Back in the dark days of 1972, Night of the Lepus (US; dir. William F. Claxton) tried to envisage a bunny apocalypse in which hordes of large mutated rabbits re-enact Hitchcock’s The Birds, to lesser effect. It’s a bit of a cult classic these days, though still not overly convincing.
Now we are privileged to have front-row seats for the new bunny apocalypse, where there may be only one bunny but it’s bigger, bloodier and even less convincing.
Yes, it’s a Easter-Day horror comedy about a giant mutated rabbit who fortuitously decides to schedule his blood-soaked rampage for Easter — which is good, as no one knows how to get through a holiday without having a thematic horror movie to vege out to.
Called Beaster Day: Here Comes Peter Cottonhell (US-2014; dir. Snygg Brothers), the film boasts pretty good poster art, a press release that emphasises gore and the sad plight faced by naked models (see Dread Central for details), and very dubious SFX. If you have any doubts about whether you’d want to see it or not, check out the trailer:
A giant bloodthirsty Easter bunny starts viciously killing the local townsfolk. When the Mayor refuses to act and the attacks grow more gruesome, the town finds its very survival in the hands of a wannabe actress and a crazy dog-catcher. (IMDB)
Scottish-born director, screenwriter and old-school FX monster obsessive Peter A. Montgomery is nothing if not determined. His latest project — his most ambitious yet — is a feature film called Dark Earth that offers up monsters, period-set science fiction/fantasy adventure and interplanetary wonder in abundance. Involved in its production is talent from Britain, the US and Australia, and a who’s who list of professional FX designers with a background in Harryhausen-style stop-motion animation and puppetry.
This is grand SF adventure of the kind represented by such classics as The Land That Time Forgot (1975), At the Earth’s Core (1976), The People That Time Forgot (1977) and Warlords of Atlantis (1978), which is rather gratifying as the director of those four films, Kevin Connor, happens to be an avid supporter of Montgomery’s project. Also supporting it via the creation and animation of an array of monstrous creatures and lots of monster action is a list of well-known industry veterans:
Norman Yeend (The Time Guardian, $9.99, Ultraman: Towards the Future)
Richard Kent Burton (Coraline, James and the Giant Peach, The Blob (1988), Ed Wood, Naked Gun 33 1/3: The Final Insult, Robot Chicken, Screamers, Freaked)
Ron Cole (Sinbad: the Fifth Voyage, Ghostbusters II, Monsters (TV series), Legend of the Golden Fishcake)
Nick Hilligoss (Legend of the Golden Fishcake)
Steve Koch (Jumanji, The X Files Movie, Men in Black II, Starship Troopers, TRON Legacy, Men in Black III, Hellboy: The Golden Army, Godzilla (2014), The Thing (2011), Spider-Man (2002), Beetlejuice, Evoliution, The Mist, and many more).
Lionel Ivan Orozco (The Nightmare Before Christmas, Jurassic Park, Starship Troopers, The Lost World: Jurassic Park)
Jim Aupperle (as Advisor) (Planet of Dinosaurs, After Earth, Ghostbusters, Hellboy, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2, The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn, Tremors II: Aftershocks, Robocop 3, John Carpenter’s The Thing, to name but a few, seriously — check here)
John Dods (as Special Consultant) (Ghostbusters II, Poltergeist II, Boomerang, Monsters (TV series), The Deadly Spawn, Spookies, and many more)
That is one impressive team, I think you’ll agree!
Dark Earth will be the first movie in this genre for several decades to be made with traditional craftsmen but brought up-to-date using the best practical FX on offer today. We’re using Henson-esque puppets to represent the main aliens — cable-operated creations — and state-of-the-art stopmotion so authentic in its end result it will be like nothing you’ve seen before. The test shots from Tippett Studio I managed to get cleared to test the process on were received well with huge enthusiasm. Dark Earth is the film that many aficionados have been waiting for for decades. I’m making the kind of movie I myself have wanted to see for years. It’s no throw-away, here-today-gone-tomorrow effort like so many big budget films, but a project made with real passion by real artists, who want to give you something that’s really lacking in modern CGI-dominated cinema. It’s in the best hands it can be in, made by guys that work on big motion pictures. Put basically, it’s in the hands of artists. (Source)
So, what is this film about? First off, check out this rough test trailer:
And here’s a synopsis of the film:
Dark Earth is a period-set (Edwardian era) fantasy film. Time travellers create a rocket ship. On a test outing they manage to shoot off into space and find a world they mistake for home located several million light years from Earth.
After a very hard landing, the crew of the ship find themselves on an alien world, populated by monstrous denizens and creatures from prehistoric times, long extinct back home on Earth. Dark Earth is a tour de force of exciting conflicts, monsters and scientific marvels, and features an alien race known as the Horidens, who become the main obstacle preventing our heroic explorers of time and space from escaping the Dark Earth and returning home ….
Undead Backbrain has written about Peter A. Montgomery and his projects before, in particular a remarkable trilogy of SF/fantasy films under the title Bizarre Life Institute. This was an enormous project, done over many years without significant resources. If you want to get some idea of what drives Montgomery and where he comes from check out the two-part article Bizarre Life Institute: The Trilogy — Part 1 and Part 2 in the Backbrain’s archives.
This latest project looks like it has huge potential, but Montgomery and his amazing team need some help. Yes, you guessed it. Financing. To this end, like many other “outliers” in the film industry, Montgomery and the production studio, RIGAR UK, have set up a crowdfunding campaign on INDIEGOGO to ensure the sets constructed, such as the time machine interior and miniatures, wardrobe, puppets, and of course the stopmotion and compositing work, are all top of the line. They have also vowed to go to 4K resolution 35mm film quality with the stated budget, and that if they raise over the amount they would also add an original orchestral score, not a digital one.
Montgomery added: “I know it’s not much when you think of what we’re proposing to create, but believe me, the team ready to go can pull off something spectacular with that budget, though small in today’s world of film. Even if we don’t reach the full amount, you can be assured of a beautifully presented piece of cinema made with love for the craft / genre, and a good story.”
The goal is ambitious, but every little bit helps. If what is written above sounds like something worthwhile (and it certainly does to the Backbrain), at least pledge the small amount needed to get yourself a DVD/Blu-ray copy of the final film — think of it as a pre-order. But there are also lots of other perks.
Meanwhile, check out the team’s introductory campaign video and read about the actors and more about the state-of-play.
So Nick Stathopoulos and Ryan Cauchi’s fantastic short nasty-plant-from-outer-space film, It Grows! (see these Undead Backbrain articles) has shambled off with a slew of awards at Zed Fest.
Director Ryan Cauchi reports:
I’m speechless right now. It Grows! has just won 5 awards at Zed Fest! “Outstanding Foreign Short Direction” for Nick Stathopoulos and myself; “Outstanding Horror B Comedy Short”; “Outstanding Original Score” for Andrew Thomas Wilson; a special nod to Nick for “Creature Effects, Miniatures and Matte Paintings”; and last but not least, “Best Poster”… and apparently there are more awards to come!!
Great work, guys!
The Award-winning Best Poster:
An Example of Nick Stathopoulos’ Incredible Matte Painting (click on it to see it in all its glory):
Bugs 3D [3D食人虫, aka CHONG] (China-2014; dir. Vash Yan)
According to the East Winds Film Festival website, Bugs 3D is a “throwback to the classic Hollywood B-movies of the sixties and seventies”, while owing a debt to the likes of Korean blockbuster The Host 괴물 (2006). This latter comparison is inevitable (given the status of The Host in the genre), but a viewing of the recently released trailer below suggests that Sector 7 should get a look-in, too.
The film’s publicists go on to make reference to “a host of unsuspecting but attractive teen protagonists” lined up to get devoured by giant insects — and suggests that the film “never takes itself seriously” aiming to provide “schlocky fun and scares, with the added bonus of being shot in real 3D”. So, add the distinctively slapstick nature of the Eastern approach to humour in horror and I guess we know what to expect.
Bugs 3D‘s tagline is “Terror Crawls Fast”!
Shooting for the film began in 2012, and it had its international festival premier at the East Winds Film Festival on 3 November 2014.
In the near future, due to huge demand for protein, synthetic protein is rapidly developed around the world. Jams, a fanatic geneticist, has managed to raise super bugs that can provide high-quality protein at low-cost. But the reproduction of the bugs goes out of control because of men’s excessive greed. They break out of the tubes, devour scientists, and turn into giant monsters. Numerous monster bugs hankering after human flesh and blood swarm into the sea, threatening bring on a holocaust.
The bugs keep reproducing and eventually cause a tsunami. At a rave party going on by the beach, the participants have no idea the bugs are coming, but when the wave arrives all those hot guys and ladies enjoying the party suddenly get ripped up and eaten. The bugs turn the beautiful beaches into a sea of blood. A small group of young people are bold enough to jump onto the ship where the bug queen resides, hoping to end the war by killing it. They know if they don’t succeed, mankind will be doomed. (Source – slightly adapted)
No, it’s not the 1950s’ classic monster film Them! It’s a popular Amiga computer game that was brought out by Cinemaware in 1989 — and it’s soon to be reborn as a Finnish feature film from Nordic Genre Invasion! and Roger Pictures, directed by Marko Mäkilaakso (War of the Dead).
When asked about the proposed film version of It Came from the Desert, director Marko Mäkilaakso commented that he couldn’t say much at the moment, but shooting is planned for Almeria, Spain during spring 2015. He described the film as “a desert, motocross action, horror, comedy with giant spiders!” — the story of Brian and Lukas’ wild adventure in the desert.
But what about the ants — the Them!-inspired antagonists of the Amiga game?
Backbrain interviewer Avery Guerra queried whether the giant ants from the original were being totally replaced by giant spiders. Replied Mäkilaakso enigmatically: “Well, yes and no regarding the ants, but I will leave it at that for now!”
It Came from the Desert is to be be written by Hank Woon Jr and Marko Mäkilaakso and produced by Teemu Virta. No cast has been announced just yet. Its projected release date is late 2015 or 2016.
Remember Hellyfish (US-2014; dir. Patrick Longstreth and Robert McLean)? It’s an short indie monster flick the Backbrain revealed a while back.
America’s only missing nuclear weapon is leaking radioactive material into the ocean just off the coast of Tybee Island, GA. The trifling existence of a hapless cast is disrupted by a vicious force of nature that shows no mercy.
Now, just in time for Halloween 2014, you can see the completed film — and it’s quite a class act. Okay, at 12.50 minutes it’s like the opening scenes of a longer movie, but it’s worth it. Mutant jellyfish, both big and small! Rampaging! Good cinematography, excellent monster FX, bikini babes, gore, and some terrific music. And check out the ending credits for what might be up next.
Watch it now at the Cinema of the Backbrain! It’s free! Here’s your complimentary ticket!
Between 2010 and 2014, James Iles was the storyboard artist on 15 episodes of the new Doctor Who and concept artist on five others. He has also worked on the BBC Sherlock Holmes series. Now he and musician Alastair Jenkins — along with Jon Grundon (props maker on various Doctor Who episodes, including “The Fires of Pompeii”, “The Unicorn and the Wasp”, “The Waters of Mars”, “The End of Time” and “The Next Doctor”) and his prosthetics team from the Broken Hare studio, as well as lead actor Steve Hartnell — are intent on producing an “Old School” giant monster film called CongAAARGH! -- using practical FX and a carefully and intricately designed monster suit.
CongAAARGH! is, we are told, a short monster movie about “a giant, mutated conger eel”, which, when disturbed by human goings-on, not unsurprisingly rises from the ocean depths and terrorises a seaside town.
“We feel that many of today’s monster movies, fantastic as they are, have lost the simple charm, character and ‘real-ness’ of a man in a monster suit,” the guys have stated. “With CongAAARGH!, we aim to help keep this great tradition of film-making alive…” (source: Kickstarter)
The mutant eel suit, an absurdity worthy of being seen in the company of similar absurdities from the heyday of post-Gojira daikaiju eiga, has already been designed, as shown by these images created by Iles:
According to the film’s producers: “Our prosthetics team are in high demand, having built amazing characters for Doctor Who and X-Men, amongst a long list of other creations. Luckily for us, they are 100% behind CongAAARGH!, and as long as we can cover their material and labour costs, we know that we’re going to get a pretty darned amazing monster….
“From Daleks to full size mammoths, Jon’s team of fabricators at Broken Hare have built a huge range of practical monsters, and have the skills to bring our giant eel to life.” (source: Kickstarter)
The problem is, of course, funding. The CongAAARGH! team have instituted a Kickstarter project to raise what amounts to a very modest sum needed to cover the cost of producing an industry-standard prosthetic monster, as well as other more mundane expenses.
Interested in helping?
Get along to their Kickstarter project page and check it out. You can pick up some excellent incentives, not least of which is a DVD of the resulting film.
The good news is that Ryan Cauchi and Nick Stathopoulos’ superlative, low-budget, practical FX-driven, monster plant flick, It Grows!, is sending out its tendrils, and taking root in film festivals worldwide.
The short film had its world premiere on October 11, at the Salty Horror International Film Festival in Salt Lake City, Utah, where it picked up the award for Best Editing. The same weekend, it screened at Halloweenapalooza in Ottumwa, Iowa.
Below is the screening schedule for It Grows! (to date), complete with dates for those wanting to track it down (and believe me, you want to see this film):
Official Selection List (note: this list will be updated as new festivals are added)
The Salty Horror International Film Festival
The Eerie Horror Film Festival — Erie, Pennsylvania, Oct 17
Northwest Horrorfest — Seattle, Washington, Oct 21
Fargo Fantastic Film Festival — Fargo, North Dakota, Oct 24–26
Knoxville Horror Film Festival — Knoxville, Tennessee, Oct 26
Terror Film Festival — Online Competition, Oct 30–Nov 1
The Sci Fi Film Festival — Parramatta, NSW, Nov 14–16 *Official Australian Premiere*
Buried Alive Film Festival — Atlanta, Georgia, Nov 23
Writer, producer, co-director, FX designer and star Nick Stathopoulos (pictured in his role as star) commented:
It’s great to see It Grows! being accepted in film festivals and screened to large audiences. It started out as such a low — brow and budget — project. Ryan and I have learned so much, which was one of the things the project was meant to do. I’m really pleased with the look of it, and Ryan’s just taken out an editing award from one of the festivals [The Salty Horror International Film Festival], which is a major achievement. He did an awesome job blending the new material seamlessly with the original seven-minute version. That’s been very successful.
The film’s 17-minute run-time is packed with eye-popping imagery, all created by Stathopoulos, and is a homage to some of the great genre films of the past. “I grew up obsessed with Universal’s Classic Monsters (Dracula, Frankenstein, the Wolf Man), the original King Kong and Ray Harryhausen’s entire body of work,” director Cauchi told Undead Backbrain. “It Grows! is my love-letter to all of these. It combines my enthusiasm for practical effects with an unashamed love for tacky horror and B-grade schlock.”
Certainly Sydney will never be the same!
Cauchi and Stathopoulos decided to rework the film’s initial 7-minute “Tropfest Cut”, adding characters and scenes, expanding the plot and finessing some of its technical aspects, in the end making it an even-greater wonder to behold than it had been. As well as Stathopoulos himself, the film stars his dog Bonnie (who proved to be a born thespian), writer and friend Catriona Sparks, Jaimie Leonarder (aka Jay Katz, well-known Australian musician, archivist, social worker, film critic, radio announcer, and DJ), and Stathopoulos’ sister, Henri Stathopoulos — along with cameos by Greg Kaplan, Chris Hawkshaw, artist Lewis Morley, poet Adrian Robinson and Alexander Wright. As well as a terrific music score by Andrew Thomas Wilson, it boasts a theme song vocalised by media personality Bob Downe (alter ego of comedian Mark Trevorrow).
The plant makes a house call
Cat Sparks as the long-suffering girlfriend
Jaimie Leonarder as the bemused scientist
Nick Stathopoulos as Zac, about to be consumed by his non-digital, FX-created co-star
The new cut has been a really fun creative challenge. We’ve had incredible support from both Tim Newsom (Sound Designer) and Andrew Thomas Wilson (Composer), as well as film industry figures like Matt Ferro (EP, ‘Happy Feet’) and Craig Wood (Editor, ‘The Pirates of the Caribbean’, ‘Rango’). But my biggest thanks go to my co-director and producer, Nick Stathopoulos. He is an amazing collaborator and a real joy to work with. We already have two more short films lined up and you can be sure that Undead Backbrain will be the first to spread the news!