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Exclusive: 30 Days of Night: Dark Days Wraps Production – Director Ben Ketai Speaks!

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Exclusive: Producer Talks 30 Days of Night: Dark Days From the SetThis scribe recently caught up with Sony’s 30 Days of Night: Dark Days co-scripter (with Steve Niles) and director Ben Ketai, who filled us in on the status of his sequel to director David Slade’s 2007 vampire chiller 30 Days of Night.

Dread was on-set during the principal photography of Dark Days last November in Vancouver. See that item here.

We’re in the last couple of weeks of post-production,” Ketai, who previously helmed the 30 Days web series, said of Dark Days in early April. “It’s the home stretch here. We are in that last stage where every little bit you put into it makes it that much better: the sound, the color, and every new effects shot that goes in – it’s really exciting.

Starring Kiele (A Perfect Getaway) Sanchez, who takes over the role of ‘Stella’ as essayed by actress Melissa George in 30 Days of Night, Mia (De Palma’s The Black Dahlia) Kirshner, Rhys (“Entourage”) Coiro, Diora (Night of the Demons) Baird, Harold (“Lost”) Perrineau, Troy (A Marine Story) Ruptash, Monique (Cabin in the Woods) Ganderton, and Katherine (Ginger Snaps, “Supernatural”) Isabelle, Dark Days picks up a year after the original with Stella on a mission to eradicate the world’s vampire populace in order to avenge the death of her husband.

Scheduled for a DTV bow, the director said of the flick’s release plans, “I’m hoping that maybe it will be out by Halloween, although the market is always saturated with horror movies every October. Maybe Sony will want to wait until the horror season blows over.

As for his cinematic take on Steve Niles well-received 2004 graphic novel Dark Days (30 Days of Night, Book 2), “The film opens with sort of a montage of Stella reminiscing about what happened in Barrow eleven months earlier so one of the first scenes we see in Dark Days is that helicopter overhead shot (of the carnage) from the original,” revealed Ketai. “This movie begins with the last images of the first film, where Stella is holding Eben on the hillside and he burns up as the sun comes up, so I wanted to stay very true to that and thought it was a great opportunity for us to recap what happened at the end of the first movie for those who haven’t seen it. At the same time I wanted to introduce Kiele Sanchez as the new Stella and get it over and move along.

What’s sort of cool about it, too, is that Kiele plays such a different Stella in a narrative sense,” continued Ketai, “in that she goes through such a change in that year from the first story to the second story that I think it’s kind of cool that we have a different actress (for the role). I think Kiele’s going to be a household name in a couple of years, if not from this film than from something else. She’s really incredible.

Exclusive: Producer Talks 30 Days of Night: Dark Days From the SetPortraying Sanchez’s immortal nemesis in Dark Days is actress Mia Kirshner, and Dread queried the director on that actress’ approach to malevolent role of ‘Lilith,’ a vamp apparently older and deadlier than the original film’s ‘big bad’ Marlow (Danny Huston). “Mia was awesome and brought everything you’d expect from Mia Kirshner,” said Ketai. “For such a slight person as she (physically) is, she commands such power. The fact that her character of Lilith is powerful and is the queen of the vampires – possibly the oldest vampire on the planet – she doesn’t even really need to lift a finger to get shit done. Her henchmen and everyone around her kind of take care of things, and all of her actions are so minimal that whenever she does anything physically, it’s completely horrifying, and you are just sitting there waiting for her to speak or waiting for her to roll across the room, and we’ve tried to embrace that stoicism and that sort of eerie calm that comes with Lilith. I thought Kirshner was a great casting choice because she’s an actress that can say a whole lot without saying anything. She really did a nice job stepping into the role.”

As for the aural component of the film, Andres Boulton served in the capacity of the flick’s composer, and according to Ketai, “He did the score for the 30 Days of Night web series that I directed, and I thought he really knocked it out of the park with that, and I really wanted to see what he could do with a feature. He’s done a number of other features before – slasher films and a couple of comedies even. This film has really given him a chance to do what he does best, though, which is to deliver a very atmospheric score.

It is very different from the first film,” said the director of his approach to the material. “It’s been a challenge to maintain the integrity of the world that was created in the first film because we are working with about an eighth of the budget of what the first movie had. Funny enough, the story of Dark Days in the graphic novel is actually much less claustrophobic than the first film, which really capitalized on claustrophobia, and in this film – unfortunately with our budget – it’s a much bigger scaled movie because it’s all about Stella going in a journey to different cities.

With the geographical shift, too, came a visual one.

I really wanted to bring a very different color palette to Dark Days, much like the graphic novel had a different palette than the original, which was a desaturated and very monochromatic look, and here we created sort of more of a warm, tobacco-y, Southern California metropolis-like Los Angeles look,” said Ketai. “The thing about the 30 Days universe is that it’s so malleable. The vampires that Niles originally created were so unique to the genre, and in Dark Days they go even beyond that. In putting the vampires in a completely different context and setting, and with the lower budget of this film, we did a lot of hand-held (camera work), whereas with the first film it was much more of a slow and steady approach. I think (30 Days of Night helmer) David Slade did an amazing job of capturing the suspense with that story; he did a masterful job. With this film it’s kind of the opposite. It’s kind of almost like a forward-marching war movie with vampires, and we approached it with that kinetic, hand-held feel.

Dread couldn’t help but to ask if fans of the material can expect a cinematic incarnation of the third book in the series, Return to Barrow.

I hope so,” concluded the director. “I actually asked that question a couple of weeks ago. iles and I talk about it every now and then. In the back of my mind I’ve already been excited and eager to hopefully jump into (development on) Return to Barrow. I think it would be an awesome story to tell.

Sean Decker

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Night of the Living Dead 4K and The Silence of the Lambs Come to the Criterion Collection

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It’s been a long time coming for these two classics, especially Night of the Living Dead after the ridiculously bad transfer put out by Mill Creek Entertainment, whose transfer was supposedly remastered from a new 2K scan. I swear I thought it was some kind of a joke when I first put it on to watch. In any event…

IndieWire is reporting that horror classics Night of the Living Dead and The Silence of the Lambs will be added to the 2018 Criterion Collection, a hallmark label for home video cinephiles.

According to the site, Criterion will release a new 4K digital restoration of The Silence of the Lambs, which has been approved by the movie’s cinematographer Tak Fujimoto. Included on the DVD and Blu-ray sets are 35 minutes of deleted scenes and audio commentary from 1994 featuring the late Jonathan Demme (director), stars Jodie Foster and Anthony Hopkins, screenwriter Ted Tally, and former FBI agent John Douglas.

Night of the Living Dead will also be released in 4K with never-before-seen 16mm dailies included as a bonus feature(!).

These will be added in February of 2018 so make sure you save up some cash after the holidays!

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DIS Review – Not for the Faint of Heart!

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Starring Bill Oberst, Jr., Lori Jo Hendrix, Peter Gonzales Falcon

Directed by Adrian Corona


I’ve made this claim many a time on this website before, and in the company of film friends as well: Bill Oberst Jr. is one of those actors that can literally be thrust into ANY role, and deliver a performance with so much harnessed electricity that you couldn’t believe that it was possible. I was the lucky recipient chosen to get a look at his latest project, titled DIS, and I think that I can honestly say – this is the stuff that nightmares are constructed of.

Directed by Adrian Corona, this 60-minute dive into the black depths of hell, and in actuality DIS is located between circles # 6 and 9 in Dante’s Divine Comedy, and trust me when I tell you – there’s not a shred of comedic relief in this demented presentation. Oberst Jr plays an ex-soldier named Ariel, and his seemingly harmless jaunt through the woods will become anything but that, and judging from the film’s opening scenes, you are meant to feel as uncomfortable about this watch as any you might have checked out in recent memory.

Perversion is the norm here, and lord help you if you’re caught where you shouldn’t be…my skin’s crawling just thinking about what I saw. Ariel’s travels are basically dialogue-free, but it only adds to the infinite levels of creepiness – you can tell he’s being stalked, and the distance between he and the horrors that await are closing in rather quickly.

Visually by itself, this hour-long chiller can sell tickets without any assistance – hollowed-out buildings and long sweeping shots of a silent forest give the movie that look of complete desolation. Sliced up into three acts, the film wastes no time in setting up the story of a killer needing fresh blood to appease his Mandrake garden – seriously guys, I can’t type as much flashy stuff as there needs to be in order to describe this innately disturbing production.

If you’re one of those types who tends to shy away from the graphic side of things, then I’d HIGHLY advise you to keep your TV tuned to the Hallmark Channel for some holiday entertainment, because this one registers high on the “I can’t believe someone thought of this” meter. So the quick recap is this: Oberst Jr in a standout performance, visual excellence, and an unshakable sense of debasement on a cellular level – keep the kiddies out of the living room with this one. Corona should be lauded (or locked up – just kidding) for his work on this one – HIGHLY recommended, and one that I’ll throw down as a top 5 for me in 2017.

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4.5

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Director Corona should be lauded (or locked up – just kidding) for his work on this one – HIGHLY recommended!

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User Rating 5 (2 votes)
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Todd And The Book Of Pure Evil: The End Of The End Review – A Heavy Metal Massacre In Cartoon Form

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Starring Alex House, Bill Turnbull, Maggie Castle, Melanie Leishman, Chris Leavins, Jason Mewes

Directed by Richard Duhaney and Craig David Wallace


“Todd And The Book Of Pure Evil” – Canadian television’s greatest blend of Evil Dead, Superbad and Deathgasm? Yes. That answer is yes. For two face-melting seasons, Todd “protected” Crowley High from episodic villains who were bested by metal riffs, stoner logic and hormonal companionship. Musical interruptions showcased stage theatrics like Sondheim meets pubescent Steel Panther and high school tropes manifested into vile, teen-hungry beasts. It was like a coming-of-age story got stuck between Fangoria pages – all the awkwardness with 100x more guts.

That – for worse – was until Todd fell to a premature cancellation after Season 2’s clone-club cliffhanger. Indiegogo became the show’s only way to deliver a feature-length finale, except to reduce costs and ensure completion, the project would have to be in cartoon form. Todd And The Book Of Pure Evil: The End Of The End suggests an animated curtain call for this otherwise live-action production, and from a fan’s perspective, familiar maturation follies befall our favorite bloodsoaked friend group. But for new viewers? Start with the far-superior original show – you’ll be lost, underwhelmed and baffled otherwise.

Alex House retains his characterization of Todd Smith (in voice only). At this point, Todd has thwarted the book’s apocalyptic plan, Hannah (Melanie Leishman) has died, longtime crush Jenny (Maggie Castle) isn’t as horny for Todd anymore, and best friend Curtis (Bill Turnbull) has sworn Todd’s name to Hell (since Hannah was his girlfriend). Guidance Counselor Atticus Murphy Jr. (Chris Leavins) is now Janitor Atticus Murphy Jr. because Janitor Jimmy (Jason Mewes) is now Counselor Jimmy, yet Crowley High finds itself plagued by the same satanic uprisings despite these new changes. Why is evil still thriving! How is Hannah back in class! Who is the new “Pure Evil One” now that Todd has denied the book! Welcome to the end, friends – or is it a new beginning?

At just north of 80 minutes, structure runs a bit jagged. We’re used to Todd battling one baddie over a half-hour block – backstory given time to breathe – but in The End Of The End, two mini-boss cretins play second fifth-fiddle to the film’s big-bad monster (well, monsters – but you’ll see). A double-dose of high school killers followed by a larger, more important battle with the gang’s fate hanging in the balance. Not a problem, it’s just that more length is spent singing songs about Todd’s non-functioning schlong and salvaging relationships from the S2 finale. Exposition (what little there is) chews into necessary aggression time – fans left ravenous for more versatile carnage, underwhelmed by the umpteenth cartoon erection gag. Did I mention there’s a lot of boner material, yet?

These two mini “chapters” – “No Vest For The Wicked” (yarn demon)/”Zits Alors” (acid acne) – never come close to rivaling Hannah Williams’ doppelganger bombshell (“Songs About Boners”/”This Is The End Of The End Of the End”). Hannah [X]. Williams waking up in a room full of other Hannahs, emerging from some sleep-pod chamber; Todd’s gang facing off against this new “chosen one” in a way that erases “Sack Boy” and “Pizza Face” from memory. The End Of The End dashes dildoes-swinging into the show’s biggest mystery while dropping call-backs and bodies with equal speed – maybe too hastily for some.

Now, about the whole pivot to animation – a smooth rendering of Crowley High and all its mayhem, but never representative of Todd And The Book Of Pure Evil‘s very Ash Vs. Evil Dead vibe. All the practical death effects (gigantic man-eating cakes, zombie rockstars) are lost to one-dimensional drawings, notable chemistry between cast members replaced by edited recordings lacking signature wits. This isn’t Metalocalypse, where dismemberment and bloodshed are gruesome on levels that outshine even live-action horror flicks. There’s no denying some of the magic is missing without Chris Leavins’ “creepy uncle” overacting (a Will Forte breed) or the book’s living incarnations of evil. Todd And The Book Of Pure Evil: The End Of The End plays hooded minion to Todd And The Book Of Pure Evil’s dark ruler – less powerful, a bit duncier, but still part of the coolest cult around. Just try not to think about how much radness is missing inside hand-traced Crowley High?

It’s hard not to strike comparisons between “reality” and ‘toon, because as noted above, live actors are sorely missed in a plethora of situations. Be they musical numbers, heretic slayings, Todd and Curtis’ constant references to wanking, wangs or other pelvic nods (no, for real, like every other sentence) – human reactions no longer temper such aggressive, self-gratifying cocksmanship. It doesn’t help that songs never reach the memorable level of “Horny Like The Devil,” but the likes of House, Leishman, Turnbull and Castle were masters of selling schlock, shock and Satan’s asshole of situations. Instead, lines now land flat like – for example – Leavins’ lessened ability to turn pervy, stalkerish quips into hilarious underage stranger-dangers. Again, it’s not Metalocalypse – and without that kind of designer depth, a wall prevents inter-dimensional immersion into Todd’s extracurricular madness.

If this review sounds over-negative, fret not – it’s merely wishes of what could have been. None of this is to say Todd And The Book Of Pure Evil: The End Of The End should be skipped. When you’re already known for masterstrokes of ballbusting immaturity, metal-horned malevolence and vicious teen-angst creature vanquishing, expectations are going to be sky high. Directors Richard Duhaney and Craig David Wallace successfully service fans with a smile, ensuring that rivers of red scribbled blood spurt from decapitated school children just like we’re used to. It’s just, I mean – ugh, sorry, I just have to say it one more time. BY DIMEBAG’S BEARD, this would have been an epic live-action flick. As is? Still one fine-with-a-capital-F-YEAH return to Crowley High for the faithful who’ve been waiting some 5-or-so years in a Todd-less purgatory.

  • Film
3.0

Summary

Todd And The Book Of Pure Evil: The End Of The End brings closure to hungry fans in all the ways they’d hope – albeit turned down a notch through animation. Over-the-top kills and headbanging metal riffs still reign supreme, they’re just drawn by hand instead of oozing practical effects this time.

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User Rating 3.11 (9 votes)
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