Night Terrors Radio – Interview with Bloody Ballet Director Brett Mullen

Bloody-Ballet

Bloody Ballet is definitely a horror film with a rich pallet. Paying homage to Italian giallo films such as Argento’s Suspiria while still retaining its own voice, it is a film with purpose and a vibrant spectacle of violence and madness. We were able to catch up with Bloody Ballet director Brett Mullen to talk about the film, working with both Debbie Rochon and Caroline Williams and what ultimately he looks for as a director. Grab a glass of that discount cab from the gas station, put on your best Goblins vinyl and kick back.

 

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85 Years Later, ‘The Invisible Man’ Remains One of Universal’s Most Impressive Monster Movies

After the success of Dracula and even bigger success of Frankenstein, Universal Pictures settled in to making monster features, and the Universal Classic Monsters as we know it took off. Producer Carl Laemle Jr. followed the hits up with Murders in the Rue Morgue, The Old Dark House, The Mummy, and Secret of the Blue Room. It was the theatrical release of The Invisible Man on November 13, 1933, however, that would unleash one of the best and most influential Universal Monsters of them all. Based on H.G. Wells’ science fiction novel of the same name, The Invisible Man has a standout villain and an endearing blend of humor and horror that’s withstood the test of time, even 85 years later.

The breakout star of the film was Claude Rains as Dr. Jack Griffin, a chemist eventually driven mad by his own experiments with injections of a drug that renders him invisible. It’s an astonishing accomplishment, considering Rains’ face is only on screen for a brief half minute at the end of the film; his performance is almost entirely relegated to his voice. It was his first American film role, but Rains wasn’t the studio’s first choice. Laemle Jr. wanted Boris Karloff in the lead, but Karloff walked after Laemle Jr. tried to undercut the actor’s contractual pay. Director James Whale (Frankenstein, Bride of Frankenstein) was then tasked with hiring the studio’s next choice; Cyril Gardner. Whale really wanted Rains for the role, though, and used Gardner’s planned trip back to Britain as a means of getting his way.

Despite no real experience and rumors of a bad screen test, Rains proved Whale’s hunch correct on his choice of lead. Rains spends most of the film heard and not seen, not in the traditional sense, but the actor still had to contend with tough physical demands. At least for him. The amazing special effects that rendered the character “invisible” was clever camera work. Any part of the character’s exposed skin that was to be invisible was covered in thick black velvet. This was shot against a black backdrop, which would essentially make the black velvet disappear into it, and this shot was overlaid with the normal set to give the illusion of invisibility.

For trickier scenes, like the one in which the Invisible Man looks at his reflection in a mirror, this meant 4 different shots would be combined. Velvet is a heavy, thick material that would be hot for any actor to be covered in, and Rains also happened to be claustrophobic. It added a level of difficulty to an already difficult character to portray.

On the surface, the Invisible Man doesn’t quite seem as fantastical as his monster counterparts. Compared to the blood-sucking Dracula, poor Frankenstein’s monster, the cursed Wolf Man, or even the imposing mummy Imhotep, Dr. Jack Griffin is just a man who successfully pulled off the act of disappearing. Except, Dr. Jack Griffin is the most monstrous of them all. He’s corrupted by the power of being invisible, gleefully killing anyone at whim and taking whatever he wants. Whereas most Universal Classic Monsters find empathetic humanity within their monsters, the Invisible Man proves there’s no monster scarier than man. Or at least a corrupt, amoral man.

Griffin starts out entertaining enough; watching him toy with his victims while maniacally giggling is humorous. But the longer he remains invisible, the more he loses his grip on his sanity. Whale has a knack for balancing the horror with the humor, though, bringing levity when needed. Most of which comes in the form of Una O’Connor’s Jenny Hall, the innkeeper’s wife who has a talent for hysterics. Rains may have been the breakout star, but O’Connor is a scene-stealer as the comedic relief.

Wells famously took issue with the fact that his character was turned into a lunatic, but Whale countered that only a lunatic would want to make themselves invisible. From a cinematic perspective, Whale’s instincts were spot on. The descent into madness from the corruption of power made for a captivating story whose themes still resonate today. The Invisible Man is perhaps the most terrifying monster of all the Universal Classic Monsters. The special effects, performances, and blend of humor with horror still inspires pop culture today, 85 years after initial release.

[It Came From the ‘80s] Horror Classic ‘The Howling’ Transformed the Werewolf Sub-genre

With horror industry heavy hitters already in place from the 1970s, the 1980s built upon that with the rise of brilliant minds in makeup and effects artists, as well as advances in technology. Artists like Rick Baker, Rob Bottin, Alec Gillis, Tom Woodruff Jr., Tom Savini, Stan Winston, and countless other artists that delivered groundbreaking, mind-blowing practical effects that ushered in the pre-CGI Golden Age of Cinema. Which meant a glorious glut of creatures in horror. More than just a technical marvel, the creatures on display in ‘80s horror meant tangible texture that still holds up decades laterGrotesque slimy skin to brutal transformation sequences, there wasn’t anything the artists couldn’t create. It Came From the ‘80s is a series that will pay homage to the monstrous, deadly, and often slimy creatures that made the ‘80s such a fantastic decade in horror.

1981 brought the theatrical release of not just one, but three horror movies centered around werewolves. Two of which set a new standard for special effects and werewolf transformation sequences; John Landis’ An American Werewolf in London and Joe Dante’s The Howling. Adapted from a novel of the same name by Gary Brandner, albeit with vast changes and a lot more humor added in, The Howling follows television newswoman Karen White (Dee Wallace) as she’s sent to a mountain resort after being targeted by a serial killer. The residents of the resort aren’t what they appear to be.

Originally, special makeup effects artist Rick Baker was to handle the makeup effects on The Howling, but he was pulled away by Landis, with whom he had previously worked with on Schlock. The job was then given to Baker’s protégé, Rob Bottin, only 21 at the time. Bottin was given creative freedom for the effects. Prior to this point, a lot major werewolf films employed lap dissolves to convey their transformation sequences. The actor would have to sit for hours on end, motionless, as scenes of the makeup transition was shot frame by frame, though this process did speed up a bit over the decades. Bottin wanted to create a transformation sequence from man to beast that was pure special effect wizardry without the reliance of camera tricks.

The film’s major transformation scene featured serial killing creeper Eddie Quist (Robert Picardo) turn into a monstrous anthropomorphic wolf right before Karen’s eyes. It’s a lengthy scene involving complex mechanisms, bladder effects, and an extensive makeup application that would see Picardo stuck in the makeup chair for upwards of ten hours. That he was such a decent sport about the makeup process meant that Picardo would be a favorite of Bottin’s in future projects, like Legend.

The Howling was made on a pretty low budget, though, and not all of the effects could receive the same level of detail and attention as Eddie Quist’s impressive transformation. Other tactics were used to create werewolf effects, too. Visual effects artist David Allen (Dolls, Willow, Freaked) was tapped to create stop-motion animation sequences, namely for the climactic scene that sees the barn full of werewolves trapped inside as it’s burned. But Dante realized that the lighting was way different than the rest of the film, and it didn’t quite mesh. All of Allen’s stop-motion work was cut from the final film, save for one brief transitional moment as Karen flees the resort.

Visual effects artist Peter Kuran (Robocop, Nightbreed) handled the animated sequences, both the main title animation and the werewolf transformation of Bill and Marsha mid-coital, further rounding out the wide array of effects used to stretch out the low budget and create one of horror’s most memorable werewolf features. Brilliant state of the art transformation sequences, puppetry, actors in werewolf suits, and various animation styles all came together to amplify Dante’s blend of humor and horror. It was a lengthy process, and included trial and error, but the final cut resulted in a film that still elicits debate on which 1981 werewolf feature is top dog. Both forever altered the werewolf sub-genre for the better.

Final Girls Ep 104: ‘Phantoms’ & ‘The Faculty’

Hey there Lovelies and thank you for downloading the 104th episode of Final Girls Horrorcast! This week The Girls get nostalgic when they discuss the ’98 horror sci-fi romps ‘Phantoms’

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Toni Collette: The Matriarch of Modern Horror

The first, and last, time actress Toni Collette was nominated for an Academy Award, it was for her portrayal of single mother Lynn Sear in M. Night Shyamalan’s horror film The Sixth Sense. She’s earned and won numerous awards accolades, deservedly so, but it was horror that garnered her an Oscar-nomination. With awards season in full swing, now it’s another horror film that’s bringing Oscar buzz for the actress; Hereditary.

As mother Annie Graham, Collette delivers a powerhouse performance that earned massive acclaim upon release. Collette chooses her genre roles carefully, but when she does, it’s always a profound expression of the terrifying facets of motherhood.  The Academy would be crazy not to nominate Collette for her uncanny ability to tear apart the scenery the way Ari Aster needed for his feature debut, but at the very least it solidifies her as a fixture of modern horror.

Her first foray into genre fare, The Sixth Sense, found her exploring the exhaustive trials of raising a child alone. A working-class mother in Philadelphia, Lynn Sear struggles to be there for her son emotionally while she’s off ensuring she can support him financially. But boy does she try. Collette imbues Lynn with a layered performance as the mother desperately trying to protect her son, but at a loss as to how. She deftly conveys the ferocity of a mother’s love while bearing the weight of the pressures of filling the role of both father and mother, all the while her socially isolated son is battling demons she can’t see or understand. It all builds into the film’s most emotionally charged scene, in which mother and son tearfully find common ground and understanding as Cole finally opens up about his ghosts. The moment Collette, hands to her heart, breathlessly asks, “Do I make her proud?” is the moment that clinched her Oscar-nomination.

In 2006, Collette would switch gears for the psychological thriller The Night Listener. Based on the novel inspired by the Anthony Godby Johnson suspected hoax, Collette plays the adoptive mother, Donna, of an ailing boy that strikes up a relationship with a radio show host. The further that relationship is explored, the more it seems as though the boy and Donna may be one and the same. This exploration of motherhood is very, very different, and Collette again approaches it with the nuance that she does so well. Donna is both relatable and vulnerable, but with an underling layer of crazy that Collette would harness again later.

Five years after would bring the remake of beloved ‘80s horror comedy Fright Night, one that was received well by critics largely due to the performances. The horror comedy allowed Collette to take a much more lighthearted approach to single-motherhood as Jane Brewster, mom to teen son Charley Brewster (Anton Yelchin). A supporting role meant solely to raise the emotional stakes for the hero, Collette can’t help but make her character feel fully realized even when she only appears in a handful of scenes. Her flirtation with new neighbor Jerry (Colin Farrell) is a wry wink that teens aren’t the only one with raging hormones. It’s matched by her fighting maternal instinct when Jerry reveals his true nature, too.

Collette was given much more to work with in 2015’s Krampus, in a central role that let her have fun with campy humor. As Sarah Engel, Collette delved into what it would mean to be an A-type control freak during a hectic holiday season with family disfunction reaching a boiling point. Of course, there’s also Krampus, evil elves, and dark holiday minions to contend with, and the humor of it all appealed to Collette. It was in Krampus that she really got to stretch out her comedic chops, further demonstrating what a chameleon she can be.

Even being familiar with Collette’s work, especially in horror, none of it really prepares for what she brings to Hereditary. Even if its horror ultimately doesn’t work for you, it’s hard not to feel Annie’s grief on a visceral level. It’s not just grief, either, but pure terror, dread, love, desperation, and every emotion in between. Collette plays a mother so very against the concept of what motherhood should or is expected to be. In a cast of tremendous performances, that Collette’s is a standout is no small feat. She reels you in, makes you invest in her character’s story, and then chills you to the bone. An irony, considering horror terrifies the actress.

Lynn Sear, Donna, Jane Brewster, Sarah Engel, and Annie Graham may be all connected by motherhood, but they’re each such widely different characters that could have only been brought to life by a skilled actress like Collette. She explores the complexities of being a mother and the catharsis that horror can bring in a nuanced way that few actors possess. Horror is often ignored by the Academy, but she’s made it difficult to overlook Hereditary. It’s fitting, considering how it will bring her full circle to her role in The Sixth Sense. More than just a scream queen, she’s become the matriarch of modern horror.

Marvel Comics Icon Stan Lee Has Passed Away at 95

Sad news this morning as THR is reporting that Stan Lee, the legendary writer, editor and publisher of Marvel Comics whose fantabulous but flawed creations made him a real-life superhero to comic-book lovers everywhere, has died. He was 95.

Lee, who began in the business in 1939 and created or co-created Black Panther, Spider-Man, X-Men, The Mighty Thor, Iron Man, The Fantastic Four, The Incredible Hulk, Daredevil, Ant-Man, as well as Abomination, Doctor Doom, Elektro, Man-Thing, Kraven, Groot, Doctor Octopus, Galactus, Nick Fury, and even Captain Marvel, died early Monday morning in Los Angeles, a source told the magazine. His list of creations is unapparelled. 

On his own and through his work with frequent artist-writer collaborators Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko and others, Lee catapulted Marvel from a tiny venture into the world’s No. 1 publisher of comic books and later a multimedia giant.

In 2009, the Walt Disney Co. bought Marvel Entertainment for $4 billion, and most of the top-grossing superhero films of all time — led by The Avengers‘ $1.52 billion worldwide take in 2012 — featured Marvel characters.

Whether you’re a fan of Marvel or not, Stan Lee has, in one way or another, touched all of us through entertainment. He has become the face of comic book and geek fandom. Lee is the king on the throne and an untouchable icon that forever be remembered. No amount of words can do this man’s career justice as we send our thoughts and prayers to his surviving friends and family. This is a huge loss for all of us.

Slashers, Sex and Sisterhood in the Slumber Party Massacre

The slasher subgenre has long held a complex relationship with women in horror—both onscreen and in the audience. Criticized for…

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‘IT’ Star Plays Lead in Horror Tale ‘Gretel and Hansel’

Sophia Lillis is taking on more than a killer clown in an upcoming project based off of the popular Brothers Grimm fairytale Hansel and Gretel. Lillis, 16, became widely recognized after her role as Beverly in 2017’s horror blockbuster IT. But Orion Pictures and Director Osgood Perkins (The Blackcoat’s Daughter) are currently utilizing her talents […]

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George Romero Made a Movie You’ve Never Seen Titled ‘The Amusement Park’ and You May Soon See It

Hardcore fans of George A. Romero may be aware that between Season of the Witch and The Crazies, Romero shot a 60-minute film titled The Amusement Park, made in 1973 but largely unseen to this day. Billed as a “PSA on age discrimination,” the film was apparently shot for TV but never actually released, and it’s making waves on Twitter this weekend.

NY Times best-selling author Daniel Kraus (Trollhunters, The Shape of Water, The Living Dead) announced on Twitter tonight that he was watching the “virtually unseen” Romero movie, which he’s been seeking out for the past 20 years. In a multi-tweet thread, Kraus subsequently called the film “a revelation,” as well as “Romero’s most overtly horrifying film.”

The people who funded it wouldn’t allow it. And no wonder. It’s hellish. In Romero’s long career of criticizing American institutions, never was he so merciless,” Kraus continued. “Where can you see this savage masterwork? You can’t. But I’m dedicating myself to changing that. Can you help? Yes, probably. Give me some time to figure out what’s what.

He added, “This is truly one of those magical (cursed?) objects that I cannot believe has fallen through the cinematic cracks. We’ll drag it back.”

As you may recall, the late George Romero’s wife Suzanne Desrocher-Romero had teased earlier this year that a film Romero shot in 1973 was going to be restored and released for all to see, which we now know to be The Amusement Park. She had mentioned last month, “We’re gonna restore it, and we’re gonna show it to Romero cinephiles. It’s a scary movie, but it’s not a horror movie, and it’s about ageism. Anyway, he has a cameo in it, and it’ll be fun. And we’ll show the movie, or get it distributed. It’ll be a project that the foundation’s gonna do.”

In The Amusement Park…

“An elderly gentlemen sets out for what he thinks will be a normal day at an amusement park and is soon embroiled in a waking nightmare the likes of which you’ve never seen.”

Check out Kraus’s complete Twitter thread below. And if you want to help The George Romero Foundation fund the film’s restoration, head over to the foundation’s website.