Wes Craven

top shelf invasion of the body snatchers

Most home video releases are mass produced and marketed by faceless conglomerates interested only in separating you from your hard-earned cash. If you look closely though you’ll find smaller labels who love movies as much as you do and show it by delivering quality Blu-rays and DVDs of beloved films and cult classics, often loaded with special features, new transfers, and more. But yes, they still want your cash too. Top Shelf is our new bi-weekly look at these labels and the films they’re releasing. The movies won’t always be classics in the traditional sense and you may not even recognize the titles (or stars or directors), but somebody somewhere loves them which is enough of a reason for us to shine a light their way. This week we’re taking a look at two new releases from the UK’s Arrow Video. They’re the sleazier, more entertaining brother of Arrow Academy, and while they predominantly focus on resurrecting horror films like Squirm, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, and anything Dario Argento has ever pointed his camera towards, they also dabble outside the genre with releases like The Last American Virgin. Horror is their bread and butter though, so horror is where we’ll start. Two of Arrow’s releases this month are considered classics from acclaimed directors Philip Kaufman and Wes Craven, but while they both have their fans only one of the films still holds up today.

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haitianzombies-truth1

Halloween is fast approaching, and as many cinephiles start watching as many horror films as they can in the month of October, you’ll start to see a trend. One of the most popular – and historically one of the most recent – monsters in horror movies are zombies. In fact, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a listing of October horror movies to watch without finding at least one or a dozen tales of the undead creeping (or rather, stumbling) in there. Zombie popularity is at an all-time high, with mainstream television series like The Walking Dead and summer tent pole releases like World War Z bringing in serious cash to Hollywood. However, like other classic monsters that have their roots in fact (like lycanthropy being applied to people with mental illness or vampirism being attributed to an exhumed corpse whose gums had receded and fingernails had appeared to grow), one might question how much truth there is to this whole zombie thing. It was a flight of fancy, until a gruesome real-life attack happened in May 2012, which may have been caused by recreational drugs. So that got us thinking. Could there be something to this zombie thing? Are zombies real?

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Wes Craven

The calm, quiet Wes Craven is no stranger to our 31 Days of Horror project. He’s the most visible name when it comes to the genre, emerging and re-emerging Travolta-style from the rubble every few years to remind us why he’s so damned good at what he does (which usually happens after his movies make us forget). Batting averages aside, he’s delivered an outstanding amount of great films in a genre injured by low budgets and rip-off artists. If it’s easy for some to dismiss horror, it’s hard not to take movies like A Nightmare on Elm Street, The Serpent and the Rainbow and Scream seriously. So here’s a bit of free film school (for fans and filmmakers alike) from the man who lives in the last house on the left.

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Every bit of movie news has to be taken with a fistful of salt. With so many moving parts, even the biggest players in the game sometimes see their work fall into the tall grass of development hell. That’s the bad news. The good news is that all of those times you shake your fist at a new project (be it remake or reboot) are warranted, but they don’t always get made. Sometimes, the stuff we’re dreading goes down in flames too. So it’s with that bittersweet spirit that we look back on a few announced projects that still haven’t been made. And might never be.

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Editor’s Note: We’ve spent a while searching for a fitting replacement for Ashe (who we still miss), but we’re elated to welcome David Christopher Bell to our team. He’ll be writing insightful lists for us every Thursday from now until we stop blackmailing him for that thing he did in Florida in 1986. Please give him a warm welcome! It’s funny. After Anthony Perkins first appeared as Norman Bates there was absolutely no going back from it. No matter what role he was put in after Norman, when audiences looked at him all they could see was the shower-interrupting taxidermologist that they feared so deeply. This proved to be a major hindrance in his career, causing him never to land any major role in the industry afterward. Now if only he had worn a mask. After all, if horror films have taught us anything it’s that no matter how effective a performance is, if you have a bunch of rubber on your face, mainstream audiences aren’t going to end up learning your name or recognizing your face. So in the interest of giving credit where credit is due, the following are some of those very names and faces that are responsible for some of the greatest movie nightmares of modern horror. People who you could walk right by on the streets and never know that they are to thank for all those times your childhood-spawned neuroses forced you to double-check under your bed.

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Scream 4 couldn’t have been an easy film to make. Rumored production issues aside — and the fact that movies are just hard to make in general — Wes Craven had to reignite a post-modern franchise after an eleven-year absence. What happened during all those years? Homages, rip offs, and more self-loving meta horror films. The Scream films have influenced many horror installments over the past decade, so what genre trope is left to make a snarky comment on? Not many. Besides that, being meta in itself is a gigantic hurdle to overcome. For one, there’s often a certain degree of smugness that’s attached to that type of tone. Watching a film that goes all, “Look how smart and clever we are!” is like listening to an annoying know-it-all. And, more often than not, those type of films become exactly what they were making fun of. Self-referential can easily turn into self-parody, as Wes Craven mentions below. Here’s what he had to say about carefully deconstructing the genre, his young filmmaker sensibility versus his older one, and more:

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Drinking Games

This past spring, Wes Craven brought the Scream franchise back to life with the fourth installment in the trilogy. (That works, doesn’t it?) This time, instead of an homage to horror movies, or an homage to horror movies within a horror movie, Craven serves up a movie within a movie homage to horror movies within a movie. It gets a bit complicated, so you’ll want to relax when you watch it and not try to figure it all out. Cheers! Today, Scream 4 (or SCRE4M, to the cool cats) is available on DVD and Blu-ray, hot off the heels of Craven announcing he’s planning a fifth and sixth movie. Now with four movies available at home, you can enjoy a Scream-a-thon with drinking at this party.

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The general rule of sequels is that they become less exciting and original as they continue. Each successive film copies from its predecessor and often ends up a pale copy. Wes Craven’s Scream series is no exception as parts two and three were both far lesser films than the original. Still, they each had bits that worked. Needless to say, when plans for a fourth film were announced a decade after Scream 3 very few people were excited at the prospect. And then Scream 4 ended up being the best Scream since the original. My full review is here, but the bottom line is that the movie is “funny, fresh, and wonderfully bloody, and it finds that delicate balance between horror and comedy that the last entry missed entirely.” Craven and screenwriter Kevin Williamson (who also wrote the original) have pulled off something special here with the help of a fantastically entertaining cast. (Second best ensemble of the year behind Horrible Bosses!) The lead trio returns, but they’re joined by several recognizable faces who help add personality, comedic timing, and sex appeal (thank you Hayden Panettiere). It’s a lot of fun, and fans of the series who passed on it in theaters should definitely give it a watch on DVD or Blu-ray. Speaking of DVD… Scream 4 hits shelves on Tuesday, October 4th, and we’re giving one away to a lucky winner! Keep reading for your chance to win.

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In 1989, a young director named Spike Lee, who had just a couple of films under his belt, put himself permanently on the map with an indie ensemble piece called Do the Right Thing. In 1991, a revered horror director named Wes Craven whose career was starting to look like it was in need of revival put out a haunted house film with a twist called The People Under the Stairs. One film ignited a firestorm of debate and garnered mounds of attention, rocketing its director into the stratosphere. The other came and went with nary a whimper and probably helped play into the “Wes Craven is back!” sentiment that ran rampant when he put out Scream in 1996. Is Do the Right Thing really that much better of a film than The People Under the Stairs, or is this just a case of right subject matter, right time?

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Another Hole In the Head 2011 Film Festival runs June 2nd through the 16th at the Roxie Theater in San Francisco. Check out the Festival Genius site for film schedules and tickets. I Am Nancy Directed by Arlene Marechal The question on everyone’s lips since 1984’s A Nightmare On Elm Street premiered has always been “Who is Nancy?” And by “always” I of course mean never. It’s not a question that anyone has ever been concerned with… until now. Nancy Thompson of course is the heroine of three of the films in the Elm Street series, and she’s played by Heather Langenkamp. The one constant throughout all of the original films is and will always be Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund), the razor-wielding, burned, revenge-seeking kiddie killer (or diddler depending on your interpretation). He is the icon of the series for obvious reasons, but Langenkamp and filmmaker Arlene Marechal are wondering why Nancy never reached those same heights. The answer seems pretty obvious, but let’s give them seventy plus minutes to explore the question anyway.

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This week, Fat Guy Kevin Carr dresses up in a fabulous blue feather outfit and takes a trip to Carnival in Rio de Janeiro. There, he runs into a couple blue macaws trying to escape exotic bird smuggles, but he’s too busy getting his freak on to help out. Later, he comes back to the states to visit the quaint town of Woodsboro, only this time he’s traded in his fabulous blue feather outfit for a long, black cloak and a “ghost face” mask. After making some calls to random twentysomething girls who are supposed to be teenagers and asking them what their favorite scary movies are, he spent a night in the hospital from a stab wound to the face. Oh, the humanity!

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Junkfood Cinema

Welcome back to Junkfood Cinema, what’s that smell? Abandon all hope kids, you’ve reached the end of the Internet, somehow stumbling upon the column with the highest calorie count on the web. The cinematic selections found here are schlocky, cheesy and just plain bad but we kinda love them anyway, like Code Red Mountain Dew and slap bracelets. If that sounds like your cup of tea, then pull up a chair! Our usual host, Lord Salisbury, is otherwise occupied this week and I swear it doesn’t have anything to do with that boar attack. I’m left to pick through the sugary shards and try to point this lard barge towards the finish line. I’ll brutally savage this week’s carefully selected film with reckless abandon. But in the end, I’ll pick it up, dust it off and help it bandage the wounds. Then to top things off, I’ll choose a delicious snack of dubious healthiness for us all to enjoy, making us fatter as the movie gets dumber. This week’s tasty morsel: Scream 3

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SPOILER WARNING: You’re entering a spoiler-friendly zone. If you haven’t seen Scream 4 yet, tell everyone you’ll be right back, and go check it out before diving in. Even with the theater three-quarters full, it was still really loud. Not people talking on cell phones or making dumb comments. No over-confident high school senior trying to impress his date by scoffing at every scene. No middle-aged man asking his wife what was going on. It was loud because people were laughing, screaming, and generally losing their minds to Wes Craven‘s newest nightmare (which is conveniently not titled Newer Nightmare). My particular midnight screening was a solid horror experience where the entire audience was on board for the ride, even when things got bumpy. That’s why the parking lot was full of people talking about the movie afterward, and it was damned refreshing to see all those people geeking out about what was just on screen. But enough about me. Let’s hear about you. What did you think of Scream 4?

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Dewey Riley (David Arquette) is a pretty shitty cop. The killers always get away, people are always dying around him, he breaks as many rules as he enforces, and he’s not nearly as smart as he thinks he is… but he’s also fun, playful, and pretty damn entertaining. Dewey is the Scream franchise. (Well, all but Scream 3, which was like Dewey after a car accident had smashed his brains into ignorant and unfunny jelly that was then devoured by Ehren Kruger and shat out upon a blank page.) It’s been eleven years since we saw Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell) and friends triumph over her half-brother’s murder spree in Hollywood (decade old spoiler!), and she’s a new woman. Sid has blossomed from eternal victim into best-selling author and is on a book tour celebrating her memoir about making lemonade out of blood spattered lemons. Her last stop brings her home to Woodsboro where it all began, and if the two recently gutted teens are any indication, where it’s about to begin again. Sid’s not exactly the most popular woman in town anymore since being with her is “like being on Top Chef with Jeffrey Dahmer.” That combined with the past films’ body counts has left her with only two friends (and returning characters). Dewey and Gale Weathers (Courtney Cox) are happily married now, but while he patrols the streets she struggles to find inspiration to write again. Hurray for murder!

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With directors like Guillermo Del Toro, Zack Snyder, and Duncan Jones already part of their amazing Director’s Series of posters, Mondo Tees welcomes Wes Craven to the party. Mondo will debut two prints inspired by the Wes Craven films, Scream and A Nightmare on Elm Street.There are surely more to follow, so expect prints inspired by Swamp Thing, The Hills Have Eyes, and The Last House on the Left. The artist chosen to interpret these two iconic horror flicks is none other than the spectacular Alex Pardee. If you haven’t had a chance to check out Pardee, do yourself a favor. His takes on Star Wars and Watchmen both grace my walls. His art borders on some weird clash of violent and beautiful. Apparently, I am not the only one excited for these two releases. This is what Craven had to say himself: “It’s an honor and great fun to be chosen by Mondo to participate in their Director’s Series. I think the posters brim with wild imagination and sly humor. Thank you so much – I’m pleased my films have earned a place in your gallery!” The two prints release tomorrow April 14th, at a random time. Go over to MondoTees website or make sure to check out their twitter feed if you don’t want to miss these. Blink and these might pass you up, both are runs of 140. Check out both posters below:

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This week, on a very special episode of Reject Radio, we talk with a master Japanese filmmaker, a rising non-Japanese directing talent, discuss the legacy of Scream, and ask why there isn’t a modern-day Roger Corman. Takashi Miike is an incredible filmmaker, and as it turns out, a fascinating interview. Hopefully you speak Japanese, but if you don’t, the entire interview is in English. Now a staple of SXSW, Sebastian Gutierrez makes funny, sexy films that (gasp) focus on dialogue, character and cleavage. He joins me to talk about his new movie Girl Walks Into a Bar, and why making it the first film specifically made for internet distribution was the correct, crazy choice. Even though we keep hearing about a filmmaking revolution in the hands of the people, it doesn’t seem to have happened yet. Eric Vespe from Aint It Cool and Aaron Morgan from Austin join me to ask why a new workhorse/creative force hasn’t emerged with all the inexpensive cameras just lying around for the taking. Plus, Eric Vespe  continues our streak of guests named Eric (and our one-show streak of guests named Eric Vespe) by going blade to blade against Movie News Pop Quiz Champion and FSR associate editor Rob Hunter. Who will come out alive? Will it be Wes Craven‘s career? Loosen up your tie and stay a while. Listen Here: Download This Episode

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Drinking Games

This week, we have a handful of horror movies from October’s theatrical slate hitting DVD and Blu-ray. As tempting as it would be to make a drinking game for Paranormal Activity 2, it might be a bit irresponsible of us to give you alcohol poisoning by telling you to drink any time you see video footage. So we’re talking a few shots at and for My Soul to Take, Wes Craven’s latest attempt to reboot his mastery of teen horror movies. Trust us, you’ll need some alcohol to get through this one.

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Earlier this evening, we posted up a second trailer for Scream 4, which hits theaters the very same day that your taxes are due. Scary. Now, we’ve gotten our hands on 5 new images that show off the cast a bit better, especially those that haven’t seen much screen time in the trailers so far: namely Kristen Bell, Anna Paquin, the new high school crew, and Alison Brie. Plus, there are some stabby good shots of Neve Campbell too. Check them out for yourself:

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There’s a moment in the second trailer for Scream 4 where Hayden Panettiere’s character is frantically naming off remakes of classic horror films (she cuts through Halloween straight on through to My Bloody Valentine). It seems as though the meta nature that Wes Craven is fond of has found its way to making direct commentary on the state of the genre now. If you missed the first trailer for the fourthquel, it explained the new rules (some of which were suspect). This new trailer seems a bit more traditional. Giving a bit of back story and introducing a few new and old characters before flashing Ghostface around like a parade icon.

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This trailer made me incredibly hungry for ice cream for some reason. It’s also pretty damned good. Even though Scream 4 is one of the most anticipated movies of the year, it’s also on the shakiest ground. A return to glory or another flop, it stands to polarize unless it gets every single detail right. As far as the trailer goes, the meta attitude is back, there are now two characters willing to explain the rules of the new horror genre, the kills are going to be bigger, and Kristen Bell is going to be creepy and blonde. In short, it’s a winner.

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