Summer is just starting and I’ve already found myself, multiple times, in natural bodies of fresh water that descended far deeper depths than I was prepared for.
Arriving in theaters in New York and Los Angeles this Friday is Jeff Baena’s oddball religious comedy (that has a hint of witchcraft to it) The Little Hours. An official selection of the 2017 Sundance Film Festival, Baena’s film is an adaptation of The Decameron, and during a recent press day for the film, Daily Dead had the opportunity to speak with two of the co-stars of The Little Hours, Aubrey Plaza (Parks and Recreation, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World) and Dave Franco (Neighbors, 2012's 21 Jump Street).
Arriving in select theaters and on Netflix tomorrow, June 28th, is Okja, the latest from inventive genre filmmaker Bong Joon Ho. The genre-defying project follows a little girl named Mija (Ahn Seo-hyun), who has spent the last ten years raising her pet super pig, only to learn that her genetically-modified best friend is about to take a trip to New York City, courtesy of Lucy Mirando (Tilda Swinton) and the Mirando Corporation, who has devious plans for the lovable pig. Mija sets out to rescue her beloved Okja, but her daunting journey becomes even more complicated as she crosses paths with an animal rights group (led by Paul Dano) and a wacky television host (Jake Gyllenhaal) who also has something of a hidden agenda.
With pages steeped in youthful chills and soft-core paperback scares—R.L Stine’s Goosebumps series was a fundamental horror stepping stone for the majority of the MTV generation. Bringing these sweet-tempered shocks to the big screen, the 2015 cinematic adaptation of Goosebumps reintroduces the franchise to a new audience—complete with a big budget, dazzling effects, and a score from legendary composer Danny Elfman. Issuing the soundtrack on stunning 180 gram double vinyl, Waxwork Records had the forethought to realize the series' resurrection would not be complete without the art direction of Tim Jacobus, whose creepy cover arts were one of the fundamental reasons for Goosebumps' success and longevity within popular culture.
Out on Blu-ray and DVD tomorrow is Greg McLean’s The Belko Experiment, which was written and produced by James Gunn, and features a cavalcade of familiar faces, including John Gallagher Jr. (Hush, 10 Cloverfield Lane), Tony Goldwyn, John C. McGinley (Point Break, Stan Against Evil), Sean Gunn (Guardians of the Galaxy, Super), Michael Rooker (The Walking Dead, Guardians of the Galaxy), Rusty Schwimmer (Jason Goes to Hell, Twister), Owain Yeoman (The Mentalist), and many more. The film’s story pits an office building filled with co-workers against each other once they realize they’re pawns in some unknown entity’s twisted game of survival of the fittest.
With Dawn and now War for the Planet of the Apes, filmmaker Matt Reeves has crafted easily two-thirds of the best science fiction trilogy since the original Star Wars films, and he does a brilliant job of bringing home Caesar’s (Andy Serkis) origin story in an emotional and brutally unflinching examination of loss, revenge, power, and survival. With War, Reeves has cemented himself as one of the best blockbuster storytellers out there today, and I could not have asked for a better culmination of Caesar’s story than the one we get here.
There’s nothing like a good mystery, and HBO’s Blackout (1985) has a central premise that’s hard to deny: You survive a car crash, but have no memory of who you were before. Until, 7 years later, someone shows up and insinuates that you were a man who murdered his entire family and then fled. Now, could you go about your life, or would you want to know the truth? And if you were a killer, would that impulse return?
Homage in film can be a tricky proposition. Hew too close to the original, and you’re just making copies with no new toner; veer too far away and folks will wonder why you bothered. Joe Dante’s Piranha (1978) is that perfect beast then - a Jaws “rip-off” that bows to its source while winking at the audience, and yet still manages to be a wholly separate, wildly entertaining ride.
When one thinks of cosmic literature, one typically imagines H.P. Lovecraft and the Necronomicon. Lovecraft himself drew inspiration from his peers, however, and he was particularly close friends and creative kin with a man named Clark Ashton Smith, a pulp storyteller, sculptor, and insane poet. Smith’s writing is mythical in its intense depictions of colorful worlds, heinous gods, and unending darkness; and the myths are all Smith’s inventions. He creates his own universe through the originality of his visions in a way that Lovecraft does not.
You know what doesn’t get enough love in the horror community? Weird, gory anime. Sure, everyone digs Akira, and it’s possible to find a few discussions about the brilliant dark fantasy series Berserk in some circles, but I’ve always been interested in the little guys, the weird, unloved OVA (original video animation) schlock of the ’80s and ’90s—the Future War 198Xs and Black Magic M-66s of the world, unsung and unloved pieces of vibrant genre fiction that never get their dues. Naturally, I plan to fix that on the Crypt of Curiosities, starting with an off-the-wall duology of cinematic carnage that I adore and despise in equal measure: M.D. Geist.
For his second feature, David F. Sandberg really went all out for Annabelle: Creation, mixing up his bag of horror tricks to deliver a cinematic experience that just relentlessly comes at you with the scares once the titular doll is discovered and all hell is unleashed on anyone in her path. As far as prequels go, Sandberg has done a helluva job with Annabelle: Creation, and I commend the filmmaker for creating a clever and wickedly fun horror movie that surpasses its predecessor in numerous ways (akin to Mike Flanagan’s Ouija: Origin of Evil last year).
One of my favorite movies out of Fantastic Fest 2016 (read my review here) was Ana Lily Amirpour’s The Bad Batch, which follows a young woman named Arlen (Suki Waterhouse), who is released from a secretive prison into the desert and must fend for herself against a group of cannibals led by Miami Man (Jason Momoa).
Premiering tonight as part of the 2017 Los Angeles Film Festival is Sam Patton’s Desolation, which follows a grieving mom named Abby (Jaimi Paige), her teenage son, Sam (Toby Nichols), and their friend Jen (Alyshia Ochse), who head out to the woods in an effort to honor Abby’s deceased husband’s wishes and spread his ashes, only to come across a mysterious loner who begins following their every move.
The month of June has been flying by quicker than I can even believe, as we’re already a week out from the end of the 2017 Dances With Films festival, which took over the historic Chinese Theater in Los Angeles earlier this month. During DWF, I had the opportunity to catch several intriguing genre films, including Devil’s Whisper, Inheritance, Imitation Girl, and Central Park, and here’s a summary of my thoughts on these four flicks:
As a first time filmmaker, it takes a lot of courage to not follow the trends. The early ‘80s were flooded with slashers, and for good reason; they were, for the most part, instant ATMs to the studios. Thank God then (or Satan, your florist, a masseuse, whatever floats your boat) for Frank LaLoggia, a New Yorker in his mid-20s who decided to go epic out of the gate with Fear No Evil (1981), a parable on Good Versus Evil, capital letters, with a strong Catholic bent filtered through Carrie’s prom dress.