Wednesday, May 8, 2013

RIP Ray Harryhausen

  I'm fortunate to have been born during the era of the 'Monster Kid'...and the work of Ray Harryhausen was a big part of that time. I remember pestering my parents to take my brothers and I to the local drive-in to see The 7th Voyage of Sinbad, and later Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger. I recall watching Mighty Joe Young for the first time, and meeting a cinematic ape I loved even more than Kong...seeing cowboys trying to round-up an allosaurus in The Valley of Gwangi...aliens destroying Washington D.C. in Earth vs The Flying Saucers...the Children of the Hydra's Teeth in Jason and the many, many more. Harryhausen was one of the great architects of imagination during that special time. His films have a sense of wonder and adventure that is sadly lacking in today's cinema.
   Harryhausen's creations didn't just move across the screen...they came to life. He instilled his stop-motion monsters with character that has yet to be duplicated in the CGI realm(and Gollum from LOTR doesn't count, because that was rotoscoped/motion-capture of Andy Sirkis' performance, not created from thin air, as it were). Check out the title character from Mighty Joe Young, if you don't believe me, or maybe those creepy skeletal Children of the Hydra's Teeth, or the prince-turned-baboon and the Troglodyte from Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger...Harryhausen's body of work has many examples such as these. 

   Harryhausen retired from filmmaking years ago, and now he's retired from this mortal world...luckily for us, his films remain, waiting for us whenever we feel like stepping into another world for a while...a world of apes, dinosaurs, monsters, and adventure...thank you, Ray. Rest In Peace.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Father's Day

  Chris Fuchman (Mackenzie Murdock), aka The Father's Day Killer, a notorious serial killer/rapist, was thought to have been killed years ago. However, his reign of terror has begun anew, as Twink (Conor Sweeney), a young street hustler finds out when he sees his father burned alive after being raped by Fuchman. Twink teams up with Father John Sullivan ( Matthew Kennedy), a young priest, Chelsea (Amy Groening), a stripper, and her brother Ahab ( Adam Brooks), an eyepatched , vengeance-seeking badass who thought he stopped Fuchman years ago. They all soon learn there's more to Fuchman than meets the eye, and find they're dealing with much more than just a deranged killer...will any of them survive Father's Day

    Father's Day (2011) is one of my favorites of the films I saw in 2012, and one of my favorite films period. I had the pleasure of seeing it on the big screen at my local Alamo Drafthouse, and later again at Texas Frightmare Weekend last May. Created by the collective known as Astron-6 (Sweeney, Kennedy, Brooks, Jeremy Gillespie, and Steven Kostanski), Father's Day is a wild horror/comedy/exploitation fiim, as well as a love-letter to the genres that spawned it. It's also a tribute to the Age of VHS, as the film is presented to look like you're watching a tape recorded from some TV station, presumably made in the 80s.

    The horror-comedy is a hybrid that doesn't always work, but Astron-6 fairly owns it. The film goes from laughs to genuinely creepy moments, never stumbling inbetween, with scenes like Ahab and Twink escaping police notice in disgiuses (drag, complete with rhinestone eyepatch), to Fuchman terrorizing Chelsea in a scene that could have been lifted from a 'normal' horror picture. Another factor that really works in their favor is the attention to detail. In this day and age, there are tons of films that feature exploitive subject matter, throw in some fake film grain and scratches and say, "Look at me! I'm all Grindhouse and shit!" Astron-6 did their homework, though, and gave us a film with colors and lighting straight out of the 80s Argento handbook, a soundtrack that screams 80s (especially the main theme, which sounds like it was lifted from an Italian horror flick back in the day), and touches like the blind priest Father O'Flynn ( Kevin Anderson), whose eyes have that milk-white look  from Fulci's The Beyond . It's details like this that really make the difference between a great homage and half-assing it. To the casual viewer it may not make any difference, but to an Old-School Beast such as myself, it's very cool to see.

  The actors all do a fine job in Father's Day. The Astron-6 crew are multitalented, it seems. Their comic timing is spot-on, and , as I stated above, Murdock's portrayal of Fuchman is creepy and sinister. The effects are well-done, too (as good as one can rightfully expect on a shoestring budget, especially).  Like I said earlier, I really enjoyed this film. It made me almost spit my beer several times when I first watched it, and it still pleases with each revisit. Go watch it already...The Beast says so!

All hail Astron-6!