Archive for indie

Story Fragment: LAPPING WATER (1)

Posted in Original Writing with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 26, 2017 by smuckyproductions

As I’ve been spending time in small town Colorado, this story has been pricking at my brain. It’s a quiet horror tale about first dates, first sexual encounters, and the dark, cold hole these events can open in a young person’s mind. I picked a section from the story’s center. 

Lor avoided the lake by habit. There was something about its undulating green surface, the extent of its depth partially hidden, that made Lor feel nauseous. He could blame it on too many childhood viewings of Creature from the Black Lagoon, which planted the image of that giant webbed hand grabbing at his legs, but it went into something more subconscious. The sound the water made as it slapped against the shore was the worst – it made Lor’s chest compress and his ears ring. His parents loved going down every Sunday, and he went sometimes just to appease them, as long as he could excuse himself from a ride in his dad’s rented boat. His dad always showed disappointment in his expression, but didn’t argue. Lor was happiest when homework or general malaise gave him a concrete reason to stay home. The lapping sound always got to him, and stayed until he managed to fall asleep. He thought of telling Avery this and imagined the response, comprised simply of laughter. It was a means to an end, anyway, and maybe Lor would be distracted enough to forget the sound. So he let Avery take him there.

The town was laid out in little blotches – Main St. and the two schools at the mouth of the highway, hotels and cabins dotted along the river, with the neighborhoods breaking up space in between. Then there was the trailer park to the south, where the river started turning into marshland. The lake hid itself near there. On the opposite side of the road was the red sign for Maisie’s and the cupola for the American Legion, but the trees grew so thick on the shore that it might have been its own little world. It was always quiet, even when the tourists swarmed in July. Getting there on foot meant walking on the road in parts, or slogging through the bushes and mud. Avery made it fun. They had plenty of room to grab at each other and kiss in the dark – there were only intermittent streetlights, and otherwise just the moon to cast shadows over them. They kept warm until the path sloped down and led them through the trees, which whipped against their shoulders, the branches pressed so close. For a while Lor could only hear the whisper-brush of the pine needles and snatches of Avery’s breath; then it started. It was a calm night, so its rhythm was slow, patient.

When they broke through the trees and onto the shore, he saw it slinking against the rocks. In the white-blue moonlight, punctuated by stars, it was hard to tell where the lake ended and the forest began – its diameter was long enough to make the edges fuzzy. The water lulled, cold and black, along the jagged shadows of trees. For a moment they didn’t make a sound, just stood and listened. The longer Lor waited, the more insistent the lapping became; the lake’s vastness caused it to echo and expand, coming from all sides. But Avery just breathed deep and smiled – the sound didn’t bother him. A dim thought suggested that Lor should wonder why this was so. He didn’t obey.

“Come here,” Avery said, holding out his hand. Lor staggered forward. The beach was comprised of rocks, not a soft bed, but Avery sat down on them without flinching. He pulled Lor down next to him and put a hand around Lor’s waist, kneading lightly. The anticipation was strong enough to muffle the water, but not mute it. They pushed into each other at full strength – no one around to see them now. Avery’s flavors overwhelmed Lor’s brain and quieted it for the first time all night. It should have left room for the water to creep in, but Lor was busy making sure he was doing this right, grabbing at the best time, maintaining a good pace. Avery guided him. He had done this before.

It didn’t last long; the anticipation had sapped their patience. Afterwards, partially clothed, they panted on the beach. Lor could make out small details of Avery’s body in the moonlight – round, dark nipples and the beginnings of chest hair peeking between his ribs. There was a trail of hair leading down from his belly button that Lor ran his finger across. Avery didn’t look at him – he kept his eyes closed and breathed, grinned. Lor thought he could do this forever, lying in the dark and exploring this body. Then something cold slid across his foot.

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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.

New MINUTE MORBIDITIES: ESCAPE

Posted in Updates with tags , , , , , , , , , on February 5, 2016 by smuckyproductions

Ever want to run away? We know that feeling. So does the unfortunate protagonist of the latest MINUTE MORBIDITIES.

Watch ESCAPE here:

Be morbid with us and SHARE THE SCARE!

Stay tuned for a new episode next Friday.

Horror Heaven at Sundance 2016

Posted in Updates with tags , , , , , , , , on January 19, 2016 by smuckyproductions

Throughout this week and the beginning of next, Smucky will be attending the cinephile’s dream: Sundance Film Festival.

As many horror aficionados know, Sundance is home to Park City at Midnight – a selection of 9 films that explore dark, weird, and often gory places. Representing Smucky, I will be first in line for as many screenings of these films as I can manage.

My two most anticipated are:

THE GREASY STRANGLER 

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Produced by Drafthouse Films and SpectreVision, this horror comedy promises to upend the slasher stereotypes with a father-son tale – marred by the appearance of a particularly oily murderer. If these companies’ previous films are any indication, this one will be utterly bizarre, unique, and fun.

TRASH FIRE

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Richard Bates splashed boldly onto the horror scene with 2012’s EXCISION. Now he returns to Sundance with a relationship comedy that goes very, very far south. With a super cool cast and Bates’s notable suburban aesthetic, TRASH FIRE will offer Americana nightmares, and probably a few laughs as well.

Hopefully I will also get to see UNDER THE SHADOW, a Middle Eastern demon thriller; ANTIBIRTH, a surreal drug-trip nightmare; and possibly YOGA HOSERS, Kevin Smith’s latest comedic-horrific effort.

Stay tuned for reviews and general festival anecdotes – it’s an exciting lineup, and I am so grateful to be here!

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.

New Episode of MINUTE MORBIDITIES: SECRET ADMIRER

Posted in Updates with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 13, 2015 by smuckyproductions

Happy Friday the 13th, creeps! To celebrate (and to ward off bad luck), check out a new episode of MINUTE MORBIDITIES.

This one’s called Secret Admirer.

Check your windows, lock your doors, and share the scare! Oh – and good luck today.

New Episode of MINUTE MORBIDITIES: MESSAGE

Posted in Updates with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 10, 2015 by smuckyproductions

Heed the calling… and watch this new Minute Morbidities, called MESSAGE.

Tune in every TUESDAY and FRIDAY for new bite-sized horrors.

Don’t forget to share the scare!