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observation notes: Anneliese - The Exorcist Tapes

It's the film that a week ago, we didn't even know it existed, but now here it is, ready for its DVD release this coming Tuesday, the 1st of March: Anneliese: The Exorcist Tapes.*

As I believe all such found-footage films - documentary or narrative - are pretty much entirely spoilers, I'm going to make these notes intentionally vague, resorting mainly to the backstory of the film and the tapes within the film, as well as my emotional responses. The biggest spoiler in all found-footage films is: "is it real?" I'm not touching that at this point. After we've all had a chance to view it and form our opinions, I'll be happy to share my stance. But for now, all I'm saying is, "watch the movie and judge for yourself." I will say that the movie begins with a disclaimer stating the footage contained therein is real, has not been doctored, and was gathered for medical purposes. So...there's that.

There are two options on the start-up menu, "Play Tapes" and "Play Documentary." I only mention this because it confused me a little bit, so I thought I'd save you similar turmoil: "tapes" is the film itself; "documentary" is the film about the film, and only runs 9 minutes. 

What is not up for debate is the veracity of the story and the girl behind the film. As I've mentioned a few times, Anneliese Michel was a German teenager in the late 1960's, early 1970's who was purported to have been possessed by demons. After undergoing approximately 70 exorcisms (accounts vary from 66 to 72), Miss Michel died from exhaustion, dehydration and near-starvation. She was 34 years old. Her parents and the priests involved in her exorcisms were charged by the state with negligent homicide in her death, and at the trial, it is an acknowledged fact that tapes depicting the exorcisms of Anneliese Michel were shown. 

No one in the general public had ever seen those tapes until, supposedly, now. 

Discovered and compiled by Jude Gerard Prest, best known in these virtual pages as the Looney-award-winning supporting actor from Mega Piranha, but also an accomplished producer**, what we have here is a first -person filmed account of the poor girl's ordeal featuring Anneliese, her parents, the priests and a small American film crew. It's 90 minutes of visceral footage, emotional interviews, frightening sights and sounds and an on-going debate within the film to mirror the one no doubt most viewers will have: is this behavior real? is this girl possessed?

In short (and vaguely), this film is a disturbing, compelling, gut-wrenching experience, rife of images that won't soon leave your nightmares. And whether the girl on the tape is Anneliese Michel or not (whoever she is, man, does she scare the shit out of me, especially her eyes), that does not change the fact that Anneliese existed, she experienced horrible things in her short life, and this film, by all reports, is an accurate depiction of those experiences. Not for the faint of heart, or the wavering in faith; you're either all in or all out, there's no straddling the subject of this one. But whatever your stance, when you watch it, leave a light on, and if you're so inclined, a prayer or two probably wouldn't hurt.

* because of the rushed nature of this release, I feel compelled to explain for the first time how I get my hands on new releases, if only to assure my readers that I am not, nor do I condone, the illegal downloading or "pirating" of films. music, sure; films: no way. I work, as I've mentioned, in a video store, meaning we get next week's new releases several days early for preparation purposes. that's how I procure early peeks.

** including a pre-production supervising producer gig on "Deadliest Warrior," one of the most awesome shows in the history of visual media.

Happy Six-Month Anniversary to COMMITTED!

Just like the title hints, this Sunday will mark COMMITTED's six-month anniversary, and I just wanted to take a post to say thanks to everybody who's been stopping by, reading my inane ramblings, and even commenting on occasion. The genesis of this blog was my simple and enthusiastic appreciation for the films of The Asylum - both those good and those not-as-good - the philosophy behind their business approach and the creative talent they employ, and I wanted to share this enthusiasm with complete strangers worldwide, just to see what happened. And the honest to god truth is, more than 27,000 hits later, I'm enjoying this and The Asylum more than ever. So thanks again, gang, for a couple of things, I guess, and I hope you're having as much fun reading my posts as I am writing them. That's the whole point, right?


First Images From the Set of 2012 Ice Age!!!

Over at The Asylum's site they've just posted a link to the first images from the set of 2012 Ice Age. The film, starring Julie ("Growing Pains") McCullough and Patrick (Heathers, Summer School, "JAG") Labyorteaux (both pictured), was written by Victoria Dadi and Paul Sinor (the team behind Airline Disaster) and is being directed by Trey Stokes (2010 Moby Dick). Only eight pics here, but they give a good sense of the look of the film - snowy - as well as highlight some supporting players like Kyle Morris, Katie Wilson and Nick Afanasiev.

This one drops on DVD June 28, 2011, right in the dead of summer. Until then, enjoy the pics!

observation notes: Transmorphers: Fall of Man

This is not, as it is supposed by many to be, a sequel to Transmorphers; it is, in fact, a prequel set in the modern era, a harbinger to the events that become the basis for the dystopia of the first film. Unbeknown to mankind, the transmorphers - alien robots able to "transmorph" themselves into everyday mechanical and technological apparati like all variety of vehicles, satellite dishes, cell phones, you name it - have been living quietly among us for decades, silent observers, researchers, biding their time until the opportune moment when invasion is ripe. That time, as the box warns us, "is here."

It's not really fair to compare the two films in this mini-franchise. Writer-director Leigh Scott's film - the first one - was a dark, futuristic, bleak war film, the events contained therein not disasters but battles, while this time around - written by Committed-fave and multiple-Looney-Award-nominee Shane Van Dyke and directed by Scott (Journey to the Center of the Earth, MILF) Wheeler - the result is more similar to the feel of Transformers or even Terminator Salvation in that the battles here are more intimate, still within the realm of the individual, and furthermore, nothing has yet been lost, hope isn't something that has to be regained, it is still what fuels mankind. And while, as I said, it isn't fair to compare the two films, as they really are drastically different from the get-go, and while I have nothing but respect for the first film, if I was forced at gunpoint to choose between the two, I'd probably have to sling my allegiance to this film, the second one (that's really happening before the first one), because I felt the difference in setting - temporally-speaking, our time versus a distant future - made me feel closer to story. This is strictly a personal preference, I'm admitting that, but me, I like my apocalypses close to home, I like to watch my world start to fall apart as opposed to a distant world I have no relation to; it makes the tension more tangible, the consequences more palpable. And here, I felt more a part of the action, like it was my world being fought for, not my grandkids'. Screw those ungrateful brats.

The FX this time around were provided by the fine folks at Tiny Juggernaut, and, as a result, were pretty bitchin'. The transmorphers themselves were seamless, more than realistic and larger than life, effortlessly integrated into the visual fabric of the film and rendered as no less real than the cast of human characters. They were sleek, slick, harsh but visually understandable, as opposed to, say, the robots in the Michael Bay efforts, which confuse the eye and are arranged to look like a collection of shiny shards magnetically held together, like the slivers in a Wooly Willy. The aerial footage was especially fantastic. My hat's off to TJ for this one.

As for performances, screenwriter Van Dyke (Titanic II, 6 Guns) is also our hero, and what a wide swath of a hero he cuts, equal parts jaded and just, a flawed man on the side of right, aided and hindered by a fractured heart of gold. His character is a wounded soldier, not in body, and as such he conducts himself with brooding believability. He's a weapon whose trigger has been pulled too many times, too often against its will, but a weapon still. (did you follow that? I'm not sure I did...)

The venerable Bruce Boxleitner gets second billing as a suburban sheriff a little sick and tired of dealing with Los Angelesians(?) and all the cockamamie BS that comes with them. It's this same stoicism, however, that gives him an advantage when the robo-shit hits the fan. This is BB's third Asylum film (behind King of the Lost World and Legion of the Dead) and he proves once again that no matter what the role, big or small, Boxleitner always packs a heavy punch.

Rounding out the cast is Jennifer Rubin (A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors and the Dean Cameron vehicle Bad Dreams) as a scientist frazzled for all the right reasons, a kind of burned-out genius weary to the point of breakdown over what she's learning about this strange, invading, alien species. Whereas Bruce B might be the film's emotional anchor, Ms. Rubin is the most realistic character, allowing herself to feel and express panic, albeit in her highly intellectual manner. She's the brains to SVD's brawn, the caution to his bravado, and the two together represent mankind's best and last hopes. Other fine performances are turned in by Londale Theus (Airline Disaster, 2012 Supernova) as the Mayor, sultry Debra Harrison-Lowe (The Terminators, MILF) as a steely Master Sergeant who's as effectively authoritative as she is effectively breath-taking, and the lovely and talented Alana DiMaria (nothing else of consequence) as Madison, SVD's chockful-of-moxie love-interest in-waiting.

Overall, if I had to register any complaints, I would say that the dialog at times felt a little generic and stilted, but thankfully other efforts have proven that this is an area in which Mr. Van Dyke has greatly improved. And the film was a little slow to start, developing a lot of character traits that wouldn't really have the time to go anywhere, but once the action got going, the film became a transmorphin' free-for-all, complete with car chases, commando space robots, helicopter dogfights, alien pod armadas, a hard-rockin' sex scene, and not one but two nods to Alien in the form of chest explosion and a cell-phone-face-sucker. I don't know about you guys, but that's just about everything I was looking for when I went into this.

So, mission accomplished.

An Interview with Almighty Thor's Cody Deal (Not Mine - Yet)

The first interview with (Asylum) Thor himself, actor Cody Deal, has finally hit the web over at Shockya dot com, and it gives us some pretty good insight into the personality and work ethic of Mr. Deal in this, his big breakthrough project. 

I myself lined up an interview with Mr. Deal just this week that I'll be posting a little later on, as we get closer to Almighty Thor's May 10th DVD release.

Until then, check out the interview above to whet your appetite, and if any COMMITTED readers have (serious) questions they'd like me to ask Mr. Deal, feel free to post them below in comments and I'll see what I can do!

observation notes: Transmorphers

A notable entry of the mockbuster era, Transmorphers - in league with War of the Worlds 1 and 2 - really helped solidify The Asylum in the cultural consciousness as an independent studio worth watching. Facing lawsuits - there were none - from Michael Bay and Hasbro, The Asylum brazenly forged ahead and released this dystopic sci-fi/action epic. It goes as follows:
After the discovery of life on a distant planet - 20 million miles distant, a nice nod to Ray Harryhausen, perhaps - we foolishly try and make contact. Decades we wait, and then the response? Full-on alien-robot invasion, one that obliterates 90% of the Earth's population and paves the way for the rest of the alien-robots to re-settle our planet. These robots? Transmorphers. It's up to what remains of humanity to act as our last defenders.
Cut to outer space, where a military guild ship has caught hints of a robot advance. The impending course of action causes a bit of a rift in the crew, half of whom side with the lady General (Eliza Swenson) and want to respond diplomatically, the other half on the side of another officer (Jeff Denton) who wants to respond with guns blazing. As a sort of compromise, or stalling tactic, a team of elite space-marine-type-folks are sent out to recover a bot for studying purposes. This is where the hunt begins, not so much on the marines' part as much as on the part of the warrior-alien-robots they presume to hunt. Excellent sound effects abound.
When they discover the coming battle is too big for just the team to handle, the military resorts to awaking a pair of problem-soldiers (Griff Furst and Matthew Wolf) from cryogenic stasis to lead the assault. Naturally, they're a little pissed about being frozen - Griff Furst for the physical act of being frozen, Wolf for the fact that in the interim, his ex-wife has become the new wife of...wait for it...the lady General! (wha-?)
This is the oft-spoken-of lesbian subplot mainstream media chose to latch onto in their mentions of the film, but honestly people, isn't that just lighting fires to watch them burn? I mean, aside from her body, Megan Fox looks like a unibrowed transsexual right out of the salon (no offense to transsexuals, or salons, only Megan Fox). Where's the brou-ha-ha in that thing making out with the Even Stevens kid?

I digress, but it doesn't matter, because from here on out the film becomes a cat-and-mouse game of intergalactic Risk, man versus robot for the supreme control of the others' right to live. The rest is yours to discover.
I will say, however, that overall Transmorphers was a nice sci-fi (that is, heavily technological) /post-apocalypse (that is, ruined landscape, decimated population, fight for survival) hybrid that plays like Starship Troopers set in a Warriors landscape. The sound editing wasn't so great on my copy, but the FX are amazing in design, if not comparably fluid in execution: at times the robots come off a little too 2-D, but for direct-to-DVD they are exceptional, and believable enough for your buck. The battle scenes are especially spectacular, enough so to make you overlook any technical short-comings if you allow yourself to get lost in the sheer artistry and resourcefulness of low-budget filmmaking.
As for performances, this one's peppered with a score of great ones from Asylum regulars. Jeff Denton (The Beast of Bray Road, The Hitchhiker), as mentioned, plays the stern officer itching for a fight, and as such he pulls off the HMFIC* role to a T, stoic and stern, the blue-collar translator to Eliza Swenson's more-polished authoritative general. The lovely Ms. Swenson (Dracula's Curse, Frankenstein Reborn) inhabits the role of the General as a cold, distant and emotionally detached administrator, in short the perfect commander. Visually Ms. Swenson comes off as a young Angelina Jolie meets Amanda Seyfried, which is a beautiful, beautiful thing. But her most powerful asset is her ability, for someone so petite, to fill the screen with her strength, an insane amount, like the button that unleashes the bomb. No wonder she's been employed by The Asylum seven times (catch her next in director Leigh Scott's The Witches of Oz).

Unfrozen soldiers Griff Furst (Alien Abduction, The Hitchhiker) and Matthew Wolf (The Apocalypse, Dragon) are a gruff but wry duo, a blend of humor and action. Furst comes across as the space-Maverick to Wolf's Goose, but in the former's case, even badder-boy, grizzled and dashing, a charming machine of a soldier. He's never been more likable, or formidable.

Other notable performances in this large ensemble cast come from Asylum regulars Shaley Scott (The Hitchhiker, Invasion of the Pod People) - who as a firestarter is deliciously meddlesome, insidious and mayhemic in a Serpent-queen kind of way, if that makes any sense, which it totally does to me; she's got blue eyes that'll burn right through the screen - Michael Tower (30,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Dracula's Curse), Sarah Hall (When a Killer Calls, The Hitchhiker), Erin Sullivan (Monster), Noel Thurman (Supercroc, Universal Soldiers), Jason S. Gray (Universal Soldiers, The Da Vinci Treasure), Jessica Bork (Dragon, The Hitchhiker), Thomas Downey (The Beast of Bray Road, King of the Lost World), Monique La Barr (Death Racers, 666: The Beast) and even a few more.

Of course, this giant cast is brought to you by none other than Leigh Scott, who comes across as very loyal for how often he uses the same folk. Mr. Scott wrote and directed this film in ambitious fashion, complete with split-screen and a grayed color-scheme that played together to form a claustrophobic, prison-like future from which there is no escape but full-blown revolution. 

Though alike in name and concept, the story of Transmorphers is its own, independent of the Hollywood version, and, in that regard, is a successful futuristic-actioner. It's arguable that Leigh Scott mastered the mockbuster, and I think the best proof is right here.

* Head MotherFucker In Charge

inmate profile: Anneliese Michel

This one's gonna be a little weird, for a couple of reasons: one, Anneliese Michel is not a willing member of The Asylum. In fact, she isn't a willing member of anything, because she is deceased, and has been for thirty-five years. Secondly, she wasn't an actress, or a writer, or director, or in any way associated with the film industry. She was simply a German teenager in the 1970's who somehow became demonically possessed. In celebration of The Asylum's latest release, Anneliese: The Exorcism Tapes, available on DVD one week from today(!!!), I thought we'd take a closer look into the unfortunate life of a girl at the heart of the 20th Century's most shocking and notorious case of demonic possession.

Anneliese Michel was born to German Catholics in the fall of 1952. A religiously devout child, as a teenager Anneliese began to experience convulsions that evolved into what were believed to be epileptic fits in her seventeenth year. And this is where shit starts getting creepy, because the fits weren't the only abnormal experiences befalling young miss Michel. She began hallucinating during prayers, hearing voices hissing of her damnation, eating insects, sampling her own urine, that sort of crazy shit. Whatever people thought was wrong with Anneliese, it wasn't until she was 23 that the idea she might be demonically possessed was introduced to the canon of thought. It was all downhill from there.

Over the next ten months, Anneliese would suffer through no less than sixty-seven exorcisms, each lasting hours at a time. She died in her sleep, six weeks shy of her 35th birthday, from what officials declared was extensive malnutrition and dehydration. At the time of her death, Anneliese Michel weighed 68 pounds, and still claimed to be plagued by demons. 

Following Anneliese's death, both her parents and the two priests involved were charged with negligent homicide. Tapes of the exorcisms were shown during the case. In the end, the priests were fined; Anneliese's parents were not sentenced. 

It's the abovementioned tapes that The Asylum purports to have - though they've freely admitted they can't be certain the girl in their tapes is actually Anneliese Michel - and it is based on these that they, in association with Actor/Producer/Looney-Award-Winner Jude Prest, have built into a film documenting her ordeal. This will mark the fourth time Anneliese's story has been told in some fashion over the last decade: she is the basis for The Exorcism of Emily Rose starring Jennifer Carpenter and Laura Linney, the German film Requiem from 2008, The Asylum's own Emily Rose tie-in Possession: The Exorcism of Gail Bowers, and now Anneliese: The Exorcism Tapes.

Whether this latest incarnation is actual footage or devilishly intelligent marketing by The Asylum for another found-footage fauxcumentary, I don't really think it matters. This is a fascinating story, a fascinating character, and real or dramatized, my bet is it's gonna scare the shit out me either way. 

Anneliese Gets a Title, Poster and Page!

We already knew The Asylum moves fast, but their latest release is taking the cake: announced only yesterday, the found-footage project centering around German girl Anneliese Michel now has an official title, a poster, and a page on The Asylum site!

The official title is: Anneliese: The Exorcist Tapes, and the release date is less than two weeks away, March 1st. 

As I mentioned yesterday, the film is based upon found-footage of the actual exorcisms of Anneliese Michel, the German teen who claimed to be possessed by demons and died as a result of her exorcisms. What we have here are purported to be the actual tapes - actual, not "actual" - of portions of these exorcisms, which if that's in fact what they are, would be an amazingly skin-crawling look into this riveting and terrifying bit of history. But of course, the skeptic in me is keeping on eye on the possibility that this is just a shrewdly marketed Gacy House Redux

Either way, we're getting a new Asylum title, and sooner than we thought! Not this Tuesday but the Tuesday after, Anneliese: The Exorcist Tapes will be in our greedy little hands. Praise the Lord! Oh...errr...yeah.

Cool and Creepy News Involving Exorcism Tapes

This is right creepy stuff here: Anneliese Michel - the young German girl who was the inspiration for The Exorcism of Emily Rose, which, in turn, was the inspiration for The Asylum's Possession: The Exorcism of Gail Bowers - was apparently filmed while undergoing the exorcisms that would in the end kill her. 

While looking for these tapes, Asylum writer/director/partner Paul Bales discovered that they had already been sold to someone. Rats! right? Wrong: that someone was sometime Asylum actor and Looney-Award-Winner Jude Gerard Prest.

So, after some back room deals, everyone got together and decided the most prudent thing to do is team up and get this footage onto DVD as soon as possible: March freakin' 1st, 2011. That's right, less than two weeks from now this footage will be available thanks to Mr. Prest and The Asylum. 

I saw Emily Rose in the theater, and afterwards became very transfixed on the story of young, unfortunate Miss Michel. This footage, if it's real, could be nothing short of amazing. No doubt there will be some who might assume this is another publicity stunt for an as-yet-unannounced found-footage horror film. Yes, it kind of ties in with the feel and production of The Last Exorcism, but that wave crashed months ago and besides, as Mr. Bales himself mentioned, they've already mockbusted this. Real or not, I think this is an interesting variation on found-footage filmmaking and another great possible direction for The Asylum to be focusing its production energies: supernatural/parapsychological/cryptozoological documentaries.

Whatever your thoughts, all will be settled in due time: less than two weeks stand between us and the next Asylum release, their first documentary, the as-yet unnamed exorcism tapes of Anneliese Michel. Check out the official lowdown here.

Birthday Wishes to Writer/Director Leigh Scott!

 Committed would like to extend birthday wishes today to writer/director Leigh Scott, who, in his time with The Asylum, became the most prolific director to date for the studio, releasing 11 films between 2005 and 2007, including an incredible six in 2006 (and this is in addition to his work as a line producer, an editor, a digital artist, and even a stunt driver - this guy gives all of himself, it seems.).

Check out my profile on Mr. Scott from last year, then for updates on his latest project, the highly-anticipated Witches of Oz, make regular visits to that film's site.

Many happy returns of the day, Mr. Scott.

Asylum Should-Stars #4

Here at Committed, I'm always looking for ways to prolong my love affair with Asylum blogging. I've done inmate profiles - spotlights on Asylum personnel - and I've done pitches - shameless attempts to get hired in marketing/development - but now, I'm melding the best of these features into one, amalgamated column: the awkwardly-named Asylum Should-Stars, in which I present actors/actresses/other cultural figures I think would make lovely additions to the Asylum's stable of performers. More mindless fun to wile away your workday! Let's dive right in, shall we?

Name: William Zabka

Best Known For: The Karate Kid, Just One of The Guys, Back to School, National Lampoon's European Vacation

Plays: Pretty-boy jerks; bullies; over-athleticised heartthrobs, but all back in the day; nowadays he could be a rugged adventurer, a sleazy tycoon, or a concerned father-type.

Could Be Cast As: hey, if they got Martin Kove in Ballistica, surely there's some other political-action flick with a role for Zabka. Or perhaps a creature feature; guy's got experience from two Python movies. Whatever the role, he'd make a fine addition to The Asylum's stable of blonde leading men (re: Christopher Atkins, William Katt, Shane van Dyke)

Name: Jewel Staite

Best Known For: "Firefly," Serenity, "Stargate: Atlantis", SyFy Original Movie Mothman

Plays: sexier-than-hell tomboy-ish girls next door; doe-eyed innocents; damsels getting themselves out of distress.

Could Be Cast As: anything female. The love for Ms. Staite among sci-fi and specifically SyFy fans practically guarantees success once she's attached, no matter what the film's about. But for argument's sake, she could play the love interest/rival figure to any leading man in a disaster, sci-fi or creature flick. A terrorized vacationer in 2 Headed Shark Attack, perhaps, or as a robotics engineer in the as-yet-and-probably-won't-be-conceived Transmorphers 3: Wish You Here*

Name: Michael J. Anderson

Best Known For: "Twin Peaks," "Carnivale"

Plays: mysterious figures that at first frightens but ultimately seems to want to serve the forces of good

Could Be Cast As: a whole slew of supporting characters, from wizards or other such bewitched figures in a fantasy epic, to a caretaker/groundskeeper/local lore-keeper/ some other such oddly benevolent character seeking to warn newcomers of an ancient evil in a horror or creature flick, a mischievous old man in a family-friendly film. 

*check the name of the real film and then you might get my lame attempt at a humorous subtitle

Creature Feature: Crocosaurus vs. Gatoroid

Besides being a great match-up for an Asylum film, the quandary of who is mightier, Crocosaurus or Gatoroid, has plagued me since last Fall when I learned these two things existed. And just like a corpse-launching Tartar, I love to share a good plague, so here we go:

First off, it's important to note that while Crocosaurus is a singular beast, Gatoroid is apparently an irregular noun, referring to both the singular and the plural, because there are a bunch of them. Other than that, at base they're pretty similar: Crocosaurus is a prehistoric crocodile that has somehow managed to survive hidden in the African interior until the modern age, while Gatoroid are experimental-super-steroid-enhanced alligators that roam the Everglades of Southern Florida. So then, given that both animals are approximately the same size - that is, massive - and both are relatively the same sort of creature, their origins are the first distinction that can be measured in favor of one or the other, and here I've got to give it to Crocosaurus. Yes, yes, I know, chemical enhancement makes all sorts of nasty tweaks to both form and frame of mind, but Crocosaurus has been evolving for millions of years, millions. Chemicals can't trump experience, except in cases of male erectile dysfunction.

Bad pic, but you get the point.
Now let's take a look at what they're up against. In both cases, there's a human element  - that ultimately proves the most dangerous - and an animal element. Crocosaurus has the U.S. Navy and an ancient megalodon to contend with; Gatoroid has a small sheriff's department and a bunch of admittedly-huge pythons. Is this really a contest? I mean, you guys know I loved MPvG, more than MSvCr, even - which is a compliment either way because they're both written by the versatile Naomi Selfman (also #1 Cheerleader Camp and 18 Year Old Virgin, the latter of which grew on me quite a bit upon a second viewing) - but in terms of who had the tougher opposition, and thus who had to prove his ferocity more, the clear winner here is Crocosaurus once again. Pythons don't even have teeth, for Pete's sake. They squeeze, sure, but still, that's kinda lame against an alligator, especially one that's chemically-enhanced. Just sayin'.

Which brings us to our last element of comparison, the defeat of these creatures. Spoilers a bit in this paragraph, so if you haven't seen either film and don't want to hear vague but definitive references to their outcomes, skip to the next paragraph. This one is another pretty cut-and-dry contest, in my book, and it boils down to basically this: no nuclear weapons were used in the thwarting of Gatoroid, no submarines or battleships were deployed, and yet the Gatoroid went down. It took all the aforementioned accouterments and a shark the size of a steam engine to escort Crocosaurus into the long-awaiting grave. No contest, in my book.

So then when I think about it, this quandary isn't quandary at all: as mighty, vicious, and many as the Gatoroid are, as terrifying as they may be, and as decimating to the populace of Southern Florida as they proved themselves, in a match-up against the millennia-old, biologically-honed, evolutionary marvel that is Crocosaurus, they don't stand a Mega Python's chance in a Mega-Piranha-choked river. Which, come to think of it, would be another awesome match-up, and a fun snub of sorts at the upcoming Corman-produced flick Piranhaconda.*

*kind of like in the first scene of Orca, where the killer whale slays a great white in an attempt to establish this villain's dominance over the great white in Jaws.

observation notes: Dead Men Walking

This zombie thriller actually brings a fresh concept to the table, not something easy to do in a genre as well-mined as this one: after his roommates accidentally ingest a biotoxin from the lab where he works, a young lad named Travis (Brandon Stacy), in an effort to keep the virus from spreading, takes them out with a shotgun. The cops, understandably, think he's a homicidal maniac and incarcerate his ass. Only problem is, Trav caught the infection before they locked him up, meaning when the disease manifests itself, it has a nice, well-populated and contained environment in which to spread. Pretty soon, zombie prisoners outnumber regular prisoners and the only hope for survival is escape, a tall order in the best of circumstances. 

Like I said, the concept - from screenwriter Mike Watt (not the acclaimed singer, the acclaimed horror journalist) - is fresh and intriguing, a careful blend of a prison flick, a zombie movie, and a medical thriller; however, it's a concept that isn't always supported by the dialog, which fluctuates between heavy-handed, awkward and wooden. The story flows well-enough, but it is definitely hung up in spots by shoddy verbal execution. To its credit, though, for the latter of these genres, a medical thriller, it is very methodically researched and believably implemented. Truthfully, while 28 Days Later is a far, far superior film, I liked the breakout explanation (epidemic breakout, not prison breakout) in Dead Men Walking much more.

As for performances, the above-mentioned Brandon Stacy (two episodes of "Joey"), who could pass for Zachary Quinto if he needed to (here, then here), makes the most of his brief time onscreen, which, though it doesn't amount to much more than acting crazy and sick, Mr. Stacy does so with admirable aplomb; his final transformation into full-blown zombiehood is truly painful to perceive. I mean that as a compliment.

The lead prisoner in this film is our old-favorite Griff Furst (Transmorphers, The Hitchhiker, 9/11 Commission Report), a frequently-incarcerated, almost as frequently self-liberated criminal with a steel intellect, brass balls and a heart of gold. Furst plays the role with his typical roguish amiability, a violent scalawag with a penchant for adventure that has occasion to blur the line between legal and illegal. In other words: the bad boy just good enough to wriggle into your sympathies. Mr. Furst billed himself here as "Brick Firestone," which is a spot-on porn name if ever I heard one.

Rounding out the cast is the lovely Bay Bruner (this and Bachelor Party Massacre, in which she's billed as - spoiler alert - "The Killer"), playing a CDC scientist who's at the prison running tests on the infected prisoners when the whole place goes zombie-lockdown. Ms. Bruner comes across as a less-bite-more-bark Kristen Quintrall, and plays the role as your standard pretty-authoritarian-with-something-to-prove-as-demonstrated-through-sass-and-frigidity. Despite this common approach, there's definitely a spark to Ms. Bruner that makes her performance far from rote; she conveys an inherit vulnerability, an - even if subconscious - awareness of her fish-out-of-water status that wafts mild empathy in her direction.

Dead Men Walking was directed by Peter Mervis (Snakes on a Train, When a Killer Calls, The DaVinci Treasure), who turns in a taut thriller that moves well-enough along, though hindered in spots by the aforementioned dialog. Mr. Mervis' use of lighting, framing and sound make the prison setting a true cavernous hell, a boundless cell that allows the story to fill it. The action scenes - that is, the kill scenes - while a glorious melee of ferocity and gore, felt a bit too frazzled and unfocused for my taste, like watching a room full of epileptics all seizing at once; too much chaos for focus, which, for all I know, was the very intention of Mr. Mervis. 

Overall, I'm sort of in the middle of this one: it certainly wasn't the best Asylum film I've seen, but it was far from the worst, yet while the concept and story were intriguing, the execution, both in script and supporting performances, made me too aware this was direct-to-DVD, something I never mind, but shouldn't be reminded of. With the right performances and a better script, this concept could have opened to 15 million any October. As is, it's a passable example in a genre too-often visited. Ultimately, though, when they divide zombie movies into watchable and not, Dead Men Walking should find itself safely, though not that safely, on the winning side.

inmate profile: Anthony Fankhauser

With a little time off between new releases, I thought we'd throw a profile to a guy I should've profiled last fall upon the release of his intensely-directed, polarizing 8213 Gacy House. I am, of course, talking about writer/director Anthony Fankhauser.

From the deets on his IMDB profile, Mr. Fankhauser started with The Asylum in 2006 as a line producer (the guy who, from what I understand, manages pretty much everything on location, including the budget). For the next three years he served in that capacity - meanwhile releasing his writing/directing debut, the non-Asylum Tsunami Beach Club - on such films as Snakes on a Train, Halloween Night, Freakshow, Allan Quatermain...,100 Million B.C., Journey to the Center of the Earth, Merlin and the War of Dragons and The Day the Earth Stopped, before finally getting a chance to assume a creative role and write and direct his own feature, 2012: Supernova. From there he would produce another nine Asylum films in two years, as well as write and direct Gacy House.

Though IMDB charts his involvement with The Asylum through MILF, released just after Gacy House, as of yet there's nothing else on which they seem to be collaborating. Mr. Fankhauser, is, of course, keeping busy in the meantime, writing and directing the horror film/Judd Nelson vehicle Shadow People (poster to the left there), as well as producing the fantasy film Jabberwocky, directed by Steven R. Monroe, the guy who recently updated I Spit on Your Grave. You can check out stills from that over at one of my favorite sites, Dread Central, or for a quicker reason you'll be watching this, take a look here, or here, or here, at one of the film's stars, Kacey (Lake Placid 3) Barnfield.

So while there's no word or indication of Mr. Fankhauser's next association with our favorite independent studio, we fans can at least delight in the fact that he continues to work. And besides, with still a few to a handful of Asylum films yet to be announced for release in the second half of this year, there could just be another Fankhauser film on the horizon. Fingers crossed.

Mr. Fankhauser, consider yourself saluted.

Details Emerge on 2012: Ice Age

An exciting day here at Committed, as I'm just pleased as punch to see the creative details emerge for The Asylum's next project, 2012 Ice Age.

According to the link above, the film is to be written by Paul Sinor and Victoria Dadi, the same dynamic duo responsible for the wildly-popular Airline Disaster, and will be directed by none other than the captain of 2010 Moby Dick, the great Trey Stokes. Moby Dick, as faithful readers might recall, was my pick for best Asylum film of 2010, and as far as directors went, Stokes was a coin toss for me with Rachel Lee Goldenberg. If MD's any indication, he's got a great eye, a masterful pacing ability and a real sense of story that should elevate this above other SyFy fare. I was hoping we'd get to see him helm another Asylum film, and I'm two-fold glad: one, that he's back so soon, and two, that it's a project I've been eagerly anticipating since it was announced at the end of last year. I'm a sucker for an awesome disaster film, and now that we're learning some of the talent involved, I think that's what we can expect. Dig the logline:

"When a volcanic eruption in Iceland sends a glacier hurtling toward North America, a family struggles to escape the onslaught of the coming ice age."

I like that they've tied it in to real events, the volcano in Iceland. Airline Disaster, you may recall, also had its ending rooted in real events, so it's nice to see Sinor and Dadi continue in that vein. 


And as far as on-screen talent is concerned, The Asylum has managed to snag another couple of my favorites: Patrick Labyorteux of Heathers, Summer School and "JAG," fame (the films were two of my favorites growing up and the latter I would catch on occasion, though only hoping for a glimpse of Catherine Bell), and Julie McCullough, most-famous for "Growing Pains," and posing for a certain gentleman's magazine. Julie - I swear to god - I just wrote up in a Should-Stars I was going to post later this week. It was seeing her on the red carpet at the Mega Python vs Gatoroid premiere that jogged my memory; apparently her appearance there was not coincidental.

2012 Ice Age hits the streets June 28, 2011. Keep one eye glued here for any production updates, further casting information or stills!

Asylum Star and Asylum Director Collaborate Outisde the Walls!

Special thanks to Asylum actor and fellow faithfully-committed Ed DeRuiter (The Source, Way of the Vampire, War of the Worlds, Battle of Los Angeles), who emailed this morning with details on an exciting new project just entering production featuring Committed-fave Paul Logan (MegaFault, Mega Piranha, upcoming Ballistica) - who not only stars in the film but also wrote and is producing it - entitled Blackgate. And while there's no involvement by The Asylum, it is set in one. The official synopsis:

"Blackgate Asylum houses the worst of the worst of the criminally insane. It is basically a supermax prison masquerading as a hospital. Out of the 388 patients there, most are your average, mentally disturbed individuals.  Locked up in the high security, penitentiary-style South wing are the Lifers.  All of the murderers, rapists, child molesters, serial killers and sociopaths that have been dubbed 'criminally insane' in order to avoid spending the rest of their lives on death row are now spending their lives here... They get the patients that all of the other prisons can’t handle or don’t want. There have been 38 escape attempts since they opened, none successful.  This is the most secure facility in the country...Until tonight.

Among the Lifers is Dr. Julian Sinclair, a Mensa-level genius who is also a sophisticated sociopath. Sinclair has just been dubbed “sane” by the courts and is due to be transferred to a maximum security prison and straight to death row to await execution.  Sinclair orchestrates an elaborate escape plan which begins with the release of all of the Lifers into the general population with one simple order…kill.

The Lifers make their way through the sedate area and proceed to slaughter everyone in their path. Locked in one of the holding cells, there for observations after his last case, is detective Jake Malone. Malone, unarmed, makes his way through the asylum fighting psychopath after psychopath. He rescues a young doctor, Talia and uses all his special forces training to keep them both alive and find a way to stop Sinclair’s escape plan. In this life or death game of cat and mouse Malone must use his wits, detective and fighting skills to deduce and stop this maniac’s plan before Sinclair and the rest of the killers escape."

Mr. Logan is set to play Jake Malone, the cop caught in the wrong place at the wrong time. Furthermore, there's another Asylum connection, as Blackgate is being directed by Cole S. McKay, who only weeks ago finished directed Mr. Logan - as well as Jaz Martin and AnnaMaria De Mara - in 200mph. Blackgate just started pre-production, so there's not much more on this one as of yet, but jump over to the Blackgate blogspot for details as they emerge. 

And check out tipster Ed DeRuiter Saturday, March 12, 2011 in the SyFy Premiere of Battle of Los Angeles, 9pm wherever you are.

Newly Committed: Asylum Release Dates

Now that we're a little ways into the new year, we have a more definitive idea of the release dates for the first batch of 2011 Asylum films. Here's what we know:

 Battle of Los Angeles

starring Kel Mitchell, Nia Peeples
written and directed by Mark Atkins

SyFy Premiere March 12 
on DVD March 22


starring Jaz Martin, AnnaMaria DeMara
written by Thunder Levin
directed by Cole McKay

on DVD April 26

 Almighty Thor  (not final poster)

starring Cody Deal, Richard Grieco, Kevin Nash
written by Eric Forsberg
directed by Christopher Ray

on DVD May 10

Ballistica   (note the tweaked poster)

starring Paul Logan, Martin Kove, Robert Davi
written by Tony Kandah and Sean Rourke
directed by Gary Jones

on DVD May 17

And that's what we have so far. Still on the docket are 2012 Ice Age, Born Bad and 2 Headed Shark Attack - all of which there's no info on right now besides the titles - but I think we can assume those are the summer/early fall films we can look forward to. And beyond that, there's bound to be another comedy, maybe a horror film for October, who knows? Rest assured I keep my eyes peeled for this stuff, and as soon as I spy details, I'll post 'em up.

outside the walls: Non-Asylum Inklings

I recognize that not all great films are made exclusively by The Asylum and that, in fact, there's a whole world of film outside these walls, some of which might actually interest Asylum fans, when they're not watching or re-watching Asylum films, of course. And, being as I'm only looking out for your viewing well-being, here's a peek at some other DVD releases this month which might satiate you between Asylum releases. But remember, as always. Sweet n' Low ain't sugar.

Feb. 1

 Chain Letter

 Hatchet II

 Let Me In


 Lorna the Exorcist

Quantum Apocalypse
written by Leigh Scott
directed by Justin Jones
starring Rhett Giles, Kristen Quintrall 

Feb. 8

 I Spit on Your Grave

 My Soul to Take

 Ong Bak 3

 Paranormal Activity 2

 Tesis Special Edition

Feb. 15

 Death Tube 2

The Last Lovecraft: Relic of Cthulhu

National Lampoon's Dirty Movie

Feb. 22

The 7th Hunt

 Alien vs Ninja

 The Guild - Season 4

 The Killing Jar

 Psych 9

outside the walls: Non-Asylum Inkings

Director Griff Furst (Universal Soldiers, I Am Omega, 100 Million BC and non-Asylum Wolvesbayne and Lake Placid 3) has revealed the poster for his upcoming SyFy movie Swamp Shark, starring D.B. Sweeney (Fire in the Sky, The Cutting Edge), the lovely Kristy Swanson (Buffy, Red Water) and Robert Davi (upcoming Asylum flick Ballistica). 

Big ole' creature somewhere it shouldn't be? Check.

Eye candy? Check.

Grizzled B-veteran? Check.

Sounds like Mr. Furst has assembled everything he needs for a fun, thrilling Saturday night. Though no premiere date has been released, according to the film's Facebook page, it's slated to come out sometime this month. Soon as I know something, you'll know something.