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Director Retrospective

Digging up the Marrow

directorsamv5bmjm3ndc3mjc1ml5bml5banbnxkftztgwmjm4mja5mze-_v1_sy999_cr00672999_al_Of all of his films, Digging up the Marrow maybe my favourite Adam Green feature. But there is a caveat, I’m a fan of the director….we’ll get that in the moment.

Digging Up The Marrow is a mocumentary done in a semi found footage style about a man chasing monsters. Real ones. Actually, more like deformed people with some spectacular deformities that have established an underground culture that is very rarely discovere. The man, Dekker, has enlisted the help of a filmmaker – Adam Green himself – to document and uncover these creatures. Along the way we discover Adam is not the first film maker he’s tried to enlist, and that there is more to this story then he’s telling.

It’s a wonderful tale, creepy and suspenseful. There are twists here and there and it keeps you engaged the whole way through – but here’s the thing, because Adam chose to use himself and his studio as characters in the film, it really appeals to his fanbase.  For those of us who have kind of gotten to know him through things like his podcast and Holliston and the shorts on his Ariescope website, we already have a connection to the character that he is playing. We walk into it with that affection and interest. This is not to say that the film is inaccessible to the casual viewer, however it is going to be more work for an outsider to develop that sympathy for the character than it is for the fans. Adam is a very sympathetic character indeed, and I think this is still going to work wether you know who he is or not. But it really does work so much better if you do already know him. For Adam Green fans, I think this is really is epitome – it is his masterpiece and is love letter to the fans. I’ve saved this for last for a reason – I want you to experience his other films, I want you to watch Holliston, and I want you to understand him as a filmmaker… And to some extent as a person. That’s what’s really going to make this film pop for you it’s what’s really going to make you care about it. It really is my favourite of all of his films, with the best monsters and creepiest creatures that you will see.

I absolutely cannot wait to see what he does next.

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Holliston

directorsamv5bmty3nzm4mze2mv5bml5banbnxkftztcwmjc3mjgyoq-_v1_uy268_cr120182268_al_I’ve mentioned before that Adam got his start doing comedy, especially during romantic comedies but also stand up and sitcom kind of work. Holliston is a sitcom that is described sometimes as the big bang theory for horror fans.

It’s semi autobiographical in the way that my Violent Blue is – that is to say a lot of the events and situations happened in one form or another but have been so dramatised and fictionalised dad you can’t rightly refer to it as a non-fiction any longer. Things are tweeked for comedy and heightened for the best plot  – along with certain fictional elements and ideas thrown in out of nowhere.

It’s low budget – man is it low-budget.

It’s  cheesy and cheap and it shows. I stress this, I have to point this out because you have to know this going in. If you expect this thing to look like “Friends” then you are going to be seriously upset. Still, it’s strength isn’t so much in the production values as it is in the characters that you genuinely connect with the characters Adam and Joe and Corey and Laura, and that makes you forget the terrible looking robot cat, or some of the sillier gags, or the extremely clumsy attempts to break the fourth wall. That’s the thing about Holliston, it has so many technical imperfections that are just glaringly obvious, and yet for some reason it endears itself to the viewers despite all of these shortcomings (and it’s definitely DESPITE these shortcomings, not because of them…).

When I met Adam Green at Days of the Dead a few years ago he was on a publicity tour for Holliston. Seriously, I had not even heard of this show. It was nowhere near being on my radar. Even after meeting Adam I wasn’t quite sold – what did it for me was seeing the Holliston panel, and watching Adam along with Derek Mears and Dave Brockie laughing it up on stage and really selling the show. To the best of my knowledge, it was Dave Brockie’s last convention appearance – I am incredibly grateful that I got a chance to meet him. By the time I got on to him, he was out of the Odorous Urungus costume and in some ways that’s a bit of a drag, but in other ways….

See, if it had been Odureus, I would’ve approached him differently. We would have joked and gotten the picture and that would be it.  But I didn’t meet Odorous, I met Dave. We chatted about radio and how Danny Bonaduche  was constantly referring to GWAR as his favourite band – Dave seemed taken aback by that… “I love Danny Bonaduce… “He said in slight awe. Dave was friendly and charming outside of the costume and I’m very glad I got to meet him. He was the epitome of my own philosophy for sitcoms where what you need is a pretty girl some good friends and a smart mouth puppet. Dave was such a smart mouth and could not have been more of a cartoon… Not even in the animated episode – ha ha!

Houston is available on DVD and Blu-ray, and eventually it will be streaming somewhere… But the time you read this it may have already shown up on geek nations website. (remember I write these things months, if not years in advance) it’s definitely worth checking out.I remember I found it a little difficult to get through at first, but it didn’t take long for me to be hooked – waiting each week for new episode (which I would watch legally every week streamed off of fear net website) It’s addicting, and it’s amazing how easy it is to invest in these characters start it’s an even more amazing how the investment in these characters washes over to these people – these actors, and Adam Green himself. That’s important to remember, as we explore Digging up the Marrow next month.


Frozen

directorsafrozen-coverCan I just first state that I’m a little pissed that Disney pops up with a fun family princess film by this same title, about a year and a half or so after Adam Green released this thriller? I hate that these things are inevitably going to be confused, and the way that the Disney frozen really grabs that name in eclipses Adam Green’s Frozen. This is actually the first film of Green’s  that I ever saw, it came on the strong recommendation from the late and lamented Horror et cetera podcast. It’s the story of three people on a ski weekend who get stuck on a chairlift, as the ski resort shut down for the week. It’s such a simple yet terrifying premise and it’s a great departure from the Hatchet films that Green was getting known for. Its a chance to show what else he can do. Even though it’s locked into the category, this is not really horror, not to me anyhow. This is thriller territory. There are no monsters here, unless you count the wolves that are very active below them. No, in this case the situation itself is the villain – and the interpersonal relationships take center stage. It is squirm inducing, and uncomfortable. It is the sort of movie that will stay with you, long after the film is over.

I mentioned earlier that this is a departure from the style of the Hatchet series, and that’s intentional – Green didn’t want to necessarily be pigeonholed into the horror genre, and really – this is the kind of thing where he shines. You have to remember that he started, writing comedy, particularly romantic comedy – and characters are really his strong points. While his romcom type work hasn’t gotten nearly as much exposure as the horror stuff, it’s where his skill sets begins. The emphasis on characters and relationships is what makes Frozen work. You genuinely care about these people, you emphasize and sympathize with them and that’s absolutely what this film needs to be able to tear apart your heart. That’s what Frozen is about really, to break your heart and to chill your soul – no jump scares, just suspense. This is absolutely a must see, although for me it doesn’t have a lot of repeat value. I don’t think I’m going to be a visiting it, but I’ve got a say – definitely watch it, even if its only once.


Hatchet 3

directorsae_coverWe kick the third sequel to the series off in style, with Danielle Harris walking into a police station covered in blood. Really, who could ask for more?

Well there is the delightful scene of Adam Green making his quick cameo laying sick in the jail cell next to her. Green shows up in all three of these at films, and I always imagine that he is playing his character from Holliston – but out on a rowdy Mardi Gras trip (I think it would make it better is if Joel Lynch showed up as well). We are back into the bayou again but this time it’s different – we’ve got a SWAT team, armed to the teeth, infiltrating these dark woods. It’s a stark contrast from the last film’s disorganized group of hicks with shotguns running out into the night to try and capture Victor Crawley. The evidence of the previous slaughter is all around us – at one point one of the SWAT team members point out that there are someone’s testicles hanging from a tree branch – and that this is something that should never, ever happen!

The cast is once again stellar, with the SWAT team being led by Derrik Meres, but my favourite appearance in this film is Sid Haig. Sid showed up practically out of nowhere, as this bizarre hermit who had the ashes of Victor Crawley’s father. I have never seen him flustered quite so effectively as he is in act three, and I love it.

The monster suit looks better than ever, with the move from latex and rubber to silicone. The kills are as effective as they’ve ever been, and it definitely maintains the tone. The humour is still there, one of my favourite moments is when once again Perry Shen, this time playing one of the paramedics, remarks that they found a body out there that looks exactly like him – “we all look the same to you?” That it’s just a wonderful and brilliant nod to the fact that the same actor has appeared in every one of his films, even though he keeps getting killed off!

Green has publicly stated that Hatchet 3 is the end of the series  (much to the fans chagrin). There was never an intention to go any further and he has no plans to continue this franchise – however we’ve heard similar statements both in the Nightmare and Friday franchises, and in all honesty I wouldn’t mind seeing more of these. However if this series is truly just going to remain a trilogy, I can’t fault him.the series ends on a high note with Green and the Hatchet films at the top of their game.


Angels Brigade

directorsg220px-angelsbrigadeI don’t know what it is about this film. Graydon Clark has the ability to turn just about any script into a passable film. It wasn’t exactly spinning gold out of thread but he certainly could make things fun. Angels Brigade looks cheap. I mean, it IS cheap, most of Clark’s films were. The difference with this one is that it LOOKS cheap.

I get a real TV movie vibe for this thing, and that makes sense sense – later on down the road it would be recut and re-edited into a television film – but this thing started life as a theatrical feature. In a lot of ways it was like the A-Team, a female version of that – and has a lot of the tropes and characteristics of an 80s TV action show. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, the pacing keeps engaged and the action is certainly passable. Perhaps this is me speaking from a post-modern, generation X viewpoint. Perhaps I’m just more used to action films that are absurd with huge pyrotechnics and ridiculous amounts of bullets and explosions, but it seems to me even in the context of the period that this is a little restrained…like they were relying more on the jiggly exploitation aspect to the film then they were on the hard-hitting action side.

One of the more interesting revelations during the film was my sudden realization why this concept feels so familiar. If I didn’t know better, I’d swear I was watching Fox Force Five. Perhaps you remember this name from Quinton Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction – it’s the pilot that Uma Thurman’s character supposedly did. The characters aren’t exactly dead on, there’s a few in different positions and some missing, but it’s eerily similar and going into it with this in mind actually makes it a bit more fun for me.

It’s a hard one to find by the way, it goes by couple of different names and the one that is probably going to be the easiest and most accessible will be the MST3K version of it. I’m not sure I can recommend it though, because according to Graydon they cut a lot out of it to the point where this re-edit doesn’t make nearly as much sense – some of the beats are gone, and some other plot development vanishes.

Still it’s worth a go if you can find it for around or to stream somewhere.I don’t know that I goes far as to say it’s a buy, but it certainly is good late night movie host fodder.


Hatchet 2

directorsa220px-hatchet_ii_posterI really enjoy Hatchet 2. A lot of it has to do with the cast. In the first film we had a quickie cameo from Robert England (and really what’s up with that? I realise it’s just the name recognition, but it’s the most useless scene in the film ). This film really stars Tony Todd. I’ve always got a soft spot for voodoo Masters, and Todd is doing a great job chewing the scenery here, we get a much better feel for this character.

Todd is at reprising his character from the first film (which was basically a cameo). This time he is in the thick of it, front and center – leading the chase back into the bayou to discover Victor Crawly.

Danielle Harris shows up in this one as well, taking over the role of Marybeth. I realize that in a lot of ways this role was written with her, or at least with her in mind, but scheduling conflicts prevented her from starring in the first film, this time Green was delighted to be able to bring her in . Maybe it’s just the conservative in me that doesn’t like change, but I actually find I prefer the previous actress – Harris is a little more confrontational and for some reason the little bit less likeable in the role. Danielle is a lovely person, and a lot of fun, but I’m just not a huge fan of her in this role. Still, it’s a return to familiar stopping grounds, as Kane Hodder hacks and slashes his way through the cast, again giving a stellar performance as Victor Crawley and actually flexing his acting muscles in the flashback scenes. There is a real sense of terror and peril every time you go back into that bayou. It’s also amusing to see Perry Shen back as a completely different character – this will be a running joke in the series and one that I really enjoy, but we’ll talk about that more next time as we explore Hatchet 3.


Hatchet

directorsa220px-hatchetmposterHatchet is the film that Adam Green made a name for himself with. Around this time the film itself was being rejected by every distribution outlet because it wasn’t a remake or a Japanese horror film…which is what became the tagline. Green embrace everything about 80s horror that the fans love. Back in that time period this would probably fall into the category of slasher, but then again Freddie Krueger falls into that same category – and I’ve never really thought it was correct for him. He is a monster, a Demon, something supernatural and spooky. In that same way, Victor Crawley is more than just a slasher – he is in unstoppable force of nature, risen from the dead in a supernatural way. He is the living, walking embodyment of the forboding swamp and he NEVER stops coming back.

Hatchet is bloody and funny and exciting and I do love it. This film was on my radar for years before I actually get a chance to watch it, indeed it was only after meeting Green himself that I moved this thing to the top of my list and really dedicated some time to it and it sequels. It pays to sit down and watch them all straight through – it’s a brilliant run and we’ll be looking at some of the others later on.

Of course Netflix has its head up it’s tuchas as usual and never has all three listed – the third is frequently up and occasionally you’ll see the second, but never at same time. You’re going to have to buy the DVDs, all of which are available at Greens store up at http://ariescopemerchandise.goodsie.com/ Go grab those and come back next time and we’ll chat a little bit about Hatchet 2.


Joysticks

directorsgjoysticks I should like this film way more than I do. It’s a video game film, and as a retro Gamer, I really love old video game films. In a lot of ways it really does capture a lot of the arcade feel, and we see tons of classic games – it gives you a great concert video game vibe.

The thing is, this film is less like the wizard, and more like Porkies. It’s definitely a raunchy teen sex comedy, set against the backdrop of an arcade. The thing is, for me the arcade itself is way more interesting but it really is very little more than background noise – the setting itself and the motivation, but not the story.  The premise is simple, a parent thinks that video games are destroying you and is trying to shut down the local arcade – they even invoke the old “there is trouble in River city, and that starts with T ends that rhymes with P which stands for pool”then they take on “or in this case, it rhymes with V which stands for video games “.

The characters are fine, and the pacing is lighthearted – though it’s a lot more fun, if you realize that you are going into a kind of trashy sexy comedy rather than just a video game narrative. The sets are pretty incredible though, much like what I said about the film Arcade, man do I wish I had a video game arcade like this when I was growing up. I have seen they existed somewhere, but not in the Cleveland area, we had little hole in the wall in the malls and local bowling alleys, but that was about it. This one is beautiful, with exciting lighting, snack bars and a bustling throng of activity. Graydon Clark captures the feel of the youth culture from that period excellently and it’s very rare that he stretches the suspension of disbelief here. It’s the camaraderie amongst our heroes that is infectious and genuinely makes you want to root for them.

Despite being maybe just a touch rowdier then the kind of comedies I prefer, this is still definitely a buy. It’s entertaining and the video gamer in me absolutely cannot resist seeing these things played and loved as they are here on the big screen.


Without Warning

directorsgmv5bmwjmnzq0mtmtzthjmy00yjflltg2ntktnwrlmjcxotu5ywe1xkeyxkfqcgdeqxvymtqxnzmzndi-_v1_ux182_cr00182268_al_When asked to describe the film “predator “, Arnold Schwarzenegger asked the reporter “have you seen this little film called “without warning”? “. Graydon Clark himself frequently compares Predator to his film Without Warning, so it was only natural that this is what I was expecting. Not necessarily the production value, but an isolated group of people being systematically stalked by an alien hunter? Yeah that’s really what I was looking for here.

Comparing this to predator does the film a disservice because it’s a very different kind of story then what predator was– not a worse story, but a different one. Beyond the whole alien stalking humans, there’s not a whole lot in common here and honestly – aliens have been stalking humans in films since the dawn of cinema. In this case there is a small town setting and something fiendish is going on – something is indeed stalking the citizens but nobody knows quite what it is. It could be some think paranormal, it could be something alien, or it might simply be a deranged lunatic on the loose. No one is really sure. Indeed, it does turn out to be an alien though despite being featured on the poster art and box covers, we only see our beastie for a couple minutes at the very end of the third act – good thing too, because it’s nothing more than a tall guy and a mask. It’s a Rick Baker mask to be fair, but still the look of the alien is very much a traditional grey… Perhaps a little bit inspired by Bealock from Star Trek or one of the many bubbleheaded monsters that paraded through episodes of the outer limits. Clark wisely kept him in the dark, and there are plenty of ridges for the light to play around – not just airbrushed streaks but detail that someone with some experience can light effectively to create menace.

The real alien here, the star of the movie, are the parasitic a little ninja throwing stars that the alien sends after people. In the original script Clark noted that the alien was killing people with a bow and arrow, and he wanted something a little bit more otherworldly. These things are visually striking, stunning and gross – and absolutely scary. There is elements of the facehugger (from Aliens) to them, elements of a mutant starfish, with horrible pulsing green blood and the ability to inflict massive pain and yet still can send you into a zombielike state. It’s a brilliant innovation and the real monster at the film.

I genuinely enjoy without warning, and on rewatch I think I’ll like better now that I know exactly what it is I’m going into. It’s definitely a buy, but you may find that difficult – it’s only very recently found its way onto DVD in one form or another, with the rights being weirdly tied up over the years. Still, absolutely grab this if you find it, you won’t be sorry.


Skinheads

directorsg516q88ad10lSkinheads takes a particular place in my heart, not just because it’s one of Graydon Clarks better looking films, but also because of the era that it’s done in. With Clark I spend a lot of time in the 70s and 80s, but this is early 90s – right around the time I was a teenager. You can tell from the fashions and the hairstyles and that alone is enough to really make me enjoy it. The sort of commentary here is just a little bit better than a lot of stuff that Clark does – it’s still heavy-handed, but delivered with better efficiency and more entertainment. Clark himself will admit that he lifted the idea and most of the plot from his first film, but it plays better in this theme I think. Our plot involves a group of skinheads who are involved in a casual yet brutal murder, chasing down the last of the witnesses to it. I see some of the strongest performances in the villians here. In particular, the leader of the gang of skinheads – this guy is perfect, he is charismatic and articulate and when he speaks his voice just draws you in.  The fact that what he’s actually saying is horrible and ugly is irrelevant, you just sink into his passion and his voice. With this strong performance I never ever lose my suspension of disbelief – I can absolutely see how this charismatic personality could’ve drawn people to his horrible cause. And make no mistake about it, he is absolutely charismatic and winning and beautiful – he is the perfect example of a sociopath. Great Kudos to both Clark and his actor for creating such a strong character – honestly a stronger character them our heroes.

Well perhaps not all of them, our old man played by Chuck Conners, he’s a little over the top but man is he entertaining and I am totally on his side from the word go. We get some of the best action set pieces from him and the events in his cabin – I absolutely love this. Indeed, it feels like there’s a lot more money spent on this and they are really wise – the action is fast and brutal and perfectly entertaining.

This could almost be a perfect movie for me – until we hit the rape scene towards the end. I genuinely don’t know why this was included – it does not really drive the narrator and if you want to give a female protagonist a better reason for wanting to extract revenge (something I don’t think she needs by the way, seeing her friend assaulted and gone down should be more than enough. And if it’s not, how about the fact that they planted them through this woods for a couple of days? We really don’t need to draw rape on top of all of this) but to me it seems ridiculous and excessive – it’s not even a matter of wanting to throw some nudity in there, we don’t see anything exposed… But we do see the act. It’s repulsive. Unfortunately this is a deal breaker for me, without the scene I probably would’ve recommended this film as a buy. It really is one of Clark’s better films and absolutely worth a watch.