DVD Stalk: Primeval Online Event, Hannibal Rising, and Ghost Rider
-Primeval Online Event-
Last week, Buena Vista Home Video and Click Communications gathered a bunch of us film critics in an online press event that would allow us to watch their latest film Primeval while also chatting with the film's Director Michael Katleman. Not only was it a fun way to check out the flick a bit early, but it was also an innovative way to interact with Katleman while checking out his latest work. You can read our review of Primeval a little further down in this week's column, but here are a few of the most interesting questions that Katleman tackled while we all watched his killer-croc film.
Q: I am interested in whether or not Michael is enjoying the online junket ... basically what his initial reaction is to it.
Q: Was Jaws a big inspiration for how you showed the audience Gustave?
Q: Michael, how did you first hear about Gustave?
Q: Can you tell us a bit about the real Gustave?
Q: What was the most difficult part of this shoot for you?
Q: You have directed some big TV-shows, but nothing close to horror or thriller. Was it a conscious choice to do a horror/thriller as your first big feature film?
Q: Did the film have any issues with the ratings board or was the R granted without need for additional edits?
Q: What was the ratio of CG to practical effects?
Q: Dominic Purcell looks like he could wrestle a croc bare handed! Is that all acting, or is he a bit of a tough guy in real life?
Q: Was there a wildlife expert on-set throughout the shoot?
Q: In your research, did you ever have a Gustave sighting?
Q: Some of the scenery shots are amazing - I wonder how much of that was down to the cinematographer, and how much to Africa's natural beauty?
Q: Was there anything you really wanted to do in the film, but couldn't because of budget or time restrictions?
Q: So we've seen giant sharks, giant crocs, giant spiders and ants. Which of the giant monster movies, made or yet-to-be-made, do you think deserves to be seen?
Q: Has Primeval inspired or discouraged you in doing feature films?
Q: During its theatrical release, what did you think of the decision to bill the movie as a "serial killer" theme, rather than a killer croc?
Q: Would you be interested in making a sequel?
Q: How much creative leeway / artistic license did you allow yourselves in terms of the croc's movements etc?
Q: It sounds like you're pleased with just about everything, which is great, but I'm curious as to what you feel, if anything, could have been tweaked more to your liking?
Q: Even with flicks like Anaconda around, this isn't traditional fodder for a horror film -- and I like how you treat it more like a science documentary than the usual horror flick. What inspired you to tell this particular story in this particular way?
Q: What are your thoughts about providing behind-the-scenes material on DVD?
Q: What led you to cast Jurgen Prochnow in partiuclar and what was he like to work with?
Q: How long of a post-production schedule did the film have, and was it enough time to accomplish what you wanted?
Q: Since this was based on a true story, what kind of research did you do to help make the film?
Q: Typically, movies about real-life killers are made after the killer has been caught or passed away. Did you have any qualms about making a movie about a killer that is still at large?
Q: Has the controversy surrounding the marketing campaign (serial killer as human/superhuman/animal) detracted from the film or affected how it has been received by critics and the public?
Q: Is this a monster movie? A human drama? I know it's all of the above, but as a director, what was the essential nugget of the narrative that guided you through production?
Q: Since the horror genre has been overflooded with zombies, vampires and ghosts do you think it is time studios started going back to some big monster/animal features?
Q: Were any locations problematic to film in?
Q: The combination of Orlando Jones and Dominic Purcell is an interesting one. What led you to cast these two actors in the film?
Q: Is the design of the creature based on actual footage of the croc?
Q: How do you quantify the validity of truth behind the story since there many legendary cases of giant crocs, sea monsters, etc...?
Q: Between this and Prison Break, I am curious: is Dominic Purcell capable of buttoning his shirt?
Q: at which point of the production did you think about the DVD extras?
Q: When casting comedic actors like Orlando Jones, who have some genre film experience with actors associated with dramas mostly, is it hard to keep the comedic actor's wit from overpowering the presence of the other actors?
Q: How much stock do you take in what the film critics have to say? It seems like a lot of critics had diverse reactions to the film.
Q: How long did you shoot in Africa for? Was the entire film shot there or was some of this type of stuff (On the boat) shot elsewhere?
Q: Did any of the people involved with the real killings have any part in the development of the script and/or filming?
Q: How did the locals react to a film like this being made?
Q: What has it been like working with Disney and BHVE. They seem to really throw their support behind a film when they sign on for it.
Q: I know I'm thinking ahead here, but what would you like to direct in the feature? What kind of films?
Q: What are you hoping people take away with them when the credits roll?
To whet your appetite for a little croctastic fun, here's a clip from one the DVD's bonus features. Happy hunting.
We kick off this week's batch of horror DVD reviews with Ian Jane's take on the recent unrated DVD release of Peter Webber's Hannibal Rising. Here's a bit of what Ian has to say about the film: "If Hollywood is to be believed (and usually it's not) all good movie monsters have a beginning so it only makes sense from a franchise perspective if not an artistic one that the origin of Hannibal Lecter would one day be made into a film. Based on the book of the same name by Thomas Harris, Hannibal Rising is a reasonably well written and well made film that takes a lot of the mystery and therefore a lot of the eeriness out of the character, therefore reducing him to little more than a classier Freddy Kruger...First things first - Hannibal Rising looks really good. It's a slick and polished production that has great set design and makes use of some exotic locations to ensure that even when the story is puttering around, at least the visuals are cool. Sadly, there's so much of the aforementioned puttering around that it's hard to care. The film succeeds only in sucking all of the life out of what was once a really interesting movie villain. The blame for this falls not on the cast so much or even on the director but primarily on the script and even then you can see where some interesting ideas are trying to escape. Sadly, it just doesn't click. It all feels forced, like a cash in on the name recognition that Anthony Hopkins brought to the roll though without his considerable screen presence or charisma. The end result is a 'dumbed down' origin story that feels rushed, poorly thought out, and completely half assed. Hannibal is turned into a sympathetic character here, and he has the evil sucked right out of him...Hopkins turned the character into an extension of himself to a certain degree and he gave Lecter personality - none of that personality carries over to this picture. The script is just flat and as such, the performances suffer even if on a technical level no one single actor or actress stands out as bad. The only interesting part of the story is how we are shown parallels between Lecter and Agent Starling, though these are not particularly subtle and therefore, like the rest of the film, come off as forced...Ultimately, the film looks good. There are some interesting ideas here and the pacing is fine - but the story just doesn't work and when that's the case and you've got a few decent movies behind you that you're trying to live up to, it's quite simply a recipe for little more than an extremely mediocre cash in on a successful franchise."
"Based on the Marvel Comic of the same name, Ghost Rider is one of those films that reeks of wasted potential. Anyone familiar with the comic knows that the universe that Johnny Blaze inhabited was one of bizarre demons and brooding antiheroes and while some of that has been transferred over to this film, so much more of it was left at the wayside...Borrowing elements from the original comic book series and the re-launch that revived his popularity in the nineties, the film is entertaining enough even if it doesn't have much going for it in the way of any real substance. The effects, though very CGI heavy, are fairly impressive in a cartoonish way and some of the stunt scenes are very well done. The film certainly has a better, darker tone to it than director Mark Steven's previous attempt at bringing a Marvel property to the big screen (that'd be Daredevil for those not in the know, though the un-rated version of that film is definitely a lot better than the theatrical cut)...The film benefits from an interesting cast. It's hard to tell if Cage is hamming it up on purpose here or not but regardless, he makes for a decent, tortured Johnny Blaze even if he does pour it on thick in more than a few scenes. Eva Mendes is about as hot as it gets as the love interest and it's fun to see Sam Elliott and Peter Fonda show up in important supporting roles, as both actors have great screen presence and add their charm to the picture...Ultimately the picture is a fun ride, even if it's empty. You're not likely to want to return to the world of Johnny Blaze any time soon, as it's fairly vapid; lots of style but little actual substance. Characters are a bit one-dimensional, the story is a little predictable and there are a few cringe inducing moments of bad acting and bad dialogue. That being said, seeing Nicholas Cage ride around on a bike with his head on CGI fire is pretty cool and the film is definitely entertaining on a base level...Ghost Rider isn't as bad as a lot of people made it out to be, in fact, as a brainless action-horror film, it works. Unfortunately, for those familiar with the source material, it wasn't nearly as good as it should have been and it feels like a lot of potential was simply wasted."
"Alice, Sweet Alice is an accomplished post-Exorcist horror film about mayhem in a dysfunctional Catholic family. Although the opening image shows a little girl in a First Communion dress holding a dagger, the film is reasonably tasteful. Film critics have found favor with its well-organized themes of sin and repression. Director Alfred Sole knows how to generate suspense while developing interesting, unusual characters...Killer kid movies proliferated after The Exorcist, and not just foreign rip-offs of William Friedkin's sensational hit: The Little Girl Who Lives Down The Lane, Audrey Rose and The Omen. Alice, Sweet Alice seemingly borrows its central image of a tiny knife-wielding attacker in a plastic raincoat from Don't Look Now but can pride itself on on not being just another exorcism clone. Rosemary Ritvo and Alfred Sole's script instead churns up a sordid tale that would appear to make the Catholic Church responsible for all human ills. The film seems to say that by repressing human sexuality the Church creates and encourages all kinds of fear & frustration-driven psychological problems. This grossly slanted attitude dominates all the characters, who suffer from guilty vices...Director Sole does wonders with his cast and script and his direction never shows haste or undue economizing. Angles are expressive and characters' emotions well-covered. The various murders are stylish but not fetishized; the scary mask and Alice's creepy two-faced doll are well-used. Some unobtrusive Alfred Hitchcock references are present, and Stephen Lawrence's good score approaches a Bernard Herrmann tone, without overdoing it...Some of the performers' abilities are limited but most of the New York-based cast comes off very well, especially young Paula Sheppard, who looks a bit like an underage Karen Allen. Her only other IMDB credit is 1982's Liquid Sky. The impressive Mildred Clinton played Al Pacino's mother in Serpico, and had a part in the pre- Sound of Music German movie about the Von Trapp Family. The famous Lillian Roth has a small bit as a morgue pathologist."
"Based on title alone, its hard not to admire Meatball Machine. The Japanese cyberpunk, splatter film from 2005 is all about rat-sized aliens, housed in metal shells who invade humans and morph them into man-machine monstrosities. What else would you call it? There is meat. There are balls. There are machines. Gotta' call it Meatball Machine...Meatball Machine makes some slight nods to the gold standard of cyberpunk films, Shinya Tsukamoto's Tetsuo: The Iron Man, but really it is not as concerned with being symbolic (sorry folks, no pneumatic penis drills) and a techno-nightmare reflection of a modern malaise. No, while it has some serious, melodramatic strains, its more an action oriented affair in line with anime or something like a man-in-suit monster battle like The Guyver...Problems aside, the film still largely works as a cheap, gory, gonzo affair. Its more serious strains feel a bit forced and a tad hard to digest. I mean, when a clunky prosthetic covered Yoji is constantly pleading with Sachiko to regain her humanity and the film cuts to the little alien puppet inside her roaring, well, its not the sort of tug at the heart strings that you can take too seriously. But, you can never underestimate the appeal of transforming bone guns, buzzsaws, and bashers, so, on that end, the film delivers with cyberpunk aplomb...If you are a fan of the oddball, splatter, low budget, cult film, then Meatball Machine delivers."
"It's worth remembering that Takashi Miike's Ichi the Killer has its roots in the world of comic books. While Miike's revered 2001 film has its share of advocates and detractors (DVD Talk's own Stuart Galbraith IV doesn't care for it), its cartoonish tone, unrelenting gore and unmitigated masochism can be too much to stomach. It's certainly not a movie to throw on casually; Ichi the Killer, by the nature of its gruesomely elaborate violence, demands your attention -- and has no difficulty holding it for the duration. It's a film that easily stands aside Robert Rodriguez's Sin City as one of the most effective comic-to-film translations ever attempted...Yet for all of its showy, bloody setpieces -- Ichi (Nao Omori) splitting a brutal pimp in two; the film's iconic villain Kakihara (Tadanobu Asano) dousing a gangster in searing hot oil; myriad arterial sprays (Kill Bill fans will no longer wonder exactly where Quentin Tarantino swiped the idea) -- Ichi the Killer is a work of queasy, morally problematic cool. After all, this is a film whose supposed protagonist is turned on by the idea of raping and beating women; none of the characters in Miike's film have anything approaching redeeming qualities -- beatings, maimings and all manner of graphic dismemberment drift across the screen during its 130-minute run time and often, you're too distanced from the characters to truly care about their fates. Even if you give Miike the benefit of the doubt that he's passing some kind of judgment on the criminals, it's a theory that dwindles away to nothing by the time the credits roll. Miike simply appears too enamored of the high-octane violence to really step outside of it and comment... But what do you come away from Ichi the Killer feeling? Well, aside from numb and probably a bit dazed, you're not left with much to chew on. Miike makes it abundantly clear that, despite any psychological threads he might possibly explore, he doesn't seem interested in these characters beyond their capacity to gush blood. It makes for a desperately hollow experience, one that dazzles with its sanguine creativity, but disappoints with its narrative. Yet I'm recommending it, because it's a piece of cinema that continues to have an impact well past its original release and Media Blasters have pulled together a fair batch of extra material worth considering; curiously, they elected not to try and frame the film in any kind of context aside from its insane amount of carnage. A missed opportunity, I think. Repellent, kinetic, cartoonish and altogether gruesomely violent, Ichi the Killer is a landmark not only of Japanese cinema, but serves as the fountainhead for the Splat Pack, the new breed of filmmaker intent on dialing up the volume as high as possible. Love it or hate it, you won't soon forget -- no matter how hard you try...Repellent, kinetic, cartoonish and altogether gruesomely violent, Ichi the Killer is a landmark not only of Japanese cinema, but serves as the fountainhead for the Splat Pack, the new breed of filmmaker intent on dialing up the volume as high as possible. Love it or hate it, you won't soon forget -- no matter how hard you try."
"The Wikipedia entry on the African nation of Burundi is far more interesting than Primeval, which is a movie set there. As it tries to be two things at once -- a gory monster movie and a dramatic social commentary -- what it mostly succeeds at is being dull and repetitive...The ads for this film tried to make us think it's about a serial killer, but no, it's not. It's a crocodile, a big giant one that is the scourge of Burundi, regularly eating people in and near the country's rivers and lakes. The locals have named him Gustave. (Apparently the crocodile is German.)...Gustave is for real, which is how the film can say it's "inspired by true events."...TV veteran Michael Katleman directs the film with Jaws ambitions, but it never even comes close to that level of scariness, a couple of well-done tense moments notwithstanding. The characters are flat, and the dialogue, except for some of Orlando Jones' quips, is wooden. The warlord subplot was clearly meant to pad out what is otherwise a pretty dry story (croc attacks; repeat), yet Little Gustave winds up being monotonous, too, and even less intriguing. People being eaten by crocodiles gets old after a while, sure, but it's still more fun to watch than people shooting and stabbing each other...There have definitely been worse Jaws wannabes than this one, but this one's pretty bad. It seldom rises to the level of hilarious badness, though. It's just the regular ol' boring kind."
"In today's world, everyone has to do something to make money, even serial killers. Over the years, we've seen slashers with different jobs. There was the fisherman in I Know What You Did Last Summer and the miner in My Bloody Valentine. Now, we have Monty the pizza delivery guy in Delivery. When he gets to your door, you had better have that coupon that you claimed to have when you called in your order...Let's face it, no one is going into Delivery expecting to be moved by the story or wowed by the acting. The viewer is there to see the pizza delivery guy goes nut and kill a bunch of people. And we do get that. The problem with Delivery is that it takes 66-minutes to get to that point. The reality is that many viewers will bail out on this movie before Monty seeks his vengeance...There's often a difference between what a film plans to do and what it actually does. I can only assume that writer/director Jose Zambrano Cassella wanted the audience to take a journey with Monty. As the film progresses, we watch this man be tormented by everyone around him. When someone finally takes pity on him and tries to befriend him. Monty doesn't know how to react. The problem is that it's nearly impossible to relate to anything in the movie. This movie takes place in that universe where everyone is a jerk and apparently they live only to hurt others. A bigger deficit is Monty, who may be the fattest one-dimensional character ever seen in a movie. We learn very little about him save for the fact that he witnessed some traumatizing things as a child. Are we supposed to feel sorry for him? Cheer for him? The whole thing is unclear. All is I know is that the DVD box promised carnage, and the carnage came too late...Delivery is a head-scratcher. Is it supposed to be funny? The idea of a homicidal pizza guy certainly sounds funny, but the movie is far too sick and twisted to be a comedy. But, it's also too light on horror and gore elements to be a scary movie. I really hate to say something this cliched, but Delivery just doesn't deliver the goods."
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