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outside the walls: Asylum Regulars' Other Work

I thought in this post we'd check in on some of the work being done by Asylum regulars outside the walls, that is, for other production companies besides the one we cherish so dear. This time, I thought we'd start with some of my favorite talent behind the camera.

Writer/director/cinematographer/etc. Mark Atkins, recently of Battle of Los Angeles and soon-to-present Dragon Crusaders, has another directorial effort due soon, the awesomely-premised Sand Sharks, starring Corin "Parker Lewis" Nemic, Brooke "Fruit of Hulk's Loins" Hogan and Vanessa Lee Evigan, Asylum vet for Journey to the Center of the Earth, in which she appeared with her father, the great Greg Evigan (also 6 Guns). I don't have the exact plot for this one, but the great thing about shark movies, is that once the premise is established, it pretty much goes in the same, wonderful direction. No release date for this one yet, either, but all indications are it'll be some time this year.

Anthony Fankhauser, director of 8213 Gacy House, 2012 Supernova and line producer of 17 other Asylum titles, has a pretty full plate of his own. IN addition to producing Atkins' Sand Sharks, he's also line producing a television film called Jabberwocky featuring the lovely Kacey Barnfield (Lake Placid 3). No word on whether it has anything to do with Lewis Carroll. Furthermore, Mr. Fankhauser has also written and directed a horror film called Grizzly Flats (formerly Shadow People) about a family terrorized by, well, shadow people. Danielle DeLuca stars.


Speaking, in a sense, of Lake Placid 3, its director, Griff Furst - known for directing The Asylum's 100 Million B.C., I Am Omega and Universal Soldiers - has been keeping busy as well. In addition to his recently-released horror flick Mask Maker, he was also at the helm for the recent SyFy Saturday Night entrant, Swamp Shark, starring D.B. Sweeney, Kristy Swanson and Robert Davi, recently of The Asylum's Ballistica. Swamp Shark aired last Saturday night to the highest ratings since Sharktopus. Seems SyFy fans realllllly like shark movies. And The Asylum has 2 Headed Shark Attack on its slate. I'm just sayin'...guaranteed ratings champ.


Then there's Shane Van Dyke, who, if you've read this blog ever before today, you probably know is currently wrapping post-production on The Asylum's August release, A Haunting in Salem, which is going to be AWESOME, and not just because I wrote the script for it (though that's the source of a lot of its awesomeness, for me at least). But that's not all SVD is up to these days. In addition to acting in Fred Olen Ray's upcoming Super Shark (alongside Sarah Lieving and Dylan Vox, both Asylum vets) Shane and his older brother Carey (who also appears in A Haunting in Salem as Deputy Mike) have written a horror script called The Sacred, a literary-set horror-thriller starring Jeff Fahey and Sid Haig.


And finally, Christopher Ray, director of Mega Shark vs Crocosaurus and Almighty Thor, as well as being the first assistant director of A Haunting in Salem, has another gig as first assistant director in the pipeline, this time on the creature-thriller Camel Spiders, starring the great C. Thomas Howell (War of the Worlds, War of the Worlds 2, The Day the Earth Stopped, The Land That Time Forgot) and Brian Krause (2012 Supernova).

So as you can see, inside Asylum walls or out, the creative types responsible for your favorite films have a lot on the horizon. Don't feel the least bit guilty straying to support them.


Barely Legal Trailer Up Now!

With 2012 Ice Age out on DVD today, it's time to turn our attention to the next Asylum release, the sex-comedy Barely Legal, which drops at the end of this month. And as of now, over at The Asylum site, the first, scintillating trailer is up.
This one looks to be...well...sexy. See for yourself what I mean, then show up July 26 when all the naughty fun is yours to take home... 

observation notes: 2012 Ice Age

This latest release from The Asylum is an apocalyptic, ripped-from-the-headlines thriller from the brilliant pens of Paul Sinor and Victoria Dadi, the team behind last year's Airline Disaster.

When a volcano in scenic Iceland goes kablooey, it collapses an ice shelf and releases a tremendous glacier that starts on a collision course with the East Coast of the United States, the harbinger of a new ice age that one family - lead by actors Julie McCullough ("Growing Pains") and Patrick Labyorteaux ("JAG") - must try to stay ahead of.

First off, in all fairness, I should admit my love for polar apocalypse films. I think the ice age is something we as modern humans have zero capacity to plan for or fight against, so to see characters accurately struggle against such odds is always fascinating, to me, at least. 2012 Ice Age does not fail; apocalyptic thriller, family drama, FX bonanza. The script is solid as ice, the direction by the mysterious "Travis Fort" is above par and the performances sell it all.

Patrick Labyorteuax as the father/scientist at the center of the film plays the role with a duality of dedication - half to his job, half to his family, each half greater than most men's wholes. He's undeniably likable, universally relatable and just plain fun to root for. I wasn't a "JAG" watcher, but I was a big fan of Labyorteaux's as a teen - he's in two of my favorite movies ever, Summer School and Heathers - so it was awesome to not only see him again, but to see that he's still as awesome as ever.

Julie McCullough, lovely as she was twenty years ago on "Growing Pains," as Labyorteaux's estranged wife and informed-thus-concerned mother is sassy, confident, concerned and coyly radiant. She's still got a smile that could charm a buzzard off a fresh kill, and she still knows how to use it. To see her in this dramatic setting was a revelation, and hopefully the start of great things to come.

Other notables include Nick Afanasiev and Katie Wilson as the couple's teenage children, and the great Gerald Webb as another traveler.
 

The real star here - not to take away from the human performers - is the film's visual FX; from the volcano eruption to the encroaching glacier to the polar ramifications, this is easily the best-looking Asylum film, FX-wise, to date. Bar none. I often speak of how The Asylum's production values have shot through the roof since Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus, and this is the best representation of that hypothesis to date.

The script is sound, scientifically and emotionally. Sinor and Dadi - as they did with Airline Disaster - do a spectacular job of balancing the technical with the human, crafting a disaster epic with an intimate heart. I never felt for an instant that our response - militarily - to the impending ice age was far-fetched or contrived. The film's realism, in fact, is part of what endeared it to me so. When the science is sound, the enjoyability is infinite.

And as for the direction, by the mysterious Travis Fort, all I can say is the typing equivalent of one, lone man in a crowd of thousands standing up and starting the applause an entire crowd reverberates. This film is great looking, well paced, gripping, thrilling, frightening, and gut-wrenching, exactly as it should be. Whoever directed this, he directed his ass off, and has earned my sincere kudos.

Overall, whatever your disaster film peccadillo - ice age, alien invasion, pandemic, war, global warming etc - if you enjoy the struggle of American average-joes against impossible, cataclysmic scenarios, then there is absolutely nothing you won't love about 2012 Ice Age. No smoke-blowing, no ass-kissing, no-sycophanting: this is a rad film, no matter which studio made it; human, horrifying, spectacular and captivating. B-movie gold, as far as I'm concerned. Gold, I say!

2012 Ice Age is on DVD THIS VERY MOMENT in retail establishments, video stores (if u can find them), those lame kiosk things and, of course, Netflix. There's no reason you should still be reading this. Go get 2012 Ice Age right now. NOW!

"Let's melt this ice!"

From The Asylum Library: H. G. Wells

I'm officially starting the rumor Wells was a vampire. Dig those eyes.
Every now and again, as is true of most motion picture studios, The Asylum will look toward the world of letters for inspiration. The public domain offers an array of spectacular, action-packed, thrilling, and - most importantly - free works ripe for the updating. In this occasional column, I'll take a look at the literary giants from which The Asylum has borrowed. Today, we look at the man responsible for two Asylum films to date (the second one less-so, but I'll explain...), as well as the man who is often credited, alongside Jules Verne (the O.G.), as the creator of science-fiction, Mr. Herbert George Wells, known to history as simply, H.G.


H.G. was born in Kent, England in September 1866 to a gardener and his wife. Times were lean in the Well's household, but young H.G. was an aggressive reader, and through books acquired the knowledge and skills that would elevate him out of his humble beginnings and into the eternal literary canon.


Though he also wrote in the areas of history (including the three-volume magnum opus The Outline of History), politics, social commentary and mainstream fiction, it's H.G.'s science fiction he is most remembered for. His early novels read like a roster in the sci-fi hall of fame: The Time Machine, The Invisible Man, The Island of Doctor Moreau, When the Sleeper Wakes, The War of the Worlds and The First Men in The Moon. A political socialist, Wells also wrote a number of what he deemed "Utopia novels," in which he applied his political views to a reorganization of society, leading to a (often deceptively) more perfect future; notables in this category include A Modern Utopia and The Shape of Things to Come.

To date, the works of H.G. Wells have been adapted into more than 80 films and television series and episodes over the last 110 years, by everyone from Georges Melies to Alexander Korda to George Pal to Bert I. Gordon to Steven Spielberg to David Michael Latt, who directed War of the Worlds for The Asylum in 2005, the same year Spielberg's adaptation came out (and largely credited for launching the "mockbuster" phenomenon). The other Asylum film based on the works of Wells, and this is the one I referred to as "less-so," is War of the Worlds 2: The Next Wave, naturally, and while not based on any actual Wells' text - his story has no sequel - it's based on characters inspired by a situation in Wells' novel, and that's close enough for me.


So there you have it, a cursory and haphazardly-researched look into the life and writing of on H.G. Wells, godfather of sci-fi and inspiration for two Asylum films to date. As for the future, who knows? I for one would loooooove to see an Asylum Island of Doctor Moreau, or a loose adaptation of First Men on the Moon, substituting perhaps the Red Planet, Mars. Until then, enjoy yourself a healthy heaping of Wells, Asylum-style, with the best double feature in the studio's catalogue (in the sci-fi genre, at least).



Hollywood's 1st Female Feature Film Stereographer - Shannon Benna - Comes Out of A Haunting in Salem!!!

So, amidst the shameful practice of googling myself - not myself, per se, but A Haunting in Salem, the horror film I wrote for The Asylum - I discovered this article on Shannon Benna, the film's stereographer, who just happens to be Hollywood's 1st female feature film stereographer. 1st. That means ever. The film's not even released, and already A Haunting in Salem is helping make history!

Now, I could attempt to explain to you exactly what a stereographer does, but I'm a writer, so, not too technically inclined, and probably half of it I'd be making up. So I'll let the article do the explaining.

Then a hearty personal and professional congratulations to Ms. Benna are in order, and add her name to the long and talented list of others working on A Haunting in Salem: the director Shane Van Dyke, Alex Yellin the cinematographer, Chris Ridenhour the composer, Christoper Ray at 1st AD, not to mention a stellar cast that includes Bill Oberst Jr., Courtney Abbiati, Jenna Stone, Nicholas Harsin, Carey Van Dyke and Gerald Webb plus countless others I owe a little bit of my life to. Check out the fruit of their labors August 23rd when A Haunting in Salem drops on DVD and Blu-Ray. In 3D!!!!!!!!!!!

inmate profile: Patrick Labyorteaux

Keeping the 2012 Ice Age profiles rolling, it's time to turn the spotlight on the film's male lead, accomplished actor Patrick Labyorteaux.

A native Los Angelean, Labyorteaux (that's LAB-or-TOE) started acting at the ripe young age of nine, with an uncredited role in Mel Brooks' comedy classic Blazing Saddles. Credited or not, that's a baller debut. PL's first big break came in 1977 when he landed the role of "Andy Garvey" on the strangely-popular TV series "Little House on the Prairie." After 43 episodes, Patrick took a brief hiatus from acting, presumably to finish high school, and then in 1987 he returned to acting, this time on the silver screen. His first real film of note? The undisputed comedy classic and staple of my childhood, Summer School. I shit you not, I've seen this movie more than 50 times; hell, I've seen it three times this year already. PL played "Kevin," the gentle-souled football player who falls for a pregnant Shawnee Smith.

Up next for PL was a role in perhaps the only late-80's high-school film I've seen more than Summer School, Heathers, in which he played the lovably-dumb football-playing bully "Ram," who, thanks to an arranged double-suicide with his supposed lover spawned one of the greatest lines in cinema history: "I love my dead gay son!" 

From there, PL performed in a number of notable films including Ski School (which re-teamed him with Summer School-alum Dean Cameron), Ghoulies 3 and 3 Ninjas, but it wasn't until a certain TV show came a'courting that PL finally got his well-deserved star-making turn.

For 10 years and 208 episodes  PL portrayed Lt. Cmdr. Bud Roberts on the insanely popular Naval drama "JAG," on you grandpa's favorite network, alongside the erstwhile David James Elliott and the alluring Catherine Bell. "JAG" ended in 2005, and since then PL has continued to work steadily in television and film, including a role in the Jim Carrey vehicle Yes Man. 

2012 Ice Age will mark the first time PL has anchored a disaster flick (though he did support in The Storm, a TV, James Van Der Beek thing), but if he can handle this genre as well as he's handled comedy, drama, action and horror in the past, I think come June 28th of this month we'll all be quite enthralled. Watch for yourself and find out.

1st 3 Musketeers Pix Up Now!

Man The Asylum moves fast: we only learned 3 Musketeers was in production yesterday, and today here we are with a new series of production stills at The Asylum's Flickr site.


From the looks of things, this is going to be a high-flying action spectacular with plenty of excitement to go around. Just a reminder, 3M is being directed by Cole McKay from a script by Ed Deruiter, and stars Michele Boyd, Allan Rachins, Xi and more. On DVD this October!

inmate profile: Julie McCullough

Continuing COMMITTED's spotlight on the creative forces behind the next Asylum flick, 2012 Ice Age, out the 28th of this month, it's now time to move from behind the camera to in front of it, and where better to start than with the film's female lead, the lovely and vivacious Julie McCullough.

Ms. McCullough, born in Hawaii, first came to the attention of our cultural consciousness in the mid-80's via four issues of the World's Preeminent Gentleman's Magazine, Playboy, of which she was the February 1986 Playmate of the Month. From there, Ms. McCullough spring-boarded into acting, appearing in such American classics as "Max Headroom," "Golden Girls," and the Roger Corman-backed Big Bad Mama II alongside Angie Dickenson. This work lead in 1989 a coveted role on one of the most popular sitcoms of its day, "Growing Pains." This is where 12-year-old me comes into the picture. I was, admittedly, a HUGE "Growing Pains" fan, and thought Kirk Cameron was the coolest dude ever (which he most assuredly turned out NOT to be), therefore making Ms. McCullough the most beautiful woman in the world for eight episodes of my life. It was a magical fall.

After "GP," (which only lasted a season and a half after she left, not even DiCaprio could save it; just sayin') Ms. McCullough went on to work regularly in television and film. One project of note: 1988's remake of The Blob with Kevin Dillon, Shawnee Smith and Donovan's son Donovan. Also involved with The Blob? 2012 Ice Age director Trey Stokes, who worked on that film as the "blob movement designer." Coincidence? 


I'll admit that the majority of my exposure to Ms. McCullough's work has been more light-hearted, comedic fare, so I for one am very excited to see her in the decidedly dramatic 2012 Ice Age. If her brief appearances in the trailer are any indication, she's got the chops. Find out June 28th when the film drops on DVD.

First Details of 3 Musketeers! UPDATED w/ Pic!

Busy Asylum day today - the first details have emerged concerning The Asylum's upcoming 3 Musketeers adaptation, and man are they awesome. Directing the film will be Cole S. McKay, fresh off the helm of 200MPH, and he'll be working off a script by actor-turned-scribe/swell-guy Ed Deruiter (The Surge, Battle of Los Angeles). A look at the synopsis, available on the film's Asylum page.

"Alexandra D'Artagnan, junior NSA officer, uncovers a plot to assassinate the President of the United States and enlists the help of three infamous international spies to stop the threat."

Announced cast members include Heather Hemmens (Glory Road, "Hellcats"), Alan Rachins ("L.A. Law," "Dharma & Greg"), Keith Allan, Michele Boyd (Battle of Los Angeles, "The Guild"), and David Chokachi ("Baywatch") making a return to The Asylum after his role in Born Bad


And courtesy of Michele Boyd's Twitter feed, here's the first on-set pic from the film, with Ms. Boyd as musketeer Aramis. Baller.




The street date on this one isn't until October, the 18th, to be precise, and from the looks of things, The Asylum's really pulling out the stops on this one. Get ready for an action spectacular this fall, and as always, whenever there's more info, you'll find it here!

inmate profile: Trey Stokes

As you well know, this month's Asylum release is the polar-apocalyptic 2012 Ice Age; as you may also know, in the weeks leading up to a new release I like to shine a little spotlight on the creative types behind the project. Earlier I profiled Ice Age writers Victoria Dadi and Paul Sinor, and now it's time to turn our attention to the man behind the curtain, the captain of the ship, el jefe himself, the film's director, Trey Stokes.

Not only is Mr. Stokes an accomplished director, he's also known for his puppeteering work on such films as the 1988 Blob remake with Kevin Dillon, Species, Robocop 2, Team America: World Police and James Cameron's only legit masterpiece (IMO), The Abyss, on which Mr. Stokes served as head puppeteer. Mr. Stokes has also worked in other realms of visual effects, including animation for Starship Troopers and My Favorite Martian, and most recently as the lead motion capture integrator for Robert Zemeckis' The Polar Express. Not to mention the guy's stints as an editor, cinematographer, camera operator, actor and even motion simulation programmer for two Universal Studios rides, The Funtastic World of Hanna Barbera, and Jimmy Neutron's Nicktoon Blast!


As a director, Stokes first gained prominence with Pink Five, a Star Wars parody series that blew up online and eventually got the Lucas stamp of approval as the bearded-one's selection for fan film of the year in 2003. The next year, the sequel, Pink Five Strikes Back, won the audience award in the same competition. A final installment, Return of Pink Five, has been completed and is awaiting release. He is also the driving creative force behind the sci-fi webseries Ark.


But for Asylum fans, Mr. Stokes is best known for his amazing work directing last year's leviathan of a film (and my personal favorite of the 2010 Asylum offerings). 2010 Moby Dick. What does this mean for 2012 Ice Age? It means there's a proven director and visual effects wiz at the helm, and by what I can tell from the trailer, he's pulling out all the stops on this one. 

2012 Ice Age drops on DVD June 28. Don't worry, I'll remind you.

Mega Python vs Gatoroid on DVD and Blu-Ray TODAY!!!

That's right, the long wait is finally over: for everyone who missed it on SyFy, or just for those of us dying to see it again the great, incredible, thrilling, chilling and highly enjoyable Mega Python vs Gatoroid drops on DVD and Blu-Ray today! Starring Tiffany and Debbie Gibson! Nuff said! Go get it!

 

observation notes: Wildflower

For this one we've got to get in The Asylum Way-Back Machine, and return to the year 2000 and the studio's early days when original productions were far fewer than they are now. This film - a steamy and twisting erotic thriller - is of particular note, as it was directed by Asylum producer David Michael Latt (Megafault, War of the Worlds).

After the death - by a prostitute-induced heart attack - of a wildly successful L.A. businessman, his three grown children - a cuthroat and selfish son (Dean Stapleton), a snarky and empowered daughter (Kim Little) and an unraveling alcoholic/gambling addict younger son (Chris Hoffman) - head for the family's remote cabin to negotiate the division of Daddy's empire. When the youngest son picks up a nympho hottie fleeing a dickhead boyfriend (despite having his lady on the trip), she helps incite a spellbinding and sensuous struggle for power, control and - most importantly - money. Intrigue, eroticism and peril ensue.

On the surface, this might come across as just another low-budget flesh fest, a flimsy story to support ample displays of nudity. And don't get me wrong, there's a lot of nudity in this, a Solid A for nudity, but the story is anything but flimsy. The script, by one Angel Orona, his only effort to date, is intricate, thrilling and sound, a story with hints of Basic Instinct, Indecent Proposal, The Last Seduction, Double Indemnity (I said it) and, of course, Daddy's Dying, Who's Got The Will? There are twists and turns (that I won't reveal) that while sensational are not at all outlandish or contrived, and help to deliver a solid and in fact superb B-thriller. 

Another element helping elevate this above the pack is a capable cast with good chemistry, especially among the three siblings. Dean Stapleton plays egomanical douchebag "Ethan" as a stern and dickish philandering asshole you can't help but hate, while at the same time strangely respecting his will and ambition; Kim Little (Supercroc, Princess and the Pony, Killers 1 & 2) as "Audrey," the sister, undergoes an intense and surprising character arc, an evolution pulled off flawlessly by Ms. Little, who reminded me here of an actually intelligent Bridget Fonda; and Chris Hoffman as weakest link "Dennis" does an excellent job making us believe he is the sort of young, rich sleaze with drinking and gambling problems who would pick up an extra chick for the weekend then try and get his other girl to sleep with her (which, SPOILER, she does), while simultaneously making the same character sympathetic and even endearing.

Other notables include CC Costigan as the nympho hottie that joins the team - sultry and sinister, the film's femme fatale, oozing wicked sensuality - Kristina Edlund as Ethan's embattled and embittered trophy wife, "Jackie" - a rigid, modest, cold woman, the result of a debasing marriage and the realization she may not be the only trophy in the case - and Tammie Sheffield as Dennis' original girlfriend, "Zooey" - the film's sweetest eye candy.

Overall then, allow me to reiterate what I said earlier: this is a tense erotic thriller, heavy on the "erotic," rife with impassioned performances that elevate this above the usual D2DVD fare. Is it campy? Yeah, sure, a little bit. Is it low-budget? Oh hell yes. Is it exploitative? Absolutely. And in addition to all this greatness, there's an actual film here, with a strong, intriguing narrative that doesn't fall apart at the end, quite the opposite, it keeps escalating, raising the bar, each level more thrilling than the one before. I'm not just whistling Dixie here, puffing smoke or kissing ass. This is a solid movie, an actual thriller, erotic, yes, but more than that, it's intelligent, effective, suspenseful and just plain fun. 

And that's all I'm ever looking for.

inmate profile(s): Writers Paul Sinor and Victoria Dadi

2012 Ice Age is The Asylum film being released at this month, so inmate profiles over the next few weeks are going to be dedicated to members of that film's creative staff, starting with writing team extraordinaire, Paul Sinor and Victoria Dadi, also responsible for last year's highly-enjoyable Airline Disaster.

Beginning with Mr. Sinor, this guy's no mere writer. He spent 30 years in the Army, all of it as a decorated Infantry Officer, and retiring as a Lieutenant Colonel. In 1987, Sinor received a life-changing opportunity when he was assigned by the Department of Defense to serve as Technical Advisor for the CBS Vietnam-drama "Tour of Duty" - which incidentally I was a huge fan of as a kid; it's was my first introduction of the Stones' "Paint It Black." In 2004, after being recalled to active duty, the Department of the Army assigned him the designation of Entertainment Liaison to the Film and Television Industry in Los Angeles. As such, Sinor has amassed an impressive resume, working on the first two Transformers films, The Invasion, I Am Legend, The Day The Earth Stood Still and even a few films The Asylum hasn't mockbusted, like G.I. Joe. and Jessica Simpson's Major Movie Star (aka Private Valentne). 2012 Ice Age is his second script for The Asylum, and if his first, Airline Disaster, is any indication, the action will be tight, the science sound and the response accurate; all in all, a tense and realistic sci-fi thriller.

Which brings us to the other half of the team, Victoria Dadi, who also works with Sinor at Valhalla Military, a Technical Advising outfit. 2012 Ice Age is also Ms. Dadi's second film for The Asylum, and in addition to her script work on Airline Disaster, she also served as a military advisor on Titanic II for director Shane Van Dyke.

I really did enjoy the script for Airline Disaster, it felt authentic, never sensational (sensational in a bad way, I mean), spectacularly tense and best of all, to me at least, frighteningly believable. When I heard these were the writers on board for Ice Age, my interest doubled. It doubled again when I heard the film was to be directed by Trey Stokes of 2010 Moby Dick renown, but that's a profile for another time...

Asylum Saturday on SyFy - THIS Saturday!




So this coming Saturday, a day I'm officially declaring a holiday, the fine, fine folks at SyFy are showing not one, not two, not even three but four Asylum films, and not a one of them at 3 in the morning! 

Things start off with the undisputed classic Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus at 1 p.m., then a little break followed by a six-hour mega-marathon that includes Mega Piranha at 5 p.m., Mega Python vs. Gatoroid at 7 and the world television premiere of 2010 Moby Dick, starring Barry Bostwick and Renee O'Connor, written by Paul Bales and directed by Trey Stokes, at 9 p.m. 

So whatever else it is you thought you were doing Saturday, cancel it; four of The Asylum's best are on the boob tube, and you, dear boob, simply can't afford to miss this rare alignment.

Asylum Should-Stars #9

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: Christy Carlson Romano


Best Known For: "Even Stevens," "Kim Possible," Wolvesbayne, Mirrors 2

Plays: girls-next-door, authoritative hotties, buxom victims.

Could Be Cast As: after definitively shedding her Disney-star image (and more) in Mirrors 2, CCR is primed for scream-queen status. I've always thought The Asylum needed a horror franchise, just a little three- or four-film paranormal bloodfest, and CCR would be the perfect Jamie Lee. But really, any late-20's heroine role that needs to be filled - a female Musketeer, a vacationing scientist who runs afoul a two-headed shark, a knight-ess templar - CCR could be your girl.




Name: Alex Winter


Best Known For: playing Bill S. Preston, Esq. in Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure, Bogus Journey and the animated series; The Lost Boys, Freaked

Plays: dopey, fun-loving, gentle stoner types, but that was 20 years ago.

Could Be Cast As: at this point, it's a wide open field. i'd use him more in a Patrick Labyorteaux sense than a, say, Brian Krause sense, in that i'd make him the everyman caught up in catastrophe as opposed to the rugged, only-man-for-the-job authoritative type.
Name: Catherine Mary Stewart


Best Known For:  The Last Starfighter, Night of the Comet, Weekend at Bernie's

Plays: good girls flirting with going bad, fiercely independent types, playful and intelligent everywomen.

Could Be Cast As: the mother guarding a secret in a straight-up thriller, a maverick scientists whose controversial theories might just save the world from a massive creature/impending astronomical, environmental or climatological destruction, or a brash but brilliant military officer fending off alien invasion. CMS has that Debra Winger-versatility, that Sally Field-approachability, and that Mary Louise Parker

creature feature: Dragons

In honor of the latest Asylum feature to enter post-production, writer/director Mark Atkins' Dragon Crusaders, I thought I'd dedicate a creature feature to the mythological(?) beast at the center of that and three other Asylum films, as well: Dragon, Dragonquest, and Merlin and the War of Dragons, the latter two of which were also directed by Mr. Atkins. The former was written and directed by Leigh Scott (Invasion of the Pod People, The Hitchhiker, The 9/11 Commission Report, The Beast of Bray Road).

Dragons are among the oldest legendary creatures in the world, factoring into the mythology of nearly every significant early culture. Traditionally, there are two breeds of dragon: the European variety, distinctly reptilian, and the Chinese variety, whiskered and with a dash of canine to its serpentine form. 

All dragons featured in Asylum films are of the European distinction. Furthermore, while dragons can be winged or flightless, all Asylum dragons totally fly. And hell yes they breathe fire. What's the point, otherwise?

In Dragon, the titular beast is a singular, daunting trial in a chain of daunting trials our Medieval heroes must survive in order to escape a haunted forest and save the kingdom from an advancing horde of dark elves. In Dragonquest, there are 2 dragons, one evil, summoned by a warlord, and one good, awakened by a young man undergoing a series of perilous quests. In Merlin and the War of Dragons, young Merlin comes of age trying to thwart the tyrannical plans of an evil wizard and his army of flying dragons, And though the exact details aren't known yet, in Dragon Crusaders the beast will manifest as a "wizard-dragon," which I pray to god involves a dragon with a wand.

So as you can see, whether alone, in pairs or traveling in flocks(?), The Asylum has taken a decidedly "violent dragon" standpoint. And rightfully so. Nothing good can come of bat-winged, fire-breathing, dino-sized lizards known to cavort with evil wizards and warlords. 

However, that said, if The Asylum's ever looking to do another Princess and the Pony-esque family film, my vote would be for a story about a friendly dragon - Poof, maybe, or Greg - and the ragtag group of preteen misfits who find and end up protecting him from nasty grown-up types; think Monster Squad meets Mac and Me, with dragons, natch. But don't worry, I'd keep the fire.

My Sonic Prayers Answered! Chris Ridenhour to Score A Haunting in Salem!

I've spoken a little bit about Asylum composer Chris Ridenhour of late, the man responsible for an astonishing 28 scores for our favorite independent studio. Well, that number gets slightly more impressive rolling over to 29, as Ridenhour has officially been given the go ahead to score A Haunting in Salem, The Asylum's next horror flick, out this August 23rd from director Shane Van Dyke and a script by me.

It should be no secret by now that I'm totally stoked by this news. Ridenhour's scores are the icing on every Asylum film he's touched, a sweet, thrilling rush that amplifies every emotion. I thought he might get the job - he is their number one guy, after all - so I revisited the work he did for Mark Atkins' Haunting of Winchester House, and loved how it worked with the story. This is awesome news and sure to result in some creeping orchestration I'll be playing every Halloween for the rest of my life.

Music's a pretty important part of the writing process to me, and when I heard Ridenhour got the gig, it got me thinking about the music I listened to while composing the script. I make a point of lining up music whose mood I think fits the tone that I'm writing for, but I don't want that music to be distracting, rather an intense background, a sonic catalyst that enables me to tune out everything else. Therefore, when writing, I only listen to instrumental music. For Salem, that music - of course - had to be kinda dark. So if anyone's interested, below's a list of albums I had on repeat while writing and editing A Haunting in Salem:


  • This Will Destroy You - Young Mountain
  • Nine Inch Nails - Ghosts I-IV
  • Trent Reznor/Atticus Finch - Original Score to The Social Network
  • Nick Cave/Warren Ellis - Original Score to The Road
  • Saxon Shore - Four Months of Darkness
  • Sigur Ros - Agaetis Byrjun and  ( )  
  • God Is An Astronaut - All is Violent, All is Bright
  • Caspian - The Four Trees
  • Miles Davis - In a Silent Way
So there you have it, a little sonic snapshot into my creative process. As though any of you were wondering.

Two More Names Revealed From Dragon Crusaders

Writer/director/cinematographer/etc Mark Atkins' upcoming fantasy epic, Dragon Crusaders is currently overseas shooting, for a September release. We already knew the film would star Dylan Jones, Cecily Fay, Karl Greenwold and Shinead Byrne, but now we can add two more names to that list:




First among these is Simon Lloyd Roberts, a two-time Asylum vet, having performed as a soldier in last year's Sherlock Holmes, and three years ago as the titular lead in Mark Atkins' last dragon-centric fantasy epic, Merlin and the War of the Dragons. No word on the character Mr. Roberts is playing.

Secondly, there's Tony Sams, who - as the picture on the right seems to indicate - will be playing someone on horseback. Dragon Crusaders will be Mr. Sams' first feature film.

By the way - loving the atmosphere and lighting in this pic here, gives me high hopes for the film. But honestly, with a director like Mark Atkins on the project, my hopes are automatically high.

It's still a handful of months before this one drops, but head here for the first round of production stills and a look at the poster.

Follow The Asylum RIGHT NOW on Twitter For a Chance at a LINE in an Upcoming Movie!!!

Calling all Asylum fans: go to Twitter RIGHT NOW and follow The Asylum before they hit 1,000 for your chance to appear in an upcoming, as-yet undetermined Asylum film with an ACTUAL LINE OF DIALOGUE! Holy cow!

The winner will be selected at random from all 1,000 followers, and at publication time, the number was at 973. So go! Now! Hurry! 

UPDATE: 3pm - less than twenty followers to go! As an added bonus, I'll offer the winner an inmate profile right here in the virtual pages of Committed when the film is released! Your pic! Biographical info! My snarky commentary! OMG!!!

Double-Shot of New Asylum Offerings

So, coming today out of The Asylum is new visual info on two upcoming projects, this month's 2012 Ice Age and September's Dragon Crusaders.

First off, the official trailer for Ice Age has dropped at The Asylum site, and while I don't want to jump to any conclusions, this looks to be THE BEST EVER POLAR APOCALYPSE MOVIE. The effects looking nothing short of rad, and coming at the direction of 2010 Moby Dick's Trey Stokes, who would expect anything less? 2012 Ice Age streets on the 28th of this month. I, for one (and as expected), can't wait.

Furthermore, as though the above wasn't enough, The Asylum also graced we committed with the first round of production stills from Mark Atkins' eagerly awaited Dragon Crusader. There aren't any dragons, of course, but what we can see looks a combination of epic and creepy, two of my favorite qualities in a movie. And oh yeah, they put out the poster as well...


A dragon breathing fire down on a shielded Knight Templar. If my wife ever caves and allows me to squander our meager savings on a 70's era van, I'm totally getting this airbrushed on the side. I mean, really: nobody fucks with dragonvan. I digress...

Dragon Crusaders drops on September 27th. 

Man, as awesome as the first half of 2011 has been in terms of Asylum releases, it looks like the second half is going to be even better (and I say that as only a little biased)(A Haunting in Salem on DVD and Blu-Ray 8/23/11, available now for pre-order at Amazon. Just sayin'.)

The Asylum Soon to be Blowing Up Your TV! PLUS - A Lifetime Premiere for BORN BAD!!!


So, there's about to be a barrage of Asylum on your TV this summer. In addition to their usual rotations on SyFy and Chiller, the films of our favorite independent studio are also about to grace TMC, Showtime and...wait for it...LIFETIME!!!

That's right, writer/director Jared Cohn's Born Bad will gets it's television premiere four months before it drops on DVD on noe other than Lifetime. This is the studio's first appearance on Lifetime - naturally - and heralds a pretty bold shift (or at least an addition) to their creative direction. I was hoping Born Bad was the harbinger of other straight-up thrillers to come, and it looks like maybe it is. Born Bad stars Michael Welch (Twilight), Bonnie Dennison ("Guiding Light"), David Chokachi ("Baywatch") and Meredith Monroe ("Dawson's Creek"), and features none other than Bill Oberst Jr. and Gerald Webb, both of whom can be seen in August's Asylum release, A Haunting in Salem (surely the newest horror classic, but I digress...). Born Bad can be seen Monday, July 11th, at 8pm Eastern/Pacific.

But that's not the only Asylum-boob-tube news: Showtime and TMC are both picking up the delightfully-steampunk-intellectual-action-fest Sherlock Holmes (which, the more I watch, the more I love) from director Rachel Lee Goldenberg (Princess and the Pony, Sunday School Musical) and writer Paul Bales (2010 Moby Dick, Legion of the Dead). The film is currently airing on both networks, and then in July, TMC trades Sherlock for 6 Guns, The Asylum's only (and sooo awesome) western from writer Geoff Meed (I Am Omega) and director Shane Van Dyke (Titanic II, A Haunting in Salem (!!!)).

So as you can see, it's going to be a great summer on cable. Check out The Asylum's site for listings. 

observation notes: I Am Omega

Just so you know where all this is going, I'm going to be bold and open these observation notes with the declaration that I Am Omega is one of the greatest productions The Asylum has ever pulled off, and remember, that's coming from a guy who loves all these films, good or bad, but this one, this one enters a pantheon reserved for a precious few like Monster and The Beast of Bray Road. This is an especial accomplishment when you remember that I Am Omega isn't just a tie-in to the Will Smith flick I Am Legend, but also to two other incarnations of this story: The Last Man on Earth (1964) with Vincent Price and The Omega Man (1971) with Charlton Heston; all films are based on the novella by Richard Matheson, and the Smith version is the only one to retain the original name. But aside from that, the story here is basically the same as the others, with a few notable exceptions: the life and trials of the supposed last man on Earth (Mark Dacascos, Double Dragon and TV-Crow) in the apocalyptic wake of some pandemic virus fuck-all that turned most of society into ravenous mutant/vampire/zombie predators. As such, for the first half hour or so, the film focuses on MD's day-to-day survival routine, scrounging for supplies and, on this day at least, planting hella explosives around a natural gas pipeline. Two major differences from the other films emerge at this point: one, MD isn't scrounging off a major metropolitan area, so there are no luxuries - no fast cars, no ripe grocery stores or department stores, none of that, calling for a more hand-to-mouth existence set among a rural, desert landscape that helps raise the level of peril; and two, MD isn't an M.D. like the protagonists of other versions, he isn't conveniently the only guy ever who could figure out a cure for all this, he's just an average guy with exceptional fighting skills in a truly shitty situation, mentally fragile, on the verge of some deeper insanity, and so lost in his isolation that when all of a sudden he receives a video message from another survivor, instead of rejoicing, he flips the fuck out and shuts off the power. MD is a man with no hope of finding a way out of this hell, so he just plain has no hope.

Finally, though, he answers the video message and it's - lucky lucky - a hot single chick (Jennifer Lee Wiggins) trapped downtown in need of rescue. She says she's on her way to Antioch, a utopic survivors' compound nearby, and if MD comes for her, he can go with her to salvation. So as it turns out, MD isn't the last man on Earth at all, he's just the last recluse. Long story short, he turns her down, reps from Antioch come looking for him anyway, saying the girl carries the anti-virus in her blood so they gotta get her out, but they also know about the explosives and what MD's planning on blowing up: the whole fucking city. So they need him to use his sewer-layout knowledge to get them to the girl and out again before the city blows. Still MD isn't feeling the whole rescue mission, but in the end, they don't really give him a choice. At all.

So into the sewers they go, and from here on in it's mostly spoilers so I'll cease with the plot reveal but to say the set-up more than delivers, and the action continues to mount all the way to a spectacular ending, the culmination of races against time, explosives, zombies, fraudulent heroes, hope and salvation.

Overall, this feels more like a straight-up remake of The Last Man on Earth than it does a tie-in to I Am Legend. Another key difference - and the one, I believe, that makes this film so exceptional - is its subtle but thorough exploration of the psychosis factor involved, that is, the mental effects of being, well, Omega, the last person on Earth (if only in your mind). MD is not some flawless, wise-cracking action hero here, he is a very disturbed man fighting for his life every waking second, dealing with terror, grief, confusion and rage non-stop. The toll of this would be almost unbearable, and MD does an exceptional job portraying a man in such dire straits. In addition to his superb martial arts skills - employed here in a way that wasn't too obvious or distracting from the story - Dacascos brings an emotional intensity that results in a truly stirring performance, the best of his career for its equal parts power and passion, strength and extreme vulnerability.

His co-star Jennifer Lee Wiggins, a six-time Asylum vet (Shapeshifter, King of the Lost World, Dracula's Curse, Pirates..., and The 9/11 Commission Report) somehow manages to bring a playful sexiness to a distressed role, humanizing the character and making her more empathetic than perhaps she's written. But the highlight of this film, trivia-wise, for me, comes in the form of Geoff Meed, who plays Vincent, the brutish, mohawked Antioch rep, your typical over-trained thug. Not only has Meed performed in five Asylum films - including Airline Disaster and 100 Million B.C. - he's also written three: Universal Soldiers, 6 Guns and I Am Omega. I'm gonna call him the Bo Jackson of The Asylum from now on. You heard it here first.

I Am Omega was directed by Griff Furst, who's done some work with The Asylum before (he directed Universal Soldiers and 100 Million B.C. and had acting roles in Transmorphers and The Hitchhiker), but has also done some work outside the walls that have found mention in these virtual pages (Lake Placid 3, upcoming Swamp Shark). He's the captain at the helm of this film, an intense, scary thriller that stands on it's own feet and that grabbed me from the first scene and never let go. If you've never seen an Asylum film, make this one of the first three you watch.

observation notes: The Beast of Bray Road

With all the cinematic attention vampires and zombies have gotten over the years, I've always been surprised that werewolves has never sparked the public interest. Sure, there are notables out there like Silver Bullet, Ginger Snaps, Dog Soldiers (you do not want to start a conversation with me about a certain Benicio Del Toro...project.), but contemplate this for a moment: before the Mormon-abstinence-telenovela that is Twilight burst onto the scene, the werewolf movie that most often came to mind for your average American under the age of 40 was Teen Wolf. Now I like Teen Wolf, a lot, I own the double-feature DVD with Teen Wolf Too, I even have a t-shirt like Stiles' that says "What Are You Looking at Dicknose," though truthfully that's more of an Always Sunny thing at this point, but I digress; the point is, there aren't a lot of great werewolf movies out there, and what there are are always low-budget. Hollywood should wake up, make a good old-fashioned werewolf pic, without setting it in a good old-fashioned era. Or making the werewolf some dreamy teenage boy. Or making the werewolves somehow subservient to vampires. Or painting them as pack animals. They are not. And they are not glamorous either, nor well-trained or pleased with their condition. Lycanthropy isn't a privilege, it's a curse. America's youth would do well to remember that.

Anyway, none of this has anything to do with The Beast of Bray Road, except that said film is indeed about a werewolf, a reportedly true one at that. Set in rural Wisconsin, the film starts as all good horror films should: with a pretty girl in a stalled car on a lonely stretch of road in the middle of the night. The requisite forest chase by a partially-seen snarling beast ensues. Screams, ripping flesh, and there's your beast - a cross between a werewolf, a bear and a critter - plus only half of the pretty lady. Bitchin' opening.

Well, this death sends a ripple of panic through the small town the lady hailed from, a bucolic hollow full of eccentric characters like tourism-hungry deputies, scandal-seeking budding bloggers, wanton floozies and all their customary small-town bullshit - remarkably like the setting and resulting feel of True Blood. I honestly caught a lot of similarities, despite this film being nearly six years old - all as seen through the eyes of a local sheriff (Jeff Denton), the standard-issue relocated big city cop with some brooding secrets.

Suspects are investigated but nothing pans out, and meanwhile the bodies keep coming, along with sightings from disreputable sources, leading the townsfolk to rather quickly and without much debate decide it must be the Beast of Bray Road. The scene where the legend was explained was my one problem with the script. I really don't like obvious exposition, and that's all this was. But it was mercifully brief, and truthfully the only (minor) flaw in what I thought was an otherwise great script. The other thing I had a problem with last night - the fact that the other law enforcement officers were actively and intentionally dropping the word "werewolf" to the press in order to drum up tourism - this morning I woke up really liking, I don't know why, it just strikes me the day after as pretty funny, and a believable adjustment to the crooked-cop scenario.

Anyway, from here it's basically cat and mouse: the beast kills, the cops get closer, and so on and so on until there's the final confrontation. As I'd like to keep this a relatively spoiler-free site - the point is to get you to watch the movies, after all - I'll just say that I thought I knew how it was ending, and when I figured out I was wrong, they dropped it on me before I could re-figure, another compliment to an excellent script.

So speaking of the script, it was written by the fantastic Leigh Scott, who also edited and directed the film. I've mentioned Mr. Scott here before, he's worked quite often with The Asylum (Frankenstein Reborn, The Hitchhiker, Transmorphers), and his newest film, The Witches of Oz, got a mention in this blog's first Outside the Walls entry. This was by far my favorite of his films to date. The script, as mentioned a few times, was excellent: it built suspense well, even with a full-reveal of the creature in the first five minutes, it scared you, made you laugh, and the characters - even the minor characters - felt fully fleshed out and were inhabited by capable actors at every turn. Denton (King of the Lost World, The 9/11 Commission Report) comes across as the beefy, jowly lovechild of Zack Braff and Dax Shepard and plays the role with the same sort of dry humor as those idiots, only more subtle, not out for amusement as much as he is diffusement, which isn't a word, but I think you get the gist. Other standouts include Sarah Lieving (the documentarian from Monster and E. Roby's oversexed sister in Pod People) as the sultry bartendress and love interest of Denton's Sheriff; Thomas Downey (Shapeshifter, Ballistica) as the Indiana-Jones-esque cryptozoologist; and Andy Lauer, best-known as "Charlie" on "Caroline in the City," as an abusive asshole.

Bottom line, this film was a lot of fun and a good scare, the result of an outstanding script and charged performances, and, of course, the sharp eye of Leigh Scott. It's my kind of werewolf movie.

This review is dedicated to the great state of Wisconsin.

these notes originally posted 9/25/2011

observation notes: Princess of Mars

The Asylum's tie-in to the biggest money-maker of all time, Avatar, is based on the same root source, John Carter of Mars, by Tarzan-creator Edgar Rice Burroughs. The story here concerns an American soldier (Antonio Sabato Jr., "Earth 2," "The Bold and the Beautiful") who finds himself transported via ground-breaking technology to the Red Planet (Mars, j.i.c.), where he lands right smack in the middle of a skirmish between clashing alien races, including the still-hot Traci Lords (Cry Baby, Dragstrip Girl) as the titular princess.

As John Carter, Sabato plays the role with his usual approachable man-beauty and affable charm. One might think given the chain of events he witnesses, he'd be a little more freaked, but the consummate-soldier, he rolls with the punches with easy believability. 

Traci Lords is fierce and cold - appropriately Martian - but with an emotional core that, like everything else alive in the universe, is only longing for love. The is the best I've seen Ms. Lords in a long time, if ever. She's perfect for the role of a intimidatingly-beautiful and equally-powerful regent, a kind of Gwyneth Paltrow with balls and actual sex appeal (no offense, Coldplay). Rounding out the cast is Chacko Vadaketh as the baller and viciously ruthless nemesis of John Carter, and Matt Lasky, who although he never see his face for makeup, is the most human character in the film. Worth noting that John Carter of Mars is itself being made into a movie for release next year; Lasky will also appear in that film. No doubt his work here gave him a leg up in the audition. Tomas Boykin of Winchester House also makes a brief appearance as the officer who introduces ASj to the Avatar-esque program.


After watching this, Battle of Los Angeles, Winchester House and Evil Eyes all in the span of a month or so, I'm pretty high on writer/director/editor/cinematographer Mark Atkins right now. For my money, there isn't a better military-action direction at The Asylum, and as far as cinematography goes, this guy makes everything beautiful, even - especially - that which inherently is not. And this, Princess of Mars, is one of the best-looking Asylum films I've ever seen. A good eye is everything in filmmaking, and Mark Atkins has two. 


The FX are amazing by Asylum standards. The spacecraft, the creatures, aliens and interstellar skyscapes are all standouts, but the real technical winner for me is the slightly-sepia filter through which Atkins shot the Mars scenes; against the craggy desert landscape it creates the perfect foreign-yet-familiar environment. Kudos to the art direction, production design, costume and make-up departments as well, all of whom contribute to making this a visually arresting production and, in my estimation, one of the most - if not the most - lavish and impressive Asylum productions to date. This is not at all your average DtV sci-fi flick; it's an intelligent and inventive thriller, and mark Atkins best script to date (keeping in mind I've yet to work through his dragon epics).


And it's the god's honest truth that I enjoyed it more than Avatar, though that comes with the caveat that I never liked James Cameron after T2. Take from it what you will, but see this movie.

Check Out This Interview (not mine) w/ Asylum Composer Chris Ridenhour

I've mentioned before in these virtual pages about the amazing Chris Ridenhour, composer of the scores for 28 Asylum movies to date. 28. By my figuring, that makes him the most-frequent Asylum collaborator that isn't one of the Big Three. That even trumps the versatile and prolific Mark Atkins, who has served as cinematographer on 24 Asylum flicks.


Ridenhour is pretty much the go-to guy for Asylum music, even releasing his own CD of scores (which you can find a link to above, or below.). While RIdenhour's next Asylum project has yet to be revealed (and man oh man am I crossing my fingers it's A Haunting in Salem), in the meantime Mr. Ridenhour's been getting a little bit of press, including this article from the Cape Cod Movie Examiner, in which Ridenhour is referred to, quite accurately I think, as The Asylum's Secret Sonic Weapon.

outside the walls: June DVD Releases


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.

June 7th




Exorcismus

















Green Lantern: Emerald Knights

















Rubber
















Slices of Life












Tortured












Universal Squadron
























June 14th






Battle: Los Angeles
















Chained
















Chatroom
















Fall Down Dead














Hall Pass














Kill the Irishman












Red Riding Hood




















June 21st






Black Rat












Mega Python vs Gatoroid (!!!!!)














June 28th



2012 Ice Age

starring Patrick Labyorteaux & Julie McCullough

written by Victoria Dadi & Paul SInor

directed by Trey Stokes










 

Dawning 
















Norwegian Ninja












Sucker Punch













Warehouse 13: Season 2





 










Enjoy!