zombies

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Face Off Season 10 Episode 7: “The Gauntlet II”

Published February 28, 2016 by rmpixie

It was that time again.  The artists were in for a grueling set of foundation challenges in the second Gauntlet Challenge ever on the show.  This happened last year where the artists had 3 challenges to complete in order to test their skills.  An artist would be eliminated from the competition as usual, but this time, winners of Stage 1 and 2 would enjoy immediate safety, as well as a night out on the town.

The first challenge would have the artists create captain characters inspired by mythical ships:  The Egyptian Manjet Barge, The Viking ship Naglfar made from the bones of the dead, the ghostly Flying Dutchman, and the Nautilus from 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.  They would also be judged on a certain aspect of the makeup:  a “magnificent”, hand-laid pirate’s beard.

The top two captains were created by Melissa and Walter.  Melissa was ahead of the game, since she’s been making beards for a long time.  She went with the barge and a sun-god, golden character.  The judges liked the great decisions and thought the character was brilliant and told a story.  Walters’s Viking captain worked because he blended the colours of hair and face well, and the beard was clean.  They were both safe.

Pandora’s Box would be the challenge for Stage 2.  In each box, there were three prosthetics.  The artists had to create a cohesive character using these pieces, but not in the way they were intended.  Neville told them to understand the utility of the piece.  They were all pretty creative with their designs, but the standouts were Rob and Robert.  Rob created a ghostly undertaker and used the nose piece as a chin.  The judges liked his smart placement and good colour choices.  Robert’s demon was an interesting combination using the noise piece on the cheeks, the “Spock” ears on her forehead,  The judges liked the great colours and the Kabuki-like look.  Along with Melissa and Walter, they enjoyed a great night out, complete with a limo ride.  They did feel for the remaining four artists though, who would have to endure Stage 3.

The third and final stage would involve the old phrase, ” See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil”.  The artists would have to create three makeups on three models to embody the phrase in a horrific way.

Kaleb didn’t have a concept right away, but eventually came up with demons that would tempt their victims to see, hear or speak evil.  The judges weren’t thrilled with his trio because they didn’t really tell what the challenge was.  It seemed as if the characters actually had their senses.  Ve called them 2 hookers with their pimp, and Glenn thought the high fashion look didn’t work. he was in bottom looks.

Yvonne came up with torturers for a king who were attacked and burned with acid by their victims.  She used a bald cap on one model’s mouth to fuse it shut.  She ended up behind, and airbrushed the paint to speed up her time.  She had so much to do she called last looks “fast looks” since she would be doing most makeups in the last hour.  Even though the paint was a touch flat, it worked for her concept.  The judges loved the true harmony with the characters and the costuming that created a perfect ensemble.  She was in top looks.

Anna made a trio of zombies.  They would have mangled features made from tissue and latex for a bumpy, ripped skin look.  In last looks, one of the faces came loose, but she repaired it in time.  The judges felt the paint was too shiny, and she missed an opportunity to powder down the makeup or add dirt.  the prosthetics also didn’t sit flush with the skin.  She was in bottom looks.

Mel’s idea of post-apocalyptic priests who gave up their senses for God had great impact.  She really worked on the exposed skin and muscle striation as the judges were sticklers for anatomy.  Glenn thought they looked very Hellraiser.  The concept was strong with interesting details that were really creepy.  She was also in top looks.

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The winner was Mel.  The judges just loved that concept fulfilled the challenge and that the characters looked like a whole team had worked on them.  The person going home was Kaleb.  His bold concept was better suited for another challenge.  Glenn pointed out he would have a lot to offer in the future, and Kaleb was proud to have made it this far.

Wyrmwood TADFF 2014

Published November 9, 2014 by rmpixie

wyrmwood

Wyrmwood (2014, 92 mins)

Australian films seemed to be a hit at this year’s TADFF with films like Housebound and the much-anticipated The Babadook, so when I heard about Wyrmwood, I was all in.  Described as Mad Max with zombies, I really couldn’t pass this one up, and I’m glad I didn’t.  It is definitely a different take on the post-apocalyptic zombie film, and one I think action movie fans will enjoy.

Similar to the aftermath of a falling star from the Book of Revelations, a weird stellar event creates zombies that run amok in the surrounding Australian countryside and cities.  Family man Barry (Jay Gallagher) has to scramble to save his wife and daughter, and after an urgent call, sets out on a quest to find his sister Brooke (Bianca Bradey). He meets up with other survivors, including the kooky Benny (Leon Burchill), in very tense circumstances, and they band together to battle zombies that emit strange green fumes and become more active at night.  They realize these zombies can be of great use, and their larger purpose is also being discovered by a dancing mad scientist played by Berryn Schwerdt, who has captured Brooke and uses her as a guinea pig.  Little does he know that Brooke will exceed his expectations.  Both siblings have their trials to deal with before they can ever think of reuniting, and things stay consistently hairy until the bitter end.

The After Dark team let the audience know that this film took a long time-several years actually-to finish, and the end result is a pretty crazy ride.  Mixed in with some brutal action and zombie kills, there are also some decent laughs to be had along the way, the most memorable punctuated by the literal Benny.  His goofy observations are backed with a lot of heart and heroics that make him unforgettable, and it is always nice to see some much-needed diversity in horror films.  And the kick-ass Brooke is one of the most unique final girls ever.  Talk about girl power, and she sports possibly the best smokey eye for zombie killing I have ever, ever seen!

brooke

I’m still a makeup artist at heart so here is Bianca Bradey as Brooke and her kick-ass smokey eye.

I only had one issue with the film.  I would have loved a back story about the mad scientist, billed as “The Doctor”.  He was one of the more compelling characters and I can’t resist a great bad guy.  I wondered if his home base lab came equipped with a disco ball or whether he was wearing a ruffled disco shirt under his haz-mat suit.  I call for a prequel starring The Doctor and the gorgeous Captain played by Luke McKenzie, who battles Barry in the film’s final act.

For the die-hard, jaded zombie movie fan, I think Wyrmwood will be a pleasant surprise.  It breaks convention with tons of action and an inventive storyline.  Definitely worth a watch!

*If you have a keen interest in Australian film, check out Curnblog.  There is a 5 part series listing the top 100 Australian films of all time, and it is excellent!

 

The Last Days on Mars/The Machine: TADFF13

Published November 3, 2013 by rmpixie

the last days on mars

2013 (1 hr, 38 mins)

Sci-fi Night brought us two great films. I was really looking forward to The Last Days on Mars and The Machine, and I wasn’t disappointed.

The Last Days on Mars takes us to the year 2036, where the crew on the Tantalus Base are wrapping up a six month mission on Mars.  They are all anxious to get off the Red Planet, especially senior systems engineer Vince Campbell (Liev Schreiber), who suffers from claustrophobia and is not looking forward to another 6 months travel back to Earth.  When a last-minute expedition to collect samples slips by their captain Brunel (Elias Koteas), the crew realize that there is a deadly discovery and some betrayal afoot.  A new bacteria has been found and kept secret by crew member Petrovic (Goran Kostic), and he doesn’t want to share the glory.  His greed for success will unleash a deadly infection and doom them to an extended stay on Mars.

If this movie is low-budget, then I’ll buy it for a dollar!  It was beautifully shot, and using the deserts of Jordan as Mars was really smart.  The cast was great. They all portray the creeping onset of what I like to call space madness really well, while also dealing with this new threat of space zombies.  Liev Schreiber delivered as a man who hides his breakdown with cynicism.  I also liked the character of crew member Kim Aldrich (Olivia Williams).  She was abrasive, obnoxious, but also the voice of reason and logic that rallied the crew to get to the bottom of a seemingly innocent mission.  And seeing Elias Koteas in a movie always makes me happy.  He was great as the straight-laced captain.  He always puts his signature quirk on every role he plays.  The shrill and symphonic scoring enhanced the suspense flawlessly,  I loved how the infected crew members had an incredible thirst, which creates a very plausible theory of how something deadly gets reanimated on a planet that once had water.  It’s not rocket science, but director Ruairi Robinson made a fun, sci-fi thriller that will keep you on the edge of your seat!

the machine

2013 (1hr, 32 mins)

The Machine also takes us to a stark future where there is a cold war going on between China and Britain.  Brilliant scientist, Vincent McCarthy (Toby Stephens), works for the Ministry of Defense, and is close to mastering the secrets of artificial intelligence. In his subterranean lab, he experiments on war veterans, creating cyborg-like, flawed beings that are supposed to regain their lives back after injury.  Vincent hires an ambitious and equally brilliant assistant, Ava to continue his research and to create the ultimate thinking machine.  With her invaluable input they crack the mystery, and Ava agrees to help Vincent secretly restore his brain-damaged daughter’s mind with what they have discovered.  Unfortunately, Ava is killed as a sinister plot unfolds to create the ultimate war machine with their research.  She actually becomes that machine, as Vincent applies all that they have mastered into a cyborg-robotic copy of Ava.  The struggle between science for war and the general good becomes a battle that Vincent must triumph over in order to keep the peace and get his daughter back.

I really enjoyed this film.  The director, Caradog W. James, gave a quick video intro before the screening, letting us know that he did the film for under one million, and did a lot of research on robotics and autism.  It certainly didn’t look low-budget, and the special effects were really well placed throughout the film.  I especially liked the guttural, electronic “language” the re-wired, war veterans spoke, and Suri Luca (Pooneh Hajimmohammadi), the head hybrid soldier that had divided loyalties.  One of my favourite scenes was the creation of the machine/Ava, with its fluid montage of her construction piece by piece.  The director was also hugely influenced by Blade Runner (and I feel to some extent Tron), and 80’s film scoring, so the inspired soundtrack will thrill anyone like me who is nostalgic for that era’s sound.

Caity Lotz did a great job as Ava/the machine.  Her dancer’s background really added to the physicality of the role, and her deadpan delivery of the machine’s deceivingly child-like logic was on the money.  I also enjoyed the fight scenes, which were fast and furious towards the end of the film.  Anyone who loves sci-fi from the 80’s will love The Machine.  I think it’s a well done sci-fi film with shadows of Pygmalion and a dark study on the humans vs. machines debate.

The Battery: TADFF13

Published November 3, 2013 by rmpixie

TheBatteryOfficialPoster

2012 (1hr 41 mins)

On Zombie Appreciation Night, the third night of the Toronto After Dark Film Festival, the standout for me was The Battery.  This post apocalypse zombie flick was made for $6000.  Despite the low-budget, it is an effective “character driven” zombie road trip film that will unexpectedly charm and break your heart at the same time.

Ben and Mickey are ex-baseball players thrown together as a result of a zombie apocalypse.  Not friends, not enemies, they tolerate each other as they move from town to town, looking for supplies on what seems like an endless, isolated camping trip.   Their personalities grate on each other, with Ben, practical, primal and coarse, constantly baiting and egging on the more sensitive Mickey, who, even in the midst of their dismal surroundings, just wants to settle somewhere. When they make contact with other survivors, this event will divide the men even more in their mission to survive.

I loved how simple this film was.  Flashbacks, zombie hordes and gallons of blood were not needed. When I wasn’t laughing at their bickering, all I wanted to see was whether these guys would kill each other before the zombies got to them.  Straightforward and beautifully shot primarily in Kent, Connecticut, the settings really gave the actors centre stage, highlighting the tense relationship between the two men.  Ben accepts their situation for what it is, and Mickey searches for something other than their next meal.  This simple opposition was skillfully played by the actors with the dialogue and the use of isolation not only as a budget saver, but also as an element to keep you focused on the story at hand.

During the Q & A after the screening,  writer, director and lead actor Jeremy Gardner explained that the film came from a short he had created for a competition.  He kept the budget low by making the movie about the men and not about zombies.  Influenced by the film The Children of Men, Gardner wanted the story to stop when the character dynamic stopped.  Adam Cronheim, his co-star and one of the film’s producers, was attracted to the character driven script, and since he was an ex-baseball player, he fit the bill to a T.

The chemistry between them was great as their real life relationship mirrored the characters.  Just like Ben and Mickey, the actors didn’t know each other well before filming, which helped the character dynamic. Gardner explained that the film’s title is actually an old school term that refers to the relationship between the pitcher and catcher in baseball, which adds to the brilliant simplicity of the film.  When ask about the trials of being both a lead actor and the director of the film, Gardner revealed that his D. O. P., Christian Stella, was a good friend, so he trusted him immensely, which gave Gardner the freedom to embrace both directing and acting.

The soundtrack played an important role in the film.  Music was a way that Mickey could escape the horrors of his zombie reality, and at times the hard-line truths that Ben was generous in sharing.  The director wanted to highlight the film’s “weird methodical pacing” by using some of his favourite songs, or music from bands he had connections to through friends.  One such band, Toronto’s Rock Plaza Central, contributed several songs to the film.  The audience got a treat during the Q & A when the band’s lead singer Chris Eaton, sang the song “Anthem for the Already Defeated” while Gardner shared his dancing skills once more for the cheering crowd.  I have to say, that jovial funeral march of a song is still running through my head.  I think it set the tone perfectly for this genuine and subtle horror film.

Favourite Scene:  While on the road, the guys come across some cows in a field.  Ben stops to make friends with one, and the cow acts like a giant dog, relishing the contact with him.  Most likely improvised, this scene was sweet and a little heartbreaking.  To me, it showed that Mickey wasn’t the only one that was isolated and starved for some affection.

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