Saturday, September 25, 2010

Dog Soldiers: Neil Marshall's Werewolf Debut

Dog Soldiers 
I wasn’t too sure about Dog Soldiersat first.  The 2002 release was Neil Marshall’s first feature film (he wrote and directed it).  I saw his second, The Descent, and left feeling it was pretty standard horror.  Would Dog Soldiers be any better?

After the typical introductory sequence showing that there’s something bad in them there woods, the film gets started with a group of soldiers on a training exercise in Scotland.  It’s a slow start, with a lot of banter designed to establish the characters before anything happens (some might say too much banter, but you do end up getting to know the characters more than in most horror films).  Eventually, the team comes across the remains of a special forces team, badly mauled, with Captain Ryan (Liam Cunningham) the only survivor.  Out of radio contact, the soldiers are soon under attack by a werewolf clan, and this is where the film makes up for its slow start.

Eschewing CGI, Marshall went with animatronics and large men in werewolf suits and stilts.  This could have ended up looking cheesy, but fortunately it works very well, creating unique humanoid wolf-headed creatures.  The animatronic heads are particularly convincing.  Once the soldiers become trapped in a farmhouse with the wolf-men trying to get in à la Night of the Living Dead, Marshall provides his audience a very effective series of action sequences with plenty of scares and gore.    

What makes the film even better is the unexpected humor provided by Marshall’s inventive scenes and well-written dialogue.  The gruff but lovable Sergeant Wells (Sean Pertwee) has his intestines ripped out, leading to the following exchange with the protagonist, Private Cooper (Kevin McKidd):

“My guts are out!”
“Well, we’ll just put them back in again!”
“They’re not gonna fit!”
“Course they’ll fit, man!”

Later, Sergeant Wells’ errant intestines provide more humor as a hungry dog tries to steal them while they’re still attached to the Sergeant, and when Cooper tries emergency surgery with superglue and copious amounts of whisky.  The actors all do well in their roles; it’s obvious they had a lot of fun making this movie.     

Dog Soldiers mostly sticks to the tropes and doesn’t really break new ground in horror, but the acting, clever dialogue, well developed characters, and nice special effects make it a superior werewolf offering.  

I didn't include the trailer because it's terrible and will make you not want to watch the movie; the link is here  if you're really interested. 

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

"The Bay" Filming Article from the Georgetown Times

Ever-so-slightly more information on "The Bay" from the local rag here.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

"The Bay": Filming Begins

Filming on Barry Levinson's eco-horror thriller The Bay started yesterday with a traffic jam scene on the bridge over the Intracoastal Waterway in Georgetown, South Carolina.  "They said there was a monster coming out of the bay," said one witness (article here), but the exact nature of the monster(s) is still under wraps.

Today's filming was a July 4th festival scene in downtown Georgetown, with extras crab-racing and taking turns on the dunk tank.  They filmed a crab-eating competition after I left, in which one of the contestants starts puking - perhaps a harbinger of the viral horror to come.

There were Maryland flags in abundance.  Since they wanted a crowd, it was pretty much an open set with people wandering through walking their dogs and stopping to be part of a take or get some cotton candy.

I overheard some of the crew talking about the parasitic isopods that hitch a ride in fishes' mouths after eating their tongues - interesting.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

They Came Back: Resurrection can be Inconvenient for the Living

They Came Back
When a horde of Romero-esque zombies attack the living, groaning and biting and eating brains, society’s response is predictable- fight or flight.  But what if the dead return peacefully, undecayed, and ready to resume their former lives?  How does society react? 

This is the question posed by They Came Back, a 2004 French film directed by Robin Campillo.  The film explores the relationships between a group of the living and their dead spouses and children.  Instead of joy or horror, the resurrected dead are met with unease, and the government treats them as unwanted refugees from the beyond, illegal immigrants who take up jobs and state resources. 

It’s a great premise, and there are some very nice touches in the film (particularly the cinematography and the soundtrack), but overall the film is oddly unemotional, abstract, and slow, and the questions it raises are never fully explored. 

Sunday, September 5, 2010

"Isopod" is now "The Bay"

Slightly more information on Barry Levinson's upcoming thriller here.

Apparently it is actually an ecological horror film involving a viral outbreak in a small Maryland town.  So, the bay in question would be the Chesapeake (although they're shooting next to Winyah Bay in Georgetown, South Carolina, probably for tax purposes).

It also appears that they're using the pieced-together-footage technique of Cloverfield, etc., which can work well if it doesn’t give you motion sickness (I had to close my eyes during parts of The Blair Witch Project, and not because it was too horrific to watch).

At the audition for extras, they were specifically looking for one year old twins, amputees for a hospital scene, and expert blue crab eaters.  The latter should be easy to find around Georgetown.  

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Wild Zero: Rock and Roll and Zombies

A Japanese rock-zombie spectacular, Wild Zero (2000) is essentially an extended music video for the band Guitar Wolf.  Consisting of Guitar Wolf, Drum Wolf, and Bass Wolf (since deceased and replaced), the band slouches around combing their pompadours, abusing substances, and shouting “Rock and roll!”  

Aliens are invading Earth and creating zombies left and right (shades of Plan 9 From Outer Space).  What's more, the band's former manager (Makoto Inamiya, resplendent in a pageboy wig and short shorts) is after them.  The rudimentary plot concerns Guitar Wolf’s number one fan Ace (Masashi Endô) and the very special girl he falls in love with (Kwancharu Shitichai).  With the help of a magic whistle, Ace can summon Guitar Wolf's aid when he's in danger - but can the rockers fight off the zombie hordes and their alien masters?

It’s not meant to be good, it’s meant to be trashy camp, and it succeeds admirably, aided by a soundtrack that includes Guitar Wolf's own Ramones-influenced tunes and a suite of others, from Dick Dale to Bikini Kill.  Wild Zero serves up a big helping of dumb fun.  The DVD menu even includes an in-movie drinking game for those who wish to quantify the number of exploding heads and flaming tailpipes with alcohol.