Wednesday, 29 December 2010


Last night I watched this...

is kind of a hard film to describe. I suppose it's an art house relationship drama that takes place inside a horror film. With a suitably gooey monster. And explosions. I absolutely loved it.

I have no idea how it got made to the standard it did. There's no way to pitch it as a commercial film. I suppose you can describe it as a straightforward horror film like they do on the DVD blurb - man thinks wife is having an affair, turns out she's having an affair with a tentacled Lovecraftian monster. But anyone investing money into the project had to have read the script, which I can only imagine is just as crazy as the film. In my limited experience every time I've ever added a line or a moment to a script that's a little offbeat or a tiny bit avant-garde I've had to fight for it, and nine times out of ten those moments will get cut. This is a genre film that ticks all the boxes a good horror film should yet still manages to be incredibly strange and challenging.

At the same time I can't imagine art house investors getting behind the unapologetic splatter and horror movie iconography either. But somehow it got made and I only wish I knew how to get films like this funded.

Horror films and genre films in general are so tied to their formulas now it's really refreshing to see something that really turns the genre on its head and does something interesting with it. In one of the DVD extras director Andrzej Zulawski described using genre as a mask to present one kind of story as another. Most of the filmmakers whose work I really respect do some kind of variation of the same thing - Miike Takashi did it with
Audition, as did Lars von Trier with Antichrist. I'm not saying all horror films should have an art house streak, but I am becoming increasingly frustrated with the idea that some films are for thinking about and some are just for fun. There's a place in the middle where interesting things happen. Things like this...

Monday, 20 December 2010

More End-of-Month than End-of-Year...

So this really should be an end of year post but it's been a really busy month and I've still got a back-log of stuff from December to write about. Essentially I've not had as much time to blog about the stuff I've wanted to blog about due to being busy doing the actual stuff itself. So instead of a typical end-of-year 'look how awesome I was this year' post, here's a summary of the stuff I've neglected to write about over the last few weeks (which conveniently covers a lot of my writing projects for the year anyway)...

- For the latter half of December I have mostly been working on Manor Hunt Ball.

I've been a bit reluctant to talk about this project as I'm a bit superstitious when it comes to announcing things too early, but actually it seems more appropriate to mention it in passing like this than making some big premature announcement. I'm also not sure what I'm allowed to say at this stage. What I can say is this - I've been working on it for a year and a half. In that time it's gone from being the best thing I've worked on to the most frustrating and back again several times over. I have tales to tell, I have rants to get off my chest, I have people to thank, I have wisdom to share, I have mistakes to confess but all that will have to wait until we're a bit further down the line. Unlike the script, the story of the film hasn't finished yet and I really need to know how it ends before I go into any more detail.

For now I'm just glad to have finished what is hopefully the final draft (although while typing this I realise I've tempted fate and have committed myself to another twenty drafts). If you are interested in finding out more, what details are currently available can be found on the imdb page.

- On my way back from visiting parents in Stoke I got stranded in London due to snow! I was going to write a whole blog post about this, emphasising the drama, the fear, the confusion of a perilous journey through frozen Britain. But my friend Joel came to my rescue and put me up for the night so it was actually quite a pleasant evening in the end. In return, I've posted the first episode of 8 Bit Pwny Club which he wrote. If you like games it is awesome. If you don't, it may be a little confusing, but you should still be able to appreciate the awesomeness:

-I've also been working on another script which I really can't talk about at this stage as I don't think I'm even officially attached yet. I have written a draft which is technically a rewrite of someone else's script, but aside from the character names and a couple of background plot points I pretty much rewrote the whole thing from scratch. I'm really happy with it. It's a proper genre film, with monsters and action and stuff. If it goes any further, and I really hope it does, I'll write about it here.

- A few weeks ago there was the last ever Son of Moviebar. It was a fantastic evening and a great send-off for Luther and Terry who have been doing a fantastic job of running the event for the last two years. In preparation for taking over the event next year I did a few introductions and quizzed a couple of the filmmakers which made me realise two things 1) it's harder than it looks 2) I probably need to drink less if I'm going to make this run with any kind of coherence. I'm a bit apprehensive as it's going to be a hard act to follow, but I've assembled a good team to help me out and I'm looking forward to making the night our own.

I'll post a proper announcement once I get organised (which will hopefully be in the next few days!), but there are a few things I may as well mention here while I'm on the subject.

The only major change is that I'm moving it from the first Tuesday of the month to the first Monday of the month, so the first event of 2011 will take place on Monday 7th February.

If you want to submit a short film for us to screen you can still e-mail for now as I'll be using that e-mail address until I get a new one set up.

I have set up a blog to post news and links to films but it's empty at the moment. I mean really empty. Still, it's here if you want to bookmark it for future reference.

Also, if you came to
Son of Moviebar at any point over the last two years and have any feedback or suggestions for things to improve or things that worked really well please let me know. For the most part the format will remain the same but we will be moving things around a bit so now is the time to let me know if you have any awesome ideas for me to steal.

- Speaking of short films, I am still working on
Jenny Ringo and the Monkey's Paw, although I may have to give up on the weekly diary. I did have a meeting with the composer a couple of weeks ago so I have made some progress. It's the sound elements that I'm not sure about as I don't currently have an estimated finish date for all that. I'm a bit disappointed that I didn't manage to get it finished before the end of the year, but as I think I've mentioned before I wasn't quite prepared for how little control I'd have over the process at this stage. I'm really happy with how it's turned out and really can't wait to be able to show it to people, but I've also come to accept that it may be a little while longer before it's properly finished. As always I will continue to post new developments as they occur.

- Went to see
Weird Al Yankovic at the beginning of the month which was amazing. Although I wasn't quite prepared for quite how popular he is. I've been to the Forum in Kentish Town a fair few times over the last couple of years and I've never seen it quite this busy -

- You need to read both November entries on my dad's Poundland website (in which he has been chronicling his adventures in various Poundlands). His shed demolition saga and the critique of cult classic
Killer Shrews are among the funniest and most entertaining things I've ever read online.

- Simon Messingham who was a guest on this blog back here has been blogging about his recent theatrical adventures. Which is kind of like my short film diary only about putting on a play instead. Check it out here.

- Newer readers of this blog may already be aware that my blog was mentioned in Total Film's weekly e-mail newsletter, as seen here:

I had no idea about this and when my hits went up at the beginning of that week I seriously thought I'd inherited some kind of virus, until a friend told me about it and forwarded me the e-mail. The correct reaction would be to not mention this at all, pretend I wasn't in the slightest bit excited and certainly not mention that I forwarded the e-mail round to everyone I know with the subject heading 'LOOK HOW AWESOME I AM!!!'. But I am super-excited and just a bit gutted that it happened at a point when I was having a bit of a break from blogging. So I hope any new readers are still with me - I promise more regular updates will follow in the new year!

- Last thing, I should mention the
Warrioress wrap party. Ross screened the first few minutes of the film which looked awesome, I chatted to various film people and enjoyed catching up with Ten Dead Men actors Ben Shockley, Keith Eyles and John Rackham, and I did manage a bit of networking which I am getting slightly better at. But the real star of the night was the club itself - an odd, underground place with massively over-priced drinks and an overly aggressive barman. And then there were the toilets...


Yes I am going to leave you with a photo of a bizarre toilet. Hope you all had an excellent Christmas and in case I don't get to post anything before the end of the week, Happy New Year!

Friday, 17 December 2010

A Typical Week...

So I've got the whole week ahead of me and no plans. After last week's rewrite meeting I optimistically say I'll be done with the next draft by Friday. This is fine because I have no plans. That draft will definitely get done by Friday. I think. Maybe Sunday. I'll say Sunday just in case. Except there's that other script I'm supposed to be rewriting as well. That one's okay because I only just got the notes back on the first draft. I'll send back some counter-notes to stall them a bit then get on with the first rewrite. So I do that, but I get an e-mail straight back saying it's all fine and to go ahead with the rewrite. And there's no deadline to speak of but I really want to clear my slate before Christmas so I kind of need to get that done this week too. No problem, I've got the whole week ahead of me with no plans. Except for that one thing I've booked in now. And did I really agree to do that much overtime in the day job? It's fine, still plenty of time. Oh, there's an e-mail about another project. I'll reply to that, won't take long. Wait, how can it be Thursday already? And I haven't finished either of the rewrites. And one of them definitely needs to be finished by Friday because now I need to spend the weekend on the other. That's okay, I have no plans right now, I'll get it done in one night. I just need to finish writing Christmas cards and doing shopping and replying to it's 11.30pm and I still haven't got very far. Will drinking help? Yes, drinking will definitely help...Now it's midnight and I'm actually doing pretty well. If I'm lucky I'll be finished by 2.30 in the morning. So long as nothing else comes up...

Monday, 13 December 2010

Awesome weekend of awesome films...

Justin Richards has the most immense film collection I have ever seen. And it's growing. To help combat this infestation a highly trained group of bad cinema enthusiasts including Ross Boyask, Andrew Skeates, Dave Brook and myself descend on Justin's house every year to watch the very worst of his collection. I am not sure how this helps or why we put ourselves through it, but it is a lot of fun (more about previous expeditions into Justin's film collection here and here). Here's a film-by-film account of how it went down.

The Hard Way is a straight-forward men-on-a-mission film in which Miles O'Keeffe leads an army of three to take on Henry Silva's endless supply of enemy troops. It's stripped down to the point where there are barely five lines of dialogue in the whole thing (and that's not an exaggeration), although the few lines that are there include such gems as 'Let me tell you something. I like killing people.' There are a couple of standout moments, such as a unique method of destroying a helicopter without the use of weapons and O'Keeffe surviving a house collapsing on top of him, but otherwise it's scene after scene of twenty or so bad guys running into a field then being gunned down by O'Keeffe and his pals. For about 90 minutes. Which is obviously awesome.

Here's some man vs. helicopter action:

Death Force is a martial arts/
blaxploitation thriller in which James Iglehart is double-crossed by his gang and dumped in the ocean.

Washed up on a nearby island, he is nursed back to health by two exiled Japanese soldiers who agree to train him to be a Samurai. Meanwhile his former colleagues are back in the US and using their
newfound fortune to build a criminal empire.

None of this is particularly well handled and there are some bizarre moments including a musical interlude and a taxi driver character who ends up hanging out in
Iglehart's bedroom despite only having met him in the previous scene. But it gets points for a coherent narrative and decent structure, plus there were some good fights thus proving that films with Death in the title are usually a good bet.

You can watch the whole film here:

In between the above we occasionally caught moments of Once Upon a Time in the West on TV, reminding us of what proper films look like.

Gor is a fantasy adventure film based on the first of John Norman's infamously
misogynist series of novels. It had everything you'd want from an un-PC 80s fantasy film including clumsy sword fights, midgets, awesome headgear and Arnold Vosloo in a pink jeep (every film needs Arnold Vosloo in a pink jeep). Other than that it was fairly slow-moving but was saved from being completely dull by Oliver Reed's awesome performance as a hedonistic bi-sexual warlord. Reed was clearly enjoying every minute and wore a variety of stupid hats which I'd really like to believe he was still wearing in the pub after each shoot.

We spent most of the film looking for Jack
Palance who featured quite prominently in the credits but didn't seem to be present in the actual film. In the end we convinced ourselves that either a) Palance was playing a man with a beard and was therefore unrecognisable b) either a very young Palance or perhaps his son was playing a young soldier who looked vaguely like him or c) there is more than one actor called Jack Palance. Then 5 minutes from the end Palance turns up, beaming at the camera like he's been there all along. Turns out this was all set-up for a sequel Outlaw of Gor which I now obviously need to see.

Here's a trailer, complete with awesome hats:

The Evil is a typical haunted house film in which Richard
Crenna and Joanna Pettet buy a huge house in the middle of nowhere and recruit a bunch of young students to help them fix it up. Only the house has other ideas.

This was actually pretty good, and even pretty scary in places. The actors were good, the effects were awesome (and I mean genuinely awesome) and it managed to sustain a pretty creepy atmosphere throughout. There was some amusement to be found (especially with one character called Dwight who appeared to have wandered on set from a western) and there were some odd plot points, but otherwise it was pretty engaging. There was also an awesome cameo from Victor
Buono as the Devil and a really chilling scene in which all the characters bar one are possessed and about to do something rather disturbing with a corpse.

Here's a trailer:

Afterwards we all agreed we had watched a good film by mistake. That was about to change.

Number One with a Bullet is a buddy-cop action film which pairs a womanising, trumpe- playing, starfighting Billy Dee Williams with a wise-cracking Robert Carradine who has family problems, plays guitar and eats raw steak straight from the pack. This is a good example of the kinds of dangers you face when attempting a film marathon like this one.

The ideal film is one that is so bad it's funny. Sometimes one may choose a good film by mistake (like
The Evil). This is okay, it just means exchanging 90 minutes of amusement for some cinematic enlightenment. Sometimes one may choose a film that's so bad it's not funny. This too is okay, and usually means everyone makes up their own plots instead. But the worst type of film to watch is one that is average. Number One with a Bullet was definitely average (okay, by most peoples' standards it would be below average, but making a weekend like this work requires a uniform lowering of standards and a deliberate disregard for the usual signs of quality). Never bad enough to be funny, too slow-moving and derivative to be any good, by the end of its 97 minute running time (another rule broken - never watch anything over 90 minutes long) the explosions and extreme body count of The Hard Way seemed like a distant memory.

For a minute it seemed like we may give up hope and watch some TV instead. The point of the whole exercise was called into question. What were we doing? What was the point of all this?

Luckily we remembered why in the first few minutes of the next film.

Revenge (which has a few other titles including
Street Law and Vigilante II) is a 70s Italian thriller with Franco Nero as a wimpier version of Charles Bronson in Deathwish. The film opens with a montage of violent robberies, culminating with thieves setting fire to Nero's house. Unluckily for him, he is then involved in a bank robbery in which he is taken hostage and beaten up before being left for the police. When the police don't look like they're going to be doing anything about this anytime soon he takes the law into his own hands. Sort of.

The problem here is that while Bronson went straight for the guns, Nero decides instead to befriend a criminal then use him to incriminate the others in an elaborate frame. Only when this fails (and we're now halfway into the film) and he is kidnapped, beaten up and thrown off a cliff (in a rather excellent stunt) does he take things to the next level. Even then, Nero's character never quite becomes an all-out action hero and remains nervous, hesitant and often terrified throughout. He spends most of the final shootout cowering behind cover as his friend is shot repeatedly a few feet away. Which would be fine, only I couldn't help thinking 'What would Django do?'

There is something interesting about this character who really wants to take revenge but physically isn't really able to do so. I imagine that should any of us attempt anything like this in real life we would all be more Franco Nero than Charles Bronson. Unfortunately this gets a bit lost in the ludicrous plot and over the top action sequences, so what remains is a film that really should be a lot more fun than it actually is.

Also, why is Franco Nero dubbed with an Italian accent when everyone else is dubbed American? I'll probably never know...

Here's a trailer, with awesome music:

Final Terror is a slasher film in which a group of forest rangers and their teen proteges head out into the woods to build a dam only to be hunted down by an unseen lunatic.

First impressions were that the film was due to have a
bodycount that would surely rival The Hard Way. There were a lot of characters (some with familiar faces including Darryl Hannah and Joe Pantoliano) which in a slasher film usually means an abundance of victims.

The film follows typical slasher structure for the first half hour - crazy person in the woods, characters going missing, a couple murdered while having sex - but then something interesting happens. The large group of survivors get organised. There are a few stupid moments, including one character deciding that being stalked by a killer is the perfect time to get high on mushrooms, but there is a distinct lack of 'I'm just going over here to this really dark part of the woods on my own and no I don't need help I'll be right back' moments. Rather than wandering aimlessly for hours being picked off one by one they form an actual plan. And the plan works.

Ultimately this fails in the same way
Revenge fails - there's a reason we have so many genre conventions and that's primarily because they help make the film entertaining. It's boring when all but a couple of people survive a slasher film. But at the same time it is refreshing to see something a little bit different.

Again, the whole thing is online if you're interested:

Bronson Lee, Champion is a typical seventies martial arts film starring
Tadashi Yamashita as...Bronson Lee, champion.

Bronson Lee is awesome, but when his cowboy hat doesn't appear to convey this appropriately he decides to prove it to the world by winning an international karate tournament. Unfortunately he's left things a bit late and all the countries already have representatives. That's no problem for Bronson Lee, who decides the simplest solution would be to provoke the current Japanese contestant into fighting him for the right to take part in the tournament. This is how he does it:

Unfortunately the Japanese contestant has gangland connections who don't take too kindly to this and it turns out that the tournament is the least of Bronson Lee's troubles. I am describing the plot in great detail because I'm not sure what else to say other than it was a good film to watch at 2 in the morning.

Jungle Heat is a Vietnam film with Sam 'Flash Gordon' Jones (helpfully playing a character named Gordon in case we forget that he's Sam 'Flash Gordon' Jones) training a group of recruits for a rescue mission. I think that's what was happening anyway.

After the initial and rather cliched training sequence in which the recruits are trained to disarm landmines and race jeeps against Flash Gordon the story became a bit more erratic. Jones disappears for most of it, as do the recruits and instead we follow another group of soldiers battling a group of sadistic rebels. It was all fun and games until someone set fire to a live rat.

This was obviously quite disturbing and completely unexpected, but worse than that it called into question whether what followed was actually fake or not - some of it looked very real indeed (although part of that was the poor quality of the footage). There was the prisoner who had metal shackles driven through the palms of his hands but managed to escape by basically ripping his hands apart. There was the final
battle in which a man was literally sawn in half and another was decapitated. And then this happened (WARNING: this really is quite disturbing!):

Proof that you never quite know what you're letting yourself in for with trash cinema.

So what have we learnt from all this?


Okay, nothing, but it was a good laugh and there were definitely a few surprises. If you want an alternative opinion keep an eye on Dave Brook's blog as he's planning on doing his own write-up soon.

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

The Amazon Studios Experiment: Super-exciting Update!!!

So it's been a couple of weeks since I submitted my script to Amazon Studios and I have to admit, I was completely wrong about it. I've had literally hundreds of reviews, all with insightful feedback notes that are guaranteed to make my script 172% more awesome. Only I don't even need to incorporate the notes as it's already been rewritten 19 times with each writer bringing something new and exciting to the project. It's now set on Mars and the hero is a robot dog who is accidentally implanted with a monkey brain and goes on a friendly rampage. It will definitely be getting produced next year.

Not really. I'm just padding this out because in truth, nothing has happened. The script has been downloaded 3 times, but I've not received any reviews as yet. The only thing I have received is a message from someone telling me how awesome their project is and that if I read their script they will totally read mine. I haven't read their script. It's only been two weeks, but I can't see this situation changing anytime soon. I don't think there will really be anything to report until the first contest winner is announced next year.

But I think I have at least figured out the true purpose of this website. I have read on a couple of screenwriting forums that a lot of other writers seem to be doing the same as me - dusting off an old script to submit just in case, but not sacrificing a new one. For my part I feel like my script is off the list of ongoing projects in my head now. It's unavailable. I can't think 'oh I should definitely polish up that old horror script one day' or 'I wonder if anyone would be interested in that one now'. It belongs to them. I've buried it among the 1500 or so other dead projects on there.

Amazon Studios is where we send our old scripts to die.

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Last Son of Moviebar tonight...

Just a quick post to let Brighton-based people know that it's the last Son of Moviebar tonight. As usual it's at the Cornerstone Pub at the bottom of Elm Grove and starts at 8pm.

Luther and Terry have done a really excellent job of running the event over the last two years. They've managed to keep it very organised but without sacrificing the friendly atmosphere and they've maintained a consistently high standard every month. More than a bunch of filmmakers watching some shorts in a pub, it's become a kind of monthly miniature film festival, and is actually a lot more established and accomplished than some actual film festivals I've attended in the past. I've made it along to pretty much every night, have met some awesome people, seen some excellent films and would recommend it to anyone interested in film-making or just looking for an interesting night out.

Moviebar will continue next year and I'll probably be talking a lot more about it here as I'm going to be running it (along with a group of friends I've conned into helping out). More on that later...