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Remembering Wes Craven

31 Aug

I was just a little girl when I was first introduced to the works of Wes Craven.  I had a friend for a sleepover when I was eleven and somewhere in between the chips and salsa, putting on dresses and pretending we were fortune tellers, we were in front of the TV, looking for something to watch.  My child’s mind was still new to the concept of horror but I already loved the smell of Halloween, I liked to scare my friends and at this point the only episodes of The Simpsons I would watch were Treehouse of Horror specials.  While skipping through the channels my older brother walked into the room and remarked at a certain movie title he saw in the satellite guide.

“Oh Jess, you HAVE to watch The People Under the Stairs!”

peopleunderthestairs

Wanting to show my big brother that I could be cool too, I agreed.  My friend, my brother and I watched this movie, and although it was not his scariest film, it definitely left a mark on my psyche.  The twisted mother and father figures (Wendy Robie and Everett McGill, who were just as watchable and intriguing on Twin Peaks), the image of the dog chewing on a severed hand and the way its skin looked so rubbery and wrong, the actual PEOPLE under those STAIRS…  And more importantly Roach, the most awkward and confusing crush of my young life…

*licks finger* Tssssss  (I can't believe I just wrote that...)

*licks finger* Tssssss
(I can’t believe I just wrote that…)

I wouldn’t be brought back into the mind of Wes Craven again until I was 13, and while hanging out with my cousin, my brother, again, decided that we would watch a Wes Craven film called A Nightmare on Elm Street 2, which at the time he stated was the best one.  Now that I have seen them all, I beg to differ, but I still enjoyed the flick, the bus ride at the end stuck with me more than the gore and questionable undertones.  That night I dreamed that I was in a fist fight with Freddy.  And pretty much from that point on, I was hooked.

In my collection now, at 26, is the entire collection of NIGHTMARE films, all four SCREAMs (1, 2, and 3 on VHS, 1, 2, 3, and 4 on blu-ray…  I really like SCREAM…), CURSED, MY SOUL TO TAKE, and THE SERPENT AND THE RAINBOW.  To say that I was a little effected about the news of Wes Craven’s passing is a definite understatement.  I don’t think I have ever ugly cried like that over the death of someone I have never met.

I stand corrected.

I stand corrected.

Wes Craven directed my youthful and teenage explorations in the horror genre.  People who love horror grew into it in different ways.  I believe those who were teenagers watching HALLOWEEN, or FRIDAY THE 13th, HELLRAISER, all have different experiences with the genre and are formed in their tastes accordingly.  When I was a teen, SCREAM is what really drove home the concept of good horror for me.  Not since (in my opinion) has a slasher franchise even touched the success or standing power of those films.  And to come out with a fourth film over ten years later and have it WORK?  Boy.

Wes Craven’s films have a certain flair to them.  When I was younger, and still on my way to being a surefire film nerd , I was about halfway through CURSED when I thought, “I bet this was directed by the same guy who did Nightmare.”  Wes Craven’s films have a personality all their own.  And with them, his memory will live on.

I am moving apartments soon and today decided I would throw on the SCREAM movies again (I’ve lost count of how many times I have seen them) but only just in the background while I packed…  Something I had seen at least a dozen times wouldn’t distract me from my business…

I couldn’t help but to watch them all from beginning to end.

Even SCREAM 3…

So with that little ramble I say rest in peace to a legend, to a great filmmaker, and to one of my heroes.  Wes, you formed my tastes in the horror genre, and dare I say made me a horror fan to begin with.  Your films (even the ones other people “SAY” they didn’t like) will continue to grow with me until I die.  Your brand of meta, semi-humorous, gore-filled films have made me who I am today and for that I thank you.

You and Freddy will live on in my nightmares.

xo
Jessie

<3

“Horror films don’t create fear, they release it.”  ~  Wes Craven

ANNABELLE (2014) and Audience Etiquette

5 Oct

AUDIENCE ETIQUETTE

I don’t mean to be a party pooper but…  Going to a movie theater is not a freaking party in the first place.

I don’t care if you invited every friend you’ve ever known, if you’ve had a few drinks before hand, or if your date is hella boring and you just need to vent about it to someone through discreet, dim-screen text message…  You do not, I repeat DO NOT need to have any kind of discussion in a movie theater.

I am of the belief that if you are actually spending money to come to a public place to view *and listen to* a film you’re going to want to actually invest the time in DOING THOSE THINGS.

Maybe I’m just crazy in the notion that some people actually like to hear every word that is spoken in a film.

Horror is a tricky genre.  There are the fans that are in it for a scare, friends dare their friends to come with them and laugh at everything between the pants crapping terror, but then there are film nerds that fell into a dark and dingy cave and became horror film nerds, and I know for a fact that they don’t have time for your adolescent BS.  Horror is a relevant genre of film.  People work very hard to produce these films, and I worked very hard for an entire hour to afford the ticket to see it.

Respect kids.  It’s all about respect.

That being said:

Annabelle-2014-still

ANNABELLE (2014)

I had a few reservations going into this film tonight.  I loved THE CONJURING, and ok haha, yeah, I love James Wan’s work as a whole.  So to take a film of his, make a spin-off and have him not direct it sort of made me a little nervous.  Of course, any chance I have to see a horror film in theater, I’m gonna take it.

Our story begins with Mia (Annabelle Wallis) and John (cuuuuute, sorry, Ward Horton), expectant parents and churchgoers who after an insane tragedy start experiencing horrifying, and haunting phenomena centred around an already trauma inducing doll.

This film was better than expected, I only had a couple of issues with it, (I don’t know if you would count this as a spoiler but you’ve been warned) the ending was a little weak.  That being said, with a few very well-timed scares, and obvious pointers in Wan’s torture of making you look exactly where you don’t want to look, John R. Leonetti’s ANNABELLE is a strong spin-off/prequel and I give it a good 7 points.

Yeah, I’ve introduced a rating system, what are you going to do about it?

Thanks for tuning into the two-parter kids, what did you guys think of ANNABELLE?  And what’s your audience etiquette horror story?

xo
Jessie

Nostalgia – Or – Why I Love Horror

16 Sep

I apologize in advance.

With my new-found commitment to write a little each and every day, you are going to see more of me popping up in your news feed, as I can’t just keep all of my genius to myself…  And hopefully that’s actually a good thing, because if not, why do you even HAVE me in your news feed?!

Also before we get started, go check out issue #335 of Fangoria Magazine where I was lucky enough to interview my idol Katharine Isabelle about GINGER SNAPS, Hannibal, the Soska’s SEE NO EVIL 2 and everything inbetween!!!

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*ahem*

Anyone with a taste for horror and a Netflix subscription can tell you that there are pretty significant sub-genres involved in my beloved pastime.  “Zombies”, “Supernatural Horror”, and “Teen Screams” are just some of the titles you come across when browsing around on your device of choice.  I would like to put out there that a very valid sub-genre (including the works of Stephen King, James Wan, and others) could be introduced under the name “Childhood Fears”.  On the most recent episode of Land of the Creeps we talked about Stephen King’s books and films (20 films were covered over the course of three hours, booze WAS involved) and I came to a realization.  A lot of horror, and especially Mr. King’s works, deals with those horrors that we dwelled on as children, clowns, child vampires who were once our friends scratching on our windows late at night, mechanics coming to life and killing people, are just some examples.

Well today, I was scrolling through the Fangoria website, and found a nice little flashback review (written by Ken W. Hanley) about one of my guilty pleasure films, DEAD SILENCE (read it here).  Yeah surprise, surprise, we all know I’m a Wan/Whannell fangirl.  The article basically outlined my exact feelings toward this underrated film, and although even Whannell himself has gone on record saying that he wishes it could have been better, I still go back to it time and time again, each time forgetting just how creepy and unsettling it really is, going in a little under prepared, pressing pause only a few minutes in to grab a blanket, a stuffed animal, to set my drink somewhere stable…  Finally I decided that I had some things to say about the topic of childhood memories, horror and how I was created.

Frankenstein3

“IT’S ALLIIIIIVE!”

When I was six years old (going on seven, thank you) I begged and begged my mom to let me watch Goosebumps, a show based on the children’s horror books by R. L. Stine, featuring such horrors as Slappy the killer ventriloquist dummy, a sponge monster that lives under the sink and brings you bad luck (this episode starring a tiny Katharine Isabelle), and ghosts and ghouls that would make any child hide under the blankets at any bump in the night, any whistle through the window, or any neighbour belting out show tunes at 3 in the morning (I lived in a weird neighbourhood)…  I digress.  I begged to watch the show, but when I put it on one day, mom saw this little “GB-7” in the middle of the screen and was like, “You kidding girl?  You ain’t watching this show til you seven.”  (My mom has never ever spoken to me like that).

gb-7

Buzz-killers.

On my seventh birthday, I awoke with a dizzy sense of excitement, not because I just KNEW that I got something Sailor Moon themed, but because I was seven, and that meant that that purple slimy rating on the TV couldn’t bring me down any longer.  I leapt from my bed and snapped the television on and I watched my first episode of Goosebumps.  I don’t even remember which one it was (*nostalgia*) but I was hooked.  From there my parents got me the books from the Scholastic Book Fair (greatest day of the year, am I right?  I feel the fever now and I’m 25-years-old…  I can go to Chapters any time I please for Pete’s sake…).

The horror craze didn’t stop there.  My favourite time of year became Fall, Halloween was a drug to me, even when the fog rolled in on the early morning in the playground at school, I felt at home.  For an entire year, I ONLY watched the Treehouse of Horror episodes of The Simpsons, I became fascinated with witchcraft and my friends and I practiced “Light as a Feather, Stiff as a Board” at every opportunity.  I searched for ghost stories and horrific tales from my public school library (one of which I try to find online from time to time, but I just don’t know enough about it now to do so, breaks my heart a little).  Horror stuck.  It was the constant in my life, and I, the weirdo in everyone else’s…

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I mentioned in an earlier post that when I was eight my mom read me The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon by Stephen King.  With my love for horror already blossoming, and finally the introduction to my mom’s favourite author (who I had always been interested in, seeing her read these books, laughing, crying, and I recognizing that slight change in her expression that said “fear”) my path was written in stone.

I think that as a child, being thrown into this world of “children’s horror” has shaped the kind of tastes that I have in the genre.  Instead of blood, guts and gore, I prefer a slow-burn film that packs a mean punch.  I prefer supernatural stories about ghosts and demons over slasher flicks (but don’t get me wrong, I am a Freddy fiend).  I prefer watching films about things that go bump in the night, what happens when you turn off the lights, and cautionary tales to films about serial sadists and over-exploitative rape revenge.  (BTW go watch TRICK R’ TREAT (2007), or CREEPSHOW (1982) for a prime example of the style I love)

What I love most about this “sub-genre” is that no matter how old you are, no matter how many times people have told us that there are no such things as ghosts or monsters these films still succeed in scaring the crap out of us.  That scared child at the back of our minds (after years of common sense, “real world” issues and countless nights shrouded in safety) tells us to turn the lights on, grab a teddy, grab a blanket, and set our drinks down somewhere stable.

As always, thank you for getting through this post,

I love you all,
Stay scared

Jessie
xoxo

Interview with Leslie Easterbrook (!!!!!!!)

10 Sep

I am so honoured to say that I have had the absolute privilege to speak with the very talented Leslie Easterbrook.  This interview would have reached your eyes and brains and souls much sooner, had we not both been busy with different projects and in my case, gallivanting around.

I assume that we must have crossed paths at the busiest times of our lives, but somehow we made it work!

You will know Leslie from such films as: POLICE ACADEMY, HALLOWEEN (2007), THE DEVIL’S REJECTS, COMPOUND FRACTURE, SORORITY PARTY MASSACRE, and many others.

A legend of the genre, Leslie put up with your scatterbrained and eccentric blogger and gave us stories that may just rival anything you’ve ever gotten from this little blog that could.

I want to thank Leslie again for being so patient, and taking time out of her own overloaded schedule to give me (and YOU) some great answers.

Leslie Easterbrook

What’s your favourite scary movie?

Easy!  The Colossus of New York (1958). I’m not suggesting anyone rush out and buy this movie.  I love it, but not because it’s good.  It was the first scary movie I ever saw, and I took such a risk to see it that I nearly scared myself to death!

When I was in 5th grade I lived one block from Loup City, Nebraska’s only movie theatre.  That’s where I saw a ‘Coming Attraction’ for The Colossus.  It was only playing once as a ‘Midnight Movie’ the next Saturday night (Sunday morning) at 12:30 AM.   Gasp!  I HAD TO SEE IT, despite a resounding “NO” from the parents…

Never being good at taking direction, I cooked up a plan.  I invited my friend Jackie Tucker ( bless her heart, if she sees this I hope she will howl) for a sleep over on that Saturday night. We pretended to go to sleep, but kept our clothes on under our PJ’s, and our eyes on the clock.  We tossed the pj’s, tip toed out of my house, and ran to the theater just in time for the big event.  We had no trouble getting in because the theater was owned by parents of another classmate, Elaine Slomenski. Of course we had permission from our parents, duh…

The movie was wonderful, and we screamed our heads off.  That would be the end of the story if we hadn’t gotten cocky.  Feeling invincible, after the movie we stopped for hamburgers at the all night diner between the theater and my house.  The diner owner, and RAT, called my dad, and before we could gobble one bite of burger we were dragged out the door.  Yup, It was the best and worst night I can remember.  My punishment?  I was grounded for life, of course.

One of the most delicious coincidences of my career is that I got to work with Mala Powers, the young leading lady in The Colossus of New York, 3 times before she passed away.  Once on an episode of Murder She Wrote, and again in two separate radio dramas we recorded together for California Artist’s Radio Theatre.  She was a marvelous actress — and just as cool as I’d always imagined!

How did you get started in the business?

I will try to control the length of this answer — but your questions are too good, Jessie.  And complicated.  The problem with “How did you get started in the business?” is that my career has started over and over and over…  A nice flow would be ideal, but that ebb before each flow can break your heart.

Now, the best thing about starting over is it’s ultimately better each time out, but no one ever tells you this while you’re beating your head against the wall, and hanging by your fingernails…

I had the chance to choose between two careers at the same time.

I received an invitation to sing with the Burbank Symphony in Burbank, CA shortly before graduating from Stephens College in Columbia, MO.  My major was music, and my focus was opera.  A magnificent harpist, Virginia Ehrlich, was graduating with me and asked me to come to CA that summer and sing with the Burbank Symphony.  Her father was the president of the symphony.  Coincidence?  Yes!

It was a thrilling opportunity to meet and sing with the revered Rudolph Friml.   He was an important composer of classical and contemporary music.  He scored early films in Hollywood and was being honored by the concert.  He played piano for me as I sang his songs with the orchestra, many of which I already knew.  He was 92 that summer, and it turned out to be his last live orchestral appearance.

It was a wonderful experience, and while I was visiting and performing in CA my life (and plans) changed dramatically.

  1.  A trombonist in the symphony invited a friend who was a talent agent at a very fancy agency in town.  We met after the concert.
  1.  Talent agent, and lifelong friend, Frank Levy convinced me to give up grad school at Juilliard, join The Opera Workshop at UCLA, audition for the Musical Theatre Workshop at the Los Angeles Civic Light Opera, and to stay in LA for at least a year.  (well, he put me on a good path.  I got into the workshop — and to pay for all this I became an usherette at the Music Center.)
  1.  Near the end of that year I had two job offers.  The first was from Spring Opera, San Francisco Opera’s touring company, to play Flora in the glorious opera “La Traviatta,” and the second was to play Snow White in “Snow White and the Seven Dwarves” at the St. Louis Municipal Opera for The Disney Company.  Flora paid $70 a week, but Snow White paid $1000 a week, and offered the chance to join Actors’ Equity.  Who was kidding who?  I grabbed Snow, bid a fond adieu to the opera, and began a career in the theatre, TV, and film.  Was I crazy?  Who cares?  I rant and rave at the BUSINESS…but I wouldn’t trade it for the world.
  1.  And now, as a ‘well seasoned’ actor, I am getting to work for indie filmmakers.  I love it!  Sometimes it’s like riding bareback, but I broke ponies as a girl, so bring it on!

What was it like working with Rob Zombie?

Working with Rob Zombie is absolutely wonderful.  His social demeanor is very much like his professional one.   He’s friendly, warm, courteous, thoughtful, irreverent, funny –and  the smartest guy in the room.  He is also always on the move!  His fans often tell me that he is quick and abrupt when signing autographs after his concerts.  I always laugh at the responses I get when I ask if he was discourteous, because he isn’t.  He just tries to be fair, and get to everyone he can before being whisked off to another location.

Rob can handle a vast number of things at the same time without shorting any one of them.  As a director this is his job, of course, but very few accomplish it with the grace he does.  In the height of the moment, and even when he’s losing the light and still has two set-ups left on his shot list for the day, he always welcomes questions and/or suggestions, considers them, and responds fairly.  He is quick, clear and decisive, never demeaning or impatient.  He’s as good as it gets!

Do you have any more film opportunities coming up?

Funny you should ask.  I have been having the time of my life working in Indies, and often with new filmmakers.  It is a thrill to be asked, and I learn something valuable on every shoot.  I find that when you take away the glamour and the gloss, the work becomes more honest, making it ultimately more gratifying.  It seems that working for passion is miles above working for a living, but learning to live on passion has been a bit of a challenge!

I will be shooting a film called Finger of God later this month here in LA, and Sugar Skull Girls in PA in July.  Hopefully, in July, as well, I will be shooting Penance Lane for (and with) my dear friends Tyler Mane and his very talented wife, Renae Gerlings in North Carolina.  Down Angel (Colorado) has been postponed.  We’re considering doing an Indiegogo campaign for it later this summer, and I am definitely planning a big Indiegogo push for yet another film, Vendetta.  I will take my first producer plunge with Vendetta, partnering with film composer Timothy Andrew Edwards, who introduced me to you.  (I have received a producer credit on several other movies, but only participated on camera and/or in post production.)  Neither Timothy or I have produced a film from scratch before, so luckily we won’t be producing it by ourselves.  Hopefully we will be quick learners.  Wish us luck!!

I know this answer is long, but I would like to mention some other films which are in different stages of completion and distribution.  Your readers may be able to view some of them if they know the titles.  The movie Greater is an exception to the rule here.  It had a bigger budget and has a more recognizable cast — Neal McDonough, Michael Parks, Nick Searcy.  It is the story of Brandon Burlsworth, an extraordinary young man who was the first college ‘walk on’ football player ever to be picked in the first round of the NFL draft.  Tragically, he was killed before he ever got to play his first professional game.

Here are some other titles to look for:  The Wedding Pact, Compound Fracture, Clubhouse, NightLights, Hollywood and Wine, Black Water Transit, L.A. Dirt, Rivers 9, House of the Witchdoctor, Daddy, and Number Runner

Do you prefer working in film or on stage?

I love them both. but I prefer film.  The work can be more subtle, intimate and immediate.  You can take risks with a character.  And, thank the Good Lord, you don’t have to live with your first take!  Creating out of sequence can be frustrating, but the challenge makes it worth it.

On stage you tell an entire story in every performance.  It’s more satisfying, yes, but also terrifying.  If you screw it up, that audience will never see the play the way it was intended.  And the audience is always a part of every moment of every play.   On stage you can hear it breath, whisper, and rustle.  It becomes a character in the drama.

I prefer working on film, but oh, you make me realize how much I miss the community of the theatre.

SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT re-released theatrically!

13 Nov

Friend of the blog Justin Beahm and previous interviewee (see?) is teaming up with Screenvision for a theatrical re-release of the genre/holiday classic SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT opening in theaters across the states (and possibly Canada!) on December 4th.  Fangoria is also partnering up for this cinematic and Yule-tidey adventure!

Ooo new poster ;)

Ooo new poster 😉

Fangoria Presents unwraps Charles E Sallier Jr.’s 1984 holiday cult horror classic SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT, in theaters this December! SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT tells the tale of Billy Chapmen, orphaned at five after witnessing the murder of his parents at the hands of a Santa suit-clad madman on Christmas Eve. Now eighteen and out of the brutal grip of orphanage nuns, Billy is forced to confront his greatest fear, sending him on a rampage, leaving a crimson trail in the snow behind him. Fangoria Presents, in conjunction with Screenvision, delivers this seasonal slasher essential in a stunning new HD transfer for the ultimate experience in ho-ho-horror!

Here is the link for the trailer, and check here daily to see if your city (or country) is joining the list of participating theaters!

Stay scared, and holiday cheer-y… But mostly scared…

x Jessie

Alright… Let’s clear up some rumours.

5 Nov

So I’ve been gone a little while, so what, I been busy, wanna fight about it?

I’ve been hearing a lot of things lately running around the horror grapevine and I thought I would compile a list of things that we actually KNOW.

ARMY OF DARKNESS 2
There is nothing I would love more than to see Bruce Campbell reprise his role as Ashley J Williams rrng rrrrrng rrrrrnging deadites to…  well death all over again while shouting catch phrases pre-written by the GOD that is Sam Raimi, and maybe Ivan…  Ok so I’m a fan.  But as far as I know, this is NOT happening.  After apparently speaking at a convention as saying that there may be a sequel, and starting a flood of rumours that it was confirmed, Bruce Campbell has now come out and said that “Its all a bunch of B.S.  There’s no reality whatsoever.”
Here’s the video where all of our hopes and dreams died…  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rzMjP7cE6S0

BEETLEJUICE 2 – Michael Keaton reprising his role
Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice Beetlejuice!  Michael Keaton was creepy as ever in Tim Burton’s 1988 film, and there have been some interesting rumours circulating that we could see a sequel in the near future.  Well according to www.horror-movies.ca, when TMZ asked Michael Keaton if he would reprise his role as Beetlejuice, Keaton confirmed.  Yay!

SAW – Reboot?  Eighth installment?
After three years of a SAW-free Halloween, fans everywhere are wondering if we’ll ever see any more torture and treachery as a result of Jigsaw’s twisted teachings.  Well, Lionsgate has come forward saying that they WILL in fact be looking into how to take the SAW franchise in a new direction.  Whether that be in the form of an eighth installment, or a reboot, we’re all unsure at this time.  But something new is coming from the SAWmill (hahaaaaaa…)  (Source: http://bloody-disgusting.com/news/3262916/exclusive-lionsgate-is-actively-developing-next-saw/?utm_source=rss)

That’s it for the rumour mill for now.  If you have heard any crazy rumours in the horror universe that you want debunked, send em my way and I’ll be sure to research to the best of my ability.

Stay scared, kids.

xo Jessie

Video

GO TO SLEEP (2013)

13 Jun

Martha shows up for her first day on the job and finds that there are much scarier things than a movie theater projection booth…
Directed by Nigel Jones
Starring ME! – Jessie Robbins!