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Aja Reflects On Mirrors

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Mirrors (click to see it bigger!)The idea of yet another Asian horror remake, especially from a French director, doesn’t exactly thrill anyone. But it’s a different story when the man pulling the strings is Alexandre Aja. The director of High Tension and The Hills Have Eyes has been one of the few to successfully make the leap to Hollywood without compromising his work and he’s invited Dread Central down to his editing bay to show off scenes from his latest creation.

I’m not sure if you’ve talked to the people who made The Eye or One Missed Call – all these other French directors who came here and had a very bad experience,” says Aja “We feel like we’re the lucky ones. If you don’t like the movie, it’s because of us not because of the studio. We’re not going to have a director’s cut because that’s the movie we’re going to release.

Loosely based on the 2003 Korean film Into the Mirror, Aja’s version – simply titled Mirrors – does what all the best remakes do: It completely abandons the original.

We didn’t know anything about the Korean movie,” Aja explains “We read the script and we didn’t connect at all with the story or the scares. But there was something… that simple idea of using the mirrors. We all have relationships with mirrors. Some people are obsessed with their image, some cannot stand their image. Some religions believe that you have to cover all the mirrors when someone dies so their soul doesn’t become trapped on the other side. These are universal concepts that are waiting to be explored. We looked at the Korean movie and besides the opening and a couple of scenes; we didn’t connect with it either. It wasn’t very interesting. We convinced [New Regency] to let us throw away the script, not use the Korean movie, and use our own story based on the concept of the mirrors. So basically it’s not a remake.

Mirrors (click to see it bigger!)After years of torturing terrorists for CTU, Kiefer Sutherland has been demoted to security guard status, taking the unappealing job as night-watchmen of an abandoned department store in New York City. The building’s edifice has been ravaged by fires that claimed the lives of dozens of people and Sutherland’s boss gives him the grand tour of his creepy new office. Imagine a Macy’s in Silent Hill.

I really wanted for a long time to explore the other side of the genre,” says Aja, “If The Hills Have Eyes, High Tension, and P2 represent that kind’ve survival/slasher movie, the other side would be the supernatural. The Shining for me is a great example of a supernatural movie that also deals with very shocking violence that punches you in the face.

We’re treated to the opening scene of Mirrors, where the building’s previous security guard (Josh Cole) flees on foot through the subways from an unseen force. Aja’s eye-popping visuals are instantly recognizable as the camera bolts through every corner of the underground tunnels. Eventually the guard encounters a bathroom mirror and meets a nasty end with an incredibly graphic throat slash – the only thing carried over from the original film.

Aja skips ahead to one of the early ghost encounters. It’s late-night at the department store and high-pitched screams suddenly echo through the building. Kiefer yells his signature “Dammit! ” and grabs a flashlight, bolting from room-to-room in search of the cries. Tracing the screams to an empty dressing room, Sutherland catches the reflection of an extended hand in a nearby mirror. He hauls the mirror over to the stall and looks at the full gruesome image: A half-naked woman writhes and screams on the floor. Her body smokes as her face and breasts crack and peel away from her body. This is, of course only a sample of the hell unleashed upon Sutherland’s character. “He basically starts with a breakdown and he’s trying to get back on his feet,” Aja explains ” He’s going to refuse what the mirrors are requesting from him and some bad things are going to happen to his family.

Mirrors (click to see it bigger!)With that, Aja shows us one such scene. The clip is too spoiler-heavy to report, but even in its unfinished stage, it’s one of the single most insane gore effects to hit the screen in a very long time. The lights go up and the entire editing room cheers. To our shock, Aja tells us that Mirrors just escaped through the MPAA with an R-rating. “I’m still in shock of what they let us do. We have the movie we want. I don’t think I even have enough footage to do an Unrated one.”

What about the studio? Aja insists that there were struggles, but that they were kept to a minimum. “We had some fights,” he recounts, “There’s a very huge twisted action-packed finale. The studio wanted to keep it more like the Sixth Sense with a big twist at the end. We fought against that. They didn’t want to go as far as we wanted to with the end, so we had to test the movie with two different cuts. The numbers were like night and day and we got the victory.

Of course, the director insists that having a huge A-list star on his side was a huge plus. “Kiefer helped us a lot. He’s not just taking any movie because he’s so overwhelmed by 24 every year. He fell in love with the script and was always on our side.” And if Aja ever loses creative control, there’s always his native country to fall back on. “That’s a great argument that we have,” he laughs “When things get ugly, we say ‘You know what? We can leave, you finish the movie. We’ll go back to France and will have final cut on our movies.’”

After watching a handful of scenes, its clear that Mirrors is the antidote to every watered-down remake we’ve had to endure over the years. In the end, Aja’s words ring true: His version exists as its own entity, while easily surpassing the original film.

Mirrors (click to see it bigger!)The young director hopes to do the same with his remake of Pirahna which prepares to roll before cameras in glorious 3-D. “We received the script five years ago with the idea of an earthquake under a lake releasing prehistoric piranha that hit some stupid drunk kids during spring break. That was really fun! We couldn’t do that movie because of The Hills Have Eyes, but right after the script came back around to us with a different draft, another movie. We went to the Weinsteins and said, ‘We really liked the previous draft which you guys never read.’ So we convinced them to take the spring break plot and do whatever we wanted to do with it.” As with Mirrors, Aja insists that this film isn’t a remake either. “There is not one thing similar to the Joe Dante movie. It’s completely different. It’s the blue-print of a rollercoaster!

Andrew Kasch

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Titan’s Gothic Horror Series Alisik Gets Animated with a New Trailer

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Back in October we told you about Alisik, a Gothic tale from Titan Comics’ Statix Press imprint that explores the afterlife; and now we’re back with a new trailer for the series to share along with another cover and a few interior pages.

From the Press Release:
Written by Hubertus Rufledt with haunting art by Helge Vogt, Alisik is a cross between Emily the Strange and Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book – a beautiful dark and Gothic tale of mortality and what happens after death.

“Alisik started as a short animation I did during my time at Disney – something different, a bit darker, but not horror. Hubertus liked it so much that we wanted to make a comic series out of it,” said Alisik co-creator and artist Helge Vogt. “Alisik became a part of my life. It’s the best I’ve done so far, and I’m thrilled that it’s coming out in English!

Featuring an all-new cover by superstar artist Junko Mizuno (Ravina the Witch?), Alisik #1 will hit stores and digital devices on February 28, 2018.

Synopsis:
When Alisik wakes up alone in a cemetery, she thinks she’s in the middle of a nightmare. Terrified, she flees into the night but realizes she is invisible to everyone she meets. She really is dead, with no memory of how it happened… and only the ghostly residents of the graveyard can help her unravel the mystery of her afterlife.

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Satan’s Cheerleaders Blu-ray Review – Sacrifice This Snoozer At The Altar!

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Starring Jack Kruschen, John Ireland, Yvonne De Carlo, Jacqueline Cole

Directed by Greydon Clark

Distributed by VCI


The ‘70s. Satanism. Sultry cheerleaders. Sex appeal. With these tools nearly any low-budget filmmaker should be able to turn out something that is, at the very least, entertaining. The last thing a viewer expects when tuning in to a film called Satan’s Cheerleaders (1977) is to be bored to tears. But that is exactly the reaction I had while watching director Greydon Clark’s wannabe cult comedy. Even on a visual level this film can’t be saved, and it was shot by Dean Cundey! No, unfortunately there isn’t a cinematic element in the world that can overcome a roster of bad actors and a storyline so poorly constructed it plays like it was written on the day. The only saving grace, minor as it may be, is the casting of John Ireland as Sheriff B.L. Bubb (cute), a hard-nosed shitkicker who adds all the gravitas he can muster. But a watchable feature cannot be built upon the back of a single co-star, as every grueling minute of Satan’s Cheerleaders proves.

The cheerleaders and jocks of Benedict High School rule the campus, doing what they want, when they want, with little else on their minds except for The Big Game. Their belittling attitudes rub school janitor (and stuttering dimwit) Billy (Jack Kruschen) the wrong way. What they don’t know is Billy is (somehow) the head of a local Satanic cult, and he plans to place a curse on the clothes (really) of the cheerleaders so they… suck at cheerleading? Maybe they’ll somehow cause the jocks to lose the big game? When Billy isn’t busy plotting his cursed plans, he spies on the girls in the locker room via a hidden grate in the wall. I guess he doesn’t think being a sexual “prevert” is fair trade enough; might as well damn them all, too. Billy has his own plans to kidnap the girls, for his Lord and Master Satan, and he succeeds with ease when the girls’ van breaks down on the highway; he simply offers them a ride and they all pile in. But when Ms. Johnson (Jacqueline Cole) gets hip to his plan the two tussle in the front seat and Billy winds up having a heart attack.

The squad runs off in search of help, coming across the office of Sheriff B.L. Bubb (John Ireland), who, as the name implies, may be a legit Satanist. Bubb invites the girls inside, where they meet his wife, Emmy (Yvonne De Carlo), High Priestess of their quaint little satanic chapter. While the girls get acquainted with Emmy, Bubb runs off to find Billy, who isn’t actually dead. Wait, scratch that, Bubb just killed him for… some reason. The girls figure out things aren’t so rosy here at the Bubb estate, so they hatch an escape plan and most make it to the forest. The few that are left behind just kinda hang out for the rest of the film. Very little of substance happens, and the pacing moves from “glacial” to “permafrost”, before a semi-psychedelic ending arrives way too late.

“Haphazard” is one of many damning terms I can think of when trying to make sense of this film. The poster says the film is “Funnier Than The Omen… Scarier Than Silent Movie” which, objectively, is a true statement, though this film couldn’t hope to be in the same league as any of the sequels to The Omen (1976) let alone the original. It is a terminal bore. Every attempt at humor is aimed at the lowest common denominator – and even those jokes miss by a wide berth. True horror doesn’t even exist in this universe. The best I can say is some of the sequences where Satan is supposedly present utilize a trippy color-filled psychedelic shooting style, but it isn’t anything novel enough to warrant a recommendation. Hell, it only happens, like, twice anyway. The rest of the film is spent listening to these simple-minded sideline sirens chirp away, dulling the enthusiasm of viewers with every word.

A twist ending that isn’t much of a twist at all is the final groan for this lukewarm love letter to Lucifer. None of the actors seem like they know what the hell to be doing, and who can blame them with material like this? I had hoped for some sort of fun romp with pompoms and pentagram, like Jack Hill’s Swinging Cheerleaders (1974) for the Satanic set, but Clark provides little more than workmanlike direction; even Cundey’s cinematography is nothing to want on a resume.

Viewers have the option of watching either a “Restored” or “Original Transfer” version of the 1.78:1 1080p picture. Honestly, I didn’t find a ton of difference between the two, though the edge likely goes to the restored version since the title implies work has been done to make it look better. Colors are accurate but a little bland, and definition just never rises above slightly average. Film grain starts off heavy but manages to smooth out later on. Very little about the picture is emblematic of HD but given the roots this is probably the best it could ever hope to look.

Audio comes in the form of an English LPCM 2.0 track. The soundtrack sounds like it was lifted from a porno, while other tracks are clearly library music. Dialogue never has any obvious issues and sounds clear throughout. Subtitles are available in English SDH.

There are two audio commentary tracks; one, with director Greydon Clark; two, with David De Cocteau and David Del Valle.

A photo gallery, with images in HD, is also included.

Special Features:

  • Audio commentary with director Greydon Clark
  • Audio commentary with filmmakers David De Cocteau & David Del Valle
  • Photo gallery
  • Satan's Cheerleaders
  • Special Features
1.3

Summary

Although the title is enough to reel in curious viewers, the reality is “Satan’s Cheerleaders” are a defunct bunch with little spirit and no excitement. The ’70s produced plenty of classic satanic cinema and this definitely ain’t it.

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Friday the 13th Part 3: In Memoriam Documentary Now Available For Free!

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It’s been a while since we’ve brought you guys any news of the Friday the 13th Part III documentary Friday the 13th Part 3: In Memoriam.

But no worries as today’s news couldn’t get much better. Yes, the entire 36-minute documentary is now available in its entirety online for free!

I know that as soon as I sign off for the day I’m going to be watching this doc at least twice. It seems like I’ve been looking forward to this forever now and I’m a big fan of Part 3 so I can think of no better way to spend my Monday night.

You can watch the full doc below and then make sure to let us know what you think!

Synopsis:

This is a documentary featuring the last known footage of the set of Friday the 13th part 3 prior to its destruction. The plot involves what happened that fateful night in 2006 with additional stories from the cast members of Friday the 13th part 3 telling their memories of the production that took place in 1982.

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