Sometimes movies just come around and hit you in that sweet spot – that was the case with The Houses October Built and its sequel. To be honest, the first one, released back in 2014, absolutely slipped past me, but when I received an email about the sequel and whether I’d be interested in talking to any of the principles involved, and I went back and watched the original.
I loved it. The Houses October Built is a found footage/documentary style story about a group of friends looking for the most extreme haunt in America (haunts is the vernacular for haunted house attractions). Legendary among fans is The Blue Skeleton, which as the film shares, is supposed to be the most extreme of the extreme. Which means, of course, that our leads wind up facing off against what The Blue Skeleton has to offer.
The Houses October Built 2 picks up immediately following the first film, and serves as a chapter two rather than a sequel or follow-up. Both films give audiences a look into what goes into making a great haunt, as the ones depicting are the real deal. They also feature believeable performances from everyone involved, and make a strong case for the ongoing use of found footage in horror films, especially when its done right.
On that note, here is my email interview with series director/co-writer/actor Bobby Roe and co-writer/actor Zack Andrews. Be warned – there are spoilers contained for the first film here:
Andy Burns: Congrats on a great new franchise. I love what you guys have created with The Houses October Built. How did you two come up with the concept?
Zack Andrews: Thank you very much. We wanted to take a setting that we loved, Halloween haunted houses, and make a film around them that felt unique and not just the same old thing that has run the genre stale. We knew we had an audience: over 35 million people a year go to these attractions and Americans spend over 8 billion dollars on Halloween every year. So it was about finding a narrative that would allow us to shoot on real sets using real scare actors in order to take the audience on a genuine Halloween adventure.
Andy Burns: For those of that don’t know (including me), how did you two meet in the first place?
Bobby Roe: AP English. We grew up in the same town playing basketball and both loved movies. We’ve known each other for 25 years. And actually, in high school in October, we used to love going to a horror movie and then hitting up one of our local haunted houses.
Andy Burns: I think we all know that at this time in the horror genre, found footage/documentary style films are really hit and miss. I’m happy to say you nailed the genre in my mind. Did you have any concerns with the first film wading into those waters? Read the rest of this entry
INVSN will be playing the Bovine in Toronto on Wednesday, September 13. Tickets are FREE!
If you were into punk in the 1990s, you’ll remember Refused. If you were into punk at the turn of the millennium, you’ll also remember The (International) Noise Conspiracy. Singer Dennis Lyxzén is the common element in both of those exceptional bands. Not content to rest on his laurels, he’s now part of another Swedish punk collective called INVSN.
Read the rest of this entry
Tuesday, June 14th, 2016 saw the Blu-ray/DVD release of the J.J. Abrams-produced 10 CLOVERFIELD LANE. Rather than a direct follow-up to the 2008 hit sci-fi/horror film, CLOVERFIELD, 10 CLOVERFIELD LANE is a spiritual sequel that relies on vibe, atmosphere and originality to make its connection.
In 10 CLOVERFIELD LANE, Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) is trapped in a bunker with two strangers, Howard (John Goodman) and Emmett (John Gallagher, Jr.) following what may have been a horrible event in the outside world. The three form a makeshift family unit until suspicions about what’s true and what’s not beginning to tear at them.
I had the chance to talk to first-time director Dan Trachtenberg about casting 10 CLOVERFIELD LANE, what surprised him most and more. Be warned: there will be SPOILERS in this interview.
Andy Burns: Why was 10 Cloverfield Lane the right film for you to make your big-screen directing debut with?
Dan Trachtenberg: I love movies that combine genres. I love when something is more than just one thing. Jaws is my favourite movie of all time. I never label Jaws as a horror movie. When it’s scary, it’s terrifying. When it’s funny, it’s hilarious. When there’s drama, it’s the most sincere stuff on screen. And when there’s adventure, there’s swashbuckle. It’s got all of those things, and I always hoped to make something that can be on those terms and play to many different genres. When I read the script I was really struck by how tense it was, and by how funny it could become and by how satisfying it was in the end. And how new it was. That ending, I knew it would be devisive, I knew it wouldn’t be for everyone, but I knew for some it would be an incredible experience to have it.
Depending on where you’re living, in late January or early February THE VEIL was released onto various platforms – Netflix, VOD and iTunes. The film, from Blumehouse Productions, stars Thomas Jane as Jim Jacobs, the religious head of the cultish Heaven’s Veil, a group that commits mass suicide for one unknown reason. Years later, the only survivor (Lily Rabe) is approached by a documentary crew led by Maggie (Jessica Alba) to return to Heaven’s Veil and uncover the truth of what happened that day.
Watching it at home alone, lights turned off, THE VEIL absolutely scared the shit out of me, first from a jump scare, and then from the overwhelming feeling of dread that permeates the film as the story moves forward. The movie also features solid performances from its lead actors, especially Thomas Jane, who is equal parts holy man and rock star.
Enamoured by THE VEIL, I reached out to its director Phil Joanou (with much appreciated help from writer Jim Hemphill) to see if we could chat about his movie via email. It was certainly exciting when Joanou agreed – you see, along with countless commercials and films, including classics like Three O’Clock High and State of Grace, Joanou directed U2: Rattle and Hum, which I dragged my father to see when I was just 11 years old (turning dad into a U2 fan in the process). I think it’s probably not coincidence that Joanou’s work has affected me as both a kid and now, as an adult.
On that note, enjoy my exclusive interview with Phil Joanou (mild spoilers ahead).
Andy Burns: Phil, congrats on a great film. I found THE VEIL to be a really wonderful, well-crafted horror movie with some seriously scary jump scares. It’s a departure from your previous work. Can you tell Rue Morgue the process by which you came to direct THE VEIL?
Phil Joanou: Like most directors, I’ve been fascinated by the horror genre since I fell in love with movies. In fact, one of my first super-8 movies was a horror film called “Albino Hill” (I’ll leave the reader to imagine what that was about!). I was really inspired and influenced by John Carpenter’s Halloween which was right around the time when I first discovered the power of what a director could do on film. I used all of Carpenter’s tricks and even the “Halloween” score on “Albino Hill” and I promise you that’s what made it work (if it worked at all!).
Later on I was heavily influenced by Hitchcock, De Palma, Wise, Polanski and of course, Kubrick as I studied all of their forays into the genre. So when Blumhouse came to me with the script for “The Veil” I was immediately attracted to the material, as I felt it was more of a “throwback” to those seminal directors’ styles and the stories they told. Each of them used the “slow burn” style of storytelling… allowing the story to build and build and build as you discovered the characters and what the movie was really about (and in some cases, you are never really sure what it was about!) THE VEIL uses those same techniques (which is unusual in horror today) and I was intrigued by the opportunity to emulate that kind of filmmaking that had originally inspired me. I think some modern viewers will find it “slow” or even “boring” as it doesn’t include super aggressive violence and gore to create scares (there is a little blood, but not much) and the real moments of terror, are more psychological. And I liked that about this project.
Andy Burns: It’s my understanding that THE VEIL began as a found footage film, but that a decision was made before shooting to go in a different direction – can you give us insight into that change, and why it was made? Read the rest of this entry
DONNIE DARKO is, in many ways, the definition of a cult movie made good. The film was first released right around the time of September 11th, 2001, and barely found an audience in theatres. Drew Barrymore helped bring the story of the disturbed Donnie Darko (Jake Gyllenhaal), whose new friend is a large bunny named Frank and who is deeply interested in the concept of wormholes and time travel, to life, but at the time the film went unfairly unseen. The following year, DONNIE DARKO would find its audience on DVD, one that became so devoted that director Richard Kelly was able to go back and create a director’s cut of the film, which screened in 2004 and made efforts to be a little more literal and less obscure in its storytelling. Depending on your opinion, that version is either a masterpiece or a bit too on the nose with its explanations.
This spring has seen both version of DONNIE DARKO remastered and released in a new Blu-ray set from Arrow Video, along with screenings of the film across the world. We had the chance to talk to director Kelly about the movie’s roots, his collaboration with his lead actor, and much more, .
Andy Burns: DONNIE DARKO is such a unique film. Where did it come from?
Richard Kelly: I like to say that it came from 23 years of life. It was my first screenplay, I’d been through a rigorous education at USC and I had a film degree. I was looking to write a screenplay and this is what emerged.
Andy Burns: The film deals with universal fears – the idea of death and dying alone, time passing and what we can do with our time. How much of you is in that story? Were those concerns of yours?
Richard Kelly: Well, there’s a significant amount of me, my adolescence in the film. They’re all personal stories. I don’t really know how to tell a story that isn’t personal. At least not yet. There’s plenty of that in the DNA of the story. My high school English teacher who taught us Watership Down, he said to us, “Write what you know.” Everybody should be writing something that’s emotionally true and that’s authentic. Otherwise, you risk writing into cynicism or into the market place, and people can see that. Emotional authenticity is what I’m aiming at.
Andy Burns: How much of the character of Donnie Darko was on the page versus how much was collaboration with Jake Gyllenhaal?
Read the rest of this entry
Opening in Toronto for a limited engagement this Friday before its arrival on VOD Tuesday, June 13th, Awakening the Zodiac tells the story of Mick (West) and Zoe (Bibb), a young destitute couple hoping to change their fortune when they partner with paranoid, gun-toting, Gulf War veteran, Harvey (Craven) on a deserted storage locker. The locker’s contents appear to be worthless until Harvey makes a discovery deep inside a piece of furniture: an old 8mm film reel. Curious, they load it into a projector and watch something that will change their lives forever. The forty-year-old footage depicts two gruesome murders taken by the killer himself. Harvey has a strange feeling and realizes two things: Those were murders of the savage Zodiac Killer, the most elusive serial killer in history, and there is a reward of $100,000 for any information leading to his capture. Zodiac is out there, and he’s still killing. Determined to uncover the secrets of the films, Mick, Zoe and Harvey begin their search for the Zodiac.
I had the chance to talk to director Jonathan Wright about Awakening The Zodiac, and the enduring legacy of one of thr 20th centuries most notorious serial killers.
Andy Burns: Jonathan, congrats on Awakening the Zodiac – I really enjoyed the film. What inspired your interest in the Zodiac and making this film?
Jonathan Wright: The thriller is my favourite genre of films. The idea of a person going around murdering random people and taunting the police is absolutely terrifying. The fact that the Zodiac was never caught, and could still be out there sends chills down my spine.
AB: Could you give us a little insight into your creative process – how did you come up with the story, what sort of research went into crafting the screenplay?
JW: When Michael Baker came to me asking to direct this movie, I literally jumped at the chance. We wanted to craft characters and a scenario that we’ve never seen before. The film is procedural, but we didn’t want to make a detective movie. Early research revealed that the San Francisco Police Department still have a $100,000 reward for evidence leading to the arrest of the Zodiac killer. I spent countless hours going through FBI documents and witness accounts which spawned numerous theories about who the killer was and how he operated. I also delved deep into code breaking. The infamous cipher known as the 314 cipher has never been broken and supposedly includes the Zodiac’s true identity.
AB: What was it about Shane West and Leslie Bibb that made them the right choices for Mick and Zoe, respectively? Read the rest of this entry
Have I mentioned how much I enjoy being the senior writer for Biff Bam Pop? I get to interview the most talented people. Lately, I’ve been doing book reviews for the site, and while I’ve enjoyed reading all the books assigned to me, Royally Roma by Teri Wilson has been my favorite by far. Set in the eternal city of Rome, Teri Wilson takes her readers on a spectacular adventure of mistaken identity. Meet me after the jump for the review. Read the rest of this entry
I love working for Biff Bam Pop because not only do I get to interview some really cool people, I also get to review films and television series. This time, our fearless leader, Andy Burns, asked me to review Zhen Lyu’s science fiction book, Intruders. It was an interesting read, but would the book make a great gift idea? Pull up that easy chair and meet me after the jump. Read the rest of this entry
Rob Zombie is no stranger to controversy, especially when it comes to his work as a director.
Read the rest of this entry
Just a few weeks ago I got the chance to meet Dick Cavett on the 2016 TCM Classic Cruise. There were onboard interviews with him, he introduced several movies, and he also told amazing stories of Hollywood that spanned the decades. Recently, the Decades network started replaying his old talk shows from the sixties, seventies, and eighties, so even today’s generation may have heard of this fantastic interviewer, writer, and talk show host. If you’re hip to the man, there are a lot of gifts you might want to give or get this holiday. Meet me after the jump for… Dick Cavett!