Reviews, articles, rants & ramblings on the darker side of the media fringe

Archive for February, 2014

Manson Murders

Writer Bret Easton Ellis and director Rob Zombie have teamed with Alcon Television to develop a project for Fox that will revisit the people and events connected to the Manson Family murder spree in August 1969.

The project is envisioned as a limited series, but it is in the very early stages of development with Fox. Ellis is set to write the script and some additional materials. Zombie is on board to direct.

Zombie has long been fascinated by the Manson Family slayings, which left seven people dead in the Los Angeles area. Among the victims were actress Sharon Tate, who was eight and a half months pregnant at the time with the child of director Roman Polanski, and prominent Hollywood hairstylist Jay Sebring.

The killings were so gruesome, and the stories of Charles Manson’s level of control of his drug-addled young followers so disturbing, that Manson was convicted of first-degree murder and conspiracy charges even though he was never found to have committed a homicide himself.

Manson’s clutch of cult followers have been suspected of many other murders during that era. But it was sheer brutality and psychopathic theatricality of the killings (complete with messages written in blood at the crime scenes) unleashed on Aug. 8-9, 1969, that jolted the nation’s psyche.

The Ellis-Zombie collaboration aims to tell converging stories of people and events leading up to and after the murders, from shifting points of view. The project is envisioned as a multipart series, but it is one of many limited series projects in the works and is far away from receiving a greenlight.

The idea for the project began with Zombie and Adam Kolbrenner and Robyn Meisinger of Madhouse Entertainment. They developed the concept and brought it to Ellis and Alcon. To date, no source material has been optioned for the project, which plans to take an original approach to dramatizing stories drawn from the historical record.

Ellis, Zombie and the Madhouse principals will exec produce with Alcon’s Sharon Hall, Andrew Kosove and Broderick Johnson. Ben Roberts and Ryan Cunningham serve as co-producers.

“I have been obsessed with this insane story since I was a kid, so obviously I jumped at the chance to be involved in this incredible project. After speaking with Bret, I immediately realized that we shared the same vision for this epic madness,” Zombie said.

Manson was sentenced to death in 1971, but the sentence changed to life in prison when California abolished the death penalty the following year. He has been denied parole 12 times.

Ellis most recently penned the micro-budgeted Lindsay Lohan starrer “The Canyons,” released last year by IFC. Zombie’s last directorial effort was the 2013 indie “The Lords of Salem.”


Wolf Creek 2 knifed by intellectual snobbery

wolf-creek-2-posterThat shameful refusal by Australia’s top Film Reviewers to not review Wolf Creek 2 on their popular At The Movies show just won’t go away… check out this excellent article by Jessica Balanzategui in The Age.

In the late 1980’s, Mick ”Crocodile” Dundee playfully encouraged audiences to question what really constitutes a knife when you’re in the untamed wilds of outback Australia. More recently, Mick Taylor of Wolf Creek similarly compelled potential visitors to the outback to think deeply and painfully about when a knife is really a knife.

He implores some German tourists to consider ”what the bloody hell are you buggers doing here?” And rightly so, considering what lies ahead for them.

The Wolf Creek films revel in the nightmarish underside to the myths of rural idyll, mateship and charming ockerism that have become so central to our ideas of national identity.

Horror films have long crept alongside the comedies, dramas and art films that make up the bulk of our cinematic output: before Babe, the adorable little pig who dared to dream big, there was Razorback, the giant wild boar that gleefully ripped its victims to pieces. In fact, some classic Australian films that we proudly hold as pinnacles of the craft, Wake in Fright (Ted Kotcheff, 1971), Walkabout (Nicolas Roeg, 1971) and Picnic at Hanging Rock (Peter Weir, 1975), are basically horror films masquerading as lofty art pieces.

I can distinctly remember watching both Walkabout and Picnic at Hanging Rock as a child – my well-intentioned parents evidently hoping to instil within me early a respect for great Australian cinema – and being haunted by nightmares from both for weeks. (At least I escaped being subjected to Wake in Fright at a young age – the consequences may have been much more severe.)

Wolf Creek 2 follows in the footsteps of these films, and in fact references Wake in Fright directly a number of times. Yet Margaret Pomeranz and David Stratton, the deserved royalty of Australian film criticism, refused to review Wolf Creek 2 on their influential television program, At the Movies, despite the fact the film is currently the top earner at the Australian box office.

For decades Pomeranz and Stratton have been vital cogs in the rather badly oiled machine that is the Australian film industry. Australian releases face a David and Goliath battle from the outset, being forced to compete with the flood of heavily marketed blockbuster Hollywood films.

Throughout their careers Pomeranz and Stratton have made it their mission to champion Australian films – even the ones they don’t particularly like – by raising awareness of Australian releases through their insightful reviews and interviews. Yet it seems that films classified as ”horror” are not extended this support.

This genre bias did not start with Pomeranz and Stratton: it has been an entrenched component of the Australian film industry since its revival in the 1970s. In the 2008 documentary Not Quite Hollywood, Phillip Adams, who helped to establish Australia’s government film funding system, admits that in setting up the guidelines for funding ”many of us were very snobby about genre films, there’s no question about it. We didn’t approve of them.”

Wolf Creek director Greg McLean and producer Matt Hearn are all too aware of this issue. Hearn mortgaged his house to finance Wolf Creek; their follow-up, Rogue, was financed by American studio executives the Weinsteins; and Wolf Creek 2 was delayed for years due to funding shortfalls.

Snobbery towards horror films does nothing to help strengthen the Australian film industry. Just because a film is packaged as ”horror” does not automatically mean it is devoid of artistic and intellectual value: it just makes it easier to sell. Even Stratton, in his caustic review of Wolf Creek 2 in The Australian, reluctantly admits that the film’s cinematography, courtesy of Toby Oliver, is ”pristine”.

Wolf Creek 2 is indeed violent and confronting, particularly because of the disconcerting mash-up of Mick Taylor’s true blue Aussie humour and his sadistic, murderous intent. However, so was Wake in Fright, which Pomeranz described as ”menacing and sinister” with a ”disgustingly seedy” antagonist, yet which Stratton went on to describe as ”a great milestone in Australian cinema history”.

So, too, was the recent Snowtown (Justin Kurzel, 2011), a thoroughly disturbing film about the infamous ”bodies in the barrel” murderer John Bunting. Yet Pomeranz lauded this film – classified as an ”art film” due to its minimalist style – for it ”does not pull back from exposing the audience to … grotesque brutality”. Stratton also complimented the film on its ”dark power”.

Yet Wolf Creek 2, which employs similar tactics wrapped up in a commercially viable horror film package, is by contrast ”ugly and manipulative”.

I deeply respect Stratton and Pomeranz and have idolised them for as long as I can remember. But their refusal to review Wolf Creek 2 – even just to declare their hatred for it – points to a long-standing problem within the Australian film industry.

The confected division between ”lofty” art pieces and ”low brow” horror is outmoded and unhelpful. Horror has some powerful and revealing things to say about our society, just as art films do.

Jessica Balanzategui is undertaking a film studies PhD at Melbourne University. Her research explores the cultural power of horror films. Read more and comment at The Age HERE

 

 


Wolf Creek 2 – Ignored by Australian TV Reviewers

Wolf-Creek-2_Poster_bannerWolf Creek 2 writer-director Greg McLean has slammed Margaret Pomeranz and David Stratton for failing to support local productions, after the ABC duo decided against reviewing his horror sequel on Tuesday’s At the Movies.

Despite the film hitting the #1 spot at the Australian box office on debut, the pair gave it a wide berth, without explanation. The pair chose to review Lone Survivor, Non-Stop, Gloria and The Wind Rises instead… so much for supporting Australian film.

greg_mcleanIn an emailed response to Fairfax Media, McLean said: “Seriously, what on earth are they thinking? Simply not reviewing an independent Aussie movie that beat its US studio competitor Lone Survivor … is worth paying some attention.”

He added that Lone Survivor, the Mark Wahlberg war epic, cost $80 million to produce and market and featured on about 15 per cent more screens.

“Even if they didn’t enjoy the movie, there are many, many Wolf Creek fans out there who love horror and thriller movies and want to support locally made productions,” he said. “Like them, I’d love to hear their thoughts on our movie, whatever they might be. I really hope they reconsider and give Wolf Creek 2 the fair go it deserves.”

The At the Movies website does carry a four-minute Wolf Creek 2 report, with clips and interviews with McLean and star John Jarrett, but neither Pomeranz, Stratton or in fact any reporter make an appearance.

Wolf-Creek-2_John-Jarratt-Mick-Taylor_Director-Greg-McleanIncredulous fans have taken to Twitter to question the TV show’s absent review. McLean also questioned the move on Twitter, saying: “Apparently there’s a new category of movie review from David and Margaret called – no review at all! That’s gotta be a first, right?”

He added that he did want a review from them: “Kinda fun watching them rip a movie apart or gush over something… either would be fine. Curious really.”

Stratton wrote a scathing review of the film in The Australian just days ago, calling it “manipulative and ugly” and only gave it two out of five stars. He also noted in his review that “this is not the place to discuss the worldwide appeal of torture-porn and extreme screen violence”.

In their 2005 At the Movies review of Wolf Creek, both critics gave the film four stars but expressed concern over the level of violence. “The film is incredibly sadistic. I think it’s foul in some ways, in terms of violence. I think it really is thoroughly nasty,” Stratton said at the time.

Pomeranz responded that it was a “worry”, while Stratton added: “I think people and audiences, potential audiences, have to be warned about it.”

WolfCreek2 (1)The MA15+-rated Wolf Creek 2 was the top draw at the Aussie box-office on its debut last weekend, pulling in $1.681 million.

In the past Stratton has refused to review 1992 skinhead drama Romper Stomper, causing its director Geoffrey Wright to throw a glass of wine over him nearly three years later at the Venice Film Festival. Stratton later said he feared the film could “stir up racial violence”.

At the Movies executive producer said Jo Chichester said in a statement: “Margaret and David reviewed the first Wolf Creek, David’s thoughts on Wolf Creek 2 are in his review in The Australian, and there is an interview with the filmmaker and lead actor on the ATM website.” SMH


Godzilla – Official Full Trailer


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LEGO Ash from Evil Dead

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Ruby – By Emma Allen

Artist Emma Allen uses the human face and body – often her own – as a canvas for strange, beautiful and often disturbing painted images, many of which seem to pulse and sparkle with life. Naturally, her next major creative step was to bring those images to life literally, through stop-motion animation. Check out her webpage HERE


American Mary – Poster Art

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