Found Footage: The Beginning, the Escalation, and its Societal Impact

Tonight, Erik Kristopher Myers (ekm) is talking about the roots of the found footage subgenre, its evolution, its contribution to the cinema, and its effects on society. Myers is a writer and filmmaker. His film Roulette (2013) won numerous festival trophies and his latest feature Butterfly Kisses (2018) shot to the top of the Amazon charts for New Release Fantasy, scoring rave reviews. Myers has also won numerous awards for screenwriting and editing, and among others, he has been a producer for XM Satellite Radio, a reporter for WTOP News, and film critic for The Dagger and Ain’t it Cool News.

The Horror Inside Us: Leading Anxieties and False Certainties

Tonight, Dr. Michael Lee is talking about the horror inside us and why and how one’s inner certainties and anxieties can render the everyday person monstrous. Dr. Lee teaches courses on 20th-century music history, American music history, film music and film studies at the University of Oklahoma. Over the years, he has been teaching courses on the history of horror films and one of his many specialties is Vampire Cinema. He is music historian, loving horror movies with passion and began researching their film scores and their diversified styles, especially, from the 1930s and 1940s. Listen to how our perception affects the way we interpret horrors and what was Val Lewton’s contribution.

Open 24 Hours (2018): Horror

Having just been released from prison for setting her deranged boyfriend on fire, a young woman gets a night job at a petrol station, where her past catches up with her.

Promising opening shots that become too explanatory, too soon. The type of shots that fully increase the plot’s predictability. Keep watching and you’ll see that they also become repetitive too so, even if you spot a good one, chances are that you’ll watch it again (and again) minutes later and it will lose its authenticity. Do not be alarmed though because as you’ll keep watching, you’ll realise that the film is inundated with clichés that are the outcome of the aforementioned shots. Unfortunately, it all starts with the script which just borrowed parts from loving horrors of the 80s and 90s and stitched them, unnecessarily, together. I have the utmost respect for indie films as they do their absolute best for the tiny money they have managed to procure. And here, the film’s budget is not the issue.

The issue is that writer/director Padraig Raynolds decided not to leave a trademark on his film. Other than the above mentioned copies and pastes, the composer shouldn’t have tried to copy Psycho‘s (1960) staccato and the Raynolds shouldn’t have used music throughout the whole film. The power of the diegetic sound is immense, especially in narration, and it should have been used a lot more. Unfortunately, Raynolds raised the implausibility levels sky-high.

Full disclosure: I found Vanessa Grasse, who I first noticed in Leatherface (2017), very attractive so I’m a bit biased. I believe she has a lot to learn about acting and with the right guidance she’ll do really great. I for one, look forward to seeing her in more projects and I hope her natural beauty doesn’t get in the way of her promising career.

To cut the long story short, the story is original but its development screams all the cliches Scream (1996) is on about. Only “virgin horror eyes” will fall for these jump-scares and not even them won’t bother asking (more than they can count), “how the f@!$ did that happen?!” On the flipside, me counting the innumerable gimmicks, momentarily, forgot all about real life’s miseries so what the hell…

Stay safe!

A Good Woman is Hard to Find (2019): Crime / Drama / Thriller

Having recently lost her husband, a young mother is trying to protect her children from poverty and her little town’s underworld.

Goddamn poverty! Goddamn misery! Goddamn drugs! Regardless which triggers which and in what order, the defining opening shot somehow is immediately understood by the shots that follow it. Or is it?

Writer/director of Road Games (2015), Abner Pastoll, directs a gritty Irish thriller with a realistic plague, a surrealist villain, and a down to Earth heroine that has to put up with both while protecting her children. And what a heroine’s journey that is…

Pastoll creates a dark for the audience yet healthy for the actors environment to showcase their chemistry and shine in front of the camera. Sarah Bolger, Edward Hogg, and Andrew Simpson lead the way but the rest of the cast follows and supports them as they should to create this thrilling crime/drama. Much respect for the whole crew that managed to bring this low budget, indie film to life.

Now… I cannot not comment on the dildo… probably the weirdest use(s) I’ve seen outside comedy. One is, unintentionally funny. Or dramatically funny – is there such a thing? Stealing your kids’ batteries from their toys to put them in your vibrator because you are a recently widowed young mum with urges isn’t funny… just funnily portrayed. Come on, I mean, I am sure they knew the mixed reactions the scene would stimulate. On the other hand, stabbing someone’s eye with the same vibrator you satisfy yourself to save yourself from rape is nothing but ironic (but relieving nonetheless).

Despite your feelings towards it, at least, you’ll witness a security system that uses VHS, and you’ll learn what a metaphor is…

Stay safe!

Directors and Horror Films

Ashley Scott Meyers is a writer, producer and director and owns the blog sellingyourscreenplay.com where you can find practical tips and advice on how to sell your screenplay. He also runs SYS Select where you can subscribe to receive premium screenwriting leads, online coaching and mentoring, online courses, and more. Among other things, tonight, he is talking about the production and artistic differences between indie and studio level horrors, their perception by both audience and directors and the importance of narrative in filmmaking.

Ashley Scott Meyers: Writer / Producer / Director

http://www.sellingyourscreenplay.com/

13th (2016): Documentary / Crime

The astronomical rise of the prison population in the US throughout the decades, through victimization of ethnic minorities and partnerships between correctional facilities and private corporations.

A brave new world! Well, not so new really. Well, not so brave either I guess. Writer, producer, and director Ava DuVernay hits the nail on the head with a revealing documentary on the, once inexplicable, rise of the prison population and its deep connections to the racial inequality, the capitalist system, and their common denominator which is none other than the continuously manipulative governments.

I am pretty convinced that DuVernay’s footage was dozens of hours long and she could probably have had about three documentaries like 13th. While evaluating her footage, she decided to narrow it down and tell the story the way she did. The documentary’s strong suit is the information it provides on the connection between the era of slavery to the media and cinema and The Birth of a Nation (1915) to the present era, and how is all connected to the rise of the correctional facilities industry. I for one, and not being American, I didn’t have the foggiest so that was, while unpleasant and disheartening, an eye-opening experience. The research was also solid and the archive footage was strong and extremely effective, it literally put a lot into perspective.

And even though I learned loads about the disgusting, filthy companies that profit from human suffering, I didn’t get around why the poor who can’t get out of prison have been incarcerated to begin with. I got an idea, don’t get me wrong, but instead on spending some time to expand on it, it expanded on movements and actions that were not related to the rise of the prison population.

The editing in documentaries such as 13th plays a catalytic role in narrative formation. Documentary is research. The filmmaker does not really know where it will lead or how it will really lead them where it will. It is a journey. O.J.: Made in America (2016) is a perfect example of that. 7 hours and 47 minutes, after editing, that focuses on the chronicle of O.J. Simpson, the anchor of the documentary, and only expands to the events that surround his case.

Regardless, 13th is a must-watch as is DuVernay’s previous work Selma (2014), and the biographical When They See Us (2019) – reviews to follow.

Panagiotis, this one’s for you mate. Thank you for the recommendation.

Stay safe!

Midnight FM (2010): Action / Crime / Thriller

During a radio producer’s last show, a serial killer invades her home threatening to kill her family.

The overwhelming suspense! Three thrilling acts that will keep you glued to your seats until the very end. There is not one dull moment throughout the film. Korean suspenseful narrative that, as usual, it does not hold back and does not disappoint. This is a story-driven thriller where all utterances and actions are held accountable for is going to happen next.

Excellent directing that the fast-paced editing unfolds the fabula and syuzhet exactly when the information is needed to be disclosed. Soo Ae and Ji-Tae Yoo shine on camera, creating a stimulating chemistry. Extra round of applause goes to the little girls for their equally brilliant performances.

Midnight FM is a must-watch and no matter what I say will not make it more appealing. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Stay safe!

Gardens of the Night (2008): Drama

Two little kids, a boy and a girl, after being abducted and mentally and physically abused, they become adults and live on the streets, doing whatever is necessary to survive.

As you may have figured by now, I’m a horror fan. Gardens of the Night, definitely not a horror film, addresses one of the scariest scenarios for every living human being, especially parents. The non-linear narrative tells the story in a way that sustains the suspense until the end. Producer /writer/director Damian Harris develops the plot in a way that will glue you to your seats and will make you want to intervene, to step in, to take action, and end the atrocity. The fact that you won’t be able to though, something that you know but you are willing to fool yourselves even for a second, will make you at least root for the kids but also the adults and pray for a happy ending. I personally hate happy endings. But not when I know that tragedies like the film’s theme are actually happening while I’m writing this review, right now.

It is a powerful film! There are shots that will make you cringe, and there shots, such as the one with the milk in the fridge and adult Leslie after the failed sex scene that will make you want to squeeze the chair your are sitting on and cry your eyes out.

My standing ovation goes to everyone: Harris for doing all the hard work. Ryan Simpkins and Jermaine ‘Scooter’ Smith, and Gillian Jacobs and Evan Ross, for carrying the film on their shoulders. John Malkovich, Peter Evans, Peta Wilson, Michelle Rodriguez, Shiloh Fernandez, Harold Perrineau and Jeremy Sisto for having cameos that anyone could have done them and yet they decided to simply participate due to the film’s nightmarish nature. Especially, Tom Arnold who has experienced first hand this nightmare and took the most detestable part. Last but not least, the rest of the cast and crew who made this film possible. Bravo!

This is the American style of filmmaking that reveals a layer of our society that no one wants to admit it exists. That no one wants to know it exists. A layer that is not buried deep under but right in front of us and yet we willingly turn the goddamn blind eye because it would shake us to our core. And then we would have to overlook ourselves just to do something about it. My utmost respect to the unknown, suffering heroes who do… and the poor souls who have to endure it…

Stay safe!

The Deeper You Dig (2019): Drama / Horror

A terrible accident haunts the man who caused it and blurs the line between the living and the dead.

This is why I love indie films. No major studio busting the cast’s and crew’s balls… only the director’s creative decisions… narrative that doesn’t have to abide by conventional rules… You know what I mean? If not, watch The Deeper You Dig and you’ll find out.

The tight script, shot and edited in an experimental American style, will get your attention from the opening shot. The music and the sound department get credits aplenty for truly understanding the writers’ and directors’ vision and creating an eerie and at the same time awkward atmosphere. For that awkwardness though and the weird dissonance there are two more people responsible: the two leading actors, John Adams and Toby Poser, who guess what? They are also the writers, directors but also the producers, editors, and composers. To top it up, they are also husband and wife in real life, and the daughter in the film, Zelda Adams, is their actual daughter as well. A family affair indeed. You wouldn’t believe how their production company is called… Adams Family!

Kudos to all three of them, they’ve done a brilliant job in every department. I wouldn’t call it a horror but definitely an interesting thriller. I will admit that past the… deep supernatural information (no spoilers), the convolution got me to scratch my beard more than once and the ending is nothing like I expected. This merely means that it’s a good or a bad thing but that’s how the creators envisaged it, that’s how they executed it, and I take it as it comes. Extra kudos to the photography and editing. That means, the quirks with the foibles. I hope you do the same.

Stay safe!

The Importance of Dystopia in Sci-fi

“The World of Apu” is a bimonthly, diverse, and multilingual online film magazine which explores film cultures from around the world.

Below you can find my analysis on why constructing the perfect society is nothing like constructing a seemingly perfect society. In other words, why filmmakers see the future in a cataclysmic and calamitous light.

Stay safe!