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Exclusive: Ethan Hawke Talks Sinister, Remembers Explorers and More

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Ever since his feature film debut in 1985, Joe Dante’s Explorers, Ethan Hawke has continuously impressed audiences with memorable performances in countless films including Dead Poets Society, White Fang, Training Day, Lord of War and Brooklyn’s Finest.

His latest, Sinister (review), marks Hawke’s second foray into the horror genre (the 2009 flick Daybreakers being his first), which finds the actor portraying a struggling novelist, Ellison Oswalt, who moves his family into the very neighborhood where a family were mysteriously murdered only months before so that he can research their heinous demise for his latest book project. Directed by Scott Derrickson, Sinister was co-written by Derrickson and C. Robert Cargill and also stars Juliet Rylance and James Ransone and features a cameo by Vincent D’Onofrio.

Recently Dread Central had the opportunity to sit down and exclusively chat with Hawke during the Sinister press day; during our interview we discussed with him whether or not being an author influenced his decision to take the role of a true crime novelist in the flick. Hawke also spoke with us about the kinds of characters he enjoys playing and even reflects on what he learned while working with Joe Dante on Explorers and his thoughts on the current independent film scene.

Check out our interview with Hawke below, and look for Sinister in theaters everywhere this Friday, October 12th, courtesy of Summit Entertainment.

Dread Central: When you were first approached for Sinister, considering that you’re a successful writer in your own life, was there a special appeal to this character to you because he is a writer, or was it more about the project having a really good script?

Ethan Hawke: First of all, I never know what makes people want to come to me. There are so many wonderful actors in the world, I’m always so curious why somebody would come to me…but you know, Scott really wanted me for this job. I was not sure why; so I went and met him, and you can tell pretty quickly that he’s a serious person. He thinks very deeply about things; he’s not a frivolous man. He has a real intelligence to everything he does.

But I liked the script. There’s a long history of genre movies with really terrific acting and a long history of genre movies with really bad acting. You have to be really careful. I just don’t want to be in a movie that doesn’t care about the acting. It was really obvious to me that Scott did really care about the acting. I was clear to me that he knew how to make a scary movie. I have no idea how to make a scary movie. I’ve never done it before. I knew I wasn’t going to be able to help him in that way, at all. He was great; he said that I didn’t need any help, that he just wanted somebody to make Ellison a real person and a recognizable human being. I thought I could do that and that Scott could make a scary movie.

Dread Central: What I thought was really interesting about the character of Ellison was that he’s a very relatable guy because he wants what’s best for his family, but in the same respect he still has this career that he keeps pushing them aside for. I really appreciated the fact that he was this flawed character because lot of times in horror movies the hero is perfect, and Ellison was just a guy that’s struggling to do the best for his career and his family who just gets mixed up in something bigger than he could have imagined.

Ethan Hawke: Exactly. Playing people who are perfect is a real bore. It really is. What I liked about Ellison was that he’s well-meaning in some ways, but in other ways he’s not. He’s horribly ambitious and claims to be doing it all for his family, but really he’s doing it for himself and his own ambition. I find those kinds of people much more interesting to play because, first of all, you don’t know what they’re going to do next because their motives are all over the place, and yet you have to try to give them some humanity so that audiences care about them regardless of their motives.

The character I played in Brooklyn’s Finest, his motives are all screwball, but he was so fun to play for that reason. Just because people do things for wrong reasons doesn’t make them a bad person, and trying to figure all that out is fun as an actor.

Dread Central: I’ve been following your career ever since Explorers considering that I’ve been a huge Dante fan my whole life. I know that was the first film you’ve done, and looking at how you started and where your career has led since then, you’ve made such interesting career choices. When you’re looking at projects, what is it that speaks to you as a performer? What is it that you’re looking for when you take on these different roles?

Ethan Hawke: I just like to be surrounded by as many talented people as I can. It helps make up for my own shortcomings, it helps me learn things, and it helps me to make good movies. I’ve thought a lot of Joe Dante while making this film. I remember I sat and watched The Howling with Joe Dante when I was 14 years old, and we watched Piranha. I feel like I’m one of the few people of my generation that has firsthand knowledge of Roger Corman and what those B-movies were about and how great they were because of working with Joe Dante.

You know, we’re in a funny moment like that again; where it’s almost like we’re going back to before (Martin) Scorsese and (John) Cassavetes changed the independent film scene. You know, the studios aren’t making dramas anymore; they’re not really interested in character-driven material. The only way to make a movie that’s going to get released and people are going to see is to do a genre movie so you have to work inside the genre milieu and try to do something awesome with it, and I think we really hit that mark with Sinister. What’s also really interesting is that when you think about it, that’s also what they were doing back in those Roger Corman movies, too, decades ago.

Related Story: Exclusive: Scott Derrickson and C. Robert Cargill Get Sinister with Dread Central

Synopsis
Sinister is a frightening new thriller from the producer of the Paranormal Activity films and the writer-director of The Exorcism of Emily Rose. Ethan Hawke plays a true crime novelist who discovers a box of mysterious, disturbing home movies that plunge his family into a nightmarish experience of supernatural horror.

Exclusive: Ethan Hawke Talks Sinister, Remembers Explorers and More

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Like Me – Will You Like This Dystopian Thriller?

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Starring Addison Timlin, Ian Nelson, Larry Fessenden

Directed by Robert Mockler


While Like Me is not dystopian in the classic science-fiction sense, it does aptly put the downer vibe across. If the present is abysmal, then the future is downright hopeless. We learn this as we follow an unhinged teenage loner called Kiya (Addison Timlin) on a hollow crime spree that she broadcasts on social media. At first the world “likes” her—with the exception of YouTube rival Burt (Ian Nelson), who disdainfully denounces her viral videos—but pride goes before the fall, and Kiya’s descent is spectacular.

If you’ve peeped the trailer for Like Me, then you’re probably expecting a horror movie. I mean, they’ve got the requisite menacing masked baddie and they’ve got genre icon Larry Fessenden in a major role—those are a couple of the key ingredients, right? Yes they are, but this simmering, shimmering stew of Natural Born Killers, Excision and King Kelly, it boils down to a whole lotta nothing. Like Me is sort of a drama, kind of a road trip flick, and almost a thriller. It succeeds at none yet does stand on its own as a compelling collection of cool visuals and pertinent performances. But is that enough?

While Kiya is a compelling character on the surface, there’s barebones beneath. Sure, she’s a Millennial mind-fed on random online clips and snappy soundbites—but what turned her into a psychopath? Was she born that way? Is social media to blame? We’ll never know, because not a hint is given. I don’t mind ambiguity, but even a morsel would have been welcome in this case. As Kiya ramps up her reckless exhibitionistic extremes, the stakes are never raised. In the end, who cares? Maybe that’s the point.

A word of warning: If you plan on watching this movie while chomping snacks…don’t. There is stomach-turning scene after vomit-inducing scene of orgiastic easting, binging, and the inevitable purging. I’m sure it’s all metaphorical mastication, a cutting comment on disposable consumption. I get it. But I don’t wanna look at it, again and again and again. Having said that, Like Me is an experimental film and in its presentation of such grotesquery, it’s quite accomplished. Montages, split-screens and jittered motions are scattered throughout, showing us all sorts of unpleasant things…Kudos to the editor.

I didn’t hate Like Me. But I do think one has to be in the mood for a movie such as this. It’s not an easy or entertaining watch, but it is a peculiar and thought-provoking one. There’s some style and mastery behind the camera, and I am curious to see what first-time writer-director Rob Mockler comes up with next.

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Last Toys on the Left

Funko Giving Jurassic Park the Pop! Treatment as Only They Can

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It is no secret we’re BIG fans of Funko’s Pop! Vinyl line here at DC HQ, and now they’ve announced a new series that has made our hearts just about burst… read on for a look at Pop! Movies: Jurassic Park, heading our way in February. The regular figures are awesome on their own, but wait until you see the exclusives!

From the Funko Blog:
Jurassic Park fans, get excited! To celebrate the 25th anniversary of the iconic film’s appearance on the silver screen, Jurassic Park is coming to Pop!

This series of Pop! features paleontologist Dr. Grant, Jurassic Park CEO John Hammond, mathematician Dr. Malcolm, and embryo-smuggler Dennis Nedry. (Keep an eye out for Dr. Ellie Sattler in Pop! Rides coming soon.)

We couldn’t forget the Jurassic Park dinosaurs! Featured in this line are the great T. rex, Velociraptor, and Dilophsaurus. Look for the Dilophosaurus chase, a rarity of 1-in-6.

Be on the lookout for exclusives. At Target you can find a wounded Dr. Malcolm, and the Dennis Nedry and Dilophosaurus 2-pack is available only at Entertainment Earth.

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American Psycho Meets Creep – Strawberry Flavored Plastic Review

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Starring Aidan Bristow, Nicholas Urda, Andres Montejo

Directed by Colin Bemis


Recently I wrote up an article here on Dread Central which was basically an open letter to anyone who was listening called “I Miss Found Footage.” Well, it seems like someone WAS listening, as I was then sent the link to an all-new found footage film called Strawberry Flavored Plastic from first-time writer-director Colin Bemis.

The film follows the “still-at-large crimes of Noel, a repentant, classy and charming serial killer loose in the suburbs of New York.” Basically, you could think of the flick as American Psycho meets Mark Duplass and Partick Brice’s Creep. That, or you could think of it as “Man Bites Dog in color!” However you choose to label Colin Bemis’ psychological thriller, just make sure you check out the film once it hits in the future.

As I alluded to above, the film is basically a found footage version of American Psycho. But that said, the film sports a twist on the charming serial killer subgenre that I have yet to see play out in any of the above-mentioned classics. I’m not going to go into spoiler territory here, but I will say that the film introduces an element to the tale that spins it into much more of a character drama than a straight horror film. Not that there is anything wrong with that!

Truth be told, the film’s turn from serial killer flick into a layered character study might have been its kiss of death, but this slight genre switch is rendered a minor issue as the film’s central narcissistic antagonist is played by Aidan Bristow. Bristow is an actor you may not have heard of before this review, but you will hear his name more and more over the years to come, I promise. The guy gives (no pun intended) a killer performance as the film’s resident serial killer Noel Rose, and time after time surprised me with how chilling, charming, or downright vulnerable he chose to play any given scene.

Bristow’s performance is, in the end, the major element the film has going for it. But that said, as a fan of found footage, I was smiling ear to ear at first-time director Colin Bemis’ understanding of what makes a found footage suspense sequence work.

In Strawberry Flavored Plastic director Colin Bemis is confident and content to allow full emotional scenes to play out with the camera directed at nothing more than a character’s knees. Why is this so important? Because it keeps the reality of the film going. Too many found footage directors would focus on the actors’ faces during such emotional scenes – no matter how contrived the camera angle was. In this film, however, Bemis favors the reality that says, “If you were really in this emotional state and holding a camera, you would let it drop to your side.” I agree, and it is small touches like that which make the film feel authentic and thus – once the shite hits the fan – all the scarier.

On the dull side of the kitchen knife, the film does feel a bit long even given it’s short running time, and there doesn’t seem too much in the way of visceral horror to be found within. Again, graphic blood and gore aren’t a must in a fright flick, but a tad more of the old ultra-violence would have gone a long way in selling our main psychopath’s insanity and unpredictability. But all the same, the film does feature a rather shocking sequence where our main baddie performs a brutal home invasion/murder that puts this film firmly in the realm of horror. In fact, the particular POV home invasion scene I’m talking about holds about as much horror as you’ll ever wish to witness.

In the end, Colin Bemis’ Strawberry Flavored Plastic is a must-see for fans of found footage and serial killer studies such as American Pyscho, Creep, and Man Bites Dog. I recommend giving it a watch once it premieres. If only to be able to point to Aidan Bristow in the near future and tell all your friends that you watched (one of) his first movies.

Until then, check out the film’s trailer HERE, and follow the movie on Facebook.

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Summary

Lead actor Aidan Bristow turns in a star-making performance in Colin Bemis’ Strawberry Flavored Plastic, a found footage film that plays out like Man Bites Dog in Color before introducing a new element to the charming-serial-killer subgenre and becoming more character study than a straight horror. Think American Psycho meets Creep.

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