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Entries in Cult Cinema (5)

Friday
Apr052019

ROTTENTAIL: THE BRIAN SKIBA INTERVIEW

Even with a filmography that includes gorehound favourites like Blood Moon Rising (2009), Slaughter Creek (2011) and .357 (2013), Brian Skiba must have been in the most adventurous of creative moods when he decided to sign on for Rottentail, the blood-soaked and bawdy big-screen adaptation of author and friend David Hayes underground graphic novel classic. “The concept of a bunny man going home to seek revenge on high school bullies is just so out there, I knew that I wanted to be the guy to helm such a project,” Skiba says, securing a cast that includes Dominique Swain, William McNamara and an up-for-anything Corin Nemec in the title role (pictured, below; Skiba, left, and his leading man). “It’s okay to laugh, I promise,” the director told SCREEN-SPACE in a lengthy interview ahead of Rottentail's assault on select U.S. theatres from April 12. 


SCREEN-SPACE: When did you first attach yourself to the adaptation? What was it about the creative minds behind the novel that you gravitated towards?

SKIBA: The writer David Hayes, who is a long-time friend, introduced me to Travis McIntire of Source Point Press and together the three of us developed of the film.  I’d read the graphic novel and thought it was very funny with roots that dug into something much deeper. Rottentail is the typical David Hayes screwball humour with a twist of demented horror and a splash of social commentary. David was a huge contributor on my first feature, Blood Moon Rising. I can attribute a lot of my success directly to him and will always be grateful for his help and direction in my career.

SCREEN-SPACE: You mash-up some classic sub-genres - body-horror in the first act; the vengeful anti-hero in the second half. And there are classic ‘romantic literature’ archetypes at work, recalling Beauty and The Beast or The Hunchback of Notre Dame. Rottentail has legitimate roots in the great monsters of lore…

SKIBA: (Laughs) Thank you and yes, David and I are both English majors who love to mash genres. When we wrote the adaptation we were very focused on making Rottentail an anti-hero-monster who harkens back to the classic monsters mentioned above.  We wanted the audience to cheer for Rottentail.  With regards to him being “The Beast”, I think that’s a great example of how we wrote the relationship between Rottentail and Anna.  Spoiler alert… I love tragic endings.  

SCREEN-SPACE: Rottentail recalls the unleashed id of iconic characters like The Toxic Avenger and Brundlefly. What were the films and filmmakers that influenced you and your directing style?

SKIBA: I was that kid who would stay up all night watching every ‘B’ movie deemed “bad” by my parents that hit the antenna of my tiny 8” dial colour TV.  Kids these days have it so easy; if they knew the positions I would lay in while holding that antenna, just so I could get reception. (Laughs) And then rental stores became a thing and that was a whole new addiction. Films like Bloody Mama, Children of the Corn, Rolling Thunder, Ice Pirates, Cold Sweat, Enter the Dragon, and Swamp Thing; directors like Sam Raimi, De Palma, Craven, Carpenter, Bruce Lee and the comedy of Mel Brooks, Monty Python, and Cheech and Chong. I remember the first time I watched John Waters’ Pink Flamingo and I was like, ‘Holy shit, that is a work of art.’  I love really big characters that have deranged motives for almost no reason, so Rottentail made sense to me.

SCREEN-SPACE: The aesthetic screams ‘80s VHS horror. There is an authentic ‘griminess’ about the design and look of this film…

SKIBA: I chose a hybrid of old VHS and that ‘dirty film’ look, to homage those old VHS tapes.  There is something to be said about some 16mm grain, dirty pixels, a six-foot bunny-man, an evil preacher, and fifty gallons of blood.  To me, that’s a film.  Furthermore, you can’t just get the ‘grindhouse look’ out of a camera these days, you have to artistically create it, or re-create, and to me that process has become an art that I enjoy.  Rottentail is a grindhouse homage to the films I loved to watch as a pre-teen during the ‘80s. (Pictured, right; Skiba with friend)

SCREEN-SPACE: Given that he’s also an ugly manifestation of angry masculinity, what elements make Rottentail a character for these times?

SKIBA: You have to look at the entire Rottentail story to understand why we designed his look like we did.  In our current day of instant gratification, we’ve also entered the age of instant demoralization.  It’s so easy to feel like a complete piece of shit after spending five minutes on social media.  There is always someone richer, stronger, faster, sexier, better than you. Bullies can create a fake identity, go to someone’s profile, and virtually beat him or her up with little or no consequence. ‘Peter Cotten’ is the embodiment of a geek who has been abused all his life. As Rottentail, Peter gets everything he’s ever wanted, and then realizes that all he ever needed was revenge on the bullies who killed his pet rabbit and to get with his high school crush, Anna. The message that makes Rottentail a character for these times is: Attention bullies of the world!  If you kill someone’s pet rabbit (or post shitty stuff on Instagram or Facebook) watch out! You never know what mutated son of a bitch will pop out and pay what’s due.

SCREEN-SPACE: What was the pitch to Corin Nemec that got him on board? What did he bring to ‘Rottentail’ that was so crucial to the character?

SKIBA: When we started casting Rottentail I went through a couple hundred actors but didn’t feel any of them were the right fit.  I asked (casting director) Ricki Masler to call Corin Nemec, who is a great character actor and just maybe would do this part for me.  A few hours later I was on the phone with Corin, who is a prolific painter and collects graphic novels.  He read Rottentail long before our conversation and when I mentioned the title, and the fact he would play Rottentail, Corin was in. He studied the movements of rabbits, how they ate, even how they copulated.  We had his fake teeth made months before we shot the film and he would call me with different voices while wearing the teeth around his house. When he walked onto set after two-hours in the make-up chair, I knew he was Rottentail.  He embodied the role and gave us little gems that still make me laugh, even after seeing the film a couple hundred times. (Pictured, above; Nemec as 'Peter Cotten')

SCREEN-SPACE: What essential quality did real-world/non-CGI gore and prosthetic artistry bring to your film?   

SKIBA: If I can do it practically, I will.  I would study book after book as a kid on how to build creatures and models for film. The process fascinated me.  When you apply prosthetics to an actor there is a soul under all that foam and latex that gives the character life.  This is something that CGI can’t emulate.  When David and Travis came to me and asked that I direct the film, I told them my one term was that Rottentail had to look amazing no matter the cost. I reached out to producer Josh Tessier and he called Todd Tucker, known for Mrs. Doubtfire and Pirates of the Caribbean. Todd doesn’t do every film that drops on his front door step, but after I pitched him my vision for Rottentail, he was in.  His company provided our makeup effects, puppetry and special effects. I was very lucky to have such a great artist working with us.

SCREEN-SPACE: The thrill of seeing a man-rabbit on a killing spree aside, what do you hope your audience takes from the film?

SKIBA: I want them to laugh! This film has dumb moments, cheap moments, trashy moments, and just plain outrageously wrong moments.  Laugh at it!  Take ninety minutes of your life, let go of being politically correct, let the air out of the stuffy room! Forget the day to day grind that makes you an adult and re-live a simpler time, when we were all young and movies came in a little black box with reel-to-reel magnetic tape that sometimes made more noise than the single TV speaker.  Because, even without the high-end, million-dollar visual effects, those movies were pretty damn good and really fun to watch.

Friday
Apr062018

NEKROMANCER TEASES THRILLS AND GIGGLES IN FX-HEAVY FIRST PICS

“It’s like an Aussie Ghostbusters on acid,” boasted director Kiah Roache-Turner to his Facebook followers after the recent release of four images from his highly-anticipated film, Nekromancer. Co-written with brother Tristan, the sophomore effort is their follow-up to the low-budget/high-energy zombie splatter epic Wyrmwood: Road of The Dead (2014), which earned critical kudos and a global cult following.

During it’s late 2017 pre-production period, the brother’s sci-fi/horror/comedy mash-up had the international horror community buzzing when it was announced Italian actress Monica Bellucci (L’appartement, 1996; Malèna, 2000;  Irréversible, 2002; The Passion of the Christ, 2004) would headline the Australian production, opposite local talent Ben O’Toole (Hacksaw Ridge, 2016) and Tess Haubrich (Alien: Covenant, 2017). (Pictured, below; Bellucci, as 'Finnegan', in conflict with 'Luther', played by David Wenham)

Although the shoot and plot details have been kept under wraps, a synopsis accompanies Screen NSW’s funding approval page: “Howard North, electronics genius, is dragged into a conflict between The Tribe - a family of powerful demon hunters, and Asgaroth - an evil demon possessing the world’s internet, assisted by his devil-worshipping corporate acolytes. Molly, a Tribeswoman and warrior, is desperate to destroy the demon and is sure that Howard has the right stuff to become a true hero. They must learn to work together to exorcise the fiend from the web and blow him back to Hell.” (Pictured, below; co-stars, l-r, Bob Savea as 'Rangi', and Ben O'Toole as 'Howard')

The production shot at Sydney’s largest soundstage facility, Fox Studios, located in the inner city suburb of Moore Park, as well as at various locations around the Harbour city. The local sector was rife with genre film production at the time of Nekromancer’s principal photography; director Abe Forsythe’s zom-rom-com Little Monsters, which imported international names Lupita Nyong’o (Black Panther, 2018) and Josh Gad (Beauty and The Beast, 2017) to star opposite local talent, was also shooting at several Sydney locales. (Pictured, below; hero 'Howard' with, l-r, nekromancers 'Torquel', played by Tess Haubrich, and 'Molly', played by Caroline Ford)

DOP duties fell to the brother’s Wyrmwood lensman, Tim Nagle. Other key production duties were filled by top tier talent from the local sector, including line producer Sam Thompson; production designer Nicholas Dare (Down Under, 2016); composer Michael Lira (The Hunter, 2011); costume designer Xanthe Huebel (The Loved Ones, 2009; Ruben Guthrie, 2015); veteran casting director Nicki Barrett (Somersault, 2004; Australia, 2008; Mad Max Fury Road, 2015); concept artist Dane Hallett (Jupiter Ascending, 2015; Aquaman, 2018); and, 2nd unit director James Chappell (director of the acclaimed short, Proceeds of Crime, 2017).

Nekromancer is a co-production between Hopscotch Features and the Roache-Turner’s Guerilla Films outfit; financing was sourced via Entertainment One (eOne), Screen Australia and Create NSW; eOne will partner with Sierra/Affinity for the international sales market.

Friday
Nov172017

PREVIEW: MONSTER FEST 2017

The nation’s slickest and sickest celebration of visceral cinema kicks off on November 23, when the 7th annual Monster Fest launches its 4-day 2017 line-up at Melbourne's iconic Lido Cinema. Feature film programmers Grant Hardie and Neil Foley know that the loyal patrons who have helped establish the festival’s reputation as Australia’s premiere genre film event expect to be challenged; this year, offerings include a killer pig, a demonic unicorn, a haunted 80’s arcade game and a newborn harbinger of the Apocalypse.

The Opening Night audience can expect to be rattled by Chris Sun’s Boar (pictured, below), a blood-soaked reworking of the ‘killer feral pig’ myth made famous by Russell Mulcahy’s 1984 cult hit, Razorback. Starring a who’s-who of Aussie genre greats (John Jarratt, Chris Haywood, Steve Bisley, Roger Ward, Ernie Dingo) alongside US horror icon Bill Moseley (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2; House of 1000 Corpses), the Queensland-based director’s fourth feature so impressed Universal Pictures local office that they picked up the project for an Australian theatrical season. Sun, producers Kris Maric and Christine Hulsby and key cast will front a post-screening Q&A.

True to its commitment to nurture Australian talent, Monster Fest 2017 will feature the World Premiere screening of five local films. Leigh Ormsby’s The Last Hope depicts a civilisation ravaged by a virus outbreak that mutates carriers into cannibalistic monsters; Tarnation, the latest tongue-in-cheek splatterfest from Murderdrome director Daniel Armstrong; Lost Gully Road, a moody haunted house story from Donna Mcrae; Travis Bain’s home invasion thriller, Landfall; and, from the directorial duo of Addison Heath and Jasmine Jakupi, the revenge-themed carnage of The Viper’s Hex.

Drawing from the organiser’s global festival and marketplace profile, six international productions will have their Australian premieres at The Lido. They are Can Evrenol’s brutal apocalyptic thriller Housewife, the Turkish filmmaker’s highly anticipated second feature after his 2015 shocker, Baskin; the German/Austrian co-production Cold Hell, from Stefan Ruzowitzky; Lowell Dean’s absurdist horror-comedy sequel, Another Wolfcop; Canadian Adam McDonald’s woodlands-set black magic thriller, Pyewacket; and, Purgatory Road, a rare foray into the international indie sector for local underground filmmaking hero, Mark Savage. Other countries represented at the event include Estonia (Rainer Sarnet’s November); Spain (Haritz Zubillaga’s The Glass Coffin); and, The USA (Graham Skipper’s Sequence Break).

Closing Night honours go to French director Coralie Fargeat’s brutal rape-retribution drama Revenge (pictured, top), a remarkable debut work that Variety called, “an exceptionally potent and sure-handed first feature… primed to rouse the self-selected few with the stomachs to handle it.” Last year, Monster Fest launched into the Australian marketplace the last great French horror film from a woman director, Julia Ducornau’s Raw. The teen-cannibal hit took the 2016 festival’s top competitive honour before endearing itself to a huge local fan base.

Shaping as arguably the highlight of Monster Fest 2017 will be the screening of King Cohen, director Steve Mitchell’s heartfelt tribute to guerrilla filmmaking great Larry Cohen (pictured, above right). Following the 11.00pm session, five of the legendary auteur’s works will screen in a midnight-to-dawn marathon. Monster Fest is keeping the titles in the all-night session a closely guarded secret, but fans are crossing fingers that ‘Cohen classics’ such as Black Caesar, Q The Winged Serpent and the rarely-seen God Told Me To feature in this exclusive festival event.

MONSTER FEST runs November 23-27 in Melbourne, with other states to follow. Full ticket and session details can be found at the event website.

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
Aug312014

MIDNIGHT MADNESS SHINES LIGHT ON HORROR'S BEST AND BRIGHTEST

When programmer Noah Cowan launched the Midnight Madness sessions in 1988, he included two sequels (Penelope Spheeris’ The Decline of Western Civilization Part II; The Metal Years; Tony Randel’s Hellbound: Hellraiser II), the latest from a grindhouse god (Frank Henenlotter’s Brain Damage) and an ‘apocalyptic rave’ short from the Antipodes (Aussie Ray Boseley’s Smoke ‘Em If You Got ‘Em). The Toronto Film Festival’s genre sidebar can launch careers; names to emerge include Peter Jackson (Meet the Feebles in ’90; Braindead in ‘92), Trey Parker (Orgazmo in ’97), Christophe Gans (Crying Freeman in ’95; Brotherhood of the Wolf in 2001) and Pascal Laugier (Martyrs in ‘08).

Now under the masterful genre eye of Colin Geddes, this year’s line-up welcomes two films that have played to Oz festival crowds - Mark Hartley’s Cannon Films tribute, Electric Boogaloo (his second Madness slot, after 2008’s Not Quite Hollywood) and Taiki Waititi’s vampire comedy What We Do In The Shadows (pictured, above). So what else can audiences in the mood for edgier fare expect from Toronto’s dark heart in 2014…?

BIG GAME (Dir: Jalmari Helander; Finland/Germany/United Kingdom)
Helander’s high-concept/high altitude lark finds Samuel L Jackson (pictured, left) back in a muthaf---in’ plane…well, for a little while, anyway. Terrorists blast Air Force One out of the sky (too soon?) and Jackson’s POTUS finds himself in the rugged Finnish countryside, guarded from further harm by a 13 year-old with a bow and arrow and wilderness savvy beyond his years.
What to expect…: Jackson in an hilariously self-deprecating turn and on-screen chemistry with Finnish acting find Onni Tommila that most Hollywood films only dream of. Helander directed the 2010 cult hit Rare Exports; industry word is his follow-up is even better.

CUB (Dir: Jonas Govaerts; Belgium)
‘Lord of the Flies-meets-Wolf Creek’ is the buzz about Jonas Govaerts’ Cub, a woodlands-set adventure-horror mash-up that pits a group of cub scouts on a camp-out against a psychopath and his band of feral minions.
What to expect…: Govaerts’ debut carries with it high expectations, not generally prescribed first-timers. He is a Grand Prize winner at the revered fantasy/horror event, Sitges, for his 2008 short Of Cats & Women. The trailer promises some hard-core kids-in-peril jolts; Belgian horror is defined by stark, confronting, original ideas and stylish execution (La Muete, 2010; Ex Drummer, 2007; Daughters of Darkness, 1971).

THE EDITOR (Dirs: Matthew Kennedy, Adam Brooks; Canada; pictured, below)
A must-see if the films of Fulci, Argento and Bava litter your DVD collection. Local lads Kennedy and Brooks pay homage to/take the piss out of recognisable tropes from 70’s Italian horror, most notably the garish, gruesome subgenre known as giallo. A film editor becomes the suspect in a series of psycho-sexualised murders when actors from the film he is editing state dying, usually horrifically and elaborately. 
What to expect…: From the Astron 6 team, the decidedly off-centre collective who rattled cages with their no-budget shockers Manborg and Father’s Day. Expect grotesque imagery, sly subversion and blood…lots and lots of blood.

THE GUEST (Dir: Adam Wingard, Simon Barrett; USA)
A family’s grief at losing a son during the Afghanistan conflict allows for a sweet-talking stranger claiming to be a fellow vet to infiltrate their home. The latest from MIFF alumni Wingard and Barrett, northern faves since their 2010 mumblecore thriller A Horrible Way to Die.
What to expect…: Hard-edged paranoia; cold-hearted exploitation of the bereaved; a ballsy heroine a’la Sharni Vinson’s Erin in Wingard’s TIFF 2011 hit, You’re Next. Downton Abbey fans might be divided over the lengths their villainous heart-throb Dan Stevens will go to be bad. Co-lead Maika Monroe is the belle of the 2014 midnight ball, also starring in….

 

IT FOLLOWS (Dir: David Robert Mitchell; USA)
Not the first film to explore a teenager’s blossoming sexuality as the source of all evil, David Robert Mitchell’s It Follows is nevertheless one of the most inventively knowing variations on ‘first love as horror’ in recent memory. Maika Monroe (pictured, right) is 19 year-old Jay, whose backseat deflowering plunges her into a shadowy suburban landscape haunted by a demonic phantom that edges closer to her until ‘the curse’ is passed to another.
What to expect…: Mitchell knows teen angst, judging by his great debut feature The Myth of The American Sleepover. And he clearly knows horror, with this sophomore effort referencing The Shining, Halloween (particularly Rich Vreeland’s synth-heavy score) and Profondo Rosso, to name a few. Most likely Mitchell’s last low-profile indie before Hollywood snares his talent.

TOKYO TRIBE (Dir: Sion Sono; Japan)
Santa Inoue’s cult manga property about gang violence in Japan’s capital is afforded the ultra-stylised aesthetic of the fearless Sion Sono. Three members of the Musashino Saru are slaughtered by Mera (Ryohei Suzuki), leader of the Bukuro Wu-Ronz, when they inadvertently stray into off-limit territory. Seeking vengeance, Saru member Kai Deguchi (Young Dais) faces off with old friend Mera, and a bloody war escalates.
What to expect…: After the ‘WTF-just-happened??’ insanity of Midnight Madness 2013 audience fave Why Don’t You Play in Hell?, Sono reteams with producer Yoshinori Chiba, who guided the brilliant but erratic director through two of his best films, Cold Fish and Guilty of Romance. If the film is anything like the insane poster, which is already a collector’s must-own, expect a wild ride.  

TUSK (Dir: Kevin Smith; USA)
Smith takes on the body horror genre with this macabre, blackly-funny adaptation of his own podcast piece, ‘The Carpenter and The Walrus’. Justin Long (pictured, right) heads deep into the Canadian hinterland to search for a missing friend, only to find a salty ol’ seadog (Michael Parks) with a penchant for human-to-seal home surgery.
What to expect…: Smith turned the first draft script around in 20 days. An avowed fan of the Great White North (he honed his craft at the Vancouver Film School), Smith will bring a rich Canuck sensibility. And he is working again with his Red State star, the incomparable Michael Parks. As he told The Hollywood Reporter, “One of the world's greatest actors bringing to life some of the most f---ed up dialogue I've ever written.”

[REC] 4 APOCALYPSE (Dir: Jaume Balaguero; Spain)
Having kicked off Spain’s most successful horror franchise (US$53million across the trilogy to date), Jaume Balaguero returns to wrap things up in this fourth instalment. Manuela Velasco is also back as Angela Vidal, the intrepid reporter who survived the horrors of the first film; the ‘authorities’ have quarantined her on a specially equipped ship, miles off the coast. But the virus that drives the infected into a murderous rage has found its way on board, too…
What to expect…: An overwhelming sense of claustrophobic horror. The [REC] series has excelled at tight-space terror; the steely corridors of an oil tanker guarantee lots of shock and awe moments.

Full details and ticketing options for Midnight Madness and all the Toronto Film Festival sessions can be found the event's website here.