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Films That Haunt Me: ABSENTIA

Posted in Films That Haunt Me, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on November 18, 2015 by smuckyproductions

While ‘Oculus’ made a decent-sized splash when it came out in 2014, director Mike Flanagan is no novice when it comes to horror. His earlier effort, and perhaps the superior film, is a must-see when discussing independent horror – an unsettling fairy tale called ABSENTIA.

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The film is centered around a woman, her sister, and the disappearance of the sister’s husband. When the woman moves in with her sister to assist in the investigation (also to try to kick her drug habit), she begins to notice strange things – all connected with a creepy tunnel nearby. She starts to wonder what really happened to her sister’s husband, but the closer she gets to an answer, the more deadly the situation becomes.

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Sure, it sounds simple, but Flanagan does something that many horror filmmakers forget to do: he gives his characters full-fledged lives. ‘Oculus’ is also populated by dimensional and flawed characters, but ‘Absentia’ gives them much more attention. Everything horrific about the film stems from character interactions. The main character wants to prove that she isn’t a fuck-up by solving the mystery; her sister struggles with resentment for the same reason; and both must grapple with the question of what lives in the tunnel, what is taking people. With the human drama brewing underneath, the impact of the horror is much stronger.

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Combined with these down-to-earth characters is a gleefully fantastical villain. Flanagan shamelessly takes inspiration from the fairy tale Three Billy Goats Gruff, but the monster under the bridge is far nastier than any troll. And he refuses to show us too much, keeping the fear unknown and unnamed. For this reason, the film will alienate many viewers, but for those who pay attention to details, a treasure trove of implied horror will be unearthed. The hints that Flanagan gives are chilling.

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The concept, in its simplicity, also works beautifully. It isn’t a terrifying film – it’s too quiet and patient for that – but it works up a feeling of dread that is at once mundane and uncanny. By layering on the strange occurrences and keeping the audience in the dark, Flanagan constructs an atmosphere akin to Lovecraft, the cloying but silent fear of touching ever so briefly a titanic evil. The dull, familiar setting of the suburbs makes it even more effective. The tunnel that hides the evil is no subterranean nightmare – it could be in any neighborhood, in any city. What’s to say this couldn’t happen to you?

I can’t say that this film scared me, but it leaves the viewer with a sense of wrongness, as if the world has been altered slightly. The human drama comes head-to-head with incomprehensible, invisible evil in a chilling way. And Flanagan, with a budget of only $70K, creates something that inches close to Lovecraft. It’s a celebration of guerilla filmmaking, subtle horror, and the dread of the unknown.

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New Episode of MINUTE MORBIDITIES: Bad Neighbors

Posted in Uncategorized on October 20, 2015 by smuckyproductions

Greetings, spooks – a new episode of the nasty little web series MINUTE MORBIDITIES has been released! It’s all about dealing with BAD NEIGHBORS, the morbid way…

To watch the first episode, WAKE UP, click here:

Don’t forget to share it and spread the scare!

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Films That Haunt Me: PICNIC AT HANGING ROCK

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , on September 19, 2015 by smuckyproductions

As summer comes to an end, I’ll use our last days of heat to discuss a film that holds all the dreaminess – and infernal horror – of that season. Most horror stories tend to be set firmly in the atmosphere of autumn or winter, but there’s a haziness to summer that lends itself to dreams, and nightmares. No film portrays this more successfully than the intangible dread of PICNIC AT HANGING ROCK.

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The film begins innocently enough, following the students of a Victorian girls’ school as they embark on a special picnic at the mysterious and sublime Hanging Rock. (This is, scarily enough, a real landmark in Australia, and the film’s crew said they felt uneasy while shooting there.) Everything is going beautifully… until several students and a teacher vanish without a trace. As the area is searched and the surviving students begin to panic, it becomes clear that a greater mystery is unfolding, one rooted not in reality but in the mind.

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Horror aside, this is one of the most beautiful films I’ve ever seen. Peter Weir constructs a serene and eerie atmosphere of a dream, and his cinematographer Russell Boyd ingeniously placed a stocking over his lens to make the images misty. The brilliance and sensuality of the visuals only heightens the dread of Hanging Rock. Like many films on this list, nothing is shown, and there is no real reason to be afraid – but yet I found myself feeling sick to my stomach with unease at times. The atmosphere is like a spider web, delicate and gorgeous but entrapping and inescapable. Like a pleasant daydream turned nightmare.

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This isn’t a story of a haunted landmark or a murderer, either. It’s a subtle musing on sexual awakening in a time when sexual anything was seen as sin. Like some of the best horror stories (“Dracula” and any werewolf tale come to mind), this one explores the terror of discovering your own sexuality. The sensuous visuals support this theme, along with the music – a riff on the Pipes of Pan, echoing the Greek demigods that were known for being devilish lechers. The girls that vanish seem to have discovered something in those strange hills that lures them, like Pan’s hypnotizing song, into a world from which they cannot return. But, Weir does not speak to this too directly. The mystery is one we are meant to unfold for ourselves.

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I keep saying this for these films, but I say it again – this is not traditionally scary. It is content to ooze atmosphere and suffocate you slowly, but not completely. “Picnic at Hanging Rock” is more thoughtful than that, and it leaves you thinking, rather than trembling. That doesn’t make it any less of a horror film. It is sublimely crafted and uncannily disturbing while also being beautiful. And, as this review probably communicates in its confusion, impossible to pin down.

For any fan of cinema, this is a must-see for its visuals and atmosphere. For fans of horror who want something a bit more subtle and creeping, this is a perfect choice. In the last days of dreamy warmth, “Picnic at Hanging Rock” reminds us that dark things can be lurking behind the peaceful shimmer of sun. The Pipes of Pan are calling.

THE HALLOW – Official Trailer

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 10, 2015 by smuckyproductions

Here’s another exciting release coming soon from the ever-brilliant folks at IFC Midnight (who released 2014’s masterpiece “The Babadook”): THE HALLOW, directed by Corin Hardy.

This one garnered some impressive attention at this year’s Sundance, though it was up against this year’s most talked-about horror indie, “The Witch.” Most notably, it got Hardy the director’s chair on the upcoming remake of “The Crow.” Considering that news, the response from Sundance, and the fact that the creature effects are 100% practical, I’m placing this at the top of my list.

“The Hallow,” like the other rising star of 2015 “Krampus,” is based on folklore – the Irish legends of wicked, hideous fairies that steal children in the night. Judging from the trailer, these fairies are indeed quite horrifying. It looks like a sick mix between “Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark” and “The Evil Dead.” I’m beyond excited. Since 2004’s “The Descent,” it doesn’t seem like there’s been a creature feature like this, both gory and harrowingly close to home. Babies are always a touchy subject, after all.

What are your thoughts on the trailer, and how does it stack against the surplus of genre goodies that 2015 seems to be offering?

Official KRAMPUS Trailer Released

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 9, 2015 by smuckyproductions

This is some deliriously exciting news.

For most horror fans, 2009’s TRICK ‘R TREAT was the Halloween dream that we didn’t know we were missing. Michael Dougherty made a beautiful name for himself in the horror community, with talks of a sequel and other projects. But then… all news went quiet.

Now, at last, Mr. Dougherty has graced us with yet another holiday-themed horror fest: KRAMPUS, based on one of the weirdest legends out there. For those who aren’t familiar with it already, the trailer gives a decent overview. Basically, it’s the Scandinavian Anti-Claus, stalking around on huge hoofs and sporting awful horns, looking for bad kiddies to punish in while his counterpart spreads cheer.

Judging by the trailer, this looks like a classic horror-comedy in the vein of the last film – meaning, it allows itself to be both funny and scary without sacrificing one over the other. That mix of genre is rarely seen anymore, pushed out by solely ‘so-bad-its-good’ midnight fare.

I’m thrilled to see that the film will follow in the tradition of “Trick ‘R Treat,” in its gleefully messed up story and wacky visuals (see evil teddy bear and jaw-unhinged clown thing in trailer). Perhaps Mr. Krampus and good ol’ Sam are collaborators in this whole follow-the-rules-or-die type of scenario. Here’s to hoping that this film lives up to its predecessor’s success and gives us a good, cheerful bloodfest for Christmas.

Upcoming Film – “Goodnight Mommy”

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on September 6, 2015 by smuckyproductions

Fantastically excited for the release of Goodnight Mommy this Friday, at the IFC Center. I’ll be seeing it hopefully that day and posting a review following.

Rumor has it that, at its festival premiers, several audience members had to run out of the theater due to the extremity of the ending. That alone makes it tantalising – the trailer seals the deal, so to speak.

This film seems to be a part of a festival trend, discovering quality, original horror films and bringing them to the mainstream. It occurred last year with “It Follows” and “The Babadook,” arguably the best horror films to come out in this decade. This year we have “Goodnight Mommy” and “The Witch,” among others. I’m hoping this is a start of a trend, paying more attention to indie horror that has a brain (and a heart).

Anyone else excited for this? Leave a comment and let me know what films are on your 2015 list!

ONE FOR THE ROAD Short Film – Indiegogo Campaign!

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 23, 2014 by smuckyproductions

Hello fellow horror fans!

In just two weeks, I will be embarking on a wild journey: adapting Stephen King’s story “One for the Road” into a short film for NYU film school. We are in the midst of casting, location scouting, and makeup testing now – but we need your help to raise the funds to finish the film!

CLICK HERE to donate NOW!

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“One for the Road” tells the chilling of two men who must venture out into a dark, cold night to help a stranger find his wife and child in an abandoned town – a town that harbors a deadly secret.

Based on a Stephen King story, this short film is a labor of (slightly deranged) love. I (being the director!) have dreamed about this project for a long time, and thanks to NYU film school, it is finally being realized! The film already has a fantastic crew of other passionate kids, but we’re missing two things – real vampires, and MONEY. You guys can help with one of those things.

Watch the campaign video BELOW:

Among other prizes, donations will reward you with color instructions on how to make yourself a vampire, and will put your name in the credits. Who doesn’t want to be in the credits of a scary King movie?

Any amount of money will help. Click HERE to support a young filmmaker in realizing a vision of terror!