Welcome to The Last Horror Blog, a biweekly column on all things horror.
Nightmare on Elm Street fan film delves into Freddy’s past – We all know the story of Freddy Krueger after that mob of angry parents set him ablaze, but when it comes to the early – and nonsupernatural days – of the Springwood Slasher, details are bit murky. That changes now.
Filmmaker Chris R. Notarile has crafted a clever short film entitled Krueger: A Walk Through Elm Street. The six-minute mini movie showcases a human Freddy eyeing the children of Springwood in a very uncomfortable way. The dialogue is a bit rough in spots, but this is a cool little treat for Freddy fanatics.
Elijah Wood’s SpectreVision will introduce us to The Boy – Elijah Wood has really embraced his love of horror cinema. The actor-slash-producer’s SpectreVision imprint had two films at this year’s Sundance, and has revealed that he’s already got a third in the works.
The newest feature, simply titled The Boy, will span three films, and chronicle the metamorphosis of a young child into a full-blown serial killer. Sounds pretty interesting. Craig McNeill will handle directing duties, with shooting on this one set to begin on February 17.
Dead Snow 2: Red vs. Dead finds distribution – Hot off its Sundance debut, Tommy Wirkola’s Dead Snow sequel has found domestic distribution. Well Go USA has secured the rights to the feature, which is packed with loads of angry Nazi zombies, and picks up where the first film ended.
Well Go USA has plans to give the film a theatrical release – although it will be the full English version, and not the mixed-language print that played Sundance. No word on release dates yet, but I’ll keep you posted as more info on this deal comes to light.
New trailer for The Babadook looks to reinvent the boogeyman – Essie Davis stars as a mother desperate to help her out-of-control son in the new trailer for Jennifer Kent’s The Babadook.
This family chiller has been kicking around in development for a few years, but has now blipped back onto the radar courtesy of an impressive Sundance showing. Now we have this new clip – which looks entertaining, if a bit traditional. Have a peek at the synopsis:
“Six years after the violent death of her husband, Amelia (Essie Davis) is at a loss. She struggles to discipline her ‘out of control’ 6 year-old, Samuel (Noah Wiseman), a son she finds impossible to love. Samuel’s dreams are plagued by a monster he believes is coming to kill them both. When a disturbing storybook called ‘The Babadook’ turns up at their house, Samuel is convinced that the Babadook is the creature he’s been dreaming about. His hallucinations spiral out of control, he becomes more unpredictable and violent. Amelia, genuinely frightened by her son’s behaviour, is forced to medicate him. But when Amelia begins to see glimpses of a sinister presence all around her, it slowly dawns on her that the thing Samuel has been warning her about may be real.”
No word yet on U.S. distribution, but expect that to change soon.
The Babadook - Trailer by dreadcentral
While it seems unlikely that we’ll ever have another golden era of Italian horror and thriller cinema like we experienced in the 1970s and ‘80s, some modern filmmakers are still willing to pay homage to the techniques that defined the films of men like Dario Argento and Mario Bava. We saw this firsthand a few years back when Helene Cattet and Bruno Forzani unleashed their stylish art film Amer on unsuspecting audiences (and we’ll likely see it again when the duo’s The Strange Color of Your Body’s Tears is released next year), but no one has ever managed to truly capture what it must have been like working on one of these Italian features – at least not until Peter Strickland’s Berberian Sound Studio debuted in 2013.
A witch’s brew of Italian horror tropes and a fictionalized peek behind the curtain of the moviemaking business in Italy during this wild era, Berberian Sound Studio is one of the most bizarrely fascinating genre films to emerge in recent years – although I’m often hesitant to even classify it as a horror film in the first place.
Like Amer, Strickland’s film seems more interested in aping the aesthetics that defined the Italian films of the era than actually re-creating the classic horror films and gialli that have finally found appreciative audiences in the DVD era. The film is reminiscent of the work of Bava and Argento thanks to countless homages (both obvious and sly), but it seems to owe just as much of a debt to David Lynch and the recent films of Ti West as well (most notably, the slow-burn approach of House of the Devil).
Toby Jones stars as Gilderoy, an English sound designer who finds himself called to the titular studio to work on the latest horror film from Italian maestro Giancarlo Santini. The movie is an absurdly titled feature about witches and young girls, and it’s up to Gilderoy to oversee the dubbing and foley work – which finds him stabbing assorted vegetables to create the sounds of knives on flesh.
Things become increasingly more surreal as Gilderoy gets homesick and is affected by Santini’s visuals (visuals we never actually see, but can mentally picture through imaginative descriptors like “two girls creep along the subterranean poultry tunnel and discover the rotting corpses of the witches.”) This paves the way for a final act that is sure to either delight or confound the audience. Having a ton of experience with Italian horror cinema, I felt the former was more accurate.
The beauty of Berberian Sound Studio is that it is a film within a film. The nods to golden-era Italian genre cinema come fast and furious – everything from the witches (Suspiria), and poultry (Death Laid an Egg) to the music and sound itself – are designed to evoke memories of that long gone era. This is particularly true of the music, which is eerily (and purposely) reminiscent of Goblin, Morricone, and the work of vocalist Edda Dell’Orso. The soundtrack is a definite highlight of the experience – which makes sense given the subject matter.
The sound design of the film is certainly important, but it’s not as though Strickland’s visuals take a backseat to the music and effects. Berberian Sound Studio features a limited number of sets (the entirety of the film takes place inside the studio), but Strickland uses that to his advantage – creating an air of claustrophobia as the tale unfolds and making the audience feel as though Gilderoy is a prisoner of the film he’s making. Tensions between Jones’ character and the film’s producer serve to drive the point home.
Strickland also works in visual nods to the films that inspired him throughout. The opening credit sequence for Santini’s fictional film (the only footage of the film we actually see) is a perfect re-creation of the title cards from the era. The black-gloved film projectionist is just as perfect a nod to the gialli that so many of us loved. Heck, even one of the foley artists looks a bit like Lucio Fulci if you squint.
That being said, what you get out of Berberian Sound Studio is really dependent on how well you know Italian horror cinema, how interested you are in the making of those films, and if you can accept the hazy, nightmarish conventions then this film will likely be a hit with you. Conversely, if those things don’t make you jump up and think “I love that stuff!” then this movie is going to be a tougher sell. For the right audience, it works really well – it’s a fine homage to the Italian classics many of us grew up on. That alone makes it worth seeing in my estimation.
Horror on the Horizon
Now that the holidays are firmly in the rearview mirror, we can finally check out some horror in the theaters.
We’ve already been treated to the Paranormal Activity spin-off earlier this month, and tomorrow sees the arrival of I, Frankenstein. I’m not really expecting a whole lot from this comic book adaptation starring Aaron Eckhart, but maybe it will surprise me.
The last week of the month ends with a whimper as there are no new horror films hitting the multiplexes on the last day of January. Boo.
Things are a little better on the homefront. January 28 sees the arrival of cult classic Flavia the Heretic, and the absolutely dreadful Dario Argento film Argento’s Dracula, plus there’s a new Blu-ray version of American Werewolf in London.
Scream Factory! kicks February off with a bang, featuring two new Blu-ray releases fans are sure to be excited about. First up, it’s the long-awaited Blu-ray debut of the original Night of the Demons. If that doesn’t whet your whistle, perhaps a chance to revisit the Tawny Kitaen’s Witchboard is more your speed. Both discs hit retail on February 4 – and having had an opportunity to get a look at both of them, I can assure you they’re worth your time.
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