Thursday, June 25, 2009

Saw attraction at Universal Studios Hollywood

Yeah, that sounds like a good time.

The new attraction is being launched in October and I can honestly say that I can think of few things I less want to do than be ferried through the Saw experience: Either it's going to be horrible (like if you really have to dig a key out of your own flesh before some grotesque trap is sprung) or it's going to be really lame.

I suspect the latter, given American liability laws: I have a hard time imagining the insurance policy that would cover bona fide torture. At a theme park, anyway.

The Saw experience (or whatever they decide to call it) will debut during "Halloween Horror Nights" at Universal Studios Hollywood and Universal Orlando. I don't plan to be there.
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Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Changes at the Oscars...

Everyone's all abuzz about the fact that starting next year — which is to say, with the films of 2009 — there will be ten nominees in the best picture category instead of five. There used to be ten nominees, but not since 1943.

The idea, as I understand it, is to open up the field, which is all very well and good. But since the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is going back to the future, I have to wonder why they don't instead go back to have two best picture categories, one for dramas and one for comedies and musicals. That strikes me as a far better way of spreading the wealth around, because let's face it: It's rare for a comedy to snare a best picture nomination and rarer still for one to win. Dividing the category up would acknowledge the apples and oranges factor: A great movie is a great movie, but when faced with a choice between a soul-searing drama and a bust-a-gut comedy, Academy voters tend to reward seriousness of intent.

Or is that just me?

See The Hollywood Reporter's analysis here.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Dead Snow, The Hangover and more new reviews...

I've been remiss in letting folks know, but I've been posting new reviews of all kinds of movies, including the gut-crunching Norwegian zombie movie Dead Snow and the laddish comedy The Hangover, which is way funnier than it has any right to be.

Tell me what you think!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Recut movie trailers

I'm sure you've seen at least one: A fake trailer that recasts a familiar movie in a whole new light. Like, say, The Shining as an uplifting family drama, or Back to the Future III as Brokeback to the Future.

This list may not be the absolute, positive ten best of the best, but between Amelie as a blood-chilling horror film and The Shawshank Redemption as a tender romance, there's a whole lot of perverse brilliance in one place.


Sunday, June 7, 2009

Me and Dario...

It's been the better part of 15 years since I last saw Dario Argento.

We've exchanged the occasional email and Christmas card, but seeing him on the last day (June 7) of Fangoria's Weekend of Horrors at NYC's Javit's Center was amazing. Dario was as sweet and intense and eccentric as ever... I truly can't believe that he's a few months shy of 70 and I first met him close to 25 years ago.

As I've said many times and many places, Dario changed my life: If I hadn't seen Deep Red at the Victoria Theater in 1976, I would never have written my master's thesis on Argento's films.

If I hadn't written that thesis, it would never have become the book Broken Mirrors/Broken Minds: The Dark Dreams of Dario Argento.

And if Broken Mirrors/Broken Minds hadn't been published (thank you, Anthony Blampied!), perfect strangers -- from filmmaker James (Saw) Wan to horror fans of every age, both sexes and all manner of interests -- wouldn't be telling me nearly 30 years later that my book changed their lives. Life is funny that way, isn't it?

So molti ringraziamenti Dario! And thank you Bill (Maniac) Lustig, Stuart Gordon, Tobe (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Tom (special effects pioneer) Savini and all the other horror legends I saw today, and thank you everyone who came up to me after the Argento panel to say you loved Broken Mirrors/Broken Minds.

And look for the new, updated edition next year from University Of Minnesota Press!

Thursday, June 4, 2009

R.I.P. David Carradine

Like many of his generation, David Carradine may well have thought he'd die before he got old. And yet the uber-cool Hollywood maverick of the 1960s and '70s stuck around long enough to come back into fashion, enjoying a late-career resurgence jump-started by his titular role in Quentin Tarantino's 2003/2004 Kill Bill: Vol.1 and Kill Bill Vol.2. That he should have died at the age of 72, an apparent suicide in a Bangkok hotel room (a spokesperson has described his death as "accidental"), makes me sadder than I can say.

My grandmother always counseled that it wasn't for us to decide whether someone had died before his or her time, and far be it from me to contradict someone who lived as long and as well as she did. But I still can't believe this was Carradine's time.

Perhaps alone among members of my generation, I had zero interest in Kung Fu, the so-of-its-time TV series that catapulted Carradine out of TV and movie bit parts and into the spotlight. For me, he was still the son of the legendary John Carradine, co-star of Hollywood classics like The Hound of the Baskervilles (1939), Stagecoach (1939) and The Grapes of Wrath (1940), and star of more b-movies and exploitation quickies than I could name.

Paul Bartel's Death Race 2000 (1975) changed all that for me: Carradine's performance as hideously scarred race-car driver Frankenstein -- reigning champion of the brutal Transcontinental Death Race, future America's bread-and-circuses solution to keeping the public pacified -- was a revelation. It was a real performance, not a campy lark, and Carradine's low-key seriousness made the ultimate reveal (and no, I'm not going to spoil it) truly affecting. Other people may have been surprised by just how good he was as Woody Guthrie in Bound for Glory (1975), but I already knew.

David Carradine made some spectacular exploitation movies: His performance as Pearl in the elusive Sonny Boy (1989) is so mind-blowing I don't even know where to start; just trust me and do whatever it takes to see it. He also made plenty of crap; everyone has bills to pay, and that's how actors pay theirs. I was genuinely happy to see him get a new lease on professional life with the Kill Bill movies, and I'm truly sorry it ends here.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Catch Me at Fangoria's Weekend of Horrors!

I'll be at the Javits Center on Manhattan's West Side (make that the wild west, west, far West Side) this Sunday, June 7th, moderating the 1:30 Dario Argento panel.

If you're in town and so inclined, please come on by. I can say from long experience that Dario is many things — eccentric, perverse, cryptic and mercurial, for example — but dull has never, ever been one of them.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Werewolves on Wheels, Barry Maguire and "Eve of Destruction"

So, I'm writing a piece that mentions Werewolves on Wheels -- which is, by the way, pretty hypnotic and so exactly what Larry Bishop's Hell Ride was trying to be -- and realized that one of the biker gang was Barry McGuire, who sang "Eve of Destruction." And that he became a born-again Christian the year after he made Werewolves on Wheels, in which he's part of a gang called the "Devils Advocates" (apparently they're too butch for apostrophes) who get the wolf whammy put on them by a bunch of Satan-worshipping monks. Hmmm, coincidence or not?

Be all that as it may, I ran across this clip of McGuire singing "Eve of Destruction" on some TV show and all I can say is, who designed that set? Mad Max's cousin? And what are those dancers in black doing to those junked cars?

It's something else.