The next level of horror: 5-d technology

Recently I had the pleasure of exploring some super advanced technology offered at a nearby mall and I have fallen in love.  I explored a haunted house using 5-d virtual reality and for the first time in months was actually scared.  Am I the only person that feels “scary” movies have completely lost the scare factor? Movies have ceased to scare me and I am convinced that I am desensitized to all horror and can never fully enjoy a horror movie again (devastating, I know).  With this technology though, instead of watching characters on a screen having scary experiences, YOU get to be the one having the actual scare.  Seeing as this particular technology is geared towards entertaining our youth, the haunted house was animated and it wasn’t the type of horror you’d expect to see in an R-rated film (PG-13 at most).  Basically, you sit in a roller coaster car with 3-d glasses and get to experience everything in 3-d with the car jerking you in all directions (actually quite fun) along with all the sounds of walking through a house.  Sounds alright, yeah?  The thing that sold me the most, was that I felt like I was in a found footage horror.  You don’t get the luxury of seeing the entire setting at once, which leaves an exciting unknown element.  You have no peripheral vision so everything in the room is a complete mystery except for what is right in front of you.  What’s more, is in this particular haunted house I explored, all I had was a flashlight to see what was in front of me (talk about creepy).  Given I knew that the basis of what makes this type of experience scary is the aspect of random shit jumping out at you, it actually was frightening to get to witness all of it.  Rather than corpses, ghosts, and freaky kids popping at you on the screen of your television, it actually felt like they were popping out right in front of your eyes.  Instead of watching a movie, you get to experience what it would be like to be in it. This is such new technology, but I think with the right people designing “scary” 5-d, horror could really reach the next level.  Obviously this is something that may never happen, but I encourage anyone who can find 5-d technology near them to try this out (fingers crossed they have something scary for you). The movie-watching experience has really become quite dull to me when it comes to horror, but getting to do something like this was refreshing.  Its not like anything I saw would actually be scary to me if it was in a movie, but getting to feel like it wasn’t a movie and was all right in front of me definitely got my adrenaline going.  In addition, horror movies are so predictable most of the time I feel like I already know the plot after 5 minutes.  Getting to experience a horror scenario first-person left the floor open for a completely random and unpredictable chain of events.  I hope everyone reading this gets the chance to give it a try, you can thank me later.

 

Murder Set Pieces

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On a quest to truly horrify myself with both visually terrifying and mentally disturbing movies, I spent hours searching through other people’s “disturbing movies lists” in order to find something that would tickle my fancy.  I came across Murder Set Pieces on quite a few lists and fancied the trailer.  I decided to check out the movie since I was convinced this would be what I was finally looking for.  I was left high, dry, and disappointed.  For a movie with absolutely appalling acting, a laughable plot, and absolutely no budget, the gore was actually pretty badass. Enough that I will give this movie 2/5 stars, but sadly not enough for me to recommend this movie.  This movie was a waste of time and to think that it made any type of movie lists (besides for movies to skip) has truly baffled me.  Amongst other things to baffle me, are Google’s ability to lead me websites where I can trust the “disturbing movie lists”; clearly I cannot, seeing as this movie made many of those lists.  This film is about a fashion photographer that seems normal during the day, but at night likes to murder and completely butcher his models on camera.  To add insult to injury, the photographer seems to have some connection to Nazi Germany and repeatedly speaks in German while the film zooms in on Nazi memorabilia.  As if I was not already offended by the low quality of the film and all the actors inability to actually act, they have to throw in some type of Nazi, woman-hating malarkey to add to a story line that already makes little to no sense.  The reality of the story line is that there is no story line.  It seems to just be a steaming pile of crap that somehow managed to pull of realistic and disturbing gore.  The photographer in the movie is quite relentless which I guess is the only good thing that made this movie watchable for me.  There are so many great movies out there with gore that actually make sense.  Unfortunately this was not one of them.  The gore isn’t even memorable enough for me to tell you to check this movie out.  Please just move forward and pretend like you were never interested in seeing this movie in the first place.  And remember, next time you come across a movie recommendation list that mentions this movie, know that it is completely unreliable and keep searching.

VHS 2

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Found footage horror flicks are getting old. Found footage horror flicks are getting very VERY old.  Found footage horror flicks are getting so old that I want to drop it off at a nursing home and never see it again except on birthdays and the holidays and possibly Friday nights when I am home alone with a bottle of wine.  However, I decided to give the found footage genre another shot because I loved the original VHS so much.  Its sequel definitely lived up to the hype and I’m glad to say that I liked it even as much as I liked the first.  Although none of the shorts in the film seemed the least bit believable to me, the ideas were so interesting and fresh that I couldn’t help but appreciate the work that had gone into it.  Even the film as a whole had a bit of a plot (barely).  I’m not saying the plot of the movie was really decent at all, but at least the filmmakers attempted a plot and it ended up with a great creep-out scene at the end.  Its cliche and almost a bit ridiculous to think the these directors decided to do a found footage film about found footage films, but hey, in some aspects it works.  The story moved along nicely and I especially like the twist at the end.  If you have followed my work in the past, you can probably guess that my favorite short was “Safe Haven”; what a creepy and uncomfortable hell of a violent bloodbath.  I would definitely recommend VHS 2 just as much as I’d recommend the first one, 4/5 stars for sure.  This flick is great to watch alone in the dark.  Each story line was completely bizarre and the acting was surprisingly good.  All the characters were convincing and that contributed to the overall creepy factor of the movie.  Although I highly doubt this will be the film to make you want to sleep with the lights on, I definitely felt jumpy when it was over.  The whole jump factor of things that creep up on you and only being able to watch the film from one angle is what makes found footage horror so great and genuinely scary.  Love it or hate it, found footage is the type of horror that has truly consistently made an impact on me and has freaked me out moreso than other types of horror.  Now go get yourself a bowl of popcorn, turn off all the lights, lock all the doors, get under the covers, and dare to watch this film all by yourself.

Director Interview: Aaron Mento

You wanted a director interview, I got you a director interview.  Check out what inspired up-and-coming horror director Aaron Mento in his first full-length feature film, ” Standards of Living”:

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1. What inspired you to make a horror film versus a film of any other genre?

Horror has always been my favorite genre, because literally anything can happen in a horror movie. Like in “Phantasm” when the silver sphere of death brain-drains that guy. I’m pretty sure nobody saw that one coming! It was exhilarating to be so surprised, scared, and disgusted all at the same time. Other genres have boundaries, but the horror genre is only restricted by the limits of your imagination. I was already ignoring boundaries by shooting an entire feature on an iPad, so the horror genre was a perfect fit.

2. What inspired the idea for this film in particular?

I only had two small locations available for shooting, so “The Twilight Zone” was a big inspiration, because that show could knock your socks off with the same limitations. David Lynch’s shot on miniDV “Inland Empire” was also an inspiration, because it showed me how disarming and mysterious a lower-resolution image quality can be. For the story of “Standards of Living” I was inspired by the magicians I watched during my childhood. I always used to wonder how David Copperfield and Penn & Teller could make objects disappear. Where the hell did these objects disappear to? In my movie, there is a man who can make things disappear for real, and we get to see exactly where these vanished objects go…

3. What is your horror background? Do you have a preference as to what type of horror you’re into?

I grew up absolutely obsessed with Freddy Krueger, and my favorite horror movie is probably still “A Nightmare on Elm Street.” I used to flip through the TV Guide, search for Freddy movies, and then cut out the listings to post on my bulletin board. Even if an “Elm Street” movie was on at 2:00AM on a Wednesday, I would stay up and watch it. I’m also a fan of gory Italian horror movies, and the awesome clamshell VHS tapes of Anchor Bay introduced me to the wonders of Dario Argento and Lucio Fulci. I had never seen murder sequences taken to such extremes, and was absolutely floored by the obsessive artistry of the violence. While I love 70’s and 80’s horror movies, I am also a huge fan of the relatively bloodless Universal Horror classics, with The Wolf Man being a big favorite. I also think that Son of Dracula is very underrated and has some of the best cinematography of any Universal Horror film. For my SDSU and LMU graduate short films, the only genre I ever touched was horror. You could say that my background consists entirely of a lifelong infatuation with horror movies.

4. What is the message you are trying to send with your film?

While the movie definitely has moral thematic messages, I hope that the lasting message of “Standards of Living” is that you can make a good movie using any camera if the story is good. I worked really hard on the screenplay to make sure that the story was always moving, always evolving, and challenged myself to make it so good that it could be done live on a stage. The viewer will have to determine if I achieved that level of quality, but that’s what I was striving for. The iPad 2 camera has a wide lens, only shoots at 720P, and the image can be very grainy, but I embraced these quirks when writing the screenplay. I hope “Standards of Living” inspires other filmmakers to tell their own stories using any means possible. The key is to write something that can be achieved on a low budget, and to not worry about being criticized for using alternatives to high-end camera equipment.

5. Do you have plans on developing another film?

My next feature horror screenplay “Survival High” is an Official Selection of the PollyGrind Underground Film Festival of Las Vegas. I had previously won at PollyGrind for a short film of mine, “ABSENT,” and “Survival High” is the feature length version of that short film. Both stories feature the ghost of a maniacal teacher who tortures her students in brutal and creative ways. I’m working on finding funding for “Survival High” which is bloodier, crazier, and requires a more ambitious budget than “Standards of Living.”

6. How do you intend for the audience to take your film? What would you say your target audience is?

My biggest hope is that people are so drawn in by the story that they forget the movie was shot on an iPad. “Standards of Living” is a horror comedy, which is very tricky, so I also hope that the audience finds it has a nice balance of laughs and shocks. My target audience is not only horror fans, but also anybody who enjoys a good unpredictable story. If people watch the movie, are entertained, and can’t believe it was made on an iPad, I’ve done my job.

7. Could you provide me with a brief synopsis/summary of your film?

Peter Sayer is an awful stand up comedian who desperately wants to be funny. One night, after Peter bombs on stage, a mysterious man named Mr. Randall offers him a unique opportunity. Mr. Randall reveals that he has the power to make things disappear, and when he makes them reappear they are “improved.” A bent nail becomes straight, a tarnished coin becomes polished, and an empty saltshaker comes back full of salt. But Mr. Randall wants to make a human disappear…to find out where these objects go, and why they come back improved. Peter volunteers to “disappear” with the hope that he will come back funnier…but the bizarre truth about Mr. Randall’s powers is no laughing matter.

The movie is streaming for free at http://www.standardsoflivingmovie.com/

Maniac (2012)

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To say that I merely liked Maniac would be an extreme understatement of the love I feel towards this epic piece of art. I LOVED this movie. Absolutely LOVED it.  Rather than compare it to the original (which I don’t want to do because they were both so good) I’m just going to go ahead and give you a little taste of what you will be getting into as soon as you dim the lights and tune into Maniac (which you will be doing after you read this post because my writing is just that convincing).  Fast forward a few decades and you have a revamped version of a grisly, grisly classic.  To say that director, Franck Khalfoun remade the movie would be an inaccurate statement.  Rather, he used some ideas from the movie as well as the original title to form a completely new movie watching experience.  My favorite thing about this film and what I found so innovative was that the movie lived up to its name.  The audience is literally spending the movie in the point of view of an absolute maniac.  Everything is seen through the eyes of mommy issue serial killer, Frank.  Not only do you get to experience his debilitating migraines, you get the opportunity to see his split personality and how he is constantly teetering on the edge of sanity and trying to keep himself looking as normal as possible.  His vivid hallucinations make you wonder what’s real and what’s not real in the film and the overall movie-watching experience is quite different from many other horrors I have seen.  Usually when you are getting a first person view of a horror, it is with a hand-held cam and you are subject to jump factors such as loud noises and random scary shit unexpectedly (but not really) popping onto the screen.  With “Maniac”, its more of a psychological journey and puts a fresh spin onto the first person point of view thing.

There was so much I like about this movie that I’m practically jumping out of my skin trying to write about it yet not give any spoilers.  If you haven’t been able to see from the trailer, Frank works at a mannequin shop where he restores old mannequins and sells them.  Mannequins are fucking creepy, are they not? This is a new element in horror that I really never see in movies.  Sometimes you get the scary mannequins here and there where they just make an appearance for a few seconds to scare the shit out of the viewer, but in “Maniac” the mannequins are used as characters rather than an actual scare factor.  I guess I would consider them a “creepy factor” in that they just add to the overall uncomfortable feeling you get from entering Frank’s mannequin shop and not-so-humble abode.  Frank is absolutely powerless to the maniac that lives inside of him and it is interesting to watch as both him and his victims suffer the ramifications of his attacks.  The story is a unique one I will say that, with a variety of victims that continue to live on even once Frank has murdered them.  The audience is haunted as much by them as Frank is.  Once Anna enters the story, who Frank falls for because she is seemingly the only female character he comes in contact with that he has feelings for, everything goes haywire and Frank is no longer able to keep his maniac under wraps.  The story plays out beautifully and tragically and its just so entertaining to watch.  If you’re wondering about the gore, which I obviously need to review in every film I watch, it was pretty alright.  Nothing unbearable (says the chick who marks down movies for not enough gore).  I gave it 4.5 out of 5 stars because it was pretty much perfect, but not enough gore for my taste.  I mean there was a lot, but nothing my sicko mind can’t handle.  The scalping was pretty gnarly, I must admit and the last scene in the movie was just haunting, but it wasn’t really pushing the envelope.  The movie pushed the envelope in so many other ways though that it didn’t really matter.  I would definitely recommend this movie to anyone that likes horror.  Although it isn’t necessarily scary, it gets the job done in provoking new thoughts in the mind of a horror nerd.  It’s a really good original piece and I hope everyone reading my review enjoys this movie as much as I did.

Chained

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Considering I am a complete horror movie snob, nobody should be surprised or offended if I tell you I will watch a movie you recommend to me but then never actually do it.  This was one of those rare occasions where I tried to think outside of my box for once and take a fricken recommendation; and boy am I glad I did.  Somebody suggested I check out “Chained” and I was quite surprised to find out how deliciously disturbing and bloody it was.  Before watching the movie I peeped the trailer just so I could at least get a taste of what I was getting myself into.  Vincent D’Onofrio plays a psychopath with a knack for kidnapping, raping, and murdering women in his isolated house.  Things take a turn for the worse when he targets a woman with a 10 year old son.  He raises the boy as his own and keeps him chained in his house as his slave.  I was able to grasp that much from watching the trailer and that disturbed me enough to convince me this movie was for me.  Seeing as I get pretty bored with no change in scenery (the movie takes place in the killer’s house for the majority of the time), I did have to deduct an entire star for that.  However, it still gets a quite fantastic rating in my book; 4 out of 5 stars.  The movie is very cleverly put together and takes many unpredictable and original turns.  For once I felt like I wasn’t watching the same serial killer/ kidnapper shit and it was actually very smart.  Most horror these days, especially within the kidnapping/ serial killer category can quite easily become garbage.  You use the same cliched story and characters over and over again and there is just nothing new and exciting that you haven’t seen before.  This movie puts a new spin on some basic and common elements of horror and just comes up with something completely original.  The characters grow in ways I didn’t expect and the plot leaves you hanging at the end.  Kidnapping is an everyday thing, and with more reports in American news recently (in the past few years) of survivors being rescued after years of imprisonment, it is a terrifying thought that your Vincent D’Onofrio seemingly normal cab driver is actual a serial killer.  In my opinion, nothing is scarier than imagining the disturbing things that happen behind closed doors and this movie really dives into that.  I wouldn’t necessarily say this was a scary movie, but it was bloody and brutal enough and leaves disturbing thoughts in the mind.  I would definitely recommend this to anyone looking for something new to watch.  The end will leave creepy question marks in your head and actually hoping for a sequel. Enjoy and comment!

Dead Alive AKA Braindead

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There is so much about this film that absolutely repulsed me, that all I can say is that I loved it!  The gory goodness was old-fashioned, which is hard for me to get used to at times because I have mostly become accustomed to special effects, but the footprint it left in my memory is something that can never be erased.  After Lionel’s mother gets bitten by an evil monkey (hilarious, I know) she literally begins falling apart at the seams.  I’m talking blood and puss squirting out of her, ears falling into soup that she happens to be eating, and suddenly, the urge to eat living creatures (Fernando the dog). As the movie progresses, it turns into a comedic zombie film.  If it wasn’t so damn funny, I’m not sure how bearable it would be with the practically insurmountable amount of gore.  Seriously, I will never look at lawn mowers the same way.  Lionel hilariously keeps his “dead” mother “alive” by sedating her once she gets into full zombie mode.  However, she does manage to attack the nurse and Lionel suddenly becomes the caretaker of the living dead.  Each of the characters, more-so dead when they are alive, have huge personalities that made me laugh my ass off.  Never did I think I could find gore and death so gut-busting, but this movie was so well made that you might find you don’t want to look away.  I can’t think of many movies that top the amount of blood or decapitation I witnessed in the 90 minute running-time of “Dead Alive”.  The elements of horror, romanticism, satire, and gore meshed perfectly together to make what I think of as one of the most perfect horror-comedies out there.  Any movie that features severed body parts with a sense of humor and a mind of their own is OK in my book.  Also, evil and mischievous babies that are creepy in a comedic way are also a plus. There is no way I could NOT give this movie 5 out of 5 stars, it’s totally solid! I must warn though, this movie is not for everyone.  I am a self-admitted nerd with a very profane sense of humor.  This movie hit the spot perfectly.  For someone who is as big into horror movies and bloody nastiness as I am, this movie was a hilarious break from the serious and sinister horror films that are usually popular.  If you think you have seen some of the grossest scenes in horror without seeing this movie, you are sadly mistaken.  Get ready for literally a bath of blood, this one’s a goodie. To those who have already seen the movie and now have the sudden urge to see it again via my movie review, I would just like you to know that you can thank me later, and most importantly, “I kick ass for the Lord!”