Wednesday, 23 September 2009


Running Time: 105 mins
Distributor: York Entertainment (US)
Website: Left For Dead
Directed By Ross Boyask
Written By Adrian Foiadelli
Produced By Phil Hobden

Ask and ye shall receive! Having read of my difficulties in my review of 'Ten Dead Men' of getting the free download version of Left For Dead to play, the good people at Modern Life? have kindly provided me with a review copy.

In an ideal world, I would have watched Left For Dead (henceforth L4D) and Ten Dead Men (henceforth 10DM) in chronological order, and thus have been able to chart the progression and improvement between the two films. Sadly, it appears that the world we live in is far from ideal, so as per usual I've done things arse-about-facewards and watched them in reverse order.

The beauty of blogging is that I can go back and make retroactive amendments to my original 10DM review now that I have a slightly more informed perspective on it, so fortunately it doesn't make too much difference in the grander scheme of things, but I thought it fair to inform readers where I'm coming from in this respect.

Now, on with the review...

'Left For Dead' tells the tale of Williams (Glenn Salvage), a veritable killing machine in the employ of Hope City's criminal kingpin Kincaid (Adam Chapman). Williams has decided he wants to quit, but Kincaid decides to have his fellow assassins Dylan (Kevin Akehurst) and the trigger-happy psychotic Taylor (Adrian Foiadelli, more recently seen getting shanked with a screwdriver in 10DM's garage fight) retire him instead, and his retirement gift isn't going to be a gold carriage clock, but rather a lead enema.

Taylor...prone to going off on one.

As you might well imagine, Williams is none too taken with the idea of being shot full of holes, and thus makes good his escape from his would-be assassins (and former colleagues), but not before taking a round in the shoulder.

I really like this shot, good composition.

As if his day wasn't already going badly enough, he's then subsequently poisoned by his treacherous ex-lover Sonya (Vicki Vilas). As we will go on to see, there are no such things as 'old friends' in Hope City when you're on the wrong side of Kincaid.

We are then introduced to Kelso (Andy Prior), an up-and-coming kickboxer who somewhat unwisely chooses to rub Kincaid up the wrong way by refusing to take a dive in his fight. Kincaid sends Taylor and his thugs to break Kelso's fingers, thus effectively ending his career, and tells him to get out of town before he reaps some more lasting, or perhaps even permanent, consequences.

Again, there's an added significance to this scene because Taylor is an old friend of Kelso, and is thus the man selected to put Kincaid's offer on the table. When Kelso refuses and wins his fight, Taylor is again selected to be the messenger boy, but this time he has to redeem himself in the eyes of the enraged Kincaid, and in such a situation it soon becomes apparent that in Hope City old friendships count for nothing, or perhaps even less. It's a nice cameo of Kincaid's rule-by-fear approach in action...people fear Kincaid's thugs, and Kincaid's thugs fear him. Ergo, everybody fears Kincaid.

To add insult to literal injury, Kincaid's boys also brutally murder Kelso's promoter/mentor Roarke (PL Hobden, again getting reduced to a bloody pulp for art's sake) just for good measure, and with Taylor delivering the fatal coup de grace it effectively doubles Kelso's motivation to come after Kincaid's organisation and Taylor specifically.

Following a chance encounter whilst both seeking the highly dubious medical services of a no-questions-asked underworld surgeon, the two erstwhile heroes decide to team up and take down Kincaid and his criminal empire the only way they know how...with feet, fists, and any weapon that's handy. As you might readily expect, a wanton orgy of indiscriminate arse-kicking ensues.

Right off the bat, there's a nice contrast between the two main protagonists, and you can see it's intentionally done. Happily, it avoids the classic cliches of the buddy movie as Williams and Kelso never become 'buddies' or share some breakthrough 'moment'. They just have an uneasy alliance based on the old adage that the enemy of my enemy is my friend.

Aside from the differences in outward appearance (Williams: Long hair, beard, black suit; Kelso: Short hair, clean shaven, sportswear), there is also a difference in their respective moralities, with Kelso being reticent to kill or use drugs and Williams killing people as if it was second nature. This is nicely illustrated by a brief scene where Kelso takes him to task for killing Sonya, and Williams puts him straight about the gravity and reality of their situation. Besides, believe me when I say that the bitch had it coming anyway...

The first thing that strikes you about the content of the film itself is that whereas 10DM is largely an action movie with some martial arts elements, L4D is the other side of that proverbial coin. Yes, there is a fair bit of gunplay spread out over the course of the movie, but the onus is on martial arts of the leaping roundhouse kick variety rather than the sort of close-quarter brawls that viewers of 10DM or the Bourne Trilogy might be more familiar with. I know the latter is more 'realistic' in the minds of a lot of people, but it is nowhere near to being quite as cinematic.

Part of this prevalence of a more classic style of screen fighting is due to the internal reality of the film. It's a martial arts film that doesn't pretend to be anything else nor make an apology for being what it is.

For example, there's a scene where Taylor has his gun snatched from him after sneaking up on a kickboxing foe, who then proceeds to cockily toss it away and instead engage him in hand to hand combat. If this kind of thing has you jumping out of your seat, tearing your hair out and screaming at the TV to 'Just bloody shoot him!', then L4D probably isn't the film for you. Whilst we're on the subject, I'd also probably try to avoid watching any James Bond films as well, as they also have a habit of putting Bond and his comely companion in some sort of elaborate-yet-easily-escapable deathtrap peril (usually right after the villain has boasted to him about all the details of his nefarious masterplan) rather than just shooting him in the head and being done with it. Let's just say that people like Scott Evil would most certainly not approve.

The internal reality of the film is also graphically displayed when Williams takes on Kincaid. I'm not going to give away the ending, but you'll either love it or hate it, and it tends to suggest the influence of certain fighting video games, as do other aspects of the film which I will address in due course.

The other reason the fights are bigger in terms of scale is because there is room to have the fights with the big moves, rather than the somewhat more claustrophobic locations of 10DM. Indeed, even the outdoor fights in 10DM are relatively constrained and close-quarter in comparison.

Kelso takes out two at once

Unlike 10DM, which by and large has 'feature' one on one fights with identifiable characters as Ryan works his way through his list, L4D has a whole lot of nameless henchmen getting the stuffing beaten out of them. This allows for a lot of one-hit 'set pieces' which serve to both drive home the abilities of Williams and Kelso, and mark out those foes who don't go down in one to be more serious, credible threats with their own impressive arsenal of moves and manouvres.

The other key difference with L4D's fights is one of motion and, perhaps more importantly, progression.

Dylan prepares to take on Williams in their final battle...or is it?

For example, Williams assault on the dojo (recalling Bruce Lee's visit to the Karate school in Fist Of Fury) progresses from being a one-against-many brawl to a rooftop one-on-one with Dylan, and I for one certainly enjoy fight scenes which progress and evolve in terms of the challenges facing the hero (number of opponents increasing/decreasing, the gaining/losing of a weapon, a hostile/advantageous environment, etc.). One of the more familiar examples I could point to would be the House of Blue Leaves sequence from Kill Bill Vol. 1. The challenge faced by 'The Bride' is constantly changing (different types/levels of fighters, different weapons, different amounts of fighters), as is the environment (thanks to some clever lighting tricks and some fun on the balcony) and that's what keeps it fresh and interesting. Only the final battle of 10DM has this progressive quality, but due to the relatively brief and largely mismatched fights, it never gets to be fully developed as one might hope it would be.

Happily, one gets this same sense of progress in both spatial and storytelling terms in a number L4D's fight sequences, and I for one appreciate the variety. Whether it's the exterior to interior of the opening sequence, the dojo to rooftop fight, or the fight to reach Kincaid, the key sequences have this quality, and thus allow the action to advance the story rather than hold it up.

Indeed, in many respects, the final assault on Kincaid's HQ is like Bruce Lee's 'Game of Death' on amphetamines, especially after the swathes of low-level lackeys have all been disposed of.

Williams takes on Kincaid's henchman

Again, like with Williams and Kelso, each of the significant 'feature' foes is nicely differentiated from the other (and from the masses of faceless henchmen) by some means, be it personality, mode of dress, fighting style, choice of weapon or even race/gender. It's the same clever trick used so well in Predator, where each member of the unit has their own subtle little modification to their uniform (headwear, sleeve length, etc.), different weapons (grenade launcher, minigun, etc.) or character trait (constant shaving, tobacco chewing, joke telling, pendant rubbing). In short, it creates slightly more developed characters without the need to sacrifice running time to accomodate scenes of explicit characterisation or backstory. L4D wisely does this from the very beginning, as despite being universally clad in all black, the trio of Taylor, Dylan and Williams are easily distinguishable from one another by their weapons of choice, (namely guns, swords, and bare hands respectively) and their respective approaches and demeanors in combat.

These more distinguished feature villains are what the Playstation generation kids might refer to as 'End of Level Guardians' (namely Williams' former partners in crime Dylan and Taylor, Kincaid's tazer and balisong-wielding henchman, a not-quite-so-criminally-underused Cecily Fay, and of course the Big Boss himself).

Proof that you can't keep a good villain dow...Dylan vs. Williams Redux

To continue the videogame metaphor further, it might work best to try and imagine L4D as a sort of live-action version of something like Final Fight or Double Dragon and you'll be getting pretty close to the mark.

(Actually, on second thoughts, forget the part about imagining a live-action version of Double Dragon. They did that already, and it made me seriously reappraise the merits of Uwe Boll's videogame adaptions. We're taking worse than Super Mario Bros. bad here...but, on the plus side, it has inspired a generation of amateur filmmakers to make good on their boast that they 'could do a better Double Dragon movie than that piece of shit!', and judging by some of their efforts, they were right, much so that I'm going to have to do a post on fan films sometime soon!).

You know, now that I think about it, the Final Fight comparison suddenly becomes a lot more plausible when the two martial arts heroes draft in the powerfully-built (and slightly older) brawler Loader (Adam Hawkins). He's like the Haggar to Williams and Kelso's Guy and Cody respectively. For example...

Haggar cleans house with a double clothesline... does Loader.

Haggar puts a lifting chokehold on some chick... does Loader again!

Having said that, nobody's daughter/fiance has been kidnapped, Loader is not the Mayor of Hope or Metro City, and the villain isn't a wheelchair-bound millionaire/crossbow enthusiast, so perhaps I'm reading a little bit too much into it. Then again, Kelso does have his hands all taped up, just like Cody...also, there's an occasional computer-generated map showing our heroes' progress (which FF also has), and there's a Metro City too? Hmmm...

I've seen various reviewers remark that it has a 'comic book' sensibility to it, but to my eye it is actually about the nearest thing in spirit to a 'video game movie'(and by video game, I'm talking specifically of the clasic 2-D side-scrolling beat 'em up model) that I have seen, and I don't mean that in a derogatory way. It's not trying to be a videogame or pay lip service to the idea (Unlike such smug toss as the pov sequence in doom). I mean instead in terms of clear, linear progression...of fighting in order to advance the plotline and progress to a goal, opponent or new level, with Kincaid sitting at the very top of metaphorical tree, which in reality is actually the top floor of a rather forboding high rise building.

Of the fights themselves, there's something of a showreel element. If someone can do a backflip, then they're putting it in rather than constricting the performers to a set fighting style or set of moves. Kelso, for example, has a neat line in launching himself off of objects like cars, walls or benches into a leaping spinning roundhouse kick, to devastating effect.

Kelso gets some airtime via the hood of the car

It's used at least three times that I counted, but I have no problem with the repetition. I'd rather see people doing what they know they can do well instead of doing something half-baked and thoroughly unconvincing.

Kelso launches into another one of his trademark kicks.

The key element for me is that it looks good every time he does it, as does Salvage's trademark kicking combo. In short, there's plenty of highlight reel stuff mixed in with the more mundane moves, as well as various other set pieces (like the knock-the-guy-into-the-transformer-substation electrocution or Dylan using the long grass as camofluage) that obviously weren't improvised on the spot. My favourite would have to be an unsuspecting smoking hoodlum getting his neck broken by Williams. As his lifeless body slumps to the floor, we see his cigarette packet with the legend 'Smoking Kills' emblazoned upon it, and the Benson & Hedges logo has been craftily altered to read Boyask & Hobden. It's a very nice touch, and one that certainly caught my attention.

The desire on the part of the filmmakers to constantly punch well above their weight and transcend the limitations of their budget is apparent throughout. With a film like this, providing you have a handful of people of the requisite proficiency in martial arts, then you can put together a number of fights with only a small group of performers. Again, just like the relatively small-scale 'Game Of Death', you don't need a cast of thousands to successfully execute a progressive fighting/revenge movie, especially if you're working on a tight budget.

For starters, there's seemingly a small army of people involved in this movie as low-level hoodlums who get killed off by the bucketload. I'm sure there must be some 'recycling' somewhere (dressing the same actor differently and using them again), but if there is, it's not particularly obvious.

Another particularly eye-catching sequence involves a gang of motorcyclists being called in to hunt down the escaping Williams. When asked how many to send, an exasperated Dylan demands 'All of them!' We're teased at first by being shown three of them, which seems like an ample number to do the job, but looks a little low-rent if three constitutes 'all of them'. However, it is shortly revealed that there's actually enough bikers to hold a pretty substantial motocross rally. It's a cinematic sucker-punch wherein the filmmakers draw you in, lower your expectations, and then completely blow them away.

Just like the sizeable swathes of hoodlums, it's a bloody impressive sight which serves to further distance L4D from the sort of "3 men and a dog" aura of fiscally-enforced minimalism which tends to haunt some lower budget productions, British or otherwise. It's all very well and good to portray Kincaid as the iron-fisted ruler of an immense criminal empire, but nothing backs that idea up quite so well as actually physically displaying that he can bring a small army into play if he feels like it.

Obviously, it is not without a few faults. I'm not a fan of digital blood effects, nor the opening title sequence & episodic nature of the story with chapter titles a la Tarantino, but that's just me.

On the other hand, I think digital muzzle flashes are brilliant because you can stage full-on shootouts without all the unnecessary noise and disturbance, as they do in L4D's opening sequence. Having said that, there's a digital ricochet effect in the scene where Williams is escaping from Dylan and Taylor which is so weak I'm rather surprised they left it in.

Again, Director Ross Boyask isn't backward in coming forwards about the films that have influenced him and including a little nod here and there. I won't detail them all (spotting them for yourself is half the fun, after all), but the most obvious has to be Kincaid's introduction being given 'The Marsellus Wallace Treatment'*.

(*By 'The Marsellus Wallace Treatment', I don't mean forcibly sodomised in the basement of a pawn shop, but rather the fact that he is only shown from behind for the opening portion of the movie)

As per my review of 10DM, Boyask again excels at action sequences rather than people sitting around talking and so forth. The good news is that this is a very action-heavy film, ergo we get a lot of superlative fight sequences, which is what you want from a martial arts film.

As you might expect from a low budget production, the standard of acting varies a great deal. However, one compensation L4D can offer is that it's not too dialogue-heavy, plus if someone's acting really gets on your nerves, you know they're not going to be talking (or walking) anymore after Williams and Kelso get through with them.

Two things that really stuck out for me with regards to the acting were as follows.

I expected Glenn Salvage to be a lot, lot worse. I've not yet seen 'The Silencer' (check the trailer out HERE), but the very concept of it, with Salvage being rendered mute by a gunshot wound early in the film, seems to send out the message that 'this guy is great at martial arts but utter toss with dialogue'. Fortunately, it seems I have jumped to the wrong conclusion, as I've seen a lot worse.

Secondly, having watched the trailer of L4D, I had already seen bits of dialogue scenes which had me thinking 'That's a bit of a clunker' or 'They can't act for toffee'. Maybe you will have had the exact same thoughts. Bizarrely, when you watch those snippets in their proper context, most of them actually work quite nicely.

Having said that, I didn't come into this movie expecting Branagh-esque displays of outrageous thespianism, and nor should you.

Everyone has to start somewhere, though, and low budget films like L4D provide an important opportunity for people to get their foot in the proverbial door and cut their metaphorical teeth. The biggest example in L4D would have to be none other than Joey Ansah. One minute he's getting the crap beaten out of him by Glenn Salvage in the dojo fight, the next thing you know he's getting killed with a bathtowel by Matt Damon in 'The Bourne Ultimatum'. That's showbiz, baby!

When all is said and done, on just about any individual aspect you might care to pick, be it acting, effects, cinematography, etc., L4D is plainly inferior to 10DM (as you would naturally expect...progression not regression), yet perversely the sum is greater than the constituent parts, so much so that given the choice, I'd probably rather watch L4D over 10DM.

Perhaps it's because L4D is more obviously low budget when compared to the more illustrious 10DM (which benefits greatly from the flatters-to-deceive production value afforded to it by the various unique locations employed throughout) that I'm more than willing to cut this one some slack.

Despite being set in a desolate, crime-ridden hellhole, it's overall a much less bleak and nihilistic film than 10DM. There's a little more humour, for starters, mostly provided by Dylan who has all the best lines (although my favourite has to be Taylor's "I can't believe you made me take my fucking coat off!"), but also in scenes such as the one where Kelso demonstrates to Loader how he plans to fight with his badly damaged hands, or the the knowing look given before a nameless thug is electrocuted in the opening battle.

The relative simplicity of the storyline (Introduce Williams, Introduce Kelso, Team up and take down Kincaid) means that it flows a little more readily than the multiple characters and storylines of 10DM. Less apparently is more, after all.

The other key distinction is the fact that the plotline is entirely linear, save for some very brief flashbacks featuring Williams' now-deceased wife (cleverly done using leading man Salvage's real-life wedding video. Now that's what I call production value!), and a sequence wherein Taylor is shown to be a cold-blooded killer, but we knew that already. 10DM, on the other hand, is largely non-linear with many flashbacks. As such, there are no real distractions from the general thrust of the plot. The 'softest' part of L4D in terms of advancing the plot would most likely be the sequence detailing our heroes healing up and getting ready to take on Kincaid, and that's wisely condensed down into a brief montage. Other than that, the film literally flies by. 'Fast paced and hard hitting' sounds like a marketing cliche, but in L4D's case it's extremely appropriate.

So, if you have the opportunity, I'd advise you grab this one first. I just like it better. It's markedly less polished or professional than 10DM, but it's ultimately a lot more fun and easy-going. If you're looking for practical and realistic, look elsewheres. If you want a fighting-for-fighting's-sake low budget martial arts rampage, l4d delivers the goods in impressive style.

It's hardly appropriate for me to comment on value for money as I got it absolutely free. My version bears the logo of the widely-despised York Entertainment, so I assume it was the US version. How the current or subsequent UK versions may differ in terms of running times and extra features, I couldn't say, but it would really have to go some to top 10DM in terms of extra features. These BTS features do exist, as you can see on producer Phil Hobden's YouTube Channel, but whether they are or will be included on a DVD version remains to be seen (by me, at least).

I think the most telling comment I can make on value for money would be that I am now resolved to find a retail copy to replace my current screener version with. Yes, I'm the kind of completist anorak who likes cases, sleeve art and all that jazz rather than MP3s, blank disks or portable hard drives for my media. I'm so old school I still buy CDs. This movie is definitely one I want to see added to my collection in the proper manner. In short, a keeper with plenty of replay value.

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

SPLATTER MOVIES: Breaking The Last Taboo Of The Screen

By John McCarty
Published by Columbus Books
197 pages, B&W
Dimensions: H=27.6cm, W=21.2cm, D=1.3cm
SRP: ?

Who can resist a book with a title as unabashed and unapologetic as this? Not me, hence the review!

As some of you may have already guessed, the subject of the book is cinematic splatter in all its visceral and gory glory. But just what is it that constitutes 'splatter', and from whence did this blood-soaked subgenre suddenly spring? These are the questions McCarty sets out to answer.

Per McCarty's reckoning, splatter flicks are the cinematic continuance and indeed erstwhile progeny of the notorious 'Grand Guignol' theatre shows.

The net is thrown wide, roping such movies as 'The Wild Bunch' and 'Bonnie & Clyde' into the splatter camp, even though it might not occur to ardent contemporary gorehounds to classify them as such.

One 'problem' the book does have, should you choose to view it as such, is the fact that it is quite dated (Published in 1984, which means portions of it may have been conceived and written in 1983 or earlier). However, this is something of a double-edged sword when one considers that McCarty's opinions of the films featured within are untainted by the same influences that prey on contemporary critics. A notable example is that this book is post-Alien (which he absolutely trashes!) but pre-Aliens, so his opinion of Alien is in no way coloured by the subsequent sequels and burgeoning franchise.

The same is again true with the author's approach to George A. Romero, from a post-'Dawn'/pre-'Day' (and thus obviously pre-'Land' and 'Diary' and whatever else 'Of The Dead' that Romero might yet furnish us with) perspective. Thus more time and attention is lavished upon some of the more little known and little seen aspects of the Romero back catalogue, such as 'The Crazies' and 'Martin'. You'd be surprised how many kids these days think Romero not only invented the zombie film, but also never deviated from the genre either. Whilst Romero's name will always (justly) be a byword for zombie cinema, it shouldn't be at the expense of some of his equally enjoyable non-zombie flicks.

It's a somewhat bewildering paradox when one takes the time to consider it, but in order to see these filmmakers and their films through new eyes, we are in fact best served to view them through 'old eyes'. That which should in theory be dated and stale is actually fresh and different. I don't think McCarty is making a point to be purposefully contrary, rather he is simply voicing his opinion without a view towards the adulteration thereof to appease the audience at large.

Likewise, he also gives Dario Argento short shrift (a capital crime in my household!), and makes brutally short work of both Lucio Fulci and Luigi 'Lewis Coates' Cozzi. If McCarty's corpse should one day turn up floating in the Tiber, I wouldn't be too surprised. Hell, I might even be partly responsible...

The book is ordered in a loosely chronological fashion, but the path from splatter's past to present has some interesting diversions along the way, namely chapter length interviews with such leading lights of the genre as David Cronenberg, Tom Savini, Herschell Gordon Lewis and an illuminating behind-the-scenes insight (both artistically and commercially) of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre courtesy of Ed Neal.

It's a nice read because it's different. I don't agree with everything he says, but I admire and respect a man who's prepared to come out and say what he thinks rather than what he thinks he's supposed to say. McCarty is most definitely the former of the two.

I also like the fact that it is dated. Every book detailing an ongoing phenomenon (such as film production) is immediately 'dated' from the moment it leaves the printing press, and will only get more and more dated with each passing day as successive slates of new films are released year after year. It's inevitable, but a book as significantly dated as this offers an absolutely enthralling slice of cinematic history, even for those of us reading on with the benefit of 20/20 foresight.

In lieu of the smaller field of choices available in terms of what could constitute splatter back then as opposed to now, it allows some lesser-discussed films to get a little bit of attention. It's a brave man who dedicates an entire chapter of such a book entirely to Sam Peckinpah and The Wild Bunch rather than some outlandish zombie gorefest, but McCarty more than justifies the inclusion of it, and in doing so widens the range of exactly what may or may not be considered 'splatter' far beyond the more explicitly codified and homogenised understanding of the term we seem to have succumbed to nowadays.

The other drawback this book has (and again, one it can hardly be blamed for) is that it is not particularly easy to come by, and usually carries a hefty price premium with it. I got my lightly battered copy off of Ebay dirt cheap, as per usual, but I didn't realise just how cheap I got it for until I starting seeing a few subsequent auctions and prices from resellers on Amazon. It represents superb value for money at the price I paid, but I've seen some folk asking in excess of $50 for it. I'd probably recommend picking up one of McCarty's newer and slightly more readily available books first and seeing if you like the cut of his literary jib before you make your mind up to spend big money on a B&W softback. I'm very happy with mine, but whether I would have been less happy having paid a lot more is up for discussion. One thing I do know is that I'm in no hurry to part with it, so it's going on the keepshelf!

Friday, 18 September 2009

14:59, MEGAN FOX

14:59 is a new, occasional feature wherein we spotlight people whose 15 minutes of fame are soon to be up (or damned well should be).

In this episode: Megan Fox...take it away, disgruntled Transformers crew members!

This is an open letter to all Michael Bay fans. We are three crew members that have worked with Michael for the past ten years. Last week we read the terrible article with inflammatory, truly trashing quotes by the Ms. Fox about Michael Bay. This letter is to set a few things straight.

Yes, Megan has great eyes, a tight stomach we spray with glycerin, and an awful silly Marilyn Monroe tattoo plastered on her arm that we cover up to keep the moms happy.

Michael found this shy, inexperienced girl, plucked her out of total obscurity thus giving her the biggest shot of any young actresses' life. He told everyone around to just trust him on his choice. He granted her the starring role in Transformers, a franchise that forever changed her life; she became one of the most googled and oogled women on earth. She was famous! She was the next Angelina Jolie, hooray! Wait a minute, two of us worked with Angelina – second thought – she’s no Angelina. You see, Angelia is a professional.

We know this quite intimately because we’ve had the tedious experience of working with the dumb-as-a-rock Megan Fox on both Transformers movies. We've spent a total of 12 months on set making these two movies.

We are in different departments; we can’t give our names because sadly doing so in Hollywood could lead to being banished from future Paramount work. One of us touches Megan’s panties, the other has the often shitty job of pulling Ms. Sourpants out of her trailer, while another is near the Panaflex camera that helps to memorialize the valley girl on film.

Megan has the press fooled. When we read those magazines we wish we worked with that woman. Megan knows how to work her smile for the press. Those writers should try being on set for two movies, sadly she never smiles. The cast, crew and director make Transformers a really fun and energetic set. We’ve traveled around the world together, so we have never understood why Megan was always such the grump of the set?

When facing the press, Megan is the queen of talking trailer trash and posing like a porn star. And yes we’ve had the unbearable time of watching her try to act on set, and yes, it's very cringe-able. So maybe, being a porn star in the future might be a good career option. But make-up beware, she has a paragraph tattooed to her backside (probably due her rotten childhood) -- easily another 45 minutes in the chair!

So when the three of us caught wind of Ms Fox, pontificating yet again in some publication (like she actually has something interesting to say) blabbing her trash mouth about a director whom we three have grown to really like. She compared working with Michael, to “working with Hitler”. We actually don’t think she knows who Hitler is by the way. But we wondered how she doesn’t realize what a disgusting, fully uneducated comment this was? Well, here let’s get some facts straight.

Say what you want about Michael – yes at times he can be hard, but he's also fun, and he challenges everyone for a reason – he simply wants people to bring their ‘A’ game. He comes very prepared, knows exactly what he wants, involves the crew and expects everyone to follow through with his or her best, and that includes the actors. He’s one of the hardest working directors out there.

He gets the best from his crews, many of whom have worked with him for 15 years. And yes, he’s loyal, one of the few directors we’ve encountered who lowered his fee by millions to keep Transformers in the United States and California, so he could work with his own crew.

Megan says that Transformers was an unsafe set? Come on Megan, we know it is a bit more strenuous then the playground at the trailer park, but you don’t insult one of the very best stunt and physical effects teams in the business! Not one person got hurt!

And who is the real Megan Fox? She is very different than the academy nominee and winning actors we’ve all worked around. She’s as about ungracious a person as you can ever fathom. She shows little interest in the crew members around her. We work to make her look good in every way, but she's absolutely never appreciative of anyone’s hard work. Never a thank you. All the crewmembers have stopped saying hi to Ms. Princess because she never says hello back. It gets tiring. Many think she just really hates the process of being an actress.

Megan has been late to the sets many times. She goes through the motions that make her exude this sense of misery. We’ve heard the A.D’s piped over the radio that Megan won’t walk from her trailer until John Turturro walks first! John’s done seventy-five movies and she’s made two!

Never expect Megan to attend any of the 15 or so crew parties like all the other actors have. And then there's the classless night she blew off The Royal Prince of Jordan who made a special dinner for all the actors. She doesn’t know that one of the grips' daughters wanted to visit their daddy’s work to meet Megan, but he wouldn’t let them come because he told them “she is not nice."

The press certainly doesn’t know her most famous line. On our first day in Egypt, the Egyptian government wouldn’t let us shoot because of a permit problem as the actors got ready in make up at the Four Seasons Hotel. Michael tried to make the best of it; he wanted to take the cast and crew on a private tour of the famous Giza pyramids. God hold us witness, Megan said, "I can’t believe Michael is fucking forcing us to go to the fucking pyramids!" I guess this is the “Hitler guy” she is referring to.

So this is the Megan Fox you don’t get to see. Maybe she will learn, but we figure if she can sling insults, then she can take them too. Megan really is a thankless, classless, graceless, and shall we say unfriendly bitch. It's sad how fame can twist people, and even sadder that young girls look up to her. If only they knew who they're really looking up to.

But ‘fame’ is fleeting. We, being behind the scenes, seen em’ come and go. Hopefully Michael will have Megatron squish her character in the first ten minutes of Transformers 3. We can tell you that will make the crew happy!

-Loyal Transformers Crew

Thursday, 17 September 2009


Yes, it's the third installment of Hollywood Fail, and this time out I'm going to be tackling a very topical subject: product placement.

As UK readers will know, the laws in the UK have recently been relaxed so as to allow US-style product placement in TV shows. Part of me thinks the change is due to the relatively perilous financial situations of the big three commercial broadcasters (ITV, Channel 4 and Five respectively), and is seen as a quick fix solution to the plummeting advertising revenues.

Of course, this rather conveniently overlooks the fact that if you can't attract paying advertisers (due to the poor quality and thus low audience numbers of your show), then you probably won't be able to attract product placements either. Speaking personally, as a heterosexual male, I really can't think of a show on the ITV network that I can be bothered to watch, unless they have a football match or occasional movie I fancy seeing, so if I were trying to advertise a product aimed at 18-35 males, which show would I do it on? I'm stumped.

Critics of the idea believe it will lead to TV dramas becoming nothing more than one giant advert, somewhat akin to nightmarish future envisioned so capably in The Truman Show.

The best example of product placement would have to be the Bond movies, which, up until recently has done so in a fairly subtle manner, and even at their most blatant they're still a damn sight more subtle than the competition. However, there are those movies and TV shows which also get it horribly wrong, and prove the fiercest critics of product placement to be absolutely right.

For me, the award winner has to be Blade: Trinity, in which we see Jessica Biel downloading songs from her MacBook onto her iPod, as we are told that she likes to listen to her iPod while she hunts vampires.

Just take a second and allow the abject stupidity of this statement to sink in. You're going off to hunt down these deadly creatures that stealthily stalk around these dark, shadowy lairs, and you're going to do whilst negating one of your five senses which could conceivably alert you to their presence and/or location.

I'm guessing Nike passed on the opportunity to be her blindfold sponsor?

Jessica Biel is ridiculously hot, and as such I feel I could probably forgive her anything. Anything, that is, except this. It's stuff like this that Meat Loaf was going on about when he said he'd do anything for love, but he won't do that. Even her nude striptease and candlewax sequence in "Powder Blue"(totally NSFW, but totally worth it at the same time...!) seems like scant penance by comparison.

Sadly, it seems there are things that Hollywood also isn't prepared to do for love (of the artform), but there are plenty of things they are prepared to do for money, like completely violating any semblance of common sense and cinematic reality to accomodate an ill-thought out yet probably lucrative product placement.

Of course, we cannot let this topic go by without reflecting upon this scene from Wayne's World, in which they spoof product placement sellouts whilst actually being product placement sellouts themselves. In effect, Myers and Carvey are laughing with us, but at us too...and getting paid handsomely for it in the process. For me, it's the Alpha and Omega of the product placement debate.

Monday, 14 September 2009


Just letting everybody know what's going to be coming up on the blog shortly.


Bullets, Bombs and Babes: The Films Of Andy Sidaris
Filmmaking On The Fringe by Maitland McDonagh
Monsters And Mad Scientists by Andrew Tudor
Splatter Movies by John McCarty


Ten Dead Men (Dir: Ross Boyask)
Infestation (Dir: Ed Evers-Swindell)

I'm still plugging my way through 'Nightmare USA', but as is customary, I won't post a review until I've actually read it from cover to cover. If you're wondering though, thus far it's solid gold. I've also got Crystal Lake Memories, Blood And Black Lace, and Eiji Tsuburaya: Master Of Monsters on the proverbial back burner too.

Remember, if you're a producer or publisher or whatever, amateur or pro, that wants their product reviewed, just drop me an email at occulusorbusyahoocom (insert the "@" and "." respectively) and we'll take it from there.

I'm tempted to post my wishlist of stuff I'm really interested in getting hold of, but fear I would run the risk of alerting people to cool stuff and thus invariably end up in bidding wars against them on Ebay. Yes, I really am that paranoid.


As those of you who read my urgent kidney appeal will know, I was busily exploring the possibility of selling human organs to raise the necessary funds to secure myself a copy of 'The Bava Bible', AKA Tim Lucas'"All The Colors Of The Dark", a subscription to Filmrage, and perhaps pick up a few of those out of print FAB Press books (which, somewhat perversely, are always the ones I really want on the subjects I am really interested in) which tend to go for obscene amounts on Ebay, even in the midst of a recession. (Was it you who won that auction for "Beyond Terror" on Ebay last night? If so, I hate you.)

Well, it looks like a gap has opened up in the human organ market with the arrest of the New Jersey Rabbis, who in addition to organ trafficking also hand their hands in money laundering too, which has me seriously rethinking my strategy. Sure, the ill-gotten gains from organ trafficking are surely rich pickings, but I can see the need to diversify my income streams. In addition to the above publications, I am also putting the finishing touches to my planned trip to Rome and subsequent shopping trip/all-out assault at Profondo Rosso which I foresee as being best summed up by one of the contributions of the esteemed Ennio Morricone to the soundtrack of one of the most unfalteringly groovy movies of all time, Danger: Diabolik!. Yes, we are talking the proverbial Money Orgy here, baby!

Anyway, whilst it's always nice to see one's erstwhile competitors come unstuck, I found this sordid tale to be doubly interesting because one of the morality-challenged Rabbis bears more than a passing resemblance to the vampire character played by maverick director (and Asylum alumnus) Leigh Scott in "Dracula's Curse" (appears at about the 26 second mark in the trailer). Beady eyes, long white hair, daft hat, slightly's all there!

(Leigh Scott is on the right)

Will we see a new wave of horror movies in the as-yet unexplored Rabbinical organ-stealing subgenre? Anything's got to be better than the endless procession of insipid and uninspiring remakes that currently blight our screens, large and small.

Oh, and while we're on the subject of "Dracula's Curse"(is it just me, or does this title sound unfortunately like a coarse euphemism for a lady's monthly troubles?), here's a video of one of the stars (Eliza Swenson) performing under her nom de plume of 'Victoria Mazze' with her band The Divine Madness.
To my eye, she resembles a slightly hotter version of Eliza Dushku. More clearly delineated facial bone structure and so on.

Now, who wants to buy a lightly spoiled kidney then?