Vanessa Morgan's Blog

May 27, 2015

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sicario benicio del toro
Sicario 

Since Enemy , Denis Villeneuve is my new favorite director. In Sicario, he tackles the Mexican cartels with realism, intensity, and emotional depth. The result is a hard action thriller that leaves you feeling bewildered and vulnerable. 

love gaspar noe
Love 

Everyone in Cannes hated Gaspar Noé's latest. I can see why: Love is repetitive and too long. Some of the dialogue is badly written. And the film contains too many lousy self-referencing jokes and unnecessary 3D sex scenes. Yet no one talks about the beautiful love story and the smart insights about love and relationships in general. Despite its misses, Love is a fascinating viewing experience that sticks long after it's over. 

one and two
One and Two 

Imagine a mix between X-men and The Village, told in a realistic and sober way. That's One and Two. The story may be too slow-moving for some, but its beauty and refinement is undeniable. 

carol cate blanchett
Carol 

Based on Patricia Highsmith's novel The Price of Salt , Carol is the beautifully-lensed portrayal of two women in the mid-twentieth century who fall in love with each other while dealing with the societal problems that ensue. Carol could have had some of the best and most ravaging endings in recent years (think: Brief Encounter ), but, sadly, closes on a positive and thus more ordinary note. Definitely check out Carter Burwell's amazing soundtrack. 

my golden years
My Golden Years (Trois souvenirs de ma jeuneusse) 

A delicate French coming-of-age story with charming young talent. I just regret Mathieu Almaric's poor performance and the look-into-the-camera scenes. 

howl
Howl 

This British werewolf movie takes place almost entirely on a train. Admittedly, the story is predictable and the werewolves look goofy in close-up, but Howl is a notch up compared to many other genre movies. It's huge fun. And, in the dark, the werewolves – looking like demons with their glowing eyes and uncanny movements – are downright creepy. 

green room jeremy saulnier
Green Room 

After witnessing a crime, the members of a band find themselves trapped in a secluded venue. An unpretentious, straightforward, and suspenseful take on the survival genre from the hand of Jeremy Saulnier ( Blue Ruin ). Saulnier's distinctive style is what really makes this movie stand out. 


Just good
10 days in a madhouse
10 Days in a Madhouse 

Based on Nellie Bly's book by the same name, 10 Days in a Madhouse is the true story of a journalist who feigns mental illness to go undercover in an insane asylum to expose abuse. I saw an unfinished version of 10 Days in a Madhouse, so it's difficult to say how much of the movie will improve in the future. Still, despite this being rough around the edges, the story kept me interested all the way through. 

cherry tree movie
Cherry Tree 

David Keating tackles exactly the same theme as in Wake Wood (the unwillingness to accept the death of those we love), but, this time, he goes on the fun midnight movie route (albeit unintentionally). Cherry Tree is lovable teenage witch horror that's a little silly at times, but that mainly surprises by being darker and gorier than what we're used to. And I absolutely loved the centipedes crawling all over the place. 

the pack
The Pack 

A pack of feral dogs infiltrate an isolated farmhouse to attack a family. All the genre cliches are present, but overall The Pack was a fun, polished watch. In case you're wondering, this is NOT a remake of the 1977 movie by the same name. In fact, it's much more reminiscent of Burning Bright (2010, Carlos Brooks) in which a family is trapped inside a house with a ravenous tiger. 

last shift
Last Shift 

Last Shift is repetitive and contrived, but the ghostly apparitions and scare scenes are pretty efficient. Some people even left the screening because it was too scary. 

martyrs remake
Martyrs 

It will probably offend many of you that I preferred the remake of Martyrs over the original one. The over-the-top violence and bloody mess of the French film made it hard to concentrate on the story. In the remake, however, the balance is just right. Just a pity they changed the ending. 

rams
Rams (Hrútar) 

When some sheep in an Icelandic farming valley show signs of BSE, the veterinary authorities decree that all sheep must be destroyed. Two brothers that haven't spoken to each other for a long time, reunite to save the sheep. Rams is not funny nor touching enough to either be a comedy or a drama, but it offers several cute scenes and an interesting view on rural life in Iceland. 


Disappointing
violent shit
Violent Shit: the Movie 

This is a follow-up to Andreas Schnaas' Violent Shit trilogy (of which the third installment – Infantry of Doom – was unsettling). This time, it's not Schnaas, but Italian director, Luigi Pastore, that gives life to Karl the Butcher. The result is a reinvention of amateurism. Violent Shit does everything wrong. You can't do worse than this one. I'd almost recommend Violent Shit: the Movie as a curiosity and to stretch your boundaries of bad taste. 

Update: Luigi Pastore, the director of Violent Shit: the Movie, contacted me to point out that the film I saw is not the final version. He was very much opposed to present the film at Cannes, but his distributor was keen to give it a try.

medusa movie
Medusa 

This story about a mythology professor who finds a mirror that can summon Medusa is another example of amateurism. However, the presence of the cat made it all bearable. 

roar tigers of the sundarbans
Roar: Tigers of the Sundarbans 

If you steal a white baby tiger, all the animals of the forest will turn against you. That's the idea of this Hindi adventure film. It's impossible not to compare Roar: Tigers of the Sundarbans with the cheesiness of The Asylum, but the attack scenes are fun and the animals stunning. 

unnatural
Unnatural 

An animal attack movie with polar bears is quite original, but that's about the only thing that Unnatural has to offer. It looks horribly cheap and the bear is hardly visible. It does have some name actors, though. 

ryuzo and the seven henchmen
Ryuzo and the Seven Henchmen 

What happened to the once talented Takeshi Kitano? Ryuzo and the Seven Henchmen is nothing more than a portrait of farting yakuzas. 

grief of others
The Grief of Others 

Based on the novel by Leah Hager Cohen, The Grief of Others proves that by trying to be too realistic you become fake. I left after an hour. Maybe the film gets better after that.

***
Pre-order my new book:

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Published on May 27, 2015 04:58 • 1 view

May 8, 2015

cover reveal
You guys! I have a new book coming out in June!

It's the book many of you have long been waiting for: the heartwarming true story of my Turkish Van cat Avalon

The book will detail how Avalon became a movie star, how he used special techniques to throw my dates out of the house, how he spoke a few words of French (I swear this is true), how he made a hobby out of vomiting on my guinea pig's head, and so much more.

But, most of all, Avalon is a love story. Because no matter how much of a star he was, what made his life truly special was the intense bond we shared together. Some cats may need nine lives to make a difference, but Avalon only needed one.

Here's a peek at the cover. The book comes out on June 4th, 2015. 

Pre-order it now!Amazon.com / Amazon.uk / Amazon.fr
I'll have a book tour in June and July, too, so I hope we'll get to celebrate together soon.

Let me know what you think of the cover in the comments or on Twitter using @eeriestories.

Meanwhile, follow me on Amazon to receive updates!
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Published on May 08, 2015 07:44 • 14 views

April 27, 2015

As you already know from this post, I hosted several Q&A sessions with filmmakers at the Brussels International Fantastic Film Festival. In between those interviews, I had the chance to see 22 films. Here are the ten best ones I've seen: 

goodnight mommy
Goodnight Mommy 

Two children don't recognize their mother when she comes home after plastic surgery. They torture her to get her to confess that she's not their real mother. However, the children, too, have a dark secret. Goodnight Mommy was the best film I saw at BIFFF 2015. I didn't think much of the 'twist' at the end, though. Luckily, I figured out this twist after five minutes so I could focus on all the brilliant things the film had to offer: an intense atmosphere, classy and inspired images, and an overall hypnotic plot. 

spring
Spring 

The BIFFF catalogue described Spring as a mix between Richard Linklater and H.P. Lovecraft. It doesn't sound like a good match, but it works perfectly. The story is about a young man who meets the girl of his dreams while vacationing in Italy. We follow them from date to date as they dine by candle light at beachfront restaurants, visit museums, and go on road trips together. However, the girl suffers from a strange 'physical condition', one that will test the genuineness of their bond. A feel good horror film with dreamy Italian locations. 

late phases
Late Phases 

This cool werewolf movie takes its cue from Silver Bullet (Daniel Attias, 1985). While it's not a horror film that will change the genre in terms of originality, it doesn't do anything wrong either. Late Phases is a very efficient classic monster movie with well-developed characters, thematic depth, a fast pace, an entertaining storyline, and a bunch of cool werewolves. 

faults
Faults 

A self-help guru tries to assist a cult victim while he is the one who needs help. Does free will really exist? Do we all have to possibility to transform? Faults is a perfect example of characterization and mood setting. Simple, but engrossing. 

lost soul the doomed journey of richard stanley's island of dr moreau
Lost Soul: The Doomed Journey of Richard Stanley's Island of Dr. Moreau 

Directed by Steven Gregory, this documentary focuses on the nightmare that became Richard Stanley's The Island of Dr. Moreau . Stanley had spent several years adapting the book and visualizing the film, but soon after the shooting started, he was replaced by John Frankenheimer. From then on, Lost Soul turns from a tragic story into a farce. Whereas Val Kilmer tarnished the atmosphere on set with his pretentiousness, Marlon Brando made it his mission to sabotage the project by making the most ludicrous demands. And Frankheimer? He just wanted to finish the damn job, so he agreed with all this silliness. The result is one of the worst movies in history. 

a hard day
A Hard Day 

Are you having a hard day? Think again. It's probably not half as bad as that of detective Go Geon-soo. In less than 24 hours, he receives a divorce notice, his mother dies, his co-workers are accused of embezzlement, he commits a fatal hit and run, he hides his victim's corpse in his mother's coffin, and he gets a call from a mysterious man who claims to have witnessed the crime. A Hard Day is a hilarious and well-made Korean thriller. 

the forgotten
The Forgotten 

Do you want to make a movie, but is money an issue? Maybe you should get married and ask for money instead of wedding presents. It's exactly how Oliver Frampton funded his first movie, The Forgotten. He tells the story of a fourteen-year-old boy who is forced to squat with his father in an empty London council estate. When he hears strange noises coming from the abandoned flat next door, he decides to enter to find out what's going on. Smart, stylish, and creepy. 

stung
Stung 

This giant-wasps-attacking-a-garden-party-movie reminded me a lot of Ticks (Tony Randel, 1993) and Rabid Grannies (Emmanuel Kervyn, 1988), but never equaled their entertainment value. Nevertheless, Stung was a fun horror flick, mainly because the wasps were giant from the start and well made. I also loved the idea that they hatched inside people and then split them open to emerge. 

from the dark
From The Dark 

A young couple embarks on a road trip through the Irish countryside. They stumble upon a monster that attacks only when it's dark. Conor McMahon from Stitches won't change the genre with From the Dark . Therefor, the plot is too basic, but McMahon knows how to entertain and keep the audience's attention. 

the cobbler
The Cobbler 

The idea for The Cobbler is original: whenever cobbler Max Simpkin (Adam Sandler) puts on his clients' shoes, he takes over their identity and appearance. It's silly at times and The Cobbler definitely stretches your boundaries of disbelief, but there there were scenes where I couldn't stop laughing.

Seen at BIFFF, but didn't make the top ten: Burying the Ex, Haemoo , III, No Tears For The Dead , Blood Moon, Greatful Dead, German Angst, Hollow, The Great Hypnotist , The House at the End of Time , Viy, and Big Game
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Published on April 27, 2015 05:32 • 12 views

April 6, 2015

offscreen film festival
The Offscreen Film Festival started on Wednesday with a screening of Roy Andersson's latest A Pigeon Sat On A Branch Reflecting On Existence. Whereas the film excels in interesting compositions, its theme of life being boring and meaningless results in a film that is as empty as the situations and people it describes. It's all about recurring locations, static actors, endless shots, and repetitive dialogue. “We just want to help people have fun,” one of the characters says. Considering the strong Monty Python-like vibe of A Pigeon..., I'm guessing this was Roy Andersson's objective as well. Unfortunately, he accomplished the opposite.

On Thursday, I spent the day with Tobe Hooper and his girlfriend Rebecca, showing them around all the cozy corners of Brussels. Tobe insisted on having a drink at Le Cerceuil, a bar in the centre of Brussels where you sit around coffins, and drink cocktails with names such as Cadaver's Urine out of skulls. Besides our mutual love of horror movies, we also shared a passion for animals. Tobe stops in the street to gawk at passing dogs, obsesses over Milou (Tintin's dog), and just tries to find as much excuses as he can to talk about his canine loves.

nova offscreen peter strickland
On Friday, I introduced the movies The Duke Of Burgundy and Matango: Attack Of The Mushroom People at Offscreen. The Duke Of Burgundy was an absolute marvel. For the first fifteen minutes, it looked banal and wooden, but that was only because director Peter Strickland was playing his audience's strings like a puppeteer. Once you realize that you're watching a lesbian couple playing out a sexual fantasy, the story becomes really interesting. As the fantasy becomes part of the couple's daily routine, little fissures in the relationship start to show. Both women don't always react the way they want each other to, frustrations build up, and the dominant party in the RPG becomes the dominated one in real life. Despite the weirdness of the film, it's all surprisingly recognizable, a mirror to the reasons why many couples fail after a while. It's smart, multi-layered stuff, and the visual appeal is nothing less than magnetic.

tobe hooper masterclass tobe hooper
After having attended Tobe Hooper's masterclass on Saturday, I went to see Lifeforce . I can't say I'm a fan of Tobe Hooper's adaptation of Colin Wilson's 1976 novel The Space Vampires. Therefor, the film has too many dull moments (the silly ones are rather charming). On the other hand, Lifeforce contains iconic scenes that you keep thinking about long after the film has ended (London being engulfed by zombies, the look of the victims after they've been sucked from their energy, the hypnotic presence of Mathilda May). It has too many good moments to be ignored, and too many dull ones to be recommendable.

jasper sharp tim grabham
On Sunday, Jasper Sharp and Tim Grabham introduced their documentary The Creeping Garden: Irrational Encounters With Plasmodial Slime Moulds in which they explore the frightening intelligence of slime moulds. I expected the documentary to be sensational in nature (the slime moulds' behavior reminds us of The Blob and Invasion Of The Body Snatchers), but Jasper Sharp and Tim Grabham go for a realistic, fringe scientific approach. After this documentary, you'll never look at slime moulds the same way. The Creeping Garden is now also available as a book.

Next, I introduced Tobe Hooper's Eaten Alive . It was the first movie Tobe Hooper made after The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and it's easy to spot the similarities between those two films. There's the same gritty atmosphere, the same hopelessness, the same rage. In 2000, Tobe Hooper would make a second killer crocodile film, and herein it's obvious that the director has become more moderate and commercial. Eaten Alive is definitely one of my favorite Tobe Hooper films, mainly because the set pieces are so efficient (everything has been filmed inside the studio, including the exterior scenes in the swamps).

tobe hooper texas chainsaw massacre 2
On Wednesday, we took Tobe Hooper and his girlfriend Rebecca to Bruges . For Tobe, that means spending eighty percent of the day inside the restaurant. He ate mussels for the first time in his life and enjoyed several local beers such as Brugse Zot and Brugse Straffe Hendrik. He loved the sightseeing part, though. His eyes sparkled as he discovered the cobblestone streets and walked along the fairytale-like canals.

By the way, did you know that Tobe is superstitious? Whenever we passed a lantern, he insisted we crossed it from the same side as he feared the lantern would divide the group's energy. He also refuses to toast if you drink water instead of alcohol and forbids his girlfriend to see his introductions as he believes it'll bring bad luck.

When we passed Aalter on our way back home, I mentioned that I saw a UFO there when I was a kid. Tobe replied that he had seen two UFOs as well and that he is absolutely certain these are aliens.

cinema nova
After dinner in my favorite Thai Restaurant Villa Singha, I introduced Salem's Lot on Thursday. I stayed to watch the film for what is probably the thirtieth time in my life. A lot of people consider Salem's Lot one of the creepiest vampire movies ever made. I can only agree. It all started in 1979 with a TV mini series – the most expensive ever made at that time. Because the TV mini series was successful, the material was heavily cut in order to turn it into a film. That was the version we got to see at Offscreen. Tobe Hooper himself loathes this cut, and I can see why. The first thing to go from the TV mini series was the character development. The film feels rushed. Important information is missing so that several scenes become illogical. Ben and Susan go from “Let's have a date” to being a couple without any transition scenes. And when Ben exclaims that Susan has to go back to Boston, the viewer can only wonder why she has to go to Boston if she lives in Salem's Lot (she actually explains in a cut scene that she has to go to Boston for a job interview). And what happened to Susan after she entered the Marsten House? There are more than a few hiccups in this cut, but overall the film version works and the cuts are generally from scenes that only slowed down the TV series.


electric boogaloo mark hartley
I watched Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story of Cannon Films again on Friday. You may remember that I had already seen this documentary at the Sitges Film Festival. The fact that I watched it again at Offscreen proves how much I love it. Electric Boogaloo is easily one of the most insightful and funny documentaries I've seen in years. It never bores for a single second. It doesn't matter whether you know Cannon films or not; if you love great documentaries then this one is not to be missed.

Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story of Cannon Films ignited my desire to watch Ninja III: The Domination (1984) later that evening. Ninja III is known as one of the worst movies the Cannon Group has ever produced and there are no words for how silly it is. The story follows a young woman (Lucinda Dickey) who gets possessed by the spirit of an evil ninja who avenges his death from beyond the grave. The audience was laughing hard as Lucinda Dickey stripped in front of the hairy police officer she just met and poured V8 over her chest, when she did aerobics when she was assaulted by the evil spirit, or when laser beams came out of the arcade game. An unmissable “so bad it's good” movie that has often been described as a mix between Enter The Ninja, The Exorcist, Poltergeist, and Flashdance. You have to see it to believe it.

mark hartley
The weekend was spent having dinner with the festival's guests at Houtsiplou and Ricotta & Parmesan. We also went to the Made In Asia convention and Mini Europe (miniature representations of Europe's famous landmarks) with Electric Boogaloo director Mark Hartley.

chuck norris double
On Saturday, I introduced the 1987 movie Street Smart at Cinematek. In this crime drama from Cannon, a journalist (Christopher Reeve) writes an article on a fictitious pimp. By coincidence, the story resembles that of an actual pimp (Morgan Freeman), now convicted of murder. The day afterwards, it was time to introduce Tobe Hooper's Invaders From Mars (1986), an alien invasion movie written by Don Jakoby and Dan O'Bannon (who also wrote the script of Lifeforce).

bozar
I watched the new remastered version of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre twice in a row on the big screen on Tuesday. The first time was for the sound check of the screening in the Bozar theater and the second time together with the audience. It was a good fifteen years since I last saw the film, but my opinions have remained the same: brilliant shots, broody atmosphere, creepy sound effects that make your bones tingle, a baleful build-up, and a nightmarish scene in which a chainsaw-yielding Leatherface unexpectedly shows up in the woods at night and chases Marilyn Burns for ten long minutes without giving the viewer any second to pause or breathe. Contrary to most viewers, though, I don't like the dinner scene (it breaks the tension as it renders the villains ridiculous). Otherwise, a masterpiece.

10 to midnight
After having spent the day with Tobe Hooper and his girlfriend Rebecca again on Wednesday, I introduced the 80s action movies Avenging Force and 10 To Midnight at Offscreen. I stayed for Avenging Force which turned out to be banal for the first hour, but once Michael Dudikoff is being hunted in the swamp, the film picks up and becomes huge fun. Another good thing about Avenging Force is that the script is varied and that it features some unexpected death scenes.

julian marsh gilles vranckx
You may remember from last year that I had the opportunity to take photos in the abandoned porn cinema ABC (you can find the pictures here ). Offscreen, Cinema Nova, and La Rétine tried to save the cinema and managed to collect 60,000 euros in crowd funding. Just when they were about to sign contracts, the owner of the ABC died. Unfortunately, his son had other plans with the place. While the ABC cinema may not have been saved, Cinema Nova did manage to salvage more than 600 films, three of which have been shown at Offscreen on Friday when Offscreen paid tribute to the ABC cinema with an evening full of movies, trailers, striptease acts, games, etc.

cannon films nova brussels
On Saturday, I watched Matango: Attack Of The Mushroom People . The fact that it was a pristine 35mm print that had traveled the world in order to be shown at Offscreen, made the screening worthwhile. Nothing really happened during the majority of the film, though, and when the mushroom people finally arrived, they didn't do much but stand there.

I ended the day with a screening of Masters Of The Universe , long revered as one of the campiest films ever. Courtney Cox and her boyfriend find a cosmic key that can open a portal to any point in time and space, and are being hunted by an evil creature wearing a Halloween mask. Luckily, there's He-Man Dolph Lundgren and his team to save them. The costumes and dialogue in Masters Of The Universe will push your limits of bad taste.

cannon films posters
On the last day of Offscreen, I introduced Tobe Hooper's The Mangler . I'd seen this film back in 1995 when it came out and didn't like it. Twenty years later, my opinion still hasn't changed, but I had forgotten how gory and gruesome The Mangler was.

The festival closed with a screening of A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night (which I had already seen at the Sitges Film Festival) and lots of themed treats.

Have you seen any of the Offscreen films? Which ones are your favorites?

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Published on April 06, 2015 04:38 • 9 views

March 31, 2015

I'll be hosting several Q&As with filmmakers at the Brussels International Fantastic Film Festival (BIFFF) in April. Check it out. 

burying the ex burying the ex
Burying The Ex 

On April 7, at the openings night of BIFFF, I'll be hosting a Q&A with American director Joe Dante ( Gremlins , Piranha ). We'll be addressing Dante's entire career, but the focus will be on his latest horror comedy, Burying The Ex, in which a bitchy girl crawls out of the grave to stalk her ex-boyfriend. 

german angst german angst
German Angst 

No one knows how to transgress the boundaries of gore like Germans. If you've ever seen films by Jörg Buttgereit ( Nekromantik ), Olaf Ittenbach ( Premutos – Der gefalenne engel ), Andreas Schnaas (Violent Shit), and Andreas Marshall ( Tears Of Kali ), you know what I mean. Three of those German filmmakers – Buttgereit, Kosakowski and Marshall – collaborated to bring us a tryptic of stomach-churning stories. After the screening of German Angst, on April 14, I'll be chatting with Michael Kosakowski and Andreas Marshall about their respective stories. 

stung horror movie stung
Stung 

On April 18, I'll be hosting a Q&A with actor Daniele Rizzo, sound designer Tilman Hahn, and sound editor Emil Klotzsch (sound editor) on Stung, a hilarious horror comedy about wasps intruding on a chic garden party. The wasps return meaner and bigger when treated with chemicals.

goodnight mommy goodnight mommy
Goodnight Mommy 

Later that evening, you can also go to a Q&A with directors Severin Fiala and Veronic Franz where we'll discuss their new movie Goodnight Mommy. This unsettling story about a mother who returns from hospital with her head covered in bandages and starts mistreating her identical twin kids, has created a buzz at the latest Sitges Film Festival, especially regarding the twist ending. By the way, Veronic Franz was also the screenwriter for Ulrich Seidl's Paradise Trilogy

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Published on March 31, 2015 03:07 • 13 views

March 24, 2015

john cleese so anyway
Reading: 

* So, Anyway by John Cleese. I'm a big fan of John Cleese, especially of his work on Fawlty Towers, but his autobiography wasn't what I expected it to be. The main focus is on Cleese's childhood, college years, and early work in theatre. Sometimes he touches interesting parts - such as his survival techniques as a teacher, his reveries about how life could have been easier if he'd become a lawyer or a banker, and his complicated relationship with Connie Booth – but he always returns to the bare facts and most of those aren't very absorbing. He rarely mentions Fawlty Towers and his movies, and only addresses Monty Python in the last chapter as if his editor obliged him to put it in after the book was already written.

* Billson Film Database: Short Reviews Of Over 4000 Films . If you enjoy reading the capsule reviews on my blog, then there's no reason you won't enjoy Anne Billson's collection of movie reviews, all of which have been previously published in The Telegraph and other publications. It's not the kind of book to read in one go, more something to leaf through whenever you're looking for a movie to watch. The author covers every genre, every era, every taste, and does so with both knowledge and humor. It's an inspiring read that will make you want to sit down and (re-)discover films all day long. Fun fact: being a cat lover, Anne Billson makes a special mention of movies with kitties. 

* Globule: Une vie de lapin by Mamemoyashi. Since I have just welcomed a rabbit to the family, my boyfriend now buys me rabbit mangas on top of cat mangas. Globule: Une vie de lapin is the true story of author Mamemoyashi and her rabbit Globule. Books like this have to be recognizable, and Globule: Une vie de lapin definitely is. It's impossible not to recognize your rabbit's special quirks, positions, and behaviors. Gift this book to someone who owns a rabbit, and they will be eternally grateful. 


Watching: 

* The Slayer . It's funny how opinions change depending on when and where you watch a movie. The first time I saw The Slayer, I felt ripped of. Nothing happened in the story, and when the monster finally arrived, he was gone in a matter of seconds. I just saw it again after fifteen years, and I was surprised to discover several efficient murder scenes, some great beach locations, and an addictive vintage atmosphere. It's not as boring as I thought it was. Don't get me wrong. We're far from a horror masterpiece here, but if you're into the eighties slasher genre, The Slayer is actually enjoyable. Just do yourself a favor and skip the last two minutes of the film. 

* Dogs . In a sleepy American town, all the dogs band together to hunt down their former masters. This results in several memorable scenes (such as the canines at a dog show going wild), but, overall, the story is too slow, and definitely not scary or suspenseful. 

* Before I Go To Sleep . I almost forgot to add this one to the list. That's how forgettable Before I Go To Sleep is. Based on the bestselling book by S.J. Watson, Before I Go To Sleep follows a woman (Nicole Kidman) who, after a traumatic incident, can't remember her past, including her husband. Not one second of it is believable, definitely not the so-called twist ending that you can guess just by reading this review. A big miss. 

* Daughter Of Darkness . The first thing that struck me about Stuart Gordon's Daughter Of Darkness was how reminiscent its design was to Roger Corman's The Pit and the Pendulum. Then it dawned on me that Gordon actually remade The Pit and the Pendulum one year after releasing Daughter Of Darkness. It's the atmosphere, as well as the seedy Romanian locations, that make this nineties horror movie worthwhile. On the other hand, the story about the girl (Mia Sara) who goes looking for her lost father (Anthony Perkins) and encounters a clan of vampires, is wooden and silly. 

* Slaughter High . Nothing is plausible in this eighties slasher movie about a nerd who seeks revenge for a prank gone wrong. Should the viewer think it's normal that a girl takes a bath in a closed-down high school after several of her friends have been murdered? Or that the killer is able to put poison in a closed beer can? Or that there's a bed with clean sheets in an abandoned building? Or that the former school janitor is still doing rounds at night? But no matter how silly it gets, I've watched Slaughter High numerous times before and it still stands as one of the coolest slasher movies in film history. It's fast, it's fun, it's gory, and it's great. Strange fact: Simon Scuddamore, who played the nerdy Marty, committed suicide even before Slaughter High was officially released. 

* Birdman . I still think Whiplash should have won the Oscar for best movie, but I certainly enjoyed Birdman. As a writer, I could identify with the idea of being more true to yourself in your art than in real life, and that when you try to please an audience you end up being invisible. I could also go on for hours about the double meaning of the dialogue, the symbolic undertones, the technical stunts, etc. It's a smart film, the kind that has so many undertones you can discover new things with each additional viewing. 

* The Theory Of Everything . Eddie Redmayne, who won the Oscar for his performance, is convincing as Stephen Hawking in this biopic based on Jane Hawking's second memoir Travelling To Infinity. The Theory Of Everything is a cute film, but too sweet and inoffensive. Surely, Hawking accomplished great things despite his disease, but the film was oddly lacking a sense of struggle and inner torment which would have made it so much more interesting and real. 

* Still Alice . I've always mistakenly assumed that people with Alzheimer's aren't aware of their fate and therefor never really suffered. Thanks to Still Alice, I now have a more realistic understanding of the disease. Based on a novel by neuroscientist Lisa Genova, the film shows the degenerative process from the victim's p.o.v. We are confronted with her feelings of being misunderstood as her husband denies her initial diagnosis, with her shame as she realizes she is no longer the intelligent and articulate woman she once was, with her sense of being lost when she can't even find her way to her own toilet, and with her fear of what the future has in store. I shed more than a few tears with Still Alice, but, most of all, it has turned me into a more considerate person regarding those who are suffering from the disease.


Listening to: 

* It Follows (original motion picture soundtrack) by Disasterpeace. This indie game music composer, known for Fez, manages to reproduce the vintage synthesizer sound of the eighties. Just like the movie, there's a strong Carpenter vibe to it. 

* Lost Themes by John Carpenter. The title is misleading, because all the tracks are new. Made in collaboration with his son Cody, the album is in the same vein as Carpenter's earlier work.


What are you currently reading, watching, and listening to? Anything here that piques your interest? 

You can take a peek at all the other books, movies, and music I've blogged about under the "reading / watching / listening to..." tag.
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Published on March 24, 2015 07:36 • 9 views

March 4, 2015

During the next three weeks, I will introduce several movies at the Offscreen Film Festival in Brussels. 

Apart from a selection of premieres, Offscreen will showcase a retrospective on Tobe Hooper, a module on botanicals, and some of the most popular Cannon Films. 

I made an overview of the films I'll be talking about. I hope you'll come by if you have the chance. 

The Duke Of Burgundy The Duke Of Burgundy
The Duke Of Burgundy 

Those of you who saw Peter Strickland's Berberian Sound Studio at Offscreen 2013, know that they're in for a visual and auditory treat with The Duke Of Burgundy (2014). Together with director Peter Strickland, I will introduce The Duke Of Burgundy on March 6 at 8 pm in the Cinema Nova in Brussels. 

matango matango
Matango: Attack Of The Mushroom People

After the screening of The Duke Of Burgundy, at 10 pm, I will also introduce Ishiro Honda's Japanese cult classic Matango: Attack Of The Mushroom People (1963), this time in the company of Jasper Sharp (author of the 'slime molds' book The Creeping Garden and director of the documentary by the same name). This story about castaways who turn into mushrooms after having eaten weird fungi has rarely been screened outside of Japan, so don't miss this opportunity.  

Eaten Alive Eaten Alive
Eaten Alive 

Deep in the Louisiana bayou, travelers find shelter in the dilapidated Starlight Hotel. They never stay long, since the psychotic owner feeds them one by one to his pet alligator. Director Tobe Hooper will join me for the introduction of Eaten Alive (1977) on March 8 at 9:30 pm at Cinematek. 

Salem's Lot Salem's Lot
Salem's Lot 

I'm proud to present one of my favorite horror movies, Salem's Lot (1979), at the Offscreen Film Festival. Based on the novel by Stephen King, Salem's Lot was first released as a TV mini series before receiving the theatrical cut that will be shown at Offscreen. Don't forget to mark your calendars: March 12 at 9:30 pm (at Cinematek). But be warned: Salem's Lot contains some of the creepiest scenes in vampire movie history. 

Which movies would you like to see? Anything you've seen that you'd recommend?
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Published on March 04, 2015 02:45 • 23 views

February 2, 2015

next to her screenplay
You may recall the cover reveal I did a couple weeks ago for the new short film script I wrote called Next To Her. It's out now, and I'm really excited for you to check it out.  

Here are some links so you can get Next To Her if you're interested: 

Amazon US Amazon UKAmazon FR
Let me know what you think of the story in the comments and on Twitter using @eeriestories and/or the hashtag #NextToHer. 

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Published on February 02, 2015 13:42 • 23 views

January 28, 2015

cozy reading
Reading:

* The Insecure Writer's Support Group Guide to Publishing and Beyond edited by Alex J. Cavanaugh is a collection of essays on writing, publishing, and marketing by more than one hundred independent authors such as L. Diane Wolfe, Chrys Fey, S.A. Larsen, Crystal Collier, and Lexa Cain. The advice itself is basic, but the book excels in explaining how insecure most writers feel, and in the encouragement to keep on writing and improving.

* Horror 101: The Way Forward edited by Joe Mynhardt is similar in concept as The Insecure Writer's Support Group Guide To Publishing And Beyond, except that the essays are by household names in the horror genre (Ramsey Campbell, Graham Masterton, Jack Ketchum, Harry Shannon, Edward Lee, etc). The essays are rarely focused on horror alone, though, and Horror 101 covers everything from character development to finding additional sources of income through screenwriting and ghostwriting. “I've seen authors lose their way, authors doubt themselves, when all they need is a push in the right direction,” the editor says in the beginning of this book. However, insecurities are hardly a topic here. Most authors of Horror 101 believe it's possible to make a living as a writer, even if you don't necessarily know what you're doing, and, even more importantly, they show us the way forward.

* How Not To Run a B&B: A Woman's True Memoir by Bobby Hutchinson. Romance author Bobby Hutchinson recounts her experiences of how she turned her Vancouver house into a B&B to supplement her writing income, and introduces us to all the weird people she met along the way. How Not To Run a B&B is a fast-paced and entertaining read; definitely recommended if you're looking for something light to pass the time. The only downside is the author's arrogance and lack of compassion towards people that are less fortunate.

* On Writing: A Memoir Of The Craft by Stephen King. On Writing has a strange structure; it reads like two different books that have accidentally been thrown together. It starts as a memoir in which Stephen King attempts to show some of the incidents and life-situations which made him into the writer he turned out to be. Then he gives some straight-forward (and obvious) writing advice, and ends the book with another autobiographical part. But I did enjoy reading this book. King just knows how to keep the reader's attention. But, most importantly, On Writing awoke in me the desire to sit down and start writing a new book, not knowing where the story and characters will lead me. That in itself is an accomplishment.

* Baking Bad: A Parody In A Cookbook by Walter Wheat. Do you know any Breaking Bad fans? Then make sure you buy them this hilarious little cook book. Baking Bad is a collection of recipes inspired by the Breaking Bad TV series. What do you think of Ricin Krispie Squares, Blue Meth Crunch, pink bear bites, a jell-o representation of Jesse's acid tub, or hot dogs resembling Saul Goodman? Don't give the book to someone who hasn't finished the series yet, though, because there are spoilers. Otherwise, let's cook.

* Poussy: l'intégrale by Peyo. Poussy (Pussycat in English) was my favorite comic strip as a kid, and a major inspiration for my Avalon cartoons. I haven't been able to find them ever since, but now they just released in a complete edition containing ALL the comics (including the ones that have only appeared in newspapers), as well as preliminary sketches and background information on Peyo's career. Poussy may be Peyo's least known comic (he's the creator of The Smurfs), but it's doubtlessly his best.


Watching:

* [REC] 4: Apocalypse . Right after her adventures in [REC] 2, Manuela Velasco's character wakes up on a ship and is soon chased by zombies. [REC] 4: Apocalypse was much better than [REC] 3, but only mediocre compared to the first two installments. Luckily, Jaume Balaguero brings enough visual flair to the project to lift it to a higher level.

* The Hobbit: The Battle Of The Five Armies . It's still as beautiful to look at as the previous films, but our hobbit is way too passive for the story's good. He's an observer, and has hardly any control over what happens. That makes us as viewers passive as well; we don't really care about who'll vanquish or not. Still, having seen all the previous Ring and Hobbit movies in the cinema around Christmas time, The Hobbit: The Battle Of The Five Armies gave me a feel-good vibe out of nostalgia.

* Home Alone 2: Lost In New York . Kevin finds himself accidentally lost in New York City, just when the same criminals from Home Alone 1 are visiting as well. The first two Home Alone movies were among my grandfather's favorites, so I couldn't help but watch this one again with my grandmother on Christmas Eve. It's pretty funny, though. Almost as good as the first one.

* The Interview . The host of a celebrity TV show lands an interview with an unexpected fan - North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un - and the CIA wants to turn their trip into an assassination mission. I started watching The Interview half-heartedly to see what the buzz was about (Kim Jong-un prohibited the screening of the movie because he was made fun of), but I didn't expect too much of it as most people thought it was silly and too easy. However, I was sold after a few minutes. Actually, this was one of the most hilarious films I've seen in a long time. Seems like Seth Rogen and James Franco are the perfect combination to make me laugh.

* Penguins Of Madagascar . This one is almost embarrassing to have on here. I loved Madagascar and The Christmas Caper, so the least I could do was to give Penguins Of Madagascar a try as well. Big mistake. The first few scenes are cute, but as the movie trundles on, the more it gets silly and chaotic.

* Anthony Zimmer . American readers will probably be more familiar with its Hollywood remake: The Tourist, starring Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie. Anthony Zimmer is the original French version from 2005. The basis of the story is the same: the international police force and Russian mafia are chasing a man responsible for laundry of dirty money. His mistress (here played by Sophie Marceau) lures his pursuers into believing that a man she met on the train (Yvan Attal) is the one they're looking for. Despite a few slow moments, Anthony Zimmer works much better than The Tourist. Reason for that is its more natural approach, especially when it comes to the look of the actors and the portrayal of the action. Whereas Angelina Jolie made The Tourist look ridiculous, parading like a diva with too much make-up, Sophie Marceau uses her natural charm to create an image of a strong woman that lingers on long after the movie is over.

* Paddington . Holy cuteness. This must be the most magical feel-good movie I've seen in years. Based on Michael Bond's children's books about an unusual bear's life with the Brown family, Paddington is utterly charming, hilarious, produced to perfection, and written in a more original voice than other similar movies. To top it off, London never looked so good. Could this be my new favorite winter movie?

* Whiplash . A promising young drummer enrolls at a music conservatory where his willingness to stop at nothing to become the best in his profession is tested by an instructor who believes that mentally abusing his students is the only way to drive them to greatness. The basis of the story is something we've seen before, but Whiplash is done so much better than others in the genre. Every single element oozes intensity and brilliancy. What stands out, though, is the acting. J.K. Simmons may be nominated for best supporting actor at the Oscars, but it's headliner Miles Teller who makes your skin crawl with emotion.


Listening to: 

* Forest Swords (trip hop with Japanese influences).


What are you currently reading, watching, and listening to? Anything here that piques your interest? 
You can take a peek at all the other books, movies, and music I've blogged about under the "reading / watching / listening to..." tag. 

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Published on January 28, 2015 06:04 • 17 views

January 21, 2015

short film cover
The cover of my new short film, Next To Her , has just been finalized. The official release date is set for January 31.

Though small in size, Next To Her is important to me as it is based on my grandfather's last years of his life. When he was terminally ill, I was surprised to see how rude my grandmother was to him, and how much she hurt him, both physically and emotionally. This was only because she was exhausted and didn't know how to handle the situation. Yet, she never gave up on my grandfather. She could have easily put him in the hospital and have professionals take care of him, but her love was so strong that she wanted to be there for him as long as she could. Next To Her is a reflection of those observations. It's hard at times, but also sweet. Just like life itself...

And, of course, I couldn't help but sneak in a big part for Avalon in the story.

The film based on the script is officially in pre-production. I'll keep you all updated with set photos and official release dates.

Meanwhile, the script of Next To Her is available for pre-order if you're interested:


Amazon USAmazon UK
Amazon CAAmazon FR
Amazon NL
Let me know what you think of the cover in the comments and on Twitter using @eeriestories and/or the hashtag #NextToHer.

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Published on January 21, 2015 03:09 • 16 views