The Blair Witch Project Then, Now, and in the Future: A Talk with Ben Rock - Dread Central
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The Blair Witch Project Then, Now, and in the Future: A Talk with Ben Rock

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Blair Witch Tour

September 5, 2016, 5:20 PM Berlin time – I met Benjamin Rock on Instagram. While at first sight, this cyber encounter may not seem out of the ordinary, the significance it holds for me is colossal. Ben was the production designer of The Blair Witch Project (1999), the most unpretentious material I have ever seen on the silver screen, which has succeeded in carving its name on many layers of popular culture.

It didn’t take long for us to decide to turn this chance encounter, which took place when he added me to his friends list as he was trying to reach horror fans on the Instagram page of the third film (which hit theaters on October 16th in the US, September 23rd in Turkey, and October 6th in Berlin), into an interview.

I don’t think it’s too big of a blunder to say I noticed I know more about the witch and its cult than Ben does. Born on 22nd April 1971 in Miami, Florida, Rock worked as a special effects makeup artist during his college years at UCF and at art departments of independent and commercial productions in Miami, Orlando, Atlanta, New Orleans, and Alabama. At the same time he was putting in free hours at a local theater project.

Ben Rock

After college, he took up directing, mostly low-budget, 16MM and Super-8 films. In 1996 and 97, his accomplishments in advertising one of his local projects earned him two Addy’s (American Advertising Awards). This was followed by more local commercial projects until, as he states on his website, BOOM! the darkest version of the cursed Witch of the West was created.

The Blair Witch Project’s Stickman symbol (a.k.a. The Twana) seems to divide his career in two as well as his online biography. However, this iconic logo, which has found its way as far as into our kitchens, was not his only contribution to the film of course. He also helped devise the improvisational atmosphere in the film directed by Eduardo Sanchez and Daniel Myrick and played an instrumental role in the creation of a major part of the story, which may be seen as a prequel to the Blair Witch (available on the website of the original film). Soon after the premiere of the original film, he was invited to write the Curse of the Blair Witch by the creative team. This was an hour-long documentary revealing the “true” story, prepared for the Syfy channel. Later he took up the screenplay and direction of the Burkittsville 7 (Showtime) and Shadow of the Blair Witch (Syfy) films, which were complementary to the original film. The echoes of the Witch and Rock’s career in the cinema industry are still in full swing. (I highly recommend you also read Rock’s extensive biography at benrockonline.com)

On 2nd October 1999, I was only 15 years old when I went to the movies to see The Blair Witch Project. It was in tough competition, reaching viewers at the same time as Star Wars: Episode 1 Phantom Menace, which the popular culture, Hollywood in all its glam, and media outlets had been anticipating for a long time. It was two months since the 17th August Izmit Earthquake and two years before the 9/11 attacks in the global timeline of events at the old Renk Cinema in Istanbul’s Bakirkoy area. This was when cinemas were yet to be monopolized by shopping malls and you had to go a couple of floors below ground to see movies, at least in the neighborhood where I grew up. These kind of damp underground cinema experiences allowed for a more claustrophobic, semi-masochistic relationship between the horror movie and the viewer where with each step down the stairs you felt like you were going down the layers of your own subconsciousness. Such horror movie experiences which present the possibility of facing suppressed or not-yet-in-the-consciousness-enough to be suppressed issues have been defined by Carol Clover as “engagement of repressed fears and desires and its reenactment of the residual conflict surrounding those feelings.” (Men, Woman, and the Chain Saws: Gender in the Modern Horror Film, 1992)

Shortly before our lives became completely possessed by the internet and search engines, I had refused to pay attention to the earthquake after shock warnings that day; and I remember the agitated silence in the movie salon when The Blair Witch Project ended. This silence is rooted in the incitation of feelings of fear, anger, pleasure, and curiosity and the successful representation of notions like confrontation/lack of confrontation, fakeness/authenticity, reality, repression without ever being seen on screen by this American witch – who in the following years would grow to be a total phenomenon. (On a different note, the long awaited earthquake aftershock caught up with me at another movie soiree on November 12th, 1999 while watching The Haunting directed by Jan de Bont. Catastrophe!)

Missing Blair Witch

If you’re one of those who had just reached puberty when you watched The Blair Witch Project, which came into existence thanks to Ben Rock’s immense contributions to production and myth-formation, in your 30s you’re getting another chance to reevaluate your journey with the Witch and popular culture. In your early memories, the Witch may have attacked you from behind, in a basement oddly similar to the whirlpools of your subconsciousness, which you may or may not have enjoyed. If you ask the elderly, they’ll tell you the Witch can bend time and space; thus, she exists simultaneously in the now, then, and future. As long as we continue buying it, the brand of the Witch will become an even bigger brand than her mythology.

Don’t fret if you never got a chance to visit Maryland/Burkittsville; in 2000 Nocturne provided the computer and PlayStation players with Blair Witch Volume 1: Rustin Parr. If you were denounced as a witch by the sociable and popular kids for playing computer games excessively, you’ll get what I really mean by this. In essence, there are myriad possible understandings of a film which blurred the boundaries between real and virtual and a witch who evolved into a mythology of its own production, comic books, refrigerator magnets, trading cards, calendars, and even an erotic film industry (The Erotic Witch Project). Furthermore, with a bit research you can discover the readings of The Blair Witch Project in countless references by theoreticians like Tamiko Southcott Hayter through the lens of gender, male hegemony in the horror film industry, capitalism, the relationship between the viewer, and gaze. I’d say it is an inevitable popular culture privilege to learn through analysis of this film that a horror film isn’t essentially just a nameless gratification or a mere thrill. I would like to thank Benjamin for cracking the door open in 1999 to these aforementioned readings and move on to my questions.

Dread Central: Ben, I know you penned a retrospective into the story of the production of The Blair Witch Project on Dread Central. However, I would like to formulate my questions based on what may have been ignored between the lines, on behalf of the people who didn’t get a chance to read the piece, and adding to it what I have gathered about the Witch over the years. (I would like to warn that this part of the article will contain spoilers for the new film; I won’t claim to feel much empathy for the ones who haven’t seen the first film yet.)

Parrhouse_reno

Photo by Stefanie Sanchez.

DC: Do you still believe in the Blair Witch stories?

Ben Rock: Believe? I never believed in the stories – I was one of the people writing them. The stories which inspired them, however, are a dark part of American folklore. I don’t believe any of that stuff either, but I don’t need to believe something to have the shit scared out of me by it. Things like the “Bell Witch” in Adams, Tennessee, always frightened me, and I put that into the backstory stuff I created for Blair Witch.

DC: The new film premiered in Germany on October 6th. (I watched it at the first screening.) You had guaranteed to me that the film was in good hands. To begin with, do you still believe that after seeing the film? There are some positive reviews as well as many negative impressions. What would you like to say now after its release? Keeping your own mythology in mind.

BR: My biggest fear walking into the movie theater was that they’d throw away the mythology or add extra, pointless elements to it just because they could. I was extremely relieved when I saw the film at how close they’d stuck to the mythos as we’d created it. I mean, some tweaks and adjustments needed to be made because Adam Wingard and Simon Barrett are making their own new movie and they should be allowed to do so – but the core of the idea was left intact.

In a way, that’s what makes folklore so much fun – you can twist it around. Every generation has its own take on a given piece of folklore. And we’re incredibly lucky with Blair Witch to be interesting enough to people all these years later that they still want to use this material to scare people.

DC: What kind of a relation do you see between going to the woods in the 90s and surveying the woods via the technology of 2016?

BR: Well, in the new film, they have much better technology of course. In 1997 when we made BWP, we had a GPS system which would be laughable by today’s standards. I don’t walk my dogs today without a GPS tracking me, but in 1997 it was pretty sophisticated stuff. But the thing about the woods is that they’re always scary no matter what gear you have with you. There’s something so primal and frightening about the unknown as you look into the chasm of the woods. It’s no wonder so many horror films happen there, and I assume they will continue to do so.

DC: Both films (even when the main character of the sequel is James) prefer to keep the female characters until the end (and chop them up last). How would you describe the relationship of the Blair Witch brand with women? Based on the fact that both films were directed by men, I began considering the necessity of analyzing the childhoods of Sanchez and Myrick and taking a peep at their relationships with the opposite sex, in order to understand Wingard and Barrett.

BR: I truly don’t know what Ed and Dan’s relationship with women in their childhoods were, but women are often the lead characters in horror films. Think Jamie Lee Curtis in “Halloween” or Heather Legencamp in “A Nightmare on Elm Street.” In the case of “Blair Witch,” I can say that it was always the intention to have a woman be the lead, and we never actually see Heather die. We don’t know what became of her. Personally, I think Heather is such a strong force in that film that it’s not about her being a woman or a filmmaker, but her character becomes an inevitable matchup for whatever is in the woods.

DC: In his 1996 “Monster Theory” Jeffrey Jerome Cohen claims it is possible to study cultures (and their fears) based on the monsters they possess. Moving from that, would you like to analyze our fears based on the witch perspectives of 1996 and 2016? (I think there might be a cultural relation between the witch of 1999 who wasn’t visible, even for a second, and the witch of 2016 who is spreading terror on screen.)

BR: The 1990’s were a terrible, horrible time for horror movies in my opinion, and I think that what pervaded in movies were overly-slick CGI monsters, which felt unreal. Maybe the culture of the 1990’s convinced us that there really wasn’t much to fear. We were in a bubble psychically and emotionally. In America, we weren’t at war with anyone in particular, our economy was booming, and yet, “rawness” pervaded the edges of culture in indie film and music and stuff. But horror movies were kind of dead. I think that “The Blair Witch Project” made people’s fear of the woods, fear of the natural world, come to life.

Then 9/11 happened and brought real fear into our world in America. You can see it in American horror films even a year later. Then the Iraq War began and the wave of “torture porn” films followed. I feel like today we’re in a weird “post-9/11” time for horror movies, and Adam Wingard grew up in that time. His films are more visceral and horror fans expect a level of that in their movies. I think today what Americans fear has more to do with real danger in the shadows that can violently hurt us. But, as we saw, the new movie didn’t strike enough of a chord with moviegoers, so maybe I’m wrong.

DC: Did you get a chance to speak to Tom Hammock, the production designer of the sequel, during or after filming? I personally watched the set built for the sequel in awe. What do you think of the final state of the house? How do you imagine Patricia DeCou’s reaction would be if she were alive?

BR: I had literally zero contact with any of the filmmakers of “Blair Witch,” but I thought the outside of the house looked amazing – a damn fine replica of the original house. On the inside it looked very different, but that was part of what they were going for.

It’s hard to say what Patty would say if she were alive. She was a complex person, maybe the subject for an interview all on her own.

DC: I read that initially a prequel, not a sequel, was in the talks. What would you say our chances are of watching the beginning of the Blair Witch story on the silver screen? With regards to the box office outcome of the sequel, could we expect further sequels in the future?

BR: It’s really hard to say if there will be another Blair Witch property out there. Robert Eggers’ movie “The Witch” is about as close to the kind of prequel we were talking about in 2000 as anything I’ve ever seen, and I love the fuck out of that movie.

But even though “Blair Witch” probably made the studio some money, I think it effectively put a pin in further sequels or prequels unfortunately. Back in 2000, I thought there were a lot more stories to tell in that universe. Today, I don’t know if the audience is that excited to hear them as they were back then. And don’t forget that “Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2” came out in 2000 and destroyed the franchise back then.

DC: Speaking of prequels, what is your opinion on the 2016 production The Witch: A New England Folktale by Robert Eggers? Do you think Black Phillip would get along well with the Blair Witch?

BR: Well, even though I mentioned that movie above and I love it – saw it twice in the theater – I think it’s a very different kind of malefactor. In my opinion, Elly Kedward was a scapegoat and didn’t do any of the things attributed to her in the legend. Whatever is in the Black Hills is way more frightening than some woman who died in the snow.

DC: You are the designer of what has become the sole symbol of The Blair Witch Project: the stickman. Why is the symbol that became synonymous with the Witch male? You had said that your inspiration for the Stickman came from “Magical Alphabets” written by Nigel Pannick. Pannick defines all the symbols in this book as “the keys to personal enlightenment” Looking from this angle, what exactly does your stickman (also called “Twana” in TBWP Volume 1: Rustin Parr) symbolize? Have you ever considered the dimensions other than the cultural and commercial relations of this symbol with the outer world?

BR: “Twana” wasn’t something we created; it was part of the video games that followed the first movie. Also, I wouldn’t say that the Stickman is explicitly male (although it has a basis in the “Rune Man”). It’s just another way to make a humanoid out of four sticks. To me the Stickman was a totem, and it was a threat. It was a way for a primitive mind to say, “We’re watching you.” It could have represented the filmmakers themselves even, but I wouldn’t put a gender on it.

DC: Was the creation process of the film’s characteristic font as improvisational as the creation of the stickman?

BR: That was a marketing thing, and I wasn’t particularly involved in that decision.

DC: Season 6 of “American Horror Story” blinked at the Stickman symbol. Do you follow the series? Is there anything you’d like to add about this relationship?

BR: Not really – It was an obvious nod to BWP, but it’s not like any of us were involved in “American Horror Story.”

DC: Who are your favorite witches in the history of cinema and television?

BR: That’s a great question, and I’ve never thought about it specifically that way. I’d say my absolute favorite is Helena Markos (AKA Mother Suspiriorum in Dario Argento’s “Suspiria.” That movie and her character never fail to raise the hairs on the back of my neck. I’d give the Stygian Witches in the 1981 Ray Harryhausen classic “Clash of the Titans” an honorable mention as well.

DC: Speaking of TBWP Volume 1: Rustin Parr… Have you played the games? We can feel the contributions of the first game to the mythology created in the new film. The antagonist of the game, Doc. Holliday, briefly sees Heather in the basement of Rustin Parr. Just this moment had made my expectations about the film soar. How exactly did the idea that the Witch can play with time and space come into being?

BR: It has been 16 years since I’ve played the games. It’s honestly hard for me to remember them well. The idea of the Blair Witch playing with space and time wasn’t overtly our idea, although there is that full day where Heather, Mike, and Josh hike in one direction and end up in the same place. But it was far more subtle and creepy in that way.

DC: Also in the first game of the series, an American native called Hecaiomix who is even older than the witch herself mentions an evil power in the woods. At the end of the sequel Wingard and Barrett started signaling that the creepy creature seen first in the woods and later at Parr’s place could have been something else than a witch. This was interpreted by some to be a strategy to boost the DVD sales. Any comments on the “thing” we saw at the end of the film?

Blair Witch

BR: I liked the Hecaiomix myth, as it played into what I think the “Blair Witch” could be. It’s my opinion that the “Blair Witch” is something more insidious than even that creature. It’s not a creature, it’s like “Pet Sematary” or the “Bermuda Triangle.” But of course an actual monster is far scarier than than a force of evil. But I really can’t comment on the intention behind anything in the new movie, as I wasn’t a part of it.

DC: This question is from a half-witch/half-cyborg fan of yours who wishes to remain anonymous: “Witches have different goals according to their own occult systems. They make a deal with demons through consecration to receive power or immortality. Does the Blair Witch possess a complex power which entails all these benefits, or did she have a goal or a desire?”

BR: The reason the name “Blair Witch” has always felt appropriate to me is that in Colonial times in America anything occultish at all was called a “witch.” It was kind of a generic name. So to me, the “Blair Witch” is the folklorish name of a malevolent force in the Black Hills. I don’t think it has a specific goal except to cause chaos, and many of the stories told about it (including the entire legend of the “Blair Witch”) are greatly exaggerated in some instances, greatly underplayed in others. So to me, it is in itself its own “occult system.”

DC: Another horror fan from Istanbul asks: “These days anybody who waves a fork in the kitchen and films it with a dynamic camera, launches it as a horror film. Are you happy with what you’ve done?

BR: It was inevitable that technology would enable filmmakers with no money to make interesting work. I think we’ve seen the spike of “found footage” movies, and hopefully we’ve moved on. But every time there’s a new camera that gives unprecedented quality at lower prices, someone’s going to make a movie out of it.

I do like that anyone, anywhere can make a movie that’s screenable on Netflix or in a movie theater or wherever. A couple years ago a movie called “Tangerine” won a big award at the Sundance Film Festival. I feel like all bets are off and the best story can finally win. That’s a good thing.

DC: Including the directors of the first film, many people have talked about how “there were no big expectations” in the production process of TBWP. Now that you have become a part of a project that succeeded in carving a major place for itself in many layers of pop culture, how would you describe this +10-year process? For example, have you tried to steer away from the Hollywood perspective and reevaluate the whole process?

BR: It wasn’t 10-year process (unless I’m misunderstanding the question). I was brought on in 1996, the film was made a year later, finished about a year after that, and premiered at Sundance shortly thereafter. I will say that none of us had any reason to expect that this film would go anywhere at all. We’d all worked on stuff in Florida and the southeastern United States around that time (Gregg Hale had worked in LA on TV shows), but nothing we’d worked on had gone on to any great acclaim.

As far as steering clear of Hollywood, I live there and I work there, so I guess not. Since Blair Witch, I’ve been trying to get my own work made and seen, with varying levels of success. But I don’t think there is a “Hollywood perspective.” When you get out here, you realize that this city is crawling with some of the most remarkable AND unremarkable people you’ll ever meet, doing amazing work and shitty work alike. Hollywood is a big tent. Some of the best movies ever made got their start here, as does every reality show on television.

DC: The first film is formed around the idea of shooting a documentary about the witch on purely “academic reasons.” How do you feel about the critiques and academic texts on the film? Could you share with us the research (directly related to the film or you deem noteworthy regarding the horror industry) which holds significance for you? (Tamika Southcott Hayter’s “Perverse Pleasures: Spectatorship The Blair Witch Project“ (2005) seems to be one of the most important resources that I could locate. With regards to this, I wonder how it feels to be a component of what somebody formed their thesis on, but never being mentioned in the thesis itself?

BR: Wow – I have read none of that. I’d love to see some links if you’d be willing to share them.

20 Seconds to Live

DC: Reaching your 40s, what are your thoughts on the horror film industry?

BR: Very little has changed regarding my opinion of horror films and making them since I was a teenager. I recently worked on a film that was super-gory, all nights in the woods, and it was some of the most fun I’ve had lately. I love being scared. I love making scary things. I enjoy the construction of the magic trick that every great horror film has at its core.

As far as the “industry” goes, it’s not specific to horror but low-budget movies are in a historically bad place. I don’t know if they’ve been this bad during my lifetime, and it’s somewhat depressing. A combination of the rise of YouTube, prevalence of video games, services like Redbox and Netflix and Amazon Prime as well as widespread piracy make it very difficult to recoup costs on lower-budget feature films for pretty much the last 8 years or so. We’ve seen the entire industry move to make nothing but comic book properties and things that make SO much money that they’re basically piracy-proof.

As an example, I directed a feature in 2009 called “Alien Raiders” (stupid title, I know). It was released in Japan two months before it was released in America, and the day it came out it was on a BitTorrent site. That movie was made for the then-low budget of $2,250,000. Today, that movie would be lucky to get a budget of $500,000 and the expectations would be identical.

As a result, I moved to make a web series over the last few years. One of which is called “20 Seconds to Live” and I love making it, but there’s no money in it. But even given that, it’s better to make no money quickly than it is to bleed money for years on a feature and never see a dime back, which is an experience too many of my friends have gone through. I hate reducing all of this to a business, but at some point we have to pay our bills.

I’ve complained about this with my horror filmmaker buddies before, but when we were all growing up reading Fangoria magazine, “horror director” was an actual job we could have. Today it feels like it’s easier to make horror movies but MUCH harder to make a living doing so.

DC: I had asked you if you could share with us the sketches from the film’s production period…

BR: I wish I still had them somewhere. I remember sketching the first Stickman on a legal pad in my car driving back to Germantown, Maryland from Bethesda. I may still have it somewhere, but I don’t really have any of my original notes. When I was writing the series for Dread Central, I looked at some diaries I kept while we were shooting the film, and that made it easier for me to pinpoint dates. But there weren’t any sketches in there – sorry.

DC: What is your most sensational experience about the witch so far?

BR: I tend to lump the whole experience together – from Gregg Hale pitching me the basic concept in his living room in 1996 to the last day I worked on delivering the TV special “Curse of the Blair Witch” for Syfy in 2000. So many things happened in that period of time, and my life really feels like it’s divided into everything before that and everything after.

Making the film itself, which was a one-month immersion for me, was one of those rare times in life where the decisions were obvious, my ambitions were pure, and all I wanted was to serve this story I believed in. That really doesn’t happen very often, so when that comes along in life, we have to jump on it.

DC: We had established that the theme of this interview would be the witch, but would you like to quench our curiosity on what exactly you are up to these days and what awaits you in the future?

BR: Like I said above, I worked on a horror/comedy web series called “20 Seconds to Live,” which I co-created with my friend Bob DeRosa, who writes them, and I direct and edit every episode. It’s been fun to play in the new media landscape and hopefully bring some of our aesthetic (along with our producer Cat Pasciak) to the very small screen.

I have also been directing lots of theater this entire time (even when we were making BWP). I’m supposed to direct a Kurt Vonnegut adaptation in Hollywood in the spring, and I’m extremely excited about it as Vonnegut is my favorite author, and this play is an adaptation of my favorite of his books, adapted by Stuart Gordon (director of “Re-Animator”).

Besides that, I’m a freelancer, so I’m always directing or editing commercials, documentaries, and whatever I can get hired to make. Right now I’m working on a commercial. Nothing exciting.

The Sirens of Titan

DC: One last question from the translator: “Today in the eyes of some young feminists who are reclaiming the iconography of the witch in the context of girlpower, the witch is in some ways a feminist icon, maybe because she offers a way out of the virgin/whore binary. How do you imagine the Blair Witch feels about this? What are your thoughts on the relationship between women’s spirituality movements like Wicca, which take the witch to be a self-defining and empowered female archetype, and The Blair Witch Project, where the witch is the villain?

BR: Well, there are certainly a lot of great feminist horror films out there. I don’t know if “Blair Witch” is one of them, and I don’t feel like it’s for me to say necessarily. My opinion of the Blair Witch, as stated above, is that “witch” was a pejorative applied to literally anything unexplained in the 1700’s, so it’s not about Wicca, actual witchcraft, or really about female-ness to me in the way that the witches in “Macbeth” are dark supernatural women who possessed mysterious powers.

In a way, I don’t think that whatever the “Blair Witch” is thinks about this at all in the way that a person would think about a topic – I think it’s a dark ugliness in those dense woods that takes what it wants when it feels like taking, neither a man nor a woman. But it’s worth further consideration!

Special thanks to Selin Davasse for help with any necessary translations.

The Blair Witch Project

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Spoilers: Which Major Walking Dead Actor Might Leave the Series After This Season?

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*** POSSIBLE SPOILERS ***

Like many of you out there, I gave up on AMC’s The Walking Dead a long time ago. In fact, I gave up after they fired Frank Darabont following the horrendous second season.

That said, I’m not bitter towards the series, and hell, even I watched the season premiere where Negan beat the brains off Big Red and the dude from Mayhem.

Also, I’m aware there has been some controversy surrounding the “death” (yeah, right) of Chandler Rigg’s character. I have no opinion on the matter.

Speaking of character deaths, we might want to expect another this season as it looks like Lauren Cohan, aka Maggie, has taken another job on the ABC pilot “Whiskey Cavalier.”

While this doesn’t immediately mean Cohan’s Maggie character will kick the big old zombie-bucket… it pretty much means that.

Variety reports that Cohan has been in negotiations with AMC for months over her return, but she does not currently have a contract for the ninth season and will instead take the lead in the new ABC pilot.

Do you think this means Maggie is done for? Let us know below!

“The Walking Dead” returns on Sunday, February 25th.

Season 8B Synopsis:
All-out war has had a devastating impact on every person involved. The communities themselves are fractured. Alexandria has been destroyed, the people at Hilltop finds themselves pinned, and the Kingdom is shattered — half of them dead, the other half controlled by the Saviors.

At the very center — Rick, having been distracted by the conflict, has just returned home to learn that Carl, who heroically shepherded the Alexandrians to safety during Negan’s attack, has been bitten by a walker. Once his sole motivation in this otherwise stark existence, Rick is forced to deal with this reality. Carl has always been a beacon of hope, a symbol for the remaining thread of humanity — lessons that the survivors around him would be wise to take with them as this war surges onward.

But Rick isn’t the only person who’s living in peril. Aaron and Enid are in a dire situation at Oceanside — unclear if they’re in friendly territory, or if they’ve just made new enemies. Father Gabriel will do his part in attempting to smuggle Dr. Carson safely back to the Hilltop, and a pregnant Maggie is wrestling with the many moral gray areas that come with leadership during war. In a standoff with the Saviors, she must decide how to proceed with the dozens of POW lives she’s currently in control of, as well as new complications that come with being a leader.

In addition to the war, Negan continues to deal with struggles within his ranks as workers, traitors, and others’ thirst for power cause conflict at the Sanctuary. Having gifted the Saviors a major victory, Eugene’s loyalty is repeatedly tested as new obstacles present themselves.

As all-out war consumes us, the line between good and evil continues to blur. People fighting for what they believe in. Everybody working together for something bigger — to feel safe and have a world worth living in.

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Filthy and Fine! The Best Shots of Ash vs. Evil Dead

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The Evil Dead franchise is my all time favorite horror series, which evolves its mythos with each entry. Of course, the original Evil Dead has been just a straight-up horror film, but thanks to the fateful meeting of filmmaker Scott Spiegel, director Sam Raimi took the franchise into a strange comedic territory, using slapstick while still keeping the tones of sheer terror. What makes this terror stay with the franchise even with Ash’s loudmouth persona is it’s influential and inspiring camera work that Sam Raimi makes a legend behind the camera.

After years of waiting for the master of horror to return to the Evil Dead franchise, our palates were satiated with “Ash Vs Evil Dead” which continued the inspiring cinematography. With two seasons of a television show under Raimi’s watchful eye and a third season on the way, I took a look at every episode in the series to see if each director on board the project kept that eye for cinematography and shooting style. The series was notorious for it’s over the top gore and gags and I could’ve sat here and just gushed over the geysers of blood emitting from every orifice in the show, but, what I found in each episode brought more and more to the table. There are still horrifying shots to balance out the comedy of the show, but there are also amazing character moments within that foreshadow and evolve each character.

Think about it, other than Ash we’ve never had a cast of characters that survived more than two minutes but now there’s a crew of Ghostbeaters! Don’t worry as we still have randoms coming in and out that leave you to ponder, “How long can this poor Shemp live?” as they burst into blood and viscera. There are shots that revel in the grotesque, but there are also shots that revel in who our heroes are and delve into their psyches, the specialty of the Deadites! For those who’d like to follow along with the shots in the show, I’ve given you the time these shots show up if you’re watching the show on Netflix skipping the recaps.

To see the images in their full-size glory, give them a groovy little click!


S1E1: “El Jefe”
Directed By Sam Raimi
12:53
The flashlight twirling on the ground illuminating the scene as it spins on the two detectives faces gives way to one of the best sequences in the series. As Amanda’s deadite partner attacks her, the light spins furiously with the actions of the scene as she tries to retrieve her gun. When she retrieves the gun and aims it at the deadite the audience member would get a sigh of relief that she would triumph but is then tricked into terror. The flashlight spinning becomes slower and slower on both their faces as the man cries in pain pleading to his partner. The light illuminates his transformation back into a deadite horrifyingly for a slow dread filled shot. This shot and sequence show Sam still has it and sets up the series for what’s to come.



S1E2: “Bait”
Directed By Michael J. Bassett
12:30
As Ash brings down the cross upon the ground the camera pans to Pablo and Kelly with a bright sunrise upon them. While the horrors of the night are over it is this sunrise the signifies the dawning of Kelley’s new life and her dialogue over this shot swears her vengeance.


S1E3: “Books From Beyond”
Directed By Michael J. Bassett
2:38
Up until this point, Ruby has remained a mystery and not given us a sense of danger. Against the howl of the windmill in the background bathing in the moonlight we see her unleash the Kandarian dagger upon the already impaled deadite with a smirk on her face. This shot unravels her mystery bit by bit hauntingly as the first person besides Ash to stare down a Deadite with no fear.


S1E4: “Brujo”
Directed By David Frazee
22:40
The Brujo’s entire set up is pretty creepy with all sorts of totems that he utilizes for good but look haunting. When Kelly steps into the barn possessed by Eligos the totems come to life and react to the evil stepping before them. The best one though is the face that quickly begins to disappear bit by bit as Kelly approaches. It utters the word Mentirosa, Spanish for a liar, as she steps forth, giving way to a visually striking and terrifying warning.


S1E5: “The Host”
Directed By: David Frazee
21:26
Pablo bids farewell to his youth and tutelage under the Brujo while stepping into a new life with Ash that is more in tune with his family’s spiritual upbringing. With each totem lighting up as Pablo walks by the shots build Pablo’s feelings of loss toward a teacher as Pablo emerges a warrior that foreshadows his importance later to come as the first magical force of good in a fight that’s only ever cast spells of evil.


S1E6: “The Killer of Killers”
Directed By Michael Hurst
20:24
This is one of the most hilarious yet meaningful shots of the episode. Amanda’s boss has become a deadite ready to kill her. Ash shoots Amanda’s boss in the head, making her question the authority she had adhered to so much. Her idea of Ash as a villain changed with that charming Smile and look to Amanda in a gory pose over the lower jaw of her former boss. Ash looks to her like Uncle Sam simply saying join us! Blood and viscera flowing around him like a fountain. Dangling legs in the background as an added bonus!


S1E7: “Fire In The Hole”
Directed By Michael Hurst
19:25
Actions in combat can tell a story just like any dance. The compatibility between our heroes is evocative of Ash and Amanda’s budding romance during the entire sequence. However, it is this one masterful shot of the two working in unison dodging hellfire that tells the story of warrior’s love lit by demon fire!


S1E8: “Ashes to Ashes”
Directed By Tony Tilse
18:21
Ash can never escape the past it seems as the series goes on. He is hesitant to trust Pablo and Kelly as friends in his adventure for fear of losing them like he has lost so many others. This infamous shot from Evil Dead 2 is one of the few things that could make him question his machismo. This time he doesn’t even bring the chainsaw down on his beloved Linda but is forced to watch as an invisible chainsaw comes down upon her head forcing him to be reminded of what he did. This plays heavily into his decision making near the end of the season.



S1E9: “Bound In Flesh”
Directed By Tony Tilse
25:20
We finally get to see the book speak and beg Ash to not destroy it. This is something we’ve become accustomed to in the comic series, but have never been treated to the book itself speaking to Ash otherwise. We as the audience become the eye of the book and in true Evil Dead fashion watch, Pablo scream as the camera rushes toward him and he fuses with the book. This moment is the change in Pablo that clashes with his new direction discovered in the shot in Episode 5, which then tortures him internally until the end of season 2 where he is constantly being pulled by the necklace of the Brujo and the evil of the books spells.


S1E10: “The Dark One”
Directed By Rick Jacobson
19:06
A dreary moonlight shot of blues against the cabin looking ominous as Kelly stares on drenched in blood and anger. It’s a hauntingly beautiful shot. Kelly has fully embraced herself as a ghost beater and is done being tormented ready to start saving her boys. For a lot of characters, this could easily be a breaking point, but this shot affirms Dana Delorenzo as Kelly among some of the most powerful and able Final Girls on the rise.


S2E1: “Home”
Directed By Rick Jacobson
27:31
This shot is very telling of Ruby’s betrayal to evil. As her children surround and attack her, she is obscured by darkness and where she lies in terror a bright light emanates from behind her illuminating the scene as if to show her becoming a hero against evil.


S2E2: “The Morgue”
Directed By Tony Tilse
16:41
When this episode aired it was one of the most talked about and disgustingly depraved things to see. A simple Camera rig in front of Ash as he struggles to get out of a corpse, pubic hairs and dick swinging in his face. If Dead Alive wanted to take Evil Dead’s title of biggest gross-out scenes, then “Ash Vs Evil Dead” took the title back with excrement and body fluids all over our hero.


S2E3: “Last Call”
Directed By Tony Tilse
23:08
There are a ton of great shots of the evil Delta but perhaps the best one is this single frame of Lacey telling her boyfriend she loves him as he is splattered across the windshield. Blood and glass between them as they try for one last kiss against the fire and demonic lighting coming from the Delta and then splat! It’s a small touching moment that makes Lacey’s character a bit more sympathetic as the show goes on. As for her boyfriend? Well, I told you there would be plenty of Shemps to kill off.


S2E4: “DUI”
Directed By Michael J. Bassett
1:45
After splattering Ash’s dad across the street, The Delta pulls up with a camera spin into the grill revealing an eye stuck in it. Ash’s one true love, his car, that’s survived everything has turned against him and killed his father just as they had reconnected. A perfect role reversal as Brock William’s severed eye is now staring down Ash through the grill of the car. No longer a window into Brock’s soul, but a sick vision of Ash’s love turned enemy.


S2E5: “Confinement”
Directed By Michael J. Bassett
17:46
Flashing between light and darkness as the skin is ripped and blood is splattered gives us a horrifying look for the first time at the main antagonist of the season. Baal emerges from the flesh of humanity showing how we are all merely tools for his psychological deceptions.


S2E6: “Trapped Inside”
Directed By Mark Beesley
11:37
The moon reflects an eerie light upon Cheryl’s picture as it begins to bleed like the statue of Mary. The innocence of Ash’s sister was never saved and her soul weeps as the flesh is resurrected for evil’s bidding.


S2E7: “Delusion”
Directed By Mark Beesley
23:59
This entire episode is about breaking down Ash’s spirit and character, making him think he’s truly insane. As he’s at the breaking point he sees his friends and his love for them saves him. It’s a really simple shot that’s amplified by Bruce’s performance, but that disturbed look against the shadowy bars across his face in the dreary room give him his eureka moment where he comes down from his insanity and understands what he has to do to win.


S2E8: “Ashy Slashy”
Directed By Tony Tilse
14:13
Throughout the season the town builds up a boogeyman mythos in Ashy Slashy that we know as an audience member isn’t true but this shot brings Ashy Slashy to life. That boogeyman becomes real as the straight jacket becomes Ashy Slashy’s costume and the fire created by the chainsaw shows a side of Ash we’ve never seen. In this shot, we are convinced he had become a mindless killer.


S2E9: “Home Again”
Directed By Rick Jacobson
19:51
We’ve only ever heard his voice and seen his ghost save for a few shots of him discovering the Necronomicon in Evil Dead 2. Professor Knowby watches his student, Tanya, bleed out on the floor. She looks up at her mentor with horror as light swings back and forth casting shadows on his face. He is almost serial killer in nature and the shot reflects how his quest for knowledge outweighs his humanity. We see Professor Knowby and his daughter Ruby are not too dissimilar.


S2E10: “Second Coming”
Directed By Rick Jacobson
26:12
The finale brings Ash back to the cabin having to completely confront his past to change the future. With Pablo dead, because of Ash’s own follies, it is in the ashes of Ash’s dark past that Pablo is reborn, no longer tormented by the Necronomicon he takes his first breath as a new human. The evil within him gone and his life ready to begin anew.


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McKenna Grace Snags Lead in Rob Lowe’s Remake of The Bad Seed

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Okay so, evidently Rob Lowe is remaking The Bad Seed. Meh, I’m interested. But wait, evidently it will be a Lifetime original film. Urgh, interest is waning.

All jokes aside, I’m intrigued by this remake. Not only is it set to star Rob Lowe, but the man will be directing and executive producing as well.

Another interesting variation is that this film will follow Lowe’s father figure dealing with the evil child, instead of the original film’s mother character played by Nancy Kelly.

And on top of that, today we have news via Deadline that McKenna Grace (Amityville: The Awakening) has been cast as the titular bad seed, Emma, and Patty McCormack – who played the evil little girl in the original, and received an Oscar nomination for performance – will co-star as the psychiatrist who treats Emma.

Grace will next be seen in the Netflix series The Haunting of Hill House from director Mike Flanagan (Hush, Gerald’s Game).

The Lifetime remake is directed and executive produced by Rob Lowe from a script by Barbara Marshall. Lowe as executive produces with Mark Wolper and Elizabeth Stephen and stars alongside Patty McCormack and McKenna Grace.

Synopsis:

Lowe plays a single father who seems to have everything under control. But when there is a terrible tragedy takes place at his daughter Emma’s (Grace) school, he is forced to question everything he thought he knew about his beloved daughter. He slowly begins to question if Emma’s exemplary behavior is just a façade and she played a role in the horrific incident. When more strange things begin to happen, he’s faced with keeping a terrible secret to protect Emma, but ultimately must stop her from striking again.

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