From Broke To Blockbuster Rises From The Grave!
Back in July I had written an article on Blumhouse.com about my favorite independent directors and the movie franchises they should tackle if given a big budget. It’s my pleasure to debut the sequel article here on Ghastly Grinning and help promote these amazing new up and coming directors and plead my case for the franchises they could reinvigorate given their bodies of work!
I have to say I'm a sucker for musicals, horror musicals especially, and one of the most insanely brilliant dives into the seedy underbelly of the 80’s clubs scene is Agnieszka Smoczynska's The Lure. Two mermaids named Golden and Silver are brought onto land by a Polish singing group called Figs N Dates. They are brought back to the club the band plays at where they discover the girls beautiful singing voices. The girls become their own amazing act in the clubs, called The Lure. While Silver falls in love, Golden only wishes to move on and feed her appetite for flesh. The whole movie is one musical number after another that revels in the gaudy and exuberance of its time period with sleazy settings lit by neon colors everywhere. The FX work on the mermaids is pretty amazing as its a combination of practical and CGI which is used to juxtapose the slimy fish like tales with the beauty of the two girls. The whole movie is driven by carnal desires and pleasure. To Silver it seems this is a small step in which the humans can be fun and edible when necessary but Golden will stop at nothing to revel in the feelings of love, putting her own life in jeopardy much like Disney's The Little Mermaid but on a much more grotesque and horrifying level. Smoczynska really plays with the atmosphere in the film capturing the actors feelings in look and expressing their emotions through very poetic verses sung throughout the film. The hellish lessons learned by both the mermaids and humans throughout the film seemed almost biblical to me. As I watched the characters give into all their pleasures I couldn't help but think of a line, "We have such sights to show you."
Smoczynska would be perfect for Hellraiser. At this point we've been given so many sequels to Hellraiser, going on three iterations of Pinhead, I feel like it's time for a left field approach that would go back to the basics of Clive Barker's stories. A long time ago Pascal Laugier, director of Martyrs, was writing a Hellraiser movie that was deemed too extreme to be given a green light. While I'm not a huge Martyrs fan I feel that would've been a super interesting choice. To continue that trend giving Agnieszka Smoczynska the writing and directing reigns I think would be inspired. The club in the Lure seemed almost like a representation of hell. It's where the musicians came to play but wanted more and would do anything to get more. It's where the mermaids broke into fame but they quickly wanted more. In a sense the club was hell giving them their desires and quickly turning them on themselves! That's a concept I would love to see in a Hellraiser film. Give Agnieszka Smoczynska that same atmosphere to play with, a place that people go for those carnal pleasures and lavish in it until it destroys them. What is the pleasure they seek? The eeriness of the way the mermaids communicate with each other in the film is so chilling, that same atmosphere could be adhered to in creating new cenobites. Other than Hellbound we've only seen the Cenobites on earth, how do they interact with each other in hell? We could finally get a film that actually expands upon Leviathan! What's more is the juxtaposition Agnieszka Smoczynska sets up with Silver and Gold's look I would love to see translated to the cenobites as well. When wet the mermaids have their grotesque tails but when dry, they are these girls without sexual organs that throughout the film different characters find different variations of the mermaids sexually pleasing, "Demons to some. Angels to others." She's just the person to revitalize the franchise into something new and hell I'd even be down for other cenobites to take the main antagonist role just as Julia was meant to in continuing sequels from the original. Maybe even have the girls from The Lure comeback as siren cenobites.
Begos came out of nowhere with his slasher/alien film Almost Human (which also introduced genre fans to Graham Skipper.) When first watching it I loved how the intimacy of the characters really carried the plot of the film. These were believable people on screen dealing with grief and pain of the past having their lives ruined by aliens. We then get a slasher feel as the aliens return taking over a lumberjack of a man with an axe who goes around killing everybody. This killing spree is amplified by Graham Skipper's performance of pain as he feels the alien drawing nearer until we get a really cool practical FX ending that you just don't see anymore especially in low budget fare. Instead of taking the big studio route, Begos decided he'd rather take all his money and use it to make something on a grander scale with The Mind's Eye. The film, as the cover of the Blu-Ray will tell you, is the greatest Scanners sequel we never got! Graham Skipper returns to the leading role but this time armed with telekinesis to fight through a corrupt institution that is rounding up others like him with powers. This is pure eye candy as the sets are lit in a way that almost feels like a representation of the human brain and the sound effects pair with the action on screen amazingly as the first cue card of the movie reads, "This film is to be played loud." The FX are amped up hardcore as the only CGI in the film is used to erase wire work that's being used to throw cars through the air, drop axes through heads and all manner of things flying wildly in this battle of the minds! Give this man the budget to truly realize how far he can go practically. Pair his skills in directing and writing intimate characters with the action he so desperately wants to unleash.
Give him Wishmaster. I love the hell out of Kurtzman's monster mania classic. Andrew Divoff as the titular genie is amazing and the FX within the movie are pure monster movie magic! The only thing lacking are the main characters themselves and their relationships. Begos could bring so much to a Wishmaster remake or sequel. Bring back Andrew Divoff as the Djinn, either way, and let Begos construct an awesome character piece that could amplify the grandiose level of eye candy visuals. He could bring in creative deaths, gore and monstrous imagery. Bruce Campbell wants The Expendables of horror and Wishmaster famously did that back in the day. Let Begos uphold that too with not only horror legends we've known forever but those that are up and coming such as Graham Skipper, Brea Grant, Katharine Isabelle, AJ Bowen and the cast of Ash vs. Evil Dead! This could be the horror event film of the age under Begos!
In a time period where we are barraged with eighty different films that all feature zombies and you wonder which one is actually worth watching, you call Juan of the Dead to kill your loved ones. Brugues burst onto the scene with this zombie comedy that went further than any zombie movie I had seen since Peter Jackson's Dead Alive, but it also got me in my love of Romero. One of the things you see nowadays is all these zombie movies don't use the key component that made Romero infamous and that is the social/political commentary used in his zombie films. Brugues while not as up front as Romero keeps that spirit in using Cuba’s mistrust in America as a backbone for his characters in his film. Rum loving Juan and his band of low lives survive the plague of "American dissidents" by charging people to help them with their slogan, "Juan of the dead, we kill your loved ones how can I help you?" There are so many hilarious moments as we watch a different culture deal with the zombie plague. Each character is given their own schtick and each one is more deplorable than the last for how they treat each other and people in their community, but you can't help but love them for their stupidity. Brugues also constructs some actually really poignant moments of redemption in the film and really solidifies our main character Juan's love and pride in how he and his country have survived, "I'm a survivor. I survived Mariel. I survived Angola, I survived the special period and the thing that came after. I will survive this."
Since he is one of the few directors of zombie films to keep that Romero spirit I think it's time to give him a chance to play in that sandbox and adapt what I felt to be the best Romero written zombie fare since Land of the Dead, Marvel Comics Empire of the Dead. Empire is the epic conclusion to George's "of the Dead" saga. The zombies continue to grow in intelligence and even grow attachments to certain humans that train them to do their bidding in a government run city that stands as one of humanity's last civilized places. This book directly ties into George's Night of the Living Dead where you learn the fate of Barbara and get even better depth into the zombie lore. The craziest part, which is pure George, is the city is governed by vampires who have remained in hiding during the downfall of mankind. Sucking the life out of us under the guise of protection as they actually herd us like cattle. This is an epic that Brugues could really stretch out with his eye for character moments and ability to shoot amazing action sequences. My only complaint about Juan of the Dead is the dodgy CGI in certain scenes, which is why I'd love to see what Brugues could accomplish with a fully funded studio behind him to bring Romero's vision to life.
Eisner is the insane voice we need right now in horror. A student of both Grindhouse and Amblin alike he is the perfect storm for reinvigorating the 80’s cult feel we adore so much, but unlike those who try to copy that feel he manages to have that feel glow through his movies while delivering crazed originality. With Rutger Hauer’s Hobo With A Shotgun he gave us a romp of eighties sleaze in both story and execution. The yellowed color palate of that film amplified the horrendous deeds committed on the screen by the villains and the score of the film gets the blood pumping while also elevating Hauer’s haggard and heartfelt performance. Eisner used all kinds of things to slaughter and maim in the film. Nothing was sacred as he even lit a school bus of children on fire which paid off in one of the most satisfactory revenge scenes later in the film. Let us not forget the 180 degree turn when he introduced his bounty hunters , ”The Purge,” into the film with a ridiculously badass arsenal and the idea that they’ve been around for ages having slaughtered both Jesus and the Easter Bunny. He also has the ability to tone his insanity down and use interesting camera techniques to tell a story. His segment in VHS 2, wherein he captures footage of a kids slumber party as they are abducted by aliens is all told through a camera strapped to the back of the kid’s dog. Not only was he able to make that obviously hard storytelling aspect work and utilize it for tense and thrilling moments, but the kids are so damn fun. Their dynamic is basically an R-rated Goonies and for an old soul like myself it’s nice to hear a ten year old drop an F-bomb once in a while while discussing the intricacies of life.
Eisner works good with horror, fun Amblin style kids and the extreme. I think we all know where I’m going with this. If we can get a Tron movie thirty years later why can’t we get an adult Monster Squad!? There was a fake trailer not too long ago for Monster Squad 2 where the squad was much older and they were fighting Freddy Krueger who controlled the Necronomicon and used it to summon all of our favorite slashers! The Squad even teamed up with the likes of Ashley J. Williams! Silly? Yes, but as I watched this fake trailer my mind spun out at the possibilities! Our beloved squad in real life is much older but still badass as ever as I’ve seen them in the convention circuit and anniversary screenings of the movie. Our 80’s slashers are now about 30 years old or so. Not too far behind the age of the Universal Monsters when the original film hit. Let’s get back the practical FX gurus like Savini, Shostrom, KNB, Buechler and get them to redesign their own creations such as Jason, Freddy, The Tall Man, Michael, Chucky, Leatherface and the deadites! Have them battle the Monster Squad who have been training for evil’s return their whole lives! I can’t see Mancini saying no to Chucky being involved, Leatherface has been a dying franchise for decades, they can’t decide what to do with Freddy or Jason and Coscarelli, I would imagine, could be a great producer for something like this. I say get it all under the Blumhouse umbrella and let Eisner do what he does best. Create insane fantasy on a multitude of different filmmaking levels. I could easily see Eisner giving each horror icon a specific camera style to represent the horrors they would bring to the Squad and he himself could write amazing dialogue and evolutions of the Squad members themselves as adults!