Exit Humanity Review: A Missed Opportunity

Exit Humanity Zombies

Exit Humanit: The Promise

As someone who loves stories, I find it particularly painful when movies with the potential for greatness fizzle out as missed opportunities. The trailer for Exit Humanity showed a new perspective on the zombie genre, with powerful scenes and interesting characters. I hadn’t been this excited about a new movie in a long time.

Exit Humanity: The Delivery

Like so many prom nights and first dates, experience often doesn’t match expectations. Where the trailer was dark and dramatic, the film was slow and plodding, with little happening before the last third. Instead of good dialog, the writer chose to tell most of the story through narration. Not a good choice, even with Brian Cox telling the story.

The first half of the film focuses on main-character Edward Young’s search for his missing son. His wife had died – we know this because he told us in an offhand comment during the narration. Alone in the wilderness, with little ammunition or food, Edward and his trusty mount must face the zombie horde or abandon his son.

What a wonderful opportunity for building tension and dramatic impact. Unfortunately, we don’t get that. Instead, we get a bunch of meaningless encounters and no real sense of danger. Even the scene when Edward reunites with his son lacks emotional punch. The best drama Exit Humanity delivers is through actor Mark Gibson’s incoherent screaming, which would be effective if he hadn’t used so much of it early in the film. By the time anything important happen, Gibson’s wailing has already grown tired and ineffective.

Exit Humanity commits a host of sins, but none are worse than setting and costume choices. The film takes place in the Post-Civil-War south, where Edward first comes home from battle looking more like a computer programmer than a soldier. His clothes are clean – as are most everyone’s in the movie. His hair looks good, and he’s wearing a black leather jacket. He just looks out of place, and it’s not only Edward. Other characters either didn’t look the part or they weren’t dressed appropriately. Even with a great story, it would be difficult to get past these flaws.

In the end, it’s mind boggling that a film with a $300,000 budget and support from Brian Cox couldn’t do better. Didn’t anyone look at Edward Young on the first day of filming? Didn’t they see that the costumes looked more appropriate for a Halloween party than a feature film? Couldn’t anyone tell them in post-production that we just don’t care about Edward’s wife or son, because we never got to know them?

John Geddes started with a great concept, and understands the mechanics of storytelling. The right plot points are in the right places. He foreshadows, and makes good use of imagery. I look forward to seeing what he does in the future if he learns from Exit Humanity. Will he grow as a filmmaker? Only time will tell. For now, I’d say skip this movie. If you’re looking for something different with zombies, try Marvin Kren’s dramatic Rammbock or Tommy Wirkola’s witty Dead Snow.

As a missed opportunity, Exit Humanity is a movie to miss.

Phoenix Fear Film Festival: Better and Better

Got a few updates for Phoenix Fear Film Festival 2012 — formerly known as Phoenix Fearcon. Most important is the venue change. Madcap Theatres is going through repairs that will not be completed in time, so the festival will be hosted by Ultrastar Cinemas in Scottsdale.

New guests have been added as well. See the poster for more details. This is going to be a blast. Don’t miss it.

Poster for the 2012 Phoenix Fear Film Festival

Three More Fantastic Horror Shorts

A queue of watch-later videos greeted me this morning. What better time to find some good horror shorts. I saw about ten or fifteen short horror films to find these three.

Now it’s time to scare the shorts off of you… No, that’s not right. Scare you with shorts…. Wait, even if you don’t wear shorts, I still want to scare you. Let’s try this again… It’s time to scare those of you with or without shorts, knowing that those with shorts might be scared out of them so they’ll join the without-shorts group. Er… Umm… Just watch the videos.

In Chambers

This one comes from the directors of the excellent-looking Thale. A women wakes up in a random chamber, not knowing why she’s there. Men in black coats take people when their number is up. What do the numbers mean? What happens when the men take you? Don’t ask me. Watch the movie to find out. This is a professionally-made movie. High quality effects, acting, camera-work and sound.

Can I Call You

Ah, the blind date. Where the adventurous find love, or maybe boredom, or maybe something else. This is another professionally-made film that makes you laugh and provides a bit of suspense.

Roses

A professional hit-man, a desperate woman. Not everything is as it seems. Quite gruesome and not for the easily-disturbed, this is an excellent new take on the torture-porn story.

Great Stories: Rose White Film Review

Rose White: Lilly and Rosalyn

Great stories make us feel

What makes great stories so compelling is their ability to make us feel. In a world where many of our relationships are sterile and shallow, stories force us to fear, to hope, and to wonder. They free us to imagine and dream. Rose White is such a story.

Loosely based on Snow White and Rose Red by the Brothers Grimm, Rose White tells a modern story of two sisters striving for survival in poor circumstances. I don’t want to give anything away, so I’ll keep the description to that.

Storytelling Tools

What I really like about the movie is how director Daniel Kuhlman utilizes music, violence, gore and camera work to enhance an already-great story. Nothing ever appears gratuitous. Every image moves the story forward. All the music attenuates emotional response. The short bits of violence and gore add power. In other words, Kuhl employs the tools of his trade in the context of the overall story. He is a director, but first he is a storyteller. With the recent trend towards 80s-style special effects and weak plots, Rose White’s creativity and subtlety delivers far-greater punch than many of Hollywood’s latest offerings.

Rose White: Bear Watches

Acting in low-budget films is usually suspect. And while Rose White offers a few sub-par performances — Unfortunately, Kuhlman’s directing prowess doesn’t carry over to his acting skills — leading characters Erin Breen and Deneen Melody shine on screen as polar opposite personalities. Breen, the tough, responsible sister comes across as believable. Melody’s role contains few speaking parts, but is crucial to the feel of the movie. Her ability to convey emotions like mania and fear through body-language alone lifts Rose White from good to great. Without her excellent performance, Breen’s effort would be wasted. Together, the duo delivers something greater than a $60,000 budget normally provides.

The verdict

Rose White isn’t without faults. Sound quality is poor at times, and some of the actors just don’t bring any personality to their parts. But these problems are minor compared to the fantastic story and quality acting by Breen and Melody. I suspect some of the sound issues could be fixed with more post-processing.

I really enjoyed Rose White. Few feature-length movies carry the emotional impact of this thirty-minute short. If you’re looking for an evocative film that demands an emotional connection, Rose White is the movie for you.

New Live Music From Grown Below: Reverie

If you haven’t heard of Grown Below before now, you’re missing out. The Long Now is the best metal album I’ve heard in a long time.

I can’t wait for the band’s next album, which is slated for 2013. Fortunately, the band published a live video of Reverie to give us a preview of their upcoming work.

Netflix Horror Find: Absentia

absentia

There’s just something about low-budget horror done well. We don’t expect superb acting or amazing special effects in movies that cost thousands instead of millions to make. But, we do expect good storytelling and an understanding that you can’t do everything without that blockbuster budget. My latest Netflix horror find shows that low-budget does not have to equal low quality.

Absentia tells the story of Tricia — who’s husband went missing seven years ago — and her prodigal sister Callie. Tricia’s husband is presumed dead, and not happy about Tricia’s recent pregnancy. When he starts appearing in ghostly form, we’re left to wonder whether Tricia is nuts. I won’t go into much more, lest I spoil the plot. Suffice to say, that you never fully understand everything that’s happening, and that’s a good thing.

What I really like about this film is how director Mike Flanagan didn’t go beyond his means. Low-budget movies that suck usually attempt a grander existence then they ought to. Not so with Absentia. Instead of relying on flash, the movie focuses on sound storytelling and suspense, leaving as much to the imagination as what is shown on screen. Flanagan utilizes efficient scenes, where every detail is important. This allowed him to tell a complete story in ninety minutes. How great would it be if other directors looked to shorten their movies instead of lengthening them with fluff.

The film work in Absentia is superb. At times, Flanagan uses a shaky camera, but just enough to heighten the tension. He took a run-down, suburban area and made it beautiful. It’s difficult to describe, but you’ll see what I mean when you watch the movie.

If you haven’t seen Absentia yet, put it in your queue. It’s available on instant play, V.O.D and DVD. Just understand that this isn’t a blockbuster movie. Oscar nominations are unlikely. But, if you’re looking for great storytelling mixed with mostly-competent acting, this is your movie. Enjoy.

A Different Closet

Path

by StooMathiesen on Flickr

I got a small taste, a glimpse of what it must be like for a gay man coming out of the closet. Don’t get me wrong, my experience lacks the sheer anguish those in the LGBT community face, but it did bring greater understanding for what many of them must go through. I’m coming out of a different closet. You see, for ten years of my life I was a devout Christian. I believed the Bible as the infallible word of God. I taught Sunday school, worked with church youth-groups, drove kids to church on Wednesday nights. I was all-in, believing with all my heart.

Then, over time, I stopped believing. For months, I attended church, striving to believe. I wanted to believe, but couldn’t. So, I sang the songs, prayed and read my Bible. At the time, Leo the Christian warred with the real me. I wanted to explore science and culture without a biblical filter biasing my view. I wanted to write without letting down those I loved. The real me wanted to watch Game of Thrones or Spartacus without feeling guilty. I’ve always been fascinated with Pagan culture. I don’t believe in pagan spiritualism, but love the concepts of respecting nature and exploring beauty. Sometimes, I just want to swear. These things make me who I am just as much as my love for my family, my geek side, and my political views.

On one hand, my inner nature prompted me to experience life, on the other, my religious beliefs fought against that nature. Challenging one’s world view is traumatic, and that was a difficult time for me. Before you start feeling bad for me, realize it was far more difficult for my wife.

As whole people, we are free to experience life and be true to our natures. Repressing ourselves causes stress and disharmony. For a long time after I stopped believing in Christianity, I still acted like I did. I went to church, and still do. I didn’t lie to people. In fact I spoke about it to my wife, my pastor and people I respected. I just didn’t announce it. Wanting to cause as little damage as possible to those I cared about, I just carried on as usual.

I worried about what my taste in movies and television would make my wife feel. I was afraid to listen to the music I wanted. I was afraid to go to the Renaissance festival because I knew that my wife learned of my unbelief the day we went to one. These things seem inconsequential, but prevented me from expressing my true nature, and caused stress. My shoulders were always tense. Sometimes, my wife would ask if something was wrong. I’d say no, because nothing was consciously wrong. Subconsciously, things were not alright. I was in a different kind of closet. Not one as dangerous as many face, but a closet nonetheless.

Well, I’m coming out of that closet. Not to prove a point, or to influence others. I’m coming out for my own health. I’ve learned that stress is the most damaging force this human race faces. As I learn about my own body and how it works, I know that to be healthy requires one to manage stress. I also know, that we do have an inner nature that must be satisfied. I know that i can live in harmony with that nature or at war with it. I’m choosing to be at peace with myself.

So yeah, I’m an atheist, or an agnostic if you prefer. As a curious soul, I’m open to any possibility, but very comfortable with my unbelief. I will continue exploring this amazing universe we live in, but I hope I never find the ultimate truth. How boring would that be? I will continue seeking beauty in all its forms, and appreciating people, pets, nature and even technology.

Today, I still go to church, because I promised my wife I would. Fortunately for me, we go to a great church full of loving people. It’s not difficult going to this church as a non-believer. Would I rather stay home? Of course, because I don’t get anything out of it outside of socialization, but going isn’t a difficult chore. I thank the wonderful people at my church for that.

So, where does that leave me? On a journey, I guess. Living life, and finding peace with my inner nature.

Let me introduce myself.

Hi, I’m Leo Godin. I love to explore and learn. I appreciate beauty. You’ll often find me challenging beliefs and searching for truth. If you see me at church, know that I love singing your songs, and though I don’t share your faith, I respect it and consider it beautiful. Likewise, if you run into me at a local drum circle or new-moon ritual, know that I respect your beliefs. We may not share the same understanding, but I will enjoy experiencing beauty with you.

This is me, and while I try to improve every day, I’m satisfied with who I am.

Art and Passion: Lisa Martin Stanhope Interview

Lisa Martin Stanhope - Passion and ArtAn old friend from high school recently started posting her paintings to Facebook, and being a curious soul, I wanted to learn more about her artistic resurgence. Not only did I receive permission to post her work, but Lisa Martin Stanhope provided a fantastic and thoughtful interview. We didn’t get too much into the mechanics of painting, but rather talked about who she is as a person and an artist. I think you’ll find Lisa as someone who has reached a healthy respect for her own talents. We could all learn from her passion and her symbiotic relationship with the muse.

Here is the interview in it’s entirety with minor edits for clarity and web formatting. Click here for the unedited version of the interview.

First things first. Please understand that I know nothing about art. If any of my questions appear to stem from ignorance, it is because they do, in fact, stem from ignorance.

How did you get started as an artist? Is it a passion that has always been with you? Does the urge ebb and flow?
My father used to work at a paper mill and would bring home huge pieces of card stock (bigger than me sometimes); I spent hours drawing from a young age (about 4) and progressed through the years through art classes in school, fist getting recognition when I was 11. I have always had a desire to create although, there have been big stretches of time where I didn’t always paint or draw (starting a family, working full time and loosing my confidence kept me from painting for many years). However, creativity in one form or another has always been a big part of my life and way of expression. My urge to create does ebb and flow especially with my emotions. I find painting a great and fantastic way to release stress, anxiety or any overwhelming emotions. I find this is when I create the most easily and feel the most satisfaction.

Do you have any modern influences in your work?
I have many modern influences in my work, too many to mention! Although I have studied famous artists in school, I find my greatest influences from the internet and the ‘average artist’. I spend hours looking at all kinds of work, and find inspiration everywhere from all those brave people who create regularly, post their work and share with, literally, the world. They have all helped me to see that I can find the courage to paint and share again. If I see something I especially like I will try it out, see how it feels, incorporate it into my next painting along with my own ideas or a different inspiration and see what happens there. Some artist’s work that I am currently drawn to are Miss Van Miss Van & Antonio Natale. I have always been in love with Klimt

Tell us a bit about your artistic process? How do you start a painting? What techniques do you use to complete a piece?
The artistic process…hmmm well,it’s an ongoing process! I’m always planning on a next piece, sometimes it’s just a vision that pops in my head or a piece that I’ve seen or something out in nature that inspires. I take pics with my camera phone or book mark pages, print out pics or sketch. Other times I just feel overwhelming emotions, had a bad day, I’m angry, I’m anxious, I’m happy and I just take out a piece of canvas and splatter on some paint and see what comes out. I do try to do something with my work on a regular basis.Starting and finishing a painting are sometimes the hardest part. Getting up the motivation to start and then knowing when to stop and not over do it.

What do you get out of your art? Is it cathartic? Inspirational? Something else?
I get a few different things our of my art. It is most definitely cathartic sometimes and [that is] when I feel I produce my most creative and expressive work. These are also the pieces that I get the most positive responses from others. Other times it’s a way to spend the time, just doing something I love and gets my mind off of other stresses of the day. I absolutely love sharing my work with my friends and family, I actually tend to give most of my work away to them!

What themes do you find in your art? I see a lot of flowing curves in your paintings. Is that intentional? Can any meaning be ascribed to the style?
Yes, very much so. I like to incorporate lots of flowing curves in my painting since this is what I am naturally drawn to, what I see in nature, what I feel when expressing an emotion. I adore the ocean, water, trees, movement. I’ve tried doing more structured pieces without them, apparently my subconscious won’t have it! My brush ends up making a swirl, circle, wave…I can’t help it!

Do you ascribe any meaning to certain colors?
I don’t necessarily ‘assign’ any kind of meaning in my colors. I am seeing that I tend to go through phases with what I use after my work is done. I use colors I am personally drawn to. After doing a few pieces I’ll take a look at the pictures I’ve taken of them and say to myself ‘Gee I guess I’m really into red lately’. I also really love metallic colors. If for nothing else but the way they reflect the light and how they look when it’s placed next to flatter colors. I first saw and appreciated this with Gustav Kimt’s work and as of late have used it in every piece I’ve painted.

Besides color, what do you portray in your art? Feelings, emotions, stories, etc…?
It’s not so much about capturing a particular feeling or emotion. I don’t say to myself,’ I feel really happy today, what happy painting can I make?’ I start with the idea or inspiration of what I’ve seen and what ever emotion comes out, comes out. I’ve created some work when furiously angry and upset with a personal issue in my life and after I’m done the painting, it actually looks peaceful or calm or bright. I’ve been in perfectly good moods and painted stuff that has come out with a much darker feel than I expected. I gave up on trying to force my work to reflect what I had set out to do in my mind. I’ve frustrated myself for years thinking ‘ This vision is what I want to paint – God, this turned out nothing like what I was going for…it’s crap!’ then throw it to the side. Now I just start with what I’ve envisioned, and go with the flow. If it’s not turning out the way I thought, I step back, look at what I have done and continue to work in whatever direction the art is taking me. What you see is the end result of that.

I ask this question to everyone I interview. This blog is about stories in word, film, music, art and life. What are some of your favorite stories in any of those domains?
I really love stories with lots of mood and details. Books – I actually am a HUGE Stephen King fan, love Anne Rice, also adore Anne Lamott. Movies – I really like Quentin Tarantino and the way he shows and tells the story. I, being a dreamy eyed chick, can’t help but love romantic films of all kinds. The Hairdresser’s Husband makes me cry every time. Music – oh man…I listen to the weirdest mix. I listen to artists like Lily Allen, Fiona Apple, Alanis Morissette then flip my Pandora station to T-Pain, Afroman or Ludacris. I love The Mamas and The Papas, The Everly Brothers and I am in love with Cake and System Of A Down. I know, go figure.

If you could tell the world anything at all, what would it be?
Be yourself, screw the haters, enjoy what you have to the fullest…..or just fake it ’til you can.

Horror Fest FearCon V Coming In October

Horror Fest FearCon V

Did you know we have a horror convention here in Phoenix? On October 13, 2012 Phoenix FearCon V will present a day of horror at Ultrastar Cinemas.

Feature film

At this point, FearCon has one feature film planned. Up-and-coming director Alax Chandon’s Inbred headlines the evening. I watched the trailer, and this one is emotional, disturbing and gory. Not for the faint of heart. In other words, perfect for a horror con.

happenings

Guests at FearCon V include the princess of scream Tiffany Shepis, Kaos Funeral Cars, The Dr. Diabolic Show, and America’s favorite zombie housewives Stella and Liz.

But, we don’t go to cons just for the guests. It’s the action we’re interested in. No shorts are announced yet, but I’m sure we’ll have plenty of horror to watch. Along with the films, here are the other planned activities:

  • Zombie runway fashion show
  • Zombie panel discussion with experts
  • Special FX makeup demos with Gillian Payne
  • Horror author book signings
  • Costume and scream contests
  • Vendors
  • Awards ceremony
  • Concert

Details are still a bit hazy. We’ll keep you posted as new info is released. For now, just be happy that horror is alive and well in Phoenix.

Volunteers

FearCon V needs volunteers and financial contributors. Please help out any way you can. I am volunteering on event day and beforehand.