Archive for Film

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.

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Through the Cracks (2): A Brief History of Psychological Horror

Posted in Dark Musings, Updates with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 29, 2016 by smuckyproductions

 

After an age of remakes and jump-scare-laden ghost stories, the indie world has seen a resurgence of a classic genre: the psychological horror film. I personally find this genre to be the most rewarding, not only because of its inventiveness and surrealism, but also its ultimate truth. CHAOS THEORY fits firmly into this arena, and because of this, I’d like to explore the history – to further trace my own work’s origins.

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Psychological thriller/horror films involve the deterioration of the character’s reality, often as a result of some deep-seated fear or anxiety. The cinematic medium works fascinatingly for this type of plot – the audio-visual tricks can place an audience inside a character’s head, using fictional sight and sound to create a disturbingly realistic mindscape. While this genre has developed in literature for some years – the classic Gothic novels, Charlotte Perkin Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper,” and Henry James’ “Turn of the Screw” are prime examples – films only began fitting this mold in the 1960s. There are, however, a few early efforts at the genre, mainly Val Lewton’s infamous films such as “Cat People” and “I Walked with a Zombie.” In spite of their B-movie titles, Lewton’s work always used their macabre elements to express real anxiety.

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The 60s saw a surge of psychological horror and thrillers. Monsters became your next-door neighbor, a contrast to the atomic and alien nightmares of the 50s. This can, perhaps, be attributed to Alfred Hitchcock’s massive success with “Psycho” – a dread-filled vision of mundane madness with a killer twist. Many subsequent films, such as William Castle’s “Homicidal” or Hammer’s “Scream of Fear” (one of dozens produced by the company at that time), adopted those same elements.

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As the decade moved forward, a number of directors made their own unique stamp on the genre: Robert Aldritch with “Baby Jane” and “Hush…Hush, Sweet Charlotte;” Robert Wise with “The Haunting,” an adaptation from psychological genius Shirley Jackson; and Roman Polanski with “Repulsion” and “Rosemary’s Baby.” These films not only made the mundane frightening, but also explored taboo fears – the deterioration of an aged mind, pathological anxiety, and the horrors of being a woman in a patriarchal society. At the decade’s close, Ingmar Bergman – the master of psychological drama – even added his own addition to the genre, 1968’s disturbing “Hour of the Wolf.” This film was admittedly personal for him, an exorcism of an artist’s demons.

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The 70s saw a shift to occult and gruesome horror, yet in many cases the psychological elements remain. “The Exorcist” is visceral, but even more so for its depiction of a mother’s darkest fears; “The Texas Chain Saw Massacre” only seems violent because of the characters’ mental torment – there is hardly a drop of blood in it. When slasher films became popular in the 80s, psychological terror became scarce, but choice films still display its influence: namely Kubrick’s “The Shining” and John Carpenter’s paranoid take on “The Thing.” These classics still found their roots in the human mind, with monsters and blood acting as a manifestation of that dark territory.

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With slashers dying out, the 90s marked an exploration of psychological thrillers – decidedly less nebulous and surreal than their horror counterparts. Thrillers (in my view) are more mathematical, with a distinct set of clues and a path to the end. The psychological aspect comes into play when these clues affect the character’s mind. Notable examples include “The Silence of the Lambs,” and “Jacob’s Ladder” and “The Sixth Sense” – both films that popularized the twist ending. The new millennium continued this trend, with a smattering of mind-bending stories that required a twist at the end. These include “Donnie Darko,” “Memento,” “Se7en” and “The Machinist.”

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When writing “Chaos Theory,” these recent films were at the front of my mind – but my process took me closer to the psychological horror of the 60s. I wanted to embody horror, and I didn’t want to subscribe to a clear twist ending. My film became far more surreal and unexplained as a result. It excites me, then, to see other films following these same guidelines – such as “The Babadook,” “The Witch,” and upcoming releases like “Trash Fire.” We are exploring the dark corners of the mind again.

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Join the CHAOS THEORY RELEASE EVENT to keep up on trailers, articles, and the film’s release on April 14th! Help support this return to psychological horror.

Through the Cracks (1): Writing CHAOS THEORY

Posted in Original Writing, Updates with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on March 18, 2016 by smuckyproductions

 

It has been nearly four years since I began writing a script without a title, which would become my first feature-length effort, and in 2014 would be shot as “Chaos Theory.” Several dead-ends, drastic rewrites and many cuts later, the process is still vivid for me.

The idea was born from a combination of H.P. Lovecraft and the news. I had been reading Lovecraft obsessively during the summer of 2012, falling in love with his dread-filled execution and massive, rarely-glimpsed monsters. There was a movie somewhere in those stories. But the idea was half-formed and bland – until something catastrophic happened.

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Being a Denver native, the Aurora movie theater tragedy was immediate and frightening for me. But the news coverage was even more disturbing. We were seeing this act of violence sensationalized, fictionalized, and made almost exciting. But the grief of those around me was so much more real than that. It felt chaotic, unearthly, to witness all of this, at an age when I still couldn’t really comprehend it. Lovecraft’s monsters, however, seemed akin to the nightmarish aura around these events and the news. Those two elements combined and thus my idea was born.

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The then-untitled “Chaos” began with a male protagonist who becomes obsessed with his neighbor’s suicide – then named Edgar, rather than a friend. His teacher, not his psychologist, unveils the ideas of Chaos and its apocalyptic implications. The frame resembled a bastard child of “Donnie Darko” and “Black Swan.” Many of the scenes are similar, though the bulk of the action took place in a school, and the ending was much more literal. It was far from ready for the screen.

My freshman year at NYU brought about the needed changes for the script. Many of my professors, mainly Pete Chatmon and John Warren, were kind enough to read it and offer invaluable advice. What if, instead of his neighbor, it’s his friend who dies? And what exactly are you trying to say? These questions and many others streamlined the ideas into something closer to the final version. The story was getting stronger.

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But, in its current form, it needed a larger budget to complete. Filming in a school is expensive, and there were several visual effects involved. I did my best to raise the necessary funds, but I was eager to tell this story – the media was getting more disturbing and random acts of violence seemed to occur every day. Thus, a rewrite for budget was called for. The school became a playground, the visual effects became practical images, and the story came to the forefront.

 

Around the same time, I was also searching for a lead actor to take on the role of Aaron. My friend and high school classmate Kat Solko was set to play Sophie. But a stale search and a change of perspective made it obvious: the protagonist can be a woman, and Kat is more than up to the challenge. All that I needed to do was change the pronouns. And with that, “Chaos Theory” had reached the finish line.

That, boils and ghouls, is the spoiler-free timeline of my writing process. Stay tuned for the next chapter – the wonderful madness of pre-production.

Second Trailer for CHAOS THEORY Released!

Posted in Updates with tags , , , , , , , , , , on March 15, 2016 by smuckyproductions

With the official premiere of CHAOS THEORY less than a month away, the second trailer has been released!

Watch trailer 2 here:

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Join our Facebook event for more videos, posts, and updates about the film. Much more to come before it premieres on APRIL 14th!

 

Five Horror Films to Protest Valentine’s Day

Posted in Best Of, Films That Haunt Me with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on February 14, 2016 by smuckyproductions

 

Today is perhaps the most successful, and often the most depressing, manufactured holiday of all time. For those in a healthy relationship, it’s a fine excuse to spend an exorbitant amount of money and celebrate your love. But what about the single weirdoes? Smucky has a way to battle the pink hearts and lovey-dovey message of Valentine’s Day. For those who like their hearts gushing blood, here are five horror films that throw romance out the window.

HELLRAISER

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Infidelity is just the beginning with this one. With sado-masochistic demons, multiple flayings, and reanimated corpses using sex as a bargaining tool, this is about as un-romantic as it gets. But hey, with pain comes pleasure… right?

FRANKENSTEIN

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Talk about rejection. Not only does your creator hate you, but the rest of humanity wants to torch you down, too? We’ve all been there. Considering that director James Whale was battling with his own sexuality (ultimately resulting in his tragic suicide), this adaptation takes on a whole new dimension.

INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS

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It’s hard to find love. It’s hard to keep it. And it’s much, much harder when the world is being taken over by body-stealing aliens who usurp bae’s body and turn her into a monster. Also one of the bleakest 50’s horror films, this one turns you off dating (and sleeping) for a while.

EXCISION

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Pauline is hopelessly single. But she doesn’t give a shit. While she does have major problems ( and I mean major), Pauline loves herself and won’t let anyone change her. In a fairly vapid dating society, she’s kinda inspiring. But also this movie is awesomely disgusting. Good choice to scare off a potential suitor.

ROSEMARY’S BABY

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Only the sickest people watch this classic and say, “Let’s get married and have a kid.” NO. After watching what Mia Farrow goes through, I’m hiding in a cave with a few cats and a dog. Satanists can keep their matrimony and birth plots to themselves.

Did I miss anything? Leave a comment below with your favorite anti-romance horror film!

Film Review: SOUTHBOUND

Posted in Films That Haunt Me, Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 11, 2016 by smuckyproductions

 

Anthology films are notoriously difficult. Balancing the tone, theme, characters, and transitions can overwhelm any director, let alone four at once. When done well, though, these works are brilliantly entertaining – especially in horror. We’re lucky to have another classic in 2016. Take a ride to Hell in this year’s SOUTHBOUND.

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Fresh from Toronto’s Midnight Madness section and helmed by four different directors (most veterans from 2012’s VHS), this collection of stories is all set on a mysterious road deep in the Southwest. Each of the tales revolves around this strange netherworld, and their characters all find themselves trapped there – two men on the run from wraiths, a rock band who ask for help from the wrong family, a man who has to save a woman’s life in an abandoned hospital, a crazed man searching for his lost sister. These unwitting souls confront all manner of demons, monsters and madness, just off the map.

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The world of this film is astoundingly creepy and fun. It’s a deformed lovechild of Rod Serling, John Carpenter, and perhaps a dash of Flannery O’Connor – brewed in a pot of metaphysical, weird-fiction terror. “Carnival of Souls” plays on several screens throughout the stories, which gives a hint of the rules in this world – there are none. It’s unapologetically weird, and it oozes uncomfortable dread, something most horror films can’t claim. The filmmakers know how to make the viewer feel just a little bit off. So you’re scared before the mayhem even begins.

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It helps, too, that each of the stories features a character who we care about (at least, I did). The writers create authentic humans with flaws and quirks, and they develop them with rapid skill. Cliches are also hard to find. That is part of the weirdness – whatever a ‘normal’ film would do, this one blatantly swerves around, or does with such bravado that it’s shocking anyway. Horror cinema rarely sees such a unique, insane universe.

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I am not surprised to find out that the folks at Dark Sky Films, who brought us modern classics like “The House of the Devil” and “We Are Still Here,” are involved in this release. Larry Fessenden himself voices a sinister radio host who introduces each segment a la Mr. Serling. Like many of their offerings, this one feels retro, but it’s also rooted in our modern world, cleverly using cell phones (that actually work) and avoiding gender stereotypes. The characters are contemporary, but the nightmare is an amalgamation of 70s strangeness, 50s music and 40s wardrobe. It fits into the Dark Sky canon beautifully – and we can only hope that company will continue to make such brilliant genre pieces.

Though it is a limited release, if you can’t find it in a theater, get to it through the Internet – it’s a must-see for fans of classic horror from any decade. It’s bizarre, funny, ultra-bloody, and legitimately frightening. Turn on the ignition and drive down this dark road.

Update: Sundance 2016 Thus Far

Posted in Updates with tags , , , , , , , , , , on January 24, 2016 by smuckyproductions

Greetings, all! Many apologies for the long delay in posting – it’s been a busy week, to say the least. But in the best possible way.

Most of my initial time was spent wandering Main St. and getting a feel for the layout of the festival. It’s wide-spread and a bit tough to navigate. The main area is gorgeous, though, and chock-full of people.

I was able to attend the opening night party on Thursday, where I met the guys from SpectreVision and had a great talk with them (though we had to shout – Elijah Wood was DJ-ing). Witnessing the energy of this event cemented Sundance’s spirit for me: so many people from the most random of places, all congregating to celebrate film and music. It was a rowdy and exhilarating experience.

Come Friday, there was work to do – we had to shoot a film. I won’t spoil the plot for you, but the shoot went exceedingly well. It will be complete by Tuesday, when I can post it online for you.

Film-wise, I haven’t seen a grand amount yet – but what I have seen has been awesome. So far, I’ve attended screenings of the MIDNIGHT SHORTS PROGRAM and my most anticipated, THE GREASY STRANGLER – which was beyond bizarre and destined to be a cult classic. I’ll post full reviews next week.

Today, I’m on my way to see TRASH FIRE and CHRISTINE – the former another of my most anticipated, the latter a dark drama from the cool guys at Borderline Films. Stay tuned for news on these.

I’ll continue to post reviews and updates as I have time, but until then, wish me luck!