Finnish director Jalmari Helander first made international waves four years ago with his morbid spin on the Santa Claus myth, Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale. For his follow-up, he’s reunited with young star Onni Tommila for Big Game, a ridiculously fun adventure yarn that proudly boasts B-movie sensibilities while also sporting enough of Helander’s eccentricities to feel wholly unique. Equal parts goofy amusement and rousing thriller, Big Game will have you fist pumping as a young boy saves Samuel L. Jackson’s ass over and over again.
Last month, the folks at the Stanley Film Festival were gracious enough to have me attend and cover their wholly unique gathering. I’ve only been to a handful of festivals, but I can confidently say that the Stanley Festival is thee best. Held at the historic Stanley Hotel (where Stephen King got his inspiration for The Shining), there’s a reason other journos have referred to it as “horror camp.” Not only do they have flawless programming consisting of the absolute best in modern and retrospective horror*, but for those with big enough stones, they immerse you in a living horror movie. Baby’s blood, cult members kicking in doors at 3am, clandestine magic shows at 2am, crawling through dirt tunnels beneath the hotel, live feed of abducted filmmakers…yeah, Stanley Festival is a wet dream for horror fans. Just don’t expect any sleep, man.
In just three short years the Stanley Festival has cemented itself as the premiere horror festival in the U.S. It’s grown an insane amount during that time and honest to gawd, within another two or so years, it’s going to be ENORMOUS.
Below find every review and interview of mine from Stanley. To pick a favorite is a vicious task, but I can honestly say I almost walked out of the theater during The Nightmare, that’s how effective it is, and one of my favorite living filmmakers, Adrián Garcia Bogliano, showed his latest, which melted my face off.
THE INVITATION (they requested this to just be a capsule review)
And here are my interviews from Stanley:
* I unfortunately had to leave the day they showed Diabolique, a film I’ve always wanted to see on a big screen. Clouzet’s film still gets under my skin every time I watch it.
It’s been 30 years since Australian filmmaker George Miller brought Max Rockatansky to the screen. Over three films from 1979-85, Miller took action cinema to glorious new heights (well, maybe not with Thunderdome but I’m not here to beat on that dead horse). The action was visceral, the danger was palpable, and the stunts were enormous. Many imitators followed, but no one has been able to capture the majesty and urgency of those original films.
Read the rest at the Orlando Weekly.
The Frankenstein template has endured as one of the most retread themes in literature and art since Mary Shelley first conjured her modern Prometheus in the early 19th century. A brilliant, troubled scientist creates an intelligent robot that becomes self-aware. The creator fails to acknowledge the individuality of its creation and yadda yadda yadda, the robot rebels and kills its master.
It’s only natural that most viewers will go into Alex Garland’s Ex Machina expecting this rehash, albeit glossed up and put in a slick new package. Despite following a great deal of well-worn territory, the film manages to engage its audience with its icy and efficient delivery and consistent undercurrent of malevolence. Garland (a respected screenwriter and novelist) gives his gorgeously designed film a muted tone that got way under my skin and rattled my guts even when I knew what to expect. And even when the plot feels familiar, Ex Machina‘s riffs on consciousness and sexuality are always intriguing.
I can’t imagine what it would be like growing up in a world drenched with social media and constant, instant connectivity. Kids’ lives and their self-images are radically different today than they were when I was a pup. This generation and the effects social media have on them have been explored in films before, but director Caryn Waechter and screenwriter Marilyn Fu’s The Sisterhood of the Night takes this ostensibly familiar material and delivers it through their own artistic and poignant filter. It’s a film made by women about young girls and it is that female-centered viewpoint that really propels The Sisterhood of Night above what would otherwise be an after-school special.
Filmmaker Jaume Collet-Serra has directed Liam Neeson twice before during the actor’s post-Taken career. First in the second-rate Unknown and then in the second-rate Non-Stop, which at least had a condensed setting at 30,000 feet to keep things interesting. After those two substandard thrillers, Neeson came back strong in the bleak urban noir A Walk Among the Tombstones, before collecting another paycheck for Taken 3. For his third film with Neeson, Run All Night, Collet-Serra comes very close to making a cohesive, gritty crime drama, but fumbles by making some wildly bad choices.
Since coming on the scene with Hatchet in 2006, filmmaker Adam Green has developed a devoted following among horror fans. Through his films and the horror sitcom Holliston that he front runs, it’s easy to tell Green is a hardcore horror fan himself, with a deep knowledge and passion for the genre. This clearly shines through in his new film Digging Up the Marrow, his first feature in five years. The premise and set-up for the film are awesome, but amidst all the kick ass monsters and mayhem, what Digging Up the Marrow ultimately boils down to is Adam Green: The Movie.
Hey ya’ll. My short story “Black Out” has been published on the mighty flash fiction site Shotgun Honey. Dig it, bruddas and sistas.
They made me publish an author photo with it. Having my picture taken is painful for me. I hate my own mug. Much respect to my wife for capturing how I feel about photographs.
Excision director Richard Bates Jr.’s new film Suburban Gothic opened up on VOD platforms today courtesy of FilmBuff. We saw the film back during last year’s Fantasia Festival (review) and it really is something special. A love letter mash-up of Scooby Doo and Are You Afraid of the Dark, the film is about Raymond (Matthew Gray Gubler), a college grad who moves back in with his parents and begins experiencing paranormal activity. With the help of a badass bartended named Becca (Kat Dennings), Raymond tracks down the mystery of the vengeful spirit that’s terrorizing his small suburban town. It’s a fairly straightforward plot with a lot of surprises up its sleeves.
My short story “Wake Up, Little Susie” is in the latest issue of the almighty THUGLIT. Since I started writing crime fiction, I’ve been chasing this mean little monthly anthology. I’m beyond stoked to finally make the ranks.