Actress Lorna Raver never thought moving to LA was in the cards for her. After all, she had been enjoying a satisfying career playing theatres in both New York and Chicago. However, she took a chance with a friend when they decided to head West, and suddenly Raver found her career zooming right past live performances and into the world of being a character actress on television.
“I definitely never would have moved out here on my own, but I am more than happy that I did,” said Raver. “I always had this idea that women of a certain age just shouldn’t even bother to try and make it in Hollywood, and I have been pleasantly surprised and blessed by all the work that has come my way.”
Now, with a solid start from appearing in episodic television, Raver is taking her next leap starring in Sam Raimi’s Drag Me to Hell, where she plays Mrs. Ganush, an elderly gypsy woman who comes to her bank for a mortgage extension and is denied by Christine (played by Alison Lohman).
When Mrs. Ganush feels as if Christine has publicly shamed her, she enacts her revenge in the form of a curse that summons a demon to drag the young banker to the depths of hell in three days’ time.
Raver explains her character’s motivations by saying, “I see Sylvia as a woman who justifies her actions because she comes from an old world culture. She reacts viscerally because of who she is. Maybe she takes it too far, but she certainly does have cause for complaint with how Christine treats her.”
Raver initially had no idea what would be in store for her on the set of Drag Me to Hell as she had read only one scene of the movie when she did her audition and then spoke with Raimi to accept the part.
“I am not a horror fan so I had no idea of Sam’s reputation with the Evil Dead films,” said Raver. “Originally I only read the bank scene, which seemed ordinary enough. Then, when I finally got the full script, I realized just how over the top most of the movie was. I might have paused for a second when I realized what I got myself into, but then I just knew it was going to be a lot of fun to work on this with Sam, Alison, and Justin.”
Raver’s role in Drag Me to Hell required the actress to undergo unsightly make-up processes. “All I can say is that I thank God that I don’t have much invested in my looks, or I might have felt self-conscious,” joked Raver.
Raver also had to work closely with KNB Effects Group, which she said turned out to be the hardest part of being in Drag Me to Hell. “I went to KNB because they had to do a live cast of my entire body for the movie so that they could build puppets and work on some other make-up effects,” said Raver. “It was five guys working all at once, but it still terrified me because I am claustrophobic. I was so nervous, but I knew I was in good hands with them. They did such an amazing job that when they asked me to do a second live casting with me screaming, I couldn’t say no to them,” Raver added.
Raver also got challenged on the set of Drag Me to Hell since the parking lot fight scene involved Mrs. Ganush delivering some vengeance on young Christine. Both actresses worked hard alongside stunt doubles so that they could do as many of their own stunts as possible.
Raver explained, “The stunt coordinator and our doubles showed Alison and myself how to block our scenes so that everything looked real and we didn’t hurt ourselves or each other. It was surreal to have to really choke her and just what a beating poor Alison was willing to take in order to make everything look so real. She was quite the trooper.”
Even though Drag Me to Hell was far more challenging than Raver originally expected, the actress is relishing every moment of her first major film role of her career. “I enjoyed this experience more than anything I’ve ever done before,” said Raver. “The cast and crew all worked so hard and just being a part of Sam’s film was a dream come true for me. Watching Sam work was a revelation because he’s so focused and intelligent in his approach. I really hope I get to work with him again in the future.”
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Tony Timpone’s Elegy – AFM: A November to Dismember
It used to be that the toughest thing about visiting the global cinematic bazaar known as the American Film Market was squeezing in as many movies as humanly possible before your eyes exploded like Cameron Vale’s in Scanners. At this year’s 38th annual AFM, held November 1-8 in Santa Monica, CA, I watched 17 movies in five days. Don’t be too impressed. That’s a big drop from past years, where I’d see as many as two dozen films during that span.
This year marked my 21st AFM jaunt, and change has been in the air for some time at this industry confab. Two screening days have been shaved off the program, and theater screenings have lost the 5pm and 7pm slots. Much of the Z-grade schlock has been whittled away and there does seem to be a higher level of product on display. No longer does every other movie star Joe Estevez. Now it’s Nicolas Cage! Sales companies feverishly hawked Cage’s VOD-bound Primal, The Humanity Bureau and Looking Glass, in addition to a plethora of cute puppy and sappy Christmas cable-ready movies.
So where’s the horror, you ask? You can still discover it at AFM, but 2017 offered a disappointing allowance for the most part. To put it into perspective, the opening day of my first AFM in 1998 yielded John Carpenter’s Vampires and Spain’s Abre Los Ojos (remade as the mediocre Vanilla Sky in the US) back-to-back (not to mention The Big Lebowski from the Coen brothers). For 2017, I did not see one film as good as those (well, maybe one…). Not a total washout, mind you, as I’m sure you will add a few titles to your watch list after perusing my AFM 2017 screening report.
I Kill Giants:
A lonely teenage girl (Madison Wolfe) defends her coastal town from invading goliaths in this somber tale directed by Denmark’s Anders Walter and written by Joe Kelly from his graphic novel. Not exactly a feel-good movie, I Kill Giants deals with bullying, depression, isolation and terminal illness. It intersperses the somberness with some excellent FX scenes involving the giants, who emerge from the surf and dark woods to taunt our young heroine. Not only is I Kill Giants too downbeat for my tastes, last year’s underrated and underseen A Monster Calls covered many of the same emotional beats much more eloquently and movingly than here.
Spanish helmer Alex del la Iglesia (Day of the Beast, Witching & Bitching) produced this Terry Gilliam-esque dark fantasy, about a cursed medieval-age blacksmith and his battle of wills with a demon out to claim his soul.
Directed by Paul Urkijo Alijo, the movie is like a Hieronymus Bosch painting come to life. Its climactic trip to Hell stands out as a highlight, pitchforks and all, as do the superb practical makeup FX.
A parking valet (Robert Sheehan) at a ritzy restaurant borrows the patrons’ cars to rob their homes while they’re eating in this thriller directed by Dean (Godzilla) Devlin and written by Brandon (Apt Pupil) Boyce. As he rummages through the house of the arrogant Cale (former “Doctor Who” David Tennant, cast against type and looking like a less seedy Charlie Sheen), valet Sean discovers an imprisoned woman, the waiting victim of the rich serial killer. The cops don’t believe the robber, but the bad guy catches onto him and soon begins destroying Sean’s life and those around him. Though Bad Samaritan builds some good suspense and remains moderately gripping, Devlin (late of the embarrassing Geostorm, which Irishman Sheehan also appeared in) is no Hitchcock. And at 107 minutes, the movie overstays its welcome.
Anna and the Apocalypse:
Christmas, teenagers, music and zombies… Anna and the Apocalypse has it all. As the snow falls and Yuletide cheer builds, a living dead outbreak hits the quaint British town of Little Haven. Can teen Anna (Intruders’ Ella Hunt) and her friends make it to their high school auditorium for presumed safety? Well, they’ll try, singing and dancing (and bashing in undead heads) along the way. OK, so the movie’s cute and a raucous scene of zombie mayhem in a bowling alley scores a strike, but the problem with Anna is the songs just aren’t that memorable. Where’s Richard O’Brien when you need him?
Incident in a Ghost Land:
Writer/director Pascal Laugier took our breath away with his vicious Martyrs in 2008, but 2012’s underrated The Tall Man garnered little notice. Packing a ’70s horror vibe, his latest recaptures some of Martyrs’ uncomfortable female-inflicted brutality. Two young sisters and their mom head to a remote family house, which is soon invaded by two ruthless psychos. Though the story echoes Tourist Trap and High Tension, Laugier pulls the rug out from us at a key point and takes us down an even darker path. I wish the villains had a little more depth here, but In a Ghost Land has enough shock and thrills to satisfy fright fans.
Laugier’s fellow extreme Frenchmen, Xavier Gens, terrorized us with his Texas Chainsaw Massacre pastiche Frontier(s) in 2007 and explored postapocalyptic horror in The Divide (2011). Now he tries his hand at a Jules Verne-style creature feature. In the early 20th century, a weather observer (David Oakes) arrives for a year-long assignment at an isolated island near the Antarctic Circle where he meets the misanthropic lighthouse keeper (Ray Stevenson). A race of pale-skinned fish people dwells in the seas and raids the island at night in several bravura action set pieces, their motive unknown. The real threat here may be Stevenson, who keeps one of the creatures as a pet/sex slave. Gens plays the story like a fable, but ultimately I had a hard time warming up to Cold Skin. Where the movie succeeds is in the creature FX and photography departments.
Let the Corpses Tan:
French directors Hélène Cattet and Bruno Forzani won over the horror arthouse crowd with their giallo tributes Amer and The Strange Color of Your Body’s Tears. Their latest flashy exercise tackles the much-loved Italian Spaghetti Western genre, but relocates the story to modern day and a Mediterranean hilltop villa. A gold-robbing gang holes up in the scenic, sun-drenched location, with a woman artist and her friends get caught in the crossfire when two cops arrive. The filmmakers do a fine job of paying homage to Sergio Leone and Ennio Morricone here, but we’re talking style over substance. None of the characters really pops, and the whole thing grows a little tiresome. Fans of Cattet and Forzani and arty shootouts will still dig it.
After the weekly US shooting sprees of Vegas and Texas, this was the last movie I wanted to embrace. A group of friends find themselves stranded in the middle of nowhere after a sniper cripples their car. Said sniper then begins blasting away at the college kids in graphic fashion, brains splattering the asphalt in gruesome close-up. Director Ryûhei Kitamura (The Midnight Meat Train, Versus) does some flashy camera things, but the movie is so damn mean-spirited that it just left a bad taste in my mouth. The lowdown on Downrange: the story’s not very plausible nor the characters very likable.
Just when I gave up on AFM 2017, the last movie screening I attended turned out to be not only the best genre film of the market but one of the best of the year period (IFC releases Ghost Stories next April). Supernatural debunker Professor Goodman (Andy Nyman, who co-wrote and co-directed with Jeremy Dyson) examines three extreme hauntings which just might make a believer out of him. Adapting their successful London play, Nyman and Dyson riff on past British horror anthologies Dead of Night and the ’70s Amicus flicks, but with a modern sensibility. Ghost Stories achieves its scares with class and distinction, as well as terrific makeup FX and a memorable supporting turn by The Hobbit’s Martin Freeman.
This one will send you out singing too; the “Monster Mash” plays over the end credits!
So even though this year’s AFM was a bust, you will likely spot me canvassing those comfy Santa Monica theaters (kudos for solid projection, luxurious seating and friendly staff at the Arclight, AMC, Broadway and Laemmle) again next fall. On the market and festival beat, hope springs eternal!
For more information on the AFM, go to www.americanfilmmarket.com.
Wanna See Something REALLY Scary? Gruesome Demonic Possession Video
“Wanna see something REALLY scary?”
To horror fans who came of age in the 1980s, the line above instantly evokes memories of Dan Aykroyd and Albert Brooks in the opening scene from Twilight Zone: The Movie. Now, on a bi-monthly basis, I’ll be asking, “Wanna see something REALLY scary?” with the goal of shocking you with chilling footage plumbed from the darkest corners of YouTube.
While The Blair Witch Project, released in 1999, didn’t invent the found footage subgenre of horror, it certainly popularized the concept, making it a common trope throughout the 2010s. The idea of finding misplaced film or video that reveals a terrifying truth is instantly compelling, and films like The Ring and Sinister have taken this concept outside of the found-footage arena, promoting the concept of cursed media.
One of the main goals of the found-footage presentation is to blur the line between fiction and reality. From this perspective, it’s as though a filmmaker is acting as an objective third party, offering a “discovery” without validating its authenticity. And while there are indeed real-life examples of lost media revealing compelling or harrowing secrets (surveillance footage, lost cameras, etc.) has anything ever been unearthed that compares to the terror induced by movies like Blair Witch.
The Paranormal Scholar is a YouTube channel dedicated to scientific, academic explorations of supposed real-life supernatural phenomenon. While the majority of their video essays end by debunking popular urban legends and modern creepypastas, they recently explored a potentially legitimate reel of found film—and it’s utterly horrifying.
Wanna see something REALLY scary?
According to The Paranormal Scholar, the footage below was discovered in the attic of a newly purchased home in Iowa around 1973. Unfortunately, no other significant details are known—which is convenient if it’s a hoax. The video looks almost too good to be real (meaning it’s genuinely disturbing) but the fact that it can’t be immediately debunked is instantly unnerving.
The subject of this supposedly found footage is one many horror fans find intriguing: Demonic possession. Give it a spin and let us know what you think in the Comments section. Do you know anything about this mysterious footage? Do you think it’s real or a clever fake? Let the debate begin!
Warning: Mature Content!
Got an idea for a future installment of “Wanna See Something REALLY Scary?” Hit me up on Twitter @josh_millican!
Class of 1999 Graduates to Blu-Ray in 2018
Coming to blu-ray in early 2018 will be Class of 1999, which was originally released in 1990 and designed to be an unofficial sci-fi sequel to 1982’s Class of 1984, which itself received a special edition blu-ray in 2015. Confused yet?
In 1982, writer-director Mark L. Lester made Class of 1984, a slightly futuristic action thriller about teachers contending with teenage gangs in an inner-city high school. Lester would go on to grace us with Commando and Firestarter before returning to the premise in 1990 to give us the very futuristic Class of 1999. This time the action takes place near the turn of the millennium when gang violence overruns inner-city high schools to the point that the government steps in and replaces the teachers with reprogrammed military-grade battle androids. The super soldier cyborg faculty revert to their militaristic ways, naturally, and rack up quite a body count as they declare war on the student body leading to teenage gangs putting aside their difference to lead an anti-robot uprising in the halls of the school.
The time is the future, and youth gang violence is so high that the areas around some schools have become “free fire zones” into which not even the police will venture. When Miles Langford (Malcolm McDowell), the principal of Kennedy High School, decides to take his school back from the gangs, robotics specialist Dr. Robert Forrest (Stacy Keach) provides “tactical education units.” These human-like androids have been programmed to teach and are supplied with weapons to handle discipline problems. These kids will get a lesson in staying alive!
Boasting a screenplay by Full Moon stalwart C. Courtney Joyner and a cast including the likes of Stacy Keach, Pam Grier, Malcolm McDowell, Patrick Kilpatrick, and Traci Lind; Class of 1999 and its unique Stand and Deliver meets The Warriors meets The Terminator premise has garnered a loyal cult following over the years. We won’t mention the sequel. Forget I even brought it up. Sequel? What sequel?
Lionsgate Home Entertainment has announced Class of 1999 will be the next title getting a blu-ray release as part of their Vestron Collector’s Series in the first semester of 2018 with a fully loaded edition guaranteed to please fans and those that have yet to be educated on this enjoyable early Ninties b-movie extravaganza.
Disc extras will include:
Audio Commentary with Producer/Director Mark L. Lester
Interviews with Director/Producer Mark L. Lester and Co-Producer Eugene Mazzola
Interview with Screenwriter C. Courtney Joyner
Interviews with Special Effects Creators Eric Allard and Rick Stratton
Interview with Director of Photography Mark Irwin
Trailer & TV Spot
Optional English, English SDH, and Spanish subtitles for the main feature
Class of 1999 graduates to blu-ray on January 30th.
Tony Timpone’s Elegy – AFM: A November to Dismember
Wanna See Something REALLY Scary? Gruesome Demonic Possession Video
Class of 1999 Graduates to Blu-Ray in 2018
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