Saturday, 27 August 2011

It was a good week!

This is significant because it came off the back of a run of very very bad weeks. Here are three things what happened this week that made it a good week:

1) A script I wrote with Brother Pete was optioned this week and we were paid actual money! It's the second time I've been paid for writing this year, and the first time I've been paid for an option. I won't be quitting the day job anytime soon, and in fact I think will have spent most of it on celebrating getting paid by the end of the week, but it's a good start!

2) I just got back from seeing Jason Webley and Birdeatsbaby in Brighton. I've written about Birdeatsbaby before, they are really really good, you should check out their website and sign up to the mailing list and stuff. I can't believe they're not mega famous now, but when they are I will be one of those annoying people who talks about seeing them before they were mega famous in a frustratingly superior way. They've had a line-up change since I last saw them but they sound better than ever, and maybe even a bit punkier (which I'm not sure is an actual word) than before. Here's their new video:

Jason Webley is awesome. I first saw him supporting Amanda Palmer a few years ago and he was awesome then too. I would link to the blog post I wrote back then, but I just read it back and it's a bit rubbish so I won't. It's mostly me saying things are awesome, so you can see how far I've moved on from there. Anyway, this is going to sound really annoying but you do kind of need to see Jason Webley live to appreciate his awesomeness. He gets the audience involved through a mixture of being nice so you feel obliged to join as to not hurt his feelings and at the same time not giving you the chance to think about it. And by the end of the show you've got your arms around strangers and you're shouting at the top of your voice and every else is doing the same thing and it's brilliant and it's what all gigs should be like but very rarely are. It's hard to capture that on video, but here he is playing in a quarry:

3) Jenny Ringo and the Monkey's Paw is screening at MovieBar on Monday the 5th of September at the Caroline of Brunswick in Brighton. This didn't happen this week. I'm including it here because what did happen this week was that I met up with Darren who edited the film and we drank a lot and started making plans for another film. Kind of a sequel. But there's a problem with this plan. No one has seen the first film yet.

I started making Jenny Ringo over a year ago. I made it because I wanted to do something my own way. This screening was supposed to be the most important part of that, but because it took so long and I got involved with other things it became something I just had to finish and I kind of forgot about how much I wanted people to see it. And now I've remembered.

I will make the film available online eventually at which point I'll be bugging the world about watching it, but right now I'm only interested in bugging Brightonians and those nearby. Because we're only just finishing off the film and getting to this point has been quite hard work I don't have a trailer I can show you. You'll just have to take my word for it that you should see it. It's not perfect, I don't think I'm a great director, but I am a good writer and most of the people who worked on it were really good at what they did too so there's a lot that's really good. Also it's got magic. And monsters (at least one anyway). And a possibly ill-advised musical number. And I'll be doing a Q&A afterwards so you can watch me fumble awkwardly over fun questions like 'What was all that about then?'

You can find out more about it here along with details of the other films we're showing that night. You should totally come along. I'm probably not going to shut up about it until it's over.

Monday, 22 August 2011

Classic Horror in Brighton...

So last night I went to a screening of House on Haunted Hill and Asylum at the Komedia in Brighton which had been organised by Scare Sarah and Cyberschizoid as part of their Classic Horror Campaign. I'd seen both films before but as always with these things I'd forgotten how good they are.

As with most William Castle films House on Haunted Hill is the perfect film for an audience as this is clearly how he intended them to be seen. Elisha Cook daring us to stay in the house for a night at the beginning of the film does a good job of drawing you in when you're watching with a bunch of other people. It's never particularly scary but some of the jumps are still effective, and ultimately I don't think Castle would mind that some of the more extreme moments provoke laughs rather than screams these days. The film is a lot of fun and I imagine that's exactly what he wanted it to be.

Asylum is a film that gets more awesome every time I see it. The opening story about the wrapped up body parts coming back to life is still really disturbing, and reminded me of some of the best aspects of Japanese horror films. But the final story about the little robot Herbert Lom is still by far the creepiest. As with all portmanteau films the weaker sections slow it down a bit, but generally this remains one of the best Amicus films and represents British horror at its best.

But by far the best thing about the evening was the audience. I've been to the cinema a lot over the past few weeks and at risk of sounding older than my years I'm really struggling to cope with cinema audiences these days. It seems pretty standard now that people won't really settle down to actually start watching the film until the first line of dialogue is spoken, and then if you're lucky the film will hold their attention for long enough to stop chatting until at least the halfway point. I just get the impression that the majority people don't really go to the cinema to watch films anymore, and that's what made last night brilliant. There was a respect for the films that I was really starting to doubt even existed anymore. Everyone there wanted to see the films and everyone, as far as I could tell, was having a good time.

Horror films were made to be screened to an audience, so if you like horror films and would like to see some really awesome horror films as they were meant to be seen I seriously recommend you check out and support the Classic Horror Campaign by checking out their website and going along to their screenings if possible. The next one is on Sunday 4th September at the Roxy in London where they're showing Horror Hospital and Black Sunday. And personally I think Black Sunday is one of the most beautiful black and white horror films ever produced so is definitely worth seeing on a big screen.

More revelations about, er...Hellraiser: Revelations...

Something was bugging me about that last post and I've decided it was a pretty poor effort for my triumphant return to blogging. I really did want to blog about how the trailer for Hellraiser: Revelations made me angry because it looks terrible and I was going to write a whole rant about that. Then I backed off a bit because I didn't want to come off like a typical internet critic, complaining like the world is going to end because someone has made a film I don't like the look of. In the end I went for somewhere in between, which is probably worse.

After I posted it I watched the trailer again to check the link was working and realised I'd maybe been a little unfair. The spirit of the film seems to have more in common with the first film than the sequels which in a way should be celebrated, or least the intention should be celebrated if not the execution. The real tragedy isn't that someone made a bad film based on a really really good film (they did that with films 6, 7 & 8 in my opinion) it's that Dimension didn't care about the story/franchise enough to give the filmmakers enough time and money to make a decent film.

Then I remembered my university days and decided if I was going to be negative about this I should have some research to back it up rather than a gut reaction to the trailer. Here's what I found out.

Firstly I was heartened to hear that the man himself, Mr Clive Barker, wasn't so happy about the idea either:

Then I found a review of the film, which interestingly mentions the fact that Dimension decided on a sequel as a cheap way to retain the rights to the franchise so they can go ahead with their remake (when they eventually stop fucking around). Here's the review, which I think is actually fairly balanced and does point out that the filmmakers tried to do something in the spirit of the original...

Here's Doug Bradley's opinion...

So Doug did turn it down, ultimately based on the shooting schedule and the budget. This makes sense. If you have a script, a shooting schedule and a budget you can make a good guess as to what the final product will look like and it clearly wasn't looking good. But fair play to him, he does wish them the best of luck with it.

Then I found the whole saga here...

...which also has full details of the remake and the various directors attached which I fumbled through in my previous post.

But the part of that last link that struck a chord was the statement from Gary J Tunnicliffe about his script for Revelations. Partly I put myself in his position - if I'd been asked to write a Hellraiser film, would I turn it down based on the fact that there wasn't enough money? No, I'd try to do the best I could with it and hope people could see through the limitations. And he closes with these words...

'...keep an open mind, try not to judge us too harshly until you see the final result... fingers crossed, we might just surprise you.'

So yes, I still have reservations, I think what Dimension have done with it is a pretty terrible way to treat a much loved franchise and they now need to do something really special with this remake if they're going to get the fans back onside. But I will see the film and perhaps over-optimistically I am looking forward to being surprised.

Sunday, 21 August 2011

I know I disapprove of people criticising films before they've been realeased, but...

I'm usually pretty good at reserving judgement until I've seen the thing I'm actually judging. Usually. But I have to admit my heart sank when I saw this trailer...

Here's a bit of history (which I haven't bothered to research properly so it's history as I vaguely remember it). Dimension were trying to remake Hellraiser for ages. Hellraiser is one of my personal favourite films of all time. Still, I am an optimist and I knowing that people won't leave things alone if there's a possibility it can make them more money I could see the logic. The straight-to-video sequels had become progressively less interesting over the years (I really like number 5 but it's downhill from there). Mostly they were made up of unproduced horror scripts that they shoehorned the Pinhead character into so they could attach it to the franchise ('they' being Dimension). Again this makes good business sense, but it also resulted in some dull and fairly confusing films. So it needed to either be rebooted or stopped altogether. Personally I would've opted for stopping, but...

A couple of things actually got me quite excited about the remake. First Clive Barker signed up to write the script, specifically stating that if they were going to do it anyway he'd like to at least have some control over how they did it. Secondly, one of the directors attached at one stage was Pascal Laugier, director of Martyrs which is probably the best horror film I've seen in the last ten years. He was the perfect choice. What makes Martyrs great is that it's a horror film that's about something. It tells a proper story with themes and interesting characters and ultimately asks some tough questions. It's a film that's impossible to forget. Which is also what I loved about Hellraiser.

I don't think Laugier and Barker were ever attached to the project at the same time but in the end that didn't matter. They both ended up quitting. A couple more directors may have been announced but ultimately it looked like the remake was dead and maybe that was for the best. Then Dimension announced that they would be making another sequel instead. And that's where the trailer comes from.

I don't think it's necessarily fair to criticise the trailer before seeing the film and I'm sure everyone involved tried their hardest to make it work on what looks like a minuscule budget. The writer, Gary J. Tunnicliffe, has been involved with Hellraiser since the third film as part of the make-up effects crew and later became the principle make-up effects artist for the sequels. In a way he's the perfect person to write the script, and for all I know the script could be brilliant. It  is at least a straight Hellraiser film and not an old script that they've reformatted for the franchise. Also, Tunnicliffe's self-produced Hellraiser fan film No More Souls is actually pretty good...

So despite the fact that there's clearly no money behind Hellraiser: Revelations can it really be all that bad? One obvious thing makes me think yes, it can be. There's no Doug Bradley. If you're still with me I'm assuming you know Doug Bradley's role in the films. While he got less and less screen time with each new film his performance was always spot on. There was something otherworldly about the way he played Pinhead. Hearing that voice always sent a shiver down my spine and it was creepy without ever being over-the-top. It's only now, seeing someone else perform that role, that I really appreciate how much Pinhead belonged to Doug Bradley. He was Pinhead. And now he's not anymore.

For all I know Doug could have turned the role down or maybe even wanted to do it but couldn't for whatever reason. But the thing that really disappoints me about this and about the way the remake fell apart is that whoever is making the decisions has a complete lack of understanding of the elements that made Hellraiser work. One of those elements is Doug Bradley. Ideally you shouldn't be making a Hellraiser film without him, only I appreciate films don't really work like that. But if you don't have him you rewrite it, you take Pinhead out, you do something else. In a way I would even have been happier if Gary Tunnicliffe had played the role again as he did in his short - that at least would've shown some respect to the franchise. In a way I would rather see a fan film than a half-hearted attempt to make some more money from optimistic idiots like me who'll pay to see anything with Hellraiser in the title. 

Still, it exists, I'll probably see it anyway and maybe it won't even be that bad. But please don't let them make any more. I'm not sure my soul can take it.

I should at least thank them for giving me something to blog about. I've had a tough few weeks recently and I was considering giving up on the blog until I saw that trailer. Hopefully I'll have something more positive to write about next time.