NIGHTMARE CINEMA [Film Review]

by Joe Meyers

NIGHTMARE CINEMA – Rated R – 1 hour 59 minutes

Release Date: Limited cinematic run and available on VOD 6/21/19

Directed by Alejandro Brugués, Joe Dante, Mick Garris, Ryûhei Kitamura, and David Slade

Written by Sandra Becerril, Alejandro Brugués, Lawrence C. Connolly, Mick Garris, Richard Christian Matheson, and David Slade

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Last night I was able to attend the Los Angeles Premiere of NIGHTMARE CINEMA along with the cast, crew, and fellow horror fans. The film is a horror anthology consisting of five stories, connected by a wrap around story. I’m a sucker for a good anthology, and I’m happy to say NIGHTMARE CINEMA didn’t disappoint.

“The Projectionists”

Helmed by Mick Garris (Stephen King’s THE STAND, PSYCHO IV: THE BEGINNING, MASTERS OF HORROR ), the wrap around sequences have our characters drawn into a seemingly abandoned cinema only to find The Projectionist (Micky Rourke), the “curator of a 100 years of nightmares trapped on a silver screen”, waiting to show them their very own star turn in a horrific tale. While I’ve seen some anthologies with wrap arounds that don’t always work, I found these to be well done. Micky Rourke, in a small amount of screen time, manages to be an intriguing character who I hope we see more of in the future.

“The Thing in the Woods”

This segment, written and directed by Alejandro Brugués (JUAN OF THE DEAD), was an utter delight and my personal favorite. We get thrown straight away into the climax of a slasher film featuring Samantha (Sarah Withers) as she attempts to escape “The Welder” (Eric Nelsen), a maniac bent on killing her and all her friends. I think this was the perfect beginning to the anthology, and Brugués’ script effortlessly bounces from an 80’s slasher, to a horror-comedy, and eventually into something truly creepy (and crawly). The crowd last night went wild for this one, and it set a great tone of the evening and the film.

“Mirari”

Joe Dante (THE HOWLING, GREMLINS, TWILIGHT ZONE : THE MOVIE) gives us a throwback story in the vein of the TWILIGHT ZONE’s “Eye of the Beholder” with the second segment. Anna (Zarah Mahler) and David (Mark Grossman) are an engaged couple, not far from their wedding date, but there’s a brewing issue. Anna’s face is scarred, which makes her continuously self-conscious, but David reassures her he loves her the way she is. He quickly flips to offer her an all expense paid surgery with his mother’s plastic surgeon, Dr. Mirari (Richard Chamberlain), if it would make her happy.  Anna takes him up on this offer, and Dr. Mirari further talks her into other “minor fixes” that he can do since she’ll be in surgery anyway. Upon coming out of anesthesia things start to unravel, and Anna questions David and Dr. Mirari’s actions and motivation. The TWILIGHT ZONE is one of my favorite television series of all time, so I was thrilled with this one.

“Mashit”

The halfway point of the anthology finds Ryûhei Kitamura (VERSUS, THE MIDNIGHT MEAT TRAIN) tacking a tale of a demon, possessed kids bent on killing, and the priest,  Father Benedict (Maurice Benard), trying to stop them. Holy buckets of blood, and flying body parts, Batman…this one gets crazy, and gory, in a big bad way. Sandra Becerril’s script was fun to watch unfold, and it was a nice cinematic palate cleanser before the final two stories. A director herself, I’d love to see Becerril do a story if we get NIGHTMARE CINEMA 2. This segment gets major bonus points for using the blood squirting equipment and severed limbs from KILL BILL and filming some scenes in the Episcopal Church of the Ascension in Sierra Madre, California. This is the same location used for John Carpenter’s THE FOG.

“This Way To Egress”

David Slade (30 DAYS OF NIGHT, HARD CANDY, episodes of BREAKING BAD, HANNIBAL, and AMERICAN GODS) turns in one of the most stunning, and heady, stories in gorgeous black and white with “This Way To Egress. Here we meet Helen  (Elizabeth Reaser) in a doctor’s waiting room with her two children. Helen’s husband recently left them, and she’s spiraling down a dark path. The longer she waits the more her surrounding become blood soaked, and the people around her become monsters. Is she losing her mind, or is she in danger of losing much more? This segment reminded me of an old TALES FROM THE DARKSIDE episode, and I look forward to revisiting it again.

“Dead”

The final story finds piano prodigy Riley (Faly Rakotohavan) the sole survivor of an attack on his family, recovering in a hospital with his mother and father (Annabeth Gish, Daryl C. Brown) dead. As the hospital staff slowly divulges information to Riley, during his recovery, he discovers he was dead for seventeen minutes before being resuscitated. Oh, he can also see ghosts now…and one is his mother, who isn’t thrilled about crossing over into the infinite abyss without her son. This segment felt like it would be right at home on AMAZING STORIES, a darker tale for sure, which isn’t a surprise at all given Garris’ resume.

NC1 *Ryûhei Kitamura, Joe Dante, Mick Garris, and Alejandro Brugués introducing the film. David Slade was on a location filming, and couldn’t make the Los Angeles Premiere*

I truly enjoyed this film, all five stories, and the wrap around segments. With each part having such a different tone, and style, I think everyone could come away with something they love with this movie. That’s one of the great things about anthologies. During the post-screening Q&A with Ryûhei Kitamura, Mick Garris, and Alejandro Brugués (Joe Dante wasn’t able to stay) it was clear how much fun these directors had filming and collaborating with the cast and crew. The low budget for the movie was mentioned several times, but every penny must have been up on the silver screen because it looked amazing.  The effects work by KNB EFX Group, and Vincent Van Dyke Effects, were top notch as well. Mick Garris teased the crowd by saying there are already discussions for a sequel, and count me among the people who would love to see that happen. NIGHTMARE CINEMA is playing in select cities, as well as available on VOD platforms, today.

Episode 183 – ABCs of Horror: Y is for Yokai

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We’ve arrived at Y in our ABCs of Horror series, and we are discussing the “Yokai Monsters Trilogy” (that’s not a real trilogy) of ONE HUNDRED MONSTERS (1968), SPOOK WARFARE (1968), and ALONG WITH GHOSTS (1969).

Episode 183 – ABCs of Horror: Y is for Yokai

THE DEAD DON’T DIE [Film Review]

THE DEAD DON’T DIE

R – 1 hour and 45 minutes – Release Date: 14 June 2019 (USA)

Written and Directed By: Jim Jarmusch

Starring:

Bill Murray as Chief Cliff Robertson
Adam Driver Adam Driver as Officer Ronnie Peterson
Chloë Sevigny as Officer Mindy Morrison
Tilda Swinton as Zelda Winston
Tom Waits as Hermit Bob
Danny Glover as Hank Thompson
Selena Gomez as Zoe
Steve Buscemi as Farmer Miller
Caleb Landry Jones as Bobby Wiggins
Carol Kane as Mallory O’Brien
Rosie Perez as Posie Juarez
Iggy Pop as Coffee Zombie
RZA as Dean

The quirky residents of the small, quiet town of Centerville find themselves overrun with zombies as the dead start to rise.

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One of my favorite comedic bits is when a person, who has fallen on the ground, is screaming for their life as a steamroller approaches. Then we get a wide shot of just how far away the steamroller is, but the person continues to scream and flail until the slow-moving steamroller finally finishes them off when they easily could have gotten up and walked away unharmed. That’s Jim Jarmusch’s zombie-comedy THE DEAD DON’T DIE in a nutshell to me, at least the tone of the comedy. Yes, there is some skin deep social commentary, but this film is way more about being an odd-ball, idiosyncratic, deadpan, wacky, and totally self-aware take on the zombie genre.

The story mainly revolves around Chief Cliff Robertson (Bill Murray), Officer Ronnie Peterson (Adam Driver), and as Officer Mindy Morrison (Chloë Sevigny) as they try to make sense of what is happening and how to keep the citizens of Centerville safe. Much has been made of the cast, and they are all amazing, but the true stand out to me was Adam Driver. His dry-wit, deadpan shtick playing against Bill Murray’s straight man routine was a delight. Tilda Swinton also seemed to enjoy every second she got to play the beyond eccentric, new mortician Zelda Winston.

Jarmusch does explain why the zombie outbreak happens, and what social commentary he adds to the film comes from this information as well as a few other scenes. Where George A. Romero’s social commentary cuts like a scalpel, here it’s metered out with a sledgehammer in the most unsubtle ways possible. It feels like Jarmusch is content with just shining a light on issues like global warming, rampant materialism, racism, fascism, homelessness, and addiction instead of giving us a study on the subjects. So we get quick scenes of zombies searching for wine, coffee, toys, and wifi over real thought provoking moments.

My only complaint was I wish I had more time with the weird, but interesting, characters in town before the undead began to eat their way through the cast. Besides that this was pretty much exactly what I was hoping for when I first watched the trailer. This film won’t be for everyone, and I think many mainstream moviegoers who check it out starting next weekend will walk out disappointed, but if a seriously dry sense of humor (and repeating jokes) is your cup of tea you should be thrilled with this new entry into the zombie sub-genre.

BRIGHTBURN [Film Review]

by Joe Meyers

BRIGHTBURN – Rated R – 1 hour 31 minutes – Release Date: May 24, 2019 (USA)

Directed by David Yarovesky

Written by Brian Gunn and Mark Gunn

Starring:

Elizabeth Banks as Tori Breyer
David Denman as Kyle Breyer
Jackson A. Dunn as Brandon Breyer
Jennifer Holland as Ms. Espenschied
Emmie Hunter as Caitlyn
Matt Jones as Noah McNichol
Meredith Hagner as Merilee McNichol
Becky Wahlstrom as Erica
Gregory Alan Williams as Sheriff Deever
Annie Humphrey Annie Humphrey as Deputy Aryes
Steve Agee as EJ
and…Michael Rooker as The Big T

Tori and Kyle Breyer, a couple struggling to conceive a child, find a baby in the wreckage of an apparent U.F.O. crash landing that occurs on their Brightburn, Kansas farm. They name him Brandon, decide to raise the boy as their own, and tell everyone they’ve adopted. Around Brandon’s twelfth birthday his parents begin to see a shift in his personality and, to their eventual horror, this very familiar superhero origin story morphs into something closer to “We Need To Talk About Kal-El.”

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Director David Yarovesky and the Gunns have set up a wonderful world, just begging to become a franchise, with BRIGHTBURN. Yes, they’re obviously playing off the Superman story, but there are hints of Garth Ennis’ THE BOYS and Robert Kirkman’s INVINCIBLE here too, mixed with some serious slasher movie vibes. The result is a lean, mean, dark and twisted super-villain origin story.

Jackson A. Dunn does some heavy lifting as Brandon, skirting between a normal pre-teen kid and the monster he becomes in a believable way. I couldn’t help but think of WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN as events unfolded. While the script doesn’t dive into the dramatic side of things like that film did, it’s certainly feels like an influence, and Jackson mines the same darkness as Ezra Miller did in the role of Kevin.  Elizabeth Banks and David Denman were great as the parents who take in this alien being as their child. Seeing their initial denial of what Brandon was becoming, to questioning if they were being willfully ignorant of what was happening, to finally witnessing their acceptance and how they deal with it was heart wrenching.

The effects were amazing, especially the level of gore the film provides at times. I wasn’t quite expecting that, and it was a welcomed surprise.  There’s a scene involving an eyeball that hasn’t made me cringe that much since Lucio Fulci’s ZOMBI 2. This is really where I felt the inspiration from Ennis’ THE BOYS, showing the carnage of how normal people would, or wouldn’t as it were, hold up against super powers being used against them.

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I felt like this film was made just for me, and I thoroughly enjoyed every moment of its lean run time. It surely won’t be for everyone, and I could actually see this finding a niche audience not unlike producer James Gunn’s 2010 film SUPER. As I left the cinema all I could think about is where they could go in this world from here. I crave a further bizzaro swap of character roles by seeing a Lex Luther type begin to hunt down evil, super-powered beings, Van Helsing like, after the events of BRIGHTBURN. Questions also swirled around my mind of where Brandon was from, if he was the last of his kind, or if he was sent to conquer Earth ahead of a full on invasion. There’s so much potential, so much more to discover, and I hope it’s all able to be explored in the future.

 

Episode 179 – Remakes: The Reboot

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We felt it was time to start revisiting some of the topics we discussed in our formative episodes many moons ago, and the first one on the slab is remakes and reboots! Have a listen as we give our personal top ten lists of remakes and reboots, and be sure to check the links in the show notes for the Letterboxd companion list and where to listen to the episodes from the dark ages.

Episode 179 – Remakes: The Reboot

Letterboxd companion list

Voices From The Vault (Episodes 5 & 6)