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Exclusive – Director Christopher Landon Talks Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones

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Exclusive - Director Christopher Landon Talks Paranormal Activity: The Marked OnesRecently we had a chance to sit down with Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones (review) director Christopher Landon to get the scoop on what went into his process of making the latest entry in the highly successful juggernaut franchise. Read on!

“The support of the horror community is essential,” says Landon of films like Paranormal Activity and lower budget features in general. “I’m a horror fanatic and I’ve been going on websites forever. You really have to satisfy your base before you can worry about anything or anyone else.”

“At the end of the day, you can throw as many millions in advertising at a project as you want, but it’s word of mouth that really gets people excited. The success of the first movie especially was a result of the kind of support that the websites gave it.”

“A good portion of these movies are created in the editing room,” Landon adds, talking about the creation of the Paranormal Activity films. “We shoot A LOT of stuff and inevitably always end up taking a good portion of stuff out. There’s just something that happens during the editing process because we are sifting through so much footage. Our editor, Greg Plotkin, who’s going to direct Paranormal Activity 5, has worked on every movie; and he’s become of the master of really being able to distill the essential parts of every scene. He literally has created a style of editing which enables him to make a scare in a cut, which I think is fascinating.”

“A good example of that is there’s a scene in The Marked Ones in which Oscar has just come out of the trap door and he takes off and then Jesse is looking around the apartment and then we go into that bathroom and there’s a shower curtain that moves, and Plotkin stays on it for the longest time and all of a sudden it’s being pushed open. It’s a time cut, but it’s so effective at creating this automatic jump scare.”

Landon continues, “I always try to keep the number of takes to a minimum. There were even times when we only did one take because I felt like we got it. But because we don’t have traditional coverage, we would sometimes shoot some things handheld and sometimes I would just put a camera down and let it run. Sometimes a scene will start out as a static shot and then jump to a handheld shot because we’ve covered it two ways. This particular franchise is a bit like working on a weekly television show as we make them back-to-back without a break. The pace is similar, too. We’re always racing against the clock to finish these movies. We had a little bit more time with The Marked Ones, which was really nice.”

“Every time we start a new movie and new people come in like directors of photography, my speech to them is that you have to ‘unlearn’ your good habits,” says Landon about working on a found footage movie as opposed to the more traditional film. “We’re in the business of making things look bad so the sloppier it is, the more believable it seems. It’s really interesting – you have to do things like not over-light the set so things seem more realistic or even not framing shots correctly. It’s a really weird process but also enables you to find beauty in completely random places. Like there’s a shot in the movie where Hector and Jesse are shooting hoops on the basketball court, and I finally got to set the camera down. The sun was setting and we got a really cool flare on the lens. It’s a really pretty shot. We shot this really beautiful sequence in a church which will be on the DVD. The shot was really cinematic, but the studio objected because it was literally too cinematic. I love found footage because of the intimacy that you have with the characters and the closeness that you have with the audience, but on the flipside I’m a big fan of the more traditional style of filmmaking as well.”

“It’s really hard to scare people,” says Landon. “There are tropes that are tried and true which illicit a certain response, and there are definitely primal fears which you can play upon. It’s very rare that I write something in which I try and write a movie around, like a scare. They usually come as an extension of whatever the story is. As I’m writing I try and put myself in my own little movie theatre so whatever is getting a response from me I hope will get the same response from the audience. This is the kind of stuff that creeps me out and scares me.”

“The whole idea of when we were playing with this character Anna, who was a Bruja, a witch… I found it really eerie that she had created a space for herself under this building where she went to practice her rituals and that she had been sneaking into Jesse’s apartment and taking things to use for her nefarious creepy stuff. That scared me. Being down in that space and having all the hanging plastic which was obstructing the view as the camera pushed through… those are the things to me that are visually scary.”

“Another thing we practice a lot is misdirection. Getting to play with that is a lot of fun. Success from that comes from years and years and years of watching horror movies.”

“Families are families and friendships are friendships,” Landon says of the relatability of The Marked Ones‘ characters, which are playing very well with audiences. “When you nail those elements, the other stuff just falls into place. The success of the relationships within the film is the direct result of chemistry. When we were casting the movie, I knew it was gonna come down to direct chemistry, and we had this one killer day when we had a lot of actors coming in and there wasn’t a lot of time to audition them all so we had to start pairing them up. By total happenstance we paired up Jorge and Andrew, who play Hector and Jesse, who did their scene together for the first time. Literally as soon as they finished, I turned to our casting director and said, ‘We’re done.’ We knew it right away. You could feel their chemistry. There’s not a moment in the movie in which you don’t believe that these guys aren’t best friends. That was key.”

Spoiler Alert

The game SIMON plays a big part in The Marked Ones and Landon spoke a bit about its usage in the film.

“We were having a conversation when we were developing the movie where we felt like it would be interesting to have Jesse be able to interact with this force that was following him and trying to possess him. I randomly came up with an idea to use a toy as the means of communication. I didn’t want to do a Ouija board scene, but I knew I could do a version of one with SIMON. The actors were going to find themselves in a Ouija situation without opting to be in one, and I thought that was really cool. I had remote control of the device from another room so the actors never knew which I was going to answer. They never knew how the scene was going to play out so that harkens back to the improv aspect of how these movies are made. Besides, it was fun to be the demon! SIMON is an iconic game, and we got lucky that they let us use it.

End Spoilers

Written and directed by Christopher Landon, Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones stars Andrew Jacobs, Jorge Diaz, Richard Cabral, Carlos Pratts, and Eddie J. Fernandez. Look for it in theatres NOW!

Synopsis:
After being “marked,” Jesse begins to be pursued by mysterious forces while his family and friends try to save him.

Pray all you want. It won’t save you. But you can follow Paranormal Activity on Twitter (@TweetYourScream) for more upcoming announcements, as always keep an eye on the official Paranormal Activity Facebook page, and check out official Paranormal Activity on Instragram!

Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones

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Secretions Short Film Review – Anyone For Some Blood and Guts a la Carte?

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Starring Zia Electric, David Macrae, Chris Savva

Directed by Goran Spoljaric


Only a select few know the true horrors of one’s basement (hell, I’ve got one that floods regularly) – but in director Goran Spoljaric’s extremely “juicy” short film, Secretions – we see just what lives in a grimy cellar…and what it craves in order to sustain. Anyone have any sanitizer? We’re gonna need it for this one.

Alone and held captive in a dirty-subterranean room, a woman is literally fighting for her life, and due to her being chained at the ankle, it’s painfully obvious that she’s here for the long haul. On the first floor of this residence, a deal is being made, and it’s one that will either help or harm a hopeless addict.

It involves a little handy-work down in the basement, and although it might seem like a light job considering the circumstances…nothing is as easy as it initially looks – anyone for some blood and guts a la carte? The imprisoned woman contains something inside of her that is particularly satiating to the habituated, but it comes at a painful price, which begs the question: what would you risk to scratch an itch?

Spoljaric’s direction here focuses on the victim – and while you’ll probably be wondering exactly who that is during this quickie’s 11-minute duration, it doesn’t detract from its powerful display. Gritty, grimy and ultimately gruesome – these Secretions are the ones that simply cannot be washed off – maybe I’ll give a little turpentine a shot, as something’s got to get these damned stains out – YUCK.

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Mindhunter Review: The Best Netflix Original Series to Date

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Starring Jonathan Groff, Holt McCallany, Anna Torv, Hannah Gross, Sonny Valicenti, and Cameron Britton.

Directed by David Fincher, Andrew Douglas, Asif Kapadia, and Tobias Lindholm.


A few weeks back Netflix premiered all ten episodes of David Fincher’s new serial killer series “Mindhunter” on their streaming service. Being that Fincher is one of our favorite directors we added the series to our queues as soon as possible. And this past week – after recapping and reviewing all 9 episodes of “Stranger Things 2” – we were finally able to sit down and enjoy the (much) more adult thriller series.

What did we think? Find out below…

First off we should get a few things like plot and background out of the way. “Mindhunter” is based on the best-selling non-fiction novel of the same name by John E. Douglas and Mark Olshaker. The book was optioned by none other than David Fincher and Charlize Theron and quickly thereafter snatched up by Netflix. The series is executive produced and (mostly) written by Joe Penhall.

The plot follows a young FBI agent played by Jonathan Groff who, after an incident in the field, is set to be a teacher at Quantico. Kinda boring. Especially for a guy under thirty. Quickly, however, the young agent joins forces with a seasoned pro, played by Holt McCallany (Fight Club) in a star-making performance, and together the two tour the country educating local police on the proper protocols established by the FBI.

That is, until the day that our young agent gets it in his head that he wants to interview Ed Kemper. Yes, That Ed Kemper. From there the series becomes the story of the FBI and its very beginnings of psychological profiling. The series even goes so far as to lay out the tale of how the term “serial killer” was first coined.

In the hands of any other filmmaker, this semi-procedural thriller would have, most likely, not been our cup of tea. But in the hands of master director David Fincher, “Mindhunter” is quite possibly the most riveting police procedural to ever hit the small screen. Hyperbole, we know. But come on, have you seen Fincher’s Zodiac?

Yeah, now picture that motion picture spread out over the course of ten glorious hours and you’ll have somewhat of an idea of how much fun(?) it was to spend the better part of our free time last week in the grips of such as series.

First off special mentioned needs to be thrown at the killer cast of “Mindhunter.” Each actor is phenomenal. From our hero agents played by Groff, Holt McCallany, and Anna Torv, the series only gets better with powerhouse after powerhouse performance hitting us from the likes of Jack Erdie as Richard Speck, Adam Zastrow as a lonely (possible) rapist, and Joseph Cross and Jesse C. Boyd as a pair of (possible) ladykillers.

Oh, and Cameron Britton as Ed Kemper. Oh, boy. Cameron Britton as Ed Kemper.

I could spend this entry review telling you guys about how chilling, disturbing and utterly riveting Cameron Britton’s performance as Ed Kemper (aka The Co-Ed Killer) is, but you really need to see it for yourself to get the full picture. The series has more than it’s fair share of spine-chilling moments, to be sure. But none are so chilling as any and ever given scene which features Britton as Kemper. Give this man all the awards. Today.

Given the tight performances by the entire cast – including solid turns by the lowest day player – “Mindhunter” would be a crowning achievement for Netflix. But add in some of the top directors working today (including, in addition to Fincher, Andrew Douglas, Asif Kapadia, and Tobias Lindholm) and beautiful 2:35 cinematography by Erik Messerschmidt and Christopher Probst, and you have a series so jaw-droppingly cinematic, you’ll be amazed this never played in theaters. And was never meant to.

Overall I cannot think of one negative thing to say about this new Netflix original series.

Well, maybe one thing: Hannah Gross as Debbie Mitford is a dull character. This is not a jab at Gross as an actress. But her mostly one-note, under-developed character is forced to spend the majority of her screentime merely portraying “the girlfriend.” Which in a series like this means she merely functions, for a majority of her screentime, a receptacle of exposition once our hero returns home after a long day.

But other than that one aspect, this Netflix original series is top quality from end to end. From the spooky pre-credits insights into the growing storm that is Dennis Rader aka the BTK killer to the season’s finale sequence set in Kemper’s ICU room, “Mindhunter” is a chilling – and frankly scary series that you won’t be able to shake for months.

And most, if not all of the scares, come courtesy of long dialogue scenes – which are anything other than boring.

In the end, Mindhunters is a series that we cannot wait to see continue forward come season two. Fincher has reportedly stated that Charles Manson will play a pivotal role in the second season, and we are actively counting down the days until we can visit that character… From the comfort of our Netflix account.

“Mindhunter” is a must-see. Get ahead of the game. Watch the series tonight.

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Are You Afraid of the Dark? Film Will Be Dark and Scary

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I don’t know about you guys, but I am a huge fan of Nickelodeon’s 90’s kid’s horror anthology “Are You Afraid of the Dark?”. I even own the entire series on DVD with some of my favorite episodes being “Laughing the Dark” and “Dead Man’s Float”.

It is with this in mind, we are excited as hell to pass along the news that the classic series will be making it’s way to the big screen in the near future!

Gary Dauberman the screenwriter behind such recent horror hits as IT, Annabelle: Creation and The Nun has been tasked with penning the script for the new feature film.

“The show is about the shared experience of telling stories — especially scary ones,” Dauberman told THR. “We’re going to celebrate that with this movie and honor the darker, scarier tone of the show, which was really groundbreaking for Nickelodeon at the time. I hope the Midnight Society approves.”

The flick will be hitting us via producer Matt Kaplan (The Darkness) and Paramount’s new division Paramount Players. Which is headed by Brian Robbins (Varsity Blues) and will work with Nickelodeon, MTV, Comedy Central, and BET to generate projects.

Did you watch “Are You Afraid of the Dark?” as a kid on Snick? What’re your favorite episodes? Make sure to let us know in the comments below or on social media!

We will let you know as soon as we hear more on Are You Afraid of the Dark? so stay tuned! Until then, you can buy the entire series on DVD starting right HERE!

Synopsis:

This spooky anthology series for kids recounts ghost stories told by the young members of the Midnight Society as they gather around a campfire. Each episode opens with members of the Midnight Society at their secret spot in the woods, where they prepare their fire and the night’s storyteller announces the title of his or her offering. However, the cameras soon leave the storyteller and switch to the tale being told.

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