Archive for the ‘Guests’ Category

Birdemic 2: The Ressurection!

Posted: May 8, 2013 by StayFrosty in Events, Film, Guests, Reviews

frosty

Okay movie friends, if you’ve clicked on the link to read this review, you’ve probably already experienced the original Birdemic: Shock and Terror, directed by master of the Romantic Thriller James Nguyen. Or it could be you’re just intrigued by the word “birdemic” – and who wouldn’t be?¬† This also means it’s likely you already know if you’re going to enjoy the sequel, and there’s not much I can do to change your mind.¬† Most people who’ve seen Birdemic have strong feelings about it.¬† Love it or hate it, the one emotion I haven’t encountered is ambivalence.

How can you not love this photo?

How can you not love this photo?

JennyD and I (joined by some bird loving, hanger-carrying friends) saw Birdemic 2: The Resurrection at the closing of the Cinedelphia Film Festival (http://www.cinedelphiafilmfestival.com) at PhilaMoca, late at night with a bunch of other people who were there to enjoy the shit out of this movie.¬† On top of that, we were joined by¬†Director James Nguyen, Producer Jeff Ross, and star Alan Bagh (“Rod”)!¬† How much better could a premiere get?

Not much better, as it happens.¬† I can’t recall the last time I laughed and enjoyed myself so much at an event like this.¬† It seemed like everyone was having a great time – they laughed, they cheered, they freakin’ sang along to the original movie’s now classic song “Just Hanging Out”!¬† I love a sing-along at a movie!¬† Clearly, almost every single person there knew what they were in for, and were loving it.¬† And with a movie like Birdemic 2, that’s exactly the way you need to go into it.

In the film, we continue to follow the exploits of Birdemic‘s brilliant computer engineer Rod (Alan Bagh) and his girlfriend Nathalie (Whitney Moore, clearly very much in on the joke this time around), along with Rod’s adopted son (!), a boy he rescued in the first film and in this film only makes an appearance in one scene (hey, children are expensive to hire in the movie world).¬† There was a sister in the original too, but since the film didn’t have the budget for two kid actors, she was conveniently dealt with offscreen in a way that is far too awesome for me to reveal here.

birdemic 2

Joining our intrepid couple is Bill (Thomas Favaloro), an independent film director struggling to make it in Hollywood despite resistance from the big studio system (those jerks!).¬† And given how much screen time is devoted to him walking around town, it’s clear the poor guy needs some big studio cash.¬† Lend this man some money for a cab, people!¬† Bill just wants to make the movies he wants to make, like his current project, Sunset Dreams, but he needs financing since the studios just don’t understand him.¬† Fortuitously, his good buddy Rod just happens to have a MILLION DOLLARS from his software sales!¬† Executive producer/director high five! (I should note the high fives in both films are epic).¬† Now Bill can make his movie, but where shall he ever find a lead actress with the right amount of beauty and talent?

Cue waitress/aspiring actress Gloria (Chelsea Turnbo), whom Bill meets for about 5 seconds before he decides not only would she be perfect in the lead role, she’s perfect for him as well.¬† And with some of the worst pickup lines – but the best eyebrow work – in cinematic history, Bill gets his leading lady.

All this blossoming romance signals it’s about time for some bird chaos!¬† Instead of a detailed explanation, how about I offer you this: Millions of eagles and vultures are attacking Hollywood!!!¬† It‚Äôs raining blood!!!¬† Who will survive and what will be left of them?!?!?!

birdemic 2-3

Our intrepid heroes

I could discuss the subplots about global warming and blood somehow resurrecting creatures from the La Brea tar pits, but why do that?  Cue attacks!  Cue hangers!  Cue exploding birds!  Bagh and company combat the winged threat with weapons including not just the famous hangers of the past but guns, umbrellas, tripods and (most wonderfully) totally badass karate moves!  And during all this madness Rod and Nathalie never thought to mention that THEY’D ALREADY BEEN THROUGH THIS BEFORE!!!   The. Exact. Same. Thing.  Eventually they think to bring up this minor tidbit of information Рabout 15 minutes before the end of film.  You know, when it’s important.

It's not hangers, but it will have to do.

It’s not hangers, but it will have to do.

I‚Äôm leaving out all sorts of hilarious moments ‚Äď zombies, cavemen (don‚Äôt ask, just accept) and another rockin‚Äô dance scene complete with a new song from Damien Carter. But it‚Äôs no fun to hear about that stuff from me, so I‚Äôll leave some secrets for when you watch.

After the movie’s rather abrupt ending, we were treated to a Q&A with James Nguyen, Alan Bagh and Jeff Ross.  I was initially worried that people would be jerks and ask crappy, jerkish and awkward questions.  I get it, the movie’s not a cinematic masterpiece, but in my opinion being obnoxious to the director is just bad form.  However, with few exceptions, everyone was there in the spirit of fun, and the questions reflected that.

The surprise for me was James Nguyen.  I wasn’t sure prior to this screening if he thinks he’s making great movies or if he’s just very clever and knows exactly what he’s doing.  The jury’s still out on that one.  Before the film started he asked everyone how many drinks we’d all had, and later compared the Birdemic viewing experience to Rocky Horror, which suggests he’s in on the joke, but the way he answered some of the questions implies otherwise.  So who knows?  And does it really matter?

Director James Nguyen

Director James Nguyen

Here‚Äôs what I do know ‚Äď the guy seems incredibly sincere, and he knows about movies.¬† Whether or not he knows how to make them is not in question at this time.¬† He loves Hitchcock, which is no secret, but he also knows his Hitchcock.¬† These are two different things.¬† He can discuss, in detail, camera angles, lighting design, film history and theory.¬† He cites a reference from a David Lynch film that he put into his movie, and damned if I didn‚Äôt see it.¬† I saw it in a scene of questionable quality, but I saw it nonetheless.¬† He has a wealth of knowledge; however, his ability to apply said knowledge to his own films is perhaps not his greatest strength.

Either way, he loves what he‚Äôs doing and he‚Äôs thrilled that people are enjoying themselves watching his movie.¬† He was very up front about his budgetary restraints and some of the adjustments he had to make.¬† He also brought up what I thought was a very good point ‚Äď that if the movie was perfect, we probably wouldn‚Äôt be out at PhilaMoca late at night laughing and cheering.¬† He‚Äôs probably right.¬† Sincerity doesn‚Äôt make your movie better, but it does deserve some respect.

Jeff Ross and Alan Bagh didn’t have nearly as much to say, but we were treated to not one, but TWO karate kicks from Bagh!  Those kicks in the movie weren’t just fancy camera angles, friends!  They were REAL!

And that was our adventure with Birdemic 2: The Resurrection!  If you are going to watch this movie (and hell, why not?), I suggest you get a group of (open-minded) friends together and enjoy the ride!  Looking forward to BIRDEMIC 3!  ~SF.

Saint Nick

Posted: December 24, 2011 by Jenny Dreadful in Film, Guests, Reviews

Yesterday, we completed our 13 Days of Christmas series of reviews. Working through the many homicidal holiday icons was lots of fun (though occasionally challenging). I’m happy to say the fun isn’t over yet.¬†Although we were sadly unable to obtain¬†Saint Nick in time for the holidays, friend of the blog and new guest contributor,¬†Scott Cole, has the full report. Bonus review! Christmas is saved!

Scott is a visual artist, writer and connoisseur of all things spooky. You can learn more about him and his work here and follow him on Twitter here. First, check out his thoughts on Saint Nick:

Scott Cole: There’s a quote on the back of the Saint Nick DVD that refers to the¬†film as a horror-comedy, but that’s not really the case. While it does¬†have a handful of comedic lines and moments, Saint Nick (or Sint,¬†meaning “saint”, as the film is known in its native land) is a¬†straight-up Dutch slasher film, and a festive one at that.

It seems our titular character was a cruel 15th century bishop, who, along with a pirate mob, was fond of pillaging and murdering whomever they came across. Eventually, however, they encounter a group of townspeople unwilling to put up with the abuse. The villagers fight back, killing the bishop and his cohorts in fiery Freddy Krueger fashion.

Since then, whenever a full moon happens to land on the night of¬†December 5th, the undead Sinterklaas and his merry band of “Black¬†Pete” minions return to Amsterdam, to punish children and slaughter¬†those who stand in their way.

It’s a simple premise, and ultimately a simple film. There’s really¬†not much more to it, though there probably could have been. Still, the¬†ride is fun, even if there are moments reminiscent of other, more¬†classic films, such as Halloween and The Fog (intentional or not).

There’s plenty of action, including a wonderful chase scene involving¬†police cars on the street following our villain, as he rides his¬†trusty horse from rooftop to rooftop. And, of course, there are a good¬†number of gore gimmicks, to keep the screen filled with jolly red¬†splatter.

Is this an incredibly original film? No. Has the evil Santa thing been done before? Of course. But Saint Nick, even with its faults, is definitely a fun watch, and during the holiday season, what more could you possibly need?

13 Days of Christmas 4: Rare Exports

Posted: December 12, 2011 by Jenny Dreadful in Film, Guests, Reviews

Jenny: Good morning, readers! After a weekend of Christmas horror “classics,” both wonderful and wonderfully painful, Final Girl Support Group and The 13 Days of Christmas return. Before we move on to a number of 80s slashers and Busey baked goods, let’s take a look at the Finnish dark fantasy,¬†Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale (2010).

It’s likely that Frosty and I would have turned in a somewhat shallow review along the lines of “It was funny and weird. Wow, lots of old man wangers!” and we’re happy to present a more thorough analysis of the film from our newest guest contributor, Scaredy Cat!

On the Fourth Day of Christmas, my true love sent to me…Four Naked Elves, Three Death Cars, Two Curling Duels and a Hell Goat in a Pear Tree.

Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale

Scaredy Cat: Hello, I’m Scaredy Cat and I love horror. I am also terrified of horror movies. I live with this contradiction every day, and it sadly limits my entertainment choices. The typical movie-goer may be frightened while the movie is rolling, but when it’s over the horror of the movie slides into the background of their lives, the terror of the moment forgotten.

Unfortunately, that’s not me. The horror stays with me past the theater and the car ride home, though the late night snacks and into the bedroom to three in the morning, when my mind plays nasty tricks. I lie awake listening to every creak, becoming ever more certain, as the night spins forward, that there is a psycho killer in my closet. Or a velociraptor.

How did that killer get there? Why would a velociraptor go into a closet? With the state of things in my closet, wouldn’t they have to clean it first to get in there? Would a velociraptor even be able to clean a closet? These questions, though reasonable, hold no water at three in the morning, in that still-dark, when reason slips from the mind, in the half-grip of dreams.

What I’m saying is, horror movies scare the piss out of me. I’m conflicted, because I adore gore and monsters but I never know, going into the theater, which movie is going to send me into a horror tailspin with a month of sleepless nights, or which ones will be delightful playful romps through horror-land. Fortunately Stay Frosty and Jenny Dreadful know how to be gentle. They are such experts on horror and it’s many psychological tendrils that they’ve learned how to handpick movies for my delicate condition.

Most recently, they picked the movie RARE EXPORTS, a delightful Christmas tale of myth and murder. RARE EXPORTS takes place in the Korvatunturi Mountains where a scientist is digging up Santa. Of course, this isn’t the jolly Santa from the modern era, but an ancient creature, one who has more in common with Cthulhu than old Saint Nick.

Directed by Jalmair Helander, this film is based on a 2003 short called Rare Exports Inc that received attention and acclaim online. RARE EXPORTS is a movie about death, love and family. It’s also a movie about Santa, and how old myths have been sterilized for the modern way of life. In the mountains, where these people are dependent on nature for a living, they are all the closer to the ancient closeness with nature. The loss of a herd is devastating, and the intrusion on an ancient burial ground by modern technology uncovers old, and terrible gods.

Though the films plot follows the unearthing of the mythical Santa Claus, the true star is Pietari Kontio, played by the very talented Onni Tommila. Pietari is a young boy who lives with his father in a community of reindeer herders.  When Pietari sees footprints on his rooftop and the reindeer from the herd are mysteriously slaughtered, he becomes obsessed with finding more about the roots of Santa’s mythology.  Pursuing his hunch with the tenacity and seriousness of a noir detective seeking the truth, Pietari reads over old texts, finding depictions of Santa as a kidnapper and torturer of children. From his research Pietari becomes the only one in the community who truly believes in Santa. There is plenty of blood in this film, but we see very little of people getting hacked up. The most terrible things happen off screen, and like a child, we are left to imagine the things the movie has shielded us from, for better or worse.

Central to this movie is Pietaris relationship with his distant father, who, in all his hunter and butcher machismo still dons a feminine apron in order to make Pietari a Christmas dinner. Over a plate of cookies we learn Pietari’s mother has died and then the distance of his father and Pietari’s loneness show themselves as the after-effects of grief, a family celebrating, and mourning the first Christmas without mom.

The movie speaks to the relationship between children and their parents.  A parent might threaten outside danger to keep a child from misbehaving, but in reality, all those threats are empty ones. The truth that Pietari’s loving father demonstrates is that faced with outside danger, the parents will defend their child at all costs. By directly facing Pietari’s potential death, his father emerges from his grief, learning to love the life they still have together. In the end, the affection between father and son is so strong that it is used, to hilarious effect, to teach one-time monsters how to love.

We see no women in this movie. We once hear a woman’s voice on the phone, but that is the extent of female involvement. Though I am usually bored by movies in which there are no women, in this movie, it worked, allowing for the focus to be on the father and son relationship. Their connection to a recent death makes their understanding of the threat of death all the more real. Unlike some horror movies, where death is a flippant thing, in this movie, we see the lasting effect that a loss has on a family, forcing the father to take on a role he is clearly unprepared for, and the child to step up to defend his community in a way he mightn’t have had to if a mother was there to placate his fears. This is a masculine society, but it is not a society that pretends that the loss of a woman within it means nothing: to the contrary, the loss of a mother has had a profound effect on our two central characters. We feel her loss as an emptiness place, in a movie that shows the lonely expanse of the natural world.

Also, this movie has a killer graphic design. When we watched it, we all unanimously decided we wanted the graphic Santa on coffee mugs, t-shirts and messenger bags. Though I am not much for Christmas décor, that little Santa graphic is a charming little design and should be plastered on everything. We could use it as a reminder of the pagan roots of the Santa mythos, while being thankful of how we have reformed him today.

I would recommend this to horror fans who love a dramatic landscape and don’t mind a little bit of good old fashioned camp. Someone for whom all movies must be perfectly serious, with logical and scientific explanations for all phenomena will be annoyed by this film, while those who can sit back and enjoy a ride though silly-town will be delighted. I can safely recommend this to folks who might be on the fence about horror, and who might find more intense horror films off-putting. I am happy to report that, as of this viewing, Santa has not been in my closet. Which is good, because it’s a small closet, and I’m not sure he’d fit.

Stake Land

Posted: April 22, 2011 by Jenny Dreadful in Film, Guests, Reviews

The vampire apocalypse film, Stake Land, starts its limited theater run with the IFC center in New York today. It’s currently scheduled to move to Chicago, LA, San Francisco, Brooklyn, Columbus and Cleveland next. To keep updated on the list of towns and dates, visit the official Facebook page here. So… other than a world overrun with bloodsuckers, what is Stake Land?

It’s the newest film from Jim Mickle and Nick Damici, the creative team behind the innovative zombie film, Mulberry Street (released as part of the “Horrorfest II: 8 Films to Die For” event in 2007). While our crew is very appreciative of Mulberry Street, our very good friend… let’s call him Pseudo, is a super fan. We were excited to have him along for a fantastic screening of the film at the Philadelphia Cinefest where many of the cast and crew members were in attendance. There are a handful of people we would consider honorary members of Final Girl Support Group; that we would trust with a guest blog. Pseudo is one of the few. But first, a synopsis… -Jenny Dreadful

The America of STAKE LAND is a lost nation. When an epidemic of vampirism strikes, humans find themselves on the run from vicious, feral beasts. Cities are tombs and survivors cling together in rural pockets, fearful of nightfall.

When his family is slaughtered, young Martin is taken under the wing of a grizzled, wayward hunter whose new prey are the undead. Simply known as Mister, the vampire stalker takes Martin on a journey through the locked-down towns of America’s heartland, searching for a better place while taking down any bloodsuckers that cross their path.

Along the way they recruit fellow travelers, including a nun who is caught in a crisis of faith when her followers turn into ravenous beasts. This ragtag family unit cautiously moves north, avoiding major thoroughfares that have been seized by The Brethren, a fundamentalist militia that interprets the plague as the Lord’s work.

Our collective rating is 4.5. ¬†First, we’ll let Pseudo do the talking…

Pseudo’s Review:

The thing that impressed me about Mulberry Street, the previous movie¬†by this crew, was that every single character had a story that¬†extended beyond the boundaries of the movie. It was often not made¬†explicit, but you knew that these people had lives, and it helped to¬†ground the movie and make it more human. I was expecting and hoping¬†for more of the same from Stakeland, and I got it. Only Martin, the¬†orphaned main character, and Mister, Martin’s gruff and deadly mentor,¬†are people who seem to reveal everything about themselves. Martin in¬†that the movie follows his life, which really seems to begin with the¬†movie’s first scene, and Mister who almost doesn’t seem like a real¬†person as much as an embodiment of everything necessary to stay alive¬†and human in the wake of the movie’s apocalypse, which he then passes¬†on to Martin.

I could write an entire essay about Mister, played by the movie’s¬†co-writer and star of Mulberry Street Nick Damici, but he is another¬†reason why this movie shines. While he’s your typical gruff,¬†super-effective badass wandering the apocalypse, he ends up going¬†askew of the archetype. Instead of grumbling about how you can only¬†trust yourself until a virtuous love interest melts his heart and¬†shows him how to trust again, Mister has a clear morality from the¬†get-go. He doesn’t abandon innocent people to their fate when he¬†thinks he can help it, and he doesn’t abide cruelty.

The movie’s take on the apocalypse is also refreshing. Instead of a¬†barren wasteland of empty buildings and bleached skeletons, the¬†protagonists wander through areas that, in the daylight, are full of¬†life. Civilization’s progress has come to a stop and regressed a bit,¬†but there are still pockets of people that have markets and give¬†haircuts and find ways to keep going. It is, to date, my favorite¬†depiction of a post-apocalyptic world.

I was excited about this movie as soon as I heard about it because of the work done on Mulberry Street and I am satisfied. I think Damici and Mickle, the co-authors, star and director, of these two movies, are doing some of the best work in the horror genre. I think their ideas are creative and unique, and I think they lend such strong and real characters to their movies that their writing is a strong example of the possibilities horror has as not just cheap thrills and gore that it gets written off as.

Additional thoughts from members of FGSG:

Crowbait says: We had a real treat at our showing because Damici and Mickle were there with us and even had time for a little Q and A at the end. When asked about motivation for the character of Mister, Damici said he used John Wayne from The Searchers as a reference and the Western flavor carries over from his character into the rest of the film. Towns are isolated outposts in a dangerous wilderness. Townsfolk are suspicious of newcomers but still, people have to live their lives and band together to survive.

Mickle also commented that working with small towns out in Pennsylvania was great because locals were happy to be extras and provide whatever they could to make his film better. For example, what was supposed to be a panel truck parked across the road as a makeshift gate became a train engine blocking a crossing just because someone had access to it.

Jenny Dreadful: I pretty much agree with the gents. It was great to get a chance to see this film and to see the creative team answer questions afterward. It’s also notable that Stake Land is an Apocalyptic setting that feels real. Complete with frightening religious zealots and crowded market places. That… hell, might not even be an apocalypse. Just a point where humanity needs to struggle and start over. It doesn’t revel in violence and focuses on humanity, but it doesn’t flinch from disturbing imagery either when it serves the plot. The bestial vampire attacks are vicious. I’ve been sick to death of vampires in media for some time, with the exception of Let the Right One In, but I am very satisfied¬†to find another fresh take on the old tropes. I may have a quibble or two, like unnecessary voiceovers in places or silly villain moments, but I think it’s an excellent film and I’d recommend it.

In short, we are fans. We look forward to seeing what Mickle and Damici have in store for us next.