Indie Horror Month Exclusive: Dread Central Talks Room 237 with Director Rodney Ascher and Producer Tim Kirk - Dread Central
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Indie Horror Month Exclusive: Dread Central Talks Room 237 with Director Rodney Ascher and Producer Tim Kirk

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Indie Horror Month Exclusive: Dread Central Talks Room 237 with Director Rodney Ascher and Producer Tim KirkEven though it has been over three decades since Stanley Kubrick released The Shining, that doesn’t mean that the passing of time has slowed down his fans who still dissect and theorize about the film.

A truly avant-garde deconstruction of one of the greatest horror movies of all time, Rodney Ascher’s Room 237 sits down with five Shining scholars who all have wildly different theories involving World War II, Native Americans, genocide, the faked moon landing, and numerology and explores them through interviews, re-enactments and more.

Dread Central recently chatted with Ascher and Room 237 producer Tim Kirk about their own fascination with Kubrick’s iconic adaptation of the Stephen King novel as well as their thoughts on why the film continues to capture our imaginations all this time later. We also spoke to them about their approach to the documentary and much more on The Shining as well.

Check out the highlights of our exclusive interview with Ascher and Kirk below, and look for Room 237 in limited theaters this weekend.

Dread Central: Even though it’s been about 33 years since The Shining was released, it’s still a movie that people love to talk about, which is rare for a horror movie.  Surely a lot of that has to be Kubrick but in your eyes, what do you think it is that people are still looking for in The Shining?

Rodney Ascher: You know, I’m not sure. I know it’s a movie that sent me running from the theater at a very early age so that was the beginning of my own personal fascination with it. But I do think a big part of it is that The Shining represents this intricate puzzle that in some ways represents the greatest filmmaker of all time but it’s missing a few key pieces, thus making it almost impossible to solve it. 

Even at the very simplest level of story, there are huge gaps in what we see and what actually goes on in The Shining; we never even find out what happens to Danny in Room 237- it’s never explained, let alone shown.  Kubrick even went as far as to present us with that mysterious black and white photo at the end of The Shining that was probably meant to answer some of the questions, but it ends up posing even more questions about what’s happening in the film.

So I think people are attracted to watch it and then re-watch it again and again to try to solve those puzzles but end up finding new ones as they continue to dig deeper. Not a lot of movies in the last few decades have been able to do what The Shining did in 1980 so I think that’s a huge reason why the film still continues to be examined by film fans to this very day. Inception is an example of a great modern movie that really makes you dig for those answers but that’s really the only one I can think of.

Dread Central: So what inspired you guys to take this fascination and turn that into a documentary?

Tim Kirk: Well, I was just stumbling through the internet one night doing my usual obsessive thing and looking for anything that happens to say The Shining on it; that’s when I found this compelling essay that Jay Weidner had written about his take on the film. I sent that to Rodney immediately and the very next thing you know, we began looking for more theories on The Shining and just unearthed so many fascinating theories online. We were astonished as to just how many different theories were out there really and many of them incredibly in-depth analyses that were so thoughtful and thorough.

Rodney Ascher: Because both Tim and I often spent time theorizing about The Shining ourselves, we had an idea that people had probably seen all kinds of interesting symbols and number play and word play in The Shining that we never even considered but this was the beginning of a whole new direction for us; we set out to see what else was there and surprisingly enough, most of what we found was very recent which proved that The Shining is just endlessly fascinating filmmaking.

So we set out to do something that wasn’t just a thousand soundbites of people talking about this and that; that approach didn’t interest us. We wanted to really hone in on just a few of the theories and let that theorist take their time in laying the groundwork and then expand on it exclusively. That’s what really interested me as a filmmaker and as a fan of The Shining. 

Tim Kirk: I think there was a probably a point in the research process of Room 237 where we were going to do a more comprehensive approach and try and include almost every theory that is out there, but it became clear early on that it was just insane to even consider doing it that way. We’d have a 20-hour movie on our hands. I still have the original spreadsheet we made that mapped out all the topics and how they overlapped with each other; once that started to get out of hand, I knew we couldn’t do it that way so we just let them talk. 

Dread Central: I thought the visual storytelling devices you used in Room 237 were really interesting and made for a nice companion to the interviews since you decided to not go with the ‘talking heads’ approach here. What was behind your decision to make Room 237 this very atypical documentary then?

Rodney Ascher: This was a style that I started using on a short film that I had done a couple of years earlier which I thought worked in some interesting and unexpected ways.  I really liked how I could play around with it and sometimes use the footage literally or sometimes subjectively where it really opened up the doors to new ideas completely.

I also think stylistically that sometimes when you see the talking head shot it can take you out of the story of the documentary; you get immersed with all these images or montages and then when you cut back to the interviewee, it’s almost like snapping you back into reality. I didn’t want Room 237 to feel like that at all; I just wanted this to stay immersed in that dreamlike world of ideas and pictures and let the movie feel like conversations taking place in outer space and or during wartime or in the middle of a movie theater and not somebody’s office or anything like that.

Because this is a movie more about ideas than individuals, I think there’s something really cool with how we keep things feeling like you’re adrift in this culture of the movies too; that’s a huge reason why we didn’t just use clips from Kubrick’s movie to tell this story; using different clips really allowed us to open up viewers to seeing things from very different perspectives but keeping it fun to watch too.

Dread Central: Yeah, I enjoyed seeing some other fun movies pop up in this too like Demons and An American Werewolf in London– was it tough to get those rights in addition to all the Kubrick films?

Tim Kirk: Demons 2 is in there too! Yeah, getting all the rights took quite awhile but we had a crack clearance team that went through a really long process to get everything nailed down for us there. We decided very early on that we weren’t going to go looking for the cooperation of the Kubrick estate for Room 237 just because it wasn’t necessary to the story we were telling. We had no interest in speaking with anyone who was actually involved in the making of the film because that wasn’t what our story was about. It was exploring what the film became after it was released, not what was happening while they were making it.

Synopsis
After the box office failure of Barry Lyndon, Stanley Kubrick decided to embark on a project that might have more commercial appeal. The Shining, Stephen King’s biggest critical and commercial success yet, seemed like a perfect vehicle. After an arduous production, Kubrick’s film received a wide release in the summer of 1980; the reviews were mixed, but the box office, after a slow start, eventually picked up. End of story? Hardly. In the 30 years since the film’s release, a considerable cult of Shining devotees has emerged, fans who claim to have decoded the film’s secret messages addressing everything from the genocide of Native Americans to a range of government conspiracies. Rodney Ascher’s wry and provocative Room 237 fuses fact and fiction through interviews with cultists and scholars, creating a kaleidoscopic deconstruction of Kubrick’s still controversial classic.

Room 237

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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 3.86 (7 votes)
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