Monday, December 31, 2012

Coming Soon in 2013!

Ignore the title. These films are now available.
Wow... only nineteen posts in 2012. Four of them were from this month alone (my record-- on average it's 1-3 posts per month).

So, like I've been doing lately, I'm planning on updating this every week at least. I've got a few really great ideas for posts regarding screenwriting, and a nice rant on recent superhero movies. I haven't had many reviews up lately, so maybe I'll do some of those. Any requests? No? Okay, Troll 2 it is.

Anyway, let's take a look back at some of my short films from the past year (and older)...

Machete Road
A somewhat experimental slasher.

A Message from Louis Frangurgenstein
Still no idea what this is. Written by my brother.

Samurai Super Duel
My Kung-Fu epic.

More to come...

Friday, December 28, 2012

'Manos' in HD

For those unfortunate readers out there (all five of you!) who haven't heard of Manos: The Hands of Fate (1966), it's a low-budget horror film considered by many to be the worst movie ever made. And just to put that into perspective... I mean worse than M. Night Shyamalan's The Happening (2008).

And things get real when you start comparing films to The Happening. (All jokes aside, I'm still a fan of Shyamalan's earlier work, and I hope he gets out of this bad movie slump with After Earth. But I'm getting sidetracked here.)

Fittingly, Manos was directed on a bet by a fertilizer salesman in El Paso, Texas for $19,000 and currently holds the #6 spot on IMDB's list of worst films ever.

It was nearly forgotten for decades until it was featured on an episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000 and since, Manos has gained a cult following. Anyone who's seen it will know, this "horror" film is hilarious. Just not in a good way. Bad acting, horrible editing, and don't get me started on the writing. In short, it's a terrible film... but a memorable one.

Which is exactly why this guy is restoring it for a blu-ray release.

From what I know, a reel of 16mm film was found in a storage locker. And the reel turned out to be a rare print of Manos. It was different than the VHS version-- it had a different opening shot, for one. Not to mention the VHS was cropped from the original edition (which made for some awkward framing). Sure, the film print was damaged-- but with work it looks like it could have been shot last week.

I'm actually pretty psyched about this. It's a bad film, yes, but it's also a very fun bad film. And for years, the only available version was on VHS, and in comparison, the restored edition looks like a totally different film.

Unfortunately I was a bit late to this party, so I missed the restoration's fundraising. And I don't think the online shop is open anymore (which stinks, since I'd pretty much do anything for a Torgo shirt).

I've seen the first half of Manos, as well as bits and pieces of the rest, but after I heard about the blu-ray I decided to hold out for the restored edition.

For now, check out this interesting Entertainment Weekly article on the film.

What's the worst film you've ever seen?

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Merry Christmas

Below is my custom made Disposing Dwight Christmas ornament. (Only two in existence! Mustache not included.)
Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Disposing Dwight update, part deux

Just an update on Disposing Dwight. I'm editing as I write this, and so far I'm about 3 minutes in. I know, not much progress, but I'm liking how it's turning out so far.

For now, here's a teaser trailer for the film. It started with me throwing a bunch of clips together to play around with color correction, then I found it had this interesting rhythm to it. Thus was born the greatest trailer of all time!

Please spread the word and tell everyone you know who might or might not be interested. (Basically, give me free advertising.)

On a related note, I started writing The Making of Disposing Dwight last night. It's a short book chronicling the story of Disposing Dwight, from when our first script fell through and we were forced to make Dwight instead, to completion of the film... or at least, as complete as it is right now. I'll also include the complete 28-page screenplay in the back of the book, for those of you who are just dying to read it.

I'm planning on self-publishing some copies and including a disc of the finished film. I'll give them out to family and friends who are interested, but you'll probably have to chance to order copies online as well.

Also, I'm currently co-developing a feature film, currently titled Adan Cobos Must Die until Mr. Coauthor and I can agree on a final title. (I'm actually kind of digging the current title. What's not to like?)

ACMD is best described as an all-out horror/thriller, with a healthy dose of old school camp, abundant slasher movie tropes, and aliens. Check out the first poster!
We really went all out with it.
Anyway, I don't want to get ahead of myself. We probably won't make much progress on this project until Dwight is complete, but I wanted to bring it up anyway. This is an update, after all.

More to come. I think I might make an effort to update this blog weekly, whether it be a review or  just me rambling about my numerous writing projects.

(Continue to) stay tuned!

Monday, November 12, 2012

NaNoWriMo & Killer Tomatoes

I haven't been posting much lately due to Disposing Dwight post production and NaNoWriMo. But I'll have a review up soon, as there are a many movies in my queue.

I'm choosing between Tarantula (1955), Chopping Mall (1986), Night of the Lepus (1972), Pumpkinhead (1988)Equinox (1970)Robot Monster (1953), and, of course, Attack of the Killer Tomatoes (1978).

No, really... it's a real movie.
But back to NaNo... I've changed storylines three times since starting. I began without much of a plan, deciding to just wing it for once. My first plot didn't work at all, so I switched. About ten days later, that plot wasn't working, either, and even though I was over 9,000 words in, I switched to my current idea. And I'm catching up quickly.

And I might visit my previous ideas some other time (I'll definitely write my first idea, once I can make it work). But what I've learned that if you aren't really into the idea, the project won't turn out good, no matter what.

Then again, sometimes you may like your idea so much
you forget how ridiculous it is.

For now, please enjoy this trailer for Equinox (1970). The whole reason I wanted to see this film was the pure awesome of the trailer. Not that it was a very good trailer, since I still have no idea what this film's even about-- something about a time traveling demon book with claymation dragons?-- but it looks entertaining as heck, and that's what counts.

Seriously, guys. This is what every grindhouse film should be.

Hopefully I'll get a chance to review this. More posts coming soon!

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Happy Halloween!

My favorite holiday, St. Patrick's Day being second.

Below are some pics of a jack-o'-lantern who's having a bad day. (Don't ask how a knife did that-- it's just awesome.)

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Planet of Dinosaurs (1977) Review

Now here's a little gem. "Planet of the Dinosaurs" is probably one of the better b-movies I've seen so far.

Funny thing, it starts off almost exactly like Attack of the Beast Creatures (1985), except, of course, it's in space.

After their ship crash lands on a planet very similar to Earth, some unfortunate astronauts discover they're not alone...

You guessed it. Dinosaurs. And pretty good dinosaurs at that; for a low-budget 70s film, the stop motion effects were surprisingly good. If you've ever tried stop motion, you'll understand why it's impressive.

It's funny how similar Dinosaurs this is to the aforementioned film. The two films even share a berry picking scene (however, the berries are poisonous in The Dino Disco Movie.)

The rest of the plot is kind of obvious. They attempt to survive on the planet until they can be rescued, battling dinosaurs along the way. Sure, the pacing slows down near the middle, but eventually picks back up again. For a b-movie, it seemed relatively concise, with clever dialogue (at least compared to Beast Creatures) that kept it from becoming dull or tedious.

The acting was so-so. Sometimes it was better than others, but overall it was watchable. The same goes for the directing and editing.

One thing that helped this film is that, unlike many other b-movies, it actually contained a few subplots. The characters were even (somewhat) developed, making it easier to care and empathize with them.

Unfortunately it suffered a problem that many films like this face. I've been thinking about b-movies a lot lately, and have come to the conclusion that a big problem is that many of them don't have a clear protagonist.

Sure, we have our "main characters," but even in the group, it's hard to identify who's the main main character. There isn't one in this film. One minute the story leans towards one person, but then it seem like the other person is our lead, and eventually we have no idea who the protagonist is.
Still, it's an interesting film, and definitely worth a look if you can find it anywhere. As of now it's on youtube, but that's definitely subject to change due to those annoying copyright laws.

Is it a good film? Heck no. Fun? Yes, very. And that's all it tries to be.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Attack of the Beast Creatures (1985) Review

"We're just letting the forest get to us."
-Actual line spoken by a character after a man melts in a pool of acid and another man is devoured by beast creatures.
I never thought an 80 minute movie could last so long.

Attack of the Best Creatures is a film worse than its title. I’m almost proud of myself for having the willpower to sit through the whole thing.

This film begins with a title card— 1920, for some reason. Not only was this redundant (there was no reason for the time period), but the 80s soundtrack doesn’t fit in at all with the 20s vibe they must’ve been going for.

Anyway, it opens to some people in a lifeboat, just after their cruise sank. After a good ten or so minutes of nothing at all interesting, their lifeboat ends up on a heavily-wooded island, where they plan to make shelter. The long lifeboat scene would have been a great opportunity for character building, but unfortunately that isn't the case here.

They get out of the boat, and almost immediately notice that one of the men has been mysteriously wounded with a deep gash on his chest. After closer inspection, they find that he is still alive. No one knows who or what did this to him.

So they leave him alone on the beach while they set off to find food. And that's when the real fun begins. Or at least as close to “fun” as this film could possibly be.

Other than the brief acid pond scene (a nice touch, in my opinion) nothing very interesting happens here. We wait 20+ minutes for them to pick berries, argue, pick more berries, and then argue over who picks berries. Then, we have an excruciating 7+ minute campfire scene where none of the characters discuss anything we don’t already know (or care) about.

Here's actual line spoken by one of the characters during this scene: "I'm frightened! This place is starting to make my skin crawl." (Remember, this is after two people have been mysteriously killed off.)

That’s my main problem with b-movie horror. Your effects can be as bad as heck and I could care less. No, the thing that bothers me more than anything is the character development you see very often in films like this.

I’ve found that many decent horror films follow two different patterns. Some have a slow build up before any killing (The Shining, for instance) but the interesting characters and masterful foreshadowing make it an entertaining film.

Then you have group 2, which are films without much buildup or character development, but the gore (while not preferred) is usually entertaining enough on its own. You don't need much character development for Friday the 13th Part 30, for instance, though as long as Jason stabs a bunch of people the audience is happy.

The problem with many b-movies is that they usually suffer a long, slow build up with characters we could care less about. Not a good mix.
And that's the case with this. We have a 30+ minute build up (a large chunk of its slim 80 minute runtime) dedicated to nothing in particular. There are no subplots, and scarce character development.

The main tip off that this was going to be horrible is that the filmmakers didn't care enough to give their monsters a proper name, instead sticking with a very generic "beast creatures." Even something like "Attack of the Homicidal Demon Men" would have been better.

The monsters, by the way, are not very beast-like nor “creatures.” More like “critters.”  They're tiny red humanoid puppets with big glowing white eyes. Unfortunately, they have no real back story. One brief shot near the end shows about ten of them standing around a large beast creature idol of some sort, but no explanation for this is given.

Still, the creatures are pretty unique looking. I've never seen anything that looks like the beast creatures, so I give the filmmakers props for originality.

The remainder of the film is spent with the characters walking through the woods, hardly ever talking. They’re constantly being attacked by the beast creatures, but the attacks are so unconvincing and relentless that the film becomes repetitive and dull.

And pretty soon (about forty minutes, though it feels like hours) the film is over. There isn't really a payoff or anything— it just ends. Sure, the montage during the final chase scene was interesting. And yes, I can kind of see what the filmmakers were going for in this scene, but unfortunately it all fell flat for me.

It would have been nice to see some sort of subplot. Entertaining dialogue and likable characters would have at least made the long walks bearable.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Disposing Dwight update

We filmed some more today. A few weeks ago some actors went back home (a whole state away, so it means probably no reshoots). My family spent a week sick, then a few more weeks procrastinating and trying to find an available day for filming.

We’re almost done now. I’m going to edit what we have so far, and then decide which scenes will need reshoots (if possible). It's likely there are a few scenes we may have forgotten to film, too.

I’ve edited a teaser, but so far there is no complete trailer or any full scenes of the film yet. I would post the teaser on here, but I’m not sure how well the whole copyrighted-music-thing will go over.

I do have a few posters, as well as a couple more stills from the film to tide everyone over until the release. (Hopefully this fall-- trailer by early September.)
Possibly the tamest scene in the last four minutes of the film.
How you doin'?
Ready to rock

Monday, July 2, 2012

Days 5 & 6 on set

There's not much to say about recent shooting. It's been incredibly hot this week, which is convenient since the script is about 50% outdoor scenes.

At least we're mostly done with shooting-- I finished all of Emma and Marie's scenes while the actors could be in town, and am planning on shooting the rest of the film by mid-July.

For now, here are some random stills from the film.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Days 3 & 4 on set

Overall the shooting is going well. We're almost halfway done, and I'm hoping to wrap shooting by the first week in July. The release will hopefully be sometime in September.

I've learned a lot about filmmaking over the week. I've gone from "Holy crap, I have no clue what I'm doing!" to "Well, off to work."

Day 3

We shot part of an interrogation scene and an entire outdoor scene, where the hitmen leave the kids beside the road in the middle of nowhere. Why would they? It's a long story.

The challenge with the outdoor scene was that we were filming the whole thing in my neighborhood at an empty wooded lot (nobody has bought it yet.) We were restricted in the camera angles we could use, since we couldn't show any houses in the frame.
Above: pretty much the only angle we could use.

Another issue was the cars. Usually there isn't much traffic in my neck of the woods, but for some reason, Wednesday was the day everyone decided to go out-and-about. Which meant about every five or so shots were interrupted by cars.

One red truck drove past about three times. On the fourth time, the driver stopped and rolled down his window. We weren't really in the mood to talk to this guy, since he'd already ruined a great take (and a great take is very rare with the actors I'm working with.)

"Did you buy the lot?" he asked. The heck was he talking about? We're kids! We can't buy the lot.

"No," I answered, "just making a movie."

"Oh," he said, and drove off.

I wondered why he'd given us such weird looks when he left.

It wasn't until later that I realized I'd been wearing my fake mustache the entire time.
He probably thought I was thirty.

Day 4

Today we shot the remainder of the kitchen scene. It's the opening scene that's taken us about three days to shoot. Don't ask why. It's not even a long scene-- it's just that dialogue isn't my actors' strong point.

Later we filmed a scene down at the nature trail near my neighborhood, where we were yelled at by a creepy guy who was with his dog in his backyard. See, the nature trail is a long concrete path through the woods. There's a neighborhood nearby, and the backyards of these houses border the trail. There's also a creek that runs in between the backyards and the trail.

There's a log that runs across the creek, and when my actor for "Jack" attempted to walk across it, the guy told him to stop.

It wasn't a big deal-- it's just kind of strange that a total stranger would even care, since the creek isn't even on his property.

You meet some weirdos in the film industry.
Adjusting our awesome mustaches.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Day 2 on set

Today was productive, as well as interesting, since we all could have died while I was setting up lights.

We started the shoot by filming some more of a scene that we didn't complete yesterday (we still didn't finish it today.) Then we set up a blue screen on my dad's car, since none of us actors can actually drive yet.

After some trial and error (and a crapload of tape) we got the screen secured.

We tried to crank the car for some air conditioning since it was a hundred degrees out and I didn't want my actors to all have heat strokes...but the car wouldn't start.

It reminded my of something from a horror movie, where the characters are being chased by a killer, and when they get in their brand new car, it all-of-a-sudden doesn't work.
Anyway, once we finally did get it to crank (you're supposed to jiggle the steering wheel), we prepared to shoot.

But then the wind blew my lights over.

They're these nice photography lights I got for Christmas, and I was annoyed that I lost one of them the first time I'd used it. So I went to clean it up, but then "Johnny" saw it, and, realizing that it was one of the swirly-florescent bulbs, informed me that it emitted toxic gas when broken, and mercury was poisoning our lungs at the very second.

Once we took care of the mess (my dad sweeped the glass up since we were all too scared to go outside) we started to shoot.

It took about an hour in all. A lot of buildup (about three hours, I think) for such a brief scene. But overall it was worth it, since I finally got to wear one of those awesome fake mustaches.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Day 1 on set

Above: Our only set photo

Like the title says--today was day one on the set of my first real short film. (We're actually using a script this time!)

Due to lack of actors available for Malcolm, I decided to write something else that I could film and only cast family members.

Thus was born "Disposing Dwight," a comedy/thriller about four kids who (accidentally) murder their friend, and set out to hide the body. On the way they run into two hit men and get mixed up in a chase to recover lost treasure. Oh yeah-- and the hit men wear fake mustaches and hair extensions.

We'll be filming for the rest of the week and then probably a few more days in July, and I thought I'd try to keep updating our progress.

So far it's going well, but hopefully we'll get better at holding a boom pole as the shoot progresses.

Today we filmed two-and-a-half scenes, and I hope to film another full scene tomorrow (plus finish our incomplete scene from today.)

Updates coming soon, as well as set photos and hopefully a teaser trailer.

For now, here's a (brief) excerpt from the screenplay:

Read it here

Also, Malcolm has not been forgotten. I'm plan to start production sometime in a few months, once I get some people together. A Halloween release would be cool.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Carnival of Souls (1962) Review

I watch a lot of old b-movies, and I've found that a most of the time it's either a hit or a miss when it comes to old horror; sometimes the film is just plain bad, and other times a movie is decent, more or less. Carnival of Souls is neither. In short, it's a brilliant film. It's relatively obscure, which is a shame since it deserves a wider audience.

After surviving a car accident, Mary Henry (Candace Hilligoss) moves away to a different town where she gets a job as a church organist. As she begins to adjust to the new town, she becomes uneasy due to her occasional hallucinations. That eerie abandoned carnival outside town isn't helping, either.

The only problem I found with this film is that a few scenes ran a bit long. I also noticed some dialogue that wasn't significant to the story and should have been cut.

The evening I watched this, I was thoroughly entertained, as well as impressed that the filmmakers could pull this off on such a small budget. It may not be perfect, but it's far better and more intelligent than almost all modern horror films. It shows that a great script can get you a long way.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Night of the Living Dead (1968) Review

George A. Romero's original masterpiece that set the standard for all zombie films since. An entertaining film, with many twists and a lot of gore for its time.

While visiting a rural cemetery, Barbara (Judith O'Dea) is attacked by a mysterious stranger. She hides in an abandoned farmhouse, where she meets Ben (Duane Jones), who boards up the house to keep out the bloodthirsty zombies that lurk outside.

The pacing of this film is slow, and sometimes that's not a bad thing, because it enables character growth. Sometimes the pacing is a problem, though, because it eventually becomes tiring to watch a man board up windows for minutes on end.

The acting is good in most parts, although there were a few brief moments when it wasn't so great. But this only happened a few times with minor characters, and the main actors were good enough to make up for it. The cinematography is excellent for a film considered by most to be a b-movie. This film has good directing, especially for a low-budget zombie movie.

Thanks to its well-written script, Night of the Living Dead has just enough twists to keep you guessing, but still retains a concise, easy-to-follow story. A must-see if you plan on writing a zombie film--or any other type of horror film, for that matter.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Malcolm - short film

Just finished the first draft of a short script, currently titled Malcolm, though that's definitely subject to change. I collaborated on it, and it took a long time to write due to the many plot holes that arose. That, and my procrastination.

Anyway, we're currently in the pre-production stage: rewriting the script, getting some funding, and looking into assembling a cast and crew. It'll be a slow start, mainly because I'm new to many aspects of film making that were never relevant when I was making improvised slasher movies with my brothers.

I've decided to post a page of the script here, like a teaser trailer or something:
There you go. Hope it was okay. Again, it's a rough draft, so don't judge.

Hopefully it'll be done by the end of summer/early fall, so stay tuned.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951) Review

The Day the Earth Stood Still is a classic sci-fi film that has good special effects for its time but is unfortunately plagued with its mediocre writing and sometimes almost cringe-worthy acting.

The first few minutes of the film is made up of scene after scene of people reacting to a mysterious flying saucer that lands in Washington D.C. Klaatu (Michael Rennie) emerges from the space craft and informs the spectators that he has come on a goodwill mission.

Soon we learn that Klaatu’s mission is to deliver an “urgent” message to all of the world leaders. Upon hearing this, I was intrigued, wondering what the message could be.  Unfortunately, the third act of this film just doesn’t deliver.

After a few narrow escapes, some sneaking around, and a car chase, Klaatu finally reveals his message, which is a lot less breathtaking than I had once hoped.

Sure, some scenes were decent. Some were even good. Sadly, the bad parts outweigh the decent, making this film much less than what I had anticipated. Not a personal favorite, but I can see why it's considered such a classic.