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Adam Wingard, AJ Bowen and Simon Barrett Talk You’re Next

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Adam Wingard, AJ Bowen and Simon Barrett Talk You're NextThere’s a bit of under the radar stunt-casting in You’re Next: Indie horror directors abound – on the run from a small herd of cross-bow and ax-wielding killers clad in farm-animal masks are Larry Fessenden, Ti West, Amy Seimetz and Joe Swanberg.

It’s written, directed and acted with true vitality and while it’s a black comedy, humorous elements never take a backseat to the horror. Even when you know what’s about to happen, You’re Next continues to be suspenseful and scary throughout. It was definitely one of our favorite films of 2013, so it’s great it hits DVD and Blu-ray so early into the the new year (Tuesday, January 14).

Special features include a making-of featurette, an audio commentary with director Adam Wingard, writer Simon Barrett and actors Sharni Vinson and Barbara Crampton and a separate audio commentary with director Adam Wingard and writer Simon Barrett.

It was my pleasure to pick the brains (figuratively, of course) of three of the guys responsible for the frights.

Adam Wingard

Q: Everything looks so top notch, maybe surprisingly so… How’d you avoid getting that “low budget look”?

AW: From the get go I knew that I wanted to make a film that could appeal outside of the film festival world to mainstream audiences. For me this was a challenge because prior to this I was working in the what one might call the NO BUDGET realm of filmmaking so in order to even have a movie at the end of the day I implemented a very fragmented experimental shooting and editing style. For You’re Next I didn’t want to lose the style that I had developed to that point but I did want to sort of disguise it behind more conventional cinematic language in order to make that transition to a wider audience. This means however that you have to be very efficient because part of what makes bigger budget Hollywood films is having the ability to cut to a number of angles and to occasionally do fancy stylistic little flourishes here and there. With all that said the main thing to making low budget stuff seem bigger is to make the audience feel that if you don’t show something that it was a creative decision and not based on budget or time. In short it’s all about the illusion of scope.

Q: What do you hope will be the take away for viewers of You’re Next, and how will watching it at home on Blu-ray enhance the home invasion theme that much more?

AW: I just want people to enjoy the film. It was made to be a fun movie going experience and I think once people own the film at home I would encourage them to make it a communal experience. Invite some friends over and let the movie jerk you around. I honestly don’t care if people like the film I just care that they have a good time watching it. I think its two different things.

Q: What’s next up for you, Adam?

AW: Finished the sound mix for our latest film The Guest. It premieres Friday midnight at Park City.

AJ Bowen

Q: There are lots of movies about home invasions – why’d you chose You’re Next? I know you worked with Adam before… So do you chose projects more on roles, or on the filmmaker?

AJB: The only thing about my career that I have any semblance of control over is my choice, my sensibilities. So for the past few years I’ve been making fewer movies, for the most part ones I think have a good shot at a fair shake for either audience or for the creative team. To be fair to the gang on You’re Next, I’m not sure it’s right to say I chose it. It’s a bit of the reverse. What I mean to say is, of course I’d choose to work on a film that involved people I trust creatively. I’m not in any position to choose to work with Jess, Keith, Simon or Adam. Any time friends of that quality and talent offer to choose you, you try to not fuck that up and the answer has always been and always will be yes. If they’re working on something, and think I am right to contribute on it, I’m always going to choose to do that. Beyond those guys, I’m always going to choose something based on 2 things-those being the script, and the creative team. It’s not much value to jump on a good script if there’s concern as to whether or not the team involved can fully realize it. I’ve done that in the past, to mixed results. So it starts with the script, and then it’s about compatibility with the filmmakers making it. Every movie is an eternal public journal for the world to see of a very finite moment in time, so I like to know we’re all speaking the same language and can trust each other going into creative battle.

Q: There’re a lot of carefully choreographed scenes in You’re Next – talk about how much that affects the flow of acting and emotion when you have to be very aware of the logistics.

AJB: My brain, I suppose, is fairly atypical in the world of acting. I’m logic driven, am a person that thrives creatively in logistics, so I’m always staging some form or another of choreography. That’s what I’m doing with the text as an actor, choreographing the accompanying dance to the music which in this instance means the script. Some people might find that creatively limiting but I find it freeing and an essential component of collaboration. When you’re finding the rhythm of a scene with the steadicam operator, during the scene, it becomes a partnership, and that dynamic is one of my favorite parts of shooting a movie.

Q: I understand you and Barbara Crampton became friends from working on You’re Next – what’s your favorite thing about her, something fans might not necessarily know…?

AJB: Well it’s funny because she’s not really old enough to be my mom and we don’t share that kind of dynamic in our relationship. She’s a dear friend to me, and provides a great source of comfort and wisdom, both in work and especially in life. She was one of the most present, and most supportive people in my life while I was going through the pain of getting sober. I think her nature is transcendent, so I’m sure people can already see, but her heart is my favorite thing. She’s a spiritual, wise, and most importantly to me loving and loyal cherished soul. Every cell of that beautiful woman is filled with love and I’m grateful to call her my friend. I can’t provide her the depth of counsel she provides me, but I try, and I’d do anything for her. Barbara is one of the best human beings I’ve ever known. Also, she’s got a wicked, sly sense of humor. And she sings karaoke with me. Basically, Barbara is perfect, and anyone who knows her will tell you the same.

Simon Barrett

Q: Home invasion movies are not exactly few and far between, so what was the biggest challenge in regard to making this script different?

SB: Well, I started the script from a point of extreme awareness of home invasion thriller clichés. I would say that “trying to do something different” is one of the most basic aspects of Adam’s and my filmmaking process; we always start from that point at a bare minimum, I would hope. So I was already thinking about the more standard home invasion thriller model exemplified by great films like Ils, Straw Dogs and The Strangers, and also of movies that did something unusual with that, such as A L’INTERIEUR or Funny Games.

But all of that said, we’d never have even conceived of the notion of making You’re Next if we didn’t feel like we had something new and fun to add to the home invasion subgenre. So it wasn’t necessarily a challenge, because before I started writing, I already had some ideas that I knew weren’t like any home invasion movie I’d seen, at least not since Home Alone or whatever, which is why I wrote that script in the first place. So knowing those clichés existed wasn’t a negative challenge to be overcome, it was more like a positive challenge that inspired us to make this film.

Q: Did you know who the cast would be as you were writing it?

SB: The roles played by Joe Swanberg, AJ Bowen and Amy Seimetz were specifically written for them. Other roles in the film, I kind of had the actors in mind for, which can sometimes help clarify a character’s voice. But then, you know, it might not work out in the casting process, so I generally don’t do that except just as a writing tool. But Amy, AJ and Joe were the leads in the previous film we’d finished, A Horrible Way to Die, and we knew we wanted to work with all of them again immediately, and that the feeling was mutual enough that they’d prioritize us in their schedules. So I specifically wrote for them. Which can be a huge help.

For example, Joe and Amy are both masters at improvisational acting, so it was more about giving them characters that they could have fun with. AJ is likeable and engaging in a unique way, and we’d utilized that very precisely in A Horrible Way to Die, giving him this huge monologue at the end. It might be boring if another actor did it, but AJ made it totally entertaining. So when I realized I was doing something similar in You’re Next, I was just like, “Well, I’ll just write a speech for AJ, and he’ll find some way to pull it off.” And he did.

All that said, those were unique circumstances, where I knew in advance that the timing would work out. If I wrote roles specifically for Amy, Joe and AJ now, we’d be screwed, because Amy’s on two television shows, et cetera. So, it all just depends on the project and the circumstances. We like working with actors who we know are gifted and we already have a rapport with, and sometimes it’s ideal to therefore conceive a role for an actor, for manifest reasons. But in general, I just write the characters however they are in my head, and then casting defines the characters further.

Q: Is everything you wrote pretty much on screen or were the actors allowed to ad lib? Do you like actor ad libs or not?

SB: There’s quite a bit of ad-libbing in You’re Next, especially in the earlier scenes with Joe, Amy and Ti West, all of whom have also worked with improvisational acting from the other side of the camera too. The dinner scene, for example, is the kind of sequence that requires some improvisation, because you can’t write what every single character is doing at all times in a big scene like that; the scene would end up being thirty pages long and totally unreadable. I think all of the lines that were in the script are in the film, but we needed the actors to augment the dialogue and be natural and spontaneous in their interactions so that Adam could make a complete scene out of it.

I generally leave it up to the actors, it’s a matter of preference. Sharni Vinson, for example, liked to memorize her dialogue in advance. But she was great at ad-libbing, she just preferred to do a different kind of preparation, I think. It’s ultimately up to the performer. I’m very open to improvisation, as long as it’s good, and we try to work with actors who will make the roles and dialogue better than maybe we could have ever conceived them, or have an understanding of the character that can be completely different or deeper than mine.

If a bit of ad-libbing isn’t working, then, you know, I can discuss it with the actor, or with Adam. But I’m always respectful about that, and give them a chance to try something, especially if Adam’s working with them on the scene. I’ve directed stuff, so I get how that process goes.

Ultimately, it’s the performances that make a scene work. You can write a great scene with beautiful, poetic dialogue, and if the performances aren’t right, the scene will be garbage. On the other hand, great performances can save a poorly written scene. Adam and I are both aware of that, and that’s the priority during production, to get the best possible performances, whether that means ad-libbing or doing the lines I wrote verbatim. It could be either, it just depends on the actor and the moment, so I have to be open to both. I don’t think either technique is better, it’s just whatever works.

Now, obviously I do try to write the best dialogue I can; I don’t just write “[Swanberg will say something funny here]” and skip to the next scene in the script. But every actor has their own technique, and film is a collaborative art. Any writer who isn’t at least open to that is being deluded by their own ego.

I think we’re going to put the screenplay for You’re Next online, now that the movie’s coming out on video, so anyone with any interest in this sort of thing will be able to read it. I assume that’s no more than two or three people, but for those two or three people, it might be edifying.

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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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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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User Rating 4.33 (6 votes)
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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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