‘Verónica’ Review (Frightfest, THN)

A psychologist (Arcelia Ramírez) lives in a secluded mountain location, having sworn off treating patients for good. However when a call comes in asking her to see Verónica (Olga Segura), she decides to try and crack the mystery surrounding this confrontational yet sensitive figure. The professional thinks this is a getting to know you exercise. Verónica believes that as walking stereotypes they know each other already. From there a battle of wits unfolds, rapidly developing into something more intimate and unnerving.

Shot digitally with stark black and white cinematography and showcasing a chilly, fog-strewn landscape, it’s clear we’re in safe albeit sinister hands with directors Carlos Algara and Alejandro Martinez-Beltran. Together with writer Tomas Nepomuceno they’ve conjured a classic thriller scenario. The psychologist’s house with its exposed brick walls contrasts with the great outdoors and its connection to primal instinct and rebirth. Segura is quite hypnotic as she and Ramírez test each others’ boundaries. There’s a chemistry between them that keeps the tension simmering, alongside Daniel Wohl’s pulsating score.

The helmers build the intense atmosphere gradually and when things get erotic it makes sense rather than feeling exploitative. “Chaos makes for better honey,” Verónica remarks as she describes the habits of insects in a sequence so sweltering you could probably fry an egg on it. The filmmakers keep the visual trickery to a minimum, letting the action do the talking, but there’s one extended take that delivers in spades on the “weird yet sexy” front. Horror-wise the movie doesn’t get in your face but a scene involving bloodied splinters in a glass of water sticks in the memory.

You could argue the conclusion doesn’t tie together as well as it should but I was by no means disappointed. This is the directing team’s debut feature and I’d be more than satisfied if it was coming from an established name. The production company call themselves The Visualistas. “That sounds like a boast,” I thought. Well they weren’t kidding. Verónica could be the start of something special.

 

This review first appeared on THN.

 

Advertisements

“We’d wrap a work day and we’d all be covered in dust and snot and tears…” Jeremy Saulnier ‘Green Room’ Interview (The Hollywood News)

GR 3Jeremy Saulnier is a colourful director. I mean this in more ways than one – his breakout feature was the bloody and brutal Blue Ruin (a favourite here at THN) and he’s followed that up with Green Room, which takes the spectrum of violence to a whole new level.

The action horror thriller sees a group of disaffected punk rock youths (including Anton Yelchin and Imogen Poots) fall foul of a neo-Nazi movement at a gritty venue. Their gig takes a nightmarish turn when they stumble on a murder scene, putting them squarely in the firing line of an army of skinheads, led by the surprising choice of Patrick Stewart.

Praised by critics for its unflinching use of ultraviolence, it’s left its mark on gore fans and further established Saulnier as a helmer to watch. That’s if you haven’t clamped your fingers over your eyes against the carnage. We got on the phone with him for a chat about the distinctive cinematic thrashing…

GR 1

Where did the scenario for Green Room come from, and what made you decide on skinheads versus punk rockers?

The idea was gestating for a long time, it felt very natural. A lot of my films sprout from environments and I figured I wanted to do a movie set in the punk rocker hardcore scene, just because it’s such a part of my youth, I knew it very well and I don’t see it done in an authentic way very often. You set a film in that world and it often takes place in a venue. What if I could have my cake and eat it too, where I’m in a punk rock world and there’s a live performance happening, and it converges with a traditional genre movie, and to fuse those worlds together? So I thought the ideal place would be the green room backstage. It has a little access. It’s part of the world yet separate. And it’s the same reason I had skinheads as adversaries, because they’re part of the punk rock world. They’re natives, you see them at a show and it’s believable, but they’re also at the fringes and separate from the subcultures within punk rock. I saw them as soldiers. They would be the most likely to be organized in criminal activity, the structure and hierarchy – they take marching orders, they actually wear combat boots. It lined up pretty easily for me.

The film is incredibly violent. How did you work that out in terms of the choreography?

I’d pre-visualized the concert venue and we actually built that as a soundstage set, constructing the whole thing from scratch. Being able to design the environment meant a lot less of a translation problem when I went from script to screen and did the choreography. The blocking was already halfway there. I covered the action and make up because I grew up making movies that way, my partners and I were big into action and horror and zombie films and whatnot. That was really fun for me. I’ve used that skillset for twenty years.

Obviously it’s intense to watch. What was the atmosphere like on set?

The days were intense as we had to keep that level of emotional continuity. There were a lot of very intense exchanges, pleading and crying and screaming. So it gets to that level between takes, over and over to cover the whole scene. It’s emotionally and physically exhausting for sure. From the very beginning we cast the movie in a way where we knew we’d feel safe and comforted by each others’ mutual respect and investment in the characters and story we were telling. So it was really quite nice and supportive! We’d wrap a work day and we’d all be covered in dust and snot and tears… even some of the crew members would start crying because it was really intense to watch. Very harrowing and very real. But then we’d have a nice little decompression session and they’d get a bite or a drink. It’s a rare thing I imagine where every single actor is incredibly gracious and great to be around. It was a treat for me.

GR 2

Tell me about Patrick Stewart’s involvement. Did he have much input into his character?    

He came to the film late in the process, he kind of swooped in and saved the day for us. We wanted a real presence for the role of Darcy Banker and he was looking for material, and it was perfect for us in terms of the timing and our mutual intentions. He loved how dark it was, and the intense atmosphere. He just kind of jumped on board, it was very high risk. The only thing he wanted more of was a little insight into his backstory. He did his own research, which was great and we also gave him a narrative history of his character based on a lot of research I had put together. The great thing for me was he asked for nothing to be done to the script to accommodate him, he just needed to get his bearings and have a little more to dig into, so once he had that he was on a plane to Portland and he was making the movie, it was crazy!

How did you go about realizing the female side of the film in this testosterone-driven environment? Imogen Poots’ role for example…?

For Imogen’s character it was really about experimenting with the traditional female role in this kind of movie. At first we don’t pay her much attention. She emerges from the shadows and develops, becoming a lot more present, and that was really good to go there and have her take on a traditional male role. The thing about Green Room is that estrogen is just as powerful as adrenaline… or testosterone rather! (Laughs) But they can be joined together through adrenaline! And doing that in a pressurized scenario was really fun.

GR 4

This interview first appeared on THN.

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

DBAOTD

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

OOODIM

​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

JS

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

JP

​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

PC TS

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

2001

​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

P2 AS

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

JA

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.

10 Film Sequels That Went In Wildly Different Directions (WhatCulture)

PS ICThe psychology behind a sequel is simple: more of the same, and usually bigger. After all, since the first film was a great success, why change a winning formula? While it’s generally accepted that a follow up won’t match the original, producers can always rely on dollar signs as a motivating force.

Over the years, scores of audience members have sat in the cinema only to emerge two hours later wondering why they bothered. The bloated spectacles of Speed 2, Bad Boys II and Escape From LA are testament to that.  However every so often that rule is broken, and a director will try something different with a new instalment. From a shift in tone to a complete change in storyline, there are sequels out there that mean more than an increase in budget and a digit jammed onto the end of the title. Here we take a look at ten of the best/worst examples…  Read more.