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    #11
    Totally Usable Mod Stephen Mick's Avatar
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    The "dread" mostly comes out at night…mostly.


    If you're anything like me (and if that's the case, I'm sorry for you), no amount of Purell and lye can get the foul taste of the Twilight movies out of your psyche. In three fell swoops, they managed to make both vampires and werewolves uncool, undoing all of the hard work of movies like "Wolfen," "An American Werewolf In London," and "Underworld."

    But there is a remedy, at least for the werewolf movie-lovers out there, and it's called "Ginger Snaps."

    A gory, clever, werewolf trilogy, the "Ginger Snaps" movies are a gift from Canada. With a game cast and smart writing, the series most definitely deserves to be seen by a wider audience.

    Here's the trailer for the original…


    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zoa1A987A_k

    I don't think the movies are available to be streamed, but lovers of lycanthropy owe it to themselves to pony up a few bucks to get at least a look at the first movie through Amazon Instant or iTunes. The Daily Dread says it's worth it.
    Stephen Mick
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    #12
    Totally Usable Mod Stephen Mick's Avatar
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    In the silent film era, few films conjured up the kind of dread and terror that F.W. Murnau's "Nosferatu" created. With a creep-tastic performance by Max Schreck that would become the stuff of legend, the film may feel quaint by modern horror standards, but viewed in the context of the time in which it was made, "Nosferatu" stands as a horror masterpiece. And it may still be the definitive vision of the cinema vampire, haunting and animalistic, a creature not of charm and wit, but an otherworldly demon forced to live among humans.

    You can watch the full film here…


    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rcyzubFvBsA

    And to follow it up, check out "Shadow of the Vampire," a fictionalized tale centered around the making of "Nosferatu." It poses the question "was Max Schreck really a vampire?" With Willem Dafoe, John Malkovich, and Udo Kier, it makes a great double-feature with the Murnau classic.


    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uAn5uLNMmjk
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    #13
    Totally Usable Mod Stephen Mick's Avatar
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    For today's dose of "Dread," let's get a little bit philosophical and talk about the "horror story."

    First, what makes a great horror story…what does it DO?

    That part is easy to answer. A great horror story should terrify, haunt, and/or disturb you. It doesn't have to do all three, but it has to do at least one of them. Otherwise it was just plain drama. (Not that there's anything wrong with that, of course.) Take a film like "Audition," for example. Some would say it does all three very effectively, which is why it's almost always in various Top Ten lists for horror films. On the other hand, a movie like "Halloween" might terrify and (arguably) disturb, but it's essentially a slasher film, so there's not much of a "haunt" factor to it. Or you could look at Stanley Kubrick's masterpiece, "The Shining." Is it haunting and disturbing? Of course, it's Kubrick. Is it terrifying? That might be a bit more subjective.

    So the first thing you need to do when you're crafting the horror story is to make it one of these three things. Better yet, make it all three and you could have a horror classic on your hands.

    Second, let's look at how horror stories are built, and the parts that go into creating one.

    In most great horror tales, the "root event" that starts the story momentum moving is surprisingly mundane. Again, looking at "The Shining," the root event is Jack Torrance taking on a new job at the Overlook Hotel. Pretty ordinary stuff. In Ridley Scott's classic horror-in-space film "Alien," the root event is the corporation re-routing the Nostromo to investigate an abnormal transmission. And in "Rosemary's Baby," one of my personal favorites, the main characters move into a new apartment building.

    Just as the situation is usually ordinary, so is the protagonist. Ripley is just doing her job on the Nostromo. Jack Torrance is trying to provide for his family. Rosemary (Mia Farrow) and Guy (John Cassavettes) are simply trying to find a good place to raise their coming baby.

    So each one of these ordinary people are DOING EVERYDAY THINGS. And "doing" is key. They are players in the game. They are going camping. They are looking into their family history. They are going to dinner with their new neighbors.

    Gradually, "things" go awry. The Overlook is not your average Holiday Inn. Rosemary's neighbors are not who they appear to be. Dinner with the neighbors turns into a cannibalistic feast, and you're the main course. But before any of this happens, our protagonist almost always has a fateful choice to make, and in doing so, they ignore or disregard a sign or warning that would have saved them from misery. (And in the film "Misery," this happens literally.)

    In "An American Werewolf In London," our travelers are advised to "stay off the moors." They don't, and lycanthropic mayhem ensues. We don't need anyone to tell us not to pick up hitchhikers, but inevitably someone does, and they wish they hadn't. Or it could be something more subtle, like Rosemary taking the pendant from Terry. It's something she knows in her heart doesn't feel right, but she ignores the warning.

    At this point, we're staring the break into act two dead between the eyes.

    Now, in a normal "Hero's Journey" story path, our protagonist embraces his or her challenge. But in the horror world, the challenge or journey has started the moment the "sign" has been ignored. And Act Two often (almost always) begins by transforming the everyday, mundane objective into something much darker. In "Alien," we transition from the crew going to check out the transmission, to Ash allowing Kane back on the ship with the creature on his face, to the entire crew facing an evil that they have almost no chance of defeating.

    Our protagonist's world has completely changed, and his or her objective has become survival and solution.

    How things develop from there will largely depend on what kind of horror story you're crafting. You might have good-intentioned characters who attempt to help the hero along, but pay dearly (and in grisly ways) for their actions. Remember Scatman Crothers getting an axe to the chest in "The Shining?" You could also have some secondary characters whose purpose might be to illuminate "the moral" of the story, or to establish the value code of the world the protagonist now has to navigate. And you could also use some "misdirection villains," or characters we think are the evil forces our hero has to defeat. Once revealed, they allow our hero to continue his journey.

    And it all leads to the inevitable confrontation between good(ish) and evil(ish). This doesn't mean that good triumphs over evil, and "Rosemary's Baby" is the perfect example of that. Instead of fighting uselessly against her (and her baby's) fate, she lovingly rocks his cradle and smiles, content to be the best mother she can be to the spawn of Satan.


    All of this isn't meant to lay down hard and fast rules for crafting your horror story. Think of them as guidelines, road signs to help your story and characters find their bloody way to a satisfying conclusion.


    And now, "The Daily Dread" offers up our Seven Steps To Writing A Dreadfully Great Horror Story…

    1. Hit Us Hard. Modern audiences want to know what's at stake from the first frame of film. Bring us in to your world quickly. It doesn't have to be all about scares, but we need to embrace the environment of your story, and it has to start right away.

    2. Make The Hero Hurt. Everyone has their vulnerabilities, their fears, and their flaws. Give your hero one or two of their own. Perhaps they've tumbled down society's ladder a few rungs for one reason or another. Or maybe there's a reason they're so nervous around cats. Whatever it is, make your hero interesting, and we'll be interested.

    3. Block The Exits. Nothing heightens our sense of horror and dread than being trapped in a place we either can't get out of, or don't want to leave. In "Alien," the crew is trapped on the ship with the embodiment of evil. In "The Evil Dead," the forces unleashed by the Necronomicon destroy the bridge, the only way out for Ash and his friends.

    4. Make Your Location A Character. Again, look at films like "Alien," "The Shining," and "The Evil Dead." In each case, the film takes place largely in one main location, and it becomes a part of the story, making the hero's journey impossible at times, and saving the hero's life at others.

    5. Let Evil Be Evil With A Purpose. Listen, this is horror. We want to see very bad things happen to people who (usually) deserve them. And we want to see those things ALMOST happen to our hero. What we don't want or need is completely arbitrary horrors, or evil that serves no purpose. In David Fincher's "Seven," the brutal acts carried out by Kevin Spacey are meant to send a message. Even in Eli Roth's "Hostel," the horrific abuses of the Elite Hunting Club serve to underscore how inhuman the most genteel-seeming among us can be.

    6. Finish Strong. Give the audience a confrontation worthy of the characters you've worked so hard to give life to. Our hero faces not only the evil, but the fear he carries with him. And don't be afraid to create a confrontation that ends in conflict. In "Seven," for example, our hero gets the bad guy, but in the process his wife loses her pretty head and the baby she's carrying.

    7. Send Us Home Thinking. This one isn't always easy to do, but the best horror films don't always wrap things up in a nice, clean package. We wonder exactly how the Overlook Hotel could communicate with Jack, Danny, and Dick. We wonder how we might react if we found ourselves running from Rage-infected masses. And we wonder how we ever could have overlooked all of the signs pointing to the fact that Bruce Willis was dead all along in "The Sixth Sense."
    Stephen Mick
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    Cut-By-Cut: Cabin In The Woods
    #14
    Totally Usable Mod Stephen Mick's Avatar
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    "Society needs to crumble. We're just too chickensh$@t to let it."

    I don't consider myself a rabid Joss Whedon fan, but TDD IS a huge fan of "Cabin In The Woods." So for today's installment, we're going to take a cut-by-cut look at "the warning scene" from CITW. (If you haven't seen the movie, see your doctor, have him or her verify that you do in fact have a pulse, and go to Netflix and watch it. Seriously.)

    With direction by Drew Goddard and cinematography by the oft-overlooked Peter Deming, CITW is confidently directed, and shot with a steady, experienced hand. Deming has worked with directors like David Lynch, Sam Raimi, David O. Russell, and Wes Craven, among others. He's lensed horror films including Evil Dead II, From Hell, Scream 2, 3, and 4, and Drag Me To Hell.

    Hopefully you read yesterday's installment of TDD, where we went over story structure ideas, and tips for crafting your horror masterwork. In that post, we talked about "the warning," and how disregarding it is almost always the event that plunges our hero(es) into the maelstrom that is the second act. And here we're going cut-by-cut to see how CITW handled this key turning point, and how each shot helped tell the story.

    It starts when the group (ill-advisedly) stops for gas and directions. (Note the use of diagonals/converging lines as the RV turns into the gas station.) Right away, we see the RV "trapped" in a web of boards and branches. This motif continues every time we see the full RV. They don't realize it, but they have already been captured. But they do still have a chance to escape. Maybe.

    The gas station. Is someone in the wreck of a gas station, watching them? It's a horror film, so we assume there is, as that fits with the traditional "rules" of the genre. The group checks out the gas station. It feels "wrong," but they pretend not to notice. In a touch very typical of Whedon, a hit of humor is used to defuse the anxiety.

    Outside is bright but overcast, and the story is told alternately with wide shots of the "trapped" RV, and tighter shots of the heroes pinned between the RV and the gas pumps. One of the group enters the gas station. Dark. Creepy. Claustrophobic. Note that we're still using lines and space to create a sense of entrapment. As he realizes something is wrong, he turns…

    And in any other horror movie, he would be face to face with evil. But here, Goddard allows us a breath, putting us off-guard before the "outsider" meets the man we'll call "the prophet." The confrontation begins.

    In shot after shot, the "prophet" dominates the frame. He is given space, while the others are cramped. Then, he not only invades their space, he disrespects them, spitting at their feet. And again, humor is used with perfect timing to lighten the mood.

    "Gettin' back…that's your concern." The warning is given, and our heroes pause for a moment. And as one of them throws money at the "prophet," they have made their choice, however unwittingly. And even as the RV drives off, we feel as if they're entering a maze of bark and branches. They are going deeper into the web, and now they are truly captured.

    Below you'll find frame grabs from every single shot used in this key scene. (Don't sue me, Lionsgate. I love your movie, and this is provided strictly for educational purposes. )


    cabin_comp_01.jpgcabin_comp_02.jpgcabin_comp_03.jpgcabin_comp_04.jpg
    cabin_comp_05.jpgcabin_comp_06.jpgcabin_comp_07.jpg
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    #15
    Totally Usable Mod Stephen Mick's Avatar
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    Let's keep today's installment of Dread short and sweet. (I'm also about to head out the door to a shoot, so time is limited today.)

    Readers of the Dread know I have much love for "An American Werewolf In London." One of the reasons that film is as great as it is, and holds up as well as it does, is because of the practical effects work by Rick Baker and his team. Check out the transformation clip, for example…

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n9QPouW-XZ4

    Enjoy a few interviews and clips with makeup master Rick Baker…

    http://badassdigest.com/2011/09/27/t...olf-in-london/

    http://www.imdb.com/rg/VIDEO_PLAY/LI...b/vi512531737/

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xmppwmLjWA4

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QMBRAS68R38

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e6WH3EG-OvU

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RKH51NbRnME
    Stephen Mick
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    The Scariest Scene of All Time
    #16
    Totally Usable Mod Stephen Mick's Avatar
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    "Psycho" has the shower. "The Exorcist" has the head-spin (and a bunch of other stuff). "The Shining" has Room 237.

    But for my money, and as long as I've been going to movies, no scene has scared me as much, or as effectively, as the "clown" scene from "Poltergeist."

    poltergeist-clown-2.jpg

    There have been bloodier scenes. There have been more involved scares. There have certainly been scarier villains. But there's just something about how this scene is choreographed and paced that makes it terrifying. Add to that the fact that the "evil" is something so seemingly harmless, and you've got the stuff of horror cinema legend.


    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j02cXEvJThM
    Stephen Mick
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    That Dreadful Sound - Scary Movie Scores
    #17
    Totally Usable Mod Stephen Mick's Avatar
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    Okay, let's be honest… We obsess over the visuals we craft. We spend as much time as possible to make sure the makeup is just so. And we labor over every cut in the edit.

    But don't forget that the best horror movies always feature a score that not only serves the scares, it elevates them.

    Here's my list of the best and scariest movie scores ever created…

    The Exorcist
    Music by Mike Oldfield

    Halloween
    Music by John Carpenter

    Alien
    Music by Jerry Goldsmith

    Carrie
    Music by Pino Donaggio

    Rosemary's Baby
    Music by Krzysztof Komeda

    The Sixth Sense
    Music by James Newton Howard

    Suspiria
    Music by Goblin and Dario Argento

    The Omen
    Music by Jerry Goldsmith

    Sisters
    Music by Bernard Hermann

    The Shining
    Music by Hector Berlioz, Wendy Carlos, and Rachel Elkind

    Psycho
    Music by Bernard Hermann



    Now, what can we learn from these films and how they use music to heighten the horror?

    Well, we know that it's about more than banging piano keys and sudden loud shrieks. It's about mood and tone. It's about building compositions that add to our growing sense of dread. It's about laying down cues early in the film that are paid off lyrically later in the movie.

    The best movie scores are also smart about allowing silence and sound effects to carry the soundtrack when needed. Sometimes less is more, a point proven perfectly by "The Shining."

    They also often take cues for their music from the environment of the film itself. Take a look (and listen) at "The Wicker Man," and notice how the sounds of the Celtic culture find their way into the score.

    Perhaps the most important thing to think about is…well…to think about music. Think about it well before you shoot. Work with a composer to come up with a concept for your score, giving them the freedom to create (in collaboration) a score that adds to your film, rather than just supporting it.
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    "Let The Right One In" - A Beats Breakdown
    #18
    Totally Usable Mod Stephen Mick's Avatar
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    Okay…I teased this a few days back, and now The Daily Dread delivers.

    What follows is my beat-by-beat (Blake Snyder style) breakdown of a movie that I think may be the best horror film of the past ten years: "Let The Right One In." There's a reason the original Swedish version was remade by Hollywood as "Let Me In." (Okay, there are a few reasons, money being the primary one.)

    Why do I think this is such a great horror film? It takes the vampire legend, something we're familiar with, and gives it to us in a completely new way. It pays tribute to the "rules" of the vampire genre, while not being a slave to them. It's a "small" film, with limited locations, but it feels large in scope and execution. If you haven't seen it…go watch it.

    Now, you may not agree with where I've placed certain "beats," but like most great movies, LTROI is spot-on with its plotting and pacing.

    Enjoy!


    1. Opening Image (1): Snow falling against the starry night sky. An anonymous apartment building. A boy, Oskar, staring out the window. We immediately feel the sense of cold isolation of his world.

    2. Theme Stated (5): Oskar, playing with his hunting knife, pantomimes killing and stabbing those who would torment him. He desperately wants to find a way out of his helplessness, and ultimately, revenge against the bullies.

    3. Set-Up (1-10): The girl and her father arrive, and he immediately covers the windows. In class, Oskar learns about a fire in a neighboring town that was intentionally set to hide a murder victim. Oskar gets bullied in school, by Conny, who refers to him as a "piggy." And we see the girl's father, preparing for and going out on a very different kind of hunting trip, which is interrupted by a loose dog.

    4. Catalyst (12): Oskar, again fantasizing about killing those who torment him, meets Eli. She tells him she "can't" be his friend, unlike everyone else, who doesn't "want" to be his friend.

    5. Debate (12-25): News of the latest murder stokes Oskar's obsession with violence and revenge, and he adds the story, clipped from the paper, to his "scrapbook." He's becoming more and more desperate to find a way out, whatever that may be. Oskar returns to the jungle gym, looking for Eli. She finds him, and both say they want to be left alone, but they don't, which is proven when she takes the Rubik's Cube from Oskar, and as hungry as she is, she doesn't kill him.

    6. Break into Two (25): Eli kills Jocke and feeds.

    7. B-Story (30): Gösta tells the other tenants that he saw Jocke killed. When he takes them to the scene, the body is gone, but there is blood under the snow. "What happened to Jocke?" will largely become the B-Story.

    8. Fun and Games (30-55): Oskar finds the completed Rubik's Cube at the jungle gym the next morning. The bullying grows more and more intense, as one of the bullies scars Oskar's face with a riding crop. Oskar doesn't shed a tear, and his emotional detachment is complete. Oskar teaches Eli to use Morse Code so they can "talk" through the wall. Eli encourages Oskar to "hit back," and offers to help. They touch hands, the first time either one of them has touched another person that wasn't a violent act. They go back to their rooms and use the Morse Code to say goodnight. Hakan bungles his last "hunting trip," and to protect Eli, he pours acid over his own face. Not only does Oskar suck at weight lifting, but the bullies leave his clothes in the urinal. Eli visits Hakan in the hospital, and in one final act of love for her, he sacrifices himself to feed her, and falls seven stories to his death.

    9. Midpoint (55): Eli shows up at Oskar's window, and asks to be allowed in. Oskar invites her in, and she climbs in bed with him. They agree to "go steady."

    10. Bad Guys Close In (55-75): During a field trip to the frozen lake, the bullies corner Oskar. As he hits Conny in the head (with an orange stick we've seen before), Jocke's body is discovered in the ice.

    11. All Is Lost (75): Oskar cuts open his hand, wanting to mix his blood with hers. She laps up his blood on the floor, then she runs away and ultimately attacks Ginia in the courtyard.

    12. Dark Night of the Soul (75-85): Oskar visits his father, but his happiness is cut short when his father's "friend" shows up. Oskar returns home and confronts Eli about her true nature. She tells Oskar that she is a vampire, further proven by Ginia's actions at the hospital. Eli shows her trust in Oskar when she enters his space without permission, breaking into bloody sores.

    13. Break into Three (85): Lacke enters Eli's apartment, planning to kill her. But Oskar intervenes, and when Lacke drops his knife, Eli kills him. Oskar has now transformed into the "new Hakan."

    14. Finale (85-110): Knowing she can no longer stay, Eli leaves. (This was foreshadowed when Eli first gave Oskar the note when they decided to "go steady.") When the bullies trap Oscar at the bath house, with Conny's brother threatening to gouge his eye out, Eli returns and dispatches them all.

    15. Final Image (110): Oskar sits on the train, looking out the window to the forest beyond. He's tapping out Morse Code Messages to Eli, who's hiding in the trunk.


    Dreadful Items To Note:
    - Eli says she's 12 years old, "more or less." Oskar knows how old he is down to the day. Eli has no idea when her birthday is.
    - The candy Oskar gives Eli makes her sick, and she hints to him that she may not be the girl he thinks she is.
    - Gradually, we come to realize that Hakan may not be her father.
    - In a nod to vampire history, Eli can't enter Oskar's space unless he invites her in.
    - When they agree to "go steady," Oskar has just become the new Hakan, though he doesn't yet know it.
    - Notice how after she's been bitten by Eli, Ginia has to wait to be invited in by Gosta.
    - There's just something dreadful about the shot of the pool house setting up the end scene, with the letters "BAD" on it.
    - At the end, notice the juxtaposition of Oskar's situation and environment. He's gone from being totally alone, in a place nobody ever seems to escape from, to being in motion, moving through the world, with his new partner.
    - There are a lot of details in the original novel that can't quite find their way into the movie, but the film feels no less complete.
    Stephen Mick
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    #19
    Totally Usable Mod Stephen Mick's Avatar
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    Enjoy "The French Doors," a nice little short from the land of the Kiwi.


    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7_Okf__vMI4
    Stephen Mick
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    #20
    Totally Usable Mod Stephen Mick's Avatar
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    To stoke your creative fires, here's another short film to enjoy…


    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8jKUOuso_6s
    Stephen Mick
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