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All posts for the month October, 2014

The Babadook TADFF 2014

Published October 29, 2014 by vfdpixie

babadook

The Babadook (2014, 1hr 33 mins)

I had read about The Babadook several months ago.  Drawn in by the strange name, I had to see what this indie Aussie horror, touted as one of the best horror films out this year, was about.  I was immediately intrigued by the trailer, and was ecstatic when I found out it was coming to the Toronto After Dark Film Festival as the closing gala film.  This fairytale nightmare was worthy of all the buzz and anticipation as it kept your gut in knots and will make you avoid your bookshelf for a while.

On the day of her son Samuel’s (Noah Wiseman) birth, Amelia (Essie Davis) loses her husband in a car crash.  Samuel, who is now 6, is a handful; his imagination runs wild with monsters he must battle, and he invents treacherous gizmos that creates problems at school.  His mother is a broken woman trying to keep her head above a sea of unrealized emotion, and gets no support from her sister.  One evening for a bedtime story, Samuel picks a book called The Babadook.  It has mysteriously appeared on his shelf, and it is a menacing tale that becomes too close for comfort, immediately scaring the living daylights out of Samuel and his mother.  What ensues is the unleashing of a supernatural force that stakes its claim on their home and their lives.

What draws you in to The Babadook is not the dollhouse-like sets or the moody lighting and midnight blue palette, but the performances.  Davis, with her fresh face and big eyes, played the hell out of her character who goes from distraught to a demonic transformation that will give you chills.  To be in abject terror for such a sustained amount of time deserves an award of some sort!  Wiseman sold the excitable, anxiety-laden Samuel who just wants happiness in his life really well, drawing out concern just as you were ready to write him off.

Writer and director Jennifer Kent uses the age-old fairy tale rule of a moral or warning in its most literal sense, in this case burying your fears and emotions that will eventually come back and bite, or stab you.  She has also made a visually engaging film.  From the simple household sets that conveyed a sad isolation, to the vintage silent film footage that haunts Amelia’s dream and waking life, Kent makes the indie into high art.  And the fact that our antagonist, The Babadook, is not treated like your regular demon/spirit fare elevates the monster to what I hope will be iconic status.  Also note the brilliant sound design that at times you could feel in your seat and made your skin crawl.

When this film comes out in a wider release, and I think with all its success it will, go see it.  You will get a kick out of some old-fashioned scares, harkening back to the spooky stories you remember as a child, and the unusual ending will leave you wondering what will happen to Amelia and Samuel.  Ba Ba Dook-Dook-Dook!

Face Off Season 7 Finale: Life, Death and Battling Knights!

Published October 29, 2014 by vfdpixie

It was a long road, and many contestants later, we were left with Cig the monster lover, Dina the ex-cake decorator, and Drew the makeup teacher.  An eclectic trio that consistently improved as the show progressed, and that hard work earned them a coveted spot in the finale.

The previous episode gave a few hints at the surprises in store for Season 7’s last episode.  The final 3 artists were surrounded by swords, suits of armour and coats of arms.  McKenzie revealed the subject for their final spotlight challenge:  Knights!  Like Lord of the Rings and Game of Thrones, good and bad knights ran amok.  In their final Life and Death challenge, the artists had to choose a unique coat of arms and create a good and evil fantasy knight that represented life and death.  The artists had a great time actually pulling a sword from a stone to pick their coat of arms.  They would also have a lot of help with an eliminated artist from this season and a randomly assigned past season’s winner!  The next surprise?  These life and death knights would fight it out in an actual jousting, sword fighting battle!

Drew picked George and was assigned Rayce, winner of Season 2.  His coat of arms included a stag, so he went for woodland, elven creatures inspired by satyrs.  They were to be two warring sets of satyrs.  He was really jazzed that he had Rayce on his team since he was an amazing sculptor.  Mr. Westmore advised Drew on the nose placement of his elven fawn people, and his team went at sculpting and building.  George did a lot of the molding because he was fast at it.  They were doing well until Drew noticed some of the colours Rayce was using on his dark knight.  He wanted the paint job to be a bit more flesh coloured, but in the end, decided to trust Rayce.  On the finale day, Drew carefully placed the antlers on so when the knights actually fought, they wouldn’t tear into any cowls.  In his rush during last looks, Drew started to paint some of the armour the wrong colours, so he had to scramble to fix it.  His final characters were my favourites.  The were definitely fantastical and beautiful.  The judges liked the nice natural makeup on the good knight, and great cheekbones to convey the stag reference.  They loved the “gorgeous” dark knight and felt the characters worked really well together; you could tell they were from the same world with the harmonious style and palette.  The only thing that put Glenn off a bit was the hair on the face.

Dina picked Stella and was assigned Season 3 winner Nicole.  She got the aquatic coat of arms.  She wanted to design her knights with found things from the sea:  a good fish knight who got his armour from a mermaid, and a the bad knight who was reanimated by electric eels.  When Mr. Westmore heard this concept, he was worried that she wasn’t using the octopus that was prominent in the coat of arms.  This freaked Dina out a bit, but luckily, Nicole came up with an octopus that controlled the brain of the crab-like knight.  They would extend the tentacles down onto the cowl.  Stella sculpted a lot of the armour, including a starfish that Dina finished off with her now famous piping bag.  They were scrambling to clean out the molds when Drew, George and Rayce came to their rescue at the last minute.  Nice guys!  The gals would have 15 pieces to apply to the knights.  During last looks, some arm pieces were lifting so they had to add moss to some of the areas in question and tie them down with rope.  Dina’s knights were truly beautiful!  The judges were wowed by the amount of detail and cohesiveness of the work.  Lois adored the dark knight, and Glenn thought the amount of detail was astounding.

Cig picked Sasha and was assigned Season 6 winner Rashaad.  The coat of arms they worked with was one with gargoyles.  His concept involved good knights who protected people from gargoyle-like knights.  Cig knew he wanted Rashaad to do fabrication, since he was a star at that.  Mr. Westmore cautioned Cig against having the knights look too dark, and after looking at his Life character, decided he needed to sleep on it because the sculpt didn’t look right.  The next day, he decided on a human looking knight and a gargoyle.  One look was going to be minimalistic and he knew it was a risk.  I thought his life knight looked a touch too red, but the death knight was amazing.  The judges liked the silicone used on the human life knight and that there were no edges to be seen.  They also liked the contrast between the hyper-real looking life knight and the monster, gargoyle knight.  They thought it was great conceptual work, but felt the good life knight didn’t push the character enough.

The battle was really cool!  With bagpipe players and horses thundering around the arena, the crowd cheered at the sheer spectacle.  Thankfully, all the makeups held up to some brutal sword play, leaps and tackles.  In the end, the judges picked Dina as the finale winner!!  She walked away with a new Fiat 500, $100,000 and a trip to one of Kryolan Professional Make-up international locations! I am so happy she won!  She is the little cake maker that could!  She quit her job to do this, and had little experience, but heaps of talent.  Nice to see someone following their dreams. Congrats Dina, you deserve the win!

Hellmouth TADFF 2014

Published October 27, 2014 by vfdpixie

hellmouth

Hellmouth (2014, 1 hr 35 mins)

 

The trailer for Hellmouth was exciting.  It had a definite retro feel, and there was a campiness that lead me to believe that there were some laughs to be had.  What I came to realize is that it is an unexpectedly beautiful surrealist horror; a swirling combination of both modern and classic influences.

Charlie Baker is retiring.  After many years of working as a grave-digger and tending to a bleak, solitary environment, he is going to pack up his bags and head to Miami where he can actually talk to people, and not be tormented by the local kids.  He is also ill, a husk of a man, battling an episodic brain disorder that will eventually kill him.  Definitely time served, but an unexpected visit from Mr. Whinny (Boyd Banks), his supervisor, presents a 6 month, non-negotiable extension that crushes Charlie to the core.  He must travel to the Forks of Heaven Cemetery, possibly the creepiest final resting place ever, where his grave tending duties take a nightmarish turn.  His journey becomes one of life-changing proportions, and with the help of a mysterious woman Fay, he will battle demons, beasties, convicts and his own limitations to save himself and the woman he grows to love.

I was completely drawn in by the visuals of this film.  The effects created by Nick Flook were really beautiful; black and white with pops of colour that to me, indicated glimmers of hope in such a bleak world.  During the Q & A after the film, director John Geddes was asked about whether Sin City was an influence.  He definitely acknowledged the influence, but wanted Hellmouth to have more of an Ed Wood feel.  I saw the obvious similarities with the Frank Miller film, but you will quickly realize that aside from being technically and visually similar, this film’s story makes you forget any Sin City reference.  Other references you may notice are of course Dante’s Inferno as well as a touch of Samuel Beckett’s absurdism and Lynchian surrealism that created a great visual and cerebral package.

The performances were fantastic.  As you may know, I love Stephen McHattie.  He can do no wrong in my eyes.  His portrayal of a broken and weary Charlie was spot on; a perfect conduit for this character which was a custom fit.  I will echo the sentiment from the crew that without Mr. McHattie, there would be no film.  Siobhan Murphy was gorgeous as the mysterious femme fatale and guide for Charlie, and it was great to see Canadian indie directing great Bruce McDonald play a cameo role in what was probably my favourite part of the film in which creepy detective Cliff Ryan (Mark Gibson) recounts the fates of doomed cemetery staff before Charlie.

Writer Tony Burgess, who also wrote Pontypool and Septic Man, was also at the screening.  Always entertaining, he told the audience that he at first balked at the story Geddes brought to him.  The world as a cemetery?  He thought it was “bat shit crazy”, but committed to it anyway.  What looked crazy on paper ended up being a great story, examining one man’s relationship with his mortality and love to become an unlikely, but worthy hero.  This team of Geddes, Burgess, McHattie et al can stay together if they are going to bring us thoughtful and beautiful films like Hellmouth.  Treat yourself and go see this weird and exciting marriage of retro-stylized horror and technology.

Face Off Season 7 Episode 13: Monster Mayhem!

Published October 27, 2014 by vfdpixie

This episode, we found out who was going to be in the finale!  The remaining artists headed to DC Studios where shows like The X-Files and Alias were shot.  They came upon some old-fashioned newspapers with sensational headlines.  McKenzie was there as usual, ready to tell them about their last challenge before the finale.  She told them the newspaper headlines were inspired by movie monsters like Godzilla and King Kong.  Each headline involved a landmark devastated by a creature.  Their challenge was to pick a newspaper and create their own giant monster from that headline.  She advised them not to hold back as this was the last chance to show the judges that they belonged in the finale.  There was also a guest judge:  Clifton Collins Jr., a great character actor that everyone has seen, most recently in Pacific Rim.  He loved monster movies for the nostalgia and the fun.  His advice to them was to be original and pay attention to detail.

Dina picked “Mantis Preys on Paris!”  She wanted to created a female praying mantis who ate so many of her male counterparts that she grew into a giant monster, and to show the judges that she could do creepy.  Dina used plastic globes for the large eyes, and Mr. Westmore liked the face and told her how to shade for detailing.  She had quite a lot to do, and created extensions that added 2 feet to the model’s arms.  She also pulled out the piping bag for spikes on the arms.  After painting like crazy, she ended up with a beautiful giant monster.  The judges loved the teeth and the way she incorporated eye holes in the head’s nostrils.  The head itself was powerful for them, and with all the details, they felt every square inch of the makeup was addressed.  This put her in the top looks.

Cig went for “Yeti Crab Crushes Kremlin!”  His monster was a by-product of Chernobyl that escaped.  He wanted to fabricate a whole suit and start with a basic ape sculpt.  When Mr. Westmore saw his design, he told him it looked like a gorilla in a crab suit.  Cig had a moment where he needed a breather to rethink the sculpt.  He was running out of time, and he needed to sell more crab in the makeup, so he added antennae on the sides of the face.  This made him feel more confident, so he went on to make the suit with couch foam and L200.  He loved his paint job and the end result was a unique face and great overall shape.  The judges thought the face forms and profile worked well.  Clifton liked the fur, shell and shading.  The literal melding of crab and yeti also had a Japanese design and feel.  Cig was also in the top.

Drew got “Giant Sloth Destroys Shanghai!”  He wanted to go big by emphasizing the sloth’s long arms and claws.  He had to make sure the creature didn’t look too cute.  He started layering hair on the arms and then realized it took too much time, so he created a burn on the other arm to look like a war wound.  He was worried that it would look silly.  At the last minute, he thought the hair looked bad and ripped it off to create burns on both arms.  The judges liked his paint textures and felt it successfully met the challenge, but he could have handled the burns better.  They liked that he modified the creature to show gigantism, as well as the head and claws.

George picked “Deadly Squid Destroys Dubai!”  His idea was to sculpt a scary beak in a chest piece.  Mr. Westmore advised him to stay away from muddy colours and use purples and reds instead.  His chest piece didn’t cure properly, so he had to run it in poly foam which is more rigid, but it was key for the makeup.  He had a lot to create with the bodysuit, and it wasn’t quite working out, realizing that he had bitten off more than he could chew.  George wasn’t proud of this makeup and started to throw paint onto the suit which was a little alarming since they had to do their best for this last challenge.  Luckily, he ended up liking his paint job.  I thought it was sloppy looking, but the judges overlooked that because they liked the 60’s feel of the makeup and the profile transition from mouth to shoulder.  They felt the colours were more playful, and Glenn liked the Sarlacc pit mouth.  Lois though it looked like a creature from Dr. Who.

After lots of deliberations, the judges chose Dina as the winner and the first person picked for the finale!  I was so happy.  They thought the amount of work she did by herself was impressive.  Cig was the second person picked.  The loved the throwback nature in his concept.  Drew was the last one going to the finale.  They thought he made smart decisions to focus on the sloth elements and did a successful sculpt and paint job.  That meant George was going home.  They thought he was a great artist but this week just not up to par with his peers.  He was disappointed but proud of his work and intended to  go back to work on his shop and keep creating.  I think the right people are in the finale, but I would have loved to see Stella in that lineup.  We got a bit of a hint of the upcoming finale challenge with swords, armour and a return to the Life or Death theme.  Looking forward to all the surprises they have in store!

 

 

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