FlixChatter Review – Happy Death Day (2017)

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Directed By: Christopher Landon
Written By: Scott Lobdell
Cast: Jessica Rothe, Israel Broussard, Ruby Modine
Runtime: 1h 36min

After lucking out with the last two horror movies I’ve reviewed (Annabelle: Creation and IT) being fantastic, I figured I was due for a disappointing one, and Happy Death Day looked like it would fit the bill. The title sounds like a D-list 90’s horror movie you’d find on Amazon Prime, and the synopsis is basically teen horror Groundhog Day. My hopes for this film were not high.

In Happy Death Day, sorority girl Tree Gelbman (Jessica Rothe) re-lives the same day over and over, from waking up in fellow student Carter Davis (Israel Broussard)’s dorm room after a drunken night, to butting heads with frenemy Danielle (Rachel Matthews) and roommate Lori (Ruby Modine), to being murdered by a mysterious masked figure every night. Tree uses each repeat trying to discover the identity of her killer and survive their attack, hopefully escaping the loop.

Despite the trailers advertising this movie as straight horror, it’s actually more of a dark comedy. This made it more enjoyable, as it wasn’t just another teen slasher film. There’s a decent amount of physical comedy, and there’s some genuinely funny dialogue, especially from mean girl sorority president Danielle. While it’s not a typical horror movie, it has some good suspenseful moments and tense build-ups. Tree’s character arc is surprisingly well-done, incorporating her background into the story without the exposition being too clunky.

All of this isn’t enough to make this a great movie, however. The concept obviously isn’t original, and the one throwaway comment about its similarity to cult classic Groundhog Day they tack on at the very end doesn’t change the fact that the storyline is unoriginal and will be compared to the 90’s movie by most people who see it. While the identity of the murderer isn’t predictable, the reveal is forced and their reason for their actions is the product of clearly lazy writing. Lastly, the mask the killer wears throughout the movie is pretty ridiculous even by cheesy slasher movie standards. While I assume the oversized baby face mask is meant to be creepy and unsettling, it just looks goofy, and I cracked up every time I saw it on screen.

Despite its problems, Happy Death Day is a surprisingly fun movie, although if you’re looking for a more typical horror movie, you might want to skip it. If you catch it on TV or streaming, though, it’s worth a watch.

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Have you seen ‘Happy Death Day’? Well, what did you think? 

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FlixChatter Review – Annabelle: Creation (2017)

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Directed By: David F. Sandberg
Written By: Gary Dauberman
Runtime: 1 hr 49 minutes

I’ve never understood why people find dolls in horror movies scary. They can’t bend their limbs, they’re usually made of porcelain or plastic or something else not very durable, and they’re usually not any taller than your knee. You can just drop-kick the thing away from you. As someone who is thoroughly unimpressed by possessed dolls and hasn’t seen any of the other Conjuring series movies (I KNOW, I’m a bad horror fan; I promise they’re on my list), I didn’t expect this movie to be that scary. I was wrong.

In Annabelle: Creation, a group of orphans (Lulu Wilson as Linda, Talitha Bateman as Janice, Grace Fulton as Carol, Philippa Coulthard as Nancy, Lou Lou Safran as Tierney, and Tayler Buck as Kate) and the nun in charge of them, Sister Charlotte (Stephanie Sigman) move into the house of Esther and Samuel Mullins (Miranda Otto and Anthony LaPaglia), who have opened their home to the girls after losing their own young daughter, Bee (Samara Lee), twelve years earlier. After Janice finds a mysterious doll hidden away in Bee’s old bedroom one night, things quickly take a turn for the horrifying.

What makes the Annabelle doll work in this movie is that it’s not overused to the point of being silly. It’s prominent, obviously, but it’s mostly shown in shadowy angles and blurry shots that make its presence even scarier. As Father Massey (Mark Bramhall) explains, the doll is a conduit- a tool for the demon to use to gain footing in the world of the living. As creepy a the doll is, the demon itself is even more frightening. The special effects in this movie are excellent. The few glimpses we get of the demon’s true form-specifically, the way it morphs and moves-are truly unsettling, and there’s one moment we see it in Bee’s old bedroom that left me really shaken. All of this, combined with superb pacing, keeps the suspense high throughout the whole movie.

That said, this movie isn’t flawless. Much of the dialogue between best friends Linda and Janice is so unrealistically cheesy it would make Little Orphan Annie cringe. It’s not the actresses’ faults-we already know Lulu Wilson has serious horror acting chops after last year’s Ouija: Origin of Evil, and all of her and Talitha Bateman’s non-verbal acting is great. It’s either a writing problem or a directing problem. On the subject of writing, Mrs. Mullin’s explanation for the supernatural ocurrences toward the end of the film is both heavy-handed and vague; if there had been a little more foreshadowing earlier in the movie, I might have been able to accept it more easily, but for a movie whose title implies we would be learning where the evil entity tied to the Annabelle doll comes from, it could have been more fleshed-out.

Overall, though, this is a fantastic, genuinely scary horror movie. I would definitely watch it again, and now I want to marathon the other movies in the series as soon as possible. If you like horror, you should absolutely check this out.

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Have you seen ‘Anabelle: Creation’? Well, what did you think? 

Guest Review: RINGS (2017)

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Directed By: F. Javier Gutiérrez
Written By: David Loucka, Jacob Estes and Akiva Goldsman
Runtime: 1 hr 45 minutes

I get scared pretty easily. Because of this, a lot of people are surprised when I tell them how much I love horror, but I think that’s why I love it: it doesn’t take much to scare me, no matter how cheesy the movie, so it’s easy for me to become engrossed in it. One memorable exception to this is 2002’s The Ring. I saw it for the first time in middle school and was severely underwhelmed. Maybe it was because I had waited until it was on DVD to watch it, and all of my friends who had seen it in theaters months before had overhyped it. Maybe watching it in the safety of my brightly-lit living room took away from the terrifying atmosphere that would have been created in a big, dark auditorium. Maybe it’s just a non-scary, overrated horror movie. Either way, because I was so unimpressed by the original, I didn’t expect much from a sequel released fifteen years later.

Rings follows Julia (Matilda Lutz) as she tracks down her boyfriend Holt (Alex Roe) at his college after he stops responding to her calls. She discovers he has been participating in an experiment run by his professor, Gabriel (Johnny Galecki), involving a mysterious video that causes its viewer to be killed by the ghost of a young girl named Samara after seven days. The only way to prevent this fate is to have someone else watch the video before the seven days are up. In an effort to break the chain, Julia and Holt embark on a journey into Samara’s dark, tragic past.

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Making a sequel to a movie that centers around an outdated piece of technology already sets Rings up for failure. The idea of a haunted VHS tape being scary in 2017 is pretty ridiculous- hell, even a haunted DVD or Blu-Ray would feel outdated, considering how many people stream video now. Granted, Gabriel adapts the VHS to a computer file for his research, but the idea that this VHS would have still been floating around after fifteen years instead of collecting dust somewhere is far-fetched even for a horror movie. Even if they had updated the story by putting the video online, my suspension of disbelief wouldn’t stretch so far that I would accept that something like that wouldn’t go viral, leading to a ridiculous amount of widely publicized mysterious deaths.

In addition to the problems with the video logistics, the plot in general feels kind of lazy. At first, it seems like it’s going to be a more scientific, analytical look at how this deadly video chain letter works, but that storyline is soon abandoned when Julia and Holt visit the town where Samara was buried in order to discover the significance of that location. The former could have been really interesting if it had been the focus of the film, but instead we end up with more of the same: exploring creepy old places full of the same creepy imagery. I can’t even really say if the acting was good, because the cast didn’t have much to work with.

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Even if you can overlook the problems with the plot, there is little visually impressive about this movie. Samara’s first appearance is completely CGI’d, which looks surprisingly bad for 2017 animation. The same reveal could have easily been done through practical effects, which would have been much creepier and less jarring than CGI. Most of the movie has the same overused blue tinge seen in countless horror movies, making it feel even more unoriginal. Many of the images used in the movie are directly recycled from the first film. There was one scene I really liked at the beginning of the movie, a wide shot where Gabriel is facing wall-to-wall/floor-to-ceiling windows, looking out at a storm, and the view outside the window briefly flickers to a scene from the video. It was beautifully shot and wonderfully creepy, and there were a couple other short scenes involving Julia being trapped in small, dark spaces that were genuinely suspenseful, but one good shot and a couple decent scenes aren’t enough to save the movie.

I don’t even know why this got a theatrical release. The entire feel of this movie is “direct to streaming/digital download.” If you’re easily scared and very bored, maybe check this out once it’s on Netflix or Amazon Prime. Otherwise, don’t waste your time or money.

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Have you seen ‘RINGS’? Well, what did you think? 

TCFF 2016 Indie Horror Spotlight: Lake Runs Red – interview w/ director Jason Riesgraf + producer Jeff Fuller

Those who read my blog regularly knows I have such feeble nerves that I can’t handle most horror movies. But I’m always up for supporting indie films, especially Minnesota-made films! So when I got the chance to interview the filmmakers behind Lake Runs Red, I jumped at it. It’s a home-invasion horror + psychological thriller produced & filmed in the state, specifically in Atkins, which is about 2 hours north of the Twin Cities.

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Two college girlfriends go to their parent’s secluded northern Minnesota lake cabin to prepare for final exams. An uninvited visitor stops by. He isn’t there to study.

Director: Jason Riesgraf
Writers: J. Dan Moores and Jason Riesgraf
Cast:
 Kaci Wegleitner, Lauren Morris, C.J. DeVaan
Runtime: 66 min

Check out the trailer:


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Q: First of all thank you Jason and Jeff Fuller for chatting with me about your film. Talk about that title. I love that it has the word ‘lake’ in the title, the fact that we’re in the land of 10000 Lakes. So how did you come up with that?

Jason:  Yeah it was a very difficult process to come up with it. When I started writing it was actually called Panic, and that was kind of the title. And then that ended up sticking for a while. And then we did we kind of did with Jeff, our marketing director. We kind of did some you know some Google searches and realized that that wouldn’t be the best way to hit a target audience. So we kind of we kind of left it at that for a little bit and as we left it, we spent a while coming up with what would signify this film…  you know, lake is an obvious choice. You know in Northern Minnesota, everybody knows that… and then you know it’s because it’s a horror movie, we kind of played some with some words and then we came up with Lake Runs Red.

Jeff: Yes, in fact I spent about nine hours researching and coming up with those titles. We have this gigantic list, but yeah, this one works well in our favor. We love it.

Pictured: Lauren Morris | Photo Credit: Mike Ascher
Pictured: Lauren Morris | Photo Credit: Mike Ascher

Q: Indeed it’s a great title, I love it too. So what inspired you to this story?

Jason: The biggest inspiration, I mean the [sub] genre of the film is actually home invasion, and home invasion to me is my biggest fear. Home is where he feels safe home is where you feel comfort, and when somebody invades that it’s not a fun feeling. And so I kind of played out my own fears and wrote it you know, from my perspective of what a home invasion would feel like. And coincidentally enough we actually, my wife and I had our house broken into while we were filming. So it kind of you know, I actually lived that what that fear is. And I’m hoping that that’s what the audience sees when they see it in the picture.

Q: Is this from the perspective of the invader or the invadee, if there’s such a word, I mean the people who were invaded?

Jason: Well, it’s not really from anybody’s perspective. It follows two college seniors and what happens after these traumatic events happen to them at the cabin.

Jeff: But the invader is one of the main characters.

Jason: So yeah, we have one main villain and then we have two college seniors.


Q: The reason I’m asking is the recent box office home-invasion horror/thriller Don’t Breathe starring Stephen Lang was from the perspective of the invaders. 

Jason: Yes I saw and it was worked very well. So yeah you can kind of use that spin on it if you want to. Except that this is in a cabin, so ours is a lot more secluded.

Q: Which in a way is scarier I think. I was just telling someone earlier, I’m actually not a big horror fan. I don’t have nerves of steel like most people, I get scared very easily. I also get really a headache if I watch those found-footage type movies. So what’s the filming style of this one?

Jason: We had very minimal very minimal tripod, we only used tripod where it was appropriate. We we don’t have the found-footage, shaky cam, we do run on a steady cam. So the steady cam we use was weighted, but it still showed kind of traumatic camera shots.

Q: So you wouldn’t categorize this film as a found-footage film then? 

Jason: No, no, I won’t categorize it as that at all. It’s not like Blair With where the shots are very shaky. You know my plan going into this is I don’t want to make people sick by the camera. It can take too much focus out of the story. You have to be wired for that kind of stuff.

Pictured: Kaci Wegleitner | Photo Credit: Mike Ascher
Pictured: Kaci Wegleitner | Photo Credit: Mike Ascher

Q: Ok, make sense. Now my question for you Jeff. You wore multiple hats here, you were the producer, art director, camera department and editor. What’s that experience for you?

Jeff: It’s been an amazing experience. You know I’m so glad to do this with one of my best friends Jason. And he was nice enough to bring me on this film. It’s a funny story, like when we started this it was like ‘Oh, so we’re really doing this! Let’s go for it!’ I think it’s probably the best experience to wear these different hats, from editor to producer to all that, you get such a ingratiated role into the whole process. It’s just been absolutely tremendous.

Q: Now, question for both of you. What’s your most memorable experience from making this, whether good or bad moments from filming?

Jason: Well, probably the most memorable is when we were actually at a production meeting and my house was burglarized. I mean that’s life imitating art you know. That was probably the most traumatic for me, and most unique experience that we had while filming.

Jeff: Oh, relive that experience when you drive home from the shoot one night and you got stopped…

Jason: That’s a great one too yeah. We actually we’re wrapping up from a quick little couple pickup shots up in Northern Minnesota. Getting up there you actually take a lot of very secluded roads, which if anyone knows northward it’s always the case. You know you take a left here and you go out the gravel road for 14 miles and that’s kind of it. And it turns out for some reason that night, it was I think it was maybe mid August, beginning August. My alternator went on my car and I was stranded on a the world’s most disgusting road, literally next to a barn for three hours waiting for a tow truck. I’m by myself and I had no cell service to look anything up. So all I had was my dying battery because I had no battery left in my car enough to call my wife and tell her you’ve got to give me a tow truck and I’m in the middle of nowhere and trying to explain to them where I am. I mean if it’s going to happen to anyone, it’s going to happen to me.

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Q: Oh my, well I’m glad to see you are okay! Now, last question… I was on your Twitter and you have a huge following on social media (12.3K followers). Is that a big part of your marketing and how did you build that huge following prior to the film opening?

Jason: I knew more about the physical parts of making a film. Marketing I didn’t know much about it. When I talked to Jeff about how we’re going to market this film, it’s like I don’t know. Then he said, I tell you what, I’ll take care of your marketing for you. I think within a year we were already have like 6 or 7000 followers. And I don’t know how he did it or what he does, but he handles most of that. I don’t watch him do it because that’s not really my thing.

Q: I feel like Twitter is sort of the water cooler, the internet water cooler, so it’s good to have that presence for your film. 

Jason: I’d say Twitter is our biggest success, by far.

Jeff: Yeah, I would say that social media has been the cornerstone of our marketing right there. It’s kind of the greatest equalizer on the Internet which Twitter was smarter our number one just because you can have conversations with the fans directly. Correct. We’ve had so many friends and some of the particular fans who still to this day constantly ask us hey how’s the movie going and stuff.

Jason: We’ve been on YouTube channels doing interviews me and some of the cast and crew, my co-writer and some of the cast and crew we’ve been on. We were featured on some humongous horror websites, Modern Horror, Movie Pilot, etc. So that was all Jeff, he took what we talked about marketing with a grain of salt and he took it as far as he could with it.

Q: So are you both horror fans yourself?

Jason: I am. I’ve been since my first four movies and really when I was nine or so, Nightmare On Elm Street, it has been in my blood. I mean there’s nothing really that I can’t handle. I mean there’s some stuff that makes me squirm, which is what I love. So Jeff, I actually brought him, so the last one he ever saw was when he saw with me and he couldn’t really handle it.

Q: What is it?

Jason: It was Hostel. After he saw that he kind of like you know what, I’m done watching horror movies with you. Yeah, you have to take that on your own.

Q: Oh slasher flick is a whole other genre entirely that I avoid.

Jason: Ours is more psychological thriller. It’s the home invasion aspect, about not knowing really what’s going on in our head.


THANK YOU Jason and Jeff for chatting with me about Lake Runs Red!

Check out some behind-the-scenes photos of the film:

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What’s in store for Day 10 of TCFF!

Stay tuned for more TCFF reviews and interviews…
and the finalists of TCFF Awards!


Guest Review: Ouija: Origin of Evil (2016)

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I’m going to be honest: my expectations for this movie were not high. This mostly has to do with its predecessor, 2014’s Ouija (brought to you by Hasbro Studios: the same company responsible for next fall’s My Little Pony: The Movie – no, I’m not kidding). Not that Ouija was awful- it was just forgettable: another lukewarm “teenagers getting in over their heads with the supernatural” horror movie. I was also concerned that, because Ouija: Origin of Evil is a prequel to the 2014 film, I would know what to expect and therefore not find anything about it scary. However, after viewing it, I was pleasantly surprised (which I realize is a weird thing to say about a movie featuring the demonic possession of a child). It actually ended up being one my new favorite modern horror movies.

Ouija: Origin of Evil takes place fifty years before the first movie, in the house the original was set in, where recent widow Alice Zander (Elizabeth Reaser) holds fake séances, insisting she is not scamming her customers, but rather helping them find peace after losing loved ones. She is assisted by her two daughters: teenaged Paulina (Annalise Basso) and nine-year-old Doris (Lulu Wilson). Alice purchases a Ouija board to add to her act, and, while testing it out, unwittingly causes Doris to become susceptible to the house’s malevolent spirits and quickly possessed by one named Marcus (played by human chameleon and Guillermo del Toro darling Doug Jones). Alice and Paulina join forces with Father Tom (Henry Thomas), the head of the girls’ parochial school, to free Doris from the spirit’s clutches and rid the house of an evil that has resided there longer than the family has.

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One of the movie’s greatest strengths was that it featured a mother and her daughters rather than a handful of one-dimensional high schoolers. The family focus made the stakes feel higher and the consequences more heartbreaking, especially thanks to the chemistry between the actresses. The movie was also well-paced enough to establish a strong relationship between the characters and give them dimension early on. My one gripe on this subject is that Doris isn’t quite as well-developed as her mother and sister; perhaps it’s because she’s possessed during the majority of the movie and isn’t herself, but getting a better idea of what she was like as a normal little girl could have made the change we see in her after the possession more unsettling (think Reagan in The Exorcist). Overall, though, the family was well-written enough for the audience to actually care about their fate- not an easy feat for a movie genre that often skips character development in favor of jumping straight into the scares.

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And man, were there plenty of scares in this movie. As I mentioned earlier, the first movie was pretty forgettable; there might have been a couple moments that made me jump, but I couldn’t give you any specifics, and I only watched it less than two weeks ago. The prequel, however, had plenty of memorable moments- moments that had me whispering “NOPE NOPE NOPE NOPE” and clutching my armrests in terror. Doris’s CGI’d, gape-mouthed face featured in the promotional material is truly chilling, and, surprisingly, isn’t any less eerie the more you see it. Even the more predictable parts were unnerving, just because they were built up so well. The writer and director, Mike Flanagan, is hardly a horror movie novice, and his experience in creating suspense and atmosphere shines here.

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As of my writing this, Ouija: Origin of Evil has an 84% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. It’s an impressive score for a horror movie, especially for a follow-up to such an underwhelming one, and it’s well-earned. Who would have expected the studio responsible for bringing us the Jem and the Holograms movie was capable of producing something genuinely scary? I would highly recommend anyone who enjoys horror check this out.


laurasLaura Schaubschlager is a Winona State University graduate with a B.A. in English, which is seldom put to use in my health insurance career (outside of cringing at the grammatical errors my superiors make in their emails). I’m an avid horror fan (movies, novels, video games- anything that makes me hesitate when I go to turn off the light at night), and I’m always looking for writing opportunities, although my current portfolio is made up of partially-completed short stories and an occasionally-updated blog: schaublahblah.wordpress.com.


Have you seen ‘Ouija: Origin Of Evil’? Well, what did you think? 

Five for the Fifth: OCTOBER 2016 Edition

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Welcome to FlixChatter’s primary blog series! As is customary for this monthly feature, I get to post five random news item/observation/poster, etc. and then turn it over to you to share your take on that given topic. You can see the previous five-for-the-fifth posts here.

1. Well, it’s October and a lot of bloggers are dedicating their sites to horror films for the entire month. If you’ve been on this blog often enough you’ll know that isn’t going to happen here on FlixChatter. I have such feeble nerves that I almost always avoid horror films, even though I have appreciated some horror films in the past, i.e. The Sixth Sense, Silence of the Lambs, Devil’s Advocate, etc.

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A scene from Byzantium

I actually quite like vampire films, i.e. Interviews With the Vampire, Byzantium, Daybreakers, etc. But seeing The Exorcist back in college still terrified me to this day so I generally avoid anything dealing with people being possessed. But I might be persuaded to see something once in a while if it isn’t overly gory or extremely disturbing.

So my first question to you is… what horror/scary thriller would you recommend to someone like me who aren’t into the genre? 

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2. As for the trailers I’m highlighting in this edition, let’s start with the Kristen Stewart‘s movie that was booed at Cannes: Personal Shopper. Interesting because just the year before, she became the first American actress to win a Cesar [for Best Supporting Performance] for Clouds of Sils Maria which was also directed by Olivier Assayas. It’s been five months since Cannes and now we finally got the trailer:

I have to admit I wasn’t Kirsten’s biggest fan, but I thought she’s terrific in Clouds of Sils Maria, so I might check this one out. I know I just said I’m not into horror films, but this one felt more like a mysterious ghost story involving her dead twin brother than a bloody/gory horror flick.

Woo hoo!! Clive Owen is back as The Driver in BMW short film The Escape trailer!

The short film is presented as an homage to the 15th anniversary of the original BMW Film series, and it also stars Dakota Fanning, Jon Bernthal, and Vera Farmiga. It’s directed by Neill Blomkamp (District 9, Elysium). I’ve highlighted some of my fave BMW films here. The Escape will premiere on Sunday, October 23, 2016 at 6:00 p.m. EST on BMWFilms.com.

Thoughts about either one of these trailers?

3. It’s gotta be good to be Christopher Nolan. Per THR, the British auteur is said to be getting $20 million upfront and 20 percent of the gross for his upcoming World War II epic Dunkirk. Considering that the average director salary for a studio film is in the $750,000 to $1.5 million range, depending on the number of past credits, the $20 mil payday is astounding.

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But hey, I think Nolan deserved it, though he’s already one of the wealthiest filmmakers working today thanks to the over $1 billion gross of his Batman trilogy alone.

I’ve posted the Dunkirk teaser trailer here and it looks epic! I guess we’ll find out on July 2017 just how epic it will be.

Thoughts on Christopher Nolan huge payday?
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4. This edition’s casting news feature a double from Emma Thompson and having just finished my review of Bridget Jones’ Baby this weekend (it’s still in my draft folder), we definitely need more of her in movies!

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Let’s start with the first project which will have Emma teaming up with Mindy Kaling. What a duo it’ll be! Though I actually haven’t seen her show The Mindy Project, I really like her and I’m glad she’s making her foray into films!

The story follows a venerated late-night talk show host, played by Thompson, who’s in danger of losing her long-running show right when she hires her first female writer, played by Kaling. Sources describe the film as The Devil Wears Prada meets Broadcast News. I’m so there!

Source: Variety

The second project is an adaptation of author Ian McEwan’s novel.

Thompson plays Fiona Maye, an eminent judge in London presiding with wisdom and compassion over ethically complex cases of family law. But she has paid a heavy personal price for her workload, and her marriage to American professor Jack (Stanley Tucci) is at breaking point.

Filming will take place on location in London from mid-October. Also starring is newcomer Fionn Whitehead, who appears in Christopher Nolan’s upcoming Dunkirk. I love Stanley Tucci too, he’s a terrific character actor, so this is another screen match up I look forward to seeing.

Source: Variety

Thoughts on these possible new projects for Emma Thompson?

5. This month Five for the Fifth‘s guest is Jay from the awesome blog Assholes Watching Movies!

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I saw Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children this weekend and wasn’t overly impressed. It pairs well enough with Tim Burton’s visual style of story-telling, big on surrealism and whimsy but a little lacking in actual story. Overshadowing the film, however, are Burton’s recent comments about diversity in film, and in his films in particular. As wildly inventive as some of Burton’s creations are, his films remain peopled by white characters. Casting non-whites is where his imagination draws a line in the sand, apparently. Dude with scissors for hands? Sure. Talking caterpillar? Demon barber? Obsessive candy man? All okay. Black guy playing any of those? Don’t be crazy. Or as Burton put it himself “Things either call for things, or they don’t” – meaning, if a script says “African American”, he’ll cast an African American. But if a script says “person”, Burton reads it as “white person.” And that’s exactly the kind of inherent bias we most especially have to watch for. There’s no reason why all the peculiar children were white, no reason at all. Perhaps the script did not demand it, but society does. Audiences are as diverse as they come and deserve to see themselves represented on screen. Lazy racism like Burton’s is no excuse; it’s 2016 and it’s time to stop casting like movies are segregated. Samuel L. Jackson has a sizable role in Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children – Jackson being the first person of colour to take on a lead role in any of Burton’s films. I’d celebrate that more if he wasn’t playing a villain.

As if Burton’s all-white IMDB listing isn’t damning enough, he’s nailed himself into his own coffin with these words:

I remember back when I was a child watching “The Brady Bunch” and they started to get all politically correct, like, OK, let’s have an Asian child and a black — I used to get more offended by that than just — I grew up watching blaxploitation movies, right? And I said, that’s great. I didn’t go like, OK, there should be more white people in these movies.

Never mind that Blaxploitation movies were born in response to systemic racism and preached empowerment. Let’s just take his statement for what it is: white privilege, white ignorance, and an embarrassing amount of #alllivesmatter racist thinking. Tim Burton needs to pull his white head out of his white ass, and we all need to hold him accountable.

Have you seen ‘Miss Peregrine’? What do you think about Tim Burton’s racist remarks?

 


Well, that’s it for the OCTOBER edition of Five for the Fifth, folks. Take part by picking a question out of the five above or better yet, do ‘em all! 

FlixChatter Review: Blair Witch (2016)

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The original Blair Witch Project came out almost 20 years ago and it ignited the found-footage genre. Personally I was never a fan of the original movie or the genre itself. I found the concept to be idiotic and lacking creativity. Initially, I wasn’t that interested in seeing this sequel/remake but when I found out that it’s directed by Adam Wingard, I was curious. First it was titled The Woods, then a few weeks before its release date, the studio revealed that the movie’s actually a sequel to 1999 hit movie.

The setup of this new movie is basically the same as the original version. James (James McCune) discovered a video showing what he thinks is his sister’s experiences in the woods of the Blair Witch. So he and his friends Lisa (Callie Hernandez), Peter (Brandon Scott) and Ashley (Corbin Reid) decided to head out to the same location where his sister disappeared. They equipped themselves with more technology than the original group, each of them wears digital camera that’s attached to their ear and they also have a camera drone. Tagging along with them are two people who lives near the woods, Lane (Wes Robinson) and his girlfriend Talia (Valorie Curry).
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Of course once they go deep into the woods, weird things start happening. On their first night, they hear weird noises and then in the morning they see a bunch of Blair Witch sticks all around their campsite. Freaked out, they decide it would be a good idea not to spend another night in the creepy woods; they start to head back to their cars but got lost. They end up arguing with one another and more weird things start happening. So basically nothing new happened in this movie, if you’ve seen the first movie then you know what’s going to happen next.

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Adam Wingard’s previous two movies You’re Next and The Guest were very entertaining and I thought for sure he’d bring something new and creativity into this one. Sadly he just remade the original movie; there are no scares or surprises. For those hoping to see the evil witch, well you might not be disappointed. But by the time the real evil shows up, I just didn’t care and wanted the whole ordeal to be over with.

None of the actors stood out and clearly they’re all amateurs. If the actors in the original movie annoyed you, then you’re going to get annoyed by these guys too.

It’s very disappointing that the filmmakers didn’t come up with anything new since I believe they can expand the story and make it scary. I don’t remember much about the other sequel, Book of Shadows, but at least they tried to do something new with the myth of the Blair Witch.

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So have you seen Blair Witch? Well, what did you think?

Question of the week – Which movie/tv genre(s) have you decided to stop watching?

Image courtesy of forum.kodi.tv

Happy weekend all! I haven’t done this question-of-the-week post in a looong time. Well, my pal Ted sent me an email about this topic and I thought it’d be a good one to pose to all you fine movie lovers out there. I’m hoping this would be an interesting discussion point as we’d all have different answers to this question.

So let’s start w/ Ted’s thoughts on the matter…

I constantly hear or read people complaining about certain movie genre that they’re tired of seeing and promise they would stop watching that certain genre from now on. Of course the genre I’m referring is superhero and there are some people who said they’re sick of seeing these larger than life characters hitting the big screens every other months or so. Personally I love this genre and will keep watching it until it dies out, but I hope/wish studios would churn out more quality products in the upcoming months/years.

The genre that I actually quit watching is horror. I used to love this genre, when I was younger I would watch all of the Friday the 13th, Nightmare on Elm Street, Halloween and tons of other horror films during Halloween month and would always go see any new horror film opening each weekend. But as I got older and the introduction of torture porn in the late 90s and 2000s, I was turned off by the countless gore and torture scenes. I don’t see any entertaining value in watching someone gets their hands or legs cut off or just torture in the most painful way possible. Now I do love The Walking Dead TV show but the show is more about human dramas dealing with post apocalyptic world than just zombies tearing into people’s fresh.

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Another genre I quit watching, well it’s not really a genre but I hardly pay attention to independent films anymore. When I was a young inspiring filmmaker, I would attend indie film festivals all over the country, been to Sundance a couple of times. But as the years gone by, I found that many of these so-called “indie” films to be more pretentious and just plain bad. Don’t get me wrong, there are some great indie films that were made within the last several years but I don’t want to waste my time sitting through crappy low budget films just to find one or two good ones.

And here’s two cents…

Well, in response to Ted’s comments, I’ve never been a fan of horror films. Of course there are exceptions, in fact I’m still curious about The Babadook as I heard it’s more of a psycho horror than a violent, bloody genre film. I completely agree w/ Ted that I have no stomach for gore and torture and I really think that far more often than not, it is absolutely gratuitous.

But in terms of indie films, given that I’ve been on an indie kick this past month thanks to MSPIFF and other press screenings, that’s one genre I’ll never get tired of. In fact, just this week alone I saw a couple of indie gems on the big screen!

I think just like big budget films, there are as many bad apples as there are good ones. But with indie films, even if it wasn’t successful, they seem to be more character and story driven than big-budget ones. Even if they’re not perfect, I’d still get something out of most indie films I watch, whilst that’s not the case on bad big-budget movies.

I’d say that the genre I’m not as keen on watching anymore is the one a lot of people might share… and that is comic-book movies! Now, I used to LOVE comic-book movies, I mean one of the first Hollywood movies I saw as a kid was Superman: The Movie, and there have been countless of them since that I enjoyed. But lately I’m just tired of ’em that I can’t even watch the trailers anymore. As with anything, an excessive amount of anything is never a good thing. Alas, this is one genre that seems to be impervious to critics and box office numbers. Yes, I’m still excited for Captain America: Civil War next week because I LOVE the first two films. But I’m not really that excited to see X-Men: Apocalypse or Suicide Squad later this year.

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I don’t even know if I’ll see those on the big screen to be honest, the press screening for Apocalypse has been scheduled but I’ve passed on it. I don’t even pay attention to Marvel Phase 3 movies and whatever schedule DC’s got cooking to counter that (apart from Wonder Woman that is, for obvious reasons). I’m also sick of those endless cash-grabs that gargantuan studios *cough* Disney *cough* keep churning out, i.e. Maleficent 2 (???!??!) I sincerely hope my darling Sam Riley would say no to playing Diaval again in this pointless sequel, as much as I enjoy watching him in all the hilarious promo interviews!


So what about you folks? Is there a movie genre(s) that you’ve decided to quit watching?

Notable Nuggets Double Feature: The Objective (2008) & Right at Your Door (2006)

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Greetings, all and sundry!

Having enjoyed a brief respite and access to Netflix and the Independent Film Channel (IFC). I’ve taken the time to indulge in a favorite past time. And to take the advice of Julian over at Dirtywithclass Blog to critique some newer films.

Rooting around, digging, excavating and uncovering an offering or two that are worthy of critique and dissemination. Whether big budgeted extravaganzas. Or small, shot on a shoe string budget attempts at making statements intriguing, dramatic, satiric, political. Or just plain original, well thought-out and executed.

Falling back on the Double feature format fits very well with both film’s clocking in at 90 minutes, give or take. And less than extravagant budgets well and frugally spent in both instances. With that said. Allow me to introduce the first of two …

Notable Nuggets #1: The Objective (2008)

TheObjective2008PosterA film that seethes with middle of nowhere “No Slack”. From its pitch black, moonless night opening shots around a desolate Afghan village rendezvous of a clutch second and third tier special operators. Made even more forlorn by a whistling sandstorm and an effete, kind of distant Analyst from CIA’s Langley headquarters, Benjamin Keynes (Jonas Ball). Who has been sent to this mountainous, high altitude hell hole for find evidence of, or establish communication with The Objective.

Whose location has been guesstimated to be somewhere within a fifty square mile area at the base of the Hundu Kush between Afghanistan and Pakistan. Courtesy of photos from some advanced KH-11 spy satellites and reconnaissance aircraft augmented for electro-magnetic anomalies.

Of course, Keynes delivers only the bare minimums in regards to a mission where special operators would requires binders of information and intel before proceeding. But the Agency is doing this on the cheap. Bringing back the 1960s concept of an hopefully, infinitely expendable and deniable “Spike Team” to get the job done. Now the team, led by Chief Warrant Office Wally Hamer (Mattew R. Anderson) and Sgt. Vincent Degetau (Jon Heurtas from ‘Castle’) have the latest in GSP equipment, satellite phones, rifles, explosives, rations, communication and load bearing gear. A half dozen men. All NCOs who have been around the block and are loaded for bear. Jammed into two aged Range Rovers with Keynes, an Afghan guide and interpreter. The team heads off to a village and its cleric and wise man who knows much of the history of the area in question.

The team arrives without major incident and the cleric is very mysterious and miserly with what he wishes to say. The area does exist and is full of bright lights and strange occurrences. Dating back to the time of Alexander. With many events happening around the time of Kipling, Tommies and the Khyber Pass.

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The shooters of the team shrug it off and head out the next morning. To run into an ambush that leaves one Land Rover disabled and Sgt. Trenoski (Michael C. Williams) dead. The team returns fire. See hits that count. But no bodies when searching immediately after. The team buries Trenoski and discover their GPS gear is having problems. As well Keynes’ Sat Phone and the team’s Lensatic Compasses. To make matters worse, the interpreter is getting more paranoid by the hour. Which is starting to wear on unit cohesion. Made worse when the team finds that their Camel Backs, canteens and blivet bags now contain sand instead of water.

Keynes and the team finds what they think is an abandoned cave that has a fresh water source and a old and wrinkled Nomad. Whose remnants of 19th century British Army red serge peek under his robes as he tells the tale of a sole surviving soldier. Keyne’s also finds a child’s toy that looks like a 1950s delta winged airplane. That will be something of a talisman as the story progresses.

By odd occurrence, Sgt. Cole sees the Nomad standing and mumbling to himself in the distance the next morning. A quick peek through Night Vision Goggles reveal three images in black robes. Sgt. Cole opens fire and kills the old man. Keynes orders everyone to start moving. And the team medic, Sgt, Degatau starts having serious stomach and intestinal pains. The paranoid guide takes a header off a cliff and Keynes is stuck in a rapidly deteriorating situation.

Lost, low on water. The team stumbles about trying to get a fix as to where they are. Night falls and sounds starts swirling in the night. Lights appear in the sky and Keynes and the three remaining shooters take up a defensive position and cut loose. Keynes looks through his thermal camera and sees outlines of saucer shapes. Two shooters dash forward seeking cover and run into what may be a force field and are vaporized.

Keynes, Hamer and Degatau create the world’s tightest perimeter until moring. When Hamer starts to really loose it and wanders off. Keynes takes Degetau with him until Degetau can walk no more. Keynes finally gets a satellite fix and discovers he and his team were in a spot where British troops disappeared more than a century ago. Keynes leaves Degatau and starts following ethereal images in his thermal camera long into the night. When Keynes finally discovers The Objective!

I’ll leave it here. And pick it up a few months later. Where Keynes is lying a few inches above his bed in an ultra clean surgery and laboratory. Clutching the child’s delta winged toy in one fist.

EKGs and EEGs say that he’s staring unblinking at nothing while seriously tripping his brains out. And Keynes’ wife is being interviewed after being told by the CIA that her husband is missing in action.

Now. What’s Notable About This Film?

An arguably low budgeted B-Movie that seems, looks and feels to be much more. Shot on location in Morocco decently substituting its plains, plateaus and mountains of Afghanistan. With the aid of cinematographer, Stephanie Martin. Who has a talent with washed out blues, faded earth tones and adding a fine patina of dust both close up and at a distance.

Under the sometimes less than deft touch of director, Daniel Myrick. Whose earlier, ‘The Blair Witch Project’ seems to subtly at first, more heavily later, permeate the film. With a sense of “Bad Mojo” unease as the team begins. That slowly evolves into dread and something more sinister as the mission heads south.

TheObjective_JonasBallThe cast of mostly unknowns are more than up to the task. Jonas Ball has the smooth, very tech savvy Analyst stuck in some cubbyhole in the Agency’s basement. Finally given the chance to break out of his comfortable Government Service rank of Captain or Major. And make a name for himself.

The secondary cast of shooters look and act like they have been in uniform and around the block a few times. Maintaining their cool as things go from bad to worse.

And as with any decent Science Fiction. There are always more questions than answers. Many pertinent as team moves away from its jump off village. Then becoming essential as they move deeper into the Afghan ‘Bermuda Triangle’.

What does The Agency want with The Objective? Probably something nefarious. But they are going to have to seriously upgrade their firepower and diplomatic skills long before any kind of negotiations begin!

Which brings us to my selected second feature. A rather small, low to no budgeted independent “backyard film”. That contemplates and toys with the unthinkable around the quiet, serene, middle income suburbs of Echo Park, California.


Notable Nuggets #2: Right at Your Door (2006)

RightAtYourDoorPosterWhich begins with a rather sleepy and shabby Brad (Rory Cochrane – ‘Dazed and Confused’, CSI: Miami’, ‘Argo’) making a latte for his sleeping wife, Lexi (Mary McCormack – ‘1408’, ‘In Plain Sight’). Who is quickly off to work. Listening to her car’s radio, Lexi hears that there have been several explosions in Los Angeles. And is immediately caught in traffic accident that becomes a multi car pile up.

Beat up, but not seriously injured, Lexi tries to find out what’s going on as towers of black smoke rise far off in the distance. People are panicked, but half way helpful as the police inch in and try to maintain some order. At the same time, out of work guitarist, Brad hears the same broadcasts. Gathers himself up and tries to get to Lexi by car. Only to be turned away as roadblocks spring up. Erected by gas masked police and a smattering of Raycal and chemical suited individuals as ash starts to rain down on trees, streets cars and houses. A car in front of Brad is stopped. Ash is visible all over as the driver gets out. Only to be warned at gun point to get back in his car. The driver hesitates or refuses and is shot dead. Brad sees this and reverses course back home. Telling a neighbor’s kid to get back home and stay indoors under his parents come back.

Brad listens to the radio and starts gathering up plastic bags and duct tape. Sealing up windows and door jambs. Letting his friend, Alvaro (Tony Perez) in before the house is turned slowly into an incubator. It seems that Alvaro had been painting a larger, empty house and a smaller safe haven was easily within reach. Together they learn through sporadic broadcasts that the bombs used the the explosions in L.A. were dirty in nature. And at least one has tested positive for chemicals and toxins. Brad and Alvaro don’t panic, but they do gather food and water. And a large zip locked bag of food, water and clothes left for Lexi on the back porch. Should she return. In the interim, more broadcasts announce that no one outside your door should be allowed inside.

Lexi is checked by paramedics and deemed fit to move. Which she does. Heading back to her house and Brad on foot. A phone call from Lexi’s mother begging her to go to the hospital falls on deaf ears. As Lexi develops a cough. Approaches the back porch late that afternoon. And finds the neighbor’s kid, Timmy (Scott Noyd, Jr), who had been hiding in one of his family’s cars, half scared to death.

Lexi calls Brad on her cell phone. But Brad won’t let her in. Lexi breaks a pane of glass in the door and drops her cell phone Brad sets up an impromptu, field expedient “Clean Room” where Lexi and Timmy can wash off their ash. Alvaro decided he needs to see his wife and exits. Slowly covered in ash. Which draws the attention of a kerchief masked Rick (Jon Huertas, again). Who tells Lexi that there is a container ship in the harbor that needs help off loading supplies. Lexi and Timmy follow. Leaving Brad to listen to broadcasts that the chemical toxins in the bombs affect the respiratory system.

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Waken from a fitful sleep, Brad answers a pounding on the door. To find a MOPP-4 suited Corporal Marshall asking questions through his gas mask filter. Something impossible to understand through personal experience without a battery powered ‘Voice Mitter”. Brad answers as best he can and turns over Lexi’s dropped cell phone for chemical examination. Earing Brad and his home an overheard “Red Tag”.

Lexi returns the next morning to find her home inside a police tape barrier and a “Red tag” in the front yard. She and Brad fill each other in on past and current events. Though, it seems the worst is over. Timmy was treated at a hospital and was there waiting for his parents and hopefully not ‘quarantined”. Lexi also mentions that she saw five or six people get shot during the night.

The radio is back o with morning talk and occasional warnings. As several military trucks roll up and MOPP-4 (Charcoal lined, canvas fatigue uniform, rubber boots, gloves, gas mask and Kevlar helmet) suited and plastic bagged, armed G.I.s disperse. Pull Lexi away and erect a fumigation tent over the house and break out Flame throwers for ‘Sterilization”….

I’ll leave it right there.

Now. What’s Notable About This Film?

A true and somewhat toned down “Nightmare Scenario” set in perfect, instant gratification, Los Angeles. Where people in faraway glass booths are handing out third and fourth hand information. Without the benefit of someone actually reporting what is being seen and heard. And talking to survivors of the immediate attack and showing patience. Which would never do.

Something of a black satire on a media that emphasizes the negative. From as far back as worrying if the M-1 Abrams tank would win against Russian T-72s and T-80s. To if the A-10 tank killer airplane would live up to its hype during “Desert Storm”. Both did. magnificently!

No, this harkens back to Orson Welles and his ‘War of the World’ radio broadcast. Subtly planting the seeds of panic by interviewing “experts” who know little of their specialty. Have to play catch-up and react immediately. Instead of containing hot zones. Keeping homes secure and waiting to see what happens.

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The television heavy, veteran cast are more than equipped and savvy to pull the plow. Especially Mary McCormack‘s Lexi. Who had been exposed to radiation and chemicals right off the bat. Who did develop a bad and rasping cough afterwards, but shows definite signs of improvement the next morning.

Surprisingly high marks for first time writer and director, Chris Gorak. Whose sense of quiet serenity around the suburbs of Echo Park offer a stark contrast to the chaos reported from the City of Angels. Doing a lot with a little with Tom Richmond’s exceptional cinematography and sets by Stephanie DeSantis.

Proving that there is quality in independent films. As Mr. Gorak’s offering was nominated for the Sundance Grand Jury Prize. And won its Cinematography Award for Mr. Richmond’s work.


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Thoughts on either one of these films? Let it be known in the comments.

Classic Flix Review: The Omen (1976)

I was 5 years old when this came out – about the same age as Damien, the demon child destined to be the antichrist. While I didn’t see this movie until the mid-eighties (thanks to the advent of video rentals), I read screenwriter David Seltzer’s novelization just right before. It was a good and creepy read and encouraged me to check it out on the screen.

Almost 20 years later, and now in glorious blu-ray format, the film retains its fairy tale quality and lustre. And as a father of  2 very young boys, The Omen brings a whole new perspective on the parental tragedy along the lines of Nicholas Roeg’s Don’t Look Now and later Lars von Trier’s Antichrist). This perspective also made the film effectively disturbing.

Robert Thorn (Gregory Peck), an American ambassador to the UK, and his wife, Katherine (Lee Remick), lose a child at birth while in Rome. A Roman chaplain/priest convinces Thorn the unthinkable: adopt another child born at the same instant – its mother apparently dying at the same time – as his own without Katherine’s knowledge.  Things are perfect for a while until strange and macabre occurrences take place a few years later at the child’s 5th birthday party. A nanny’s suicide, a strange rabid dog and a journalist’s (David Warner in a non-villainous role) foreboding photographs of impending death. Add to that an evil and manipulative governess (Billie Whitelaw winning the Mrs. Danvers of the 70s award) and you have the Thorn family helpless and betrayed. Thorn discovers later that Damien holds the number of the beast on his scalp (it’s not a barcode though very graphic designed) and tries to kill the child.

Damien (Harvey Spencer Stephens) is very good as the toddler antichrist. In fact, some scenes, such as the meltdown at the Episcopal Church and the near fatal tricycle sequence are so matter of fact, you could mistake them for innocent child behavior – all the more creepy! Richard Donner keeps things simple here in a good way, letting the story which feels like a fairy tale (albeit a scary one), carry the movie. Donner, who is an alum of the classic Rod Serling Twilight Zone series, uses more atmosphere and light rather than fast-paced violence.  The fight scene between an aging Gregory Peck and the governess is about as fast-paced as the classic fight scene between Peck and Charlton Heston in The Big Country.

However, the real anchor here is Peck, who just exudes humanity within every scene. While still acting in the classic Hollywood style, Peck’s Robert Thorn is a dignified but flawed everyman. Credit that, if you will, to the story, the pacing and direction – but none could have carried this into the ‘Classic’ category as well as Peck’s very believable performance. Belated happy birthday to the GP!

– review by Vince Caro

Three and a half stars out of Five
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The Omen TRIVIA (per IMDb):

Having changed its title from The Antichrist to The Birthmark, the film seemed to fall victim to a sinister curse. Star Gregory Peck and screenwriter David Seltzer took separate planes to the UK…yet BOTH planes were struck by lightning. While producerHarvey Bernhard was in Rome, lightning just missed him. Rottweilers hired for the film attacked their trainers. A hotel at which director Richard Donner was staying got bombed by the IRA; he was also struck by a car. After Peck canceled another flight, to Israel, the plane he would have chartered crashed…killing all on board. On day one of the shoot, several principal members of the crew survived a head-on car crash. The jinx appeared to persist well into post-production… when special effects artist John Richardson was injured and his girlfriend beheaded in an accident on the set of A Bridge Too Far.

Harvey Stephens, as Damien, was largely chosen for this role from the way he attacked Richard Donner during auditions. Stephens screamed and clawed at Donner’s face, and kicked him in the groin during his act. Donner whipped the kid off him, ordered the kid’s blond hair dyed black and cast him as Damien.

According Gregory Peck’s biography by Gary Fishgall, he took this role at a huge cut in salary (a mere $250,000) but was also guaranteed 10% of the film’s box office gross. When it went on to gross more than $60 million in the U.S. alone, The Omen became the highest-paid performance of Peck’s career.


Check out Vince Caro’s other FC posts here


Have you seen this classic horror? Well, what do you think?