Thursday, May 31, 2012


Lest anyone think I've totally abandoned watching schlocky horror movies for snooty art house thrillers, here's a return to my roots. Hisss is my first Bollywood Horror movie. Well, to be more precise, it's my first Bollywood movie. I tend to avoid musicals like the bubonic plague. Song and dance are the cornerstones of Bollywood, so their films didn't seem like a good fit for me. It didn't help matters that a fair amount of material also seemed to focus on fluffy romances. However, as I started to see more Bollywood films delving into fantasy, sci-fi and horror. It felt like a good time to broaden my horizons with something vaguely familiar.

An ugly American abducts a Nagin/snake goddess' (Mallika Sherawat) mate, demanding a cure for his brain tumor, in exchange for its safe return. Snake Goddess goes on a rampage to find her lover. Meanwhile, an overburdened cop (Ifrran Khan) investigates a string of bizarre killings involving cobra venom.

The Species influence is kind of hard to miss.

Hisss has a little bit of everything: superhero flick, revenge story, female empowerment, creature feature, musical, love story, comedy and an attractive lead in Sherawat. Khan gives the film a much needed boost of credibility. It's like a poor man's Species -- minus the nudity but added music. Lowered expectations are a must. Apparently, nobody told Bollywood. The film bombed with both critics and audiences. Writer/Director Jennifer Chambers Lynch("Boxing Helena") made a documentary about her hellish experience making the film.

This might be more interesting than the actual film!

Surprisingly, I wasn't traumatized by the occasional music video montage. Nowhere as grating as I had feared. Lynch didn't get the love story she wanted, but this isn't a disaster. If you can sit through Cockroachasaurus on SyFy, you can get through this...

I have an affinity for ancient myths and legends so perhaps I'm grading on a curve. But wouldn't it be cool if we gave ghosts, vampires, werewolves and zombies a rest and looked for more interesting monsters? Or at the very least, what makes the zombies/werewolves in your script different from all the rest?

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Awake Finale

Had a few days to think it over and I'm still satisfied with the way things wrapped up. Detective Britten took down the conspirators and lived happily ever after -- in what appears to be a new delusion. I'm sure some viewers were looking for a more definitive answer as to which world was real, but that was never the point. Britten was always willing to risk his sanity if it meant he could be reunited with his family, so the final scene makes sense.

Although creator Kyle Killen says there were ideas for another season, I'm somewhat relieved it won't happen. The format might have changed and apparently there was a desire to move away from the procedural aspect. I'm not sure how that would have worked -- I suppose that's why he's had two series on network television and I'm just some dude with a blog. If Netflix and Amazon are smart, they'll try to develop some projects with him.

Not every concept will translate into big ratings, but I applaud the effort to try something different. Awake will probably end up on some brilliant-but-cancelled list in a few years. I pray the DVD is loaded with extras.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

666 Park Avenue

Judging by the youtube comments, I'm not the only one getting flashbacks of The Devil's Advocate when looking at the promos for 666 Park Avenue. All in all, this looks like a safe bet by ABC. American Horror Story -- I show I have yet to warm up to -- was a big success for FX, so why not try to ride the wave with a similar concept on network television?

Welcome to The Drake, the premiere apartment building on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. Owned by the mysterious Gavin Doran (Terry O’Quinn) and his sexy wife Olivia (Vanessa Williams), The Drake is home to dozens of residents who are unaware they’re living in the dark embrace of supernatural forces. They think their dreams are all coming true, only to find they’ve been lured into making, what feels like, a deal with the Devil. When a young Mid-western couple – Jane Van Veen (Rachael Taylor) and Henry Martin (Dave Annable) — is hired to manage The Drake, they soon discover that evil, obsession, and manipulation has a home.

Smart casting: Vanessa Williams brings in some of the Desperate Housewives crowd, while Terry O'Quinn can attract Losties.

I would expect a show like this to (initially) pull in decent numbers, but will it be enough? The River averaged a disappointing 4.5 million viewers in its limited run on ABC, but American Horror Story averaged 4.4 million viewers was considered a ratings bonanza by cable standards.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Do No Harm

Is it too early for the Jekyll vs. Do No Harm comparisons? I'm all for new twists on the classics, but didn't NBC already mine the multiple-personality territory with My Own Worst Enemy a few seasons back?

Dr. Jason Cole is a highly respected neurosurgeon who has it all - a lucrative career, confident charm, and the gift of compassion. But he also has a deep, dark secret. One morning, when he wakes up disoriented in a wrecked hotel room amidst several near-naked women he's never seen before, he knows one thing: it's happening again.

Every night at the same hour, something inside Jason changes, leaving him almost unrecognizable - seductive, devious, borderline sociopathic. This new man is his dangerous alternate personality who goes by the name of "Ian Price." For years as he's battled Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID), Jason has been able to keep Ian in check with a powerful experimental sedative. But now his - their - body has developed a resistance to the serum, setting Ian free once again. And to make matters worse, after being suppressed for so long, Ian's hell-bent on taking revenge on his oppressor.

With everyone Jason cares about at risk - patients, friends, co-workers and even the woman he loves - he's got to stop Ian once and for all. Will they find some common ground, or will they bring each other down? Hell hath no fury like an alter scorned.

At least the protagonist isn't a spy in this one. And just in case you forgot:

Doesn't appear as strong as the BBC series, but a more grounded approach might be more appealing to mainstream viewers. I wonder how it's going work on a weekly basis: Jason has to stop Ian's villainous scheme of the week, or will we be introduced to some dark, tangled conspiracy? At any rate, it certainly looks more intriguing than Revolution—I'll get to that later...

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Dry Spell

It's been quite some time since I sent out some query letters and even longer for a read request, but one did dribble into my inbox the other day. We'll see what happens...

I decided to pass on the Austin Film Festival. Although I've made major headway, the script isn't contest ready. The entry fee money might be better served with a few months on IMDbPro.

Badass Character Intros: Jared Nomak

This opening sequence from Blade II is a great example of playing with expectations. The set up is almost identical to the blood rave scene in Blade: some poor schmuck wanders into a den of blood-thirsty vampires. But instead of the Daywalker showing up and saving the day, we learn that this guy isn't a schmuck after all. Jared Nomak isn't terrified by the presence of vamps. As a matter of fact, vampires should be afraid of him! He then proceeds to wipe the floor (and walls) with them. Similar set up, but completely different payoff.

This sequence introduces Nomak as the primary antagonist and establishes him as a formidable opponent for Blade. It actually does a better job in this regard than the first film. Although we see Deacon Frost briefly in the blood rave, he doesn't do much. We have no indication that he's any kind of physical threat—beyond being a vampire. His fighting skills in the big showdown were always a bit sketchy to me.

We even get a little bit of foreshadowing when Nomak talks about not being in contact with his family. Far from a perfect film, but it certainly has its moments.

You can read the full script here.

PULL BACK from a neon red cross ablaze in the cold December
night to REVEAL an inner-city, store-front clinic.  Trash and
leaves blow over wet, snowy pavement.

ANGLE ON a PALE FIGURE standing across the street.  He looks
feverish and strung-out, in serious need of a fix.  This is
JARED NOMAK, 20s.  He starts towards the clinic.


Potential DONORS sit in a waiting area, filling out forms,
leafing through informational material.  A sign in the window
reads: "Se habla Espanol".  Others read: "YOU ARE MAKING A
overhear a bored-looking EMPLOYEE behind the information desk
quizzing someone over the phone:

 Have you recently visited a tropical
 country?  Uh-huh?  In the past twelve
 months have you gotten a tattoo, non
 sterile acupuncture, or undergone any
 ear, skin or body piercing?

We MOVE PAST the employee to Nomak, waiting.

  NURSE (O.S.)
 Jared Nomak?

Nomak looks up.  We get a better look at his face now - he
has a thin scar running from his lower lip down his chin.  A
childhood accident, perhaps.  A NURSE smiles and motions for
him to join her.  She's carrying a clipboard.

 Hi.  We're ready for you now.


Nomak follows the Nurse into a dimly-lit hallway.  We track
their progress in a convex safety mirror suspended from the
hallway ceiling as they pass all manner of medical supplies --
centrifuges, an apheresis device, etc.

  (referring to her clipboard)
 I see from your questionnaire that you
 don't have any immediate next of kin?

 Not that I'm in contact with.

 Nobody to call in case of an emergency?

 No --
 Does that mean I can't be a donor?

 It depends.  We came up with some
 unusual results on your blood test.

Nomak follows the Nurse to a steel door were TWO SECURITY
GUARDS await them.  Both look bored, paying little attention
to the monitor which offers a view of the examining room
beyond.  There is also a small window with safety glass.
GUARD #1 opens the door, following Nomak and the Nurse
inside.  GUARD #2 remains behind, manning the hallway.


The Nurse ushers Nomak into the room, indicating he should
sit in a kind of reclining dental chair with arm and
headrests.  Nomak notices a security camera mounted above.

 How unusual?

Beat.  The Nurse sets aside Nomak's file, looking

 Your blood has a very rare phenotype,
 one that's quite valuable to people like

 Us?  What are you talking about?

A kind-faced DOCTOR enters, nodding to Guard #1.

 It's a good news-bad news scenario,
 Jared.  Good news for us, bad for you.

The Doctor and Nurse smile, BARING FANGS.  We realize now
that they are both vampires.  The Guard, too.  He grips Nomak
by the throat, forcing him back into the restraint chair.  As
the vampire Guard does so, his hand brushes against Nomak's
jaw.  The flesh on Nomak's chin briefly separates along the
scar - almost as if it were a seam.

The guard pauses - and Nomak LAUGHS.  Definitely NOT the
reaction the vampires were expecting from a potential victim.
Nomak starts to shake and twitch, like he's going into some
kind of seizure.  The whites of his eyes bleed red.  He
throws his head back, opening his mouth as a PAIR OF RAZOR
SHARP CANINES extrude from his gums.  These are longer, much
more lethal-looking than the fangs of the vampires and --

Nomak lashes out, knocking the Guard backwards.  The Nurse
SCREAMS.  Nomak clamps his mouth onto her throat, SLAMMING
her back against the wall.

The vampire Doctor rushes to the door, scrambling to unbolt
it.  Nomak reaches for him, HOWLING with blood-drunk laughter
as he lifts the Doctor up.  Nomak flings the Doctor about
like a toy, using his body to SMASH the lights, then the
security camera above.


We hear SCREAMS and HORRIBLE NOISES coming from the examining
room.  Guard #2 draws a gun and looks to the security monitor
with alarm.  The screen goes black.  He looks to the small
window, trying to peer into the now-darkened room beyond --

SPLASH!  A wave of blood smears across a window.  A HAND
wipes a patch of blood away, revealing Nomak's baleful,
distorted eyes.  Guard #2 starts to back away when --

BANG!  Nomak slams against the other side of the steel door.
BANG!BANG!BANG!  The door begins to bend, hand-shaped
impressions bulging outward as Nomak starts to peel the door
apart like it was an aluminum can.

Guard #2 has seen enough.  He turns and runs even as the door
CAVES INWARD off its hinges.  Forward momentum sends the door
sliding across the hallway floor where it trips up the Guard.


as Nomak steps into the hallway.  Because of the lights
above, there are alternating pools of light and shadow in the
hall.  Nomak advances towards us, his face coming in and out
of darkness.

 Vampires --

With each pool of light, his awful smile seems to distort
further and further, until his mouth seems to be widening all
the way back to his ears.

 I fucking hate vampires.

On the floor, the vampire Guard CRIES OUT in fear, helplessly
raising his hands to defend himself.  Nomak HOWLS and leaps
towards him/us, blacking out the screen with his hurtling
form as we --

Thursday, May 10, 2012


Heard two excellent interviews recently:

Kyle Killen, the executive producer/creator of NBC's Awake:

BTW, I came across an intriguing theory that Detective Britten is actually in a coma and the parallel worlds are both dreams. Furthermore, Hannah and Rex survived the accident. They're at his bedside, talking to him. Makes sense.

Seth Grahame-Smith, screenwriter of Dark Shadows and the upcoming Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter—he wrote the novel and also adapted the screenplay. Additionally, Seth is working on the long-rumored Beetlejuice sequel:

There's a running theme of persistence in both interviews. Their success didn't happen overnight, but they kept plugging away.

Saturday, May 05, 2012

Fringe: Brave New World (Part 1)

Although I haven't missed an episode of season 4, I've been that somewhat disengaged. These aren't the same people we've been watching for the past three years. I mean, they look the same, but they're practically strangers to the viewers. Playing the same characters this long is probably a chore for the cast, so I'm sure they jumped at the chance to breathe new life into their roles. Season 4 feels like someone pushed a magic button and changed the dynamics ever so slightly. It reminds me, to a lesser degree, of the big Superbowl reset in Alias' second season.

I kept waiting for Peter to leave *that* place and get back to our timeline. There wasn't a worthwhile payoff to the alternate, alternate world -- until last night. I was genuinely surprised (won't spoil it) by a certain revelation, but it makes perfect sense. Looking forward to Part 2 next week and season 5!

Anyway, I thought I'd pass along a great interview with writer/director/producer Akiva Goldsman about working on the show and developing certain ideas. Great insight from someone coming from movies and having to learn how television works. You can listen to it here.

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Quartier de la Madeleine

If you're always late to the party like me, you might have missed this segment from Paris, Je t'aime (2006). Directed by Vincenzo Natali (Splice, Cube), it's a fun short starring Olga Kurylenko and Elijah Wood, about a chance encounter with a beautiful vampire that turns into love at first sight...

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Eyes Without a Face (Les yeux sans visage)

Netflix suggested Eyes Without a Face on several occasions and I totally ignored it. The majority of Netflix's recommendations have been good to great, but that rare stinker will cause some doubt to creep in. This didn't look or sound like my kind of film. Honestly, I really hate the thought of reducing my passion for film into a bunch of cold ones and zeros, and then attempting to predict what I'll like next. I'd like to think I'm too complicated for that -- fortunately, I'm not...

A recent airing on Turner Classic Movies made me a fan of this 1960 French film directed by Georges Franju.

Dr. GĂ©nessier kidnaps beautiful young women and steals their skin in an attempt repair his disfigured daughter Christiane's face.

Sounds like your basic slasher film with a high potential for lots of camp and schlock, but this understated foreign thriller surprisingly defies the odds.

I've been on a steady diet of foreign horror/thrillers for quite some time now. Most of them have been different from the typical Hollywood fare -- different, not necessarily better. I've been drawn to stuff that doesn't fit neatly into a specific genre box and this film fits the bill. It's basically the love child of a stylish art house film and your basic B-movie plot. And while the story might not blow you away, it's hard not to appreciate some of the surreal visuals.

What the film also does very well is present sympathetic antagonists. The doctor isn't a monster, he does monstrous things for the sake of his daughter, all the while blaming himself for her condition. The violence itself is pretty tame by today's standards. Your average episode of C.S.I. is more graphic. Two scenes stood out for me: the face transplant scene, and the time lapse shot of a slowly decaying face -- reminded me a little bit of The Walking Dead.

Eyes With Out a Face also seems to bear more than a passing resemblance to Pedro Almodovar's The Skin I Live In from last year -- I'm going to do post about that one shortly. If that wasn't enough, check this out:

John Carpenter is a fan as well.

Now I was familiar with this Billy Idol song, but unfamiliar with its origins:

Finally, brought to you by the magic of youtube, the first ten minutes:

Doesn't it almost feel like the opening of a Hitchcock film?

If I'm going to discover more hidden gems like this, I for one, gladly welcome our new Netflix algorithm overlords.


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