#SDCC16: Geena Davis Talks The Exorcist & Asks if America Wants Another Beetlejuice; Jeremy Slater Out of Death Note - Dread Central
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#SDCC16: Geena Davis Talks The Exorcist & Asks if America Wants Another Beetlejuice; Jeremy Slater Out of Death Note

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I was really surprised when I heard a series based on The Exorcist was in the works. I guess it makes sense given the modern media culture of reboots and remakes, but I’d be afraid to touch it with a ten-foot pole. This isn’t some fan favorite like A Nightmare on Elm Street or a cult classic like Black Christmas.

This is the first horror movie to ever be nominated for Best Picture. It won two Academy Awards. It brought respect to the genre. It’s the movie that people point to when they say, “I don’t really like horror, but that was good.

What I’m saying is that if you make an Exorcist reboot, it better not suck. Even though I kind of like Dominion: Prequel to the Exorcist, it’s certainly nowhere near The Exorcist. Comparing any movie to The Exorcist is a doomed endeavor. So putting the name right in the title is just inviting all kinds of criticism.

This might all sound like doom and gloom, but from what I’ve seen of Fox’s “The Exorcist” series, they are taking this whole “not sucking” concept to heart. Judging from the trailer, it’s looking to hit that sweet spot between personal drama and terrifying demon stuff.

I got to talk to writer Jeremy Slater, along with series stars Alfonso Herrera, Ben Daniels, and the always wonderful Geena Davis, about “The Exorcist” at San Diego Comic-Con 2016. The show is in that rare middle spot between pilot and shooting the rest of the episodes, so I got a lot of cool info about what the TV world of “The Exorcist” is going to look like.

First up was Ben Daniels, who told us what we can expect from Father Marcus:

Ben: Father Marcus isn’t your typical priest. He’s from a violent working class family and has been performing exorcisms since he was 11. I can’t go into specifics, but we learn that something very traumatic happened to him when he was just 8. All of that pent-up rage is part of what gives him so much strength, but also makes him a hard person to deal with. He’s a very complicated character, and you can tell he has been through and seen a lot. Expect him to speak many different languages in the show.

He went on to talk about his role in creating Father Marcus:

Ben: The role was originally written for a 30-year-old American. So when I met with them for it, they asked me to come up with all this extra personality and backstory. I had a lot of input in molding him, down to what music he listens to. They wanted to make sure he felt rooted in reality. So I did a lot of research. Before all of this, Catholicism always sat in this fictitious realm to me. The more I researched, let’s just say it sits in a slightly more real place now. I don’t know what it is, but something can happen to us that changes and afflicts us. I don’t know if it’s physical or truly spiritual, but it’s in every culture. After reading about all of this, I started freaking out at every bump I heard in the night. I kept saying to myself, “Shit! I let them in! This is how this all works!”

Sitting next to him was Alfonso Herrera. Here’s what we can expect from his character, Father Tomas Ortega:

Alfonso: Father Tomas lives a quiet life. He has a small parish in Chicago, where his dedicated congregation follows him religiously. He has a joy in being heard, and with that comes a bit of ego. And perhaps it is because of that ego that a gate is opened and this negative spirit is allowed through. He also has a connection to Father Marcus that is uncovered and explored through the series. They are very different men, and it is up to them to get along to conquer the evil.

Ben Daniels and Alfonso Herrera

Next up was Geena Davis and series writer Jeremy Slater. Geena had a lot to say, starting with what drew her to the role of Angela Rance:

Geena: I think I’m a bit spoiled since I got to play some really cool parts very early in my career. So I’m a very picky when it comes to my roles. I wait for stuff I feel like is really worth it, and this caught my attention right away. I read the script and kept thinking, “I really want to do that/say that line,” and that’s due to the excellent writing by Jeremy Slater. The character was just so interesting, and that’s really what I go by. I don’t want to just be the girlfriend or mother of someone doing something. I want to be doing things myself. I get to play a character that is interesting in her own right and has a lot to do and get done.

She went on to comment about how the show would stack up to the film:

Geena: The question that we keep getting asked is: Are we afraid of the comparison to the film? And the answer is no. It’s a revered film, and we’re not trying to change that with the show. It takes place in the same world and we make mention of the events of the film, but this takes place a few decades later. This is about a new evil coming into the world and these characters having to face it.

Obviously, if you have Geena Davis in a room, you have to ask her about Beetlejuice 2. She had a few words about it:

Geena: You know, I keep reading about it, but no one has talked to me about it. I worry that they might not want me because maybe ghosts don’t age. And you know, between me and Alec [Baldwin], one of us has definitely aged.

This is where Jeremy Slater joined in:

Jeremy: Yeah, but does America even want a Beetlejuice without Geena Davis? I vote no! Come on; speak up, America!

Geena Davis and Jeremy Slater

Well put, Jeremy. I don’t think fans would stand for that! I wanted to ask him more about his writing process, but the time was very limited and they had to move on. However, I did get a quick aside about the upcoming Death Note film he was slated to write. I told him that I looked forward to seeing what he did with it, and his answer was surprising:

Jeremy: So do I! I had to drop out of the project for “The Exorcist.” I’m not too worried; it’s in very good hands. Shooting just started in Vancouver.

I wish I could have gotten more details, but all I can confirm for now is that he is no longer working on Death Note. This is very troubling considering how Fantastic Four turned out. So keep a close and wary eye on that one.

So what do you guys think? Excited for “The Exorcist”? Let me know below, and stay tuned for more San Diego Comic-Con 2016 coverage!

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Tony Timpone’s Elegy – AFM: A November to Dismember

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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.

** 1/2



Errementari:
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.

***


Bad Samaritan:
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.

** 1/2


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?

** 1/2


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.

***


Cold Skin

Cold Skin:
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.

** 1/2


Downrange:
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.

* 1/2


Ghost Stories:
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!

*** 1/2


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.

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Class of 1999 Graduates to Blu-Ray in 2018

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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
Still Gallery
Video Promo
Optional English, English SDH, and Spanish subtitles for the main feature

Class of 1999 graduates to blu-ray on January 30th.

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Buy Stuff From Eibon Press, Get More Stuff For Free

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Eibon Press have announced that they’re starting Black Friday a day early and will be running their specials for almost a week, through November 28th. This year, they’re doing something a little different, a little more interesting. Rather than reduce prices on their inventory, they’re doing a deal where depending on how much you buy from their store, you’ll get a certain amount of free swag in addition to your order.

The first tier sees anyone who makes a purchase getting two double-sided mini-posters featuring art from their upcoming Bottomfeeder and Maniac vs The New York Ripper series. The second tier sees anyone who spends at least $30 getting a free copy of their VHS Comics titles Laserblast plus the mini-posters. The final tier is for those who spend $50 and more and that will net the mini-posters, the #1 issue of Laserblast, and a free copy of Lucio Fulci’s Gates of Hell #2.

Lastly, five random people will receive an extra bonus gift, which they won’t reveal but promise that, “…you’ll love it!

All order cans be placed via Eibon Press.

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