Exclusive In-Depth Chat with C. Thomas Howell Regarding MoniKa and More! - Dread Central
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Exclusive In-Depth Chat with C. Thomas Howell Regarding MoniKa and More!

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As a young man, he assisted a cross-dressing alien in evading the feds in Spielberg’s 1982 smash-hit E.T. The Extraterrestrial and was told to “Stay gold, Ponyboy,” in Coppola’s 1983 drama The Outsiders. He made famous the battle-cry ‘Wolverines!’ in John Milius’ 1984 Cold War flick Red Dawn and as ‘Jim Halsey’ nearly ate a french-fried finger in director Robert Harmon’s 1986 horror classic The Hitcher. Years later, and with nearly 150 titles to his credit, C. Thomas Howell sat down with us to discuss with candor his varied career as well as his role in Steven R. Monroe’s upcoming feature MoniKa. Read on!

“It’s sex, drugs and rock n’ roll, that sort of thing,” the forty-four-year-old Howell told us of his role last June on the Big Picture Soundstage, Burbank, California, set of MoniKa (then titled Hole in the Desert), which is co-executive produced by lead actress Cerina Vincent (who appears in the titular role) with Monroe and producers Anthony Fankhauser and Corey A. Jackson.

“My character is a small part,” Howell continued of his role of ‘Double’ in MoniKa, “and I only have a couple of days on this movie, but I basically play the best friend (of actor Jason Wiles), who gets talked into coming to Vegas on a whim, and who stumbles into a murder, so it’s basically kind of a ‘whodunit’ with a bit of a The Sixth Sense twist, but I can’t reveal it. It’s not what you think you are watching though. It definitely has some thinking involved; you know, ‘Is it a dream? Is it a nightmare? Is it a ghost story? What is it?’ So you’re just trying to figure it all out, and it’s interesting.”

C. Thomas Howell

The revenge-thriller MoniKa co-stars Jeff Branson, Chad Lindberg and Andrew Howard (the three also appeared in Monroe’s I Spit on Your Grave redux) and actors Lew Temple (The Devil’s Rejects), Shayla Beesley (Spreading Darkness), Raffaello Degruttola, Elisa Donovan and genre vet Tim Thomerson; and Los Angeles-native Howell told us of his inclusion, “Actually a friend of mine is one of the producers, which is what happens when you grow up in the business. For me about seventy percent of my work comes from re-hires, and it’s always great to maintain the relationships and see people that you enjoy working with and go back and hook up with them again and just continue the process.”

On working with Monroe, “He’s really cool, man,” offered Howell of the director, whose other genre films have included the Cerina Vincent-starrer It Waits and House of 9, among others. “He’s a really good writer and a good director, and he comes from a camera background, so he understands the process really well, and he laughs at my jokes, and I think that’s really important, so I get along with him well.”

Howell continued, “Steven’s just kind of let me bring to the table kind of my own thing, really. He’s not really precious with his words, which for a writer and a director is unusual actually. Most writer/directors want you to say (exactly) what they wrote, so Steven’s a bit more open to suggestions. I mean, I’m not coming in and re-writing anything, but at the same time he’s not coming up to me and saying things like, ‘You know, you left out the word “but” here; can we go again?’ and making me insane, which if it were Tarantino directing (Note: the latter is notorious for his actors’ strict adherence to scripted dialogue), I’d probably kill him myself and bury him,” said Howell with a laugh.

“But that’s my process, you know,” expounded the actor on his approach to his craft. “I like to explore when I’m working; otherwise what’s the point? You might as well have puppets do it (otherwise). I mean, a writer creates the space, and then it grows from there. It’s not a finished product on the page, and there’s room for improvement if you allow it to grow, and that’s been my approach to film, and you know, a lot of times I understand that some actors will come in and bastardize the words, and can ruin a scene, but that’s what a good director will do. He’ll go back to the words if things aren’t going so well, but generally in my experience good actors tend to bring an ego to the role, and the writer and director is looking at the big picture, and they are not just looking at this three-day part, and they can then look at the actor’s perspective and say, ‘You know, you are absolutely right,’ and go ahead and make that change, and that makes it fun. It’s kind of like Bono going into the studio: He just starts singing shit, and he doesn’t write a poem and then go sing the poem. There’s a discovery process that makes it exciting, and that takes the tedium out of it.”

Conversation turned to Howell’s outlook on his varied filmography (while he’s appeared in numerous celebrated films, he’s also taken jobs in flicks not so well renowned, including such ‘B’ fare as The Hitcher II: I’ve Been Waiting, Killer Bees!, Thirst: The Blood War and more), and he stated, “A lot of actors have their boundaries when it comes to a certain genre. I suffer from enjoyment of work. That’s my biggest issue really. I like the process of going to the set, and I like the challenge of trying to make something better. I’m not afraid to throw myself into the fire, and a lot of times you get burned by doing that. I mean, I’ve made a lot of shit that I probably shouldn’t have done, but at the same time I learned more from that stuff than I did the great things that I’ve been a part of. I mean, if I could have Johnny Depp’s career, I would take it, but I just feel that my process may have taught me a bit more than just working with Tim Burton over and over and over.”

“I just really like to travel, and I love acting, and I learn a lot when I do small pictures,” Howell mused, “and I take those experiences to the bigger pictures (I book), like the new The Amazing Spider-Man reboot, and I’m going into my fourth season on (the television series) “Southland”, which has just been an amazing experience, and I had a great run on “Criminal Minds”, and my career is just kind of turning into something lately that I didn’t really expect. I’ve played lately a lot of bad guys and a lot of darker roles. You know, I learned something from Rutger Hauer on The Hitcher, when I asked him, ‘Why are you so great at playing bad guys?’ He told me in that sort of scary voice of his, ‘I don’t play bad guys’. And what he meant by that was that he finds the goodness and the humanity in those roles, and he doesn’t walk around and twist his mustache and play the cliché sort of idea of what people think a bad guy is.”

“I’m older now, and I’m no longer playing the kid in the leather jacket,” continued Howell, “so you have to redefine what you are doing all of the time, like the good artists do. If you don’t do that, then you are left in the dust, so it’s been a real pleasure for me to grow in this business, and to dig deeper, and to try to find a way to stay rooted but still bring fresh stuff to the table. That’s not an easy task, and it’s difficult, but that’s what I’ve been aiming for.”

Commenting on his approach to the more complex individuals he’s been playing of late, and his affinity toward what some would deem ‘darker’ roles, “Part of the discovery for me is that people relate to flawed characters more than they do the hero,” he said. “For example, I play a reformed alcoholic on ‘Southland’, and he’s not necessarily politically correct. He doesn’t really know how to censor his thoughts so he says a lot of the wrong things, and I’ve had more people connect with that character on the street than any character I’ve ever done before, apart from Ponyboy (in The Outsiders). That role is the supreme opposite example, which was just pure goodness as a child, although I don’t think you can play that (latter) kind of role when you are forty-four years old. I mean, perhaps you can, but I haven’t found it yet, but playing the humanity and the struggle within ourselves, and sharing that with other people who can relate to that? When I started out in the first season, my character was a drunk, and now he’s gone through rehab and is on the other side but is struggling to stay sober, and I’ve had a lot of people from AA wrap their arms around me and say, ‘Thank you so much! I’ve been recovering, and I just want to tell you that you’ve done an amazing job, and I really enjoy watching you.’ They relate to that. They respond to it, more than watching the hero save the girl and kiss her at the end. That’s something that I’ve enjoyed more than anything else.”

C. Thomas Howell

Relating to Howell in this, this writer recalled his affinity at a young age for the Star Wars character of Han Solo, as opposed to the ‘gee golly’ nature of the wide-eyed Luke Skywalker.

“That’s right, man!” said Howell. “That’s a really good example. I’m the same way. I was a Han Solo fan myself, and those characters for me are a lot more fun to play. I’d rather play Han than Luke, but these days personally I’d rather play Darth and try to find some sense of goodness and humanity within that mask! Talk about a challenge. It’s an ever-changing and ever-growing, joyful effort, and I feel so blessed to be doing what I do, and like I said, that’s probably my biggest flaw, that I don’t like waiting between gigs.”

“One of the things that I admire about Jim Carrey is that he has evolved,” mused Howell of the actor, another man prone to taking artistic chances. “A lot of people who were his fans in the 80’s and 90’s when he was doing all of those silly movies might not be as attracted to what he does now, but he throws himself into the fire with every performance. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t, and I can appreciate that as an artist when I watch his work. I can appreciate that he tries something new. The other example is Matthew McConaughey, and he said in an article I read once, ‘You know, it takes me five months after I read a script to decide if I can do it or not,’ and I’m like, ‘Really? You need five fucking months to figure out whether or not you can play the surfer guy?’ I don’t get that. To me, within five months I’ll do five movies. I mean, I’m not necessarily playing the lead in an eighty-million-dollar movie. I’ll come in and I’ll play a smaller part, and I’ll play the bad guy – they just called me to play an assassin in a Bruce Willis film, and hopefully that’ll work out – but these are the types of gigs that I’m starting to get a lot of, and it’s kind of fun. I just keep on banging.”

As Howell’s prolific career has evolved, so has the world, particularly with the advent of the Internet and the focus on celebrity it re-ignited. I queried Howell the following hypothetical: If the ‘net and armchair bloggers were in existence during your youthful days of acting, would it have changed your outlook on the industry and the way you approached your craft?

“A lot of people take it too seriously,” Howell responded. “It’s only a movie. It’s only the movie business, and there are so many haters online, and everyone wants to weigh in with their two cents if they are a hater, but there’s a lot more lovers out there. It’s just that the lovers don’t post. So you just have to let it roll off of your back. You can’t please everyone.”

C. Thomas HowellAs for his outlook as a child actor, “I was too young,” said Howell. “I mean, I didn’t care. I was just a carefree dude just living in the moment. I was never really big on preparation as a kid because I didn’t know how to prepare. I just knew how to be in the moment and go for it and try my hardest. A lot of my work as a kid, you can see somebody trying a little too hard, and that’s because I didn’t have a director who was capable of teaching me or helping me. I had to learn the hard way, and I’m on the other side of it today, and when I watch young kids, I often see them working too hard on the set, and that’s just because they want to be good, and they want to be accepted and they are trying just a little bit too hard, instead of just realizing, ‘Hey man, just hit the fucking mark, and just hang out, and take a moment, and feel it and then just say the line.’ They don’t need to press it, but they are all so anxious. It’s like that Robert Duvall joke to Sean Penn in Colors, you know, ‘The Young Bull and the Old Bull?’ Where the young bull says, ‘Hey, let’s run down there and fuck us a cow,’ and the old bull says, ‘Hey, let’s walk down there and fuck them all,’ and there’s a lot of truth in that. I didn’t understand that until I was nearly forty. You just need to slow down a little bit and take a moment, and allow the process to take place, instead of trying to drive the process somewhere all of the time.”

“Sometimes you do get the occasional example of some genius kid like Dakota Fanning,” he continued, “who gets it at a young age, and I’m always amazed by that. I never find any false moments in her work, and how does she know that? And then you watch her sister (Elle Fanning) in Super 8, and she’s as equally amazing, if not even better, and I don’t understand where that comes from either. How is it that one family is so gifted? Those skills that she is working with are more along the lines of someone who has been doing the work for twenty years, and it’s a very difficult thing to teach a young kid, and a lot of actors struggle with it and will never get it. I struggled (with it) as a kid and became a much better actor as an adult, but most people don’t get that opportunity. Most often if you are a child actor, your career is done when you grow up, and for me I feel really blessed to have not crashed and burned, particularly in that I have some roles that I wish I could take back, but at the same time I have some roles I’m super proud of. You just have to take the good with the bad. You can’t take just one film and judge me for that. I mean, I’m a ‘lifer’, and when I die, you are going to see a body of work, and you are going to see where I’ve grown and where I was stunted, and to see where I have struggled and to see where I’ve grown. I feel really lucky, and you just keep on keeping on.”

MoniKa Synopsis
The film is a violent, edgy ride focusing on the forlorn Reagan Tyler, a man who is troubled by visions and premonitions that ultimately lead him to Las Vegas. It’s there that Reagan meets the beautiful and mysterious Monika, a young woman who turns out to have been killed the night before he even met her. Reagan is then forced to put the puzzle together of what happened, how she is still present, and help Monika with her revenge on the killers of her younger sister.

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Check Out the Opening 2 Minutes of Another WolfCop

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It was just earlier today that we brought you guys The Dude Design’s the newest poster for writer-director Lowell Dean’s horror-comedy sequel Another WolfCop.

And now we have the movie’s opening 2 minutes!

The clip showcases the new flick’s villain trying to sell us on his “Chicken Milk Beer” before losing his cool and taking it out the commercial’s crew. We then cut to a ragtag group of criminals, dressed as homeless Santas trying to outrun the cops.

A fun two-minutes if you ask me!

You can check out Another WolfCop‘s opening scene below and then make sure to hit us up and let us know what you think in the comments below or on social media!

The film is written and directed by Lowell Dean, produced by Bernie Hernando, Deborah Marks, and Hugh Patterson, and distributed worldwide by Cineplex.

Another WolfCop co-stars Amy Matysio, Jonathan Cherry, and Serena Miller. The film also features special appearances from Canadian music icon Gowan and legendary filmmaker Kevin Smith. It was executive produced by Sean Buckley, J. Joly, Bill Marks, Brian Wideen, Michael Kennedy, and Michael Hirsch.

The film is slated for a wide Cineplex theatrical release on Friday, December 8, 2017, with the film seeing a Blu-ray/DVD/Digital home entertainment release through A71 and Black Fawn in 2018.

Synopsis:

A month has passed since the eclipse transformed hard-drinking Officer Lou Garou into the crime-fighting hellion WolfCop. Although the Shape Shifters controlling the town have been extinguished, Woodhaven is far from returning to normal. Lou’s liquor-fueled antics and full moon outbursts are seriously testing his relationship with Officer Tina Walsh – the new Chief of Police. An old friend has mysteriously reappeared with a truly bizarre secret to share, and a homicidal new villain has emerged from the shadows looking to finish what the Shape Shifters started. To defeat this lethal adversary, it will take more than a lone wolf packing a pistol.

Prepare for the next chapter of WolfCop that will be more dirty and hairy than the original! Consider yourself warned.

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Reviews

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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User Rating 3.9 (10 votes)
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