Welcome to The Last Horror Blog, a column dedicated to all things horror on film.
Go behind the scenes with Sinister – We’ve been keeping a close eye on Sinister, Ethan Hawke’s new creepy-looking horror flick. Early reviews have been positive and as we inch closer to the film’s October 12 release date, we’ve got some new behind-the-scenes footage courtesy of our friends at Dread Central.
The new material mainly shows how many takes it requires to get a scene right even when nothing goes wrong. It’s probably more interesting for folks interested in the technical aspects of filmmaking than people just looking for a few new spooky insights into the story, but it does pay off with a final scene that’s pretty unsettling. Check it out below.
Elijah Wood announces indie horror prodco – We knew Elijah Wood liked horror flicks (how else do you explain him headlining a remake of classic '80 slasher flick Maniac?) but even we didn’t realize he liked them this much. Wood has announced plans to launch a new production company – named the Woodshed – which will specialize in the production of indie genre films.
Wood professes to being a lifelong fan of the genre – and if the first slate of the Woodshed projects are any indication, this is an imprint fans will want to keep an eye on. The initial batch of titles include a sociopolitical zombie flick, a feature about how a nine-year-old sociopath discovers his taste for killing, and a new feature from Shadow of the Vampire’s E. Elias Merhige.
We’re excited by this news – the world always has room for another production company interested in creating intelligent and entertaining horror films for fans by fans.
Roadside trailer presents frightening premise – There’s been no shortage of what I like to call “high-concept horror movies” over the past few years – and that trend appears set to continue with the debut of this trailer for Roadside.
The official synopsis states that the film “Finds Dan Summers and his pregnant wife, Mindy, in a fight for their lives when they are held hostage in their car by an unseen gunman on the side of a desolate mountain road.” Sounds a bit like a cross between Phone Booth and the recent ATM. Hopefully it’s better than the latter.
Directed by Eric England, we can expect Roadside to get some sort of release next year – provided the film can find distribution. Judging from this clip, that shouldn’t be a problem.
Amber Alert brings found footage to a highway near you – Another week, another trailer for an upcoming found-footage flick.
The newest clip making the rounds is a full-length preview for Kerry Bellessa’s Amber Alert. The title refers to the color-coded warning level flashed on highway signs when a child has been abducted. The film’s three characters spot the described abductor and, with little help from the police, chase him down.
The whole thing looks a little hard to swallow (would the cops really be so slow to respond to a report of a sighting of a child abductor?), but if you like the whole found-footage thing, this still might be worth a look. Check out the trailer below – and if it appeals to you, realize that you can now watch Amber Alert through your favorite VOD service or try to catch it in its limited theatrical run next month.
After the success of Bong Joon-ho’s The Host, it seemed like we’d all have front row seats for a new wave of Asian monster movies with expensive special effects and cool creatures. Unfortunately, the monster movie renaissance never really took off – and big-budget offerings like Kim Ji-hoon’s Sector 7 were mostly dead on arrival at the local box office. Suddenly, what looked like a promising resurgence for a genre many fans still revere was over before it ever got started.
This is particularly disappointing in Sector 7’s case, as Kim’s film is an entertaining – if often empty-headed – romp through various monster movie cliches. It’s one part The Host, one part Deep Rising, basically – with a cast of characters trapped on an oil rig as they square off against a menace spawned from the dark ocean depths.
As settings go, this is a good one – the best horror films place people not only in harm’s way, but isolate them from external help. It’s hard to get more isolated than being trapped in the middle of the ocean on a floating oil rig, so the crew really has to become self-reliant if they have any hope of escaping this bad situation. That this setting ties into real life (Sector 7 refers to an area of the ocean where Korea and Japan believe huge reserves of oil and natural gas are buried) just gives it a little extra flavor.
Of course, anyone expecting the environmental issues to play a part in the narrative is bound to be disappointed. Sector 7 features a rather threadbare script that’s more interested in hitting all the popular monster-movie notes than it is in tackling social commentary. The script is the film’s biggest weakness – it meanders around aimlessly for the first half hour while it introduces characters who are little more than monster fodder. It’s a bit of a slog in the first act as not much happens – but once the film finally gets around to the monster action it’s at least watchable in a “sit back and watch people get knocked off” sort of way.
Ha Ji-won is the film’s star, playing a tough-as-nails female engineer who’s certain they’re about to strike oil. Ha’s character is the only one who’s really developed – she’s a woman in a man’s world, and she’s constantly butting heads with the rig’s captain – who’s ready to write this trip off as a failure. The actress (who was compared to Angelina Jolie in her homeland because she insisted on doing all of her own stunts) makes for a compelling lead. It’s just disappointing that the rest of the cast is so boring.
Even the film’s monster, a mutated creature from the bottom of the ocean, is sort of pedestrian. The CGI was all done locally instead of outsourced to Hollywood and it shows regularly. This monster isn’t the worst-looking thing I’ve ever seen, but it pales in comparison to the creature in Bong’s earlier film.
Compounding the problem is that the script doesn’t really give the monster any well-defined traits or motivations. We never know why it’s killing everyone on the rig, for example. It doesn’t eat them and it doesn’t even take their remains back to its nest (which is shown in a single scene for no real discernable reason). Because of this, the whole thing feels at least a little contrived.
If you’re the sort of viewer who needs these kinds of details addressed during the course of a film, Sector 7 can be a bit of a letdown. Sure, there’s action and some fairly gory monster mayhem, but a lot of it feels lacking in context – from the monster’s motivations to the relatively nondescript cast of potential victims. Those who can sit back and just go with the flow will find the film far more enjoyable, because it does work as sort of an Asian riff on Stephen Sommers’ Deep Rising (only minus the sharp writing and awesome characters). That being said, it’s hard to shake the feeling this film was something of a missed opportunity. From the perfect setting to the potential for a larger, Romero-esque bit of social commentary, Sector 7 never quite takes full advantage of all the things could have really made it stand out. If you really love monster movies, this is one is worth a look – but if you’re new to the field, you’re better off starting with something like The Host.
Horror on the Horizon
It’s October – and that means the multiplexes are filled with horror flicks. This is like Christmas for fright fans!
Things kick off on October 5 with the release of Tim Burton’s family-friendly Frankenweenie. This tale about a boy who brings his beloved dog back from the dead promises to delight parents and children alike and get the month off to a good start.
Burton’s film isn’t the only film opening on this week. Select markets will also be able to check out the found-footage anthology flick V/H/S on the big screen as well. Featuring five tales from some of horror’s hottest young filmmakers, V/H/S is an entertaining (if occasionally uneven) way to get into the holiday spirit.
The week of October 12 brings us more tricks and treats with the limited release of Sinister – which finds Ethan Hawke squaring off against a killer who hides inside home movies – and Grave Encounters 2.
GE2 goes the Book of Shadows route, with a new group of “investigators” entering the haunted asylum to prove that the first film wasn’t just a movie. Expect lots of creepy found footage and strange goings-on when this one hits theaters.
Horror on Home Video
Not to be outdone, the DVD and Blu-ray market is also packed with releases in preparation for Halloween.
October 9 brings us John Cusack playing Poe in The Raven. This one didn’t find an audience at theaters, but maybe we’ll appreciate it more on disc. This week also sees the arrival of Ridley Scott’s Prometheus, as well as Darren Lynn Bousman’s The Barrens and the Korean film Bedeviled.
On October 16, we’re treated to the next titles in Shout! Factory’s new horror line – Terror Train and The Funhouse. You’re going to want to pick up both of these titles. Trust us.
Other notables that week include Excision and Oren Peli’s The Chernobyl Diaries.