Sunday, July 31, 2011

Drag Me to Hellywood.

So, after staying up all Saturday night, eating cereal and watching this, minus the yuletide (I know I'm not the only one watching "Jennifer Day TV")—

—there's only one thing I wanted to do on Sunday morning. Take a guess.

Before John made coffee.
What? You said go to the "Magnus Rex" open casting call in L.A.? High five, psychic friend, because that's exactly what we did. John made the coffee, I packed the sammies, and we set out to join the thousands who queued up at the Sportmen’s Lodge Event Center in Studio City in the hope of securing a role for the tentatively titled Warner Bros. film shooting locally in August. And because I feign professionalism and actually care that the casting directors requested that we not refer to the film by its real name, I won't say it, but you know the one. It's got Christian Bale in it.

That's right—American Psycho 3: Megalodon.

I myself wasn't trying to snag a role; I tagged along to support my husband, who is a massive comic book geek and, as it stands, an actor and voiceover artist when he isn't busy making his own films. And it's seriously been a busy month for him, wrapping up the AOF Festival, shooting an advert, and now preparing his short The Timeslip for the Angeleno Film Festival in October.

The 101 fwy. helped John perfect his "intense" face.
But most men living in the Greater Los Angeles area would open up their schedules to appear in a comic book film. Unless it was Aquaman. And John was no exception, putting on his best suit to get his photo taken and throw his name (and headshot and resume) in the hat for a chance to be a part of a 2012 blockbuster film that, judging by the working title, I thought was the sequel to the runaway hit Jonas Hex. Which, you know, studios are fighting each other to make.

Here are some things I learned from today's casting call:

  • Not all industry people are jerkoffs. I've worked for one, so I'm a bit disillusioned, but the women who run Smith & Webster-Davis are true ladies. I arrived a skeptic and left a fan. 
  • The biggest mouths give themselves away as the posers. Actors at John's usual auditions are always quietly preparing, not name-dropping, loudly referencing SAG or obnoxiously letting the rest of us know how "inside" they are—as they're waiting with the rest of us in a thousand-strong queue.
  • Arriving at 4 a.m. as planned would've been a huge waste of time. The casting call started at 10 a.m., we arrived at 11:30, and we were back on the 101 by 2 p.m. John was number 748 in the queue, which moved quickly. When I gave my number back to the man passing them out, he looked at me as if I had farted in his face. Thanks seƱor, but no quiero Taco Bell. My acting would make Kim Kardashian eligible for the Irving Thalberg award.

I Love Zombies.

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Thursday, July 28, 2011


"Um, I was told there would be Zwiebacks after this."

Turns out, I can't handle the truth. I mean, I used to. Ever since I was a child, when Adam forever ended my lone, wayward strolls through Toy City, and Gary Cole (oddly enough, now a crush of mine) scared the crap out of me as Jeffrey MacDonald in Fatal Vision, I've been fascinated by TV depictions of true crime.

A year after Vision, the Night Stalker would cut a swath through both halves of California, and suddenly, true crime was not only on my television, but at my doorstep. As my dad worked nights, my mom was home with three girls and another on the way, and although it was sweltering hot, our windows—like everyone else's in the summer of 1985—stayed shut. When we were allowed outside, speculation of the Night Stalker's modus operandi reassured us kids as much as it turned us against each other:

At 36, I am still creeped out by this pic.

He only goes for yellow houses, like yours! 
I live in the apartments, butt munch! He can't kill the whole apartments. He likes houses that are on the end of the street. Like yours.
At least I live in a house, butt nugget! And anyways, my dad is a Guardian Angel. The lead one.

And so it went, until Richard Ramirez apparently (and erroneously) assumed that he could jack a woman's car in East L.A. without getting his ass beat three ways to domingo. But even that true crime close-shave didn't dissuade me from watching Helter Skelter, The Hillside Strangler or many other similar telepics repeating on any random Sunday afternoon. And I continued to bring home stacks of VHS filled with stories of crazy cannibal families and wrong turns and David Hess.

Which makes me wonder, where has this other woman suddenly come from? The one who began a weekend of watching the Investigation Discovery channel comfortably reclined on her sofa, only to end it curled up in the fetal position, quizzing her husband about previously undisclosed dead wives in England (he has none), and wondering if the already-creepy neighbor was secretly plotting her kidnapping and dismemberment (the jury's still out on that one).

Yes, folks, I completely lost the plot, all down to a binge of programming completely devoted to true crime. Maybe it's because I'm adult now (I think), and unlike the 10-year-old me, the 36-year-old me is more than aware of loss and mortality. My fascination with true crime is tempered by sadness for the victims and their families. As I watch the reenactments now, I find them more humbling and cautionary than entertaining, and I consider myself fortunate to have gone all these years without appearing on a milk carton, or an "Unsolved Mysteries" episode. I've lived long enough to see Gary Cole go from portraying a murderer to playing Mike Brady, so there's that. Did I mention I have a massive crush on him? A few months ago, my husband ran into Gary Cole on the Warner Bros. backlot, and it was crime that I wasn't there. Truly.

Saturday, July 23, 2011


The Day the Music Died? Don McLean sang about it, but he couldn't have known that he would live to see Coachella completely sell its soul and become "Nochella." He did, however, go on to write about the Day the Horror Died—when Creation Entertainment took over the Weekend of Horrors from Fangoria.

Okay, not really. But had he written the latter, McLean could've completed his trilogy with a song about the Day the Comic Died, which was just a few days ago in San Diego, at Comic-Con. Ken Foree and John Carl Buechler (hard left: at WOH in summer 2010—while my old ass was passed out on a lobby sofa clutching my autographed $25 fine-I'll-buy-this-if-you-leave-me-alone-Joe Pilato-shakedown pic—my husband John was not only engaged in lengthy conversation with Mr. Buechler, they were quickly surrounded by several Jasons and Harry Manfredini in the F13 dealers' room!!) both canceled, which ought to tell you something. Sure, they probably had other (cough, better) things to do, but maybe someone told them that A) this is supposed to be a comics convention, and B) there would be sparkly vampires and Justin Timberlake in attendance. 

There were some things worth catching at Comic-Con, such as Rick Baker's appearance on Thursday, a promotion for Men In Black III dressed up as a panel honoring Baker's career in legendary makeup FX. Apparently, I also missed the season two trailer for "The Walking Dead," which I'm completely gutted about, as I won't be able to see that anywhere else.

Sure, Comic-Con also rolled out Stan Lee in order to extend the line of cred on their nerd card, but unless he's doing cameos on "Psych" and "Burn Notice," what on earth do these shows (both featured at Comic-Con) have to do with comics? Bruce Campbell always counts, but not where the latter is concerned. And don't even get me started on Fright Night 3D, or that lousy comedy coming out with The Guy in the Facebook Film who acts like The Guy in the Facebook Film in every film he's in. 30 Minutes or Less? Why in hell does this film have a panel at Comic-Con? Is Jesse Eisenberg going to turn into Superman, then spin fast enough around the earth to condense 90 minutes of awful into less than 30? That would actually make his and the film's presence at Comic-Con relevant.

Anyway, I could go on, but you get it. Comic-Con, like everything else that used to be cool and authentic and great, has completely sold out, and I don't just mean the overpriced coveted weekend passes. Until recently, I thought that at least we still had Bonnaroo, but even Ben and Jerry have managed to put the sole surviving great American music festival's name on ice cream and call it "Bonnaroo Buzz."

Which, by the way, I bought and inhaled as if it carried the secret of NIMH. What? It had coffee in it. And last I checked, there weren't any generous pieces of buttery toffee to be found in Comic-Con.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Scene is Believing.

So I'm sitting there ("there" being my living room), Saturday night, watching Tormented (1960) on "Elvira's Movie Macabre." And like the Mistress of the Dark, I'm about to write it off like a bad debt ... until I get to the wedding scene, which, truth be told, is pretty badass. Actually, from that point on, the film has the nerve to get downright suspenseful, and even a little scary. Watch it, or just stream it and jump to the end—you'll see what I mean. At the very least, you can insert your own jokes about a girl giving a guy head. Haha, I said insert.

Too easy.

Watching Tormented made me think of other films that suck, except for that one scene ...

Cabin Fever (2002)

Oh, you thought Cabin Fever would make you afraid of camping. No worries—there are better movies out there for that. But if you're a girl who missed out on the Lilith Fair and hairy hackey-sack barista boys in the early Nineties, then you've now got a good reason to stop shaving. Let's just say that if Eli Roth had made this film in the Seventies—which I'm sure he wished he could have done—sales of Nair would've skyrocketed.

And all she wanted was to wear cutoffs, not cutups.
Yep, I'm talking about that scene (at left), which earned about $1.25 of the $8.00 I spent on the ticket, and made me switch to waxing. Thanks, KNB EFX.

Two-thirds of KNB (NB?) also saved another bad film ...

Mirrors (2008)

Obviously, Alexandre Aja knew that he was polishing a turd dressed as a horror vehicle designed to leverage  Kiefer Sutherland's TV success and revive a dead film career (worked wonders for Courtney Cox—she went from Scream to Scream 4!). Think Michael Keaton and White Noise. But forget all that—we're watching an Aja-KNB collaboration, so the gore FX are, from the start, pretty special, and one scene in particular is jaw-dropping.

Howling II: Your Sister is a Werewolf (1985)

Okay, so she's also called Stirba: Werewolf Bitch, but honestly, we don't care if Sybil Danning is "Xena: Warrior Princess," and the film is called Breakin' 2: Electric Boogaloo. We'll watch her in anything, even if it stinks to high heaven, like Howling II. Come to think of it, Turbo might have made this film a bit better with some ceiling dancing (because Christopher Lee sure as hell couldn't save the film, and he was Lord Summerisle).

But back to Howling II—Danning is super hot, the film is super-not, and the AV members of the Clearasil set knew to skip it entirely and head straight to the end credits, where the best moment is looped within an inch of its shelf life.

Friday the 13th Part V: A New Beginning (1985)

The Final Chapter truly lived up to its title, because where that film closed the book of awesome that was the first four F13 films, Part 5 opened up A New Beginning of suckage. This film was so bad that it took kids, Alice Cooper and Horshack from "Welcome Back, Kotter" to revive the franchise with Part 6, plus the introduction of Kane Hodder in Part 7 as added anti-suckage insurance for another four films.

If only Vic had peanut butter instead of an axe ...
It's unfortunate that one good scene in Friday the 13th Part V: A New Beginning (besides Tina's scenes, dudes) promises greatness that is ultimately unrealized in the course of 88 minutes. You don't remember the scene? You better axe somebody.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Auto Focused.

My super-talented husband, actor, director and voiceover artist Jonathan Chance, was taking pics the other night, including the new one on my blog. But then he looked like he was having too much fun, and what wife wants that? So I snatched the camera and snapped some pics of him.

Shutter to think, these actually look pretty cool:

All of this photo-opping has made me think of some films that I really love, where the true horror takes place behind the lens.

Peeping Tom (1960)

Two British directors make landmark films that come out in the same year. Both films contain such unfathomable scenes of groundbreaking terror and suspense that your 1960 self would (rightfully) assume that each would evoke critical proclamations of sheer celluloid brilliance and—subsequently—launch their respective directors' careers into the cinematic stratosphere. Right?

Unfortunately, the release of  Peeping Tom, which predated Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho by a month, did not signal the start of a long, successful career for its director, Michael Powell. In fact, to say that the opposite happened would be an understatement. Nearly 30 years after Peeping Tom was blasted by the critics, the tale of a killer photographer with an eye for the ladies finally received its long-overdue closeup (thanks to Martin Scorsese), and now sits pretty atop many movie reviewers' Best-of-All-Time lists.

Shutter (2004)

For the photographer protagonist in this Thai thriller—my favorite of all the Asian genre films to surface in the U.S. since Ringu circled our shores in the late 1990s—every picture tells a story, and his goes from bad to worse in just under 100 minutes. If we're supposed to keep our friends close, and our enemies closer, then this guy is screwed, because in his case, they all pretty much suck. Like the American remake, I presume. Say cheese!

Blowup (1966)

My husband introduced me to this one, directed by Michelangelo Antonioni and loosely based on real-life Sixties camera cassanova David Bailey. It's safe to assume that Bailey never inadvertently captured a murder on film, but it makes for a good premise in this film, which is, admittedly, a slow burner (albeit a sexy and at times, creepy one). Good thing David Hemmings is super hot in it.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Trailer Parked.

Being a 14-year-old Eighties boy at heart, I have a soft spot for fringe. Like public access cable. And Garbage Pail Kids. And movies named for fast food (still waiting for that DVD release of Hamburger: The Motion Picture). The 14-year-old Eighties boy in me (metaphorically speaking) especially loves his horror a bit to the left of the dial. Like Troma. And anthologies. And midnight horror hosts (Elvira! Joe Bob Briggs! Gilbert Gottfried and later, Rhonda Shear!).

Now, while most people are okay with arriving to a film after the trailers, you and I know that the trailers are where it's at. Except not now; it's okay to miss them today, they're all shit bombs—just pick your slingshot (Jennifer Aniston or Bradley Cooper will do just fine, thank you). But if you're like me, you A) usually wait for the Blu-ray, and B) only come out of your cave for an old 35mm at the Nuart (or, if you're Canadian like one of my YouTube besties, The Bloor). And when it comes to the latter, you don't want to be late for the trailers. The Beyond, with trailers for The Evil Dead and Cannibal Ferox. The Evil Dead, with a trailer for City of the Living Dead. You feel me.

So when my 14-year-old Eighties boy stumbled upon Mad Ron's Prevues from Hell, he screamed and clapped like a 36-year-old woman imitating a 14-year-old girl at a Bieber gig.

Got 82 minutes? Fill them with awesome.

This 1987 gem (it looks like it was made years earlier, before it picked up a distributor, but that's just my opinion. My dad used to say that opinions were like assholes—everyone's got one. Anyway, I digress.) was just released on DVD last year by Virgil Films and Entertainment, and it's one of my new Favorite Things Ever (Oprah's Favorite Things be damned—she never put Pepperidge Farm's chocolate cake, the Rhythm Method or "Garth Marenghi's Darkplace" on her stupid list).

Along with his sidekick Happy, ventriloquist-presenter Nick Pawlow delivers trailer after gloriously sick trailer with enough straight-man charm and committed Ned Flanders nerdiness to make me think that I would indeed grab some Zimas, meet him in the projection room and let him hit that (or, I dunno, lightly tap it, Sandals style? I'm old) if I were single. And if you know me (and have seen my sub list on YouTube), then you know that I go weak for the trailer geek.

Mad Ron's Prevues from Hell has everything you could ever want, minus the Funyuns. This film's got enough blood, body count and boobs (tip: those old 3D glasses will come in handy around the half-point; my husband and I tested ours out, then we hit pause for a while and came back to it later) to keep you happy—until it ends. Who says boys don't cry? My 14-year-old Eighties boy did.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

A New England.

Okay, so I'm a die-hard, self-proclaimed, cut-me-and-I'll-bleed-PG-Tips Anglophile. This on-and-on love affair has been going strong since childhood, when my dad used to spin Pink Floyd, the Police, Queen and Cream. When I thought that Mark Hollis, Peter Murphy and Richard Butler were all David Bowie (the realization that "It's My Life" was not, in fact, performed by the Goblin King sparking my 25-year lunacy for Talk Talk, Bauhaus and the Psych Furs). When I was certain that I would marry Craig Warnock from Time Bandits. Or Robert Smith. Or Dave Gahan. Or later, Damon Albarn.

Anyway, I love the Brits. I even went all the way to England, clubbed one over the head and dragged him home:

The chocolate here, not so good. I must break you.

My childhood dreams of running off to England, marrying my rock-and-roll fantasy and living in an old, dilapidated Hammer Horror castle are a bit more scaled down to torpedoing-toward-middle-age scale at this point. I've gnawed my way through one of the coldest winters the UK has ever experienced this side of Dickens. I've gotten my feet trampled on trains from London to Colchester. Had insults hurled at me on the N11. Stumbled out of a pub, losing a glove and nearly cracking my head open in the process. Seen rubbish strewn along the road on the way to Tesco Express. Done ritual pee-pee dances around a £1 toilet, hoping it would magically open up to me for free. At times, I've felt like the people I've come across couldn't have given less of a damn if I gave them one and asked for it back.

So, it was just like home, except toilets are free in the US, and England has bitchin' pubs, better TV and awesome public transport. And our friends are in England, and my mother-in-law can throw down a Sunday roast that would make chickens line up for a chance to be delicious.

What, then, is the takeaway? Well, although my teenage dreams were so hard to beat, in their place is a respect and genuine, authentic love for England that I didn't have before. I love England because it isn't the Grey Poupon, tea-and-scones, mind-the-gap and cockney-rebel bullshit America has been force-fed through a Tube all these years, like geese for the fattening. And knowing this, I'm free to move on to the things that are truly worth getting hot about when it comes to cool Britannia.

Like Public Information Films.

Britain has a storied cinematic horror history. Peeping Tom. The Wicker Man. The Company of Wolves. Paperhouse. Hammer. I love all of these, but I'm completely in love with Public Information Films. I want to marry them and make little PIFs to release into the wild of random, soulless, consumerist American children's television. So, what are they? Well, here in the States, two eggs in a frying pan is, apparently, our brains on drugs. Yeah, well okay. In the UK, those eggs come part of a Full English Breakfast of whoop-ass, washed down with a glass of Dark and Lonely Water:

Public Information Films are not like our Public Service Announcements, where your 1986 self can grab a Kudos bar, then plop down on the bean bag to laugh at the pothead dad chastising his pothead son during breaks in the ABC Afterschool Special—no, these are mini horror films, in which children are picked off, one by one ("Apaches," below), and if Charley Says it, you'd better do it.

Public Information Films have as much impact now as they did back in their heyday; at least, they do to this girl. They make me want to question everything, down to the most seemingly harmless of events. Take the escalator? No thanks, I'll take the stairs. But what if I slip, fall and break my ass? Are those elevators safe? Is there a Green Cross Code that will guide me safely between the Orange Julius and my car? Those Hot Dog on a Stick girls aren't really jumping to the rhythmic beat of pressed lemons—they're trampling on my self esteem with their lithe bodies and 20-year-old Neutragena smiles! $40 for razor-torn jeans? THE MALL IS TRYING TO KILL ME!!

Even the star-power behind PIFs is cooler. British PIFs had Donald Pleasance and David Prowse (Darth Vader) deliver public-service smackdowns. Our PSAs had Rachael Leigh Cook and Pee Wee Herman. Any questions?

Friday, July 1, 2011

Beggars Can Be Losers.

As today is the last day to vote for trailers in the AOF Action Video Challenge, I'm throwing whatever pride I have left to the blogs in favor of getting as many votes as I can for my husband John Chance's fantastic short, The Timeslip. But first, here's a little bit about the man himself:

Cool, right? So, back to the competition: now, I don't know whose idea it was—in this day and age of instant gimme-have-it—to make it as mother-effing difficult as possible for people to 1) register,  2) search for the film and 3) vote, but I'm hoping that by walking the five people who read my blog (and I love you, five people) through the process (skipping the find-the-film part), we can secure at least five more votes. John was in the lead, and now he's not. But together, we can change that!

1. Register at the Action On Film site:

2. Click on this link to take you to The Timeslip video:

3. Click on the fifth star to the right, and you're done!

I thank you, John thanks you. I thank you ...

Anyway, the winner gets to see their film showcased on the "AOF Channel Show" on NBC, and I can't think of anyone more deserving than John. He works hard, he's passionate about filmmaking, and he's a true independent. How many filmmakers can we really say that about anymore?