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Tuesday
Aug162016

DEATH AND THE MAIDEN: THE VANESSA MOLTZEN INTERVIEW

Traditionally, the western and horror films of legend are male dominated. But the real fan knows that the lifeblood of these genres are women characters; from icons like Annie Oakley and Ellen Ripley to the classic ‘final girl’ archetype who outwits the psycho-slasher, the ladies have been the strong, soulful yin to the dark yang of the bad guy. So when the genres collide and the dusty, outback western meets the apocalyptic zombie epic, the lead actress was going to have to be something special. Meet Vanessa Moltzen, star of Bullets for The Dead

A VCA graduate with key roles in genre pics I am Evangeline (2015) and Tracy (2016) to her credit, Moltzen commands the screen as Annie Blake in debutant director Michael Du-Shane’s splattery mash-up of hard-bitten frontier adventure and gut-gnawing undead shocker. Audiences get their first look at the statuesque Annie as she robs a bank and slays some innocents, a big-screen entrance as good as any in recent memory.

“We see her at the beginning of the film as a cold-blooded killer, (but) she needed to have some redeeming qualities,” says the actress, who left behind her Sydney base for an extensive location shoot in the Queensland wilderness. “It was apparent that Annie had a depth that was complex, and a pain from family history that was a struggle to overcome. I found her through research and improvisation."

Working from the broad outline provided in the script by Du-Shane and co-writer Joshua C. Birch (based upon their 2011 short, 26 Bullets Dead), the actress wove a backstory that helped reveal Annie’s psyche and shape the performance. ”I didn't want to make her some cardboard cut-out,” says Moltzen. “She had strong reasons for her reckless ways, was brought up in a less than ideal environment that shaped (her) behaviour.” The actress also saw in Annie a yearning for blood ties and the bond they create. “She lost her family so she created a new one in her gang of outlaws (played by Renaud Jardin, Troy MacKinder and Karl Blake). She is fiercely loyal and protective of them.”

One unique aspect of Annie’s character is her sexual guile, an allure that generates a palpable physical chemistry with tough-guy bounty hunter Dalton (Christopher Sommers; picture, below, with Moltzen), who is taking the gang in for the price on their heads. “It’s a front at first, used to intimidate and challenge Dalton to see if he can handle her,” says Moltzen, who spends most of the film in her period undergarments. “But underneath, she desperately longs for someone who can see beyond her tough exterior. Back then, a woman her age would have been expected to be demure and married with a child. She is none of those things so she owns what she has. It’s most likely that she is a virgin.”

Du-Shane’s film is rich in western iconography and imagery, with Moltzen’s Annie Blake recalling such great cinematic frontierswomen as Barbara Stanwyck in Anthony Mann’s The Furies (1950) or Raquel Welch’s title character in Burt Kennedy’s Hannie Caulder (1971). “I watched a lot of westerns,” she admits, citing Kelly Reichhardt’s Meek's Cutoff and Clint Eastwood’s Unforgiven as key influences. “The relationship to the harsh landscape and the expectations of the woman’s role in society was interesting to explore,” she says, also noting the bush shoot was not always an easy one. “I had a scorpion at my feet one day,” she laughs, “(but) I love being out on location. The smell, the grit, the texture of the landscape, the muggy air, the hot sun, it's all is part of the story.”

As for the bloodbath that comes with starring in a zombie flick, Moltzen admits to ending the shoot a little rattled. “I watched a bunch of zombie films beforehand as research, and I know there are some cracker scenes in our film that zombies fans will love,” she says, enthusiastically, “but on set it can be quite shocking to see all that blood and guts. I don’t need to do another scary film for a while.”

Screen-Space managing editor Simon Foster will co-host a Bullets for The Dead Cast & Crew Q&A, courtesy of the distributor Monster Pictures, on Thursday, August 18. Full details and ticket information at the venue website here.

Bullets For The Dead - Trailer from Monster Pictures on Vimeo.

 

Wednesday
May182016

CANNES CLASSICS BOWS REFN'S RESTORATION OF BAVA BRILLIANCE 

Having primed the rabid Mario Bava fanbase with a sneak peek of footage at last year Torino Film Festival, director Nicholas Winding Refn last night proudly premiered the 4k restoration of the late Italian horror maestro’s 1965 cult classic, Planet of the Vampires, as part of the prestigious Cannes Classic sidebar.

“I felt that Cannes needed to see some proper, quality old movies,” joked the director. Addressing the late night audience at the Salle Bunuel auditorium in the Palais des Festival, the director said, “It is an incredible honour being here tonight to present a timeless classic of cinema, a film that, when released, was considered more of an exploitation/B-movie kind of film. And yet, now 50 years later it is perceived as high art. This is one of the great pop art movies ever made.”

Also present were the film’s producer, Italian industry legend Fulvio Lucisano, and Lamberto Bava, son of the late director. “Fulvio is the last of what they call the mega-producers, the mavericks of the 60s and 70s,” explained the director. “When I said to him, ‘What’s happening with Planet of the Vampires? about a year ago he said, ‘(mumble)’. So I said, ‘Let’s do a 4k restoration and re-introduce to a younger audience, and his (mumble) became ‘Si, oui, let’s do it!’” (Pictured, right; director Nicholas Winding Refn)

An ebullient Lucisana recalled the production of the Planet of The Vampires (aka, Terrore Nello Spazio), which was an ambitious project for the Italian industry in the mid 60s. “When we made this feature, everybody was very curious,” he said in a broken but enthusiastic English. “We used Stage 5 at Cinecitta, which is one of the largest stages in Europe. Mario organised everything very well. I mean, we had a set designer but it was Mario who did the organizing including the bridge on the spaceship.”

A softly-spoken Bava, clearly proud of the adoration being afforded his father’s work, said, “I think he’d know and feel this love. He was always a very happy, very normal man, but he was a man who (possessed) something more. He was a cinema man. He started making films as a young man, because he wanted to see something different.”

Refn also addressed long-held speculation that Planet of The Vampires never been fully credited as the inspiration for Ridley Scott’s Alien (Ed: also, clearly, Event Horizon). The narrative about two spaceship crews who respond to a signal from a dark planet only to be overcome by a mysterious murderous force, and several visual elements certainly recall Scott’s space horror classic.

“This is the film, and you can quote me and please do, get out your Twitters, this is the film that Dan O’Bannon and Ridley Scott stole to make Alien,” said Refn, to wild applause. “Official breaking news! We found the elements, we have the evidence tonight, this is the origin.” He noted that one of the Bava’s original writing team, Ib Melchior, was a fellow Dane. “It (is an honour) that this film, the origin story that was ripped off to make Alien, was actually created by a Danish writer.” (Pictured, right; Mario Bava)

Digitally restored from the original 35mm camera negative, the project was undertaken with the aid of CSC Cineteca Nazionale, with the restoration process being overseen by Italian International Film.

 

 

Sunday
Apr032016

LAST DRINKS: THE SEVÉ SCHELENZ INTERVIEW.

When your low-budget debut hits big, where to next? Such was the enviable problem for horror auteur Sevé Schelenz, who rattled international festival crowds with his 2011 shocker, Skew. For his second feature, the Canadian has crafted a fresh perspective on the ‘single-setting’ horror film; the gross-out funny, very ‘splattery’ Peelers unfolds in a remote titty bar, as infected patrons turn on the survivors. Ahead of its World Premiere at the Palm Beach International Film Festival, Schelenz spoke with SCREEN-SPACE about the origins of his latest work, the learning curve he went through on the shoot and answering the age-old question, “Where would nudity be acceptable?”…

SCREEN-SPACE: After the success of Skew, what kind of pressure did you place on yourself and your 'sophomore project'? 

Schelenz: I never thought about any "pressure", never thought of it as a "follow-up". I was just ready to make another film and took it from there. The only thing I wanted to do differently was to make a more traditional horror film, (to) work with a DP and compose shots and work with lighting. When we shot Skew in 2005, films tried hard to look like big budget films and most fell short. I didn't want to make a film where the audience would be pulled out of the movie because they were thrown off by the look. With the sort of budget we had at the time, POV was the way to go. When we shot Peelers, HD was much more accessible. You could also shoot 5K, which allowed you to play with the image more in post, which you couldn't do back in 2005 without image degradation. Actually, the most important thing for me when making any film is to have a good script with twists and great characters. We did that in Skew, but some of the twists may have been a little too much for the audience. Screenwriter Lisa DeVita and I came up with something more balanced. 

SCREEN-SPACE: What were the origins of the story?

Schelenz: After Skew’s festival run and distribution, my sales agent asked me, "So, what's next?" I was developing a number of features, mostly comedies, thrillers, or sci-fi. He told me, “No, do another horror.” I asked him what he thought would sell and he said, "More blood and more boobs." I was more into anticipation-building and psychological horror but I went away and thought to myself, "I know I can get the blood in there, but what about the nudity?" I just wasn't interested in gratuitous breast shots. I thought, "Where would nudity be acceptable? A strip club!" It turned out there were not a lot of good stripper-horror films, leaving an untapped sub-genre of horror out there. I asked ‘Devits’ if she would be interested in writing a script with strong female characters who kicked ass, a deft story and some good twists. Her eyes went wide and she told me a story about something that happened to her while she was at a strip club in Las Vegas. From there, Peelers was born. (Pictured, above; Schelenz, on-set, with actress Nikki Wallin).  

SCREEN-SPACE: The 'single setting' concept carries its own production challenges. How did you address both the limitations and potential of your location?

Schelenz: A single setting can be the kiss of death from an audience point of view. There is a perception that the more locations, the bigger the film, the more the audience will want to see it; my sales agent recommended multiple locations if only to have them in the trailer. But from a production point of view, a single location is the way to go. It is the best answer to the main obstacle of indie filmmaking - budget. My editing background means I’m always thinking about how scenes transition, which I bring to the script process as well. So, I sort of treated each room in the strip club as a separate location, of giving each one it's own look and feel through production design, lighting and camera angles. Our DP Lindsay George (pictured, left) was an indie fllmmaker's dream because she was fast, had a great eye for composition and understood lighting. Peelers doesn't feel like it's all in one location, when in fact it pretty much is.

SCREEN-SPACE: There is a great deal of authenticity in the casting, a lot of 'character' in the characters, especially in your lead, Wren Walker, and the girls who play the dancers. 

Schelenz: We threw out a wide, open net for the casting to see as many actors as we could. Surprisingly, we had a lot of talented girls show up to auditions. We were worried that actresses would hear "stripper horror" and think ditzy, damsel-in-distress types with gigantic fake boobs, when really we were going for something different, something against type. We wanted characters with brains, women you could sympathize with who come in all shapes and sizes, confident in their own skin. How could actresses know this coming in to cold auditions? We were wrong; ultimately, selecting our female roles was tough due to all the talented options. When it came to the lead character, ‘Blue Jean’, none of the girls ideally fitted the role. Wren Walker (pictured, above) came in late in the audition process because her boyfriend saw our ad and encouraged her to read and she nailed it. Wren just owned the Blue Jean role right off the bat.

SCREEN-SPACE: Despite the usual tight budget and time constraint issues, did the shoot go to plan? Was it a positive set?

Schelenz: When you make a truly independent feature, you're always worried about running over. I had the experience of shooting Skew and we also had great 1st and 2nd ADs on Peelers. For the most part, the shoot went according to plan. Another way of staying on schedule is to allow more time in pre-production and rehearsals. The more issues you can encounter and solve before production, the better. This helps the mood on set, as the prep has been done. Of course, you also set the tone of production pretty early on. I got to know most of the cast and crew ahead of time and that made things more enjoyable. It's great to hear cast and crew say, "I had a great time on set, it was so much fun," but it's not the case for the producers or director. Yes, we are pretty pumped to be on set and making a movie but it really is up to us to get the shots needed or there's no film. (Pictured, above; from l-r, Wren Walker, Madison J. Loos, Momona Komagata, Kirsty Peters and Caz Odin Darko).

SCREEN-SPACE: And you pull a Hitchcock, rewarding yourself with a very funny cameo! Plan to spend more time in front of the camera?

Schelenz: (Laughs) I like the idea, (but I’m) not sure I have the acting chops to pull it off. I like to get myself, or my name in there somehow, just for shits and giggles. If you listen carefully, you'll hear my name being paged as Doctor Schelenz in the opening sequence. In Skew, my name actually appears on a newspaper as Officer Schelenz. My cameo in Peelers is actually part of a bigger story.  Everyone in the scene, minus the main actor, is the crew from the film, including the other three producers. It was a fun scene to film because I knew in editing I'd have a chance to get everyone into the movie.

Peelers will premiere April 9 at the Palm Beach International Film Festival, Florida; other territories to follow.

Monday
Mar212016

NEW WAVE OF HORROR HITS PALM BEACH FILM FEST

Under the stewardship of new CEO/President Jeff Davis, the 21st Palm Beach International Film Festival represents a defining period in the event’s history. The relatively young celebration of cinema seems poised to join the ranks of Cannes, Venice and Toronto, with whom it shares accreditation status. One key initiative in 2016 is an international strand of horror titles; ten films from seven countries that announce PBIFF as a major new platform for global genre works. Having settled into the 250-seat Palm Beach Theatre in Manalapan, Florida in 2015, patrons can expect to be thoroughly unsettled by Director of Programming Larry Richman’s impressive line-up of shockers. “The 21st PBIFF is all about fresh ideas and new directions,” says Richman, whose insight you’ll find below in our preview of the 2016 PBIFF Horror Film roster…

THE FOREST (Dir: Paul Spurrier / Thailand; 109 mins / Trailer / pictured, above): A new teacher (Asanee Suwan) establishes a bond with a mute student (Wannasa Wintawong) that leads to a terrifying, yet moving lesson in life. The first westerner to have directed a Thai-language film (P, 2005), Spurrier works elements of fantasy and the supernatural into his dark tale of redemption and revenge.

THE PERFECT HUSBAND (Dir: Lucas Pavetto / Italy; 85 mins / Trailer): Having wowed the genre festival circuit with his short film Il Marito Perfetto, Argentine-born/Italian-bred director Lucas Pavetto developed the concept into this feature-length work. A cabin-in-the-woods weekend for a young, struggling married couple (Gabriella Wright, pictured; Bret Roberts) turns particularly horrific.

THE PHOENIX INCIDENT (Dir: Keith Arem / USA; 84 mins): Combining a found-footage aesthetic, docu-drama elements and some good ol’ fashioned alien abduction lore, Keith Arem’s offers a visually arresting reimagining of certain ‘facts’ in relation to the March 13, 1997 mass UFO sighting in Phoenix. If you still have an ‘I Want to Believe’ poster in your man-cave, this is a must-see.

“I'm a huge genre fan. While I've been with the festival for several years, it was a change in management this year under new President and CEO Jeff Davis which allowed us to create a category for horror and a cash prize competition, to boot,” says Richmann, whose entertainment industry experience includes long stints in commercial radio, the tech sector and online journalism; he founded larry411.com and became a respected film festival regular as contributor for the highly-respected Indie Film Spotlight.

INTERIOR (Dir: Zachary Beckler / USA; 83 mins / Trailer / pictured, right): Carrying before it a wave of insider buzz, Zachary Beckler suburban ghost-story introduces a sly sense of humour and genuine chills to the ‘paranormal investigation’ genre. It also introduces a franchise-worthy entity in Emily, the spirited central spectre of the writer/director’s chiller.

BUBBA THE REDNECK WEREWOLF (Dir: Brendan Rogers / USA; 80  mins / Trailer): Brendan Rogers aims for instant cult status in his low-budget/low-IQ comedy/horror about a hillbilly lycanthrope and the townsfolk who bestow upon him (anti)hero status. Looks and feels a bit like the Troma classic, The Toxic Avenger (a good thing, right?)

MASKOUN (Dirs: Krystle Houiess, Sharif Abdunnur / UAE; 91 mins / Trailer): Combining both raw handheld footage with a richer, more complex film craft, the film industries of the Middle East offer a rare genre work in this chilling tale of paranormal incursion and past life manifestations from directors Krystle Houiess and Sharif Abdunnur. Advance word and plot details are shrouded in well-staged ambiguity, but anticipation is high.

“A lot of my inspiration comes from Colin Geddes, who programs the 10-film Midnight Madness section of the Toronto International Film Festival, and Tim League at Fantastic Fest in Austin, Texas, two festivals which led me to PBIFF,” acknowledges Richmann, who also acts as PBIFF’s Executive Vice President.

THE KEY (Dir: Gedeon Burkhard / Germany; 90 mins / Trailer): Mashing gangster thrills, rampaging undead and farmhouse horror tropes and staged at an insanely high pitch, German actor/director Gedeon Burkhard’s The Key is a frantic, fierce and funny splatter feature with a legitimate shot at ‘midnight movie’ cult status.

PEELERS (Dir: Sevé Schelenz / Canada; 95 mins / Trailer) WORLD PREMIERE: Having announced his fearless talent with 2011’s Skew, Sevé Schelenz doubles-down on the humour and gore in Peelers. The last night of trading at a remote strip joint goes bad when infected patrons start turning on each other. Lots of blood, lots of boobs, lots of fun.

LAND OF SMILES (Dir: Bradley Stryker / Canada; 95 mins / Trailer): Not all is as idyllic as it would appear in Bradley Stryker’s hell-in-paradise opus, Land of Smiles. In Thailand to repair a broken friendship, Abby (Alelexandra Turshen; pictured, right) becomes a pawn in a sociopath’s twisted cat-and-mouse game; if she refuses to follow the psycho’s instructions, footage of her friend being tortured will grow alarmingly worse. But is all as it really seems…?

THE HOUSE AT THE END OF TIME (Dir: Alejandro Hidalgo / Venezuela; 100 mins): Redemption and revenge for past sins are themes that feature in several of the horror works on offer. Venezuelan filmmaker Alejandro Hidalgo’s supremely stylish ghost story examines a crime of infanticide at the hands of a malevolent spirit and a wrongly imprisoned mother (a terrific Ruddy Rodríguez) determined to reveal the truth. Already a festival circuit favourite; earned Best Picture honours from Screamfest.

“We're not TIFF or Fantastic Fest but we can certainly aspire to have a killer horror program and these 10 films represent some of the best of what's being produced in 2016,” Richmann states.

The Palm Beach International Film Festival runs April 6-14. All ticketing and venue information can be found at the event’s official website

Tuesday
Jan262016

SLASH 'N' GRAB: IF HORROR FILMS WON OSCARS...

With the film world barking about lack of diversity come awards season, SCREEN-SPACE thought it was time redress another imbalance that has sullied AMPAS since the Academy Awards came into being. Horror films rarely get a look in; some breakout hits force their way into contention (The Exorcist; Jaws; The Sixth Sense), but the legacy of their B-movie origins and often challenging content usually relegates the blood-soaked monster/slasher/supernatural pics of international cinema to the critical fringe.

So below are a handful of horror cinema’s greatest artisans, dating back as far 1922, who should have been in the mix when Oscars trophies were bestowed*. With respect to The Academy voters, some included here were recognised (Ruth Gordon’s Supporting Actress win for Rosemary’s Baby), but most were glaring omissions. We can’t mention all deserved contenders (sorry devotees of the Friday the 13th franchise), so please join our celebration by weighing in with your favourite Oscar no-shows from the world of horror…

BEST ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE
WINNER: Piper Laurie in Carrie
Nominees: Vanessa Redgrave in The Devils; Lee Remick in The Omen; Eihi Shiina in Audition; Beatrice Dalle in Inside.
In contention: Veronica Cartwright in Invasion of The Body Snatchers (also The Witches of Eastwick, The Birds and Alien); Barbara Crampton in From Beyond (also Re-Animator); Heather Donahue in The Blair Witch Project; Natasha Henstridge in Species; Desiree Gould for Sleepaway Camp; Beatrice Manowski for Nekromantik; Samantha Eggar in The Brood; Ruth Gordon in Rosemary’s Baby.

BEST ACTRESS
WINNER: Jobeth Williams in Poltergeist
Nominees: Dee Wallace in Cujo (also The Howling); Sigourney Weaver in Alien; Deborah Kerr in The Innocents; Isabelle Adjani in Possession.
In contention: Mia Farrow in Rosemary’s Baby; Cecile de France in Haute Tension; Candace Hilligoss in Carnival of Souls; Nicole Kidman in The Others; Elsa Lanchester in The Bride of Frankenstein; Essie Davis in The Babadook; Sissy Spacek in Carrie; Jamie Lee Curtis in Halloween.

BEST ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE
WINNER: Robert Shaw in Jaws
Nominees: Robert Englund in A Nightmare on Elm Street; Doug Jones in Pan’s Labyrinth; Bela Lugosi in The Black Cat; Griffin Dunne in An American Werewolf in London.
In contention: Max Von Sydow in The Exorcist (also Hour of The Wolf); Gunnar Hansen in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre; Tom Towles in Henry: Portrait of A Serial Killer; Bill Paxton for Near Dark; Mantan Moreland in Lucky Ghost; Doug Bradley in Hellraiser; Keith David in The Thing (and They Live); Rutger Hauer in The Hitcher.

BEST ACTOR
WINNER: Jeff Goldblum in The Fly
Nominees: Duane Jones in Night of The Living Dead; Christopher Lee in Dracula; Bruce Campbell in Evil Dead 2; Anthony Perkins in Psycho.
In contention: Vincent Price in House of Wax (also Masque of The Red Death and Witchfinder General); Kevin McCarthy in Invasion of The Body Snatchers.; Jack Nance in Eraserhead; Joe Spinelli for Maniac!; Tony Todd in Candyman; Christopher Walken in The Dead Zone; Sam Neill in In The Mouth of Madness (also Possession and Event Horizon); Jeffery Coombs in Re-Animator.

BEST DIRECTOR
WINNER: Jacques Tourneur for Cat People (also The Leopard Man, I Walked With a Zombie and Night of The Demon)
Nominees: David Cronenberg for The Fly; Dario Argento for Suspiria; William Friedkin for The Exorcist; Michael Powell for Peeping Tom.
In contention: Joe Dante for The Howling; Wes Craven for A Nightmare on Elm Street (also Last House on The Left, Scream and The Hills Have Eyes); Pascal Laugier for Martyrs; Adrian Lyne for Jacob’s Ladder; Larry Cohen for God Told Me To; Guillermo Del Toro for Pan’s Labyrinth; David Robert Mitchell for It Follows; Ti West for House of The Devil (and The Innkeepers); Roman Polanski for The Tenant (and Rosemary’s Baby); Mario Bava for Kill, Baby…Kill!; Jonathon Glazer for Under The Skin; Hideo Nakata for The Ring (Ringu); Steven Spielberg for Jaws; James Whale for Frankenstein; Robert Wise for The Haunting.

BEST FILM
WINNER: Martyrs
Nominees: The Exorcist; Dead of Night (1945); Poltergeist; Let The Right One In
In contention: Psycho; A Nightmare on Elm Street; Haxan: Witchcraft Through the Ages; Nosferatu – eine Symphonie des Grauens; The Shining; The Texas Chainsaw Massacre; Eyes Without a Face; Jaws; The Fly; Dawn of the Dead; Santa Sangre; The Thing; Alien; Kwaidan; King Kong. 

*The first Oscars ceremony was held in 1929, so some films were not eligible for nomination and have been included out of respect to their status.