Dem Bones In Da Movies

JA 2We’ve all got them. We just don’t like to think about them. Nevertheless bones are everywhere in the movies. Most commonly they’re used in horror flicks to get a quick and easy shock reaction. Nothing reinforces the grim reality of death better than a skull, or spectral finger pointed in the audience’s direction.

Dig a little deeper however and you’ll find bones have been employed creatively throughout cinema history. Whether entertaining children or even hinting at the nature of the universe, there’s a lot more to the matter than meets the eye… well, ocular socket anyway.

So make sure you’ve drunk your milk because I’m taking you on a rattling good tour of the various ways in which moviemakers have made us aware of what lies just under the skin…

INDIANA JONES & THE KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKULL

IJ CS​​Harrison Ford may find his next foray with a fedora and bullwhip rather poignant, as the pensionable adventurer excavates yet more danger and derring do for Indiana Jones 5. Spooling back to 2008 though, his last outing featured the remains of an ancient civilization, but one of the like he’d never seen before.

Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull brought Indy face to face with a bonce of unimaginable power, in a belated tale of father-son bonding, flesh-eating ants, Cate Blanchett going the full smoked ham and the important advice that you can avoid a nuclear blast by hiding in a fridge.

The big finale, set in an Amazon temple, saw the crystal artefact’s true purpose revealed – in a first for the series Dr Jones got introduced to aliens, and director Steven Spielberg wasn’t in the mood to make them cuddly. The producers put all their eggs in one basket for a climax that had something for everyone… and at its centre was that eerie, all-knowing skull.

CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE RED SKULL ​                                                            RS

The star-spangled shield slinger is really up against it in the Marvel Cinematic Universe at present. Having battled Ultron, he’s locking horns with former friend Iron Man for his third movie, Civil War. But there’s only one true nemesis for Captain America – old war foe The Red Skull.

His terrifying appearance was due to an attempt to become a supersoldier like Chris Evans’ title hero, an experiment which went ever so slightly wrong. Cap then took on Skull over possession of the fearsome Tesseract, a relic capable of giving its user unlimited energy.

This bald bad ass has the full complement of evil credentials. He’s a Nazi. He has an insatiable thirst for power. And above all he’s only got half a face. Woe bedtide the underling who suggests he needs a nose job.

DON’T BE AFRAID OF THE DARK: TOOTH FAIRIES

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Mad Mexican helmer Gullermo del Toro has a tendency to take established ideas and give them his own warped spin, to great critical and commercial effect. An obscure TV movie about goblins became a passion project for him forty-odd years after it first aired – 2010’s Don’t Be Afraid Of The Dark.

Handsome yet haunted couple Guy Pearce and Katie Holmes moved into a perilous pile of prime real estate that unbeknownst to them had a history of carnage, care of some child-seeking tiny creatures. The dark dynamo reworked these as tooth fairies, though left the directing honours to comic book guy Troy Nixey.

Why tooth fairies? Because they liked to feast on your pearly whites of course! The monsters enjoyed getting their teeth into your teeth, a concept del Toro had previously explored in Hellboy sequel The Golden Army.

ONE OF OUR DINOSAURS IS MISSING: APATOSAURUS SKELETON

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​While you’re marvelling at the rampaging skinless T-Rex at the centre of the Night At The Museum franchise, spare a thought for the movie that came first in that predatory respect –  1975’s One Of Our Dinosaurs Is Missing.

The Disney classic featured the Natural History Museum as the venue for slapstick-fuelled mayhem. The multi-boned Apatosaurus exhibit was chosen as an unlikely place to hide a microfilm by crusading Brit Lord Southmere (Derek Nimmo). From there ensued a battle of wits between the Chinese government and, erm, some nannies.

The film is well-remembered for the spectacle of the former flesh eater being driven around London on the back of a steam lorry. The presence of Peter Ustinov as ethnically questionable character Hnup Wan – alongside Carry On stars Joan Sims and Bernard Bresslaw – also raised eyebrows.

THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS: JACK SKELLINGTON

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One of the most famous onscreen skeletons of all wasn’t made of calcium but modelling clay. Tim Burton proved the perfect candidate to create a heartwarming family tale based on his dark verse, which made Jack Skellington the all-singing, all-dancing focus. Henry Selick sat in the director’s chair, moulding the movie’s plasticine legs.

The story is as well-known as a Grimm’s fairy tale, but in case you’re out of the loop, here it is. Skellington was the toast of Halloween Town, until he stumbled upon Christmas Town, and his whole attitude to life changed as he attempted to bring the two sides of the coin together for a bizarre and brutal festive experience.

Jack had quite a pedigree behind the scenes – his elegant vocals came courtesy of regular Burton composer Danny Elfman, but his lines were delivered by Chris Sarandon, better known as vampire hunk Jerry Dandrige in the original Fright Night.

JURASSIC PARK: RAPTOR CLAW

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​Sometimes the smallest things can be the most powerful, an idea ably demonstrated by Steven Spielberg in 1993 game changer Jurassic Park. It wasn’t all giant scaly horrors running around the place gobbling up lawyers and giving Newman from Seinfeld a venom facial.

Before we even saw a “living” dinosaur we were introduced to rebel paleontologist Alan Grant (Sam Neill), who gave a mouthy young scamp an education on velociraptor hunting habits at a dig site. His illustrative tool? A rather nasty-looking claw. As the accompanying picture shows it wasn’t long before the kid was seeing those so-called relics in a whole new light.

It was in many ways a quiet scene, but one underscored by a playful bite. Neill’s laid back tones, contrasting with the vivid subject matter being described, set the scene for the theme park-based action horror fest to come. The actor returned for Jurassic Park III. Sadly the claw didn’t.

THE SKULL

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Though Hammer Studios made a lasting mark on the British horror film it’s easy to overlook the contribution of Amicus Productions, who specialized in gore-filled compendiums. These typically depicted several grisly chapters under the umbrella of one movie. In the mid-Sixties they had a go at beating Hammer at their own game in our next bony slice of terror, The Skull.

Based around the idea of the late Marquis de Sade’s noggin being detached, enabling the decapitator to use its evil powers, the story (by Psycho’s Robert Bloch) starred Peter Cushing as a supernatural anorak who came into possession of the title object, complete with terrifying telepathic abilities. This inanimate neck topper left a trail of death and destruction in its cranial wake.

The Skull has unfortunately not survived well against the likes of Dracula: Prince Of Darkness and The Devil Rides Out, but it carried a welter of talent both in front of and behind the camera: Christopher Lee and Michael Gough shared the screen with Cushing and Freddie Francis lined the lurid lenses.

2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY: BONE THROW

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​The most important bone on this list (stop sniggering) is also the most important in human history, according to Stanley Kubrick’s epic 1968 collaboration with Arthur C Clarke. Trying to get the story of 2001 down in one paragraph would be stupider than a neanderthal eating his own dung, but here are the basics.

Back at the dawn of intelligent life on Earth a monolith appeared, heralding a strange, ominous, mysterious and beautiful introduction into the world of an interplanetary power. Got that? Good. In a lengthy opening sequence we hung out with primitive humanity as they eked out their existence on the barren landscape.

One particular primate discovered the power of a bone as the way forward for his species – an emblem of Mankind’s capacity to create and destroy. He promptly chucked it into the air, where Kubrick cleverly cut from its spinning trajectory to that of a ship hanging in space. The scene straddled our primal past and hi tech future in one striking gesture.​

PREDATOR 2: XENOMORPH TROPHY

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This nod to the Dark Horse comic looked like a throwaway thing, but turned out to be the biggest blink and you’ll miss it moment of recent times. ​It was just a fleeting appearance, but the in joke of a xenomorph skull on a spaceship in the latter’s Arnie-free sequel created a momentum that led to a whole other horror franchise.​

Danny Glover felt too old for the shit of Lethal Weapon, but was the right age it seemed for this crock of urban action, which relocated the title monster from the great outdoors to the City of Angels. The climactic scenes saw Glover access the Predator’s crib where he stumbled on its macabre trophy collection.

Over a decade later the potential was capitalized on with Alien vs Predator. It didn’t receive a red hot reception, but gave rise to a bizarre follow up, in addition to the dreadlocked death dealer taking centre stage again for Predators.

JASON & THE ARGONAUTS: UNDEAD ARMY

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Animator Ray Harryhausen was one of the driving forces behind stop motion production. If he hadn’t sat there patiently manipulating and snapping all those fantasy creations we wouldn’t have had the spectacles of the Sinbad movies or Clash Of The Titans. From Minotaur to Medusa, he gave generations of kids nightmares.

Jason & The Argonauts, my final entry, was one of his crowning achievements. The bronzed and bearded Todd Armstrong went on a quest across the exotic and creature-strewn Colchis, in search of the fabled Golden Fleece. He encountered various fully-poseable beasties, but Harryhausen saved the best and indeed boniest for last.

The final section of the film showcased a massive swordfight between Jason’s men and a team of skeletal warriors brought up from the earth by the evil Aeëtes​. He even used the teeth of the fearsome Hydra as seeds from which to grow the menace. This sequence is so perfectly executed, blending actors and effects, that it still looks as impressive now as it did back in 1963.

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“I wanted to create an axe murderer with the feet of Fred Astaire…” Logan Huffman Interview For ‘Final Girl’ (The Hollywood News)

LH FGFinal Girl heads to DVD this week, following last month’s UK premiere at FrightFest. Directed by photographer Tyler Shields, it’s a noir-inspired horror that provides something different amongst the assorted gorefests competing for fans’ attention. One of its key players is Logan Huffman as axe-happy teen torturer Danny, whose plans for the seemingly-helpless Veronica (Abigail Breslin) take a nasty and unexpectedly surreal turn.

I caught up with him for an intriguing chat about the improvised nature of his role, the way the movie changed as it went along and his thoughts on the genre in general. He also offered up a memory of late director Wes Craven, somewhat appropriate given recent sad news…

The film is kind of unique compared to today’s horror movies. How did you come to be involved?

Well Tyler and I have been buddies for a while and I’ve been shooting with him for a bit. And he just called me up, asked me if I wanted to do it, so I did it. I’ve been studying and training in vaudeville for three years, so I’d been waiting for the right character to do vaudeville work. Danny wasn’t written as anything when I saw the script, so I just kind of went with it. Tyler and I are good buddies, so he just kind of let me say what I wanted to say and do what I wanted to do. I wanted to create an axe murderer with the feet of Fred Astaire, you know?

Your character is the most distinctive in the movie, with the big hair and of course the axe!

I usually have my hair grown out real long. My first scene was the dancing scene, but it wasn’t written as a dancing scene, I was supposed to just be polishing my shoe. But I grew up in a rockabilly family see, so I wore a pompadour my entire childhood. My first car was a ‘56 Mercury. My Dad rolled around in a ‘56 Chevy. My brother had a 29 Model Line pick up truck hot rodded out like John Milner. So I wanted to pay homage to all that jazz, I wanted to create a Looney Tunes character. I walked up to Tyler and I said “Hey man! I wanna put my hair up really, really tall, almost like a rooster. I want this guy to be kind of a metaphor for a big cock!” A big rooster… because, you know, I’m method. Tyler saw me just once, for the entire filming process (in Canada), and when he saw me back in LA I was Logan again.

I started balancing the axe, because I carried Anna Belle with me the whole time. I always make friends with the props department, your props are everything. I grabbed Anna Belle, and I carried her the whole entire time. I got the vibe and tried to balance her with one finger, and then Tyler knew I knew how to swing. So I did a little swing dancing, and Tyler said “Do a little dance for us and walk out.”

I notice you named the axe! Where did that come from?

Just something sweet and pleasant. Being from Indiana I always kind of had the crushes on the girls with the two names, and I thought Anna Belle was kind of a sweet name. And she just spoke to me, I didn’t really… objects have souls, so I just listened to it. Anna Belle seemed fitting.

I interviewed Tyler earlier in the month, and he mentioned you and the other actors… you kind of appropriated your wardrobe and went out on the streets of Vancouver. What sort of stuff did you guys get up to out there?

We just went to a couple of bars, chased blonde women… I scared a few of ‘em off, but we had a good time, just talked and meddled around, you know? Made good conversation.

I trust you didn’t take the axe out with you…

No, but I carried a switchblade in my pocket. Kidding! (Laughs)

How did Tyler explain some of the stranger aspects to you? The film becomes increasingly hallucinogenic and trippy during the last act when Veronica drugs her attackers…

Well Tyler’s original edit, it was a little… they always want to put in stuff and make it look a little bit more trippy, but his original interpretation was very straightforward and more classical. Me and him we… all the movies I watch are 1962 and back. I enjoy that era and I enjoy that time. So the thing I liked about Tyler’s shooting is there’s a lot of wides, and there’s lots of things quiet, just like how an old film does it. You know how it is, they come in and they change a few things… I can’t wait for the director’s cut to come out at some point, because you don’t find out she’s an assassin until they’re in the woods.

Tyler’s never had a sip of alcohol, or cigarette, or any form of drugs. I think it was more his interpretation mentally, of having an abstract mind. And they had abstract minds these gentlemen, it was about what they truly feared. That was the most fascinating aspect of it. We never focused on the drug, we focused on our deepest fears.

AB FGThe film’s having its UK premiere at FrightFest. Bearing in mind what you were saying about the era of movies you like, were you a fan of horror films coming into the project?

Yeah, when I was a little boy every Christmas I would get a Bela Lugosi or Lon Chaney movie inside my stocking. I’ve always loved horror movies. I like ‘em when there’s a lot of fog and that spooky way about ‘em. Good lighting. So this was really fulfilling for me. I’m going to do another horror movie this month which I’m really excited about, I get to be a cannibal. Yeah I can’t wait to do that man. He’s obsessed with jazz of the Fifties and Sixties, so it’ll be cool.

He won’t be anything like Danny. Wes Craven told me that, when I got my first job… I got fired from that job, because I’m severely dyslexic, I didn’t learn how to read till the age of nine, and he told me ‘all acting is controlled schizophrenia’. So I like to know my characters and then let them go. So I just can’t wait to find this new individual.

This interview appeared on The Hollywood News.

“I dream in Technicolor…” Tyler Shields Interview For ‘Final Girl’ (The Hollywood News)

TSNotorious snapper Tyler Shields has made his directorial debut with horror film Final Girl. It’s safe to say when Shields puts his name to something it isn’t going to be run of the mill, and that’s certainly the case here.

A tense, atmospheric and above all strange tale of revenge, it stars Abigail Breslin as a young assassin charged with wiping out a group of teen psychopaths and Wes Bentley as her grizzled mentor. I got on the Fifties-style phone for a look past the movie’s Americana exterior and into the bloody, beating heart beneath…

The film is arguably quite unusual. What drew you to this story?

Oh Steve, I wouldn’t say it’s arguably unusual, I’d say it’s very unusual! (Laughs) I don’t think anything necessarily drew me to the story. I came up with this world, and the movie came to be very different. Part of my idea is I don’t want to make the same old movie that we’ve seen a bunch of times, nobody wants to do that, nobody wants to be in it. Let me make something unique, let me make something people will say is unusual, and let me do it with no CGI. Let me have this whole world, and create something different and they said ‘Okay’!

FG AB WBThe central relationship is between Abigail Breslin and Wes Bentley. How did you end up casting them and what work did you do together on their characters? They’re supposed to have a twelve year association…

Abigail was the first choice for the movie and once she signed on her and I had a conversation about it, and we both had Wes Bentley as our idea. She was a big fan of his and he’s someone who I wanted to work with, and so we reached out to Wes and he said ‘I’d love to do it. I love the idea, love doing something different…’ So he signed on. He was doing another movie at the time… I want to say he was coming from that Terrence Malick movie, the name escapes me (Knight Of Cups)… he finished that movie two or three days before, then came straight to this, so we had to get them together quickly. The first thing we shot with them was her shaving his head… in real life. So that was their first bonding experience!

What led to you taking the very stylized, almost theatrical approach to the material? I’m thinking particularly in terms of the lighting…

The lighting is something that is translated from my photography, and the idea with that was I wanted to use it as almost a character. The lighting creates this tone for you, so a certain character is onscreen, they’re lit a certain way, and it gives you a certain feeling and I wanted to try to carry that for the whole film.

FGAnd what was your thinking behind the more distinctive imagery? The powder scene for example (Breslin’s character dreams that she and Bentley are hit with a red dust)…

These are all… a lot of this movie is about how your mind works. What you’re afraid of, what you might dream, what might happen if you’re tapped into your deep subconscious. That to me is an interesting dream, a lot of people dream in only black and white but I dream in Technicolor. So I would have these vivid dreams where there would be these colour explosions, and that’s part of your mind opening in a different way. I wanted to include that in the film, so when she’s having this really intense moment within her own mind, this explosion hits. That’s why we put that in there.

You mentioned Wes Bentley’s head actually being shaved, which was quite spontaneous I imagine! Did much improvisation happen during the shoot?

Oh yes! Every day we did at least one hour of improv’ing. I would encourage the boys and Wes and Abigail to create little things here and there for their characters. We would just add things as we went, and that was part of the fun.

How did you assemble that cast of young men? Did you audition them together, was it a gradual process, or…?

Logan Huffman I had worked with a bunch. Alexander Ludwig I had shot when he was sixteen, so I knew I wanted those two. Then I had two of my other friends who were supposed to do the movie, but they were both on TV shows and the shows wouldn’t let them out. So we had to recast their parts a week before shooting.

You wouldn’t know it was a last minute thing, as they all complement each other quite well…

Yeah, and one of the things is, as soon as we cast Cameron Bright and Reece Thompson, and we got all the boys together, they took their wardrobe – they stole their wardrobe! – from set and started going out in character, in costume on the streets of Vancouver. What was really great was that by the time we were done shooting the movie, if somebody was done shooting and it was their day off they would still come to set. Logan had wrapped but everyone just loved having him on set, so he kept coming. And then the same thing with Reese and the same thing with Cameron. Everyone wanted to be there, it was this great environment.

LH FGDid any other movies inspire you when you were putting the project together?

You know, there isn’t a movie where I was like ‘Let’s make it look like this movie’, but there’s certain movies throughout history where you look at them and they have such a distinct visual style. Tony Scott… you can watch a Tony Scott movie and you think ‘Oh this is Tony Scott!’ That was kind of the idea for this. Not to copy these things, but to basically make a colour version of a Thirties or Forties noir movie.

It’s your first film. What would you say you learned from the experience?

Obviously you learn a lot. You learn when you do anything. I think one of the things for me was the improv stuff that we did worked really well. I would continue that, because we used a lot of it in the movie. One of the most important things is creating that environment on set, because people were really happy and really comfortable, and they all wanted to be there. If we didn’t do that I think it would have been a big failure.

This interview appeared on The Hollywood News. Final Girl is out now on DVD.

Interview with Jeremy Irvine (The Hollywood News)

Jeremy-Irvine-The-Woman-In-Black-Angel-Of-DeathSpooky sequel The Woman In Black: Angel Of Death is out to buy this week. One of the noteworthy aspects on the disc is an interview with Jeremy Irvine, the film’s male lead and an up-and- comer who is being watched with great interest.

THN parted the ether for a chat with Jeremy about the world of Gothic horror, his surprising personal connection to the character and what it’s like to step through the infamous doors of Hammer Studios…!

THN: Tell us a bit about your character in the film.

Jeremy Irvine: I play Harry. He is, or he appears to be, an RAF bomber pilot… but like all the characters in the film he has his own ghosts and demons, and isn’t quite who he appears to be. At the beginning he’s like the archetypal young hero airman, but then all is not quite what it seems.

What was it about the project that drew you in?

The Woman In Black is a story that I’d grown up with, and haunted me I guess as a kid. I got offered the script, and like a lot of sequels you go into it thinking: ‘Is this going to be as good as the first one?’ Then I finished the last page and thought: ‘That’s fine!’ I was also a big fan of (director) Tom Harper… he’d worked on Peaky Blinders and stuff like that. The Woman In Black has now become part British literature and theatre – to be a part of that was really cool.

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Did Tom Harper do anything to create a creepy atmosphere on set as you were working?

We worked with a lot of kids, and he wouldn’t tell them when the Woman In Black herself was on set. I never met the Woman in her make up, I met the actress playing her (Leanne Best). So that was kept very separate. He wanted the kids to be genuinely scared, and they were certainly in some creepy places. I was loving it, ‘cos I was with eight kids who were like little minions, and they were playing games and chilling out with Phoebe Fox (who plays lead character Eve) and stuff. They were trying to scare everyone else!

Sounds fun! Now, Hammer Films have been in the news recently due to the sad death of Sir Christopher Lee. What was it like entering that world, as it still seems to be a much-loved horror brand?

It’s an honour to be part of something like that. Again, they’re something that I grew up with. To get to be a Hammer Horror hero… yeah, it was a privilege! I think the success of it so far just goes to show it’s still very prevalent today.

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I suppose some would see it as an old-fashioned sort of horror film compared to the more extreme examples you see now?

Yes, there’s something very British about the film. It’s not all blood and gore, and girls in bikinis running around getting their heads chopped off. There’s something a bit classier about their stuff.

Of course, girls in bikinis getting their heads chopped off has its place!

Would I rather have seen Phoebe Fox running round in a bikini? Yeah, of course! But you know, I didn’t have final approval on the script. (Laughs)

Are you a big fan of the horror genre?

I like anything where it’s doing more than just trying to scare you. The first time I saw The Sixth Sense it made me cry, and I think that’s beautiful. Where you can get a film that at the same time is very scary and very moving. And The Others for example, with Nicole Kidman… there’s something really incredible to me about the fact we all know how films are made, we all know they’re not real, but they can still make us feel such extreme emotions. That we have to turn off the TV, or hide behind the sofa. That’s why I love film in general, not just horror movies.

Your character as you mentioned was an RAF bomber pilot. Did you have to do much research for that side of the role?

I did, but it’s my hobby. I’ve always been interested in that period of history, I write about it in my spare time and collect Second World War, First World War bits and bobs. So it wasn’t really extra work to do that! It’s such a well-documented piece of history… there’s a wealth of stuff to draw on, and personal accounts.

What sort of writing do you do around the subject?

I’m working with two production companies at the moment on a couple of documentaries, which I can’t quite talk about yet! But it looks like they’re going ahead in the next few months. And I also wrote a little bit for one of Michael Morpurgo’s books about a First World War fighter pilot. (Irvine played the lead in the movie adaptation of the author’s War Horse.) It’s my little nerdy hobby in my spare time!

What have you got coming up next?

The next movie I’ve got coming out is called Stonewall, directed by Roland Emmerich, all about the gay rights revolution, which I’m very excited about. There’s another movie called Fallen, which is another one of these “Young Adult” movies, which is a slightly new direction for me. I saw the movie the other day, and it was pretty exciting! And I’m making a couple more films in England, which haven’t quite been announced yet. Two more in the UK… I haven’t actually worked in England since The Woman In Black, so it will be nice to be back on home soil!

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The Woman In Black: Angel Of Death is out to own on Blu-ray and DVD.

This interview first appeared on The Hollywood News.