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Exclusive: The Fields Set Visit Report

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Driving down a winding road in the middle of nowhere Pennsylvania, the car rounds a turn, climbing higher into the mountains. Perched on the side of a steep hill is an old farmhouse with peeling gray paint and gaping windows, surrounded by fields of dry and rustling corn. The front lawn slopes dangerously down and then sprawls out into an honest-to-god pumpkin patch. This is where the cast and crew for upcoming indie thriller The Fields are shooting today.

When we arrive, they are filming a scene in the pumpkin patch with Bev Appleton and Joshua Ormond. It’s October, and in the mountains of Pennsylvania the air is beyond chilly. A PA wraps Josh, who plays Steven, in a thick coat between takes to keep him warm. Josh jumps up and down as he and his co-star make faces at each other as they wait for directors Tom Mattera and Dave Mazzoni to call “action”. The two directors confer at the monitor, and then one of them yells, “Okay, one more time … Remember, Joshie, you’ve been waiting for this all day!” As the camera rolls, Steven runs into his grandfather’s waiting arms, just as if he’s been waiting to see him all day long.

Exclusive: The Fields Set Visit Report
Directors Dave Mazzoni (left, in the red hat) and Tom Mattera (right, in the black hat) confer at the monitor.

Truth is often stranger than fiction, and such is the case in The Fields, which is based on the life of screenwriter Harrison Smith. Faust Checho, who plays Steven’s father Barry, said there were times he was amazed by the drama of the actual events. “I would say to [Harrison], ‘Really?’ and he’d say, ‘Well, I remember…’ and go on to recount his memory of the actual scene.” For Checho, this helped him understand his complex and troubled character. The story follows Steven and his family as they are terrorized by an “unseen presence”. While the filmmakers have asked that we not disclose all the details, I can say that the presence is natural, not supernatural. This is not another The Messengers. It is, however, very much the story of this family.

Classically trained actress and comedy maven Cloris Leachman plays matriarch Gladys, the foul-mouthed backbone of the family. Her character is very no-nonsense, aware of her loved ones’ flaws and willing to call them on it, but loving just the same. It was this complexity and depth of character, as well as the fact that the story was really about the family, that drew her to the role initially. And according to her, the cast and crew really became like a family in the weeks they’ve been filming the movie. We spoke to her on her last day of filming, and she expressed genuine sadness to be leaving. “I don’t want it to be over” she said, with a teary-eyed look at 2nd AD Roseanne Cappacio. “I really don’t.

Exclusive: The Fields Set Visit Report
Gladys (Cloris Leachman) and Hiney (Bev Appleton) get close for the cameras.

She did appear to be having a genuinely good time on set. At one point she joined a group of cast and crew waiting in the farmhouse’s kitchen. Several of the crew began moving the pieces of a dolly from the kitchen for a shot out front. Cloris approached one crew member, a young man with a tall, spiked mohawk, her hands raised dramatically as he maneuvered the dolly out the door. “Be careful! Watch out for your hair!” she exclaimed. Seeing her in action was equally entertaining. During a scene in which Gladys warns her grandson to stay out of the vast cornfields, Leachman managed to imbue the line “You’ll be dead and black and rotten before we find you” with both a tinge of affection and ominous foreboding.

Of course, Ms. Leachman is not the only name attached to the project. The oft-maligned Tara Reid is also a principal character. She plays Bonnie, Gladys’ daughter-in-law and Steven’s mother, a woman whose marriage is troubled by alcoholism and violence and is desperately trying to save her family. Despite her vapid party-girl reputation, on set Reid was quiet, polite, solicitous of her co-stars, and incredibly professional. Screenwriter Harrison Smith told us he was thrilled to have gotten the starlet, who was his first choice for the role. Cloris too praised the actress, calling her “lovely”.

In fact, when we asked Cloris what her favorite scene was, she immediately mentioned the one they’d just finished filming … and her last of the shoot. In it, Gladys and Bonnie sit at the kitchen table discussing Barry and Bonnie’s marriage. “She got choked up, and I got choked up. It was very moving.” I got to watch a couple of takes of that particular scene on the monitor as it was being filmed, and it was indeed a touching moment. It was this scene that made me think perhaps Tara had, up to this point, not been given a role that really required a whole lot of her. A wife, mother, and daughter-in-law struggling to make a better life for herself and the people she loves — This is definitely a more layered character than she’s ever played before, and she seemed to be stepping up to the plate.

Exclusive: The Fields Set Visit Report
Bonnie (Tara Reid) in a solitary moment.

The directors worked seamlessly with DP Daniel Watchulonis, and the result was some really gorgeous, and sinister, cinematography. In addition to watching the scenes they filmed this particular day, we got to see some footage from previous days as a crew member logged shots, including a few frames from the nighttime “attack scene”. 2nd AD Roseanne Carpaccio, a horror fan, said the scene was very intense. “I got freaked out, and I knew it wasn’t real.” This is the directors’ second film together; their first was the art house mind-trip The Fourth Dimension. It seemed as if they were bringing that same sensibility to The Fields, concentrating on developing characters that the audience felt for and then slowly putting the screws to them. From what I saw, and speaking to the people involved, I am very intrigued to see the final product. Filming recently wrapped, and according to Smith, they are in talks with a few different people regarding distribution so stay tuned for further information.

I would like to thank everyone, especially Harrison Smith, 1st AD Dave Francis, and 2nd AD Roseanne Carpaccio, for making the visit a pleasant one. For more behind-the-scenes pictures, click on the below image to see our full The Fields gallery.

Exclusive: The Fields Set Visit Report
Gladys (Cloris Leachman) and Hiney (Bev Appleton)’s house, where most of the film’s story takes place.

Morgan Elektra

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AHS: Cult Review: Clowns, Cults, Politics, and Peters

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Starring Evan Peters, Sarah Paulson, Billie Lourd, Cheyenne Jackson, Frances Conroy, Mare Winningham, and Allison Pill

Created by Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk


** NO SPOILERS **

It’s here. We’ve reached the end. The newest season of “American Horror Story” has ended and now we are here to provide you guys with our season review of AHS: Cult.

Spoiler free.

To start things off let me say I’m not the world’s biggest fan of “American Horror Story”. It breaks down like this: I enjoyed the absolute hell out of the first season of the series (“Murder House”), couldn’t get through “Asylum” (I know, I know, I’ve tried), dug “Coven” for what it was, really enjoyed “Freak Show”, and again I couldn’t get into “Hotel” or “Roanoke”.

That’s the story of me and “American Horror Story”. Plain And simple. But what did I think of the new seventh season of the notorious horror anthology series? Let’s find out.

Back when the seventh season of AHS was first announced (then going by the title “AHS: Election”) I was immediately intrigued by the new season because I heard it would not include any supernatural elements. Like the fourth season, “Freak Show”.

Now I’m a fan of ghosts and weird creature-men with drills for d*cks, don’t get me wrong. But the series has thus far relied almost exclusively on horrors of the supernatural variety (other than “Freak Show”) so this major change of pace was again welcomed by this guy.

Instead of vampires, aliens, and witches this season relied on terrors of the mind. Psychological fears and anxieties. The horrors man does to man. Deep issues.

Oh, and clowns. Like a lot of clowns.

But just because this new season didn’t include anything supernatural, that doesn’t mean the 11-episode season wasn’t filled with twisted visuals and horrifically disturbing acts. No, sir. This season boasted some showstoppers including S&M, gimps, and a house of horrors that wouldn’t be out of place in a Rob Zombie flick. It was all good.

But let’s backtrack a bit here.

Allow me to rundown the season’s plot for those who may be unaware. “AHS: Cult” tells the tale of a world post-election night. The literal dawn of Trump’s America. In one corner we have Sarah Paulson’s soccer mom, trying to fight through life with a series of crippling phobias (including clowns, holes, blood, and being a good person).

And in the other corner, we have Evan Peter’s angry, white (blue-haired) male, looking to seize Trump’s new position of power to bring about the end of… Actually, I want this to be a spoiler-free season review, so I’m just going to say the dude’s got big plans.

Like Manson-size plans. Let’s leave it at that.

With these two characters established, the new season then proceeds to send them spiraling into a collision course of political sabotage, intrigue, and clown-based nope, nope, nope-ing that can only end with one – or both – of them dead as Dillinger.

Overall “AHS: Cult” belonged end-to-end to Mr. Evan Peters. The young actor has continued to show his striking range from season to season of Ryan Murphy’s horror show and this season was no different. Peters’ turn as not only Kai, the blue-haired leader of the titular cult, but as infamous leaders such as David Koresh, Jim Jones, and Charles Manson – to name a few – owed this season.

I can only hope he doesn’t pull a Jessica Lange and opt-out of more AHS next year.

Speaking of top performances, “AHS: Cult ” showcases some other chilling and memorable turns with Alison Pill’s strangely vulnerable, put-upon wife character being the best next to Peters in my eyes. This actress needs to be in more films/TV!

Along with Pill, actress Billie Lourd killed it time and time again. The “Scream Queens” breakout star and Carrie Fisher spawn was yet again a highlight in her second Ryan Murphy series. Bet she has the starring role in next season. Mark my words.

Add to that, the season also boasts a handful of fun cameos, including John Carroll Lynch’s return as Twisty the Clown, Emma Roberts as a bitchy reporter that will do anything to end up on top, and Lena Dunham as SCUM Manifesto writer Valerie Solanas. The cameo cast killed it and I wish they would have been present for more episodes. What are you gonna do?

On the sour side of the season, I didn’t dig Sarah Paulson’s character. At all. But I’m sure that was the point. Right? I’m still not sure. But, boy, I wouldn’t even want to be stuck in line behind her at a Starbucks for three minutes, let alone spend the better part of this season’s 11-hours with her and her whiny bullshite. Urgh.

That said, she pulled it out by the finale. That’s all I’ll say.

In the end, I enjoyed this season as much as – if not more – than any other of the series. “Murder House” will still no doubt go on as my favorite season of the series, but “AHS: Cult” will rank third after season one and “Freak Show”.

While I was on the fence about the season after three episodes, the show ended up ditching Paulson’s character (and/or shifting her arch) after a lull so the episodes picked up quickly. Whenever the season turned its focus back towards Peters (in whichever incarnation he was playing at the time) the show got better and better. Every time.

Not a bad way to spend my Tuesday night for the past 11 weeks.

Bring on season 12.

  • American Horror Story: Cult (2018)
3.5

Summary

The seventh season of Ryan Murphy’s American Horror Story was Evan Peters’ show all the way through. The young actor pulled out all the stops time and time again to make what may have been a lackluster supernatural-free season a winner.

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The Axiom Review – A Stylish and Clever Slice of Independent Horror

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Starring Hattie Smith, Zac Titus, Nicole Dambro

Directed by Nicholas Woods


The Axiom is an ambitious, well directed, impressively acted and stunningly shot independent horror film that has just a few, teensy little flaws holding it back from greatness (and therefore will have to settle for just being really, really good, instead).

The first thing you realize when watching The Axiom is that this is a beautiful film. Everything is framed and shot in a lush and stylish manner, but one which is always tonally appropriate for the scene.

The second thing you’ll notice, and keep noticing as the film plays out, is that the movie really struck gold with this cast. Not only is there a total lack of the sort of stilted and unnatural acting seen in countless other microbudget horror affairs, but the performances are genuinely fantastic across the board. The main characters are believably chill and relatably normal in the early scenes, and the acting remains just as impressive once things start getting a bit more… intense. It’s not often that an independent horror film has so many good performances that it makes it hard to pick the movie’s acting VIP, but that is undeniably the case here. Taylor Flowers delivers what is probably the showiest performance (and does it very well, indeed), but the entire cast really is quite good.

The central premise of the film is both interesting and original, and touches upon the real life fact (given some recent attention in the ‘Missing 411’ books and documentary) that a lot more people sure seem to go missing out in the woods than seems reasonable, while simultaneously weaving all sorts of folklore, fairy tales and urban legends into the mix. It’s also clever in the way that it very naturally reveals aspects to the relationships between characters that serve to later – or sometimes retroactively – explain some of the more questionable decisions they make or attitudes they display. While that may sound like screenwriting 101, it’s surprising how many films fail to do this. The Axiom rewards the viewer’s attention in other ways as well, with many aspects of the movie that initially feel odd or unnatural receiving reasonable explanations (within the context of the movie) by the end. It’s not quite as challenging (or as rewarding) in this regard as, say, something like Session 9, but it does add a nice layer of complexity to the storytelling.

The film’s score, by Leo Kaliski, is also quite good. There may be a moment here or there where the music hits an overly familiar beat, but overall it not only fits the movie’s tone, but does quite a bit to help set that tone as well.

The only thing that I don’t feel the movie quite pulls off – and I’m trying to be vague here, because I feel like the less you know going into this film, the better – is some of the makeup effects work. The gore stuff is very well executed, but some of the other stuff feels like it was crafted with the intention of shooting it in a more… stylized manner. Instead, filmed as it is here, the result is sometimes less than impressive and can fail to make the impact that the movie seems to be implying that it should. And while some of what the makeup effects lack in execution is made up for with the ingenuity and creativity of their design, it’s still a bit of a shame when they don’t quite pull them off because, aside from a few niggles that I have with the writing, the effects are the only aspect of the film that occasionally fails to live up to the high level of technical proficiency that The Axiom otherwise demonstrates.

ADDITIONAL THOUGHTS:

  • Man, the acting in this movie is really good. The dialogue may stumble once or twice, but these actors always sell it anyway.
  • Give back Mia Sara’s DNA, Hattie Smith!
  • If you’re going to put your female lead in shorts this small, I hope you’re not sensitive to viewers unleashing a nonstop parade of “Has anyone seen my pants / OH GOD WHERE ARE MY PANTS!” jokes.
  • “You just pop this here ‘Blair Witch Stick Person / Anarchy sign’ sticker up on that there windshield of yours, and them park rangers? Well – heh heh – they won’t bother you none, no sir.” Hmmmmm…
  • The film really is shot amazingly well – better than a lot of mainstream releases. Cinematographer Sten Olson has a real future ahead of him.
  • As does writer / director Nicholas Woods, for that matter. Any director who can get this level of quality out of their cast and crew on their first ever film is someone to keep an eye on.
  • “I’ll make a run for it and get help,” says the female lead, and I’m like “Yeah, let her go – she has no pants to weigh her down.”
  • The gore effects in the movie are both realized and utilized very well.
  • Welcome back to horror movies, “I’ll be right back” dialogue spoken unironically by and/or to ill-fated characters.
  • The Axiom
4.0

Summary

In the end, The Axiom is a solid and entertaining flick that manages to wring a level of quality and originality out of the somewhat tired “Don’t Go in the Woods” horror subgenre not seen since 2012’s Cabin in the Woods. The cinematography and acting are hugely impressive, it features a nice, unnerving score, the premise is original and captivating, and the whole thing moves at a nice pace that helps keep the film’s flaws from dragging it down.

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Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation – First Trailer and Artwork!

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As a fan of flicks like Mad Monster Party, I was surprisingly pleased with the last two Hotel Transylvania affairs. For my money you can put the classic monsters in just about anything, and I’ll watch it happily, and these animated features feel like a natural progression of the 1967 Rankin and Bass classic. Which is why I’m looking forward to Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation, and if you are too, check out the film’s new trailer and poster.

Directed by Genndy Tartakovsky, who co-wrote the film with Michael McCullers, Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation features the voices of Adam Sandler, Andy Samberg, Selena Gomez, Kevin James, Fran Drescher, Steve Buscemi, Molly Shannon, David Spade, Keegan-Michael Key, and Mel Brooks.

Look for it in theaters on July 13, 2018.

Synopsis:
In Sony Pictures Animation’s Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation, join our favorite monster family as they embark on a vacation on a luxury monster cruise ship so Drac can take a summer vacation from providing everyone else’s vacation at the hotel. It’s smooth sailing for Drac’s Pack as the monsters indulge in all of the shipboard fun the cruise has to offer, from monster volleyball to exotic excursions, and catching up on their moon tans.

But the dream vacation turns into a nightmare when Mavis realizes Drac has fallen for the mysterious captain of the ship, Ericka, who hides a dangerous secret that could destroy all of monsterkind.

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