Archive for April, 2016

Through the Cracks (3): Filming CHAOS THEORY

Posted in Updates with tags , , , , , , , , on April 22, 2016 by smuckyproductions

Production: the ultimate dream, and worst nightmare, of any filmmaker. It is the shortest phase in the process by far, and also the one in which everything can go wrong. It is the period of two weeks, or five months, when you must execute the story that you have crafted for years. Terrifying and wonderful at once.

Now that the film has been released, I find it timely to reflect on its creation, and our own unique production phase.

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DP Kimberly Greenwell with actors Kat Solko and Rachelle Wood.

Our shoot for CHAOS THEORY was not typical. On a shoe-string budget it was impossible to secure crew members and actors. We had to rely on favors asked and time given for free. These constraints could easily have ruined the process and killed the project before it gained life. But the artistic community is full of generosity and love. I was lucky enough to find a cast and crew who dedicated their time through simple love of the project.

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The graveyard with Madison Petri, Dixon White, Jason Maxwell and Gregg Painter.

We filmed for 12 days in total. Our locations were centered around Littleton, the suburb of Denver where I grew up. In the process of shooting we revisited the graveyard in which I filmed my first project (age 9), my elementary school playground, and my grandparents’ house; an unsettling but special pastiche of old memories. Because of my familiarity with those locations, I was better able to frame and block scenes in ways that picked out unusual details. (Tip #1 – choose locations that you know, and know you can get.)

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DP Kimberly Greenwell frames Julia Berensen and Jason Maxwell.

Those 12 days were certainly arduous. Most of the time it was our skeleton crew and Kat, acting out scenes that only featured her. The performance was exhausting for Kat, not only because of the emotional heights she reached, but also due to the 90-degree weather that plagued us on our exterior sets. Her professionalism still astounds me – in addition to rocking the performance, she knew the character better than I did. That kind of collaboration, as far as I understand, is rare on any sized set. The same goes for the rest of the cast and crew – once we set the scene and framed the camera, they would bring their own life and intensity. It allowed me to wear different hats without worry that I missed something. (Tip #2 – pick actors who are good for the role, but also good to work with. They will make or break you.)

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Director Ben Larned and actor Kat Solko.

Without going into too much detail, I will say that the shooting process was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. Engaging in that collaboration gave me so much hope for the future. And because of that, I say to young filmmakers like myself – don’t wait for a budget. Write a script that needs no money, pick a few friends, and go make something. Waiting will destroy a creative spirit. Don’t let yourself stagnate.

Now you know the process – how about seeing the finished product? CLICK HERE to watch CHAOS THEORY now.

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Forbidden Tomes: TO WALK THE NIGHT by WILLIAM SLOANE

Posted in Forbidden Tomes with tags , , , , , , , , , on April 20, 2016 by smuckyproductions

It’s been quite some time since I published a Forbidden Tomes review, and I can think of no better way to revive the tradition than to discuss my latest cosmic read. This story is one of many that found new life last year, finding a place amongst authors like Charles Beaumont, Ray Russell and Thomas Ligotti. Yet it sets itself apart from those by creating a style that I find wholly unique. Our tome today is William Sloane’s quiet tale of monstrosity called TO WALK THE NIGHT. 

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The plot is straight out of Lovecraft – after finding their old professor burning to death under impossible circumstances, two college friends become involved in the professor’s enigmatic wife. When one falls in love with her, the other succumbs to unnamable fear, and unravels a truth too horrible to mention.

Lovecraft might have written this, but his version would have been drastically different from Sloane’s. The story is set when the narrator returns to his friend’s home to tell the man’s father the truth of his death. From the first sentences, we are instilled with a sense of tragedy, but also dread. Lovecraft’s stories have always been fairly emotionless, evoking nothing but fear. Sloane sets himself apart by infusing his terror with human sadness. It managed to draw me in from the first page, and when the fear came into play, I was already vulnerable.

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Sloane moves his plot along at a quiet, patient motion – most of the scenes are utterly mundane, but with this mystery dangling over us, they become uncomfortable. Those who want instantaneous monsters and tentacles need not look here. Our characters are the centerpiece of the story. But through masterful descriptions of landscape and memory, Sloane creates a sense of smallness that haunts them – and us – throughout the everyday interactions. He creates fear out of almost nothing, a lesson today’s writers have not yet learned.

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By the time we are ready for the revelation, set brilliantly in the vast desert of the Southwest, we already have guessed at most of the elements. Sloane still manages to surprise us by bringing back that tragedy. At its core, this becomes a story of loss, loneliness, and the inability to accept the ‘other.’ Like the best of horror, it is about outcasts. The cosmic notion of a vast, impenetrable universe only amplifies this sense of sadness. I was chilled by his story, but also felt heartache, and when horror can do that to me, I can’t help but love it. Sloane chooses small details to frighten the reader, but also to bring across that tragedy, and make it visceral.

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Due to its slow pace, it will not please everyone. But for those who can be patient and are willing to accept the human elements, there is a majorly entertaining read waiting for them. We must thank NYRB for re-releasing Sloane’s novels. This is a lost gift to horror fans, and a reminder of how much power the genre can hold.

Film Review: THE INVITATION

Posted in Films That Haunt Me, Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , on April 18, 2016 by smuckyproductions

There is a fine line between the thriller and horror genres, which film fans have been debating for decades. My personal definition has to do with mathematics – a thriller will follow a clear path of reason and logic, no matter how muddled it gets; while horror is the destruction of logic. Every once in a while, a film will come along that inhabits both genres ingeniously. One such film is Karyn Kusama’s THE INVITATION.

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Kusama is perhaps best-known for her direction of “Jennifer’s Body,” a film people love to hate. This latest effort displays all of the talent that might have been lost with Megan Fox and Amanda Seyfried. “The Invitation” has a deliciously simple setup: a group of friends are reunited for a dinner party by a woman they haven’t seen in two years. Our main character used to be married to this woman, before an unspoken tragedy drove them apart. As the dinner progresses he notices strange things, subtle things, that point to a drastic change – and sinister intentions – in his host.

Beginning with a bang as our character has to mercy-kill a coyote, this thriller does not let its audience breathe. Kusama directs her actors – including the incredible John Carroll Lynch – through unbearably tense scenes that escalate from amusing to bizarre. She infuses the film with a surreal style that jumps back in time, makes us doubt, especially as the main character begins to suspect his guests of malevolent deeds. And she manages to keep the secret for most of the running time.

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This film follows the same rule of tension-building that we saw in “Goodnight Mommy” last year, and was outlined by Alfred Hitchcock. Place a bomb under the table, allow it to tick for five minutes, but don’t let it go off. This keeps the audience aware of danger but does not give them the satisfaction of seeing it play out. There are no jump-scares, no sudden outbursts; everyone is well-behaved and accepting, somehow, of the strange goings-ons. This also makes the film feel horribly authentic. In reality, that is how people would react. In fiction it becomes agonizing to watch – in the best way possible.

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We spend our time in a decadent house, with a crew of intelligent yuppies, ranging in race and orientation – a refreshing thing to see when much of film is so white-washed. They are normal people encountering abnormal things. The brand of weirdness that we see is reminiscent of Shirley Jackson, who knows better than anyone how to set up an average domestic scene and infuse it with uncanny tension. Nothing overt happens – no dead bodies in the closet, Satanic symbols in the bathroom – but we feel in danger regardless. Kusama is cruel but brilliant for keeping us in suspense until the last possible moment. The final revelation is not original, but it feels earned. I will say no more than that.

In the end, the film winds up feeling human in the most heartbreaking way. What struck me so deeply was this sense of emotional reality – while I was frightened and thrilled, I also felt a sense of tragedy. So many genre films forgo that sensibility in favor of a hard-boiled and ‘brutal’ exoskeleton – but what is more brutal than human sadness? Kusama understands this, and uses its effect to the fullest extent.

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While it may too slow for some viewers, and the ‘twist’ ending might not shock you like you want, “The Invitation” is undeniably a massive display of talent. It is horrific in the most human way. I am thrilled that Kusama could show her chops in this manner, and cannot wait to see what she does next. (Her upcoming project is a segment in a female-directed horror anthology.) To see the folly, the brutality, and the tragedy of normal behavior, see this film – but be warned.

CHAOS THEORY: Official Release

Posted in Updates with tags , , , , , , , , , , on April 14, 2016 by smuckyproductions

The time has come… CHAOS THEORY is unleashed upon the world!

Smucky’s first feature film follows the tradition of surreal psychological horror. It follows a young woman who, in the wake of her best friend’s suicide, must combat violent premonitions as she wonders… what really killed her friend?

WATCH THE FULL FILM HERE:

After viewing, connect with us on:
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Share your opinion with the hashtag #SUBMITTOTHECHAOS

CHAOS THEORY: ONE DAY

Posted in Updates with tags , , , , , , , , on April 13, 2016 by smuckyproductions

Only ONE DAY LEFT until CHAOS THEORY premieres! Smucky can’t contain his excitement.

SUBMIT TO THE CHAOS and JOIN OUR FACEBOOK EVENT to prepare for the release.

CHAOS THEORY: 2 DAYS Until Release

Posted in Updates with tags , , , , , , , , , on April 12, 2016 by smuckyproductions

The signs are all around us… Only 2 days until April 14th, the official release date for Smucky’s first feature CHAOS THEORY!

JOIN THE FACEBOOK EVENT and prepare to Submit to the Chaos.

CHAOS THEORY Trailer #3: Have You Seen Them?

Posted in Updates with tags , , , , , , , , , , on April 7, 2016 by smuckyproductions

Only eight days until the release of CHAOS THEORY!

Check out this new trailer – and uncover the secret of the Three Men on APRIL 14TH:

CLICK HERE to join the Facebook event and stay updated on trailers, behind-the-scenes photos, and more.