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X-Files: I Want to Believe Panel Transcript!

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Love it or hate it, The X-Files was a cultural milestone that brought horror back in a big way. Like the rest of America, I went through the mid-Nineties completely addicted and eagerly anticipated the Friday night paranoia of agents Mulder and Scully. But following the departure of writers Glen Morgan & James Wong and the first big screen movie, the show took a creative nosedive and slowly burnt out through season after season of bad story arcs. Now, seven years later, The X-Files: I Want To Believe hopes to reignite the glory days for a whole new generation. But can Chris Carter and Frank Spotnitz restore the elements that made us fall in love with the series?

The duo came out to the L.A. Film Festival with star David Duchovny to screen footage and talk up the film. The first clip showed the opening scene, where a woman returns to her home in the icy woods of West Virginia. Her home is quickly invaded by two strange men, and a bloody struggle ensues. These scenes are intercut with a morning search by a team of several dozen FBI men, led by two agents (Amanda Peet, Xzibit). Ahead of the group is a strange white-haired psychic (Billy Connolly) who discovers a severed arm in the ice. The second clip showed Mulder and Scully with the search team at night. It’s revealed that the two are no longer FBI, and they begin arguing amongst themselves until the subject of Mulder’s sister is brought up.

While little was revealed about the actual plot, the footage screened reflects a darker, meaner X-Files that (thankfully) abandons the show’s worn-out mythology in favor of a good ol’ fashioned horror yarn. No alien abductions. No 2012 end-of-the-world conspiracy bullshit. This is X-Files back-to-basics.

Below you’ll find an abridged transcript from the panel. Enjoy!


MODERATOR: I wanted to start off with an easy one. What’s the movie about?

CHRIS CARTER: It’s about a white-haired man… [audience laughs]

M: Based on these clips that we’ve seen… What’re we looking at?

CARTER: First clip, they’re on an FBI manhunt. And Mulder and Scully aren’t there. And the second clip, Mulder and Scully are there … and they’re on an FBI manhunt.

M: Goodnight, everybody. [audience laughs]

DAVID DUCHOVNY: I wish I had known that when we were filming… [laughter]

M: You guys have talked a lot about how this one is a departure from the original mythology. It’s a stand-alone horror thriller. [In the clip] we’re getting references to Mulder’s sister, so clearly you haven’t abandoned everything we’ve come to know about the series. Talk a little bit about the balance between the two.

FRANK SPOTNITZ: Well, this movie was made for all the people in this room tonight… [self-congratulatory cheer from audience]

X-Files: I Want to Believe transcript!FS: Without the fans of the show, this movie never would have gotten made. Actually, there’s an executive here, Steve from the studio, who everybody should thank because he campaigned for this movie for seven years. We wanted it to work for the fans. But having said that, we needed it to work for the great big audiences out there, and we were especially excited at the idea of introducing this show and characters to people who were too young to watch The X-Files when it was on originally, which is quite a few people. I think if you’re a fan, which you people clearly are, it’s going to have a lot of resonance, but it will make sense to a new audience.

M: So seven years. Can you walk us through the timeline when you first started talking about the movie to when it finally got started?

CC: Actually, we started working on the story a year after The X-Files finished in 2002. And then that got interrupted by “business” when we were all ready to go. Then there was a three- to four-year period where it looked like the movie wasn’t gonna get made. So when the business – which was a lawsuit – was resolved, I swear I was hanging up the phone with my lawyers and Fox was calling on the other line, saying, “If you want to do this movie, it’s now or never.” There was the writer’s strike looming, so we said “now”, and that was a year and a few months ago.

M: David, what were your thoughts on whether or not this would actually happen?

DD: I always thought that it was going to happen. There was always that appetite for us to make it. Having not been involved with the business end that Chris and Frank were, I think I felt more optimistic about it most of the time.

M: Was there a conflict of you ramping up to get back into character or having to pull back?

DD: I don’t work that hard. [laughter]

M: Chris, you often say “It’s only as scary as it is believable.” It’s not the best time in our world right now. It’s awfully scary. How do you compete with all that real life uncertainty?

CC: Its hard because reality outdoes fiction now. It’s hard to make anything scarier beyond what we’re experiencing. But I think that what we’ve done here, which is what we’ve done best since the beginning, is to do something that is not possible but not implausible; something that could perhaps happen in the real world.

M: David, can you talk about the six years in the life of your character since the end of the show?

X-Files: I Want to Believe transcript!DD: I thought that the first smart move that Frank and Chris made was to allow time to go on in the world of The X-Files, as it has gone on with the world at large, so that we wouldn’t be trying to find these characters set in stone as when we left. Looking back, when Gillian and I played the characters in 1993, the idea of me trying to be like that guy right now – as much as I’d love to be able to – I think it would be a little embarrassing to try. So Mulder changed over the course of the nine years of the show and changed again over the six years that we haven’t seen him. I think that’s probably one of the most interesting things as an actor to try and embody is the same character as time goes by and not wanting to just be a cartoon guy who’s frozen in time but actually working with changes of life or consciousness that happen to all of us with time.

M: Can you-

DD: No. [laughter]

M: As an actor, what do you focus on?

DD: Just to be honest and truthful. I wanted to see what happens to this quester, whether he gets what he’s after or not. I wanted to take him to his end, and I think this is another step towards that.

M: Will the shippers be happy? [lots of stupid girls cheer]

DD: I’ll say yes.

M: Can you elaborate on the film’s title?

CC: If you remember, the poster on Mulder’s wall in his office from the pilot episode said “I want to believe” on it. So it drew from the very beginning. It really also I think sums up, I’d call it the nature of Mulder’s quest which is he struggles with his faith and the things unseen and the unknown and the mysterious. So it’s not that he takes things just on faith. He actually struggles with that faith.

M: Can you guys talk about the casting of Amanda Peet, Xzibit and Billy Connolly?

FS: Amanda Peet, we were looking for somebody who had Gillian’s gravity and intelligence and authority to be this really strong, smart, capable young FBI agent commanding this manhunt. We had been watching her on “Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip” and thought she was the perfect person for this, so that was easy. Xzibit was just discovered in casting. We had no clue. As it turned out, he had done a rap song that mentioned The X-Files.

DD: He pimped Chris’ ride. [laughter]

FS: Then Billy Connolly was somebody that Chris had really wanted to work with for a very long time, admired from a movie called Mrs. Brown, and he wanted to do it as well. He actually has a lovely goatee, and we had to shave it off for which we felt very guilty.

X-Files: I Want to Believe transcript!M: The big question that everyone has is what notable X-Files alumn will be appearing in the movie. I know there may or may not be some call sheets that got leaked out there that gave us certain information. Care to confirm or deny this? [Mitch Pileggi] is on IMDB.

CC: He plays the werewolf. [laughter]

M: Let’s talk about all the secrecy behind the film. How hard have you worked to keep it all a secret?

CC: Hard. The first movie we thought we were taking precautions when we put the script on colored paper so you couldn’t xerox it. By the third day of filming, photos had already leaked to the National Enquirer, so we knew we had to be very careful this time. So we took crazy precautions here, like making all the key crew members only read the script in a room with video cameras on them.

DD: I actually had to convince Chris to give me a script.

CC: One of the hardest nights of shooting, we were filming in a place that was not exactly in the script and it was not exactly scripted. I swear to you, no one on the crew including this man [points to Duchovny] knew what I was doing. I was just like leading people. ‘We’re going to shoot here and we’re going to do this, we’re going to do this, we’re going to do this.’ It’s not a good way to make a movie.

FS: One thing I’ve noticed is that the fans are supportive of the secrecy. If somebody does leak the film between now and the release, I don’t think it would be met with the same praise and affection.

M: I know you’re waiting to do the The X-Files: Spring Break Movie. What is it about snow that’s so important?

DD: Yeah?! [laughter]

CC: We knew we were working on a budget, and it just so happens that this idea works better in an extreme environment. It’s production value that I wanted even though it’s ten times harder to make a movie in the snow. There are all these variables that make it more difficult.

DD: It was funny just to see him do the “snow run.” There’s no way to look cool running in the snow. [laughter]

M: Will there be any nostalgic elements?

DD: I don’t think there was any kind of nostalgic feel to the film It really felt from the inception all the way through execution that we were just making a good film. We just wanted to make a good thriller. The subject matter called a certain amount of nostalgia in the characters and everything, but it wasn’t going to be one of these films that was constantly winking and nodding and trying to pander that kind of nostalgia. I think it’s inherent in the enterprise, but we really wanted to make a great film that stood on its own.

X-Files: I Want to Believe transcript!CC: I know people want nostalgia because I saw online demands for Gillian’s old hair-cut. I’m sorry to disappoint those people.

M: Have there been any advances in flashlight or cell phone technology? [laughter]

CC: For Scully yes, for Mulder no.

DD: I think I know what you mean … and I don’t like it. [laughter] Interesting side note, the advancement of the original cell phone was one of the ways we were able to keep shooting the episodes because Gillian and I were so burnt out and tired because we had to be onscreen together constantly. With the addition of the cell phone, we were actually able to get days off.

M: Any reference to William, the son of Mulder and Scully?

CC: William is referenced. We have not forgotten him. They have not forgotten him. This is a movie that, as we’ve said, is not a mythology movie so it doesn’t depend on his absence or existence. It is a story that takes place apart from him. That’s not to say that we’ve forsaken him.

M: Have you felt the internet fan presence jump into your world at all?

CC: It’s a fantastic tool obviously because you can reach people very quickly. The studio has a good relationship with it. I’m sure a lot of you have seen the video with the young woman who got the script.

If not, it’s right here!

M: What will surprise people the most?

DD: I’ve only seen it on a monitor at Chris’ house, but I was pleased. I think it stands on its own as a classic scary thriller.

CC: I don’t know what will be surprising. There’s no full frontal nudity. [laughter]

FS: I don’t know what people expect this movie to be. I really don’t.

DD: I was pleased as a moviegoer. There will be people who miss certain things. You can’t please everyone and that’s inevitable. But the job that we had, which was to make a good film, I think we did that. What I’ve been saying is I think it hearkens back to the kind of beginnings of the show. The first couple years, the first three years where we were really the only thriller, horror, scary show on television. I know that everybody loves Mulder and Scully and the relationships and all that, but I think originally, that’s what people fell in love with. Here’s a show that’s doing this. There hasn’t been a show like this that’s doing that. In many ways, we got back to our roots of the show.

CC: It’s set up for another movie if this movie does well.

FS: I felt like at the end of this movie, if this were the last time we saw Mulder and Scully, I’d be very proud to leave it at that moment. I hope it’s not, but if it is, then I feel pretty good about the work. Our hope was always to keep a show that people could be entertained by for years. I felt like this show was there for the long haul. I remember once getting screamed at by the money guy at Fox because we sent a crew to Washington D.C. and snuck in an extra shot outside the Lincoln Center, which was not in the plan. It cost us an extra thousand dollars and I was just berated for it. Chris said ‘That phone call will go away, but that film will be there forever.’ And I always thought about that with The X-Files and I still do.


The X-Files: I Want to Believe hits theaters on July 25th, 2008. Be sure to hit the official X-Files site for more information, and keep it on Dread Central for the latest updates!

Andrew Kasch

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Hell Night Blu-ray Review – Mischief & Mayhem At Mongoloid Manor

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Starring Linda Blair, Peter Barton, Suki Goodwin, Vincent Van Patten

Directed by Tom DeSimone

Distributed by Scream Factory


1981. Prime time for the slasher film, when studios were more than content to pump out one after another since production cost was often so low. The downside, though, was that many wound up being formulaic and, eventually, forgotten. Time has allowed the cream to rise to the top of that crop and while Hell Night (1981) isn’t among the best it does stand out due to some novel choices made by director Tom DeSimone and executive producer Chuck Russell, the man responsible for some of the most consistently entertaining horror films of the ‘80s. A dilapidated mansion, oozing with gothic atmosphere, stands in place of a college campus or generic forest setting. Characters are dressed in formal costume; a stark departure from typical ‘80s teen garb. The film is half haunted house, half crazed killer and there is a not-entirely-unexpected-but-definitely-welcome twist at the end providing a solid jolt to a beleaguered climax. Fans are rightly excited to see Hell Night makes its debut in HD, though the final product is still compromised despite Scream Factory’s best efforts.

It’s Hell Night, every fraternity brother’s favorite evening; when new recruits are tormented in hazing rituals from, well, Hell. Peter (Kevin Brophy), president of the vaunted Alpha Sigma Rho house, comes up with the brilliant idea to have four pledges – Marti (Linda Blair), Jeff (Peter Barton), Denise (Suki Goodwin), and Seth (Vincent Van Patten) – spend the night in a decaying mansion. But this isn’t just any old house, as Peter regales a rapt audience – this is where former owner Raymond Garth killed his wife and three malformed children before hanging himself, sparing only the life of his son, Andrew, who was rumored to reside within the place after the murders. The pledges enter Garth Manor and quickly pair off, with Marti and Jeff getting intellectual while Denise and Seth take a more physical path.

A few hours pass and Peter returns with some of his bros, planning to initiate a few good scare pranks they set up earlier that week. The chuckles don’t last long, though, because Jeff and Seth quickly find the shoddy wiring and poorly placed speakers rigged upstairs. What they don’t know is that there is an actual killer on the loose, and he just decapitated one of the girls. Leaving the labyrinthine home proves difficult, with Marti & Jeff getting lost within the catacombs beneath the estate, evading their mongoloid menace however possible. Seth, meanwhile, has to scale a massive spiked fence if they hope to get any help way out here. Wait, didn’t Peter mention something about Andrew having a sibling?

The production team on this picture was a beast, and I’m convinced that’s the chief reason why it came out any good at all; specifically, the involvement of Chuck Russell and Irwin Yablans. I give a bit less credit to director Tom DeSimone, who up to that point (and after it) filled his filmography with lots and lots of gay porn; storyline and direction are usually secondary in that market. Hell, they even had Frank Darabont running around set as a P.A. which is just a cool fact because nobody listens to P.A.s on a film set. Music is just as important, too, and composer Dan Wyman is a synth master who worked with John Carpenter on his early films. His score here is reminiscent of those lo-fi masterpieces.

Solid atmosphere and rounded characters make all the difference. Instead of a roster of stereotypical sophomoric faces the bulk of the film focuses on four individuals with personality and a bit of depth. Blair makes a good turn as the bookish good girl type, while Barton is a charming match for her mentally, showing interest in more than just a drunken hookup. Denise and Seth are both superficial, and their interactions inject the most humor into the film. Denise continually calling Seth “Wes” is one example. A good horror film gets the audience invested in who lives and dies, and while I won’t go so far as to say these are exemplary characters the script does make them three-dimensional and not so paper thin.

The 1.85:1 1080p image is sourced from a 4K restoration of an archival 35mm print with standard definition inserts. This is a step up from Anchor Bay’s old DVD but not by leaps and bounds. Colors attain greater saturation and definition is tightened but the picture looks awfully soft too often and the jump between HD and SD footage is plain as day. The print displays vertical scratches and white flecks. Black levels are decent but there is clear room for improvement across the board. To their credit this is the best image Scream Factory was able to produce but fans should temper expectations going in because this is not a pristine picture by any means.

There is nothing wrong to be found with the English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mono track, which does a fine job of carrying the dialogue alongside Dan Wyman’s sinister synth soundtrack. Direction is limited and the presentation is routine, but no problems were detected and the track capably supports the feature. Subtitles are available in English.

Here is where Scream Factory does their best to make up for the shortcomings of the a/v presentation: a ton of extra features.

An audio commentary track features actress Linda Blair, director Tom DeSimone, and producers Irwin Yablans & Bruce Cohn Curtis.

“Linda Blair: The Beauty of Horror” – This is a recent discussion with the actress, who covers her run in the genre in addition to diving deep into this film’s difficult production.

“Hell Nights with Tom DeSimone” – Shot on location at the Garth Manor (actually Kimberly Crest Estate in Redlands, CA), DeSimone reflects back on shooting the film there over 35 years ago.

“Peter Barton: Facing Fear” – The actor offers up expected discussion, covering his career in horror and navigating the Hollywood scene.

“Producing Hell with Bruce Cohn Curtis” – This covers more of the behind-the-scenes work that went into making the movie.

“Writing Hell” – Screenwriter Randy Feldman offers up some insight into his process for creating the story and writing the script.

“Vincent Van Patten & Suki Goodwin in Conversation” – The two actors, who have not seen each other in quite some time, sit down together for a back-and-forth discussion.

“Kevin Brophy & Jenny Neumann in Conversation” – This is another chat conducted the same way as Van Patten & Goodwin.

“Gothic Design in Hell Night” – Art director Steven Legler talks about his process for turning Garth Manor into how it is seen on film; evoking the right chilling atmosphere.

“Anatomy of the Death Scenes” – Pam Peitzman, make-up artist, and John Eggett, special effects, scrutinize each of the film’s kill scenes and discuss what went into achieving them.

“On Location at Kimberly Crest” – DeSimone guides viewers on a tour of the “Garth Manor” as it can be seen today.

A theatrical trailer, two TV spots, a radio spot, and a photo gallery are the remaining features.

Special Features:

  • NEW 4K Scan of the film taken from the best surviving archival print
  • NEW interviews with actors Linda Blair, Peter Barton, Vincent Van Patten, Suki Goodwin, Kevin Brophy and Jenny Neumann
  • Audio Commentary with Linda Blair, Tom DeSimone, Irwin Yablans and Bruce Cohn Curtis
  • Original Theatrical Trailer & TV spots
  • Blu-ray Disc Exclusives:
    • NEW interview with Director Tom DeSimone
    • NEW interview with Producer Bruce Cohn Curtis
    • NEW interview with Writer Randolph Feldman
    • NEW – Anatomy of the Death Scenes with Tom DeSimone, Randolph Feldman, Make-up artist Pam Peitzman, Art Director Steven G. Legler and Special Effects artist John Eggett
    • NEW – On Location at the Kimberly Crest House with Tom DeSimone
    • NEW – Gothic Design in Hell Night with Steven G. Legler
    • Original Radio spot
    • Photo Gallery featuring rare, never-before-seen stills
  • Hell Night
  • Special Features
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Summary

“Hell Night” overcomes being lumped in with standard slasher fare thanks to dripping atmosphere, unique production design, and characters that elicit some empathy. The a/v presentation leaves much to be desired but a plethora of bonus features softens that blow.

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Video: The Shape of Water Q&A with Guillermo del Toro and Doug Jones at Hollywood’s Egyptian Theatre

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This past weekend at the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood, CA betwixt a double screening of The Shape of Water and the classic The Creature from the Black Lagoon, the former’s director Guillermo del Toro (and star Doug Jones) sat down to discuss the latter’s influence on the film, Gill-man sex, “one sock movies,” his career in the genre, and more with moderator Jonah Ray, and we were there to film a portion of it.

Our sincere thanks to American Cinematheque general manager Dennis Bartok for extending the invitation.

For more Cinematheque screenings, visit the official website here.

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The Open House Review – Abandon Hope All Ye Who Enter Here

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Starring Dylan Minnette, Piercey Dalton, Patricia Bethune, Sharif Atkins

Written by Matt Angel and Suzanne Coote

Directed by Matt Angel and Suzanne Coote


Mere weeks, even days, after effusively beating Netflix’s original horror content drum (The Babysitter, Before I Wake, Creep 2), I’m here to confirm that The Open House is emptier than an vacant bomb shelter. Cold, unappealing and thoughtlessly plotted to the point where “generic” would have been an improvement. From the moment we’re welcomed into Matt Angel and Suzanne Coote’s scripted imprisonment, it’s nothing but loose floorboards and busted plumbing. The home invasion genre has rarely been navigated with such little attention to detail, asking for our suspension of coherent storytelling early, often, and without earning the right to be deemed mindless genre fun. Not even Ty Pennington could save this extreme renovation disaster.

Dylan Minnette plays Logan Wallace, a track star and student who must find closure after watching his father fall victim to a fatal car accident. It is his mother Naomi’s (Piercey Dalton) idea to spend a little time away from their suburban home – escape those painful memories – so they retreat to her sister’s luxurious mountain getaway. The catch? It’s in the process of being sold and open houses are on the regular, so Naomi and Logan must vacate their temporary premises on certain days. It’s after one of these very showings that Logan begins to notice slight changes around the house, and he fears that an unwanted visitor may be in their midst. Guess what? He’s right.

To understand how little The Open House cares about conscious blueprinting, just read the poster’s tagline. “You can’t lock out what’s already inside” – right, but you could have prevented them from coming in, or checked the house to make sure they weren’t squatting, or explored numerous other possibilities to avoid this scenario. The mansion’s realtor allows prospective buyers to come and go but it’s not her job to make sure no one’s hiding in the basement? Naomi can’t even keep track of the *single* visitor she lets look around the house? It’s infuriating to see so many people neglect safety out of forced coincidence because the script couldn’t rationalize the killer’s entry any other way – a confounding strike one.

This is also a film that admits no reasoning for why its own murderer has targeted the Wallaces, or why he stokes a violent fetish when it comes to open houses. We never actually see his face, just his imposing handyman-looking attire, nor do we savor any kind of tangible backstory (his family died during their own open house and he suffered a psychotic breakdown – just give me *something*). His undefined form never demands curiosity like John Carpenter’s “The Shape” once did, because scripting is nothing more than bullet notes for basic horror movie necessities. Here he is, your bad guy – too bad he’s introduced without fear, handled without originality and unable to characterize beyond torturous kidnapper dotted lines. He’s just, you know, a guy who sneaks into open houses and kills – COMPLETE WITH A FINAL PAN-IN ON AN OPEN HOUSE SIGN WHEN HE MOVES TO HIS NEXT TARGET [eye roll into infinity].

Every scene in The Open House feels like an afterthought. “Ah, we need a way to build tension – how about a senile local woman who lives down the street and wanders aimlessly into frame?” Overplayed and in no way suitable to most her inclusions, but sure. “Oh, and we need inner conflict – what about if the breaker-iner steals Logan’s phone and frames him for later acts?” I mean, didn’t Logan canonically lose his phone even before Naomi’s mid-shower water heater issues – but sure, instant fake tension. “How are people going to believe the killer is always around and never blows his cover – think they’ll just buy it?” No, we don’t. Worse off, his cat-and-mouse game is dully repetitive until a finale that skyrockets intensity with jarring tonal imbalance. This closing, dreadful end without any sort of redemptive quality. More abusive than it is fulfilling.

If there’s anything positive worth conveying, it’s that Minnette does a fine job shuffling around as a character with severe sight impairment. The killer makes a point to remove his contacts as a final “FUCK YOU,” just to toy around a bit more, and Minnette frantically slips or stumbles with nothing more than foggy vision. Otherwise, dialogue finds itself ripped form a billion other straight-to-TV Logo dramas about broken families, no moment ever utilizing horror past a few shadowy forms standing in doorways after oblivious characters turn away. You can’t just take an overused subgenre and sleepwalk through homogenized beats…case and god-forsaken point.

Even as a streamable Netflix watch, The Open House is irredeemable beyond fault. The walls are caving in on this dilapidated excuse for home invasion horror, benefiting not from the star power of a temperamental Dylan Minnette. I have seen most involved players here in far better projects (Minnette’s stock has rightfully been skyrocketing, Matt Angel in The Funhouse Massacre, etc), but this is bargain bin theatrics without a fully formed idea. A nameless villain, doomed nice guy (Sharif Atkins), woefully unaware plot advancement – all the worst cliches found in one rage-quit worthy effort. Anyone who makes it through deserves an award…or a dunce cap.

  • The Open House
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Summary

Unless you’re irrationally afraid of cold showers, The Open House fails to deliver on a premise that can be summed up by no more than two lines of text.

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