Friday, 20 March 2015

Gully Foyle and The Lord Weird Slough Feg (TIGER! TIGER!)

Alfred Bester's The Stars My Destination, AKA Tiger! Tiger!, is one of the most important and criminally underappreciated sci-fi novels of the 20th century. An enduring inspiration for generations of SF luminaries to follow (including Joe Haldeman, Michael Moorcock and William Gibson), Tiger! Tiger! was a major precursor to the cyberpunk literary movement and continues to be influential to this day. 

Bester's novel is very cinematic, a well balanced blend of heady ideas, operatic grandeur and pulpy action, so it comes as no surprise that Hollywood has designs on it. However, like Haldeman's The Forever War and Gibson's Neuromancer, Tiger! Tiger! is a novel with great cinematic potential that has languished in development hell for decades.

That inexorable development now seems to have entered a new stage, with the announcement that Jordan Vogt-Roberts is the latest director attached to helm the adaptation. I'm clueless about Vogt-Roberts beyond the fact that he's known for his well-received coming-of-age drama, The Kings of Summer, and that he's in the director's chair for Legendary's upcoming Kong: Skull Island. He's an unknown quantity for me, but I'm just glad the suits aren't going with some meat-headed action director. So far, so good.

Anyway, regardless of The Stars My Destination's treatment at the hands of Hollywood, we'll always have Slough Feg's rousing power metal interpretation to enjoy. Their 2007 LP Hardworlder features a few songs based on Bester's novel, but this one, "Tiger! Tiger!", is essential listening. Space opera reimagined as stirring, anthemic NWOBHM. 

Artwork below stolen from Noah Pierce.

The spheres in motion wrapped around collapsing stars
Immortal hands and eyes are framed in fearful scars
The mystery of living, breathing, dying hard

My name and occupation tattooed on my face
The stars my destiny, deep space my dwelling place
Delirious and rotting, where's my saving grace

The stars burn bright
In the forest of night
But what mortal hands and eyes will I see there?

I'm locked behind bars
On the gateway to Mars
But when all the stars expire will I still be here?

I'll set the villages and colonies aflame
The bards of history had best forget my name
Deliriously plotting, Nomad is my fame

Friday, 13 March 2015

INTERVIEW: ASTRON-6's Steven Kostanski talks THE VOID

Practical FX maniac and Astron-6 director Steven Kostanski took some time out of his busy schedule to answer a few questions for the EYE about his upcoming project The Void. UNFLINCHING EYE is a proud supporter of The Void, and you too can become an acolyte of this eldritch kvlt by contributing to its IndieGoGo campaign HERE. All proceeds go towards developing and building the film's practical creature and gore FX!

▲You've cited three of the greats - Rob Bottin, Chris Walas and Tony Gardner (who I note you worked with recently on the Eli Roth produced Clown) - as your main inspirations for The Void's FX aesthetic and techniques. Can you mention any other artists and/or films that have had an impact on The Void's design and tone? Was Michael Mann's The Keep much of a conscious inspiration?

SK: Alien is definitely a big influence. It’s amazing how many times we’ve come back to that film while developing The Void. It’s a perfectly executed horror movie, and it only gets better with each subsequent viewing. 

The Keep, Prince of Darkness or Hellbound: Hellraiser II could definitely count as influences, since they’re Lovecraftian in tone but centered around their own unique mythologies. That’s definitely the kind of vibe we’re going for with this film.

▲You've said that The Void marks a departure from your more playful Astron-6 projects, and into more overt horror territory. Is this the end of your involvement in Astron-6, or do you still have more retro grindhouse mayhem that you need to get out of your systems?

While this is a stand-alone departure for Jer and myself, it is not us splitting from Astron-6 in any way. We’ve been tossing the idea for The Void around for years and thought it was finally time to try something different. It’d be in the same video store as Manborg or Father’s Day, just maybe on a different rack. 

▲The tone of The Void seems to be Lovecraftian cosmic horror, which suggests the possibility of some grandiose and challenging imagery. In recent years we've seen some impressive VFX in very low budget movies, such as the Spierig's Undead and Gareth Edward's Monsters. Given your own budgetary constraints, will you be keeping VFX on The Void to a minimum, or are your plans more ambitious?

The idea is to keep it as practical as possible, but there are certain moments where VFX will be necessary to realize the full scope of the movie. It’s all in how it’s utilized. With any kind of effect, practical or cg, it’s best in small doses, and as always with horror movies: the less you see, the scarier it is. 

▲Given your experiences working on large scale productions (Pacific Rim, Crimson Peak, Hannibal TV series etc) in your role as FX artist, do you have a sense that the use of practical FX as a tool to enhance CG (or rather the other way around) is gaining traction? Or do you think it will remain more of a specialised niche thing used mainly by filmmakers like del Toro?

I wouldn’t classify practical fx as a “specialized niche”. Every TV show and movie that comes through Toronto utilizes prosthetics or creature fx in some way, whether it’s a hospital drama or a sci-fi series. And CG is just another tool to achieve the same result. 

Practical effects require substantial prep-time, patience and organization to be executed convincingly. These requirements aren’t appealing to some directors, especially in an age where everything can be done in post. 

▲Would you rather see:

del Toro's At the Mountains of Madness, greenlit for an R-rating with a 150+ million budget


a new Stuart Gordon Lovecraft opus with a budget of 8-10 million

I’d rather see a Stuart Gordon Lovecraft opus with 150+ million budget, or del Toro make At the Mountains of Madness with a 10 million budget. The creative possibilities of those movies seem way more interesting to me.


Wednesday, 11 March 2015

We Are Still Here SXSW poster

An evil new poster has surfaced for Ted Geoghegan's Barbara Crampton starring, Fulci-esque gorefest. The perfect compliment to last month's scorcher of a trailer. We Are Still Here debuts at SXSW in just a few days, and it can't gouge my eyeballs out soon enough.

The poster was designed by Erik Buckham, and as with Akiko Stehrenberger (see post below this one), Erik is responsible for some of today's coolest genre one sheets. A few more examples of his work:

Tuesday, 10 March 2015

Akiko Stehrenberger

The other day, while doing an image search for poster art from Jonathan Glazer's Under the Skin, I had a bit of an epiphany. I'd stumbled across the website of an award winning designer and illustrator named Akiko Stehrenberger, and was surprised to discover that she's responsible for quite a few of my favourite movie posters.

In her work for filmmakers as diverse as Astron 6, Takashi Miike, Todd Solondz and Don Coscarelli, Stehrenberger utilises different media and painterly techniques to create striking poster designs, ranging from delicate retro watercolours and bold hyperrealism, to arty photo manipulation. In this age of lazily thrown together Photoshop montages and equally lazy Illustrator vector images masquerading as "minimalism", it's refreshing to see movie posters produced with this degree of quality and professionalism.

Cynicism aside, I know there are plenty of other talented designer/illustrators currently making fantastic posters for horror and sci-fi films. I just think the majority of the best work is being made for the collector's market (by boutique studios like Mondo). The thing that distinguishes Stehrenberger from many of her peers then, is that almost all of her posters seem to be officially commissioned by studios and directors. These are legit movie posters.

Posters matter! The one-sheet is an essential part of a film's identity, a distillation of its meaning, intent, themes and images into a single defining image. That movie studios these days usually fall well short of creating anything that could be described as an iconic poster, speaks volumes about the way they view their "product". Quick turnaround, cost effective and disposable.

Movie posters can, and should be, works of art. Have a look at more of Akiko's posters here.

Thursday, 5 March 2015

GAY KISS Preservation Measures

A couple of years back I loudly sung the praises of the first Gay Kiss LP, an incendiary slice of manically tempo-changing hardcore, laced with a heavy dose of AmRep style noise rock. Since then we've only had a couple of short cassette releases to tide us over, so the email from bandcamp the other day announcing the release of Preservation Measures was a very welcome sight.

Preservation Measures is the long-awaited second full length from the Arizonan juggernaut, and if the amount of blogs it's showing up on this week is any indication, I'm not the only punk who's been jonesing for it. Musically, these twelve (eight new) tracks sound very similar to 2013's Fault - fast hardcore, loaded with blasting riffs and memorable hooks, punctuated by the kind of breakdowns that raise the hackles and give you goosebumps. If I noticed a real difference on the first few listens, it's the inclusion of some five-piece era Black Flag/BL'AST influenced moments, something which never gets old for me. The band's noise rock tendencies are also noticeable once again, this time in the form of some subtle power electronics that wobble and oscillate in the background.

One observation, not a complaint, is that the guitar (or maybe even the whole mix?) seems a bit more subdued on this album. Solution: turn it the fuck up! Finally, it's really nice of the boys to include the lyrics with their bandcamp download. Way to go.

So, another shredding album from one of the most powerful, original and sincere hardcore bands going today. A definite early contender for album of the year.

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..."


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


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?