Month: June 2014

Fire City: Interpreter Of Signs/Harbinger Down

Tom Woodruff,Jr and Alec Gillis are behind two of the best films you’ll see this year.

Those names may or may not be familiar to you, even if they’re not you’ll be familiar with their work. Together the pair head up Amalgamated Dynamics Inc and between them the pair have created practical FX for classic films like Alien, Aliens, The Terminator, Predator, Starship Troopers, Tremors and plenty more.

Recently though the pair have been involved with two distinctly different but equally interesting and impressive looking projects. The first being Fire 9b6659b2ba6205ebff3bb963cd8573e2_largeCity: Interpreter Of Signs and the second being Harbinger Down.

What’s really interesting though is that both of these projects have come about thanks to crowdfunding.

Fire City created by Brian Lobocki and Michael Hayes , is a shadowy noir tinged world in which humans live obliviously alongside demons. Wanting to create a film set in their engrossing world but wanting to do it properly without an over reliance on unconvincing digital FX the pair reached out to Amalgamated Dynamics Inc who liked the ideas behind Fire City.

Interpreter Of Signs is the tale of Atum Vine a 700 year old Demon in the guise of a 30 year old, to the humans he is the drug dealer at the end of the hall in a beat up tenement building, to his fellow demons however he deals in something more potent – human misery. Then one day everything changes. The steady flow of addicts stops showing up, and the humans stop their predictable and lucrative self destructive behaviour, the alcoholic mother stops drinking, the wife beater stops swinging his fists and the deadbeat dad turns into a model father . When Atum visits Cornelia, an interpreter of signs or fortune teller in the demon world the pair discover something is very, very wrong.

Fire City: Interpreter Of Signs is written by Brian Lobocki and Michael Hayes and set to be the first in a series of films set in the Fire City world.  The pair also wrote the short Fire City: King Of Miseries which was directed by Tom Woodruff,Jr who is also directing Interpreter Of Signs.

Fire City manages to blend noir style atmosphere with an otherworldly vibe and some impressive looking demons, the blending of these elements is a little reminiscent of the critically acclaimed comic Hellblazer.

Visit FireCity.com or Interpreter Of Signs on Facebook.

 Harbinger Down is a completely different affair,

Disheartened at the film industry shunning practical FX in favor of digital imagery the pair reached out to their fans on Kickstarter and said they’d put all their skills and knowledge from decades in the industry into a film which celebrated practical FX like films used to and Harbinger Down is the result.

325f34345c54e80fca2cd779649e33cc_largeThe film centres around a group of grad students who have booked passage on skipper Graff’s (Lance Henriksen) fishing trawler Harbinger to study the effects of global warming on a pod of Orcas in the Bering Sea. When the ship’s crew dredges up a piece of old Soviet space wreckage entombed in ice, they find out that the Russians had been experimenting on tardigrades, tiny resilient creatures capable of surviving in space. After decades frozen in ice they’re waking up, mutated and the creatures aren’t about to give up the warmth of human companionship.

Harbinger Down ,written and directed by Alec Gillis, is very much in the style of the classic sci-fi horror creature features that are generally associated with the 80’s. A decade that produced numerous classic sci-fi and horror films, many of which had stunning practical FX work in an era long before digital trickery became common place in film.

Whether it’s Ray Harryhausen’s infamous stop motion FX, like the skeletons in the 60’s classic Jason and the Argonauts or something more recent Alien VS. Predator there’s something about practical FX that always beats whatever a computer conjures up. The tangibility of having something there is often lost in many modern productions and often it’s left to actors to try and smooth over the cracks, as seen in HBO’s Game Of Thrones, where Emilia Clarke as Daenerys Targaryen is often reacting to digital FX.

Visit Harbingerdown.com   or HarbingerDown    on Facebook.

Willow Creek

Willow Creek written and directed by Bobcat Goldthwait takes the over used “found footage”approach and whilst not really doing anything innovative what it does do, it does that well that it becomes a moot point.

Jim (Bryce Johnston) and his girlfriend Kelly (Alexie Gilmore) are visiting Willow Creek the home of the Bigfoot legend, the fabled huge Ape like bipeds. This was the site that the infamous Patterson-Gimlin film was shot at.

Since “The Blair Witch Project” in 1999 the “Found Footage” device has been used numerous times usually for horror films which range from the impressive like 2007’s Spanish chiller “[REC]” to the more recent and distinctly less impressive Paranormal Activity films. There have been a few none horror films though like 2008’s “Cloverfield” and “Chronicle” in 2012. “[REC]” was that popular it spawned the American remake Quarantine which like most remakes of foreign language films was lacking everything that made the original so effective.

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It doesn’t take long before it’s revealed that actually Kelly isn’t as enthusiastic about this trip as her boyfriend is, she’s only going along because he’s so invested in it. This fundamental of their relationship becomes more and more apparent as things unfold.

The botched and repeated takes of interviews with locals who have some sort of connection with the attraction that Bigfoot has become are pretty much what’s to be expected but what is a neat touch is that some of the subjects don’t share Jim’s belief in or enthusiasm for the mythical biped.

For the majority of its running time some might accuse Willow Creek of being a film where nothing happens but they’d be missing the point, a lot happens here. There’s a genuine sense of this being something pretty normal, the main conceit of the found footage device, then when the viewer has been lulled into a false of security things get distinctly not normal.

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It’s the third act here that really capitalises on the tone that’s been established previously with the pair pitching their tent for the night.

Atmosphere is key to any film , especially horror. A screen full of gore and viscera isn’t unnerving in itself without any atmospheric context. The sight of Jason gutting some nubile teen in the woods isn’t scary or unnerving, whereas Pinheads first appearance in Hellraiser definitely ranks as being far more unnerving because of its atmospheric context.  Willow Creek runs on atmosphere and its the third act where the engine really kicks up a gear.

Anyone dismissing Willow Creek out of hand for its narrative device will be missing out on one of the better examples of that device.

Public Sex, Private Lives

Shot over several years and funded via Kickstarter Simone Jude’s Public Sex, Private Lives profiles three women working in the adult film industry or to use the more commonly used term “Porn stars”. The use of the term Porn Star immediately conjures associated stereotypes that society has formed about people that happen to be working in the adult film industry.

The film focusses on Princess Donna, Lorelei Lee and Isis Love.

What becomes immediately apparent is that all three are different in both personality and circumstance. Princess Donna despite having the professional persona of a dominatrix as both a director and performer is quirky and witty but ultimately vulnerable, Lorelei Lee is articulate and intelligent and Isis Love is a feisty single mum trying to raise her son.

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That porn stars might actually enjoy what they do contrasts heavily with the stereotype that has been built up in a society that is hypocritically puritanical when it comes to sex and porn, after all the porn business is incredibly lucrative so somebody must be watching it. The cliched stereotypes of addiction, tragic broken lives, exploitation and desperation contrast with the women featured here but should that be such a surprise?

In a highly judgemental society the idea that people have sex in front of other people and cameras for a living is a bit hard to process for some, that they are actually doing it willingly and happily even more so and if it just happens to be BDSM fetishistic material (which all three are known for) then that’s even more taboo. Given that Fifty Shades of Grey which is based around a BDSM centric (even if how well it portrays it is debatable) relationship was phenomenally popular, kick starting a whole literary sub-genre along with a sales spike for sex oriented retailers like Anne Summers shows that the hypocritical puritanical views are even more prevalent for BDSM than more mainstream adult entertainment.

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Listening to Princess Donna describe her approach to shooting porn, and she has no qualms with calling it that, as something she takes pride in and is invested in is no different than listening to a big name director talking about his latest film the only difference is the judgement society lays on the former rather than the latter.

One of the surprises, which shouldn’t really be a surprise, is that in the glimpses of behind the scenes footage people are smiling and even laughing in places, pretty much like on any other production.

By the time the credits roll it’s clear that like most people actually what matters most to these women is family and love whether it’s Lorelei Lee and her relationship with Tomkat who she met through her work, Princess Donna and her relationship with her mother or Isis Love and her relationship with her son, a role in which Love not only inspires but amazes with her tenacity in an age where single mums are demonised.

What is surprising is just how much of an emotional punch this packs,  with tension and drama coming from Lorelei Lee being entangled in an obscenity trial, Isis Love having a run in with CPS but most poignant is Princess Donna, someone who is fierce and dominant for a living tearfully reading out a letter to her late father at an awards ceremony.

Rent it/ buy it at Vimeo

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