Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Staying up late to catch a Fantastic Beast

Last Thursday night we did the crazy and exhausting thing that every true fan does, and we went to the midnight opening first screening of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them at the IMAX. We'd already seen the first ten minutes thanks to attending the amazing Fan Event last month, but the movie continues to be a delight for fans of JK Rowling's Wizarding World.

You probably know what the story is by now - Newt Scamander, magizoologist, arrives in New York by ship (thinking about it, you can only apparate so far without risk, and portkeys have a nasty habit of making you sick... maybe a portkey would have affected the animals in the case too). He has a TARDIS-like suitcase storing many fantastic beasts, and some escape when his case gets muddled with budding baker/muggle, sorry - no-maj, Jacob Kowalski. The chase is on to recapture the beasts before they are harmed.

Simple huh?

Minor Spoilers follow... so shhhhhh...


No. Not simple at all. Behind this is not only the underlying threat of Gellert Grindelwald, the dark wizard that fought to undo the International Statute of Secrecy protecting the wizarding world from muggles (and vice-versa), but also the threat of a different kind of "beast" that is terrorising New York.

As expected, I loved the film. Great stuff, though very, very different from what you could have expected. It really does feel like the start of a much longer story (which will be told over the next four movies) and it doesn't follow the predictable Hollywood structure. Things happen because they have to, not because it follows a three act structure or "set pieces". It's a little jarring at first, but refreshing in the end.

At first I was unsure about the casting of Eddie Redmayne, especially as it felt in the trailers that he was going to be mumbling a lot through the film, but when you actually watch it it all makes perfect sense. He's quiet, introspective, shy, and (much like someone who spends all of his time with animals) rarely makes eye contact. He's determined to save lives, both the creatures he's protecting, and everyone around him - even the villain(s) of the piece.

It has some seriously dark moments too. With the major monster of the movie being the way humans treat things they don't understand, you can expect some dark turns. Not only that, MACUSA (the US equivalent of the Ministry of Magic) is super-paranoid about creatures, and exposure to the muggles. A bit of a comment about gun registration with the need for wizards to have a license to carry a wand. Hmmm... But also, a nasty bit about capital punishment as well, with MACUSA's equivalent of the gas chamber, where wizards are executed in a "death cell" - but it's okay, because they'll take your nice memories out of your head and put them in the pool that'll kill you and you'll be happy to go and see all those nice memories again. As I said... DARK!

We're already planning a second trip to see it, so we can take in the extra details that we missed the first time around (mostly due to it being the early hours of the morning).

--

On top of that, the few free moments I've had recently have been spent playing a little free app (available on Android and iOS) called Fantastic Beasts Cases from the Wizarding World. A new game approved by JK Rowling where you play an investigator for the Ministry of Magic's Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures.




You partner with Mathilda Grimblehawk and go around locations trying to solve mysteries that involve beasts. It's a basic "find the object" game, with timers, mirrored levels, spot the difference, and more. It's horribly addictive.

--

What with that, and the announcement of a new Harry Potter Miniatures game coming next year from Knight Models...



Looks like I should brush off that pitch for a Harry Potter RPG again...  one day... one day...

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Strange Days Indeed

The Doctor will see you now.

Doctor Strange, the latest of the Marvel Cinematic Universe movies, opened in the UK today.

I've been fan and a reader of Doctor Strange for years, so I've been looking forward to this movie for a while. My first comics as a kid, before the realms of 2000AD even, was a British title called Super Spider-Man and the Titans. It was a Brit reprint of a number of Marvel titles, printed landscape - a double page spread each side, so four pages of US comic across when open - and in black and white. I was a massive Spider-Man nerd as a kid, but it didn't stop me reading all of the contents of this title.

Inside was the continuing stories of Spidey, just at the time when it was amazing - the death of Gwen Stacey, the Green Goblin, the Spider-mobile, and yet another attempt by Doc Ock to marry Aunt May. I loved it.

Also inside this weekly was pages of Thor, Captain America, and tucked away at the back was Doctor Strange, master of the mystic arts.

UK Marvel reprint comic "Super Spider-man and the Titans" 1976

At this time in the 70's, Doctor Strange was... well, strange to say the least. It was right in the middle of what most Marvel fans would consider the peak of Strange's run, and it was certainly the coolest art I'd ever seen. I don't know how "current" the issues being reprinted were in the UK, but at this time in the 70's, Super Spider-Man and the Titans was printing the Strange stories illustrated by the legendary Gene Colan.

Much like the art of Spider-man at that time, the artwork in black and white was glorious. If anything, the colour may have ruined it. John Romita Sr.'s Spidey was amazing and the definitive Peter Parker for me. Gene Colan's Doctor Strange was astounding but freaky as hell.

There have always been scary images that freaked me out as a kid. I was always a bit sensitive like that. The cover of IT. The Doctor Who annual 1977 with its weird art. And the sequence of Doctor Strange when he's off in the astral plane, in a weird dream sequence where his head pops off like a wax dummy and bounces down the stairs. Totally freaked out.

It was one of those things were you're a little wigged, but you can't stop looking at it. I wasn't entirely sure what the hell was going on, but it was mesmerising.

Of course, time passed. I grew. Moved on to 2000AD, Starlord, Tornado, then discovered Sandman and Shade: The Changing Man, Watchmen, etc... But that's another story.

Fast forward a bit to the mid 90's, and my future wife says that she's a big fan of Cloak and Dagger. She has the entire run of Strange Tales featuring Cloak and Dagger / Doctor Strange and I had some time on my hands after finishing art college. I blasted through every issue. Excellent!!

But again, things went quiet for me on the Strange front. Thankfully, it has returned recently with the art of one of my favourite artists, Chris Bachalo. (Been a fan of his since his work on my fave comic of all time - Shade: The Changing Man). And awesome stuff it is too.

Anyway, you didn't want to hear about my comic history, you wanted to know if the Doctor Strange movie is good.

-

To cut to the chase - yes. It is. Very good.

The movie follows the story of the comic fairly faithfully. Strange is a neurosurgeon, and a brilliant one. Problem is, he knows it. He's arrogant, self centred, and over confident. He's smug, rich and career-focused. When he is busy looking at his phone while driving (let that be a lesson to you all), he piles his car up and in the accident his hands are crushed. Countless surgeries and all of Strange's money later, he still can't stop the shakes from the nerve damage.

Just like the comics, his desperation to get his old life back takes him East, where he is taken in by The Ancient One where he learns that opening his mind can lead to a kind of spiritual healing that will give him his hands, but also open up the realms of magic and sorcery. And when the Ancient One opens it up, you get some of the trippiest and weirdest visuals you'll ever see.

There's the inevitable villain, played by Mads Mikkelsen (who, in my opinion, gave us the greatest Bond villain, and the coolest Hannibal Lecter ever) and various levels of training and events that gives Doctor Strange his abilities, his cloak of levitation, the Eye of Agamotto, and the Sanctum Sanctorum.

In fact, if you look at it from a distance, it really does play out through the expected beats of an origin story, and it doesn't really surprise. What does surprise is how well such a basic story is presented.

Scott Derrickson, the director of Doctor Strange, is best known for his horror work (Deliver Us From Evil, Exorcism of Emily Rose and one of the scariest movies I've ever seen, Sinister). It's rumoured Dan Harmon was brought on to lighten the tone of what could have been a very dark movie. The humour is pretty good too, showing that Marvel really know how to make an entertaining superhero movie with thrills, scares and light moments - not getting mired in the gloom.

Visually, the movie is stunning. Taking inspiration from Steve Ditko's original art, and movies like The Matrix and Inception, the world twists and bends, folds in on itself and changes orientation in a fluid and mindboggling way that is very cool but is never too confusing. It looks massively complex, but you still understand what's going on.

Being a Strange fan from my childhood, I never thought I'd ever see a fight on the astral plane, or the Dark Dimension on screen, so this is a dream come true. Cumberbatch is great, with his best Hugh Laurie doctor accent, and the rest of the cast are just as cool. Of course, Rachel McAdams is severely underused - something we can hope will be rectified next Strange movie. C'mon, Marvel. You can do better than that.

On the whole, great stuff. I'd have liked more, though. It's just under two hours long, and when the final fight comes, you don't really expect it to be the "final fight".

Not the best of Marvel (my faves still are Winter Soldier and Guardians of the Galaxy) but still a great, great movie.


Sunday, October 16, 2016

Fantastic Beasts Fan Event (and Where to Find Us)

You're probably well aware by now by my posts about the regular visits to the Warner Bros. Studio Tour: The Making of Harry Potter, and my numerous posts about how and why a Harry Potter RPG would be a great thing, that the wife and I may be a little obsessed with JK Rowling's Wizarding World.

Just because you're allowed to do magic now doesn't mean you can whip your wands out for every tiny thing!
(Me and Debs in the queue - any excuse to wear the Hogwarts robes)



Press interviews the group at the
front of the queue
Last week we were lucky enough to be invited to the Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them "Fan Event" in London, at the Cineworld Empire in Leicester Square. It was one of those things that they advertise on the film's social media pages - they get you to sign up for updates and you never really expect to get tickets. But, miracle of miracles, we had the email saying we had tickets reserved for us, and we hurriedly set about booking the necessary time off of work to make a quick trip to London.

We got there in plenty of time, but considering the event we were surprised to be about fifth in the queue with only a couple of hours to waste before they started letting in. Security was high, but the press presence was even higher, with them targeting all those who had made an effort to dress up for the night (as suggested on the invitation). We were interviewed by Sky News Germany, a website for Japan, and Good Morning Britain where our bemused and startled mugs graced the TV screens across the country the following morning.

Then, the doors opened and we were let in. Checking our names off of a list, we were given our tickets and had a UV mark made on our hands. Then it was into the entranceway to take in the cool decorations they'd done. Astounding considering they weren't even showing the film, just a few bits of it.

In the main hall, we handed our tickets over to get a specially produced Newt wand, and an even more special silver foil bag. That would be an essential item later... the drinks stands had been decorated with wanted posters of the cast, and there was a couple of booths where you could wave a wand and make a video of yourself doing magic effects.

Also on display were the costumes as worn by the cast for the film. We had just enough time to take in the sights before the doors opened to the auditorium and we were let in. A quick check of the UV marks on our hands, and double checking we had a silver bag each, and we were let into Cineworld's IMAX screen. 



Costumes as worn by the cast!
Once inside there was the decision of where to sit. We knew we were there to see footage from the film, but that was purely secondary. I mean, let's face it - we're going to see the film when it comes out anyway. Possibly more than once. No. The important thing is getting to sit at the front to get a good view for the interviews with the actors. 

We managed to get seats on the front row, to the side. It was only when we really settled into our seats and looked around we noticed that we were near the doors where the cast would emerge and walk to the stage for the event! 

With the audience settled, a guy came out to warm up the audience, to get them suitably worked up into a state of complete fan-frenzy. He got everyone cheering, ran around the audience doing some quiz questions to give away tickets for the London premiere, and hosted the fancy dress competition to determine who would win the big bluray boxed set of the Harry Potter movies. 

Then our real host, Edith Bowman, came out and took to the stage. She explained that it was a worldwide fan event, and the screens would be syncing up with audiences worldwide and live on Facebook. 

You can see the whole video online here -



As you can see from that, the main cast of the film were in London on stage (Eddie Redmayne, Katherine Waterson, Alison Sudol and Dan Fogler) along with director David Yates and producer David Heyman. They were joined via video from LA by Colin Farrell and Jon Voight.

They answered questions, and it really came across that everyone involved really got very into their characters and loved being part of the wizarding world. Despite the huge names involved, they just seemed to enjoy their time on the film, and the meaning of their characters, and the heart behind the story. I've been to a number of press conferences and you can tell when someone's faking it, or a bit cheesed off with having to do the press junkets. None of that was apparent here. It bodes very well for the franchise.


Then, of course, was the big moment when they brought out the extra chair. Debs was about five feet away from where JK Rowling was standing waiting to take to the stage. I'm surprised she didn't just jump over the railing and hug her right then.

JK Rowling took to the stage, and announced that Fantastic Beasts wouldn't be a trilogy as originally thought, and that it would be five films. The audience went nuts. 

Then the celebs left, the live feed ended, the press cameras were taken away and we were asked to put our phones in those special silver bags, to ensure we didn't video any of what was about to be shown. Security stood at the front of the cinema with nightvision goggles to try to catch any acts of piracy, and they screened the first ten minutes of the film.

I won't go into many details, but I will say that it starts just like a Harry Potter movie, with the music, the dark clouds, the camera flying through the logo. Then, with an epic explosion of magic, we see Gellert Grindelwald, one of the most dangerous dark wizards of all time, defeat a group of wizards. Headlines from newspapers whiz by before we join Newt Scamander...

Epic stuff. And an interesting tie into the history behind Harry Potter - events covered in the books but not put on film. 
The T-shirt and wand we had in the goodie bags!

The ten minutes was over way too fast (everyone's going to want a toy Niffler) and we started to shuffle out of the screen. 

We were collared by some of the publicity people for the film and they recorded our reactions for possible use in some advertising, then headed over to the exit where they gave us all goodie bags that contained our tickets again (so we could keep them as a memento), a poster and a t-shirt (far too small for my lardy arse, but a very cool t-shirt all the same). 

The back of the t-shirt, the ticket and the free bag of popcorn everyone got!

Very much looking forward to the movie, and had a real blast at the fan event!

Friday, October 7, 2016

Dreams and Reality

This week I watched the first episodes of a couple of TV series that have had me thinking about WILD again - Falling Water and Westworld.

Burton (David Ajala) in Falling Water
Falling Water is a weird one. It has kinda crept out of nowhere, emerging from the shadows like a dream itself. The USANetwork behind it is hoping this is their next Mr Robot (which wouldn't be a bad thing) and with Gale Anne Hurd behind it, it has the credentials to be amazing. But as many people have pointed out, like Fight Club was the inspiration for Mr Robot, Inception is definitely the inspiration behind Falling Water.

The extra-length pilot is glacially slow. Moody, atmospheric and dreamlike, but still taking its time none the less. At its core, we're introduced to three characters with no apparent connection. Burton (above, played by David Ajala) is the head of in-house security at The Firm. He fixes problems, gets the rich brokers out of trouble, and is looking for his girlfriend (a very Matrix woman in a red dress). Tess (Lizzie Brocheré) is a trend spotter who doesn't like talking to people, but is having dreams of a son that she never had. And Taka (Will Yun Lee) is a cop whose mother has been in a catatonic state for the last seven years.

We follow their lives, never entirely sure of whether they are awake or not in some scenes, and gradually elements from each other's dreams start encroaching into both the dreams and the waking worlds of the others.

Tess (Lizzie Brocheré) in Falling Water

Lurking in the background and bound to unite them is Bill (Zak Orth) who is convinced that we can move from our isolated dreamworld and into each others. No technology seems to be needed - so no Inception-like PASIV devices here. But there's something else going on. A presence that wants out.

As I said, it's VERY slow. I get the feeling that if it doesn't up its pace in the next couple of episodes, it's going to get cancelled very quickly, which would be a shame. I don't want it to become the next Awake (a brilliant series with Jason Isaacs that only lasted one season and isn't available on DVD).

The most interesting thing about it is thinking about Burton's girlfriend - the nameless woman in red. He bumps into her, they go to their favourite restaurant, and in the night he dreams that she is abducted. When he wakes, she's not there and no one has any idea who he's talking about. Was she ever there? Was she purely in his dream, and was all the meeting and restaurant a dream? Or, was she really there, but abducted in the dream and now no longer exists in the real world, existing purely in the dreamrealms?

It's certainly going to be one I watch more of, I just hope it can gain the audience.

Falling Water's pilot episode is available to watch online, and premieres on Oct 13th in the States. Not sure which UK channel is going to pick it up (if any - it may end up on Amazon Prime like Mr. Robot).

Westworld

Also, this week, I checked out the first episode of HBO's new drama Westworld. Based on the 70's movie written and directed by Michael Crichton, it has the basics of the same plot as its original - there's a themepark out in the middle of nowhere, where guests pay a small fortune to enter a cinematic version of the old west, complete with horses, whores and gunslingers. The guests are "entertained" by Hosts - incredibly lifelike robots programmed to act and feel like real people, but without all those pesky moral implications when you sleep with a dozen of them, or murder two dozen in a massive gunfight.

And that's possibly where the series shines. There's a lot below the surface here. Not just with the shady dealings in the real world with the company that is building the robots (there are unsubtle hints that there is a deeper purpose) but it makes us look at the moral implications of it all. These robots have memories that seem to survive the wipes, and those years of being abused, beaten, and murdered over and over again is going to have some repercussions. There's a reckoning coming. It also holds a mirror up to humanity. A humanity that gets its kicks out of sex and violence. Giving people a way to "safely" vent these desires, is that just encouraging them to give into them more often?

Dolores Abernathy (Evan Rachel Wood) in Westworld


It's gripping and mesmerising stuff that plays with your expectations and turns them on their heads in the first ten minutes. The hosts (the robots) show more humanity than any of the *human* characters in the series.

In the original movie the robots malfunction and turn on their guests (and their creators) in Crichton-esque theme-park-goes-wrong style. In this version, it's coming, but that may not be a bad thing. But it also raises additional questions. If the robots did take over, would they continue their repetitive Groundhog Day-style lives, or would they continue to live in an old west world? What if one escaped into our world? Are there robots already in our world?

--

Of course, both of these series have been swimming around my head all week, feeding the fuel for the WILD RPG with it. In Falling Water, Bill says that everyone's dreams are in their own little worlds that rub up against each other, and what if you could move from one dream into someone else's. That's the core of the WILD RPG, only the technology allows you to share one dream with a handful of people. It also implies that there's something sinister in the dream realms that is lurking. Is there a primordial force or is it a projection of our own subconscious fears? And then, with Westworld, it's getting into the Total Recall territory. Dreams as vacations, memories of events that never happened, sharing that dream vacation with the rest of the family or friends. Dreams pre-programmed and prepared by a dream broker - a travel agent of the mind.

There's more to dreaming than you think.


Monday, September 26, 2016

Twisted Twins Interview - See No Evil 2 - October 2014

Post originally appeared on the Geekologists Online site - October 2014


Ever since I first saw the Twisted Twins’ first feature, Dead Hooker in a Trunk, I had a feeling that they had a big future ahead of them in movies. Dead Hooker in a Trunk was a micro-budget example of guerrilla film-making at its bloodiest - a grindhouse style horror filmed for just $2500. But that raw, underground film showed a massive talent, and a real drive to be creative. 

With more of a budget, the Twins, Jen and Sylvia Soska, went on to write, direct and produce American Mary which wowed audiences worldwide and proved that they had the knowhow and the creativity to make a serious mark on the movie world. 

Now, to promote their latest movie, See No Evil 2, a sequel to the 2006 WWE produced slasher, I was lucky enough to chat over vid-skype with two of the coolest and nicest people in horror today. 

Dave: First of all, thank you for taking the time to talk to me today. I know you’re busy doing some live tweeting for “ABCs of Death 2”?

Sylvia: Yeah, ABCs got released on VOD so we’re all going to do a “#DeathParty” tweet-along tonight. It’ll be fun. A lot of people are doing it from a bar…

Jen: They’re encouraging drinking and I think we have some Jack Daniels left.

Sylvia: I think we should.

Dave: That sounds fantastic. Before we talk about your new film, I wanted to touch upon your rise to fame as horror icons. Your first movie, Dead Hooker in a Trunk, is a great example of guerrilla film-making, and it’s really inspirational. It was really low budget wasn’t it?

Sylvia: It was $2500. It involved a lot of running from the cops as we weren’t technically “legally” shooting. 

Jen: It was half Robert Rodriguez, and half Ed Wood. Robert Rodriguez stylistically, and Ed Wood in “we’d better go!”

Sylvia: “We’d better get in the car and drive away…”

Dave: They always say that lack of budget forces a bit more creativity and that really came through.

Jen: Absolutely, and that’s a lesson we’ve taken with all of our films, because people have said “we can pay for this” and we’re like “Woah, pay?”

Sylvia: Pay for it? We could steal that and I’ll show you how!

Jen: There are some things you have to pay for and some things you can steal gracefully. 

Dave: Onto American Mary, which is gorgeous, I have to say it looks fantastic. Was that fairly low budget as well?

Sylvia: Pretty low budget, it was under a million dollars, and we shot it in fifteen days, and the nice thing was that the people that came onto the movie so believed in it that they donated their time, donated props, donate things from home, they would work for free overnight, it was amazing. So every time I see that movie I see my cast and my crew, and how much they killed themselves trying to make it that beautiful. 

Dave: It really shows, it looks fantastic. 

Sylvia: Thank you.

Dave: You’ve become real celebrities when it comes to the horror genre, has it surprised you, the speed of your meteoric rise to become such icons?

Jen: It always surprises me when someone says “Hey I saw Dead Hooker, or I loved American Mary”,  because, we were never super-popular growing up, and all the stuff that people never liked about us, everyone loves about us now. Like the comic books, the video games, the wrestling, and that’s who we are, and people love it.

Sylvia: Nerds have inherited the earth!

Jen: We have! I’ve never met someone who was really popular in high school who ended up a halfway decent person.

Sylvia: Still, every time anyone says they’ve seen Dead Hooker or American Mary, I’m like “really? Did you like it?” And if they did I’m like “oh my god!! Thank you!”

Jen: And if anyone says can I get a photo with you, I’m like “Oh my god, yes.”

Sylvia: Like, “fuck, yeah!”

Jen: Only if you put it online.


Dave: I should really be talking to you about your new movie, See No Evil 2

Jen: Oh, sure.

Dave: It’s a sequel to film that’s quite old now, what was it, 2006? How did that come about?

Jen: It was the first film that WWE ever made, See No Evil, and I hope that they waited this long so they could bring us on as directors. It was the most profitable film that WWE made aside from The Call, when The Call came out (2013), and I don’t know why it took so long for it to be resurrected, because it did such a good job, and I know Glenn (Jacobs), Kane, was asking to play Jacob again, and they just let it be for such a long time.

Sylvia: And for us, after American Mary, every studio meeting we had, despite what script of ours we brought in, they’d be like “that’s cool. But what if you do a movie starring Katherine Isabelle, and she’s like a medical slasher or a surgeon,”

Jen: “In her underwear…”

Sylvia: “Or a torturer in high heels,” and I’d be like, is this like some fucking hidden camera show? I just made that movie!

Jen: Did you see it?

Sylvia: “No, no, something different, but the same…” So eventually our agent, Chris Ridenhour calls us and says he has a script we need to read, and I’m like, “yeah, I know exactly what it’s about,” and he says to read it right away. And I didn’t, then he calls and asks did I read the script? So, Jen and I read it and we were “See No Evil 2, that’s not the sequel to See No Evil 1?” We started watching wrestling when Kane was introduced so we are huge Kane fans… and we were reading through the script going “oh my god,” and “holy shit, holy shit!” And there was this one part of the script and we both pushed back from our desks and…

Jen: “Did you get there?”

Sylvia: “Did you get there?”

Jen: “Okay, we’re doing this movie!”

Sylvia: We didn’t think that they’d hire us, because a lot of the times we get these studio interviews but that’s just because they want to put one girl on the list, and they get two of us, and they’re like “we interviewed the Soskas, I just didn’t want to hire them.”

Jen: If something is being remade in Hollywood, we’re on the list but we have no idea we’re on the list, just so they can say “well, we considered a female…”

Sylvia: So we got on the phone with them, and we totally didn’t think they were going to hire us, and we all “I love Kane so much, and I love See No Evil, and this script is going to be awesome, and no matter who you hire it’s gonna be sick, and if you hired me we’d do this, this and this… and thank you so much for even talking to me, and have a great day, can’t wait to see the movie!” It was an eighteen minute phonecall and it was like “Ffffffft, didn’t get that!”

Jen: Usually it’s the long ones you get, but the short ones…

Sylvia: And the next day they we like “Yep, you’re hired”, and we were like “Fuck! Really?”

Jen: We were like, “overnight you hired us?” Because the WWE has a very rigorous interviewing process.

Sylvia: We must have nailed it!!

Jen: Totally.

Dave: Did you have to prove your wrestling knowledge before they gave you the job?

Sylvia: I think they’d like us to stop using our wrestling knowledge.

Jen: It must be so annoying.


Dave: The film hasn’t come out yet, and so I haven’t been able to see the film yet. I’ve just seen the trailer…

Jen: It’s very much like Halloween 2, we pick up right where the last one left off. And my god did I wish they didn’t kill him so horribly…

Sylvia: It’s a very self-aware homage to a lot of slasher movies. I mean, Jen and I have pretty much seen every fucking slasher movie that’s ever been made, so we were like “oh my god, we get to make our own!”

Jen: There are definitely Jason references, Mike Myers references…

Sylvia: Norman Bates…

Jen: There’s a very deliberate Alien reference in there…

Sylvia: Oh yes, that was good…  And Joss Whedon!

Jen: Oh yeah, there is a Joss Whedon thing in there, and I can’t say what the thing is but once you see it you’re like “Oh, that’s like when Joss Whedon did such-and-such”…

Sylvia: Jen likes killing people in a way that you cry after…

Dave: From the trailer it looks like it has a great sense of humour to it, was that something you actively tried to put in, to keep it not so grim?

Sylvia: Definitely, because if it’s scary-scary-scary it’s flat just like that, but if you put people in a moment of levity then you can torture them so much worse. It’s amazing, and the first fifteen minutes is like a John Hughes movie. You meet all these characters, you really like them, it’s a bunch of groups that don’t really know each other and don’t really get along, and you’re like “they’re so sweet.” Then you’re like “Oh fuck! Now that I like them it’s a slasher movie.” And it just goes from there…

Jen: It’s really a “fuck yeah” movie. The only people who don’t enjoy this movie are people who come in to not enjoy this movie. It’s just playtime for horror fans, because it’s got so many “Oh no he didn’t,” moments and “Oh, fuck. Why’d she go in there?” moments… 

Sylvia: …and with Katie on American Mary I always said you’re either comedically genius or accidentally hilarious, and now that she’s one of my best friends I think that she’s accidentally hilarious. We were like “we have to make you funny in this movie, because you’re so batshit crazy-funny but nobody knows that, everyone thinks you’re stoic Mary, or sultry Ginger. You are crazy Katherine Isabelle,” so it was nice to have that with Tamara. 

Dave: So, you’ve got Jacob Goodnight rising from the dead, he’s got his mask. It’s obvious that you love your slasher films, so what’s your favourite slasher film?

Jen: I think I would have to say Halloween.

Sylvia: Really?

Jen: Have you ever watched Halloween on mute, it’s not that… without the “do-do-do-do” (John Carpenter music)… it’s just not as exciting, and that’s why we gave Jacob his own theme music in this…

Sylvia: The Newton Brothers gave Jacob his own theme song, and other characters their own theme songs so it’s really cool. It kinda gets underneath your skin…  My favourite slasher is High Tension (released in the UK as Switchblade Romance)… because it’s so romantic! It’s so romantic! “I wish someone would murder my whole family for me!” *hugs Jen* Not you! 

Jen: Why would you say that?

Sylvia: I’m just a terrible human being.

Dave: Is there any rivalry between you? How do you share the duties?

Jen: We divide and conquer. We kind of have a hive mind, two bodies, one mind. If you asked us a question on set, we’ll almost say word for word the same answer. And if not, we’ll go aside and say *whisper whisper* “Okay, this is how it’s going to be…”

Sylvia: Even though we have the same interests and the same likes, we do it in a very different way. For example, Antichrist. You (Jen) like it because… she doesn’t like it as much as me, I think it’s perfect… 

Jen: I like it because… I like the relationship between him and her…

Sylvia: Yeah, I like it because it’s a perfect movie… the phantom shots, how gorgeous it is…

Jen: You are Lars Von Trier and I’m Joss Whedon, and they have no business working together. 

Sylvia: And somehow, if they were identical twins they would be forced to.


Jen: Absolutely. She’s so darkly creative, and the things that she can pull out of her mind should have her institutionalised… she has such deliberate, amazing vision. And I’m… er… also there.

Sylvia: Jen is the heart of us, she’s the heart of the production, she’s the heart of every film that we do. She has such a beautiful outlook on the world, and she puts that light in everything. I’m the angry artist that Jen has to go and talk to the producers and be like “Sorry, Sylvia’s just… this camera movement is really important to her… don’t talk to her for the next…”

Jen: I have on more than one occasion said that if you’re working with such a capable, in depth artist… if you’re doing something and she thinks you’re hurting the film this is how she’s going to react!

Sylvia: You make me sound bad!

Jen: No! You’re an artist, you’re truly an artist. Same thing can be said about David Fincher. 

Sylvia: I guess. I think David Russell is more what you’re thinking…

Jen: You don’t have time to yell at people like that. We have very limited schedules.

Dave: Talking of schedules, you’re working with WWE again for Vendetta?

Sylvia: Yes, we just finished Vendetta. We’re going into the nice post-production parts of it. It’s starring Dean Cain, Paul “Big Show” Wight, and Michael Eklund and if you told me two weeks before we went to camera that Dean Cain is the baddest motherfucker I’ll ever work with I possibly would have laughed right in your face. But, the man is amazing!

Jen: You’ve never seen Dean Cain like this… or The Big Show, because he does comedy so well he gets stuck doing comedic roles. This film is really our Punisher film - you’ve got Dean Cain as Frank Castle, and The Big Show who’s the perfect Kingpin. 

Sylvia: Yeah, I don’t know whey he isn’t already the Kingpin, he’s the only person who should play him.

Jen: He’s so evil in this. He’s so nice, but he’s so evil. 

Sylvia: I think because we got to do a little more action sequences… Like, we’ve always done stunt work, every movie we’ve had has had stunt work… and then to be able to kill so many people in an action movie. Horror movies are smaller…

Jen: You have to care about everyone that you kill. In an action movie it’s like “I don’t know his name… dead, dead, dead…"

Sylvia: The last fifteen minutes, just count the bodycount that Dean Cain gets, it’s ridiculous. His Mason is so scary and so dark, and so dead on the inside.

Jen: And his name’s Mason… hint, hint…

Sylvia: Mason like (American) Mary Mason… ha ha… I think, we have a type… but it’s so cool to see him do it, because you know him as Superman, or  you see him as these much more wholesome characters, so when you see him playing this… it’s just darker and more exciting. 

Dave: So when it comes to action movies, I’ve heard rumours of Painkiller Jane

Sylvia: Yeah, we’re just looking for our Jane right now. That’s just the missing piece. We don’t want some little waif girl to show up and be like “oh” and she punches and all the stunt guys have to fall down like she’s tough. No, we want a chick with a six-pack, big muscles and a fucking fuck-you attitude, that if you were to spill her beer in a bar you’d buy her a keg as an apology with a “please don’t kick my ass, Miss Jane.” 

Jen: She’s not the girl someone’s sending drinks over to in a bar, she’s the girl that they’re like “fuck, I hope I don’t piss that girl off”.

Sylvia: It’s so nice to have this opportunity, because we’re such big comic book fans, and to be entrusted with Jimmy Palmiotti’s and Craig Weeden’s script.

Jen: Which is amazing. It’s like, the best script we’ve ever read.

Sylvia: It’s literally Jane off the page, and that’s the thing… there have been two other versions of her - the made for TV movie, and the TV series, but they always watered her down. This is not watered down, this is so fucking hardcore. It’s a hard R, the sexuality, the violence, the crude as shit fucking humour, and yet it still manages to have heart in it. It’s a beautiful piece. 

Jen: She’s a very real character, and a lot of us say fuck sometimes, and a lot of us fuck up sometimes, and we find our way in the end. And the challenge, which isn’t going to be that huge a challenge, is to keep it true to the source material, which was lacking before. And that happens a lot with comic book movies, and with videogame movies… oh, that’s even worse. 

Sylvia: Can you imagine a bad Catwoman movie? And then there is a terrible one! How do you fuck up Selena Kyle that much?

Jen: And then they say that nobody wants to see a female superhero… no, no, no. Let’s not put that evil on the Catwoman movie, that just was not a very good film. 

Sylvia: I didn’t see a Catwoman movie, they haven’t made one yet. They should, they just haven’t done it yet. They haven’t made an Elektra movie either in my opinion. 

Jen: No, they haven’t.

Dave: So you’re seeing this as proving that a strong female character lead is possible, especially in a comic adaptation. Are you going to be showing this to Marvel, like “it worked for James Gunn”. After all, he came from Troma, could this be like your audition piece?

Jen: Absolutely, I mean, I don’t think it’s any secret that we really want the Deadpool movie. 

Sylvia: I think Tim Miller has that…

Jen: Tim Miller may go disappearing for a while…

Sylvia: I will fight him for that movie. I will fight him. I will fight him bloody. But I think everyone who does these comic book movies should be comic book fans themselves. It’s a beautiful example with Guardians of the Galaxy, James Gunn loves comic books. So you watch the movie and you’re like, “This guy loves comic books”. 

Jen: And Joss Whedon with the Avengers. I remember them asking “Hey Joss, so you going to read some Avengers comics?” and he was like “Again? I’ve already read all of them. What am I supposed to do, relearn what I already know?”

Dave: I think that’s all of my questions, thank you so much for taking the time to talk to me! I’m really looking forward to seeing See No Evil 2, it comes out on the 21st of October 2014 doesn’t it?

Jen: 21st on DVD and Bluray, and on the 17th, I believe, it’s VOD. 

Dave: I shall definitely be watching, thank you again for talking to me, it’s been brilliant.

Jen: It’s our pleasure, I look forward to talking in the future.

Sylvia: And thanks for watching our movies!

--

Postscript - The video Skype chat I had with the amazing Soskas was recorded in its entirety and I uploaded it you Youtube a while ago with their permission. If you want to see the full interview, give it a watch, though you will see me completely geek out like a smitten-kitten.