JUGGERNAUT – A novel by Adam Baker – review

I first became aware of Adam Baker’s writing when searching from some holiday reading. Shopping sites remember our preferences, and sometimes they’re even correct – sometimes – and this time when searching for post apocalyptic pandemic / zombie fiction it presented OUTPOST to me. At the time of purchase there were only a few reviews. Although the reviewers were divided, the positive reviews filled me with hope that I would find a new PONTYPOOL or 28 DAYS LATER between the covers. It wasn’t until I was sequestered in by the pool, in the shade, so pale that I appeared to be in black and white compared to the other resort guests, and opened the cover of the book, that I realised I was in for a skilfully crafted and incredibly addictive joyride. Outpost

OUTPOST was an unforgiving tale of Arctic desperation, and ever pervading dread: seen through the eyes of a suicidal overweight priest and the crew of a defunct oil rig; watching the world submit to a global pandemic which turns its victims into a 21st century version of the living dead. Every page was either filled with the slow dread of eventual starvation, submitting to the elements and the bite of the infected, or I was captivated by the survivors’ Maguyver-esque attempts to turn the tables on fate.

I couldn’t wait to tweet about it as soon as I finished it – being a social media-addicted saddo (hence the blog) – and tell people that they need to grab a copy at once. That’s how I eventually came to own a pre-publication copy of JUGGERNAUT; a sort of prequel, if you will. Adam Baker read my tweets. We then corresponded. And when Adam later announced that he had written a new tale, I jumped at the chance to get my greasy paws on it. And I’m glad that I did… (forgive any spoilers!)

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Films watched recently

A few of the more notable films I’ve watched (in Alphabetic order):

30 days of night 2 dark days

  • 30 DAYS OF NIGHT 2: DARK DAYS – Yawn, blah… this b-movie sequel fails to live up to the promise of the first film. Right from the first movement when we see a quick actress switch and tiresome flashback monologue you can tell the film will suck worse than the hissing vampires this actress is trying to warn everyone about. It tells the tale of the female survivor travelling around and trying to convince people what happened after an apparent cover up, who is then sought out by a useless band of supposed vampire hunters to hunt the vampire queen. Only these tossers have no clue, inappropriate ideas about suitable weaponry and we don’t care what happens to them as none of them are anything more than cardboard cut-out characterisations, including the Ripley-esque lead. It really outstayed the welcome and stunk up my night’s viewing and was only memorable for the pain it induces when I think about watching it again.

Blood Creek poster image

  • BLOOD CREEK – a strange mix of atmospheric horror and sporadic, outlandish CG gore. This tale of a Nazi warlock using an ancient runestone to reanimate the dead and do his bidding proved entertaining, if a little predictable in places. Surprisingly good cast for what felt like a low budget schlocker. The main plot had more than a few plotholes, but entertaining and innovative enough, despite it’s obvious desire to create a franchise. Worth repeat viewings.
  • CASTRATION MOVIE – Round a friend’s house I was told a tale of a tape handed down from a cult film director by the band who released it. The bizarre nature of its footage and the murky provenence seemed like too good a chance to pass up the opportunity to watch what may be an actual – albeit bizarre – ‘fake’ snuff-type movie; as released by Psychick TV. The movie features the shoddy home movie road trip footage of a potential serial killer, featuring various 70s Mexican and White rentboys playing with electrode sexual stimulation / drug induced highs, with not altogether successful and sometimes fatal results. My friend had never watched it all the way through, so we did. You can’t unsee this type of film, so think twice before deciding to check it out. – if you wish to check out what others think about the film and find out more about what is shown CLICK HERE. I certainly think it is a film that deserves more research into it. Not sure who would want to though.

Machete poster image

  • MACHETE – Danny Trejo (FROM DUSK TILL DAWN, HEAT) stars as the titular badass Mexican cop with a penchant for overly large shiny knives. The bag guys underestimate his gift for survival, when he is forced to watch them kill her, before being left for dead, stabbed and left to die in a burning house. He soon appears in the US as an illegal immigrant and is forced to take part in the fake attempted assassination of a candidate for State Senator (De Niro), using immigration as his ticket to office. Soon everyone is out to get Machete, but this unstoppable force of chopping and slicing carves his way through them all, until he gets his revenge; only stopping for the love of some hot Chicas – including a great pool scene with Lindsay Lohan (the Senator’s daughter) and Alicia Rachel Marek (the Senator’s wife). If you don’t mind your action extra bloody CG, and can handle the idea of Trejo being an irresistible stud, then this film will float your boat. It did mine.

Ong Bak 3 movie poster

  • ONG BAK 3 – Another flawed martial action film starring Tony Jaa – picks up right where the second one finished. We find out more about the power of the Evil Crow assassin character, whilst Tien (Tony Jaa) is healed and regroups to fight another day. Flawed, but still amazingly shot and featuring some unique action sequences – this time a more yoga / Thai dancing style of fighting. Well worth a view.

PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 2 poster image

  • PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 2 – The much hyped sequel to the original haunted house tale – where a family bring their first born male home and all hell breaks loose. I fell asleep through the first film and wasn’t entirely keen on going to see the second one. It does suffer from the same repetition and painfully slow build-up, and ‘just-in-time-exposition’, but it does deliver in the end. I was impressed that I felt the classic hairs-standing-up-on-the back-of-my-neck feeling, and that others in the cinema were jumping left right and centre and the unhappy ending. But I could have done without the pool cleaning equipment porn moments and other repetition. The film could easily have been 30 minutes shorter without sacrificing the experience. If I’d watched this at home on my own I doubtless would have slept through the good bits. I may now actually bother rewatching the first snooze fest.

REC 2 movie poster

  • REC 2 – a brilliant sequel to the first excellent Spanish Cinema Verite zombie movie, which blends the occult, possession and zombism into a terrifying unrelenting mix. This film picks up where the last one left off, the same night, with the female reporter being carted away by a possessed freak, and throws two new bands of curious people into the apartment building looking for answers. As one would expect, each band fall prey to their own stupidity and the hunger of the building’s inhabitants. This film should be watched late at night, alone, in the dark. It will scare the pants off you and make you reach for the light switch when you go to bed. It has a very clever spin on how to make a monster truly terrifying and make use of night vision; something that is rarely seen in the tired horror genres of the last few years.

The collector movie poster

  • THE COLLECTOR – amazingly dark and unflinchingly twisted take on the Slasher film genre, with a thief breaking into a family home, only to find the house rigged with booby traps (ala SAW) and the family all trussed up in various states of disrepair. The titular killer is always one step ahead and seemingly unkillable, or rather the victims are seemingly intent on only maiming and not finishing the job. if you don’t mind that sort of cliché fare then it is well worth a look.

THE LOSERS  poster image

  • THE LOSERS – a weird comic book action movie about an A-TEAM-like band of Special ops characters who fall afoul of an evil CIA operative and barely survive an assassination, when they go against his orders. Their quest to restore their honour and avenge a Helicopter of kids didn’t really float my boat, despite the very slick action sequences. Nor would it interest me to read the original books. But I may rewatch this when I’m in a better frame of mind and hopefully learn to love it.

Anyway, there are far more to mention soon. But that’s it for now.

Of iPhone 4 film shoots and more

Zombie Mints - Litter

Yes, I’ve been a busy film geek of late. Not only have we attempted to shoot a short film entirely on the iPhone 4, but I’ve been getting to grips with FCP Studio and learning how to edit the footage; as I am sick of trying to do it in the totally unintuitive and limited iMovie 09 or iMovie app.

It has not been the easiest of times. But as with each of my shoots I have learnt from it.

The main objective was to shoot a spoof commercial / short horror comedy film in 1 day, with mainly found objects / objects I already had, amateur actors, natural light and do it all on the iPhone 4 – and for £50 including food. It did not go to plan.

The End result – was shot in 4 hours, on the iPhone 4, is not edited on it though as that was doing my frickin’ head in, features the usage of one red head light as the weather was not with us on the day, I had to buy makeup and marigolds as props. Total budget – including feeding the crew was about £60.

Firstly, always check your makeup prior to prepping your shoot. I found that the latex and powdered makeup I intended to use for my zombie makeup had gone off, since I bought it after a special FX course that I took. Cue hurried calls and a mad dash by one of the crew to go and pick up some replacement makeup; only to find that it was vastly substandard, but by then we had to crack on and make a go of it. Not ideal. Periodically check your makeup, just like you would any piece of equipment.

Secondly, I must say that if you’re going to attempt to shoot anything meaningful featuring actors, that requires intricate zooms or moving the camera, don’t bother using the iPhone 4 unless you really want to keep retaking your shots to get them right. It’s difficult enough to shoot anything with actors and enabling them to hit their marks without having to ensure that you capture the shot. All it takes is the focus to suddenly become unresponsive or a slight knock to the camera itself or the tripod you’re using and the shot is ruined. This happened often. It’s fine if the shoot is simple or just shooting live action as it happens – after all that it what it was designed for.

I have noticed also that the compressed format of the iPhone 4 AVCHD footage doesn’t hold up well in blocks of colour, especially on blacks of shadows. It often looks blocky or patchy, even when the scene has plenty of light. My main actor brought a Canon 550D and I have heard amazing things about the video capability of this camera. If he had known how to use it and I could have quickly learned, I would have been sorely tempted to ditch the iPhone and do it right. However, the object was to have a fun shoot, using the iPhone 4 and not falling back to any of my other cameras – not even the fully charged Semi Pro DV cam I had upstairs; no matter how tempting it was!

Zombie Karl

The real point of contention for me has been the edit. iMovie just doesn’t cut it as an editing app, not when you’re shooting multiple viewpoints / angles and intercutting them. A 30 second sequence took me 4 times longer to edit in iMovie and it was far from polished at the rough cut stage compared to the same edit in FCP. That is the point though isn’t it. Although you may want to shoot a fun movie – fun is relative and if you approach it with a Semi Pro sensibility then you must use Semi Pro tools.

But the iPhone 4 footage is still relatively new. Few programmes automatically come with the codecs / settings as standard, so I found that FCP did not have suitable setting for me to use, which would retain the audio on the timeline. That is, until I stumbled across the article “Topic : Iphone4 video to Final Cut pro – giving away a droplet to help you out.” – which came with a link to download a droplet. This droplet converted over 62 clips in an hour – into better quality ProRes 422 LT footage that FCP could understand and could play back the audio. Nice! Thanks Jeff Greenberg!

Anyway, it will be while yet before the finished movie is ready for derision and mockery. But I am in the middle of editing it right now, and must stop procastinating. Let’s hope it’s worth the wait.

AT THE MOUNTAINS OF MADNESS on hold, but script available

Guillermo Del Toro’s adaptation of H.P. Lovecraft’s AT THE MOUNTAINS OF MADNESS is still a no-go project sadly. Despite it being the first on his list to do after HELLBOY 2 as stated back in 2007. Book cover

Madness is a short novel about an Antarctic expedition made by scholars from Miskatonic University who discover strange, ancient life forms that are unknown to their science. Highly evolved creatures that seem to pre-date humanity. The script is already written, and in a recent interview with Aintitcool Del Toro Said:

“is exactly the movie I would like to do; it would push buttons, and it’s extreme in many areas. It’s a hard R-rated, big production tentpole in the genre of horror. What I love about tentpole horror.”

Despite the fan interest in the film and Del Toro’s clear proven talent for such tentpole flicks, the movie is not in production. However, the script is available to read via Raindance: Download the PDF here. Or read Del Toro’s other film scripts HERE.

Read the Aintitcoolnews article (About halfway down, after they finish talking about SPLICE) : http://www.aintitcool.com/node/45341

If you haven’t read any H.P. Lovecraft, and you have a really good reason for not doing so ;0), then you can read the original story here: http://www.dagonbytes.com/thelibrary/lovecraft/mountainsofmaddness.htm

The story of THE COLLECTOR – aka MIDNIGHT MAN

Funnily enough, while lazily going through all of my RSS feeds and catching up on neglected blog articles, I found out that I’m already subscribed to one blog that is linked with THE COLLECTOR: “THE INSIDE PITCH – A Hollywood executive discusses screenwriting.” – Written by Christopher Lockhart. It seems that Christopher, besides writing an excellent blog on the Screenwriting industry, from the inside, also produced THE COLLECTOR, which was originally known as the MIDNIGHT MAN. Read how the project came together here:

http://twoadverbs.blogspot.com/2006/05/midnight-man.html

“a small story that demonstrates one way a project comes together, and the arduous process it takes to launch a career and prove your worth in such a competitive industry.”

That’ll teach me to not keep up on my RSS feeds. ;0)

Breaking in – The COLLECTOR

SAW 3, 4 and 5 creators have a new film coming out – THE COLLECTOR – which looks amazing. And well worth a view, in an otherwise Horror bereft cinema schedule.

Collector poster

Check out the clip on the HORROR CHANNEL. Or go to the official website and watch the atmospheric trailer.

“For handyman and ex-con, Arkin, a quiet home and a family on vacation is an “opportunity”. For inside the house lies a jeweler’s safe, and inside the safe is a rare gem – his only hope for repaying his ex-wife’s debt and keeping what’s left of his family intact. Unfortunately for Arkin, inside the house is also a box containing the latest specimen in a collection catalogued in blood, bone and tears – a human specimen packaged as “bait”. While the trap may have already sprung shut on parents Michael and Victoria – cutting short their vacation before it could even begin – the jaws have yet to close on teenage daughter Jill and eight-year old Hannah. As the seconds tick down to midnight, Arkin becomes a reluctant hero trapped by a masked “Collector” in a maze of lethal invention – the Spanish Inquisition as imagined by Rube Goldberg – while trying to rescue the very family he came to rob.”

But, more importantly – SAW creator Darren Lynn Bousman – continues his excellent Blog posts on ‘breaking in’ to the business here:

PART 3

PART 2

– I know I know. A tenuous link between the two. But one is educational and the other is entertaining. And there is a bit of a link…. enjoy. ;0)