Monday, November 2, 2015

Theatre Fantastique: A Poem of Poe (2015)


It was when I was reading actress Kelsey Hewlett's Twitter page when I found out about this new short film from Hollinsworth Studios, of which I have spoken of at length on a few (usually angry) occasions. This latest effort is the latest entry-A Halloween special, to be precise-in their intermittent webseries Theatre Fantastique.


A Poem of Poe is less of a movie, short or otherwise, and more of an Edgar Allan Poe collage, and in that respect, it's ok. With that in mind, I won't criticize the jumbled plot much.

The movie is bookended by the cast standing together akin to a curtain call, while 'Death' recites The Conqueror Worm, and features scenes of Poe and his love Annabel Lee at a beach, as well as a brief and weirdly shot funeral scene. Some other stuff happens, then the movie's over. There's use of stock footage from previous Theatre Fantastique entries, which is annoying on principle, especially since this is only a twelve minute long movie, however the choice of footage is at least Poe-related, and thus does fit.


This movie is never really bad, and the only thing that really bugged me was Annabel Lee's death, which is baffling. She reads some of her beau Poe's works, and recoils in horror for no explained reason, dashing across a beach as Poe follows after, and then she runs into Death, who reaches for her, and she willingly goes with him. What?

Ok, time to discuss the aspect about Ansel Faraj's movies that I dread the most-Adaptation! A Poem of Poe is not subject to some of my usual criticisms of other Hollinsworth films for a couple of reasons. First, it being a collage rather than a story or straight adaptation, and second, it's not that bad at being what it is. Sure, it's not that great, and like I said, is a bit jumbled, but it reads some good Poe with some decent presentation. Granted, the use of The Raven is a bit forced. Finally, in the ending credits, it at least admits that it's 'adapted liberally from the works of Edgar Allan Poe'.


The acting is hard to talk about, since most of it's visual, with the players standing around, or running. With that limitation, they're still good. Although your first thought might be "He looks nothing like Edgar Allan Poe", David Gorlow is pretty good, and reads Poe decently, while Elyse Ashton has a nicely ooky presence. Christopher Pennock is sometimes over-the-top, but not bad. At first, I wasn't sure if he'd be the best pick for reading Poe. His usual tone of voice is a bit too boisterous and rambunctious in my eyes to evoke a subtle Gothic tone. So how does he fare? Well it's a bit of both. At the start and end, he comes across exactly as I'd expected, but in other spots, he delivers the prose well. Finally, Kelsey Hewlett is enjoyable to watch, as always. She's the one who has to work the hardest visually, since her character has the least dialogue. She performs well, and my biggest complaint about the movie is that I wish there was more for her to do. That's not much of a slight against it though, as she does still appear plenty.


The effects here are ok. The sets can sometimes look pretty fake, like they're just rooms that've been hastily filled with Gothic decorations, but other locations look decent, particularly the beach, despite its overuse. The make-up that Christopher Pennock's Death has is pretty faded, making it look a bit unconvincing...However, he looks GREAT when he appears at the beach in the black robes! That's my favourite moment from the movie!


The main theme is a piece of archive music (Camille Saint-Saƫns's Danse Macabre), which wouldn't necessarily matter, if it wasn't for the fact that it's pretty unfitting for the atmosphere. The rest of the score is decent. Some spots are really good, but there's not all that much music to be heard.

The direction is ok when the camera isn't unsteady, and Faraj never goes overboard with the dutch angles, thankfully. Some of the imagery is neat, from Poe standing at the edge of the pier, to the ghoulish wedding, and the flipped shot of the two lovers.


I really wanted to like this movie going in, and while I didn't love it, or even take to it all that much due to its confusing nature, it wasn't bad, and that's important for a Hollinsworth film. A Poem of Poe is tolerable, and a somewhat ooky thing to watch for the Halloween season. Plus, it stars Kelsey Hewlett, and that's always worth something...


Saturday, October 31, 2015

Halloween 2015


Hi everyone. Happy Halloween! Mine hasn't been all that great unfortunately, for a variety of reasons, not least of which is the complete lack of celebration it gets in Australia, resulting in a decidedly unfitting atmosphere, making it feel like just another day. *sigh*

Well anyway, I celebrated by preparing some snacks the night before-Some custard and jelly, and coconut chocolate balls-and watching the complete run of short-lived supernatural comedy series Dead Gorgeous.Despite how down I was feeling, that awesome show is always enough to raise my spirits.


As for my yearly Halloween poetry tradition, well obviously I've been feeling way too bleh today to pen anything, and I'm way too tired to now, given it's almost midnight. Instead, I'll make a separate post for them. And yes, I said 'them'. I'm going to write a few spooky poems! Inspiration courtesy of the awesome Emilie Rommel Shimkus!

So, to close, I hope everyone has had a fantastic Halloween, and I wish you all good luck!...

"Skulls are always so happy Maybe they haven't realized they're dead."

-Fran Bow

"It's nearly closing time, on a grey gloomy day..."

-The Secret Island of Dr. Quandary


More blank posts

I'm so sorry about these blank posts. I feel horrible about it. I've been so busy, and pretty overwhelmed. I didn't have the time to finish these reviews and essays. I will try to as soon as I can, and I hope this'll be the last time anything like this happens.

*This post will self-destruct in...*

An Essay on The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920) and Dr. Caligari (1989)

The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (2005)

An Essay on Fiancee of Dracula (2002)

I Am Nightmare (2014)

A Review and Essay of Heart String Marionette (2012)

A Look at Sandra's Little Girl Music Video (1985)

A Look at Singapore Sling (1990)

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Salad Fingers (2004-2013)


Back in 2004 was a somewhat different time for the internet. I can remember it, and I also remember being in school when Salad Fingers became an internet phenomena. Everyone in IT class (where we had access to computers, and a very lax teacher) would gather around a computer to watch the five episodes of this psychological horror/black comedy webseries. Following then, more episodes of Salad Fingers occasionally appeared, with David Firth usually making them a year apart, at least, with each one being anywhere from 5 to 10 minutes long.


In a desolate, post-apocalyptic world, a strange green man named Salad Fingers lives alone, with three puppets that he occasionally likes to taste. Aroused by the sensation of feeling rusty objects, particularly spoons, Salad Fingers is completely delusional, sometimes entertaining corpses as guests, measuring how far a tree is moving, or giving birth to inanimate black slime, along with more sinister things...

Unfortunately, as much as I loved it as a kid, Salad Fingers really doesn't hold up for me. I find it pretty boring, to be honest. Occasionally I got a chuckle from its black comedy, but for the most part, I just found everything to be dull.


Practically every plot is unrealized to its full potential. There could be so much creepy and bizarre stuff going on, but instead, there's just a few pointless scenes that don't go as far as they could have, and feel like they end too soon, then the episodes are over, with nothing having been accomplished, even in the context of a nonsense surrealist horror.


The soundtrack to Salad Fingers, which makes an attempt at being eerie, is made up of ambient minimalist tunes, including tracks from Aphex Twin and Boards of Canada, among others, and it can get tiresome pretty quickly. I like some Minimalistic music, but others, not so much. Beware the Friendly Stranger in particular, as it's a bit too soft and boring, never going anywhere. I mean, I know that Minimalist music deliberately doesn't 'go anywhere', but Friendly Stranger never goes anywhere. As for other tracks, such as the darker music that plays at certain points, it's apparently David Firth himself playing the guitar, reversed and slowed down. It works well, although it's pretty much the one short chord, repeated a lot over the whole series.


The animation is perfectly serviceable for a flash animated webseries. Is it basic? Sure, but that's ok, even if it does look really dated. It gets a bit better in the last two episodes (made in 2011 and 2013, respectively), as the characters aren't as stiff, move less awkwardly, Salad Fingers actually has arms in long shots, and the locations are a bit better done. They're still pretty blank, but they're an improvement.

The voice acting in Salad Fingers, pretty much entirely done by David Firth, is pretty good, even if it is clearly him playing multiple roles.


Overall, I find Salad Fingers to be a pretty boring and unenjoyable series, and a bit of a missed opportunity. If you want something with very dark and morbid humour to enjoy, all you need to do is go read some A Softer World. However, I am glad for its popularity. Not only did I enjoy it when I was a kid, but something this twisted going viral is always neat....

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Nattasha Bennett's First Video Review

Hi all. My online blogging and writing pal Natasha Smith (formerly Bennett), writer of such tales as War of the Soulites (a fantastic sci-fi horror trilogy as dark as Lexx), and Autumn's Spirit, has made a video review! She's no stranger to blogging, but this is her first effort at making a video review, and I'm here to plug it.

In this video Natasha is looking at a hilariously bad game rendition of the Bloody Mary tale for the Xbox 360. For a first-time video, it's well-done, and Natasha is a likable and humorous host.

This is still only a first video, so she is still finding her ground. As such, the choice of game for review is a short and simple one, and the video is only two minutes long. This is fine, as a shorter length can be good when one is still learning the kinks of producing such material, particularly for the first time.

So, if you have a couple minutes to spare, here's a neat video to watch, and if you want to read some of Natasha's reviews, her blog can be found here!...


Ghoulish Welcomes for a New October

Good evening, and welcome to October, the month where nightmares come true! AHAHAHAHAHAHAA! This month, I shall be looking at a wide variety of films, full of creeping terror! I'll also be penning some essays on certain horror films! Which, you wonder? You'll find out soon enough. No Doctor Mabuse movies though, unfortunately. I couldn't find any cheap copies of Testament/German language-English subtitles version of Thousand Eyes in time for October.

As Elvira, Our Lady of the Night says, unpleasant dreams...

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

The Girl Who Knew Too Much (1969)

On Moonlight Bay and By the Light of the Silvery Moon (1951 and 1953)

Noirhouse (2013-)

Slugterra (2012-)

The Devil's Nightmare (1971)

That Darn Cat (1965)


DC is a mischievous Siamese cat, who, while having what can be loosely described as owners, treats the whole neighbourhood as if it were his stomping ground. He steals food, tricks the nearby dog when it tries to chase him down, and eventually comes across two criminals who have kidnapped a bank teller, and are keeping her hostage. The woman is able to start carving 'Help' into her watch, and puts it around DC's neck, then lets him out.

The watch around DC's neck attracts the attention of one of his owners-Patti Randall-who, convinced that something is wrong, calls the FBI, and enlists the help of Agent Zeke Kelso. Together, they seek to use DC to determine just where these kidnappers are hiding...


That Darn Cat is a hilarious movie! While it's certainly kid-friendly, the plot is more adult than your usual Disney fare. None of the characters are children, and the plot would actually be pretty dark had the movie been a serious crime thriller, with its kidnapping-themed plot.

The great thing about the movie is how seriously it takes itself! It totally runs with the idea of the FBI using a cat as an (unwitting) informant as though it were totally sensible, albeit uncommon.


The humour in That Darn Cat ranges from visual and physical comedy, but also through the colourful players. The characters in That Darn Cat are a diverse and amusing bunch. The cat is an adorable costar, while Patti is a young and overzealous woman, but determined and clever. Thankfully the authority figures she approaches actually listen to her, which I appreciate so much! Agent Kelso is a by-the-books guy, and tough and resourceful when need be, including when he has to get his new agent's 'finger'-prints.

The remaining characters are an amusing bunch, from Roddy McDowall's unlikable prat, who wants DC to pay, and to court Patti's sister Inkie like crazy, and there's Patti's suitor Canoe, who's a dumb but lovable guy.


As for the hostage character, she doesn't get to do a whole lot, but I like that she's actually quite proactive, despite her situation, even setting the whole events of the film in motion, rather than only be a damsel in distress

Elsa Lanchester's scenes are entirely superfluous, but I don't care, as any chance to see her in a movie is a very good thing!


The acting here is really good. Dean Jones is extremely likable, with a great smile, while Hayley Mills is great fun as the other lead. Frank Gorshin is decent as one of the villains, while Neville Brand is hilarious as the other! He plays his role deadly serious, as though he were in a seedy crime movie, and it's so entertaining! With lines like "I've got 6 little lead-nosed friends, and they can all run faster than you can.", he's a great villain  for this movie! The rest of the cast are all good, from Elsa Lanchester, to Roddy McDowall.

And finally, I can't finish this review without talking about the feline stars! A few cats were apparently used for the role of DC, and they're all talented and adorable, providing some great visual humour!


That Darn Cat is a fantastic comedy, and never feels too long at two hours. It's a perfect way to spend an afternoon, and I can't recommend it enough!...

Sunday, September 27, 2015

The Goonies (1985)


The Goonies is regarded as one of the best and most quintessential kid's movies of the 1980's. I only saw it recently, unfortunately. So, did The Goonies hold up for me when I first saw it as an adult, or would I have had to have seen it as a child to gain a full appreciation for it? Let's find out!...


Out in the coastal Goon Docks, a country club has foreclosed on all the houses, and the families that live there will all be forced out. The kids, known as the Goonies, are despondent about the whole ordeal, but when they find a genuine treasure map hidden in an attic, they say 'what the hell' and decide that they might as well spend their last day together trying to save their homes. Along their journey to find the treasure of the pirate One Eyed Willie, they have to evade the criminal Fratelli family, while one of the group gets help from the deformed Sloth, the benevolent third brother in the family. The kids try to stay one step ahead of the Fratelli's, but also have to deal with a various assortment of deadly booby traps. As if that's going to stop them though...

Yes, The Goonies does hold up! It's a fantastic movie, and just as enjoyable now as it was thirty years ago!


Despite being a kid's movie, The Goonies is quite adult. You've got what seems like a hanged corpse to start the movie off, the kids swearing often (more realistic than 'gee willikers', that's for sure!), and they come across countless skeletons of murdered pirates along the way, as well as a recently frozen fresh corpse! It's a nice and dark atmosphere, and it never clashes with the story, nor is it ever too unsuitable for kids.

The story is a really fun adventure tale, and is a well-written spin on the old treasure hunting trope! The pacing is good, as is the direction (courtesy of Richard Donner, and Steven Spielberg), while the script of both funny, and at times nicely thrilling.


One interesting thing to note is a deleted scene involving a giant octopus! Sure glad that never made the final cut! It does get mentioned though, at the end, where it just comes across as the character's exaggerating a bit.

The comedy in the movie works, and never gets in the way of the story, nor does it feel out-of-place.
Thankfully the movie is never mean-spirited. While the character of Mouth can be a bit mean sometimes, he knows when to be serious, and is never horrible, thankfully.


The acting in The Goonies is really good! So many child actors, and not one of them turns in a bad performance, which is impressive! The protagonists are all likable too, which is a plus!

Sean Astin is fine, although his character seems a little too mature at times. Corey Feldman is amusing as the mischievous but smart Mouth. Chunk is a good character, though a bit underused, while the inventive and tech-savvy Data is pretty fun, and Ke Huy Quan isn't as annoying as he is as Short Round in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, which I put down to good direction (as he doesn't scream every line like he does in Temple of Doom), and Josh Brolin plays the straight man as Brand. I like the female characters too! They're likable, and aren't superfluous or anything, which is always great! Martha Plimpton as Stephanie is pretty funny, too!


The Fratelli family are amusing villains, with Anne Ramsey being the most distinctive and memorable. Robert Davi is good, but a bit wasted. Still, it's not like I can blame the filmmakers for that too much, seeing as how License to Kill didn't exist yet.


Probably the only real problem concerning the characters is that Chunk and Sloth are absent for a big stretch of the movie, and don't really share in on much of the adventure.

The effects in The Goonies are great! The location and props look really neat, as do the effects for Sloth!

Finally, there's the soundtrack. The scoring is all good, with the standout being Cindi Lauper's The Goonies R Good Enough main theme!


To finish, The Goonies totally holds up even if you've never seen it as a kid, and I totally recommend it! It's a fantastic way to spend an afternoon, and a much better flick to sit your kids down with than a lot of the crap out there!...

Monday, September 7, 2015

JourneyQuest (2010-)


Fantasy-comedies are a rare breed in film, which is a shame. The Deathstalker films are some of my all-time favourite movies, and I always wish that there were more films like them. Thankfully, there is at least one new thing, with indie webseries JourneyQuest...

JourneyQuest

An ineffectual wizard named Superfluous, or Perf for short (Christian Doyle), tough Elven warrior Nara (Anne Kennedy Brady), deadpan cleric Carrow (Brian Lewis), and murderously enthusiastic knight Glorion (Kevin Pitman) are on a quest to the Temple of All-Dooms to find and destroy the mythical Sword of Fighting. The sword, however, chooses Perf as the fated Chosen One, destined to kill the despotic Wicked Kings who rule over the land...


Coming for Dead Gentlemen Productions and Zombie Orpheus Entertainment, JourneyQuest is a webseries of 7 episodes that follow on from each-other, making up a 48 minute long movie. It may be relatively short, but it uses its time really well, providing a very funny fantasy adventure!

The humour is effective, and thankfully never unfunny. What comic relief there is (such as the Fighting Sword) is very funny, and the dialogue nearly had me in stitches at some points, such as with Carrow's 'return'.


The characters are all likable and amusing enough, and their interactions are entertaining, though we know practically nothing about them (something that's lampshaded to nice effect in the next series, in a good dramatic moment). Glorion the knight is a horrid person, but thanks to the actor's performance, he's so likable! He's doltish but positive, with an always-booming outdoors voice, and while what he's done is kinda depressing, his boisterous attitude is still fun to watch.

Then there's Wren the Bard, who's basically an omniscient overlooker. Gifted with Bardic Immunity, she never interacts with the rest of the cast, for the most part, but is still very important, and while she does largely vanish from the action after the first episode, the penultimate one is a very amusing one with how it ties in her peripheral involvement with events.


There aren't all that many villains for this story. There's the assassin who shows up near the end who works for the big bads, but until then, there are just some orcs. They're decent enough antagonists though, even if they don't really have much to do with the overall story (not counting the three surviving ones, who go on to be neat recurring additions in the next season).

The acting here is all good, and there's not one bad performance. Especially amusing and adorable is the awesomely named Emilie Rommel Shimkus as Wren the Bard. She's by far the best thing about the movie! She doesn't appear a whole lot, but she at least gets her fair share of screentime over the course of the short series.


JourneyQuest is of course a low-budget series, but that's never a problem, and the proceedings never look cheap. The location (a single forest, for the most part) looks nice, and is definitely fitting for this type of story.

The effects are all convincing and well-made. The make-up for the orcs is really good! The only problem is in a couple of close-ups of them, where you can just see part of the actors' bare necks. Only just though. This isn't a full Ed Wood type gaffe, but rather just an eensy little flub that I can forgive easily enough.


The score here is really good, with plenty of fantasy tunes, and a fun main theme!

JourneyQuest is a really good, very funny series, and I wholeheartedly recommend it!...

JourneyQuest: City of the Dead


Following on from the events of the last movie, the party, minus Glorion, are being held captive by an assassin working for the Wicked Kings, and she decides to take them to the evil monarchs, going through the deadly City of the Dead to avoid being followed. Meanwhile, the Bards Guild has predicted that this quest is shaping up to be a true epic for the ages, and decide to send suave expert bard Silver Tom (Fran Kranz) to intercept Wren, and try and usurp her role in the unfolding events...

City of the Dead isn't anywhere near as good as the first film by a long shot. Its biggest problem is a mix of plot, and characters. Firstly, there's little advancement of the ongoing narrative, but even worse is that there are quite a few large stretches without certain main characters, like a lucid Nara, Carrow, and most importantly, Wren! She's only the main character! Thankfully come the last third, the party is all together again, while Wren gets the screentime she deserves.


The other problem concerning the characters is that there's almost too damn many! The movie is nearly overcrowded with the sheer amount of different characters and plots. The villains aren't all that great so far either. The gestalt Wicked Kings aren't bad, but the fact that we don't even know who they are at first, or what they are makes them confusing, while the unnamed assassin lady is still around after the first season, and presumably will be in the third too, even though she really isn't that important a character! She's the kind of villain who serves to antagonize the heroes in the first act of a story, but as she has no relation to the story at all, and has no character to her, there's no point for her to be around so much.


Glorion's parts of the film are silly and fun (minus the first one, which is really depressing for the 'monsters' he kills!), even if they do get in the way of the main story, but at some point, the filmmakers must have run out of the allotted budget for his scenes, as we suddenly start getting scenes of a wizard guy we've never seen before watching the events on a crystal ball, with only a voiceover from Glorion, and little immediate explanation on what the hell is now going on. I wish they would have just not had any more Glorion scenes in the Temple of All-Dooms aside from a finale, and that way, we could've gotten more with the multitude of other characters in play. Thankfully with the way this part of the movie wraps up, it's not handled poorly.

Onto the positives. Despite the problems with the plot, there are some really good scenes. Mainly the more serious character moments, these parts really help the movie, and it's awesome seeing these characters become more endearing, rather than just be cardboard cutouts. The humour is still good too, although there aren't as many laugh-out-loud moments as in the first movie.

The direction here is really good, as is the staging, and the location work (which I'll get to later) complements them perfectly!


Perf starts coming more into his own by the end of the story, which is nice, while Nara is unfortunately underused for much of the first act. Carrow's storyline is well-crafted and interesting, and Death herself plays an important role with his current journey, with more to come down the road. The chieftain Karn has some amusing moments which act as a funny Conan the Barbarian parody, while the actor, Bob Sapp, does a good job at being both imposing, funny, and dramatic when the time calls for it. Semi-antagonistic Silver Tom is a fine new addition, and gives Wren someone else to interact with. The orc who ends up with the party is a decent character too, and his interactions with Perf are really helpful for both characters. Onto Glorion, I'm glad his parts of the movie have nothing to do with the main plot, because as lovable as he is, he's a horribly unlikable character, so him not making any impact on the grander story is nice. However, as he is completely superfluous to the story in every way, he's ultimately unnecessary.

Wren is once again a lovable character, and this really becomes her story (literally) to an extent this entry, and you really feel for her in her more dramatic scenes. The blossoming friendship/romance between her and the main orc (whose name I haven't caught) is nicely handled so far too!


The acting is still really good, which is impressive given the size of the cast. Some are merely good, and not particularly memorable, but never bad.

The location work in this season is beautiful! Not only are there more varied locations than just a forest this time, and they never look stagey, but some of the places on display here look stunning!


Use of CGI is still minimal. There's more than in the first season, but also more practical effects! Really the only obviously not-so-convincing computer effects are the establishing shots with Karn's tent. Everything else looks really good! The colour de-saturation for the moments in the City of the Dead look nice, and also sets the mood well. As for the practical effects, some of the more dismemberment-flavoured violence does look a bit fake (presumably knowingly so), but nothing really eye-rolling, and certainly not a problem given the low budget.

The score here is equally good as the first film's. I'm not sure how much, if any (besides the main theme of course) is recycled from the first season, but if that is the case, it's not that big an issue, as this is a webseries, and it's nice music!


To finish, while I didn't find City of the Dead to be nearly as good as its predecessor, it does have its moments for sure, and come the end, the plot is still interesting, and I'm eager to see what's next!...

Overall

The first season of JourneyQuest came out in late 2010, and the second in late 2012. Unfortunately, Season 3 isn't yet in development, as far as I know (although there is at least one scene filmed, which is a preview at the end of the first series). Due to the size of the project, and the fact that it's totally fan-funded, the makers need help. First, there's a mailing list that they need 4200 people to subscribe to before starting a kickstarter (and it's up to 4151!). So, if you're at all interested in watching JourneyQuest, you can either see it for free on its official Youtube channel, or you can help out the creators in making a third season by purchasing the two 'movies' on the fantastic GOG.com, like I did. I highly recommend that you do if this is your kind of series, because it is a highly enjoyable and funny fantasy epic!


The link to the Youtube playlist is here (https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLB600313D4723E21F), the links to the movies on GOG.com are here (http://www.gog.com/movie/journeyquest and http://www.gog.com/movie/journeyquest_city_of_the_dead), and the link to the RenewJQ mailing list is here (http://renewjourneyquest.zombieorpheus.com/). May a third season come soon!...