Thursday 25 February 2010

The Wolfman...

Is it really good? No. Is it really bad? No. It's a pretty decent flick, but it's missing a special something that would have just put that cherry on top. Going for an old school Wolfman (for the most part) suits the gothic trappings and pre-20th century setting of the film ... but then again, a bi-pedal Wolfman in the 1940s worked for that time. Since then we've had An American Werewolf In London, which really brought the beast out of the man on all fours after an agonising, brightly lit transformation sequence that has essentially spoiled horror afficianados and fans of wolf-based flicks.

The effects of American Werewolf have dated somewhat now, and the beast prowling on all fours was limited in scope due to techniques only going so far at the time, but it was the conviction of the filmmakers - as well as the viewer knowing full well that, fake-or-not, that prowling wolf really was there on the set when the film was shot.

This brings me to my main disappointment with The Wolfman - the CGI. We'd been assured that practicle effects would only be augmented by the CGI, and indeed once fully transformed it's a dude in a well-made suit, which feels far more real than the transformation sequences, which rely far too heavily on CGI and CGI augmentation. What was actually done practically? I certainly couldn't tell from what I saw on screen as it all looked CGI - like a big tar brush of CGI had been slopped over everything, real or computer generated.

It still looks cool, but it doesn't have the real-life weight and presence (nor truly agonising pain) of An American Werewolf In London, and as such it falls a bit flat. However, what does bring joy to the horror hound inside, are the array of bloody kills throughout the movie, so it at least provides a solid horror romp for the genre fans.

Plot wise it's solid enough. Not amazing, not terrible ... it's workmanlike. It gets the job done. Same goes for the actors who all perform competently, but it's Benicio del Toro and Hugo Weaving who really give something for the audience to sink their teeth into. What about Anthony Hopkins, you ask ... I'm not sure whether he was just having fun or phoning it in ... what I am sure of, is that his accent in the movie shifts all over the British Isles from scene to scene. One minute he sounds terribly English, then in the next shot he's come over all Scottish, and then before you know it he's ploughing through the valleys of Wales.

It's well made, especially considering its troubled production, but the problems with the film centre specifically on the script itself - which never fires on all cylinders - and the overuse of CGI, which I seem to remember reading online in an interview, Rick Baker was a little bit disappointed by.

It's an old-school horror monster show, with the technical tricks and styling of 21st century big budget fare. It looks good, it sounds good (although the reliance on loud scares was annoying), it's got a gore bag big enough to satiate the gore hounds, and and old school charm that fortunately rescues it from being a bit of a let down. Not great, not bad, but decent.

Cannibal Apocalypse...

You've got to love a bit of action/horror exploitation from Italy, haven't you? It may not have the absolute onslaught of grue that Cannibal Holocaust displays (also from 1980), and it may not have the pervading sense of sleaze that the likes of The New York Ripper revels in, but it's actually a pretty decent flick.

More "Cannibal Skirmish" than Apocalypse mind you, as the build up is measured (bar a sudden jump into a violent stand-off at a flea market spurred on by a flesh-ripping attack in a cinema) and the scale the title promises never really shows up. However, it's still a good ride with an intelligent performance from John Saxon and an enjoyable wide-eyed turn from John Morghen (seen a year later in Umberto Lenzi's grotty Cannibal Ferox getting his knob hacked off, fact fans). Is it the best of Italian exploitation movies? No. Is it the worst? Certainly not - so over-the-piece fans of such fare should be plenty happy with a viewing, especially when the third act kicks in with guns, grue and gas-masked coppers pursuing the protagonists through the streets and sewers of Atlanta, Georgia.

What's more the DVD features a 50-odd minute featurette boasting a range of interviews with key players - such as Saxon, Morghen, and the director Antonio Margheriti (name-checked in Quentin Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds ... the Italian guise of Eli Roth's basterd in the third act) - which stretch beyond the remit of the film itself, allowing the interviewees to chat freely about their careers on the whole and Cannibal Apocalypse itself, making for fascinating viewing for the genre fans.

Revolutionary Road...

Not got a lot to say about this one, but while it doesn't quite have the conviction and razor-sharp style of American Beauty (also by Sam Mendes), it's still a showcase of brilliant acting talent in the form of DiCaprio and Winslet, who both shred any 'back together since Titanic' illusions of rose-tinted love-ins. Instead you've got a complex relationship between two young married suburbanites who aspired to greater things but never succeeded - thus becoming trapped within the staid world of 1950s suburban living. Swinging in the blink of an eye between that original spark of love glimpsed in the opening moments of the film, and moments of abject hatred glimpsed mere minutes into the film in a stark change of pace, the film unfortunately never finds top gear. It's a good film, but it's not a great one. The central performances are great, they really are, and the direction is intelligent ... but there's just that something special missing from Revolutionary Road.

Still, if you dig the work of any or all of the central figures involved, it's certainly worth seeing.

Wednesday 24 February 2010

"T.I.D.O.Z.M." is almost done...

One more piece of the soundtrack, a musical 'sting', and some gamma correction ... then The Inevitable Decomposition of Zombie Man will be complete. I'm hoping therefore to have it uploaded onto YouTube sometime next week.

Click the image below for a full size (well, slightly larger size) glimpse at what the edit is currently looking like. See those three gaps in Track #6? Once those are filled, it's done. Figured I'd put this image up just as a bit of fun so you can kind of see what it looks like in the edit.

Friday 19 February 2010

More updates (post #456)...

The Inevitable Decomposition of Zombie Man is still on the cards, no worries there, there's just been a slight delay on the music front due to "snowmageddon" happening State-side. Never fear though, the score is over half done (and sounding great), so I'd imagine by the end of the month the third and final Zombie Man flick will be online.

It's been two years behind schedule ... so you can wait another two weeks (I'd reckon), right? heh...


I've been having a right old creative flow of late concerning my next feature length comedy script ... well, comedy drama I guess ... I've been bashing out an Act-by-Act, 'chunk-by-chunk' bullet-point-tastic layout of the entire script (which is quite helpful for providing an overview of the entire plot before you've even written "FADE IN" ... or "CUT IN" as I often prefer).

It's starting to come together now gradually, and I hope to have the whole thing laid out by the end of the month so that I can get started writing it in March. I know I'd intended to get writing this month, but I've ended up doing more prep work on it ahead of time instead. I guess as I did so many drafts of "Zero" (five in all), I want to try and cut that down to three ideally - ergo planning it all out up-front.

Excited? Most definitely, especially as I was figuring out quite nicely today how to show two characters together 'on screen' as much as possible, when in the plot's 'present day' itself they're barely in the same space as one another ... if that makes sense.

Anyway, right now it's about figuring out the characters. Who they are, what they're like, how they all connect, and the one thing I hate doing every time - figuring out their names.

I'm terrible at remembering names in real life, so for some reason I find picking names for characters akin to banging my head against a wall.

Wednesday 17 February 2010


There was another screening of Gaia & Genesis earlier this week, this time for Kleen Energy Week in Kington, Herefordshire.


I have also updated the Credits Highlights section (down there on the right hand side with tons of other info about me and my filmmaking), with an updated list of Film Festival and TV screenings of my work.

Tuesday 16 February 2010

Deadlands 2: Trapped - Official DVD Review...

In 2006 a low budget indie zombie flick called Deadlands: The Rising was released. Originally intended to be a short, it expanded into a feature length home made undead action flick seated stylistically somewhere between Demons and Return of the Living Dead.

Put together over a long period of time, the film showed what could be accomplished with $10,000, a community spirit, and a stubborn determination. The lessons of feature independent filmmaking are written large across all aspects of Deadlands: The Rising (both positive and negative), and consequentially the 2008 follow-up Deadlands 2: Trapped, confidently brandishes the fact that lessons have been learned throughout its 85 minute running time.

The DVD cover art.

Taking place on the night that a new nerve gas is to be tested upon an unsuspecting Maryland city population, Deadlands 2 is clearly a product of the George W. Bush era when controversy, tribalism and distrust in your own government seeped into the American public’s psyche like never before.

Pushed by a soulless, dead-hearted project leader Dr. Robert Mitchell (played by Jim Krut, aka the helicopter zombie from Dawn of the Dead), any in-house dissent is quelled as the intended effects of the nerve gas are soon felt amongst the target populace. Unwittingly about to be caught up in a tragic disaster, Ugarek (editor/writer/director) takes his time to establish his protagonists, who are all played proficiently by a young cast, with Joseph D. Durbin (Sean) giving a particularly strong and believable performance.

Joseph D. Durbin's Sean receives a bad call.

Before they know it, six strangers find themselves trapped within a local movie theatre, surrounded by an army of zombies and with few options for rescue or escape, as one of them slowly suffers the effects of a bite from one of these … experiments.

The zombies in Ugarek’s undead action flick are different from the traditional Romero breed. For a start, these are runners, but not only that, they’re smart runners capable of working together to lay primitive traps and launch attacks on the living. Undeniably, the runner is a controversial figure in the zombie sub-genre – 28 Days/Weeks Later never featured zombies (rather infected humans), and the glossy-but-shallow Dawn of the Dead remake threw out subtle, creeping shamblers for the blunt-force trauma of sprinters – but Deadlands 2 stands above the negative connotations of this updated horror antagonist.

The gore - punchy and violent.

This flick has more going for it than running zombies; indeed the zombie action isn’t the primary focus of the script, instead it’s the characters and plot. Deadlands 2 is also an independent film, and similar to its predecessor, the sense of community spirit shines throughout. What’s more, on a budget of merely $6,000, Ugarek has done the hardest thing of all – make a good indie movie with a bigger scope (certainly bigger than normal indie fare) on less money than the original film.

The stuff of kid's nightmares alright.

All aspects of the filmmaking process – acting, writing, directing, shooting, editing, the lot – have come on leaps and bounds from the rough-edged learning curve of Deadlands: The Rising (also available on DVD). Looking, feeling and sounding a damn sight better than what you’d usually see in an indie flick; it’s clear that Deadlands 2, with its ‘deep shadows & brilliant highlights’ visuals, has been crafted with intelligence and endurance. What’s more the film is even prefaced by a short introduction from Helena: The Hussy of Horror, an internet horror hostess (

Helena: The Hussy of Horror

Compared to the work print (which I saw some time ago now), this final version of the film has a sure and more consistent pace, as well as a real sense of urgency and action whenever a shot of adrenaline is injected into the heart of the plot. What we are presented with is a kick arse zombie flick, with a truly independent spirit, and something a bit deeper going on inside its head. Zombie fans, indie film fans, and horror fans in general should really check this movie out – it’s an impressive step up in all respects.

Jim Krut revels in being this movie's evil bastard.

Finally – the DVD package itself – available to buy from Anthem Pictures (, you will be treated to an informative and revealing set of interviews with the director (who also provides a commentary track) and cast, as well as a look inside the scoring process, and how to put together a convincing on-screen military presence with an extremely low budget.

Watch the official trailer on YouTube.

Central Cast:
Dr. Robert Mitchell (Jim Krut)
Sean (Joseph D. Durbin)
Chris (Christopher L. Clark)
Jack (Josh Davidson)
Casey (Ashley Young)
Shelly (Corrine Brush)

Krystian Ramlogan

Gary Ugarek

Brian Wright
Gary Ugarek
Marq-Paul LaRose

Gary Ugarek
Chris Kiros
Elias Dancey

Gary Ugarek

Monday 15 February 2010

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button...

None of my mates wanted to see this in the cinema over a year ago, which was a bit of a bugger, and then the double disc DVD was only released in America (and cost-prohibitive to import), which was even more of a bugger ... so that meant I've ended up waiting until it appeared on Sky Movies this week to give it a looksee.

Upon first hearing the basic concept, and that it was being directed by David Fincher (and starring his acting collaborator Brad Pitt), I was sold and greatly looking forward to it.

The opening twenty minutes was a bit sketchy though, I have to say, with the 85 year old Benjamin as a baby playing more disturbing than intriguing, but this soon settles as we really begin to recognise Pitt behind all the CGI trickery (which, for the most part, is excellent). I also thought the present day moments, taking place just prior to Hurricane Katrina striking New Orleans, were definite dips in the flow of the movie. I felt drawn out of the story at these moments, but then again without these moments the narration would sit uncomfortably without its contextual grounding.

Pitt, having already wowed me in 2007's sodding brilliant The Assassination of Jesse James, wows me again with a performance that charts the development of the titular character who ages backwards with intelligence, humour and grace.

Having initially found it a little hard to get into, with those bumpy opening twenty minutes or so, I soon found myself getting entirely caught up in the life story of this intriguing character. I'm pleased to say that Fincher continues to excell at this directing business, and has managed to direct Pitt towards one of his very best performances.

Quirky, warm-hearted, and with an ambient pace, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button is a real treat. It may have a few bum notes here and there, but ultimately the film is a definite must-see.

District 13...

The French seem to have a real talent for producing kick arse, low calorie action flicks, especially when Luc Besson is involved. District 13 has a plot with the depth of a chocolate biscuit, but that's not the point of the movie. The whole point is the breathless, fast-paced and inventive action set pieces, all of which have been given the Parkour treatment.

Parkour, or "free running", has become the new extreme sport craze of the last decade, as evidenced in the James Bond revamping Casino Royale, and Electronic Art's game Mirror's Edge, and being a French invention it was only a matter of time before we got a spiffing little action movie out of it.

Step forward District 13, set in a near-future dystopian Paris where troublesome districts of the city have been walled-off and left to rot. Throw in a couple of tough-guy free runners having to stop a bomb going off in the titular district, and that's about it really.

It's brief, light on your brain, fast and carefree entertainment. It's like an energy bar, no roast beef Sunday dinner, but it doesn't half give you a boost.

Sunday 7 February 2010

Opinions change...

I've been thinking about this a bit recently, about how my opinions on movies change over time, and it's come to the forefront of my mind quite a bit recently.

For example, James Cameron's Titanic - a film which I automatically liked when it first came out and I saw it on rental VHS. Then over time I began to resent it somewhat, and saw it as the ugly duckling of Cameron's filmmaking career, disregarding the sheer scale of technical achievement on the project.

I remember vividly in first year university, in the first semester, in one of the first seminars for the Key Issues in Film Studies course and the topic of discussion got onto Titanic, and we all gave our opinions of it around the circle of students, and I gave a hideously smug and smart-arsedly dismissive comment about it. Then again I was 18 at the time, and have changed a lot in the old noggin' department in the intervening almost eight years.

A few years down the line and I'd made my peace with Titanic, and realised that yes - this was a big filmmaking achievement (as Cameron's films almost always are, come to think of it). I'd only seen snippets of it on Sky Movies, and it was usually the bit where the ship sinks (which is one of the most visceral guilty pleasures in movies I can think of - after all, this was a real disaster that killed many people).

However, with the coming of Avatar I started sniffing around Cameron's body of work again (including the two documentaries he shot during his fictional filmmaking hiatus), and I have since bought for a few quid, the 4-disc Deluxe Collector's Edition - which I will soon delve into. The main purpose was to indulge in the extras, however there are many things right about Titanic as a film - even if I still think the class war love story leading up to the big event is a bit grinding.

In terms of more recent viewings, I remember in 2008 blogging about Pineapple Express, and Tropic Thunder - preferring the former over the latter. I have since changed my opinion on that one too. Pineapple doesn't play as well as it did in the cinema (perhaps partly down to having only watched the extended version the three times since getting the DVD, singularly and in a group atmosphere), and Tropic Thunder now plays even better for me on DVD - which has been re-watched a similar number of times (also in group settings).

I remember saying how Tropic didn't fulfill its main theme, or wasn't consistent in it what it set out to achieve, while I thought Pineapple was more consistent across the board. Now I think that doesn't matter with Tropic, as it's just such an endlessly enjoyable movie - a great comedy, and a great action movie in its own right. I still really enjoy both movies (and always did), but my view of Pineapple has dipped somewhat, and my view of Tropic has gone up a couple of significant notches.

This now brings me to a final film (or films) - Hostel. I have always been dismissive of the derisive "torture porn" label, so the type of movie Hostel is was never the issue. I'm not entirely sure what it was, but I felt it was missing something. I'd immediately rather enjoyed Cabin Fever, but Hostel just wasn't clicking for me at the time, and I've always been a bit disappointed by it ... I'd thought it was a bit too slow in the lead-up, and had perhaps gotten a bit beat-down on it by a number of rabidly opposed voices from horror fans online.

However, having spotted the Hostel 1 & 2 3-disc DVD box set for a fiver, I figured why not? Again, the intention was to indulge in some DVD special features, but having now gone through the first film's extras (except for the four commentaries, which I'll get to eventually over time), but I've found myself developing a much better understanding of the film itself. The intentions of Roth and Co are laid out on front street, and suddenly it clicks. I now really quite respect this movie - and it definitely has been one that has remained stuck in my head somewhere since seeing it ... I just think that at the time I wasn't quite ready for it, not in terms of gore, just ... I'm not sure.

So I can now count myself as a firm champion of Hostel (rather than an unsure supporter) ... now, will my view of Hostel 2 improve after the extra features and in light of my raised and hardened opinion on the first movie? I still think Hostel 2 is the weaker of the two, no question, but again it has remained in my headspace somewhere since seeing it, and even though I was fairly disappointed by it at the time, there were still many things I really quite liked about it.

Similarly my opinion of Roth has improved - not that I disliked him, I'll be clear about that - but it is now abundantly clear to me that there really is something more going on in there, once you sit down and see what he himself has to say, rather than what everyone else thinks.

I think my view on Hostel 2 will improve after I explore the extra features and allow the filmmakers to express it, and their intentions, to me (via the extras) in their own words.

So there we have it, just a taster on how my movie opinions change and shift over time, with some prime examples.

Thursday 4 February 2010

The Road...

Coming to our local Cineworld three weeks after release, I finally got to see the film version of Cormac McCarthy's moving and brutal post-apocalyptic father & son journey story The Road.

In 2008 I took part in a YouTube user collaborative project for Channel 4's "3 Minute Wonder" slot - everyone submitting footage that would then be re-edited into four short films that were inspired by McCarthy's Pulitzer Price winning book. At this stage I hadn't read the book - but got the jist of it before submitting my footage (which was one of the chosen pieces to be edited into the final films which showed during the last week of October 2008 on Channel 4).

Shortly afterwards I bought the book and was thoroughly impressed by the sparse verse that managed to convey such a strong sense of how an unexplained, but sweeping disaster, had turned the world into a cruel and vile place where the few good struggled endlessly against roaming gangs of cannibals (still few in number, but certainly out-numbering those refusing to succumb to cannibalism).

However, that is merely the world presented, the crux of The Road is "Man" and "Boy", a father and son who lumber on, following the road south to find a warmer climate, and how they cope along the way. It's a powerful and moving read, with some of the most heart-felt final pages ever written.

Similarly the film adaptation is uncompromisingly bleak in its presentation. The terrifying glimpses of cannibalistic behaviour in the book are now written large in brief moments of abject and visceral horror, but these are thankfully punctuated by quiet and caring moments between Viggo Mortenssen (perfect casting) and Kodi Smith-McPhee's (nailing the tone of his character from the book) "Man" and "Boy".

The discovery of a can of Coke (calm down "advertising!!!1!!!1!" freaks - it was in the book, and Coca Cola had to be personally convinced by Viggo himself to allow their product to be used), or sharing the spoils of a lucky find, or the father bathing his starving son - even the moment that they address the Man comes from a world entirely alien to that of the Boy, are all moving and fascinating moments.

While the book might go into more detail and speak of things that film can rarely show in such detail, the film is a more intense experience. You can put the book down every few pages if your reading time is brief, but the film grasps your attention for two whole hours and lays out the visuals in gritty, cold examination. So in terms of impact, it's a draw, but for different reasons on each side.

The book is a meandering journey with moments of sharp action or horror, so the film has a slow-burn pace that transcends your usual 'movie apocalypse' style. This isn't Mad Max, this is what the end of the world would really be like. It's harsh, cruel, bleak and at times intensely tragic - but in amongst it all are clutches of something brighter, of a glimmer of hope for the future no matter how uncertain it may be. Ultimately The Road (both book and film) is a rewarding experience. It most definitely isn't a barrel of laughs (duh), or a Hollywood action extravaganza (as one trailer so inexplicably painted it as) ... what it is, is a thoughtful and moving piece of filmmaking ... and it's a strong contender for my own personal Film of 2010.

As a side note to finish on, the score (by Nick Cave & Warren Ellis) is just superb. The pair had previously scored The Assassination of Jesse James (one of my all-time favourites), and proved they have unending skill and craft - with The Road, they have out-done themselves. Just like the film, the soundtrack is emotional and thought provoking. Incredible.

Wednesday 3 February 2010

The new script's thought process...

As I've mentioned before, I'm currently working on ideas for a new script.

Since then I've been bashing out some more ideas, and I'm starting to get to grips with the structure of the whole shebang. I'm beginning to find the main topics to base the plot around, and some vivid ideas of how certain scenes will play out are beginning to come to me (usually, as is frequently the case anyway, just as I'm trying to go to sleep).

Indeed, I find my that my mind is truly freed up and relaxed late at night, when it's the most honest and receptive to thoughtful and emotional topics, which is ideal for getting some good ideas down for a script. It's not so useful when you're trying to get to sleep (which I find quite hard to do in general), but if a good idea strikes, it must be written down or remembered (depending on how close to dozing off I am) - sometimes I can retain the idea until morning, but most of the time I reluctantly drag my arse out of bed and scrawl a note on a scrap of paper to myself - my eyes bleary with drowsiness and blown out with sudden lamp light - for which I'm grateful when I next come to assess my scribbled-down notes.

As if often the case, and advice, I'll be getting personal with this script (as I'd done with "Zero") - but this time it's in a more thoughtful manner, rather than the lighter, comedic tones of beforehand. That said, it's still going to be a comedy, but it's going to be a script in which I really have something to say, and it's something that I'm feeling more and more connected to as each day passes, and as I think about the content more and more.

Indeed, a couple of recent movie viewings have inspired this thoughtful mindset - both of them set post-apocalypse - The Book of Eli, in part, and for the most part The Road (which I saw on Sunday ... thoughts on that coming soon) - and I guess being that it's that early time of year once again when all is quite visually dull, and mentally reflective, it's only fitting that I find myself once again thrusting my headspace into the writing process ... only this time I'm coming back up with something deeper, which I'm finding to be fascinating.


More semi-cryptic ruminations on this developing script as-and-when.