Practically Speaking

If you’re a big fan of movies, particularly horror and sci-fi, you’ve probably taken a position on whether or not movies should use CGI (computer-generated imagery) or practical effects (which include prosthetics, animatronics, models and miniatures).

Personally, I am a HUGE fans of practical effects.  That being said, I understand that there are things that you can’t do as well practically as you can do with CGI–for instance if you’ve seen Alex Proyas’ The Crow, there are numerous scenes where cars are moving through city streets that’s clearly part of a miniature cityscape which probably would have worked better with actual cars, unless Proyas deliberately wanted it to look like models–and when it’s done well,  CGI can add a dynamism to scenes that isn’t always possible practically.

On the other side, when you’re dealing with practical effects the actors and actresses are performing against an actual thing, as opposed to (in some instances) a tennis ball.

This means that you’re not only likelier to get a better performance out of them, the scene that they appear in looks more real.

One of my favorite filmmakers, producer Gerry Anderson, was a huge advocate of miniature effects (which probably has a lot to do with him coming from a background of making shows that revolved around puppetry, like Captain Scarlet And The Mysterons, The Thunderbirds, and The Terrahawks) which he incorporated into live action in movies like Doppleganger (also known as Journey to the Far Side of the Sun) and television shows like Space: 1999, UFO and Space Precinct.

In the video clip below Tom Woodruff, Jr and Alec Gillis, of StudioADI, discuss why it is that studios sometimes choose CGI effects over practical ones.  And as usual, nothing is as simple as movie fans would like it to be.

The (Un)necessary Remake Dept: ‘The Stuff’

Let’s be clear:  Larry Cohen‘s The Stuff isn’t anyone would call a good movie, but it is a damn interesting one.  What it has going for it is a timely premise (the idea of consumerism run rampant combined with corporate and government malfeasance) and some very interesting special effects.

The movie plays like a twisted version of Dan Siegel’s Invasion Of The Body Snatchers (speaking of which, Invasion Of The Body Snatchers is one of the few films that has benefitted from multiple remakes; The Invasion, notwithstanding) but with a more culinary bent in that a white substance is found bubbling from the earth, that happens to be edible.  This mysterious foodstuff, marketed as The Stuff, takes the country by storm, making some people very rich.

But there’s a problem.  The company selling it has co-opted the some scientists in the FDA (the Food and Drug Administration), so that no one quite knows what’s in The Stuff, which is a very bad thing because The Stuff is alive.  It’s similar to yogurt, except with a will, and a drive all its own.

In other words, when you eat it, it eats you.

The Stuff Pic

Are you eating The Stuff, or is it eating you?

A possible angle for a reboot could take would make the stuff called ‘The Stuff’ a genetically modified organism (GMO), as opposed to a naturally-occuring one, giving new meaning to the phrase “smart food.”

What needs to remain is the practical nature of the special effects.  There’s something significantly creepy about the mouth of a animatronic head opening wider than humanly possible, as opposed the way such things are typically done with CGI, which more often than not look like a video game (See: I Am Legend).

Since the movie falls apart somewhere around the midway point,  when Paul Sorvino turns up as a disgraced military commander–curiously similar to quite a few Right wing radio hosts–I would chuck that entire subplot and instead concentrate on how futile it it would first seem for people who haven’t been co-opted.

That way, the entire film would focus on the efforts of a disgraced FBI agent working against the odds to unmask the horror of The Stuff.

‘The Purgation’ Trailer

I like introducing artists to people who may not be aware that they’re out there, so here’s the trailer for The Purgation, a movie by Elaine Chu that revolves around a woman named Iris, who attempts the exorcise some figurative ghosts and, if the trailer is any indicator, ends up encountering some very literal ones.

Then again, when Iris visited an asylum from her past I could have told her that there would be problems.  That being said, what kind of horror movie would you have if someone didn’t go into the darkened basement or if the call you received on a late and stormy night didn’t come from in the house?

Elaine is joining some pretty august company.  Off the top of my head, I can recall relatively few Asian or Asian-American horror directors, like Ronny Yu, Takashi Miike, Su-chang Kong, James Wan and Justin Lin.

Elaine is funding her film via Indiegogo, which ended earlier this year.  She also appears to be also accepting funds on her web site, so if you’re able to lend a hand, she’d appreciate it.

‘Ouija’ Trailer

Originally the movie Ouija was going to be huge, in terms of budget, before Universal (the studio releasing the horror feature) balked and almost abandoned the project.  The story was tweaked, and it was brought in significantly cheaper, and the rest is history.

It always mystified me why it was originally planned as a big-budget feature (other than the property being owned by Hasbro, the people behind–or should I say culpable–for the Transformers).  The movie revolves around a ouija board, a Hasbro product by the way, which are creepy just sitting on a table, never mind interacting with the damned (pardon the pun) thing.

And while I think that Universal not producing Ouija as an expensive feature was a great idea (which should pay dividends at the box office) abandoning Guillermo del Toro’s version of H.P. Lovecraft’s At The Mountains Of Madness wasn’t.

‘After The Dark’ Review

 

After The Dark

After The Dark Is A Visually Beautiful Movie, Undermined By Needless Pretense.”

I actually saw John Huddles’  After The Dark four or five months ago before it turned up on Netflix, and it bothered me then, and it continues to do so (though it’s taken me awhile to understand why).

Though I think I finally figured it out:  After The Dark tries too hard to be seem significant and important, when it actually isn’t.

The movie revolves around a multi-ethnic Philosophy class in Jakarta, Indonesia and the logic tests led by their teacher.

When you’re exploring ideas of the mind, it’s particularly useful to not fill your class with, in most instances, remarkably attractive men and women.  To a fault all the students in this class are beautiful, which movies typically do when they have very little to actually say about anything.

And the ending…let’s go into it for a moment.  Things are played relatively straight, till that time, where the movie takes a detour into The Twilight Zone.  It’s not a bad thing, though it has the unfortunate effect of potentially undermining much of what came before, because you’re not quite sure of what’s real, and what isn’t.

Which isn’t to say that I don’t mind a good mind-fuck every now and then, though what I am not a fan of is uncertainty.

Another problem I found with the movie is its underlying premise.  As I mentioned earlier, the entire movies is composed of a series of thought experiments, done to elicit a particular response from the students.

Yet throughout the movie you have people interfering in the thought exercises of others, adding variables they shouldn’t be able to.

That being said, After The Dark isn’t a bad film, it’s beautifully shot and filled with lots of attractive people, but it’s really odd because despite have seen it (twice) I still have no idea what it’s doing or trying to say.

 

This Movie Is “Antisocial,” Though Don’t Watch It Alone

The Social Redroom is a fictitious social networking site that’s similar to others that you may already be familiar to, like Facebook.  And like Facebook, The Social Redroom (which coincidentally(?) reminds me of ‘redrum;’ ‘murder’ spelled backwards) also does experiments on its users without their knowledege, all in an effort to find what it is that makes users ‘tick.’

But what happens your their efforts go seriously awry (which if you’ve seen the movie is probably the understatement of the decade)?

That’s the idea at the heart of Antisocial–it’s probably not a coincidence that the title is similar to David Fincher’s movie, The Social Network, though what’s a bit odd is that it in a way covers similar subject matter (without the physical violence, though there was plenty of the psychic variety).

It’s a conceit that works remarkably well because the ideas that animate the movie are familiar to anyone with even a passing understanding of how human nature, capitalism and the Internet work.

It’s also not a gratuitously gory movie, though I’d be lying if I said that there weren’t body fluids of the red variety shed.  And speaking of gore, most of it is deliciously practical, which isn’t to say that there isn’t CGI, though it’s not gratuitous.

What’s also surprising is how well-acted this movie is.  There’s none of that wink, wink, nudge, nudge stuff at one end of the spectrum, or histrionics at the other.

Just people caught up in circumstances way, way, way beyond their control.  It’s a trip.  I haven’t felt this positive about a horror film since The Den.

It’s that awesome.

Kudos all around for director Cody Calahan, who also co-wrote the movie with Chad Archibald, though I’d be amiss if I didn’t mention that the exemplary lighting by Jeff Maher and the music by Steph Copeland.

And what every you do, get off the damn computer.  Go outside and perhaps spend a little time with someone you love because The Social Redroom is coming, and it’s a killer.

Antisocial is currently on Netflix.

 

‘The Remaining’ Trailer

Hollywood can be so fascinating.  It seems that lately there’s a trend revolving around religious-based movies, from Noah to Exodus: Gods and Kings, God is in.  This isn’t something that’s been ignored by either comedies, This Is The EndRapture-Palooza (a really funny movie.  Well worth checking out), dramas, and horror films.

The most recent example of the latter is The Remaining, which sounds like Damon Lindelof’s The Leftovers, with the inclusion of more blatantly supernatural elements, such as angels and demons.