Tony Todd Gives Us the Skinny on Sushi Girl - Dread Central
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Tony Todd Gives Us the Skinny on Sushi Girl

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Tony Todd Gives Us the Skinny on Sushi GirlTony Todd’s resume is extensive and diverse. He’s credited with everything from gruesome horror films to voiceover work in children’s cartoons and appearances in video games. His 20+-year career has been incredible, and he recently sat down with Dread Central to talk about his newest project, Sushi Girl.

Sushi Girl (review) is a unique horror-flavored heist-gone-wrong film directed by Kern Saxton that stars Todd along with Mark Hamill, Noah Hathaway, James Duval, Andy Mackenzie and Cortney Palm. When asked what audiences should expect when sitting down to watch Sushi Girl, Todd said, “I don’t want to compare it to any other film because I think it’s unique unto itself. Basically my character, Duke, is the leader of this particular crew and I invite a group of people back to see each other six years from the last time we met. Ostensibly, it’s a dinner, but it turns out to be a celebration of the release of one of us from prison, which leads to a questioning about some details that were left unattended, and when the right answers aren’t given, things go down different paths. And then it becomes a survival film. A very atmospheric survival film, as the whole thing takes place in a deserted sushi restaurant.”

The cast for Sushi Girl was actually assembled over a year before filming began, so a real cohesion developed among the players. “It’s a well-rounded cast,” Todd said. “One of our strengths was that our ensemble was really tight. We became really close, and to this day we’re still getting together and having different functions and parties. That’s very un-Hollywood. You meet a lot of people, you meet a lot of acquaintances, but to still have that sense of family is a treasure.”

Sushi Girl presented an opportunity for Todd to be a producer as well. “I helped secure some of the funding opportunities and picked up some pieces here and there, going to some meetings, crossing the T’s and dotting the I’s. Invisible producing,” Todd said. “But because of that, having that title going into the shooting, maybe it made me take a little more responsibility in making sure we were remaining focused. Sometimes in independent films, forces get scattered a little bit, but it helped that we were in the same location, primarily. And we worked non-stop, six days a week, for two and a half weeks. But because we had met each other a year before we started shooting, that helped. We were all aware of who each other was, what each could bring. I think we grounded ourselves and made everybody bring their best job to it. It wasn’t just a job for hire. Everybody worked far below their quote because we loved the story, we loved our characters and we respected each other, which is important.”

Todd commented on the uniqueness of Sushi Girl, “I don’t think Sushi Girl is a film people have seen. I’m firmly convinced, as a producer, that when we hit VOD and we have a theatrical shelf life and when it finally settles down to its television home, this film will be one that people will talk about and that they’ll remember. And it’s a testament to the fact that you don’t need $100 million to make a film.” And Todd was adamant about the strength of the production company. “Assembly Line, this company will be working together again and again. People should pay attention to Assembly Line.”

A lot of the intensity of Sushi Girl came from the creative process the cast used. “We made a concerted effort not to see our other characters. We tried to look at each other fresh, as these new characters, Crow, Duke, Fish, etc.,” Todd said. “I made it clear, before we started shooting, I started sending out text messages as my character, Duke, and I didn’t break characters. Everybody works differently, some people need to laugh and get away from the intensity, but I felt I had to be Duke for the entire two and a half weeks just to keep it grounded.”

Todd remarked how the character-driven Sushi Girl drew him in from the beginning. “I like playing any character that’s good, that resonates with me, that does something inside me that says, ‘I’ve got to do this.'” Todd said. “And I look at the characters in this film as a dysfunctional family. Think of it like a Thanksgiving dinner without the turkey and everybody’s gathered, everyone’s got their own history and I’m the dysfunctional father figure who happens to be slightly psychotic. When I tell you to go to your room, it’s not up for debate; even though I’m smiling, it’s not for debate. Do it or die, and you can quote me. Do it or die.”

“And I have to give props to Cortney (Palm), too,” Todd said about the Sushi Girl herself. “Her ability to endure all the things that were happening around her is a testament to the best quality an actor can have, which is the ability to listen and respond and to react in whichever small way they can. She was terrific for her debut film, and I think she’ll go far.”

In addition to the powerful main cast, Sushi Girl has some nice surprises in the supporting roles. “We had great cameos in the film,” Todd said. “Like Sonny Chiba. The first male character you see in the film is Sonny Chiba. That’s just outstanding.” Other actors in supporting roles include Danny Trejo, Michael Biehn and Jeff Fahey.

Sushi Girl

The atmosphere of the film was enhanced by so many quality aspects. “We had the influence of a lot of great moments and opportunities,” Todd said. “The musical score…I think Kern did a great job in choosing which songs would draw people into the atmosphere. Our DP was able to shoot in an already dark space but was able to light it with different surfaces and textures. Our crew was fantastic.”

Todd was very excited to have the opportunity to star in Sushi Girl and spoke about the diversity of his resume. “I fight for that,” Todd said. “There are people that come up to me and are like, ‘Oh my god, it’s Candyman. Are you still in movies? Do you still work?’ I mean Candyman is 20 years old. People sometimes have a very myopic views, but that’s their right. That’s their opinion. But I know the truth and I tell them, ‘Your kids might have heard me this morning on their favorite cartoon.’ I’m able to jump back and forth between the big budgets…things like the Final Destinations have allowed me to do that, to pick and choose character-driven stories in the independent world, or going back to New York and to my theater roots. I’m in a lucky position because I’ve been doing this for 22 years, and I’m able to still tightrope and jump back and forth between genres and I really appreciate it. It makes me more of a chameleon than a personality. That is what I think a true actor should be. To go from a “Holliston” to a Sushi Girl to Call of Duty. That’s pretty cool. I like that.”

And in speaking of some of his other projects, Todd was extremely complimentary of FEARnet’s original series “Holliston,” in which he appeared last season. “The key to ‘Holliston”s success is Adam Green,” Todd said. “He has such an infectious energy. I met Adam maybe five or six years ago and he was basically a fan. He was in line at a Fangoria convention and he bought some of my pictures and said, ‘I’m going to be a filmmaker.’ Now I get that a lot and I’m not the type of guy to discourage anyone or say, ‘Get the fuck outta here, kid.’ You can’t do that. I was taught if someone has a dream, until they prove otherwise, you encourage it. And lo and behold, about a year and a half after we met, I get a script for this film called Hatchet and at first I turned it down. I just wasn’t motivated by it. But certain people in the cast, like Robert Englund, called me and said, ‘You’ve gotta help this guy.’ So I had a meeting with Adam and agreed to do the cameo in the first movie and he said if it worked, he’d expand my character for the second one. And not only is Adam a man of his word, but his sets are some of the most fun experiences I’ve ever had. Every project starts with the leader, and whether that leader is the producer or director or writer or lead actor, they set the tone. If the person is an asshole, it’s not a good experience; and it usually reflects in the finished product if the person is there for the true joy of the work, like Adam was with “Holliston” or Kern and Destin (Pfaff, writer) were for Sushi Girl. The people who, no matter what time you have to get up, 6am, 4am, 5am, you’re there because you can’t wait to work and see the people, that’s what makes the magic.”

Todd also plays a character in the recently released, hugely anticipated Call of Duty: Black Ops II video game. “I’m a gamer,” Todd said. “I’m in a weird position. I’m really nervous because I’m not a schizophrenic; not only am I doing voiceover in Call of Duty: Black Ops II, but I’m digital. I play Admiral Briggs, sending players out on missions. It’s a little awkward playing the game, seeing myself digitized and taking orders from myself.”

And in addition to Sushi Girl and Call of Duty: Black Ops II, Todd has more projects that will be available soon. “There’s a film called Changing the Game I shot in Philadelphia for a young filmmaker named Rel Dowdell. That’s been getting a lot of good reviews. Also there’s a project that’s on the table right now that’s called Man With a Gun that I haven’t shot yet, but we’re in discussions and it’s a really good script. It takes place in 1931, the presumed final days of the last gunslingers. It takes place on the crossbanks of the River Styx.”

Sushi Girl

The Wagner/Cuban Company’s Magnolia Home Entertainment and Phase 4 Films jointly acquired North American rights to Sushi Girl. The revenge thriller will have a Blu-ray, DVD, and digital VOD release by Magnolia Home Entertainment under the Magnet Releasing label in early 2013.

Synopsis:
Mark Hamill (Star Wars franchise) and Tony Todd (Candyman) lead a cast of cult heroes including Noah Hathaway (The NeverEnding Story), James Duval (Donnie Darko), Andy Mackenzie (MacGruber), David Dastmalchian (The Dark Knight) and Cortney Palm (Superbad). Sushi Girl also includes feature appearances by Michael Biehn (Aliens), Sonny Chiba (Kill Bill Vol. 1), Jeff Fahey (Grindhouse) and Danny Trejo (Machete).

The film centers on the compelling character of a man called “Fish,” just released after six years in jail after successfully not ratting on those involved in the robbery that sent him to prison. The night he is released, the men he protected with silence celebrate his freedom with a congratulatory dinner. The meal is a lavish array of sushi, served off the naked body of a beautiful young woman. The sushi girl seems catatonic, trained to ignore everything in the room, even if things become dangerous. Sure enough, the unwieldy thieves can’t help but open old wounds in an attempt to find their missing loot, with violent results.

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Brennan Went To Film School

Brennan Went to Film School: Unlocking the Hidden Meaning in Insidious: The Last Key

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“Brennan Went to Film School” is a column that proves that horror has just as much to say about the world as your average Oscar nominee. Probably more, if we’re being honest.

WARNING: THIS ARTICLE CONTAINS DETAILED SPOILERS FOR INSIDIOUS: THE LAST KEY. READER DISCRETION IS ADVISED.

Blumhouse had quite a year last year, didn’t they? In addition to having three number one hits on their hands, the racial satire Get Out is their first horror entry to get awards traction thanks to its deeper themes. Now that everyone is starting to take the company and its work a little more seriously, it’s time to bring out the big guns and dive right into some deeper analysis into a much more unlikely subject: Insidious: The Last Key. The fourth entry in their tentpole haunted house franchise might not seem like it at first glance, but it’s the Get Out of the Me Too era, telling a story of women’s struggles while predicting the downfall of powerful, abusive men that started to occur during its production process with eerie accuracy.

No, seriously. Let’s start by taking a look at the villain. Unusually for this franchise, the baddies are both paranormal and human: halfway through the film it is revealed that the haunting victim who has called Lin Shaye’s Elise and her crew is also a sadistic killer who has chained up a woman in his basement. This is also revealed to be the very same thing Elise’s father did many decades before. The film implies that both men are being influenced by the key-wielding demon that inhabits the house.

Key imagery is very important to the film as a whole (I mean come on, it’s literally in the freakin’ title), and its themes of Elise arriving to her childhood home to unlock the secrets of her past. But there’s more than one meaning to that imagery, and understanding those meanings is the key to unlocking the subtext of the film, if you’ll allow me a really obvious pun.


The demon KeyFace might be influencing the men, but they’re still receptive to the idea. That’s because he’s awakening something that was already inside them. Keyface represents the pure male id; the unconscious, animalistic desires and drives that lay buried in the psyche. He’s not forcing them to behave in this way, he’s just unlocking their darker impulses.

It’s no coincidence that the demon’s lair is the bomb shelter basement. The house has now become a road map of her father’s mind, with his strongest emotions (and the literal place where he keeps his abused women secreted away) hidden in a sublevel that isn’t visible from the surface. This is the very same basement where he locked up Elise while punishing her for insisting that her visions were real. He wanted her to keep her psychic gifts locked away, probably so she wouldn’t discover his own submerged secrets.

Elise encounters a variety of keys during her journey that allow her to penetrate deeper and deeper into The Further, the house, her past, and the hideous truth about the men in her life. These keys unlock doors, suitcases, chains, and cages, but the most important unlocks the truth… and turns the attention of the evil upon her and her two nieces.

The probing of these women ignites the fury of Keyface and he takes her niece Melissa into the basement (another buried sublevel that must be unlocked), inserting a key into her neck and rendering her mute, then stealing her soul with a second key plunged into her heart. He is only vanquished when Elise and her other niece Imogen team together and use a family heirloom – a whistle – to summon Elise’s mother’s spirit.

On the surface, this seems like an inspiring story of three generations of women helping each other to face a great evil. This is certainly true, but now we have the key to understanding exactly what’s happening here. When a young woman discovers the abuse being perpetrated in her house, the figure of pure, wicked male desire literally steals her voice, silencing her. In order to restore that voice, another woman who knows the truth must very literally become a whistleblower.

…Did I just blow your mind?

At its heart, Insidious: The Last Key presents a world where women must rely on other women to provide them a voice and their very survival in a world dominated by powerful men and their ugly, dirty secrets. Secrets that they will do anything to keep locked away. There may be slightly more ghosts in Insidious than in real life, but that’s a frighteningly close parallel with the ugliness currently being revealed in Hollywood – as well as the world at large. It probably won’t tear up the Golden Globes next year, but this film is just the next important stepping-stone after Get Out in Blumhouse’s use of the genre to dig deep into the real life horrors plaguing our society.


Brennan Klein is a writer and podcaster who talks horror movies every chance he gets. And when you’re talking to him about something else, he’s probably thinking about horror movies. On his blog, Popcorn Culture, he is running through reviews of every slasher film of the 1980’s, and on his podcast, Scream 101, he and a non-horror nerd co-host tackle horror reviews with a new sub-genre every month!


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The Evil Dead Trilogy Cuts a 72-Minute Super Cut in Black and White

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Evil Dead Ash

While we wait on pins and needles for the third season of STARZ’s “Ash vs Evil Dead” to hit airwaves in February, we can take a moment to appreciate the original trilogy that led us to this incredible show. Starting in 1981, Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead, which Stephen King hailed as, “The most ferociously original horror film of the year,” began the journey of Bruce Campbell’s Ash Williams, an everyday kinda guy who gets caught up in a battle with demonic entities known as Deadites. Packed with humor, gore, and scares, the Evil Dead series has since become a cult classic and is a gem in the horror community.

Jorge Torres-Torres decided to pay his respects to the Evil Dead trilogy by creating Evil Dead Revision, where he took the first films and revised them, “…into a 72 minute, black & white ballet of gore.

If you need to catch up on the foundations of the Evil Dead universe before the return of “Ash vs Evil Dead”, this seems like a great place to start! Oh, and then make sure to binge the show on Netflix.

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Delirium Review – Bros, Cameras And A Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin On

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Starring Mike C. Manning, Griffin Freeman, Ryan Pinkston

Directed by Johnny Martin


When will these testosterone-overloaded frat bros with cameras ever learn that pissing off the evil souls of the departed all in the name of amusement won’t get you anywhere but wrecked? Same goes for filmmakers: when will they learn that found-footage exploits set in a house of pure sadism are something of a wrung-out affectation? Oh well, as long as people keep renting them, they’ll continue to get manufactured…which might or might not be to the benefit of the horror film-watching populous.

Delirium opens with a poor lad, strapped with a GoPro, running for his life through a labyrinth of haunted territory, praying for an escape…and it’s a foregone conclusion as to what happens to this trespassing individual. We then relocate our focus towards a collection of (ahem), “gentlemen” self-titled as The Hell Gang, and their escapades are about as profound as their grasp on the English language and its verbiage. The words “dude”, creepy”, and the term “what the fuck” are thrown about so much in this movie it’ll make your head spin to the point of regurgitation. Anyway, their interest in the home of the Brandt clan is more piqued now than ever, especially considering one of their own has gone missing, and they’ve apparently got the gonads to load up the cameras, and traverse the property after-hours, and against the warnings of the local law-enforcement, who surprisingly are just inadequate enough to ignore a dangerous situation. The cursed family and the residence has quite the illustrious and bleak history, and it’s ripe for these pseudo-snoopers to poke around in.

Usually I’m curb-stomping these first person POV movies until there’s nothing left but a mash of blood, snot and hair left on the cement, but Martin’s direction takes the “footage” a little bit outside of the box, with steadier shots (sometimes) and a bit more focus on the characters as they go about their business. Also, there are a few genuinely spooky scenes to speak of involving the possession of bodies, but there really isn’t much more to crow about, as the plot’s basically a retread of many films before it, and with this collection of borderline-douches manning the recording equipment, it’s a sad state of affairs we’re in that something such as this has crept its way towards us all again. I’m always down for jumping into a cold grave, especially when there could be a sweet prize to be dug up in all that dirt, but Delirium was one of those movies that never let you find your footing, even after you’ve clawed your way through all of the funereal sediment – take a hard pass on this one.

 

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Summary

Got about a half-dozen bros with cameras and a wanton will to get slaughtered on camera, all the while repetitively uttering the same phrases all damn day long? Then my friends, you’ve got yourself a horror movie!

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