Has Found Footage Horror Entered a New Stage? 15 Years After ‘Blair Witch Project,’ ‘Afflicted’ Makes the Case

As seen on Indiewire.com.

Almost 15 years since “The Blair Witch Project” pretended to document an ill-fated journey into the woods, its impact is felt more deeply than ever.

Almost 15 years since “The Blair Witch Project” pretended to document an ill-fated journey into the woods, its impact is felt more deeply than ever. The found footage horror genre technically pre-dated the digital filmmaking boom by nearly two decades (with 1980’s “Cannibal Holocaust”) but the age of user-generated footage, when everyone with a smartphone has one trigger finger ready to hit record, has made the device too ubiquitous for its own good. The all-too-easy visceral jolt known as the jump scare populates countless tales of hapless protagonists making dumb decisions that usually culminate in their doom (and also crops up in countless YouTube pranks). At best, the economical storytelling device catches viewers off-guard by sneaking shock value into an innocuous storytelling device; at worst, it’s a lazy fallback used to rejuvenate formulaic narrative.

But “Afflicted” is moderately better than that. An uneven but effectively unnerving found footage horror entry opening this week about a pair of fun-loving vacationers who encounter dangerous, otherworldly forces, it illustrates the full cycle of evolution that the genre has endured since it first creeped us out.

Despite the breakout success of “Blair Witch,” it wasn’t until 2008 that found footage horror became fully co-opted by the mainstream. That year, the first “Paranormal Activity” movie screened at the Slamdance Film Festival and promptly secured a lucrative distribution deal with DreamWorks, immediately launching a franchise that has seen five instalments to date; the very same week that “Paranormal Activity” screened, Matt Reeves’ found footage monster movie “Cloverfield” dominated the box office. Both movies contained the usual blend of mockumentary ingredients with special effects that enhanced the dread predominantly because they looked so out of place in the shaky cam, homemade techniques.

Since then, the sequels to “Paranormal Activity” and the action-horror instalment “Chronicle” have continued to capitalize on the prospects of using CGI in the context of found footage. This has led to a noticeable shift from the “Blair Witch” tactic of leaving the darkest events up to our imaginations. Continue reading article here.

Carrie Remake Shows Women in Horror Are More Than Pretty Victims, By Angela Watercutter

As seen in Wired.

There’s a reason Carrie has endured for decades. Whether it’s Stephen King’s original 1974 novel, Brian De Palma’s screen adaptation, or any other version – including the one currently in theaters from director Kimberly Peirce – the saga of Carrie White perseveres because most of us have either been Carrie White or have known a Carrie White, and we can relate to the story of an underdog exacting revenge on bullies.

It gets a little more interesting, however, because it’s a tale of horror and the underdog protagonist is a woman. For decades, horror films were traditionally, seemingly one-stop schlock offerings for every kind of violence against women. Sure, some of them got out alive – the trope of the “Final Girl” doesn’t exist by accident – but it’s generally understood that some of the gravest and most gruesome things ever to happen to women onscreen happened in horror flicks.

There were exceptions like Alien, which subverted the horror trope of sexualized violence against woman into a story of male sexual horrorCarrie, too, was something very, very different from the traditional horror films where sexy girls got stabbed with knives; instead, we met the meek daughter of a religious fanatic who exacted revenge on high school bullies who mocked her when she got her period. In this sense, Carrie (the character and the story) is something of a feminist icon – and it’s intentional. “Carrie is largely about how women find their own channels of power, but also what men fear about women and women’s sexuality,” King wrote in Danse Macabre. “The book is, in its more adult implications, an uneasy masculine shrinking from a future of female equality.” In other words, the scares in Carrie are derived from a fear of strong women.

The modern version of Carrie, despite probably not being as seminal as De Palma’s 1976 version, manages to get one thing very right (in addition to its treatment of bullying): Carrie’s self-awareness. Chloë Grace Moretz in 2013 may not have the hapless outsider quality of her predecessor Sissy Spacek, but she makes up for it by playing her Carrie as someone who has agency. While she starts out not even knowing what menstruation is, she ends up realizing that women can have power. (Peirce even calls it a “superhero origin story.”) Maybe it’s the Hit-Girl in her bones, but there’s a knowing look in Moretz’s eye when she realizes just how powerful she is. Spacek had a bit of that, but in the late ’70s version she acted more as though the power simply worked through her, whereas Moretz harnesses it for herself. It’s subtle change, but an important one – and a nice reminder of how the role of women in horror movies has changed since 1976.

So if Carrie is the hero, what is the horror? In her book Men, Women, and Chain Saws, film professor Carol J. Clover suggests that she is both: a hybrid “victim-hero,” whose dual role is enabled by the cultural reaction to feminism – as something that creates fear in the men and women who don’t understand it and bestows power on the women who do. As Clover notes, it also provides a language to define Carrie’s victimization – at the hands of bullies both male and female – and gives justification to her ultimate Samson-bringing-down-the-temple retribution.

Yet the men in the audience also identify with her as she wreaks her revenge. Why? King has a theory: “One reason for the success of the story in both print and film, I think, lies in this: Carrie’s revenge is something that any student who has ever had his gym shorts pulled down in Phys Ed or his glasses thumb-rubbed in study hall could approve of.” In other words, Clover writes, a young man who’s been humiliated in a locker room can identify with a young woman pelted with tampons in a gym shower; King also suggests the “possibility that male viewers are quite prepared to identify not just with screen females, but with screen females in the horror-film world, screen females in fear and pain.” The new version of Carrie states this almost flat-out, using Carrie’s eventual prom date, Tommy Ross, who relates her locker-room torture to his own experiences being bullied in grade school.

There’s a second reason for this, as well: Movie-making can be a powerful tool to help us see the world through the eyes of other people, and to allow us to make those sorts of connections between our experiences and experiences of people who are different. In the simplest terms, movie watching is about identifying with a protagonist (or occasionally antagonist) that we root for – a perspective that’s largely delivered by the point-of-view of the camera and director. And what’s especially powerful is that it invites everyone in the audience – female and male – to see things through Carrie’s eyes, to identify with her humiliation and powerlessness (rather than treating it as entertainment) and to exult along with her when she finally fights back and claims her power.

Film theorist Laura Mulvey’s “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema” suggested that most Hollywood films look at women through a very sadistic or fetishistic lens, something that she termed the “male gaze.” On the surface, there are plenty of examples of this in the horror genre, which, as Scream’s Sidney Prescott accurately observed, regularly features “some big-breasted girl who can’t act who is always running up the stairs when she should be running out the front door,” not to mention all manner of sexual violence against women, including “tree rape.”

But the genre has also given us the likes of the original “Final Girl” in Jamie Lee Curtis’ Laurie Strode in Halloween and Alien‘s tough Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver). The genre turned out Charlotte McGee, the titular (and similarly King-created) character from Firestarter, whose stare causes blazes. And the changes in the new Carrie  – a more self-aware protagonist, a more sensitive student population – allow Peirce to demonstrate how women of horror, and really women of film, have evolved in the intervening years.

Clover originally published Men, Women, and Chain Saws in 1992. Since then the tide of women’s representation in horror films has only shifted further. Teeth turned vagina dentata (Google it) into a plot device. The Soska sisters from Canada are turning gendered horror tropes on their heads with films like Dead Hooker in a Trunk and American Mary. The “rebirth” of Evil Dead (it of the infamous “tree rape”) that came out earlier this year [SPOILER ALERT] turned its hero into a heroine – a welcome change after the dismissive “she’s your girlfriend, you take care of her” language in the original.

Even Diablo Cody’s campy Jennifer’s Body, while still playing into the trope of the demonized (literally) sexual woman, attempted to flip the typical gender tropes of the slasher film. There’s now even talk of a TV show – starring Jamie Lee Curtis herself! – called The Final Girls, which opts to bring together women who have survived their own horror fates and are brought together for righting of wrongs. It’s way too early to tell if these women will have to fall into the “final girl” stereotype of masculinized women that are perceived as asexual or virginal (read: not deserving of death), but hopefully the new awareness will seep in. If it does – then the signs that Carrie’s real revenge will be coming to fruition.

A lot of the conversation leading up to the release of the latest Carrie can be boiled down to: Do we need another one? …

Continuing reading article and watch trailer here.

AFM 2013: Ladies Get Lethal in New Horror Anthology XX

November 8th, 2013

As seen on Dread Central.

Around here we love our horror-loving ladies. Adore them in fact! That’s why we’re excited to report that an all-new female-centric anthology is on its way with some great names attached! Read on for details.

From the Press Release
MPI/Dark Sky Films and XYZ Films today announced a momentous project, XX, a landmark all-female horror anthology, with each segment featuring both a female director and female lead.

The directors on board include Jennifer Lynch (Boxing Helena, Chained), Mary Harron (American Psycho, I Shot Andy Warhol, The Moth Diaries), Karyn Kusama (Girlfight, Jennifer’s Body), The Soska Sisters – Jen and Sylvia Soska (Dead Hooker in a Trunk, American Mary, ABCs of Death 2), and Jovanka Vuckovic (The Captured Bird, The Guest). The filmmakers will develop their own stories, and each will have a female lead character. The various segments will be linked by work by Guadalajara-based stop-motion animator Sofia Carrillo, who will also create the film’s title sequence.

Greg Newman, EVP of Dark Sky Films’ parent company, MPI Media Group, says, “We know that women make up about half of the audience for horror films, and yet, the female creative voice has been nearly silent in the horror genre. So we are thrilled about the new and distinct approach that these talented directors will bring to the project.”

Perhaps no film genre has lent itself more to the anthology format than horror, and in recent years the trend has returned with the successes of films such as V/H/S and The ABCs of Death. But whether it’s anthologies or full-length features, female directors – and horror from a female viewpoint in general – have been notably absent. The Dark Sky/XYZ project aims to change that.

In January 2013, a study was released in conjunction with the Sundance Film Festival that posted some disheartening numbers. One, women only made up 4.4% of directors found within the top 100 box-office movies each year from 2002 through 2012, and two, only 29.8% of the films screened at Sundance during those 10 years were made by women (including directors, writers, editors, producers, and cinematographers). And the numbers for women making horror films are even more dismal.

Producer Todd Brown at XYZ said, “One of the givens of so many horror films has been the objectification of young women, and we thought it was time for a different approach to scaring audiences and letting the female voice be heard.”

Todd Brown will produce for XYZ. Greg Newman will serve as executive producer for MPI/Dark Sky, while Nate Bolotin, Nick Spicer and Aram Tertzakian will serve as executive producers for XYZ. Jovanka Vukovic will act as associate producer. Malik Ali, Badie Ali, and Hamza Ali will also serve as executive producers on behalf of MPI/Dark Sky


WILLOW CREEK (2013) – Director: Bobcat Goldthwait. Review By Greg Klymkiw.

As seen in THE FILM CORNER with Greg Klymkiw.

WILLOW CREEK, Review By Greg Klymkiw

It’s Official, Bobcat Goldthwait is one of America’s Best Living Directors & his new film is as hilariously brilliant as it is chilling and crap-your-pants terrifying as anything I’ve seen in years. The picture DEMANDS big-screen exposure!

Willow Creek (2013)
Dir. Bobcat Goldthwait
Starring: Alexie Gilmore,
Bryce Johnson

In the wilderness, in the dark, it’s sound that plays tricks upon your eyes – not what you can’t see, but what your imagination conjures with every rustle, crack, crunch, moan and shriek. When something outdoors whacks the side of your tent, reality sinks in, the palpability of fear turns raw, numbing and virtually life-draining.

There were, of course, the happier times – when you and the woman you loved embarked on the fun-fuelled journey of retracing the steps of Roger Patterson and Bob Gimlin who, in the fall of 1967 shot a little less than 1000 frames of motion picture footage of an entity they encountered striding through the isolated Bluff Creek in North-Western California.

Your gal was humouring you, of course. She was indulging you. She was not, however, mocking you – she was genuinely enjoying this time of togetherness in the wilderness as you lovebirds took turns with the camera and sound equipment to detail the whole experience. You both sauntered into every cheesy tourist trap in the area, chatted amiably with numerous believers and non-believers alike and, of course, you both dined on scrumptious Bigfoot burgers at a local greasy spoon.

Yup, Bigfoot – the legendary being sometimes known as Sasquatch or Yeti – a tall, broad, hairy, ape-like figure who captured the hearts, minds and imaginations of indigenous populations and beyond – especially when the Patterson-Gimlin footage took the world by storm. And now, here you both are in Willow Creek, California, following the footsteps of those long-dead amateur filmmakers.

All of us have been watching, with considerable pleasure, your romantic antics throughout the day. When night falls, we’ve joined you in your tent and soon, the happy times fade away and we’re all wishing we had some receptacle to avoid soiling our panties. You’re probably wishing the same thing, because in no time at all, you’re going to have the crap scared out of you.

We have, of course, entered the world of Bobcat Goldthwait’s Willow Creek. Goldthwait is one of the funniest men alive – a standup comedian of the highest order and a terrific comic actor, oft-recognized for his appearances in numerous movies (including the Police Academy series). He’s voiced a myriad of cartoon characters and directed Jimmy Kimmel’s TV show and subsequent concert flick.

In addition to these achievements, Goldthwait has solidified himself as one of the most original, exciting and provocative contemporary American film directors working today. His darkly humoured, satirical and (some might contend) completely over-the-top films are infused with a unique voice that’s all his own. They’ve made me laugh longer and harder than most anything I’ve seen during the past two decades or so. Even more astounding, is that his films – his first depicting the life of an alcoholic birthday party clown, one involving dog fellatio, another about an accidental teen strangulation during masturbation and yet another which delivered a violent revenge fantasy for Liberals – are ALL films that have a deep current of humanity running through them. His films are as deeply observational and genuinely moving as they are nastily funny and often jaw-droppingly shocking.

Willow Creek is a corker! It forces you to emit cascades of urine from laughing so hard and then wrenches wads of steaming excrement out of your bowels as it scares you completely and utterly out of your wits. It’s a “found footage” film, but I almost hesitate to use the almost-dirty-word term to describe it, because Goldthwait, unlike far too many boneheads, hardly resorts to the sloppy tropes of the now-tiresome genre.

He’s remained extremely true and consistent to the conceit and in so doing, used it as an effective storytelling tool to generate an honest-to-goodness modern masterwork of horror. His attractive leads are nothing less than engaging (lead actor Johnson reveals a scrumptious posterior for the ladies and, of course, gentlemen of the proper persuasion). Goldthwait’s clever mixture of real locals and actors is perfection and the movie barrels along with a perfect pace to allow you to get to know and love the protagonists, laugh with them, laugh with the locals (not at them and finally to plunge you into the film’s shuddering, shocking and horrific final third. The movie both creeps you out and forces you to jump out of your seat more than once.

Goldthwait is the real thing. If you haven’t seen his movies up to this point, you must. As for Willow Creek, I urge everyone to see the film on a big screen with a real audience. Sure, the movie will work fine at home in a dark room with your best girlie snuggled at your side on the comfy couch, but – WOW! – this is a genuine BIG SCREEN EVENT. Try to see it that way, first!

New Website Tracks How Many People Have Died In Your House, by Lauren Evans

Live in the USA? Great! You’re one step closer to this …

A new website, DiedInHouse.com, will tell you just how many former residents sucked in their final desperate breath in that very spot you’ve selected for your Sodastream.

It’s easy—just enter your address and credit card information (the service costs an eminently reasonable $11.99) and voila—you will be apprised of who has died in your home, when, and more importantly, how they died. It is then up to you and your family to determine who gets the bedroom where the murder/suicide took place, though unfortunately the site does not offer any sort of family mediation service so you’re really on your own there.

This, however, is not a joking matter. An extensive FAQ addresses several questions you should have …

Read full article at gothamist.com.


True Crime: John List

… On November 9th, 1971, List had written a note to the principal of Patty’s school, saying she would be out for a few days. Another similar note was written to the other schools. To his boss, he wrote, “I’m sorry that it all had to end this way but with so little income I just couldn’t go on keeping the family together. And I didn’t want them to experience poverty.” He made the same excuse to Helen’s mother, the children’s maternal grandmother. He also mentioned that he could not be sure that their souls would remain pure in the future, giving the impression that he believed he had killed them for their own good. To save his own mother from anguish, he had killed her, too.

It was time to search the house more thoroughly to piece together what had happened on that gruesome day.

Read full article at trutv.com.

Slash’s ‘Nothing Left to Fear’: Raven Banner Nabs Canadian Rights to Horror Film


The movie, starring Anne Heche, marks the producing debut of the former Guns ‘N Rose guitarist and his new genre label, Slasher Films.

TORONTO – Indie film distributor Raven Banner Entertainment has picked up the Canadian rights to Nothing Left to Fear,the horror thriller from director Anthony Leonardi III.

The film also marks the producing debut of former Guns ‘N Roses guitarist Slash and his new horror label Slasher Films.

The Anne Heche and James Tupper-starrer, from the producing duo Rob Eric and Michael Williams, portrays a couple and their children moving into a small town where a series of bizarre occurrences await them.

Nothing Left to Fear features original music from Slash and Nicholas O’Toole, and was written byJonathan W.C. Mills.

Read article at: http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/slashs-nothing-left-fear-raven-599629

You can also read more about this film at:



Sebastian’s Voodoo (2008) – Director: Joaquin Baldwin

Title: Sebastian’s Voodoo
Year: 2008
Country: USA
Director: Joaquin Baldwin
Writer: Joaquin Baldwin
Producer: Joaquin Baldwin
Production Company: Pixel Nitrate

Plot Summary:

A voodoo doll must find the courage to save his friends from being pinned to death.

Short film by Joaquin Baldwin followed by Skype Q&A by Short Indies and Small & Creepy Films