Butter Your POPCORN With Metafiction & Revenge

Popcorn. 1991. Directed by Mark Herrier. Screenplay by Alan Ormsby, from a story by Mitchell Smith.
Starring Jill Schoelen, Tom Villard, Dee Wallace, Derek Rydall, Malcolm Danare, Elliott Hurst, Ivette Soler, Freddie Simpson, Kelly Jo Minter, Karen Lorre, Ray Walston, & Tony Roberts.
Movie Partners/Trans-Atlantic Pictures
Rated R. 91 minutes.

POPCORN1There many critics who’ll say the 1990s were a bad era for the horror genre. This isn’t true, whatsoever. Only if you’re a snob. There were plenty of good to awesome horrors throughout the ’90s, not simply Scream knockoffs and lame attempts at carrying on the ’80s aesthetic.
Popcorn, the only feature film directed by Mark Herrier whom many will know as Billy from Porky’s, is a unique bit of horror, and not only because of the decade during which it arrived. There’s definitely still a leftover 80s style, though it isn’t forced, it’s entirely natural. Above all, the film’s metafiction and sense of intertextuality with other horror movies, the genre itself, really sells the entire deal thematically.
But it isn’t only writing, because beneath it is a slasher film. A young woman named Maggie (Jill Schoelen) begins discovering there’s more to her family than mom (Dee Wallace) has told her, involving a mysterious film and its director, a cult figure in the ’70s film community named Lanyard Gates. And throughout Maggie’s quest to discover the truth she faces all types of blood, ripped off faces, a homicidal all-night horrorthon, among other insanity.

Come into my head

From mentions of Ingmar Bergman to the merits of Police Academy – precursor to those excellent bits of dialogue in a film class during Scream 2 years later – it’s obvious the theme of this film is cinema itself. Of course that’s made even clearer with the all-night horror show the students at the high school intend on putting off. Plus, the discovery of Possessor, a (fake) long lost film reel leads us to the dark, eerie history of an avant-garde director with ties to the town, as well as Dee Wallace’s character and her daughter Maggie. Film, film, at every turn.
We’re also given the pleasure of watching films within the film, during the horrorthon the students throw. This is great metafiction, playing as intertextuality with other cinema; made all the better because they’re not actual films. Instead they’re extra short films directed by Alan Ormsby before he was fired, replaced by Herrier. Layers upon layers for what, on the exterior, appears as just another slasher.
The main focus of Popcorn is obsession, specifically centred on film. And in this sense, film is a view into the mind. Concepts that come involve faces, as in identity, and film characters versus real people. Lanyard Gates and his deadly obsession, the killer’s own obsession, blurs the line between fiction and reality. The film’s slasher aspect plays into these thematic ideas, as the new killer operates through use of masks. He goes from one face to the next, making masks out of his victims; this plays back to Leatherface and Tobe Hooper, also in a sense creating film characters out of the victims within their little universe inside the film.
Even the killer calls to mind these themes, reminding us that the past – knowledge of it, as in our knowledge of other movies in the genre – is necessary to us for the future.

Without memory there can be no retribution

On the other end of the spectrum, Popcorn is a delightfully nasty slasher at times without any symbolism or deep themes. It’s a revenge film, at its core. A man whose life was irreparably changed, shape by film using the cover of an all-night film showing for his various acts of revenge; a William Castle-type screening gone terribly wrong.
We get perhaps the genre’s most gruesome kiss, as a skin mask tears off the killer revealing his deformed face underneath. Truly, an all-time great horror moment, and certainly top of the ’90s! You’d have expected this to have been used in a Texas Chainsaw movie with Leatherface. A gnarly image, of the best kind.
There’s a sort of surreal mood at times, particularly earlier on. Actually, a scene with Dee Wallace doesn’t really make a whole lot of sense to me, yet it plays into the idea of fiction and reality blurring, so regardless it works. This helps to thrust us into the killer’s perspective, where horror crossed over from the screen into his life, scarring it and him forever. Aided by the killer speaking of his “soul” and “sustenance” as being his audience.
This leads us into the finale, an ironic sequence. A rear murder on stage, in place of a theatre screen, a precursor to the modern obsession with morbid videos, with the killer creating murderous reality in front of the audience rather than fiction while people cheer him on, not understanding it’s real. We get to a place where reality and fiction are indecipherable from one another; the theatre’s audience is the modern audience. It’s all one big surreal mix.
POPCORN4Popcorn finishes with dark irony. The killer is killed with a movie prop, a fake, flying insect which causes literal death, a smart end for the maniac. All the metafiction, the genre intertextuality rolls into one fitting death scene. Although the awful end credits rap is a bummer, just outright wretched garbage, this doesn’t take anything away from what followed.
It’s wild that this isn’t a more well known film. Lots of genre lovers have seen it, but it ought to be bigger. There’s a few missteps, a couple performances not up to par. Overall? A fun horror with equal amounts to think about and effects to enjoy. The bit of Dee Wallace we get, and Jill Schoelen, is fantastic, as usual.
This warrants a spot on any Halloween list or horror movie marathon. And what a title! Can’t be a coincidence. No matter what, you’ll find something to dig, whether it’s the killer’s face masks, the films within the film, the metafiction, the revenge; there’s plenty good stuff. Snatch up a copy this season.


WAXWORK’s Metafiction Comes Alive!

Waxwork. 1988. Directed & Written by Anthony Hickox.
Starring Zach Galligan, Jennifer Bassey, Joe Baker, Deborah Foreman, Michelle Johnson, David Warner, Eric Brown, Clare Carey, Buckley Norris, Dana Ashbrook, Micah Grant, Mihaly Meszraros, Jack David Walker, & John Rhys-Davies.
Vestron Pictures/Contemporary Films/HB Filmrullen
Rated R. 97 minutes.

WAXWORK4Father Gore’s been knocking down titles left and right lately, in pursuit of seeing every worthwhile horror out there. Particularly when it comes to the 1980s, certainly one of the best eras there’ll ever be for the genre. Not all of the horror that came out during the decade was spectacular, yet even some of those titles are fun. But the ’80s didn’t just come with an abundance of genre filmmaking, from slashers to supernatural killers to monsters and other creatures. No, we got plenty of sweet gold in amongst the rest.
That’s where Waxwork comes in. No doubt this flick did better on VHS and other later formats, and I’m sure it’s seen a resurgence over the past few years as genre fans snatch up better looking copies with the release of many older horror movies on Blu ray. It deserved better at the time of its release. This is a unique bit of cinema, a slightly metafictional story before Scream and its copycats almost a decade later, boasting effects that can go from spellbinding to gruesome in the blink of an eye.
Anthony Hickox’s cult horror takes the concept of the wax museum and twists it some, imagining it isn’t merely the wax figures that come alive, it’s the entire waxwork itself. The story and plot are fun, spooky, and the characters shine well through the smart writing. This isn’t as campy a horror-comedy as others of its ilk. Truthfully, there isn’t an overt amount of comedy, other than bits and pieces. Most of all, we get an urban adventure film crossed with horror, set in a regular neighbourhood where a waxwork opens up suddenly under the care of a mysterious man (David Warner); people go missing, movie monsters emerge, and only a couple high school students seem to understand.
WAXWORK1The nature of a waxwork allows for a sort of episodic telling of its tale, in that the main attraction of the film provides different predicaments, along with different monsters, killers, villains, so on, for the characters to confront.
Almost a surreal experience, as the characters step through the exhibits into another world, a place where waxworks aren’t just wax statues their sculptors built, they’re whole living environments full of all the familiar horror tropes, villains, whether human or monster. Some of these are the classics, like Frankenstein’s monster, Count Dracula, to the creepy baby from Larry Cohen’s It’s Alive and one of the pods from 1956’s Invasion of the Body Snatchers. It’s a ton of fun! Would’ve been even more interesting had legal reasons not prevented appearances by Jason Voorhees, a few kids from Village o the Damned, and even the planned cameo of a form of the creature from John Carpenter’s masterpiece The Thing.
While there are moments of comedy interspersed about the edges, the core of Waxwork is its terror. Partly built on atmosphere, aided by Gerry Lively’s wonderfully vibrant cinematography, and a fantastic, classic-sounding genre score courtesy of Roger Bellon. The other part, a major one, are the effects. We get gnarly blood at times, we also have great looking monsters courtesy of Bob Keen (Event HorizonNightbreedThe NeverEnding Story, & more). A favourite is the vampire feast at the table, a delightfully yucky moment of blood and slurping, sucking sounds that’ll gross you out, at least for a second. After that is the big basement scene, which becomes a blood-filled parade; and to think, there were major cuts here because it was gorier than the final product.

Theyll make a movie about anything these days

WAXWORK3The line uttered by Warner’s Willy Wonka-esque waxwork curator comes eight years before Craven’s Scream too metafiction and self-referential writing in the horror genre to new heights. There isn’t a ton of this in Waxwork, however, there’s just enough to enjoy. The owner sees the sculptures themselves as the real monsters, the actual version, and we know, from knowing the genre, the titles from which these monsters originate. So the duality there is a spot-on bit of metafictional writing, calling the horror lover’s mind outside of the film, making us look inward. Of course then characters are assaulted by various horror figures in the otherworldly exhibits, as metafiction comes to life and aims to kill.
Note: The purest moment of intertextuality between horror films is when we’re thrown into George A. Romero’s Night of the Living Dead; the monsters aren’t the only referential here, we’re literally dropped into a whole other film within this film. So much fun!
There are quirky characters on both sides, the good and the villainous. Above all, the characters feel engaging in a way that half of the ’80s horror character catalogue doesn’t, in that there’s a genuineness to these people, no matter how you feel about them. We don’t get all the backstory to the group of high school friends around which the plot centres, and that work swell. Through plot, the relationships we do see, we gain a sense of the characters and their personalities without requiring lengthy, chunky exposition, trying to tell us exactly what happened between Mark (Zach Galligan) and China (Michelle Johnson) before the film takes us into their lives. Instead it all comes out, Hickox shows rather than telling; in film, as in literature, this is always better, particularly in film because it’s a visual medium. Something so small and seemingly insignificant can make a horror even better than just its spectacular effects work and atmosphere.
WAXWORK2There are sometimes horrors that, when we see them, we don’t necessarily understand the hype around them from other people. Waxwork is entirely the opposite. It took so long for me to watch it that when I finally did I felt stupid for leaving it this long. It was always one of the VHS covers I saw at my local video rental shop, never biting the bullet and watching it, simply admiring the artwork. Shame on me, because this deserves an even bigger following than it’s gained over the years.
Waxwork is definitely one of the best horror flicks from the late ’80s, probably even the decade as a whole. Mainly, Hickox never pretends his film is more than it is, sticking to what makes it good – the near surreal atmosphere, great monsters, a dash or five of blood – and doesn’t aim to be anything else. The comedy helps round out a few scenes, but it’s always the horror that pulls us back in.
Recommend this for a crew of people. Few snacks, a drink, a joint, then dive into the surrealist waxwork in this little, unassuming neighbourhood, that could be anywhere. Could even be right down your street. Just watch out, keep an eye on those wax sculptures; there’s always more than meets the eye.

In Defence Of & In Love With SCREAM 4

Scream 4. 2011. Directed by Wes Craven. Screenplay by Kevin Williamson.
Starring Neve Campbell, Alison Brie, David Arquette, Courteney Cox, Hayden Panettiere, Emma Roberts, Marielle Jaffe, Marley Shelton, Erik Knudsen, Rory Culkin, Nico Tortorella, Anthony Anderson, Mary McDonnell, & Adam Brody.
Dimension Films/Corvus Corax Productions/Outerbanks Entertainment
Rated R. 111 minutes.

poster-scream-4When a franchise stretches out over a few decades, often times fans – horror fans in particular – can get fickle over what they want to see. And I don’t blame them. If you’re a huge fan of a series then it’s understandable to be guarded over the original film(s), to feel like even the original director-writer team might not be capable of matching what they did so long ago.
All those ideas go out the window with Scream 4. Sure, it’s 15 years later, and the generation of young people involved has changed significantly. There’s new technology, new rules to the slasher horror game. At the core, this both pays tribute to the original in huge ways, as well as forges its own path as a worthy sequel.
Craven and Williamson don’t get every little thing right. But they worked hard to give this the same creepiness and excitement as the first Scream, providing brand new characters in the landscape of Woodsboro and never forgetting the tried true originals of the franchise. Old meets new in the best, most genuine kind of way.
Scream-4-movie-imageThere’s always a stellar opening, even in the previous, lesser instalment. Craven and Williamson do not slouch here, either. One girl complains of no character development before characters die in Saw, when in fact we watch the young women in this opener die without any development whatsoever, similar to Drew Barrymore’s character in the original Scream. Williamson’s self-referential, tongue-in-cheek writing once more, as we cut to two other women watching Stab 6. They talk about the conventions and tropes of horror, so on, and then we again cut to two more girls watching Stab 7, further questioning the genre’s trappings. You almost, for a second, believe it’ll keep going, and going, one girl stabbed after the next. Great way for Craven and Williamson to poke fun at themselves, too.
One thing I dug about the last film was that composer Marco Beltrami used new pieces in the score, alongside some familiar ones, as well. The new compositions are fresh and interesting, they make the score feel new, yet at the same time we get those old sounds. With a new sequel 11 years since the previous entry in the series, Beltrami picked up where he left off while offering depth to his Scream repertoire.
Some gnarly kills worth seeing. One of the opening girls has her throat slit, and it is downright savage. When Perkins (Anderson) is stabbed in the head some find it funny, because of the “Fuck Bruce Willis” line. And yeah, it’s funny. Nasty all the same.
SPOILER ALERT: Charlie’s death is a disturbing one, very brutal. And when Jill does her best Tyler Durden I always find it pretty sickening, though fascinating; she thrashes the life out of herself, as the dying bodies of friends and family lay bleeding around her.
scream-4-2Part of what makes the screenplay work so well is the contempt of remakes, or at least the many awful remakes out there. In a fourth film, that’s sort of confident. This is not a remake, obviously, of the original, just a continuation of the story concerning Sidney Prescott (Campbell). But still, much of what they satirise in terms of remakes – mainly through snappy dialogue from Charlie (Culkin), Kirby (Panettiere), Robbie (Knudsen) – could be aimed at sequels, and definitely at sequels a little ways down the line.
Regardless, Williamson forges on with what made the first two films really impressive, that self-deprecating, self-referential style. It’s not all satire, though. We go back to the original by way of some Ghostface killing. Such as when Kirby watches Charlie from behind a glass door as he’s tied to a chair, just as Drew Barrymore’s character watched her boyfriend in Scream. Poor Kirby’s even subjected to another scary movie game. In other films this could feel cheese-filled to the brim. In the hands of Craven and Williamson, the scene comes off genuinely tense and, ultimately, horrific.
The biggest thing I love, story-wise, is that the Maureen Prescott’s been buried; pardon the pun. There’s no stretch, as in Scream 3 at times, to try attaching her character to the motive of the killers. Rather this story puts Sidney in the spotlight, even her family, cousin Jill (Roberts) and aunt Kate (McDonnell) get dragged into the terror. Whereas Sidney’s always been the main character, technically in that spotlight, the focus of the series in terms of why the murders were happening was Maureen. This entry in the series shifts focus wholly onto Sidney, which is, for her, unfortunately tragic.
scream-4-3Effectively, Williamson’s screenplay gets back to the interesting motives of the first two films. The motives have evolved, as have the killers. Here, the killers speak to the modern murder explanation of how the lust for fame can drive unstable people to untold, utterly insane lengths. Media begets the sick mind, in that a quest for fame can become out of control when celebrity is literally but a stab away. More relevant as of my writing in 2017 than even when it came out in 2011.
Scream 4 is a whole lot of fun, and holds its share of gruesomeness. Sidney has become like her mother in a way, as once Maureen loomed over Sidney and Woodsboro, but now her daughter looms over everyone. The terror she experienced at the hands of the various Ghostface killers encompassed a further generation of her family, creating all new dynamics, and in turn a new set of killers.
The callbacks to Scream are done so well, switching up situations and characters, self-parodying and being critical of sequels and remakes even when Craven himself has produced remakes. It’s just an example of why the first movie worked, why the second was also a powerhouse. Testament to the wonderful teamwork of Craven and Williamson. The willingness of this slasher franchise to be simultaneously satirical and also deadly serious from one moment to the next is a big part of why the movies have succeeded. A huge part of why I’ll always love them, and why Craven was a master.

SCREAM 3: One of These Things is Not Like the Other

Scream 3. 2000. Directed by Wes Craven. Screenplay by Ehren Kruger.
Starring Neve Campbell, Liev Schreiber, Roger Jackson, Courteney Cox, Patrick Dempsey, David Arquette, Scott Foley, Roger Corman, & Lance Henriksen.
Dimension Films/Konrad Pictures/Craven-Maddalena Films
Rated R. 116 minutes.

poster-scream-3For some the Scream franchise dragged on. For others, such as myself, we couldn’t get enough of it. Although it isn’t hard to admit that, at least for Scream 3, the prior quality dropped off. Not entirely. I can throw this one on and enjoy it while still acknowledging its glaring flaws. Mostly I dig that Ghostface is like a floating entity, sort of how in the Batman comics with Red Hood and the identity became one various criminals and others took up.
Craven does a nice job directing. This time around, Ehren Kruger (Arlington Road, The Ring) wrote the screenplay. And one of the problems, I feel, is that between Kruger’s draft and whatever Craven did during re-writes some of the story’s problems weren’t fine tuned. Something got lost along the way.
Nevertheless, I’m still fond. Scream 3, no matter how many blemishes, is an exciting slasher, warts and all. I have my beefs, but at the end of the day Ghostface’s return is a welcomed one. The story gets convoluted, simultaneously becoming even more twisted than the overall Maureen Prescott ever was before.
scream-3-2An excellent, fine tuned opener starts the film. I’ve always loved Liev Schreiber because I have a soft spot for the Ron Howard flick, Ransom (first time I remember seeing Liev in a role). And as Cotton Weary, he’s become a wildcard-type element in the Scream franchise. His time in the second movie setup a hopeful appearance here. Unfortunately for him he’s the first killed at the hands of our new Ghostface killer. Plenty of good, brutal horror fun. Also, we get a new, sinisterly playful dimension concerning the killer’s use of the voice changer over the phone. This introduction before the title makes clear: all bets are off.
There’s honestly a lot I love about this one. So sue me. For instance, my area of study is actually John Milton and his epic poem Paradise Lost. Well, that very name is used for the character played by Lance Henriksen, an old school Hollywood movie producer, who has something to do with Maureen, mother of Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell).
Once we discover the underbelly of Hollywood sucked Maureen in, Mr. Milton providing the path for her to walk on down, the reference takes on more life. In regards to Paradise Lost, it’s the story of man’s fall from grace, Garden of Eden, all that, and specifically we see Satan as the fallen angel – he goes to Earth, to try and tempt Adam and Eve into sin, so on. It’s a minor reference linked to a plot point. Props to Craven and Kruger for using it, though. An interesting little inclusion.
The two things I love most: the score from Marco Beltrami, his best stuff yet in the series, as he experimented with recording techniques to give a new sound to the familiar musical progressions we’ve heard in the other two films; and, the legitimately unsettling scenes involving Sid’s new home out in the woods, particularly when she has the dream of an apparition of her mother at the window, so creepy.
scream-3-1Biggest faults of Scream 3 are in the characters. In the mix, character development – other than Sidney, thankfully – gets lost, and their underdeveloped nature always leaves me wanting something more which never comes. Like Roman Bridger (Scott Foley), he could’ve been an awesome character. He’s left too generic to actually feel three-dimensional, and that becomes a big problem.
One of the film’s worst offences is the performance of Parker Posey. And if there is a god, strike me down, because I LOVE PARKER! I do. She’s so excellent most of the time. Here, she’s excruciatingly over the top. I don’t agree that’s part of the character; it is, only to an extent. She goes too far into the satirical where it becomes something out of a slapstick comedy, and that gives Scream an overload – the dark comedy, the self-deprecating lens, these are things Craven does well. Posey just takes it to a level that doesn’t work well with the other elements.
Herein lies the problem. Instead of mixing appropriately in a combination which compliments each aspect – such as the way the previous two entries in the series do satire and serious horror at once so well – Scream 3 wallows in a muddled tone. Feels like Craven could’ve used Kevin Williamson around to help iron things out.
scream-3-3The saving grace is truly Ms. Campbell. She’s fallen further into Sidney as a character with each movie. This time, even though she isn’t on screen as much as the first two, she anchors the rest of the performances to keep things solid. Even as other performances descend into parody instead of satire. Campbell is my generation’s kick ass Final Girl. The ultimate moment of Scream 3 is a proper bit of metafiction: Craven has Ghostface attack Sidney on the set of a new Stab movie, which is the exact replica of where she was first attacked in her home during the events of the original Scream.
I mean, it does not get any better than that!
Doesn’t matter to me that there are issues, even Posey’s terrible performance, the underdeveloped characters surrounding Sidney and the main core (Cox and Arquette are still enjoyable enough; at times the latter’s slightly irritating in this sequel). None of it matters too much. Although I don’t enjoy this one near as much as the first two, I still watch and enjoy. There are a couple classic Scream kills, splashes of blood, a depraved new addition to the Maureen Prescott story, and Roger Corman shows up for a cameo.
So maybe this doesn’t match up with any of the other entries. I actually dig Scream 4, way more than this one. But I don’t care because it mostly fits in with the entire series, and Craven still manages to freak me out now and then. I hope at least a few other people feel the same.

BE MY CAT: A FILM FOR ANNE is One Blurry Line Between Movies & Murder

Be My Cat: A Film for Anne. 2016. Directed & Written by Adrian Tofei.
Starring Adrian Tofei, Sonia Teodoriu, Florentina Hariton, & Alexandra Stroe.
Produced by Tofei. 87 minutes.
Not Rated.

★★★★posterFound footage annoys certain people. Me, I’m always willing to give it a chance. There’s a lot of good stuff out there – unique, innovative stuff. No shortage of it, but now and then you’ve got to dig through a heap of trash to find the diamonds. Be My Cat: A Film for Anne uses its found footage premise well, driving the main theme of the film: obsession.
Director and writer Adrian Tofei blurs the line between fiction and reality so well that at times it’s easy to forget you’re watching a film. Using the idea of trying to get the attention of Anne Hathaway in Hollywood, Tofei puts himself in the lead role of a director badly wanting to make a movie with her. This isn’t exactly a totally original premise. It’s the way Tofei enacts his plot, the dread which follows and everything in between that makes this slice of found footage different.
As is the case with most of the sub-genre, this entry doesn’t have much style to it. That matters not. Tofei’s acting, his eerie presence, and the raw qualities of the filming, these are elements which make this a worthwhile watch for any fans of the found footage style.
img_4032There are plenty films involving stalkers in this sub-genre, but they’re so often masked, or unseen behind the camera’s lens. Tofei is upfront and centre the entire time. This allows us a way into his mind, giving the audience a passenger side seat to the psychosis that overtakes him gradually; or maybe it’s been with him the whole time. Either way, it’s ugly. Not in a way which detracts from the story. There’s a compelling feel to watching this guy unravel.
Obsession is the theme driving everything. Underneath, this film is about the blur between fiction and reality. Philosopher Jean Baudrillard talked about the simulacra and how the world’s become hyperreal, in that everything real has more so become just a form of something fictional we all recognise (that’s a very liberal take on his extensive concept). In a way, this is how Be My Cat is structured. Tofei dives deeper and deeper with each scene into that psychosis I mentioned, along with the audience. The further he gets into the movie he’s making to send Anne, the more he feels justified in the things he’s doing. “This is the sacrifice Im making,” he tells the camera, as if urging us to believe in him. What happens is a process of dissociation. Tofei dissociates from the self, becoming his character – Adrian, himself – far too literally. Reminding us that he is in fact this character Adrian and not the real Adrian, he says: “I would never do something like this.” Real murder becomes mere character action, the progression of his psychosis is then development in his dangerous metafiction view of the world, through his film. It’s like method acting gone past the point of normal psychology.
img_4029The story’s trajectory is relatively obvious. Early on we understand there’s something not quite right with Adrian. Doesn’t take long. It’s how he takes us there that makes the plan uniquely terrifying. Adrian’s kinda crazy, kinda nonchalant attitude is unsettling, at the same time not wholly without charm either. His character, gradually flipping from fiction to reality to metafiction, engages the audience even in the slower scenes. You can’t help wondering what he’ll do or say next, which keeps you off balance, and never quite capable of pinning him down with any understanding.
A pivotal moment for his character comes when he says that “boys and dogs are bullies” when he talks about girls and cats. We hear a bit about why he likes cats, or why the character likes them. And this is one major point of division between Adrian and his fictional character Adrian. There’s a clear line you can follow, watching the dissociation get worse.
This movie isn’t built on shock value, either. You expect it to be, but what the story focuses on most is Adrian’s descent into fiction that becomes brutally real. Along the way there’s obviously blood. Rather than go for a gory mess constantly, the blood is at times partly off-screen and the full nastiness is hidden. What’s worse is one scene where a victim comes upon a slow realisation that Adrian is actually preparing to do a homemade dissection on her. Too creepy. He fully dissociates from reality at this point, the ultimate separation, and doesn’t for a single second come to grips with the real murder he’s committing.
img_4031I remember hearing of Be My Cat and just the short description, the Twitter account, caught my attention. There’s an edgy psychological aspect that sinks its teeth in and never lets go. Admittedly, I know that some may not find it as compelling. Not everyone wants to do a slow burn into madness in found footage format. And that’s fine, I understand. I suggest giving it a chance. Tofei has done something here that’s on the verge of greatness.
There are times you might feel the acting isn’t up to par. I disagree. Tofei’s uncomfortable moments are used to good effect, and that also plays into the worrisome metafiction of the film overall. The performances of the actresses are equally as impressive. When you fall down the rabbit hole of despair alongside the fictional Adrian Tofei and his unsuspecting victims it’s all the more troubling that the performances on either side of the murder-victim aisle pull you into a space where fiction gets questionable.
Can’t recommend this film enough. I’ve seen it described as revolutionary for the found footage sub-genre, as dangerous, many other things. They’re pretty much all right, as far as I’m concerned. Looking forward to whatever this guy takes on next. If Be My Cat is any indication, Tofei has an intriguing perspective on the horror genre.

SCREAM Slashes to the Core of Media Exploitation

Scream. 1996. Directed by Wes Craven. Screenplay by Kevin Williamson.
Starring Drew Barrymore, Roger Jackson, Neve Campbell, Skeet Ulrich, Courteney Cox, W. Earl Brown, Rose McGowan, David Arquette, Matthew Lillard, Jamie Kennedy, Liev Schrieber, & Henry Winkler.
Dimension Films/Woods Entertainment.
Rated R. 111 minutes.


Spoilers: It’s been 20 years. I guess if you’re young, you wouldn’t have seen it, or just haven’t yet gotten around to watching. For the rest of you: expect the spoilers, you’ve had two decades to see this movie. I’m going to spoil the shit out of it.
posterWhat can I possibly say about Scream that hasn’t already been said? Not much, probably. But it’s a slasher flick I enjoy endlessly. I still remember the first time I saw it – myself and my best friend, author Josh Goudie, nearly shit ourselves in unison when the phone rang as we watched the movie’s killer torment Drew Barrymore during the opening sequence. One of the undeniable kings of horror, Wes Craven worked at doing something different, fun, and still made it nasty.
There are lots of good ways to look at Scream, in terms of its metafictional moments and the self-referential screenplay. Beneath all that it’s simply a damn good horror. First-time screenwriter Kevin Williamson blew the doors wide open on his career with a sly script. And as grim as the plot gets, there’s always a funny yet never cheesy streak running through the dialogue, which constantly keeps you aware of the fact that neither Craven nor Williamson take themselves too seriously; in an excellent way.
Atmosphere, mood, tone. Combine these elements with the top notch screenplay out of Williamson, and Craven made a slasher that will continue to stand the test of time. It doesn’t feel dated 20 years on. Better yet, the screenplay is almost more relevant in this day and age when slut shaming is, tragically, all too common.
Scream is the story of when innocent women come up against angry men. It’s also a comment on the effects horror has in its viewers, how the sins of a parent (in this case the mother) are often held against the children, as well as how the media – including film – exploit the tragedies of victims.
pic1Let’s talk about the opening, okay? I mean, it was a stroke of genius for Barrymore to get axed early in the first reel. Spectacular move to throw people off, making clear: nobody is safe. This is one of the single most memorable slasher movie openers in the history of cinema, both for its snappy post-modern dialogue referencing everything from Freddy Krueger to Michael Myers to the Friday the 13th franchise, and also for the ghastly level of brutality heaped upon poor, helpless Drew. There’s a sense of menace building with every redial of the phone, the tension in the young woman’s voice getting thicker. Suspense is perfectly illustrated via the exploding Jiffy Pop on the stove top, acting as a timer, until all that tension is stretched razor thin, tight over the scene. Afterwards, Craven brings it all crashing down with the violent, tragic moments just before the film’s title slashes across the screen, and the plot begins unfolding.
Honestly, annoying as she is Gale Weathers (Courteney Cox) is one of the best characters out of the cast. She is the singular embodiment of Williamson’s thematic exploration on exploitation of tragedy. Her reporting style like somebody you’d now see on TMZ, the way she used Sidney Prescott’s (Neve Campbell) mother and her vicious murder to write a book, it’s rife with ideas about how the media wrings dry a tragedy to get ratings. Gale is a microcosm of the phenomenon where death, killers – especially serial killers – are all treated like a payday. More often than not, the victims’ families are barely considered, their feelings irrelevant in the face of money and ratings. Now, there’s also the fact that Cotton Weary (Liev Schreiber) is clearly innocent, as we discover after also finding out the real killers are Billy (Skeet Ulrich) and Stu (Matthew Lillard). This is a small reminder that even some of the sleaziest media types can be useful, every once and awhile. Nevertheless, Gale is an excellently written character, played to perfect annoyance by Cox.
pic2Craven is a master of suspense, and this film is no exception. Perhaps some of his best work in terms of suspense and the tension he draws out. He’s king at turning familiar places like the high school bathroom and a garage during a house party – supposedly safe places – into spaces of full-blown terror. Particularly the house party I find interesting. He takes the safety of a crowded house and renders it precarious as the archetypal empty house from so many other movies in the genre. Yes, it empties later. But even before that the packed party is eerily filled to the brim with danger, evidenced first and quite savagely by Tatum’s (Rose McGowan) death while grabbing a few beers in the garage.
With A Nightmare on Elm Street, Craven took the sense of safety out of sleep and dreams; no longer was it that dreams couldn’t hurt you, not when Freddy was kicking around. With Scream, he and Williamson make even your closest circle of friends fiendish and subject to suspicion. Not only friends, your teachers, your principal, the local cops. Anybody: the killer could be the one closest to you, and certainly with the revelation of the Ghostface killer(s), this proves might true. As if teenage years aren’t tough enough in terms of trust, Sidney experiences a violation of her most basic trust, infiltrated in an intensely emotional, personal way. Also, the fact the mask of the killer is a blank ghost sort of represents that anonymity even further than the physical mask itself: the blank, unknown face can be anyone, the black costume hiding body shape and size, the anonymous quality of a costume getting even deeper. The nightmare for Sidney is that the one she struggles to trust the most is one of the two killers trying to tear her life to bloody shreds.
pic3So many things to love about Craven’s movie. Scream has lots of fun bits in terms of references – Billy talks about The Exorcist and then Linda Blair shows up as a reporter later on; the “In your dreams” exchange between Sidney and Stu is an homage to A Nightmare on Elm Street; Billy Loomis’ name itself is an homage to Dr. Samuel Loomis from Halloween; Craven actually shows up as a dishevelled janitor named Fred, in the same Krueger costume from the original film. In terms of metafiction, this has all kinds.
I can honestly say Craven made a near perfect slasher. His game is on point and the ’90s would never have been the same if he and Williamson hadn’t shattered our perceptions of what a slasher movie had to say. Instead of solely relying on gore and a hidden killer, Scream involves the horror fan by playing to the tropes, even talking about them through motor mouth Randy (Jamie Kennedy in the only role he was born to play), as well as subverting the expectations we have concerning the slasher film sub-genre. Although, that isn’t to say Craven doesn’t get bloody. He does, and the whole effort is all the better for it. Because what’s any proper slasher without the right blood? No fucking slasher at all.

Deadpool is a Superhero Gone Superbad

Deadpool. 2016. Directed by Tim Miller. Screenplay by Rhett Reese & Paul Wernick.
Starring Ryan Reynolds, Karan Soni, Ed Skrein, Michael Benyaer, Stefan Kapici, Brianna Hildebrand, Style Dayne, Kyle Cassie, Taylor Hickson, T.J. Miller, Morena Baccarin, & Gina Carano. Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation/Marvel Entertainment/Kingberg Genre/Donners’ Company/TSG Entertainment.
Rated R. 108 minutes.

The only thing I’ve ever enjoyed that I know director Tim Miller was involved in is the way underrated 1995 Hideaway. Surprisingly, Deadpool is Miller’s first feature film. Not saying they shouldn’t have done it, but it blows me away they gave him the reins to this adaptation. The bet pays off. While this isn’t nearly what I’d call a revelation, as some people out there would have it be seen.
That being said, Deadpool is absolutely a solid, fun bit of cinema. A superhero movie technically, in category, there’s a bit more to it. The humour is better, obviously more nasty and foulmouthed than others. The action is wild, and at times a bit gruesome in an awesome comic book way. There’s a more interesting structure of storytelling that puts it above the other comic adaptations in Hollywood. Using the Rated R stamp, Miller, with a playfully devious screenplay from writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick, crafts one of the best superhero movies to date. I’m not a hardcore comic fan, not for a long time. But the Deadpool comics were some I read, as well as X-Men, Batman, and others. I feel like this adaptation was made not simply for nerds, but with the readers of the comics in mind – and taking into consideration they’re now adults. So away with the campy, light visions of superheroes and the villains they confront. This carves out its own niche.
For those who don’t know, Deadpool was Wade Wilson (Ryan Reynolds) once upon a time. He had a nice life brewing with Vanessa (Morena Baccarin). Then, he became riddled with cancer.
Conveniently enough, later he gets recruited to have some experiments done on him. The villainous Ajax – a.k.a Francis Freeman (Ed Skrein) – does it, destroys his face, makes him hideous.
Left on his own, Wade takes up the moniker Deadpool. He hunts down Ajax to try and take revenge for what’s happened to him. What ensues is darkly comedic, foolishness, nasty, and violent, as Deadpool slices, dices, joking his way from start to finish.
I have to say, above all else Deadpool is subversive. From the very beginning, even the credits are lampooning the seriousness of comic book superhero movies already out there – “Written by the real heroes here” is an awesome touch. But immediately this obviously sets itself apart from the regular pack of Marvel films thus far. The metafiction elements of the Deadpool comics come out quickly. Some of them are misses. One of the early Wolverine/Hugh Jackman references made me laugh out loud. A few of the lines were just crude and not actually funny. A lot of them were pop culture references and gags that definitely worked, and they were in the spirit of today – instead of sticking with references from the period of the comics themselves. The best is that Deadpool skewers the Marvel movies themselves even, or just poking fun at little bits and pieces. My favourite of those is when Colossus says he’ll take Deadpool to see the Professor, to which Deadpool responds: “Which oneMcAvoy or Stewart? These timelines are so confusing.”
The pacing of the film is proper, as we’re almost introduced to the schizophrenia of Deadpool through how many jokes and foolishness are packed tight into the dialogue. I mean, Deadpool is a mile a minute, like the comics. And that’s due to the writing. How we’re introduced quickly to Wade as Deadpool then work back through his story, it’s more interesting than the way we’ve seen the stories of other superheroes in other films. Because the story of Wilson up until he becomes Deadpool is, if we’re being realistic, sort of cliche in terms of comic book characters – we recognize it especially because the whole thing rings bells re: Wolverine, just a different treatment (plus the comics had Wolverine’s blood used in the experiment on Wade, so, yeah). But that’s not a bad thing. Because it’s only that one component, then everything else becomes a subversive, edgy take on superheroes. As well as just downright balls-to-the-wall fun in a Rated R romp. Not that it makes any grand statements. Only that the writing is significantly different, and that’s refreshing. We even get Deadpool commenting on the genre within his dialogue, breaking the Fourth Wall as we go along. Then there are just completely hilarious, laugh out loud lines, such as when Deadpool calls Professor X a “Heavens Gate looking motherfucker” and many more.
Wade: “Fourth wall break inside a fourth wall break. Thats likesixteen walls.”DEADPOOL
I firmly believe nobody else in Hollywood could’ve played Deadpool. The character is too goofy, too fun, all while being annoying and charming wrapped into one. Ryan Reynolds was almost born to play this one role. He has the physicality, obviously, needed to play a superhero character. And no matter how funny I find Hugh Jackman can be, and James McAvoy too in a sly sense, the material of Deadpool is what allows Reynolds to knock it out of the park. His portrayal and the adaptation of his character to film are equal parts what make this so worthwhile. There are a few misses along the way in the writing, ones even Reynolds can’t save. In the end, though, the energy of his performance is undeniably infectious.
Over everything else, the screenplay for this film is what makes it so spectacular. While keeping certain elements of the superhero movie genre, Deadpool totally subverts it at the same time, making fun while being a part of the gang. It’s the oddball out at the party, just like its titular character. And that’s what makes it wonderful. Because the filmmakers simply go for broke.