that matter.

 

There are a lot of alien invasion films, a lot of alien abduction films, but to what extent do you think is Dark Skies scarier because it’s told on an intimate scale – it’s one family, as opposed to a more global invasion big-budget films like Battlefield Earth or Independence Day?

I don’t see this as an alien invasion movie at all. I know that may sound surprising after you saw it but an alien invasion movie implies exactly what you said, being a spectacle close-encounter, I see it as a family disrupted by a menacing force and to me, in Paranormal Activity you never see what the force is; in Sinister and Insidious you see it a bit more, but to me what the actual evil is, is much less interesting to me than what the evil causes. And that’s what I like about this movie, I don’t look at it like an alien invasion movie at all.

Josh Hamilton in Dark Skies

On that note though, how much discussion went into how much you would show the aliens and what they would look like, given that they are secondary as opposed to the effect upon the family itself?

Very little. I think less is more when you are showing evil forces, and again, I think the conversations were about who should be in the movie, who should play it, what problems they were facing and in all the films that our company works on, we don’t spend a lot of time thinking about the…we give a personality to the evil by not showing the evil. We can’t compete with the bigger movies on showing evil forces, we just…so I feel we get a lot more mileage out of not showing them and letting people imagine. Whatever you can imagine is way worse than whatever we have the ability to show, so I encourage filmmakers to let audiences imagine what’s bad as opposed to see it.

 

Dark Skies opens Feb. 22.