Crash Discussions: Interview with director Dom Frank

PodcastimageAs far as writer-directors go, Dom Frank has the Midas touch. Find out how his upcoming film THE CHURCH came about, and how he got Bill Moseley, Ashley C. Williams, Lisa Wilcox, and Clint Howard to star. Enjoy the man who turned a dream into a definitive goal and made his horror happen. And yes, lightning does strike twice: His other horror, APNEA, will follow close behind…
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Crash Discussions: Creature Features

PodcastimageFrom KING KONG to GRABBERS, with THEM!, SLUGS, THE BLOB, PIRANHA, GODZILLA and so much more, we take a look at the creatures that have crawled, swam, and smashed their way into our horror hearts. But why creature features anyway? Do they remind us to avoid thinking we’re on top of the food chain with all the answers? Listen in and find out.
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Crash Analysis: FUNNY GAMES (USA/France/UK/Austria/Germany/Italy, 2007)

Not Close Enough

Haneke’s shot-by-shot remake of his 1997 Austrian film establishes the Farber family as funnygames1a trio of well-off Americans residing in a gated vacation house. They go about their normal business when a snotty, Eddie Haskell-esque kid (Michael Pitt) comes in and asks for eggs. Afterwards, the story tailspins into a hellish, tension-filled story of emotional and physical sadism where the duo works hard to take down the trinity of Father, Son, and mommy as our Holy Ghost.


The always stunning and more than capable Naomi Watts plays Ann Farber, with Tim Roth as her impotent husband, George, and Devon Gearheart delivers a stellar performance as their young son. Michael Pitt (of HEDWIG AND THE ANGRY INCH fame) with his still boyish looks and Brady Corbet – his sidekick in mayhem, malice and murder – portray ever-smiling serial killers.

On occasion Paul addresses the audience directly, breaking the fourth wall, which is extremely distracting, and makes what’s happening on screen less genuine because it interrupts the otherwise steady tension. Haneke may have done this simply to taunt the audience, to let us know without a doubt that we were incapable of reaching through the screen to help the family. However, by rewinding a crucial scene, Haneke deprives the family and audience of any victory over the situation and its villains. In effect, Haneke is telling us we simply must suffer the overall experience. Worst still, Paul tells the audience that he and his cohort must leave the family for a while to create dramatic tension so the movie can be given time to reach “feature length,” which proved to be extremely irritating. Near the end, Peter and Paul discuss the gray line between fiction and reality, which means Haneke poses the question: “Does life imitate art or does art imitate life?” Since studies show that watching violent films, cartoons, and video games, as well as listening to violent music, does not encourage violence, Haneke’s already answered his own pseudo-philosophical question. Either way, Peter and Paul are the disciples that bring us the message of violence, just as Peter and Paul brought Christianity to Rome.

Many of the scenes were long, but they added to the suspense and were far from boring. In some scenes that appear to be too dark, such as when George Junior is running and hiding in a neighbor’s home, we find ourselves looking through the abyss to see if Paul is catching up to him. George Junior could not see him and neither could the audience, until Haneke deemed it necessary, making this an excellent cinematic touch. There was only one lame setup (the knife falling into the boat) that was later used to taunt the audience with another avenue of false hope near story’s end.

With Haneke’s commentary on fiction/reality and violence in film/life, he also removes “the man of the house” or “captain” from the equation. After Peter breaks George’s leg with a golf club, Father Farber is left impotent and cannot save his son or his wife. When his wife prepares to leave the home in search of help after their son is killed, he says, “Please forgive me.” Afterwards, he is left with the chore of holding a hair dryer to a wet cell phone. Even here, he fails and can not get a call out to the police. As George was emasculated, so are the men in the audience, for we are also impotent and cannot intervene to save anyone. In effect, Haneke may be asking all males: As men, whom can we really save? I am not sure if he is asking us as men to stand up to violence in our lives, or if he wants men to relinquish old world ideas of masculinity, or if he’s simply taunting for taunting’s sake. From “Films as Catharsis,” Haneke does state that his movies “are intended … for provocation and dialogue instead of consumption and consensus.” This means there may be no right answers except in the minds of those taking part in the discussion.

A couple of things are puzzling, however. Initially, the family seems to have little reaction to the young invaders. Fight or flight is virtually absent and they stand around in awe of the finely dressed young men. This may be because they are not used to violence and never expected anything to happen to them in their own home in such a well-established and wealthy lake community. They meet “the uncanny” and are left with an inactive, wide-eyed response, like deer in, well, you know. When leaving the house, Ann does not take a knife to defend herself, and she runs out onto the road where she is ultimately recaptured. Knowing the killers left in their SUV, which was the only vehicle, why did she not try the boat first or at least stay off the main road and run with the tree line?

Regarding the uncanny, Haneke has the camera following the Farbers around the house, focusing attention on what they own, from golf clubs to shoes, and gives us an inside look at their refrigerator. Though nothing horrific happens in this sequence, we are left with an unsettling feeling that what is normal and mundane will enter the realm of Freud’s uncanny. The inciting incident has to do with the dropping of eggs and the verbal altercation and attitudes that follow. Then, a golf club becomes a weapon to kill a dog and break a man’s leg. A small kitchen knife is used to torture. Moreover, the phone – the lifeline – is soaked, low on energy, and cannot be used to save the family. The two killers appear to be fine men, all in “good guy” white, ready for a tennis match; they smile often and are well spoken. Other than the shotgun, simple things we normally find innocuous are turned against the family – from inside their own home no less.

The actors, cinematographer Darius Khondji (for providing some off-kilter camera angles, which made it appear as if we were voyeurs), and unyielding tension made the grade. I was not impressed, however, with Paul playing to the audience, regardless of Haneke’s intentions, because this extracted us from that uncanny world he had fought so hard to create.

Most importantly, Haneke failed to deliver something new. But Haneke did deliver in creating elements of fear and horror for any person caught up in the illusion that home is a sanctuary.

3 out of 5 stars

(Photo from MoviePhone.)

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Crash Discussions: Blood without Borders, French Horror

PodcastimageBilly and Jonny explore French horror, from early silents like 1896′s THE HAUNTED CASTLE to modern masterpieces like MARTYRS. We explore what sets French horror apart from the mundane, and why EYES WITHOUT A FACE, DAUGHTERS OF DARKNESS, THE HORDE, and INSIDE, will continue to excite audiences in timeless fashion.

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Crash Reports: The Best Found Footage Horrors

Talk about your much maligned sub-genres. Found footage has a usually love or hateMarlena-Lizzy-Caplan-left-and-Rob-Michael-Stahl-David-right-try-to-escape-underground-from-deadly-parasitic-creatures-who-are-chasing-them-in-Cloverfield.-Photo-Credit-Sam-Emerson.-2008-by-Paramount-Pictures.-All-Rights-8-960x640 relationship with horror fans with little room in between. For many, “jerky” camera movements tick them off to no end, and for others, this sub-genre is getting really, really tired due to story redundancy. Worst still, a simple argument from many is this: Why wouldn’t the idiot with the camera just drop it and run?

To date, nearly 100 found footage horrors have been produced. Sadly, most rely on the same elements of shock and awe to keep the audience guessing – which leads to a conditioned response of near boredom. Granted, horror does that in general, but with found footage, we’ve grown accustomed to filmmaker’s expectations. For example, it seems as if most actors have to prove how well they can scream as they’re dragged into the darkness by unseen forces, or how to yell at the other red shirts they’re with in whatever spooky house they’re visiting.

Like any horror film, two items are key: storytelling and characters. Whether it’s a ghost story, alien mayhem, or found footage, you can’t pass those up by any means.

Here’s the best found footage has to offer and why:


Cloverfield (2008) – 4.5 stars

This is the creature feature that came with the jerky camera warning. Another problem: people hated the characters – maybe because they were so real. Even so, no one could fathom why Hud (TJ Miller) would hang onto that damn camera. Well, why not record a historical document? And if that sounds lame, put me in Hud’s place and I’d do the same. Yes, I love history because it’s preservation is our only time machine. As for CGI, this is one of the few that did it well. In fact, it’s hard to believe in this virtually hopeless tale that almost every element was shot on green screen. Too bad Godzilla films don’t bring us such a sense of foreboding and hopelessness.


Paranormal Activity (2007) – 4.5 stars

Oren Peli’s surprise venture earned him an office at Paramount. The film explores an average young couple in an average house dealing with above average phenomenon. Better still, the story didn’t rely on trite jump scares, but played with the imagination to such a degree that the suspense never waned (think old time black-and-white horror like THE UNINVITED with Ray Milland). The tale captured the nightmares of my childhood and each time I watch this thing, I freak out to the point where sleep’s almost impossible.


Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon (2006) – 4 stars

Nathan Baesel sells it all the way as Leslie Vernon, the man who has a film crew follow him as he tries to get his name up there with “Jason” and “Freddie.” The movie’s funny, bloody, and bizarre, and serves as a killer commentary on American media’s love for turning serial and spree killers into household names. Witty and unsettling, the blackness of the comedy makes this one poignant low budget horror. Play Morrissey’s “Last of the International Playboys” now.


The Blair Witch Project (1999) – 4 stars

The film delivered a monochromatic foray of desperation and intensity that set the standard for the rules of found footage. Though many claim it ripped off CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST, the only reason found footage films didn’t happen sooner was because of the lack of access for regular people to carry around cameras due to size and film costs. Thanks to Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sanchez, their tale of naïve documentarians in search of the truth behind a legend launched a sub-genre. Like PARANORMAL ACTIVITY, this played on my childhood fears.


The Last Broadcast (1998) – 4 stars

Actor David Beard brings the creep factor in this chilling mockumentary. Lance Weiler and Stefan Avalos delivered a story about the hunt for the Jersey Devil to viewers with a twist and a turn that proved disconcerting. Smart and suspenseful, the film delivers on an emotional level that unleashes a cold and distant feeling. Now that’s horror. Embrace the dark atmosphere and see why Weiler is one of the best independent storytellers of our time.


Paranormal Activity 3 (2011) – 4 stars

Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman made what many think is the best of the demonic franchise (too bad the pair blew it with the fourth installment). The scares are intense, come out of nowhere, and leave us shaken thanks to excellent visual effects. Until the second film, which feeds on the success of the first film like a stupid parasite, this one brings wit, charm, and a more professional look to the series.


The Last Exorcism (USA/France, 2010) – 3.5 stars

Many fans questioned the end of this film, though it does work on several levels once one mulls it over. Regardless, Patrick Fabian’s turn as Cotton Marcus is fabulous, and we’re also introduced to the phenomenal Ashley Bell and the equally amazing Caleb Landry Jones. The story of a young woman either being brutalized by her father or a demon is completely disturbing. With solid acting and a tumultuous tale, this movie’s hard to ignore.


My Little Eye (UK/USA/France/Canada, 2002) – 3.5 stars

Are you in for found footage from a reality show? Sean CW Johnson brings frenetic realism to this conflict-ridden tale, also featuring Jennifer Sky, and a young Bradley Cooper. As for the reality show: What would you do to win big when you think the show you’re on might not really exist? With this broadcast, getting voted off the island takes on a whole new meaning. Shot in a lonely house in the dead of winter, there’s no room for escape from cameras that are always watching.


Skew (2011) – 3.5 stars

This one still leaves me in contemplation and upon a second viewing, the star rating could change for better or worse. Besides some decent scares, great character interactions, and more, the final scene is one cool head scratcher open for interpretation. But if you’ve ever had an obsessed friend who doesn’t know when to turn off the damn camera, you should appreciate this film. However, it may leave you with one freaky feeling when the credits roll.


The Tunnel (Australia, 2011) – 3.5 stars

This one outdoes many mockumentaries with a strong story and solid acting, as well as great structure. The only problem: from the interviews we know who lives and who dies long before the final act. But pay close attention to actor Steven Davis. In real cinematic life he’s a cameraman, but he delivers a highly spirited performance. Enjoy this news team as they research those things down under in Down Under.


Other great found footage horrors: Cannibal Holocaust (Italy, 1980), The Last Horror Movie (UK, 2003), [Rec] (Spain, 2007), Quarantine (2008), Undocumented (2010), and Europa Report (2013), V/H/S 2 (2013)

Over-rated and over-hyped found footage follies: Home Movie (2008), Trollhunter (Norway, 2010), V/H/S (2012), and the idiocy that is Evidence (2013).

(Cloverfield photo from Wodu Media.)

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Crash Discussions: THE FUTURE OF HORROR

PodcastimageThe Last Knock explores the genre of horror and where the hell it might be headed. By keeping our heads on backwards, and looking at what the giants of horror have brought us, from Carpenter to Craven, and Cronenberg to Romero, we take a look at what sub-genres and storytelling premises may be on the rise…

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Crash Discussions: THE LORDS OF SALEM

PodcastimageRob Zombie’s THE LORD’S OF SALEM is analyzed, stripped bare, and left to fester in your mind as if the spawn of the Prince of Darkness did so himself. This supernatural exploration of the “Anti-Virgin Mother” will have you wishing the “Weird Sisters” had never materialized on your screen. Don’t know what the Hell we’re talking about? Then listen in…
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Crash Reports: The Best Spanish Horror Films

The great nation on the Iberian peninsula has brought many wonderful, surreal, and orfanato_ver12suspense-filled horrors. If you love quality stories, what follows is the very best of the last fifty Spanish horror films I’ve had the pleasure of indulging.

Granted, all writers and directors are different, but the cinematography of Spanish cinema is consistently wonderful: great color, shadow, and composition. Even if a particular film from Spain fails to capture my imagination, the photography still resonates. Regardless, the acting is usually passionate, and although this may be something we expect from Spanish culture, the characters created by the screenwriters typically have much depth – so what actor wouldn’t want to bring them to life?

Once again, like most European horror cinema, original stories are brought to the forefront, while production companies in Los Angeles wallow in remakes to save money. However, European filmmakers, for the most part, revere cinema as an art form and focus little on return of investment – the plague that haunts Hollywood. In the end, even if a quality Spanish (or European in general) horror fails to clean up at the box office, it will accrue accolades and money over time, while many American horrors fall by the wayside.

This top ten includes a horror from Spanish television, and two short films of intense proportions. I hope you enjoy the selections.


The Orphanage (Spain, 2005) – 5 stars

JA Bayon’s masterpiece is one exceptional dramatic horror. Starring the glorious Belén Rueda, she brings Sergio G. Sánchez’s tale of a mother in search of her missing son to life. The atmosphere is palpable, and the film heralds one of the most haunting scenes in cinematic history. If you love quality horrors, this is the one to watch. Hell, it even made me cry.

(Photo from Imp Awards.)


The Ninth Gate (France/Spain, 1999) – 4.5 stars

This severely under-appreciated Roman Polanski film is a horrific mystery of demonic proportions. Starring Johnny Depp, Frank Langella, Lena Olin, and Emmanuel Saugnier, this bibliophile based story is one of my go-to favorites. With Wojciech Kolar’s spellbinding score and a phenomenal atmosphere, the movie never ceases to satisfy the curious.


The Uninvited Guest            (Spain, 2004) – 4.5 stars

Guillem Morales’ foray into creepiness unnerves the soul like few films do. After all, if you let someone into your home and they simply vanish, what would you do? Could they shadow your every move without you even knowing? And this is why I like squeaky floors and doors. If you love suspense, this is for you.


Aftermath (Spain, 1994) – 4.5 stars

This short film (30 minutes) by Nacho Cerdá is a disturbing venture when a morgue attendant violates and slaughters a corpse. Yes, this is one for gorehounds who should leave the movie more than satiated. Definitely not for the squeamish.


The Devil’s Backbone (Spain, 2004) – 4 stars

Guillermo del Toro loves to revisit themes associated with the Spanish Civil War, and this ghostly tale resonates on a grand scale. An unexploded bomb ticks the time away in the courtyard of the isolated orphanage, and young Carlos ruminates over a ghost’s prediction. Enjoy the suspense.


Fausto 5.0 (Spain, 2001) – 4 stars

This bizarre and surreal tale certainly leaves one on edge. In Fernando León de Aranoa’s scintillating story, a doctor on his way to a convention finds himself confronted by a man who claims the doctor removed his stomach eight years ago – and he promises to make all the doctor’s wishes come true. Enjoy the ride.


The Baby’s Room (Spain, 2006) – 4 stars

If you know the scientific experiment called “Schrodinger’s Cat” then you should love this intriguing tale that aired on Spanish television. Intelligent and gripping, enjoy the nightmare of a father searching for someone who may be out to harm his child – when he may just need to look in the mirror…


The Skin I Live In (Spain, 2011) – 4 stars

Antonio Banderas and the stunning Elena Anaya team-up in Pedro Almodóvar’s riveting story of a young woman held captive in a doctor’s home – think the bird in the golden cage. Interestingly, the lights are bright, but the tale is gripping and psychologically disconcerting. An extremely entertaining thriller.


Sleep Tight (Spain, 2011) – 4 stars

The phenomenal Luis Tosar delivers on a grand scale as a man on a personal mission to push everyone else’s emotional buttons to leave them morally destitute. With elements of THE UNINVITED GUEST, director Jaume Balagueró brings Alberto Marini’s script to life with enough suspense for three films. In addition, Pablo Rosso’s cinematography, and Lucas Vidal’s score, adds that extra edge of intensity.


Genesis (Spain, 1994) – 4 stars

Nacho Cerdá blows our minds with another short that captivates. Think “Pygmalion” – but this time, things go really wrong. Don’t miss this fantastic nightmare.


Other great Spanish horrors: Romasanta: The Werewolf Hunt (Spain, 2004), Horror Express (UK/Spain, 1972), Hipnos (Spain, 2004), The Abandoned (Spain/UK/Bulgaria, 2007), Shiver (Spain, 2008), [Rec] (Spain, 2003), and Exorcismus (Spain, 2010).

Over-rated or simply dreadful Spanish films: Who Can Kill A Child (Spain, 1970 – I can if they’re trying to murder me), Slugs (Spain/USA, 1988 – though it’s a fun ride!), Ghost Son (Italy/South Africa/Spain/UK, 2007), Giallo (USA/UK/Spain/Italy, 2009), [REC]3 Genesis (Spain, 2012), and Mama (Canada/Spain, 2013).

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Crash Discussions: MACABRE MUSICALS

PodcastimageBilly and Jonny had to do it: dive into the orchestra pit to slam dance among horror musical carnage. We take a look at SWEENEY TODD: THE DEMON BARBER OF FLEET STREET and POULTRYGEIST, to REPO: THE GENETIC OPERA and suck, to THE DEVIL’S CARNIVAL and THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW of course. Bring your best blood-stained tuxedo and join us!
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Crash Discussions: Interview with director and actress Jessica Cameron

PodcastimageJonny Numb talks to Jessica Cameron about her directorial debut, TRUTH OR DARE, the forthcoming UTERO, and all points in between – including the Twisted Twins (aka Jen & Sylvia Soska), Madonna, and what it’s like to play Marilyn Monroe.

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