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.

There Was an Alien Invasion Subplot in Internet Thriller ‘Searching’ That You Probably Didn’t Notice

Director Aneesh Chaganty’s critically acclaimed Searching centers on a father (John Cho) who is, well, searching for his missing daughter, using her computer to uncover clues about her disappearance. Like Unfriended before it, Searching plays out entirely across actual computer screens, and as it turns out, an entire subplot is hidden within those screens.

Searching was released for digital purchase this week (it hits DVD & Blu-ray on November 27), and the filmmakers have revealed the fascinating “hidden” subplot to io9 today.

Like most amazing ideas, it started off entirely as a joke,” co-writer/producer Sev Ohanian explained to the site. “[The] joke was the idea that since we had to write a bunch of stuff [for the faux website articles throughout] anyway, maybe we could use the background of our movie to tell a completely separate plot from the main story. Maybe something REALLY crazy, ‘like aliens, how funny would that be?’ Aneesh laughed at the idea. After a beat, I said, ‘No, but seriously Aneesh, what if we did it for real?’ And then Aneesh laughed even harder. And then I said, ‘Yeah I think we should definitely do an alien plot in the background of Searching.’ And then Aneesh stopped laughing. I don’t think he’s laughed since.”

Essentially, Ohanian explains, he and Chaganty created “a massive Hollywood-style alien story using only snippets of news articles, or Facebook comments, or hashtags,” all of it playing out in the background of the actual story being told by the film. Only if you’re paying close attention to these Easter eggs, in other words, would you even notice the subplot.

Head over to io9 for the full story and watch a special features snippet on the topic below.

Abertoir Film Festival Slashes Open Their 13th Edition!

It might be November but the weather is still fine in Aberystwyth as their genre film festival, Abertoir, turns campsite in theme to celebrate their entry to teenagerdom.  There are bound to be echoes of “Ki, ki, ki; ma, ma, ma” with a Welsh accent ringing throughout the Arts Centre venue as creator of the Friday the 13th, Sean S. Cunningham, attend as guest of honor.  Amongst other camp counselor duties, he’ll be at hand for a Filmmaking Masterclass (free for Aberystwyth University Theatre, Film and Television students), In Conversation Event as well as influencing the programming of movie titles in selection.  Take a look below at the full line up of films playing over the next few days and throughout the weekend.  Don’t miss the legendary off-site movie excursion, which this year will be Friday the 13th Part 3 in 3D.

All the information around the film festival can be found at www.abertoir.co.uk or on Facebook, Twitter & Instagram.

The Tokoloshe

Wednesday, 14th November

10:30 The Tokoloshe
12:20 Occult Bolshevism – UK PREMIERE
14:00 Do Serial Killers Really Exist? A Presentation by Gavin Baddeley
15:15 Offsite Screening: Friday the 13th Part 3 in 3D
19:40 Tumbbad
21:30 Pub Quiz
00:00 Slumber Party Massacre

The Black Forest

Thursday, 15th November

11:30 Blue My Mind
13:30 Cut and Run: A Brief History of the Slasher – a presentation by Steve Jones
15:00 Short Films Competition Part 1 (see below for films screening)
18:15 Last Man on Earth with Animat Live Soundtrack
20:30 Cam
22:30 The Black Forest – UK PREMIERE
00:30 Bloody Moon

Party Hard, Die Young

Friday, 16th November

11:00 Summer of 84
13:10 My Bloody Valentine
15:30 Short Films Competition Part 2 (see below for films screening)
18:00 Friday the 13th
19:45 Sean S. Cunningham in conversation with Stephen Thrower
22:45 The Last House on the Left
00:30 Party Hard, Die Young – UK PREMIERE

Assassination Nation

Saturday, 17th November

11:00 Sean S. Cunningham’s The Nurse with the Purple Hair
12:00 Sean S. Cunningham – Filmmaking Masterclass
15:00 Nicko and Joe’s Bad Film Club
17:30 One Cut of the Dead
19:30 Assassination Nation
21:45 Prom Night
23:15 Camp Abertoir Valentine’s Prom Night

The Elvis Dead

Sunday, 18th November

12:30 Abrakadabra
14:30 Silent Shorts Vol IV
16:45 Scala Forever! A Presentation by Jane Giles
18:30 Anna and the Apocalypse
20:30 The Elvis Dead

Short Films Competition Screening Blocks

Baghead

Screening Thursday, 15th November at 3pm

Baghead (Alberto Corredor Marina, UK 2017, 15 minutes)
Caronte (Luis Tinoco, Spain 2017, 15 minutes)
Reprisal (Mike Malajalian, Lebanon 2017, 10 minutes)
Miedos (Germán Sancho Celestino, Spain 2018, 9 minutes)
Post-Mortem Mary (Joshua Long, Australia 2017, 10 minutes)
Who’s That At The Back of the Bus? (Philip Hardy, UK 2018, 5 minutes)
FlyTrap (Connor Bland, USA 2018, 7 minutes)
Centrifugado (Mireia Noguera, Spain 2017, 11 minutes)
Sunscapades (Ben Mitchell, UK/Canada 2018, 6 minutes)

Screening Friday 16th November, 3:30pm

[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.

Banished Heroes Return In “Black Hammer”

Legendary Entertainment has acquired Jeff Lemire’s Eisner Award-winning Black Hammer comic franchise to develop for television and film, reports Deadline.

“Black Hammer” is an epic multi-book saga of interweaving stories – both past and present – detailing the trials and tribulations of the heroes as well as the villains of Spiral City.

It’s described as a genre-bending series that pushes the limits of what a superhero story can be, while always creating deep metaphors for human experiences. In “Black Hammer”, the characters come first, and the superhero aspects become the canvas to tell their stories.

Via Amazon

“Once they were heroes, but the age of heroes has long since passed. Banished from existence by a multiversal crisis, the old champions of Spiral City–Abraham Slam, Golden Gail, Colonel Weird, Madame Dragonfly, and Barbalien–now lead simple lives in an idyllic, timeless farming village from which there is no escape! But as they employ all of their super abilities to free themselves from this strange purgatory, a mysterious stranger works to bring them back into action for one last adventure!”

Lemire will serve as an executive producer with Dean Ormston, the co-creator and illustrator of the comic series.

Published by Dark Horse Comics, the Black Hammer universe was conceived by Lemire in 2008 and debuted in 2015. The comic series has received two Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards including Best New Series in 2017 and has received six other nominations.

Scream Factory Details Upcoming Blu-ray Release of John Carpenter’s ‘Starman’

One of the upcoming Blu-ray titles Scream Factory announced at SDCC earlier this year was John Carpenter’s 1984 sci-fi film Starman, and we’ve got full release details for ya today.

Scream announced, “John Carpenter’s extraterrestrial classic receives a long-overdue upgrade and today we reveal the final list of extras that will be on our upcoming Blu-ray release.”

Special features will include:

  • NEW They Came from Hollywood: Re-visiting STARMAN – Featuring Director John Carpenter, Actors Jeff Bridges and Charles Martin Smith, and Script Supervisor Sandy King-Carpenter
  • Audio Commentary with Director John Carpenter and Jeff Bridges
  • Vintage Featurette
  • Teaser Trailer
  • Theatrical Trailer
  • TV Spots

Planned street date at this time is December 18, 2018.

Stephen King’s Latest Horror Recommendation is ‘The Night Eats the World,’ Streaming on Amazon Prime

One horror movie that’s been flying pretty far under the radar here in 2018 is director Dominique Rocher‘s The Night Eats the World, a zombie film that has been streaming on VOD outlets for a few months now. But it’s been given a much-needed boost this week thanks to horror master Stephen King, who tweeted a rave review of the film last night.

King tweeted… “Just when you think the zombie genre has been squeezed dry, along comes a perfectly amazing film by Dominique Rocher called THE NIGHT EATS THE WORLD.”

It will blow your mind,” he added.

In The Night Eats the World, “After waking up in an apartment the night after a raging party, Sam comes face to face with his new reality, an army of zombies have invaded the streets of Paris and he is the lone survivor. Petrified with fear, he barricades himself inside the building to survive. He wonders how long can he last in silence and solitude, and the answer comes when he learns that he’s not all alone after all.”

Our own Dax Ebaben reviewed the film out of Fantasia, writing “The Night Eats the World is a well-crafted nightmare that holds its own among the best zombie films in recent memory.”

Check it out on Amazon Prime tonight!

Three New ‘Glass’ Images Highlight Hero, Villain and Beast

We’re now just about two months away from the release of M. Night Shyamalan’s Glass, the third film in the filmmaker’s grounded-in-reality superhero universe. Total Film provides three new images this week, one for each of the key players in the Unbreakable/Split mashup.

From UnbreakableBruce Willis returns as David Dunn as does Samuel L. Jackson as Elijah Price, known as Mr. Glass. Joining from Split are James McAvoy, reprising his role as Kevin Wendell Crumb and the multiple identities who reside within, and Anya Taylor-Joy as Casey Cooke, the only captive to survive an encounter with The Beast.

Universe newcomer Sarah Paulson plays a psychiatrist who specializes in individuals who believe they are superheroes.

In next year’s film:

Glass finds David Dunn pursuing The Beast in a series of escalating encounters, while the shadowy presence of Elijah Price emerges as an orchestrator who holds secrets critical to both men.

Joining the all-star cast are Unbreakable’s Spencer Treat Clark and Charlayne Woodard, who reprise their roles as Dunn’s son and Price’s mother.

A real hero clashes with two real villains on January 18, 2019.

End the Year With a Trip to ‘Hell Fest’ On Home Video

The criminally underrated Hell Fest will be opening to the public on Digital December 28 and on 4K Ultra HD Combo Pack (plus Blu-ray and Digital), Blu-ray Combo Pack (plus DVD and Digital), DVD, and On Demand January 8 from Lionsgate, Bloody Disgusting learned.

In the film:

A group of friends are bound for a horror-themed Halloween event at a local amusement park — a sprawling labyrinth of rides, games, and mazes that travels the country and happens to be in town. But for one visitor, the ghoulish carnival of nightmares is not the attraction — it is a hunting ground. On the night the friends attend, a masked serial killer turns the amusement park into his own playground, terrorizing attendees while the rest of the patrons believe that it is all part of the show. As the body count and frenzied excitement of the crowd continues to rise, who will fight to survive the night?

From Gale Anne Hurd, an executive producer of TV’s “The Walking Dead,” executive producer Tucker Tooley (Limitless, Den of Thieves), and directed by Gregory Plotkin (editor of Get Out, Happy Death Day, and director of  Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension), Hell Fest stars Amy Forsyth (TV’s “The Path,” “Rise,” “Defiance”), Reign Edwards (TV’s “Snowfall,” “MacGyver,” “The Bold and the Beautiful”), Bex Taylor-Klaus (TV’s “Scream: The TV Series,” “Arrow,” The Last Witch Hunter), and the legendary Tony Todd (Candyman, Night of the Living Dead, The Crow).

Story by William Penick & Christopher Sey and Stephen Susco, Screenplay by Seth M. Sherwood and Blair Butler and Akela Cooper.

4K UHD / BLU-RAY / DVD SPECIAL FEATURES

  • “Thrills and Kills: Making Hell Fest” Featurette
  • Theatrical Trailer

Video Digs into the Unmade ‘Hellraiser’ Remake Script Clive Barker Wrote a Few Years Back

As you may recall, Clive Barker was attached to remake Hellraiser back in 2014, and he actually did write a script that was delivered to Dimension Films. Instead of bringing that script to life, of course, Dimension made new sequel Hellraiser: Judgment, which needless to say didn’t do much to renew fan interest in what has long been a near-death franchise.

Clive Barker himself writing a remake of his own horror classic… now that’s an interesting approach, eh? So what would that iteration of a Hellraiser remake have been like, you may be wondering? In a new video over on YouTube, Mr. H Reviews digs into Barker’s unmade script, offering insights into Barker’s vision for a new take on his greatest creation.

It follows near to a T the first movie… up until a point where it would then segue off and become something somewhat new… different… and worthy of the investment of time from the audience,” Mr. H begins his recap of the script, before laying out the entire plot in detail.

If you’ve never read the script, allow Mr. H to do all the work for ya…