Tag Archives: horror

TRUTH OR DARE (2013) by Jonny Numb

[84 minutes. Unrated. Director: Jessica Cameron]

I’ve only done one interview for THE LAST KNOCK podcast, but it was very special: back in early 2014, I spoke with Jessica Cameron, who was on a promotional kick for her directorial debut, Truth or Dare. I knew of her status as a prolific, hard-working actor and rabid adherent of the genre, but it wasn’t until I spent a fast-moving hour with her (via Skype) that I realized I was in the presence of a promising new horror filmmaker.

Truth or Dare is not without its flaws – which I’ll get to – but it also does a lot of things very well, considering the limited setting, cast, and resources. It’s hard to keep a feature-length movie confined to a single location interesting and exciting, but Cameron finds a way.

True to its title, the film doesn’t flinch from horrible things – it’s also so saturated with screams, shouting, and agony that my neighbors probably thought someone was being murdered in my apartment.

Other than some fleeting comedic asides and a satirical element that recalls the likes of Natural Born Killers and Funny Games, Truth or Dare takes its extremes seriously. The setup, however, is pure Saw territory that evolves, with mounting dread, into the no-(wo)man’s land found in the latter Human Centipede films.

The plot is simple: a group of friends gain online notoriety by staging “truth or dare” videos with simulated life-or-death consequences. During a local talk-show interview, the group is confronted by crazed fan Derek (Ryan Kizer), a screw-loose nutcase unable to discern fiction from reality. On the night of their latest recording session, the friends find themselves taken hostage by this obsessed fiend, who escalates the stakes by revealing everyone’s hidden secrets.

The script (by Jonathan Scott Higgins and Cameron) knows its audience, and aims squarely for the horror discomfort zone: while the initial “truth”-telling by the reluctant participants comes across as a string of contrived tabloid behaviors, fetishes, and misdeeds, the actors are committed to making these details pay off in ways both visceral and emotional. Late in the game, when a mutilated and brutalized (but still breathing) character is shocked into consciousness by a bucket of her friends’ blood, Cameron has reached a level of degradation that few horror filmmakers ever achieve. It ain’t pretty, but goddamn if it isn’t effective.

The flaws of Truth or Dare are mostly innate to the setup…and, in a weird way, could be subliminal strengths. When the reality of the game settles in, the performances take a little time to find their proper footing – sometimes the hysterical reactions are overdone, while others don’t resonate enough. There are also moments where characters, free from their constraints and armed, could conceivably get the drop on Derek, but do not (though by the time this happens, everyone is implicated and chugging along with the game’s twisted logic). And as the emcee of the festivities, Kizer (invoking a cross between Charles Manson and Brad Pitt’s character in 12 Monkeys) is charismatic, albeit the type of deranged fan we’ve seen in many films; he acquits himself well as someone you love to hate, but also whose presence outstays its welcome.

But if the intent was for the viewer’s experience to reflect to characters’, Cameron has succeeded in spades.

The consistent surprise, in addition to the character-based revelations, is the film’s unflinching embrace of bloodshed. Carrie Mercado’s practical effects in Truth or Dare are stunning in their in-your-face brutality, and the actors convey every wound with disquieting conviction – the violence here is not “cool,” but closer to the messy, handmade gore you’d experience in, say, a Jim VanBebber film. Throughout, I also found myself thinking the effects were a spiritual heir to the pioneering extremes of Herschell Gordon Lewis.

Once the credits rolled, I was convinced of Cameron’s skills in front of and behind the camera, and in watching the supplemental interview footage on the DVD, was reminded of her genuine affection for the genre. Truth or Dare is a very distinct calling card that bodes well for her future directorial outings (including the Tristan Risk-starring Mania) – I can’t wait to see what horrible things she brings us next.

What’s Jessica Cameron up to now? A lot! Get the details at her website.

(Truth or Dare is available on DVD from Invincible Pictures, and digitally via online retailers.)

(Photo of Jessica Cameron via Nerdly.)

Crash Analysis Support Team:

unknownJonny Numb (aka Jonathan Weidler) only plays favorites when it comes to review sites like Crash Palace Productions and loudgreenbird.com. He co-hosts THE LAST KNOCK horror podcast on iTunes, and can also be found on Twitter and Letterboxd.

THE LAST KNOCK presents: Terror Technology

The Last KnockWithout technology, the western world would be living as if in the Dark Ages. To imagine life without a microwave, a personal computer, or a cell phone would make many souls break down in tears. However, if horror cinema has taught us anything, it’s that the things we love to cling to for ease or safety are illusions – and can be used against us at any time.

So join Billy and Jonny as they look at terror technology from Nightmare Weekend and Unfriended to Chopping Mall and Hardware – and other Frankensteinian like creations from metal, plastic, and such. Now, pat the top of your computer, treat your car to some air freshener, and don’t you dare turn your back on your wide screen television, and listen in…

This episode’s SCREAM OUTS from Twitter: 

@HORROREVERSION @TraCee_tr @damienleveck @RealJillyG @Gdl16 @OwenMcCuenQuest @KeyzKeyzworth @isaacrthorne @d_m_elms @TheFilmNoirGuy @rosebyanyother7 @RonGizmo @jacq0lantern @GuyRicketts @HellinspaceStor @cjzisi @LoudGreenBird @FriscoKidTX @dixiefairy @TheHorrorMaster @ImKeithDavid @RealMegFoster @BobbyBurke @GeorgeARomeros @billoberstjr @HeatherSossaman @JohnLeguizamo @barbaracrampton @RobertBEnglund @FrankTlevine @Kent_Harper @JuliaOrmond @ryan_the_ryan @DAVID_LYNCH @gordonkeith @StephenKing @RichardStanley7 @DylanMcDermott @StaceyTravis777 @MrJCLynch @IggyPop @RealCliveBarker @KristySwansonXO and Paul J. Williams

THE LAST KNOCK presents: Interview with Ron Shaw

The Last KnockRon Shaw is a writer, author, poet, podcaster, retiree, husband, father, and the man behind Ron Shaw Media. We discuss his latest horror novel, “Uya” and its Native American origins besides bigfoot, ducks in trees, land sharks, and the haunted Victorian trunk in his garage.

Take a look at Ron’s tremendous body of work  at his author’s page on Amazon, and don’t forget to follow him on Twitter.

This episode’s SCREAM OUTS from Twitter: 

@palkodesigns @JonnyNumb @Kent_Harper @livF2 @vanyavetto @1Brandonwyse

Get Ron Shaw’s Uya with a cover from Palko Designs.

THE LAST KNOCK presents: Horror Double Feature: SPLIT and THE BLACKCOAT’S DAUGHTER

The Last Knock

Another interesting mix of horror with M. Night Shyamalan’s Split and Oz Perkins’ The Blackcoat’s Daughter. We’ll explore what works, what doesn’t, what’s cool, and what’s a far cry from worth watching.

We’ll discuss if Night’s slipping even though he’s returned to making “smaller” films. But is Oz Perkins’ star rising? Both films have received mixed reviews, but for horror fans, The Blackcoat’s Daughter seems to have an edge. We’ll weigh in, and don’t forget to share your views in the comments section.

This episode’s SCREAM OUTS from Twitter: 

@AFiendOnFilm @Mark_Cassell @TraCee_tr @GuyRicketts @LizzyStevens123 @wilkravitz @KissedByFate2 @tammysdragonfly @SeanMaxwell @RealJillyG @PromoteHorror @dixiefairy @palkodesigns @BettyBuckley @kiernanshipka @juliekirkwooddp @ElvisPerkins

THE LAST KNOCK presents: Interview with Bill Oberst Jr.

The Last Knock

Bill Oberst Jr., one of the horror genre’s finest and most revered, chats with Billy Crash about movies, theatre, acting, Ray Bradbury, life, and so much more.

Please do not miss this interview with one fantastic and engaging gentleman. Bill Oberst Jr. is someone special who has earned an Emmy and many other accolades from being on the large and small screen over the past decade. Listen in and you’ll find out why he’s been so successful – and why he’s so respected.

Please visit Bill Oberst Jr.‘s website, Facebook, and Twitter – you won’t be disappointed.

THE LAST KNOCK presents: Horror Double Feature: Antibirth and The Love Witch

The Last KnockNo two horror films could be so diametrically opposed. Antibirth is a gritty bizarro film with a 1980’s flavor and The Love Witch comes on with romance through the eyes of a desperate woman. But are they worth watching? And if you’re a fan and supporter of “Women in Horror,” you’ll definitely be interested in these two independent movies.

We go knee deep into both features and deliver our take on Antibirth, The Love Witch, the people who made them, and the people who starred in them for better or worse – and definitely until death due us part.

This episode’s SCREAM OUTS from Twitter: 

@TimothiousSmith @TraCee_tr @dkarner @SamesCarolyn @AFiendOnFilm @Kent_Harper @aicforever @cbkillers @RealJillyG @BleedingCritic @isaacrthorne @d_m_elms @palkodesigns @JessicaCameron_ @CarnEvilKlown @RonGizmo @CrypticPictures @nicolemalonso @OklahomaWard @missannabiller @msrobinsun @GianKeys @JeffreyVParise @antibirthmovie @nlyonne @OfficialChloeS

THE LAST KNOCK horror podcast presents: ALIEN: COVENANT

The Last Knock

Director Ridley Scott returns with Alien: Covenant, another sci-fi/horror cog in the cosmos. We take a look at the latest installment of the Alien franchise to see if it’s worth another trip into outer space. We not only delve into Alien: Covenant and its value, but focus on Scott, as well as the movie’s writing, mythos, and its thematic resonance,  and if it’s worth rushing out for the next sequel. In space, no one can hear you scream, and no one can hear 20th Century Fox laugh all away to the bank…

This episode’s SCREAM OUTS from Twitter: 

@machinemeannow @sharkkteethsolo @TraCee_tr @CrypticPictures @MelanieMcCurdie @skipbolden @Kent_Harper @RealJillyG @dkarner @RSBrzoska @inthenightdoc @PromoteHorror @palkodesigns @LoudGreenBird @FriscoKidTX @BleedingCritic

THE LAST KNOCK horror podcast presents: Education of Evil

The Last Knock

Education is Power! Education is Freedom! Education is Evil! Huh? You may be an Apt Pupil getting ready for an after school Battle Royale in the Village of the Damned, but if you have Cooties, then The Faculty won’t have a damn thing to do with you.

We take a close look at the foundation of education in horror from the teachers who protect us, to those who may do us in. And from the cool kids and the teacher’s pets, to the bullies and the wallflowers, we’ll let you know who goes into The Woods and gets Lost In the Dark. So pack your lunch, get on the bus, and get ready for one hell of a ride!

This episode’s SCREAM OUTS from Twitter: 

@queerhorrorpdx @stevecourtney79 @marshawright @KillerfromSpace @LiteraryVampyre @d_m_elms @PromoteHorror @silentenigma9 @DinoBarlaam @TheHorrorMaster @AFiendOnFilm @Scream_Factory @jk_rowling @robertpatrickT2 @GroovyBruce @LuckyMcKee @kitano_takeshi_ @agnesbruckner1 @StephenKing @KeyzKeyzworth @twisted_twins @Rodriguez @cleaduvall @Josh_Hartnet @elijahwood @RichardBatesJr1 @IAMannalynnemcc @MalcolmMcDowel7 @thetracilords @jeremysumter @therealraywise @MarleeMatilin @RealJillyG @Firstscreamto @TTBOProductions @kickstarter @OwenMcCuenQuest @iamgoreblimey @RonGizmo @markiemywords @palkodesigns @LoudGreenBird and Paul J. Williams

Twin Peaks: The Owls are Not What They Seem by Billy Crash

When David Lynch’s alternative and surreal soap opera twist, Twin Peaks hit the small screen in 1992, I was glued to the show like millions of others. I couldn’t take my eyes off the television or get my mind away from the many mysteries that took residence in the bizarro town, as well as the lines that would become catch phrases (only Joss Whedon’s Buffy surpassed Lynch in that category). Twin Peaks worked because it was far removed from the typical mundane television formula: The story was vibrant and multifaceted, the acting superior, and Angelo Badalamenti’s music burrowed deep within one’s soul. Plus, it showcased the most screwed up and demented high school students on the planet.

Granted, the first season proved to be brilliant, and except for the final two episodes of the second and final season, those shows were an embarrassment and became a parody of Lynch’s vision, as well as co-creator and co-writer Mark Frost. After the show’s demise, Lynch brought a pre-quell to the world that allowed Sheryl Lee to star instead of being “wrapped in plastic.” Although he cut a tremendous amount of footage to get the film into theatres, many audience members hated the movie. I remember stepping into a venue and enjoying the film with thirty people – or so I thought. Before the film ended, only three of us remained.

This Must Be Where Pies Go When They Die

In early March, I drove to North Bend, Washington where Twin Peaks had been filmed. Just forty minutes from Seattle, the town was small, welcoming, and not weird at all.

Pulling into town on a somewhat cold and flurry kind of day, the first thing to come into view was Twede’s Café, known to the world as the Double R Diner in Twin Peaks. During filming, it was actually the Mar-T Diner until it changed hands. The place had a cool feel, though it was far more cramped than the interior reproduced for the show on a sound stage. Hell, in the real place Sherilynn Fenn wouldn’t have room to dance two steps. Then again, the actual diner had burned to the ground in 2000. The new diner was remade in the original style with that giant U-shaped counter in its center. Although I never saw a juke box, I felt like a goober for sitting in a booth and ordering a “damn good cup of coffee” and a slice of cherry pie. The wait staff had heard it all before and didn’t even flinch. The cherry pie proved to be amazing, but Dale Cooper’s coffee wasn’t as damn good as I had hoped.

A Place Both Wonderful and Strange

As for the sawmill, well, you can’t get near it – unless you want to climb a high fence and get arrested for trespassing. Then again, the abandoned brick edifice is all a bit “crumbly.” Thankfully, I had a telephoto and got some pictures though getting inside would have been cool. To do that, I’d have to find a way down onto an active dirt race track and hope my camera survived the dust and dirt that swirled about as if sawdust from the mill. I had to pass.

From where I stood to take the shots, all I had to do was spin around to take pictures of the sheriff’s office – the headquarters for the racing school. It’s here that I didn’t meet one of the Bookhouse Boys, but a kind soul who had moved to North Bend long ago because of Twin Peaks. She had been on set for the upcoming season, and like an actress from the series I had met in Seattle, she was kind but wouldn’t say anything about the resurrected show. I didn’t want to know anyway, but both women, as well as all cast and crew members, had to sign an agreement that if they leaked a word, a picture, or anything, they’d be slapped with a one-million dollar fine. Beyond the secrecy, both women didn’t want to disappoint David Lynch by saying something out of turn.

The mill and station were far removed from town, and thanks to a map of shooting locations from the tourist guide, I drove up a few miles to check out the Twin Peaks sign, which as expected, wasn’t there.

When You See Me Again, It Won’t Be Me

The high school entrance that had welcomed Laura, James, Audrey, Donna and company proved to be inaccessible thanks to a ton of construction equipment and high fences. Even with the television history and the tourist attraction angle, the façade is being refaced and will no longer look the same.

Fire Walk with Me

Leland Palmer uttered the “Fire walk with me” line from his poem during Twin Peaks’ first season. To introduce the film of the same name, Sheryl Lee, Wendy Robie, and Gary Hershberger took the stage in the theatre at the Seattle Art Museum, not far from the famous Space Needle and Public Market.

The trio took questions from the audience, and most were devoted to working with David Lynch – all positive responses, of course, even if the actors weren’t sure of what he had planned for their characters. When Hershberger went to Lynch and asked why bandages were packed so high on his head, and why he was coming on to Nadine (Robie), Lynch just leaned in and said, “Play it intimate.”

Even with all the mystery, the actors trusted Lynch and his vision, and like the audience, they went along for the ride.

Nobody Loved Laura But Us

The new series of Twin Peaks will be something special and bizarre, of course. How can Sheryl Lee reprise her role of Laura Palmer again when she’s long dead as well as Ray Wise? Who the hell knows what’s in store for us, but with Mark Frost and David Lynch in the driver’s seat for all eighteen episodes, it’s bound to be a trip.

Who knows what would have happened if ABC had let Lynch and Frost not resolve the Laura Palmer murder, which led to the ill-fated collapse of season two. Even so, an unexpected limited series is on the way that will bring new magic to the small screen.

Regardless of ABC’s ultimate idiocy, and all the questions stemming from series’ end, many will wonder if we’re in the Black Lodge or White Lodge, but the Linoleum on the floor tells us we’re in the same damn place. Here the good of Cooper and company will use the energy from the lodge to battle the demons that plague the souls of Twin Peaks, and that evil will draw upon that same energy to destroy them. One can only wonder how Lynch and Frost plan on bringing this wild world to fruition with their own Twin Peaks logic. In all honesty, I hope that like most towns, they’ll just keep on keepin’ on. Hell, what’s life without a sense of mystery? So, grab a jelly donut, turn on the television to Showtime, and enjoy where Lynch and company take us. After all, it won’t be like anything we’ve seen on the small screen since 1992.

Billy Crash (aka William D. Prystauk) loves great in depth characters and storytelling in horror, and likes to see heads roll, but if you kill a dog on screen he’ll cry like a baby. Billy co-hosts THE LAST KNOCK horror podcast on iTunes, and can also be found on TwitterLinkedInIMDbAmazon, and his professional website.

(Photo of Kyle McLachlan from Birth.Movie.Death.)

THE LAST KNOCK presents: Interview with Lawrie Brewster and Sarah Daly

The Last Knock

Director Lawrie Brewster and screenwriter Sarah Daly, the team behind Lord of Tears Joy, bring you their intriguing horror feature, The Black Gloves. This independent horror team discusses how the film came about from concept to post-production, why they chose to film this great looking period piece in black-and-white, and how they approach the horror genre.

And you can help support the post-production efforts for The Black Gloves on Kickstarter – and get some excellent perks in the process!