Saturday, 28 February 2015

Emanations from THE VOID


It's only been a few days since the launch of the crowdfunding campaign for their ambitious looking gorefest The Void, but the Astron 6 boys have already dropped some more goodies for the acolytes to drool over. This time the eldritch artifacts have appeared in the form of a trio of bangin' posters, all of distinct design and style, and none leaving any doubt as to Kostanski and Gillespie's intent... Cosmic Fucking Horror.

Look at them at your own risk, may lead to gibbering madness...








Leonard Nimoy




"I have been, and always shall be, your friend..."




THE VOID



Here's a crowd-funding project that I thoroughly endorse.

Steven Kostanski and Jeremy Gillespie (two of the Astron 6 maniacs responsible for Manborg, Father's Day and the W is for Wish segment from ABCs of Death 2) need some help to kick off production on a promising new film called The Void.

They've made it fairly explicit that The Void isn't an Astron 6 project, and that this time the horrors are to be played dead straight. From the proof of concept reel, it looks like they're going for an atmospheric Lovecraft meets Fulci vibe (with a bit of Michael Mann's The Keep thrown in), replete with a menacing doomsday cult, creepy old hospital and basement settings, gorily metamorphosing creatures, mysterious luminous beings and an eldritch alien pyramid.

By their own admission, the FX aesthetic they're going for is heavily inspired by Rob Bottin/The Thing, Chris Walas/The Fly and Tony Gardner/The Blob '88. That is to say, a highly inventive, entirely practical combination of prosthetics, animatronics and puppetry that's as realistic as possible, and very, very wet. Writhing tentacles and bodies bursting with copious amounts of blood, slime and grue (and maybe even a glimpsed crab/spider appendage?) point to Bottin's work being the primary influence and touchstone.


That's where this funding campaign comes in. They need to secure as much money as possible so that they can afford to develop and build the creature effects in pre-production. That is to say, the way it used to be done before it became the norm to relegate the majority of FX to post (due to tight schedules, limited finances and ease of CG techniques).

As Kostanski and Gillespie mention themselves on The Void's IndieGoGo page, the success of Bottin's work on The Thing was largely due to the fact that he was afforded the luxury to work on the creature FX for many months prior to shooting. Despite all that extra time, it still almost killed him. He slept in the workshop, went half crazy and was eventually diagnosed with exhaustion. Even with all that prep-time, some of his carefully prepared gags still went tits-up when it was time to shoot, causing headaches for himself and Carpenter. The point is, the more time and money you've got to do this incredibly labour intensive work beforehand, the better.

Need something more to pique your interest? How about some sincere endorsements from some of the sickest horror filmmakers around? Vincenzo Natali says:

"This is the natural next step in the skyrocketing career of Steve Kostanski and Jeremy Gillespie. A full blown frightfest with its sights firmly aimed at unspeakable Lovecraftian horror. For those who are looking for the next big thing, look no further than The Void."

Resolution's Aaron Moorehead and Justin Benson add:

"Look, I don't know about you, but a world without Manborg is a world I don't want to live in. So I ask you, what are you depriving the world of if you don't help make The Void exist? If you don't help make The Void exist, then fuck you. Seriously, fuck you."

Can't argue with that.

Cast your sacrificial offerings into the cosmic abyss at The Void's IndieGoGo page HERE. The site of unnameable rituals can be found through this dimensional portal HERE.

Now, gaze upon these screenshots that I dragged back from the threshold of madness!




































Sunday, 22 February 2015

MANHUNT




Normal (de)programming resumes:

Hey punk, got nothing to do this afternoon? Then get off your ass and head down to Blackwire Records for what promises to be a face-melting matinee.

Brisbane's Manhunt are an aural assault of fast, and I mean fast, powerviolence infested with on-a-dime time changes, chugging breakdowns and some evil DM riffs thrown in for good measure. Take a listen to their self titled LP here. If the riff in "No Tolerance" doesn't make you want to punch things, you'd better check your pulse because you just might be dead.

Joining Manhunt are Melbourne's thrashing grind scumbags Internal Rot who also play kinda fast.

Thursday, 19 February 2015

Kontrasosial fundraiser




Indonesian d-beat powerhouse Kontrasosial were set to hit local soil next week for the first time, but unfortunately they've been denied visas. Tour cancelled. Aussie border protection: gotta love it!

As frustrating as this is for us, it's far worse for the band. They've probably sunk a lot of money into the tour that they won't be able to recuperate. As such, Blackwire have announced that next Thursday's show will go ahead as a fundraiser to help these out-of-pocket punks out. Sydney locals Unknown to God, Dark Horse and Obat Batuk are all still on the bill, so it'll be a good night regardless.

The idea is to fill that sweaty little room to capacity. See you there.

Sunday, 15 February 2015

ABCs of Death 2




The horror anthology has enjoyed a healthy resurgence in the last few years thanks to movies like the V/H/S series, the Simon Rumley led Little Deaths and the upcoming all-female directed XX. As exemplified by the bumpy V/H/S movies, it seems to be almost inevitable that anthologies end up varying wildly in quality (even the very best of them, such as Creepshow, aren't immune to this curse). More often then not they end up as uneven and spotty affairs, and as the years pass they're celebrated or reviled based on the extent of those highs and lows. Simply put, the anthology isn't an easy form to get right. With that said, I have a feeling that the films that will be most fondly remembered from this current batch are The ABCs of Death movies.

For starters, the ABCs movies are structured differently to their anthological predecessors. Gone is the wraparound story, an element that's become redundant with today's more savvy audiences. Almost every wraparound I've ever seen has been more likely to induce groans of boredom from an audience than entertain it. It stalls the momentum of the movie, and at worst it's just filler, intended to pad out the running time to 90 minutes.

The other thing that really sets these movies apart is the brevity of the segments. Found yourself in the midst of one that's a bore, or that you just can't stand? Don't worry, it'll be over in a couple of minutes! The effect of having a large number of short shorts which are distinctly different from each other (varying in tone, imagery, intent, language etc) is to soften the bumps caused by the variation in quality. The end result is an insane patchwork of gore, sex, art and fucked up weirdness that's so much fun to watch that even the worst segments just add to its totally gonzo charm.

Whether by accident or not, ABCs of Death 2 is an improvement on the first (not to denigrate the first, it's excellent in its own right). Perhaps for the filmmakers involved the original served as a blueprint, allowing them to establish what works and doesn't in what is essentially an experimental format. Whatever the case, ABCs 2 seems to have ironed out some of the kinks that were present in the first. It's more energetic, more entertaining and there's a higher level of quality throughout. It wasn't easy to whittle down, but the following seven shorts (listed in alphabetical order, natch) were the ones that most caused me to laugh, squirm, gag, cringe and wonder just what the fuck I was watching.



D is for Deloused

Robert Morgan's stop-motion animated D is for Deloused is probably the single most bizarro weird entry in ABCs 2, if not both movies combined. Dark, disturbing and just a little bit sickening are all descriptors that come to mind. It's like an anxiety-nightmare during the comedown from a bad acid trip. I know it's a cliche, but when this segment ended I literally thought "what the hell did I just watch". I'd like to see Morgan expand something like this to feature length.



G is for Grandad

One of the sequel's funniest segments is Jim Hosking's delightfully weird G is for Grandad. Unfortunately the short's biggest surprise has been somewhat spoiled by featuring it in the film's trailer, but no matter, it's still a lot of fun. Some nice atmosphere, a couple of hilariously over the top performances and a twisted finale bump this one to the top of the list. Hosking has recently popped up on the horror radar again with the release of this gorgeous piece of artwork for his upcoming debut feature The Greasy Strangler, to be produced by Elijah Wood and Ben Wheatley among others. Wood describes the script as "the most disgusting, vile, and all-around grotesquely hilarious piece of cinema we’d ever read". Colour me intrigued!



K is for Knell

Wow. This was my favourite of the bunch. Kristina Buozyte, director of 2012's arty sex and sci-fi feature Vanishing Waves, was responsible for this segment along with her Waves co-writer Bruno Samper. This one is a very dark and inventive little slice of sci-fi horror which is scary, ambiguous and visually striking. It's beautifully shot and features some astonishingly cool vfx. More of this from Kristina and Bruno please!



W is for Wish

Seemingly taking its cues from Richard Corben's Den and Tim and Eric's brain fucking Cinco commercials, Steven Kostanski's W is for Wish is a thing of gloriously lurid madness. As part of the Astron 6 crew, the ridiculously multi-talented Kostanski is the man behind recent cult fave Manborg, and this short is a continuation of that hyper-kinetic, '80s inspired insanity. It made me feel kind of queasy seeing those two wholesome boys transported into the world of their He-Man inspired toys. Once there, they find out that maybe their innocent games aren't so fun after all.



X is for Xylophone

Part of the fun of these movies is in seeing some of the hottest horror directors out there letting their hair down a bit and just doing something kind of silly. Released from the pressures of feature filmmaking, it's cool to see them just having a bit of fun with zero budget. Such is the case here with Maury and Bustillo's sick little segment. I love that the directing duo's muse, Béatrice Dalle, is once again front and centre. She's now been in everything they've committed to film, from Inside to the as-yet unreleased Among the Living (but I doubt that she'll be showing up in their recently announced Leatherface). This segment kind of feels like a humorous little appendix to Livid.



Y is for Youth

Time to get weird again! Prolific makeup artist Sôichi Umezawa's segment is an orgy of bizarre and surreal practical gags that's fun as hell to watch. Kind of reminded me of parts of Shunichiro Miki's deliriously odd The Warped Forest.



Z is for Zygote

Gonna go into spoilers for this one, so if you haven't seen it, you might want to check out now.

Whether by accident or not, Chris Nash (another ridiculous multi-talent, check out his IMDB credits) made the perfect capper to ABCs of Death 2. Z for Zygote is the atmospheric tale of a heavily pregnant woman, alone in the wilderness, who is forced to wait to give birth until her husband returns from some undisclosed errand. As her husband departs, he tells her not to worry, giving her a large jar of some dried root that when ingested will stave off the onset of labour. The only problem is that his little errand takes thirteen fucking years. What follows is disgusting and depraved in the best way possible. There's a gag in this that manages to outdo one of Gino De Rossi's most memorably stomach-churning effects from Fulci's City of the Living Dead. That's quite an achievement.

As gross as the gore in Zygote is, it's the unspoken stuff that really takes it over the top. The idea that the husband is now going to impregnate his own daughter, inside the vacated skin-suit of his former wife is bad enough. But the idea that he could leave for another thirteen years. That it could happen again. And again. Until it's his great-granddaughter living inside the skin-suits of his granddaughter, daughter and long-departed wife... like the world's smelliest Russian nesting doll. That's just sick. Zygote is like the best Gore Shriek comic that was never published, and I loved it.

So, now we know our ABCs... what were your favourites?

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

WE ARE STILL HERE




This trailer for upcoming SXSW midnighter We Are Still Here is so fucking rad. 

It's directed by first-timer Ted Geoghegan, and stars the lovely Barbara Crampton (and I'm delighted to see her making such a wholehearted return to the genre).

Geoghegan (I have no idea how to pronounce that) got his start writing for German sicko Andreas Schnaas, after which he penned the screenplay for Stacy Davidson's ultra-violent Sweatshop. With a gory background like that it's not surprising to see the red stuff flowing freely in this trailer, but it's not the grue that excites me here (well, maybe just a little bit), it's the atmosphere. Pure, 100% Fulci worship in the same vein as The Beyond and House by the Cemetery. I thought I might just be projecting my own love for Fulci onto the trailer but then I found this on IMDB:

Numerous characters in this film are named after characters or people associated with the Lucio Fulci film The House by the Cemetery (1981), which this film was inspired by.

I got all anal retentive and compared the credits of both films, and I can confirm that that's indeed the case. There's also a character named "Joe the electrician" which is an obvious nod to "Joe the plumber" from The Beyond.

I know that kind of fan service is just silly and is usually the hallmark of shitty fan films, but this trailer has me stoked for something much better than that. A high quality, atmospheric, gory Fulci homage that's also a good film in its own right. And let's be honest, how often do we get those? There's been hundreds of Romero knockoffs in recent years (including the highest rating show on TV), but how many really worthwhile Fulci throwbacks have we seen? The only ones that spring to mind are Nacho Cerdà's The Abandoned and Eric Valette's Maléfique (and to a lesser extent Atsushi Muroga's Junk and the Ford brothers' Dead movies).

Really hoping this lives up to the trailer, dying to read the first reviews out of SXSW! 



Saturday, 31 January 2015

LUDICRA - The Tenant




I've been revisiting Ludicra's 2010 album The Tenant recently, and it's so good that it makes me lament the fact that they broke up so soon after it came out. I love the direction they took on this one, leaving behind the more traditional black metal of their previous albums for a slower-paced, more melodic style. It still gets pretty fast and heavy at times, but I think The Tenant really shines when it slows and lays down the groovy, hypnotic riffs. Check out "In Stable" for some moments of truly "stand up and pump your fist" riffage. Laurie and Christy's dual vocals are amazing too, alternating between throat-tearing harshness and beautiful, wistful harmonising (this contrast is particularly effective during album opener "Stagnant Pond"). Underpinning the whole thing is Aesop Dekker's solid drumming which is, as usual, completely on point.

If black metal isn't really your thing, you shouldn't be put off by the label. I've turned a few people onto this one who aren't that into metal at all. "Accessible" may not usually be considered a compliment when describing a metal album, but in this case The Tenant's broad appeal is simply due to the fact that it's really fucking good.






Thursday, 29 January 2015

STARRY EYES




What price fame and greatness?

Apparently if you're an aspiring jazz drummer in New York city you pay for it by getting screamed at and humiliated by J.K. Simmons. If you're an aspiring actor in Hollywood however, it would seem that you pay for it with your very soul...

Having moved to L.A. to pursue her dream of becoming a movie star, Sarah is just one of countless thousands of young hopefuls struggling to make it in La La Land. She shares a small flat with her friend Tracy, works a shitty job in a sleazy burger joint and socialises awkwardly within a circle of like-minded Hollywood wannabees who are anything but supportive of her. She also attends an endless string of failed auditions, brutally punishing herself after each failure by painfully ripping handfuls of hair out of her head.

After one such audition at Astraeus Pictures (for a film called The Silver Scream) ends in particularly bitter disappointment, her fit of rage and self-harm in the studio's bathroom is witnessed by the casting director.  Much to Sarah's amazement, she's asked back into the audition room to see if she can recreate that wrenching emotional pain for the Astraeus executive and her assistant. It would appear that in searching for a leading lady for their new horror movie, Astraeus is looking for something more than mere acting ability. Sarah's drive to succeed in the audition pushes her to completely open up for them, exposing her innermost anguish and giving them that extra something that they're looking for. But just how far is she willing to go to please the weird execs from this mysterious studio, and what is the meaning of that odd, occult looking pendant that they wear?




Kevin Kolsch and Dennis Widmyer's Starry Eyes, featuring a powerful breakout performance from Alexandra Essoe (as well as some excellent supporting performances from Marc Senter, Pat Healy and Louis Dezseran), is an allegorical horror fable with style to spare and rivers of blood and maggots for the gorehounds (like me). It blends two well-trodden cinematic cliches to great effect: the eerie, decaying grandeur and forgotten dreams of Golden Age Hollywood combined with the secretive mystery of Satanic cults. 

It's also a movie about cinema, so although comparisons can be lazy, I think it's appropriate to look at this one in the context of other horror movies that have preceded it.

As with last year's brilliant Whiplash, and Darren Aronofsky's Black Swan before that, this is a harrowing exploration of the extent to which some people will endure punishment and sacrifice to achieve their goals.




Due to a number of striking similarities (although they're also different enough to distinguish them), Starry Eyes and Black Swan would actually make for a cool double feature. For one thing, the themes and plots of the two films are almost identical. Of more interest for horror fans however, they both track the mental and physical disintegration of their respective protagonists by forcing the viewer to see them go through some truly wince-inducing moments of body horror (Starry Eyes takes its well executed gore effects to some pretty graphic, nasty places).

It also has to be said that Starry Eyes owes a debt to the films of David Lynch, Mulholland Drive in particular. The Astraeus Pictures producer and his creepy staff could be ripped straight from the pages of a Lynch script - all melodrama, slimy menace and exaggerated weirdness.

Perhaps the most interesting thing about Starry Eyes though, is that you're watching a film about a young actress going through unspeakable horrors... while actually watching a real young actress give her all in what must have been a physically and emotionally trying role. It makes for a thought provoking comment on the punishment (and sometimes flat out mistreatment) that's been inflicted on generations of horror actresses.




Marilyn Burns famously had a torturous experience during the filming of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, but she isn't the only scream queen to have suffered at the hands of a slightly over-zealous director. Shelley Duvall was treated horribly by a sadistic Stanley Kubrick on the set of The Shining, when he repeatedly yelled at her and forced her to do endless takes until she finally broke down. I'm sure these aren't the only examples.

There can be little doubt that throughout the history of modern horror cinema women have had it tough, both in terms of their character's demises and the demanding nature of their roles. You need look no further than movies like Mermaid in a Manhole, Thanatomorphose and Hostel Part II to see where I'm coming from. 

The question posed by Starry Eyes is "is it worth it"? I think that most horror fans, myself included, would agree that going that extra mile to shock, repulse and terrify us is what it's all about.



Saturday, 24 January 2015

THE GUEST




Some filmmakers hit the ground running, blowing minds with their debut features. Others take a little while to hit their stride. Adam Wingard is one such director. 

Wingard showed real promise with his first two features, Home Sick and Pop Skull, both penned by E.L. Katz, who would go on to direct the brilliant Cheap Thrills. However, it wasn't until he teamed up with writer Simon Barrett (who also showed early promise with his screenplay for the underrated Civil War haunter Dead Birds) that it became apparent that Wingard was an emerging talent not to be ignored.

You're Next took everyone by surprise, with its sharp script, overturning of genre conventions and overtly feminist tone. That said, I didn't totally connect with it in the way that a lot of other people seemed to. Don't get me wrong, I liked it a lot and it was obviously a huge step forward for both Wingard and Barrett, but there was still something lacking, something not-quite developed about it that prevented it from being truly great. Would these two obviously talented and spirited filmmakers ever realise their potential, or was You're Next to be their apex?

With The Guest, Wingard and Barrett have demolished any lingering doubts that I may have had, delivering on all that hitherto hinted-at promise in spectacular fashion. The Guest is an electrically tense, spring-loaded grenade of a movie that hit my senses like napalm, utterly transfixing me from first frame to last. It's a masterpiece.




Dan Stevens' tour de force performance as David, a returned Iraq war vet who politely imposes himself on the grieving family of a fallen comrade, has to be seen to be believed. There's a highly regimented precision to his every action and line delivery that's fascinating to watch. Complimenting this is an alpha-male physicality that's at once menacingly dangerous and powerfully sexual. Think Robert Patrick in Terminator 2, but with piercing blue eyes and a completely magnetic charm. Stevens' performance and screen presence here is nothing short of riveting.

The tone and atmosphere of this film is extremely cool too. The production design feels simultaneously retro and yet somehow ultra modern, alternating between colour drenched neon, everyday suburban settings and a slickly futuristic corporate/military aesthetic. The camera work reflects the hyper-controlled, chilly nature of the titular character in the way it coldly frames its subjects and slowly prowls around the film's settings. The soundtrack (which is frequently and loudly at the fore of the sound design) is also a hybrid of retro and futurism, featuring a winning mix of new and old electronic and goth tracks from the likes of Sisters of Mercy, Gatekeeper, D.A.F. and an original score by Zombi's Steve Moore.




As with You're Next, one of The Guest's greatest assets is its sometimes subtle, sometimes blatant subversion of genre conventions. On the surface its story is very simple, and I kept thinking I knew exactly where it was going, only to be surprised at the direction it took instead. Not in the sense of big twists or surprises, but just in the small details of how the story unfolds. That same care and attention to writing and direction is evident in the way that the plot builds, clearly calculated to ratchet the tension up slowly, scene by scene, so that the climax makes for an absolutely killer payoff.

If you're like me, The Guest is a movie that you've wanted for years. Without giving too much away, Wingard's film is a fist pumping homage to The Terminator in the same unconventional way that 28 Days Later was to Dawn of the Dead (the difference being that The Guest sticks the landing where 28 Days Later fumbled its climax). Both movies smartly build on their influences to create something new and exciting, not just nostalgic fan service. I can't recommend this one highly enough.

Friday, 23 January 2015

G.L.O.S.S.




Having produced a number of sickeningly good bands in recent years, Olympia, Washington seems to be a real hotbed of righteously pissed-off punk degeneracy. If you need convincing then you must not have heard White Wards, Vexx or Gag yet. As of today you can add another band to that list: G.L.O.S.S.

This demo is a banger from start to finish. Crushing queer/feminist hardcore with fist pumping lyrics, stomping beats and moshable riffs for days.




Thursday, 22 January 2015

Mondo Cronenberg




I really like this artwork for the recently released Mondo/Death Waltz double album of Howard Shore's scores for The Brood and Scanners.

I rewatched Scanners a couple of nights ago for the first time in a few years. Still love it. Michael Ironside is just so good in it. Very few characters exude madness, barely controlled rage and sheer, seething menace in the way that Darryl Revok does. The laughable primitiveness of the computer tech (that comes into play near the climax) may be a turn-off for young viewers, but there's still more than enough meat on Scanners' bones to keep it relevant and interesting for newcomers who are willing to look past that. That said, I think Cronenberg's most commercially successful movie up until The Fly is now ripe for a good R-rated remake*, probably more so than any of his other films (and I'd like to see Videodrome left well alone thanks!).




*Directed by Rian Johnson maybe? Looper had the right tone, and I like the way he handled the telekinesis aspects of the story.

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

DIY HARDER



If you're in Sydney this long weekend, come along to the DIY HARDER punk fest that's being held here in my home suburb of Marrickville. Three days of total mayhem, with over thirty bands coming from as far away as Tasmania and Adelaide. Two of my faves will be there melting faces and ruining earholes, ExtinctExist and Kromosom, both from Melbourne. Full disclosure: the band this spudboy is most looking forward to is a DEVO cover band! This promises to be a banger of a weekend, and with all proceeds going to the Redfern Aboriginal tent embassy, you can feel all warm and fuzzy about yourself while having a good time! Info HERE.


Monday, 19 January 2015

DARK STAR




I like the tone and atmosphere of this trailer for Belinda Sallin's Giger documentary, Dark Star: H.R. Gigers Welt. It's appropriately mysterious, dreamlike and unearthly. 

Apparently it's come under fire from some critics due to the age and frailty of the artist during filming, but that seems odd to me. How could it be considered disrespectful or exploitative if it was done in collaboration with Giger and his wife Carmen, and with their full blessing? Surely his frail condition would only be an issue if the film were overly critical of its subject, or manipulative in some way, and I doubt that's the case here.

If anything, the melancholy one might feel at seeing the man in his final days feels right for an artist who revelled in showing us the beauty that could be found in the darkest and scariest recesses of our imaginations. Western culture has a bad habit of shunning the old and frail. Simply put, we're terrified of death, and would rather sweep it under the rug where it can't be seen. 

Anyway, regardless of the quality of Dark Star's interviews, it looks like it offers an unprecedented glimpse into the man's home and personal life. There's an extensive gallery on the film's site featuring a number of beautiful images of Giger's house and ramshackle dreamscape of a garden. Some of my favourites are below, but check out the whole gallery and website here.






























Lastly, I've updated my first ever Giger-related post (from way back in 2010), about the Japanese Pioneer ad that featured some of his unused designs for Jodorowsky's Dune. The original video of the ad was taken down for copyright infringement, and in finding a replacement I also found a cool little vid with some nice behind the scenes shots from the ad's production. Check that out here.