Eli Roth Launches Goretorium in Sin City – If there’s one city on Earth that's synonymous with excess, it’s probably Las Vegas – so it totally makes sense that gore auteur Eli Roth would choose Sin City to be the home of his year-round haunted house attraction, Goretorium. The Hostel filmmaker has announced plans to open the multi-level location at the corner of the Strip and Harmon on September 27th – just in time for Halloween.
Being that Roth’s involved, you know this place is going to be filled with violent imagery. “Horror fans know that with my name on it, it won’t be for little kids. They know it will be a very scary experience.” Roth states.
We certainly hope so. I’ve never wanted to go to Vegas, but if this thing pans out I could see visiting Sin City come October.
Bloody-Disgusting Selects locks up Crawl – All in all, we’ve been really impressed with the majority of the titles featured in Bloody Disgusting’s Selects DVD line-up. While not every feature has been an instant classic, the bulk of them have been entertaining enough that we’re thankful someone took the risk to bring them to a wider American audience.
The imprint has just announced their newest acquisition – Australian thriller Crawl – and if the trailer is accurate, this one should continue their trend of hits.
A tale of double crosses and home invasion, Crawl finds an innocent waitress trapped inside her home after she gets caught up in a murder-for-hire plot. As events unravel, she’s forced to fight for her survival in a way described as “suspenseful, yet darkly humorous’. No release date has been announced, but check out the trailer below.
Maniac remake joins Cannes Film Festival lineup – We’re generally not the biggest fans of remakes, but one that has piqued our interest is the upcoming re-imagining of Bill Lustig’s sleazy ‘80s slasher Maniac. Featuring Elijah Wood as the scalp-loving serial killer made famous by the late Joe Spinell, and produced by Alexandre Aja (who’s been responsible for some really good remakes like The Hills Have Eyes and Piranha), we’ve got high hopes that this one will turn out well.
We’ll find out sooner rather than later because it turns out that Maniac will be screening in the midnight segment of the prestigious film fest later this month.
Check out a new clip from Oren Peli’s Chernobyl Diaries – I’ve been looking forward to Oren Peli’s Chernobyl Diaries because I don’t think we see enough movies using the veritable ghost town around the Chernobyl nuclear plant as a setting. If you ever played the Stalker games on your PC, you know that’s a setting ripe with potential for a horror film.
Peli has released a new clip from the film (which releases on May 25th), and you can check it out below after the film’s synopsis.
Chernobyl Diaries follows a group of six young tourists who, looking to go off the beaten path, hire an "extreme tour" guide. Ignoring warnings, he takes them into the city of Pripyat, the former home to the workers of the Chernobyl nuclear reactor, but a deserted town since the disaster more than 25 years ago. After a brief exploration of the abandoned city, however, the group soon find themselves stranded, only to discover that they are not alone...
Love it or hate it, it’s essentially undeniable that Scream changed the face of modern horror cinema back in 1996. Wes Craven’s post-modernist riff on slasher cinema came charging out of the shadows (not unlike its masked killer) and sliced its way to over $100 million in ticket sales before it finally made its way to home video. Like all good slashers, Scream’s Ghostface killer (no, not the Wu Tang Clan member…) was eventually resurrected for two sequels – and spawned an entire subgenre’s worth of imitations (which is where most of the animosity toward Scream comes from).
Scream had been had been dead and buried for 15 years when Craven and screenwriter Kevin Williamson were lured back to the franchise to make Scream 4 – and while it’s certainly kind of cool to see the main cast and crew back together again, this entry once again proves that it’s hard to capture lightning in a bottle twice.
Scream 4 finds Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell) older, wiser, and presumably more battle-scarred after three encounters with various maniacs donning Ghostface’s iconic garb. She’s written a book about her experiences, and winds up returning to Woodsboro to promote her work. Unfortunately, Sid’s return home inspires someone (or someones…) to pull out their Ghostface get-up and get to slashing. Next thing you know, it’s open season on the town’s teenagers.
Craven’s latest entry is instantly recognizable to those of us who experienced the original trilogy. The director and screenwriter Williamson work hard to hit all the same story notes – but it’s hard to shake the feeling that everything happening in Scream 4 feels overly familiar. While Williamson’s first film earned kudos for deconstructing the slasher film by having a cast of characters who were intimately familiar with the rules of the subgenre, the savvy victims thing feels a little long in the tooth after three sequels and countless clones.
This time out, Craven sets his sights on remakes and reboots (ironic, in a way, since Craven has played a key role in several high profile remakes – including some centered on his own work – over the past few years), but Williamson’s script occasionally feels forced – because Scream 4 isn’t a remake or a reboot, really. Instead, it’s just another sequel – and Scream 2 covered that ground years ago. The film creates young, modern equivalents to every character from the original film, but by having Campbell, David Arquette’s Deputy Dewey, and Courtney Cox’s Gale Weathers return, it’s too tied into the original trilogy to truly stand as a remake or relaunch of the series. Because of that, a lot of the remake riffs feel sort of out of place.
While I’d normally lay these failings at the feet of Kevin Williamson, I’m not sure that’s entirely fair in this instance. Scream 4 received a rewrite from Scream 3 writer Ehren Kruger, and Williamson has subtly hinted that he wasn’t happy with some of the film’s changes. I’ve never heard what the specifics were, but it’s clear that the film wasn’t entirely based on Williamson’s vision.
The returning cast is great – and without giving too much away, it’s nice to see that early fan fears that Campbell would return only to be killed off early on (the infamous passing of the Final Girl torch scene so beloved by slasher film sequels) were unfounded. Campbell, Cox, and Arquette look a little older, but there’s was something surprisingly cool about seeing these characters again. I didn’t realize how much I’d missed them until they were on the screen.
The other cast updates are a more mixed bag – Emma Roberts plays a younger version of Sidney as Jill in a pretty convincing way. Hayden Panatierre makes for a decent modern version of Rose McGowan’s character from the original film, too. Unfortunately, Rory Culkin isn’t a very good stand in for Jamie Kennedy’s film geek Randy – which is disappointing, since Randy was so vital to the Scream experience.
Working with a maxim that says “the unexpected is the new cliché”, Scream 4 occasionally gets too clever for its own good. An opening sequence with multiple fakeouts and reversals comes across as more silly than scary or fun. Part of what made the original Scream so iconic was the opening sequence, which featured Drew Barrymore dying brutally at the end of Ghostface’s blade. After that scene, we all sat on the edge of our seats for the next 75 minutes – because if Drew Barrymore could die early, then anyone was fair game in the film.
Craven never manages to recapture that feeling in Scream 4 – and because of that, the film feels more like a carnival funhouse ride than an edge of your seat suspense flick. While the unexpected may be the new cliché (an idea that I’d disagree with – it was true in the immediate aftermath of Scream’s rise in popularity, but horror has moved beyond Scream clones in the intervening years), the attempts to poke fun at the idea are more painfully obvious than cleverly subversive. I can’t shake the feeling that the unexpected would have once again shocked audiences in Scream 4 – it’s been 11 years since the turgid third film wrapped up the original trilogy, which is like a century in today’s world where movies get rebooted almost instantly. It’s unfortunate that Craven and Williamson didn’t give it a shot.
What’s also unfortunate is that even here, in a fourth film, Williamson is still pretty terrible at endings. All of the Scream films have featured what I like to refer to as Scooby-Doo denouements – meaning the bad guys are unmasked then launch into a lengthy explanation of their motivations. It’s reminiscent of the classic Italian giallo films of the 1960s and ‘70s, but the rationale behind the actions of the Scream series’ killers are never quite as over-the-top ridiculous as those found in the gialli – which actually manages to make them harder on the willing suspension of disbelief. We tend to marvel at how convoluted giallo reveals are – while Scream is more mundane, but equally implausible. It just never quite pulls off the balancing act between terrifying and absurd the way the best giallo films did.
Scream 4 is no exception in this regard. The final moments start out well enough, but by the end none of the actions really make that much sense anymore. I don’t want to spoil things, but at least some of the events are designed to create a series of false endings wherein people thought to be dead are revealed to not really be dead – which is a tactic horror films have (over) relied on for decades.
Those problems aside, Scream 4 is arguably the best film in the series since the original. While the movie certainly has some shortcomings, it’s not nearly as bad as Scream 3 and I enjoyed it more than Scream 2. Part of that might be nostalgia – it’s nice to return to the franchise after an 11 year break, which might make me a little more forgiving of some of the film’s issues – but I’m sticking with it. I don’t think I want another Scream trilogy (which has been on the table for discussion since Scream 4 was announced), but I’m okay with that. Scream 4 stands as a fitting epitaph to one of the most important horror franchises of the past 20 years.
Horror on the Horizon
With summer blockbusters starting up this month, it’s not a particularly good time for horror in the theater. In fact, the closest thing we get to horror at the multiplex for the next few weeks is Johnny Depp as Barnabas Collins in Tim Burton’s feature adaptation of Dark Shadows. While Depp may indeed play a vampire in the film, trailers indicate this one is more interested in laughs than frights.
Luckily, things are better on the DVD front…
The week of May 8th sees the DVD arrival of Jon Knautz’s creepy film The Shrine, as well as Kate Beckinsale once again partaking in the Vampire/Lycan war in Underworld: Awakening.
If that’s not enough to keep you busy, fans who missed The Devil Inside at the theater can check it out on home video – and see if the ending annoys them as much as it did a few months ago (our money is on “yes, it does."