Like many, I became rather obsessed with the ultimate mecha-kaiju crossover series Neon Genesis Evangelion in its multiple incarnations and offshoots (including its still-running manga version by artist Yoshiyuki Sadamoto), as its creators (especially writer/director Hideaki Anno) fought with inadequate funding in a Quixotic desire to get the ambitious story to where they wanted it to be. Despite funding limitations and some corner-cutting, the metaphorically (and metaphysically) complex show worked, the limitations were arguably used as stylistic and thematic drivers, and offered a unique and profound experience that was like nothing else.
Luckily, whether viewers understood what was happening or not, the show was a great success, especially in retrospect, which allowed Anno and colleagues to progressively toy with it.
Now, of course, the story of Shinji Ikari, Asuka Langley Soryu, Rei Ayanami and the other members of Nerv — as they struggle against an invasion of monstrous “Angels” using huge bio-mechanical “fighting machines” called EVAs — is being re-build. The story is being re-produced as a series of better-funded films, two of which have appeared so far: Evangelion: 1.0 You Are (Not) Alone [aka Evangerion shin gekijôban: Jo] (Japan-2007; dir. Masayuki, Kazuya Tsurumaki, Hideaki Anno) and Evangelion: 2.0 You Can (Not) Advance [aka Evangerion shin gekijôban: Ha] (Japan-2009; dir. Masayuki, Kazuya Tsurumaki). More are imminent.
I’ve been waiting for the first film to appear on DVD in the West, and though initially advertised as available quite some time ago, it never actually appeared then. I assume this delay was caused by a change of plans in the marketing department or some such thing, as it was subsequently given a cinema release (albeit limited) in the States. It opened on July 17. Anyway, here is the trailer for English language North American release version:
The DVD release is due on November 17, 2009. I think this will be one I want on Blu-Ray.
Meanwhile, for the record, here is the trailer for Evangelion 2.0: You Can (Not) Advance:
I haven’t heard of this one before, but it has a giant monster in it — a giant monster with large chicken feet. Could it be the Giant Space Chicken himself?
Um, no …. probably not.
Recon 2023: The Gauda Prime Conspiracy (Canada-2009; dir. Christian Viel)
After 23 years of a grueling intergalactic war, humanity is about to launch the biggest coordinated attack of its history in order to take a final stand against the Ma’hars invaders. But in order for that mission to succeed, the Ma’hars main weapon must be destroyed. Dispatched to the treacherous deserts of Gauda Prime, forced to team up with a crack team of android commandos, Lieutenant Sharp and his team must seek and destroy the Ma’har weapon before the attack is launched or all is lost.
Political intrigues and manipulations will prove as challenging as the wild fauna populating Gauda Prime but Sharp and his team are determined to provide humanity a fighting chance against the deadly Ma’har armada.
It appears to be a sequel to Recon 2020: The Caprini Massacre [aka Power Corps] (2004) and Recon 2022: The Mezzo Incident (2007), both by the same director. The latter features a city of cyborgs.
South Korea has definitely become a key player in certain film genres.
It has succeeded big-time in producing excellent, claustrophobic ghost films such as Sorum [aka Goosebumps] (South Korea-2001, dir. Jong-Chan Yun), Phone [aka Pon] (South Korea-2002; dir. Byeong-ki Ahn), The Uninvited [aka Sainnyong Siktak] (South Korea-2002, dir. Su-Yeon Lee), A Tale of Two Sisters [aka Janghwa, Hongryeon] (South Korea-2003; dir. Ji-woon Kim), Spider Forest [aka Geomi sup] (South Korea-2004, dir. Il-gon Song), The Red Shoes [aka Bunhongsin] (South Korea-2005; dir. Yong-gyun Kim) and many more. Though Korean giant monster films aren’t as common, it did give us The Host [aka Gwoemul] (South Korea-2006; dir. Joon-ho Bong) — and we might want to count the less-successful but undeniably spectacular D-War[aka Dragon Wars] (South Korea-2006; dir. Hyung-rae Shim) and the new giant pig horror Chaw (South Korea-2009; dir. Jeong-won Shin) as well.
But what about disaster films? With Emmerich’s über-apocalyptic epic 2012 on the horizon, what has Korea to offer in this regard?
The Korean film industry’s attack on Hollywood’s dominance in the field of SFX-heavy disaster films began in July with the release of Haeundae (South Korea-2009; dir. Je-gyun Yun) in its home country, where it became more than the most expensive Korean film ever made, breaking box-office records, out-performing Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince and only being exceeded in tickets sold by Bay’s mega-robot trashfest Transformers 2.
Its success perhaps lies in scenes such as these (click on them for full effect):
From all reports, however, while the SFX are spectacular and seeing South Korea’s most famous holiday resort trashed by a giant wave is no doubt a big drawcard, it is the human drama (tinged with comedy) that has endeared the film to its key audience. As the poster above and the trailer below suggest, the approach taken is a very humanistic one and it is the audience’s ability to care about what’s going on that makes a film more than a passing visual confection — something that Hollywood blockbusters have too often forgotten of late.
Anyway, Haeundae has just opened in the US, riding the coat-tails of its hometown tsunami-ing of the box-office in South Korea. It will be interesting to see how it fares.
SciFi Japan has just posted a comprehensive and typically insightful examination of the film’s genesis, development and prospects, with lots of pictures.
A while back, I was asked by Benjamin Szumskyi — editor of books on horror writers as well as founding editor of the journals Studies in Fantasy Literature and Studies in Australian Weird Fiction — if I would contribute to his latest endeavour, a book of critical essays on Robert Bloch.
Over the years I’ve read stories by Bloch and watched films that he scripted, but I can’t say I’m anything resembling an authority on the man’s work. Not having time to get up to speed, I declined. Undeterred, Ben asked if I’d consider writing a Foreword to the book instead. This seemed like a reasonable alternative, so I agreed and then began to think about it. I started out writing something fairly typical — a flat descriptive piece that ticked off the requirements: Bloch the crime/horror writer, Psycho, his work in cinema, Jack the Ripper, the Lovecraft legacy… To tell you the truth it felt pretty dull. So I tossed it and did something a bit more left-field.
Instead of a “real” Foreword, I ended up writing a piece of fiction in the form of a Foreword. It was inspired by a famous Bloch quote, one often falsely assigned to Stephen King:
I have the heart of a child. I keep it on a jar on my shelf.
It begins like this:
Let me tell you a story about Robert Bloch. It’s also about two people who were central to his development as a writer of the Weird. Only some of it is true.
It’s a little known fact that at one point the world was changed radically and all that we knew ceased to be, replaced by a reality that was stranger and more dangerous than anything that had preceded it.
This apocalypse happened because of H.P. Lovecraft — at least at first — though it began somewhere in a future time, a time when the bones of the dead sang and anyone with the ear to hear the music could seek out the dead and listen to their unliving ballads.
As a piece of fictional non-fiction, it ticks off all the afore-mentioned Bloch requirements and metaphorically seeks to encapsulate all that makes Bloch as significant and interesting as he is. It’s just that beyond those vagaries, it’s all lies. Like all fiction.
And history for that matter.
Oh, yes, I should add it ends on a pun.
The Man Who Collected Psychos: Critical Essays on Robert Bloch, edited by Benjamin Szumskyj, with a Foreword by Robert Hood, is now available from McFarland.
Notes, bibliography, index
262 pp. • softcover 2009
The author best known for his fictional cross-dressing serial killer Norman Bates in Psycho has seen little critical review of his work. These 12 essays examine Robert Bloch’s novels, short stories and life, as well as the themes and issues explored in his influential canon. Bloch’s fascination with killers, man’s inhumanity to man, the dichotomy of tragedy and comedy, and his contributions to screen adaptations of his work are here covered by leading scholars of fantastic literature. The volume charts the growth of Robert Bloch from a writer of amateur pastiches to an acclaimed author bridging the gap between H.P. Lovecraft and Stephen King.
Robert Bloch: The Psychology of Horror — Steve Vertlieb
A Literary Tutelage: Robert Bloch and H.P. Lovecraft — S.T. Joshi
Lessons from Providence: Bloch’s Mentors, Bloch as a Mentor and Bloch and Fandom — Phillip A. Ellis
The Lighter Side of Death: Robert Bloch as a Humorist — Darrell Schweitzer
The Twisted World Inside Our Skulls: The 1950s Crime and Suspense Novels of Robert Bloch — Leigh Blackmore
Yours Truly, Daniel Morley: An Examination of Robert Bloch’s novel The Scarf — John Howard
The Keys to the Bates Motel: Robert Bloch’s Psycho Trilogy — Scott D. Briggs
“Better the House Than an Asylum”: Gothic Strategies in Robert Bloch’s Psycho — Rebecca Janicker
Ripping Good Yarns: Robert Bloch’s Partnership with Jack the Ripper — Randall D. Larson
Robert Bloch and His Serial Killers — Philip L. Simpson
Hell Is Other People: Robert Bloch and the Pathologies of the Family — Joel Lane
Programming Bloch: The Small-Screen Career of Psycho’s Creator — Matthew R. Bradley
This is an excellent book on the topic and you all need a copy. The piece of oddball fiction from me is a fairly insignificant bonus.
Every country should have its own national cinematic giant monster, right?
Japan has… well, lots of them, but the High Monarch of the bunch is of course Gojira [aka Godzilla]. The US has also been regularly tormented by mega-fauna on film, but the King is still Kong, even if he’s given rise to considerably fewer films than Godzilla. The UK is a bit short on when it comes to giant beasties (hey, it’s a small place), but they do have Gorgo — a Godzilla-inspired critter, no doubt, but still undeniably British. India offers quite a few cinematic giants, often divinities (and demons) in human form, but I’ll plug for the multiheaded mega-cobra incarnation of the goddess Devi as nicely appropriate. Hong Kong? How about Hsing Hsing wang — the Mighty Peking Man.
Elsewhere it’s pretty patchy. Denmark has Reptilicus, even if they might prefer not to trumpet the fact. Italy has tried its hand at giant crocodiles, snakes, sharks, spiders, aliens from the deep, but none of them feel very iconic. But how about Caltiki, the Undying Monster? Not a city-stomper maybe, but a large blob of a beastie, in a film that is certainly Italianate in its aesthetics. North Korea’s national giant has to be Kim Jong-Il’s Pulgasari. South Korea has the little-seen Space Monster Wangmagwi, and good ol’ Yongarry — either of which could qualify, though the Host has rather eclipsed them both in recent times. Thailand’s giant monster probably should be a crocodile or a snake, given how often giants of these species turn up — but an iconic monster should have a name and some sort of nationalistic symbolic resonance and Garuda more than fills the bill there.
I can’t think of a cinematic giant monster icon for Australia, despite various giant croc films — and the brief cameo by a giant kangaroo in Welcome to Woop Woop doesn’t seem all that significant. If someone ever films Richard Ryan’s novel Funnelweb, that would be a big step in monsterfying our rather iconic arachnids. Until then maybe we should adopt Razorback — a really big boar.
Anyway, I digress. Until now it can’t be said that Norway has had a national giant monster [on film]. But that may be about to change. Two Norwegian musicians, Geir Are Mo and Jan R. Bakken, have taken a step toward institutionalising a national giant, by creating a trailer for “Norway’s first giant monster film”.
The film is called Giant Egg Attack!
Unfortunately, however, the film doesn’t actually exist at the moment. Says Geir Are Mo:
Yes, the trailer was just a faux. But I will make more videos of it [The Egg] in the future.
I’m actually a musician and me and a friend [Jan R. Bakken] have a band to make silly and weird music just for the fun of it. At one point it all evolved into a [pseudo] religion, made up out of dumb lyrics and themes, where we were supposed to pray to forks (yeah, the thing you eat with. In Norway, it’s called Gaffel). Later I recorded a song called “The Mortal Egg That Eats Me”. (If you’re interested, you can find almost all the songs here www.tonne.co.nr).
Anyway, as a joke we decided to make the Eggs a mythical gigantic creature in the “gaffismic religion” we created — so that’s where it all started. We later thought about how cool it would’ve been if it was in a giant monster movie. So last summer [Jan] came over to my house. We filmed a few shots around the farm where I live and later that night I finished the trailer.
The trailer gained such a positive response that Geir has started to think that he’d like to make more:
You see, I got so many nice comments back from that trailer that I decided to continue making short videos with the Egg. Actually I’m thinking of doing one after this weekend if I find a good location and other stuff. We’ll see.
So can we expect some actual Giant Egg shorts, perhaps even the Egg character in a feature-length film?
… Well yeah, I will make lots of shorts with help from [Jan]. If we ever make a movie I won’t use that many of the shorts though. I will most likely make lots of new ones. Of course it’s not 100% sure there ever will be a feature-length film but if people seem to like the shorts, I will definitely think about it more seriously!
I’ve named the shorts that are coming soon “The GEA Series” (The Giant Egg Attack Series). If we ever make a feature-length film, The Giant Egg Attacks will most likely be the title.
So Geir suggests that everyone subscribe to the Gibbering Films YouTube site, where he will post whatever shorts he and Jan make. Subscribe, comment below or on his YouTube site and let him know if you’re keen to see more of his Giant Egg!
Meanwhile, we’ll let him explain in what way his Egg might be an icon of the Norwegian psyche.
The end of the world used as the basis of a pop song: nuclear disaster, flying saucer attacks, giant monsters … you name it.
Kaiju Search-Robot Avery sent me this video of “World on Fire” — a rockin’ piece of tuneful apocalypse by Luna Halo. Love the song! Great clip (made by Flying Dog Films)!
And while we at it, here’s a song dedicated to the ever-popular Japanese approach to fantasy films and why we love ’em. It’s “Nippon Ga Dai Suki” by The Orion Experience. Giant monster, superhero squad, weaponised musical instruments, gaudy colours!
Back in July 2008 Undead Backbrain reported on the work being done by Polygon Entertainment (a film production company based in Marin County, California). Polygon was set up by founders Hans H. Uhlig and Doo Jin Kim specifically to work with South Korean film companies in producing feature films for an international market. At the time they announced three SFX-heavy films to be made in conjunction with Doosaboo Films: the first about a large rapacious boar, titled Chaw. The second was a disaster film about a monster tsunami, titled Haeundae. Both these have now been completed.
The third of Polygon’s SFX films was to be an oceanic giant monster film, titled Sector 7. It was described as “a science fiction action/adventure blockbuster about the crew of an oil rig battling deep sea monsters.” Well, we’ve so far heard nothing of this one, but we’ve come across what appears to be a teaser poster for the film, which also includes a release date. Hard to say if it’s legit, but the style of the artwork is similar to that of the Haeundae poster— and the time is right — so all we can do is put it out there for discussion.
Back in 2008 all we knew of the film was that it would be shot in the United States with a Korean director and cast, and an American crew, though no names were provided. At one stage (May 2008), Doosaboo Films was seeking funding under a New Zealand Government incentive scheme — The Large Budget Screen Production Grant — and it was reported that:
The scheme also will see Korean film company DooSaBoo Film produce two films in 2008 — disaster movie Tsunami [aka Haeundae] with a budget of US$10 million and scifi horror film Sector 7 with a budget of US$8 million.
Representatives of the company [Doosaboo Films] visited New Zealand in mid-March, along with Kevin Chang, secretary general of Korea Film Producers Association, to meet potential partners for these projects.
The company will go to New Zealand for the second project to shoot the film and do post-production. They are also considering doing post-production work for the first project in New Zealand.
This funding may not have eventuated as in the end no part of the production of Haeundae took place in NZ — at least I can find no hint of it on the IMDb entry.
Meanwhile, real information on the current state of play with Sector 7 is still pretty much as it was (that is, lacking), but if the above poster is legit the film may very well have passed the pre-production stage and be headed our way for a July 2010 release.
Only time — and the ongoing investigations of Kaiju Search-Robot Avery — will tell.
This weekend’s short genre classic may violate copyright restrictions with extreme prejudice — but as the “author” gains nothing from the violations, I guess the companies involved are as amused by his “Movie Remix of monstrous proportions” as the rest of us. It’s a kaiju genre epic titled Clooney vs Godzilla in which the King of the Monsters re-appears and must face up to a chronically depressed George Clooney, who is experiencing a mid-life crisis and has therefore headed off in a yacht to sail around the world.
The multi-part film is put together from snippets of 80 different films, with great editing skill, not to mention the effort that must have gone into locating just the right clips to advance the story “logically”. There’s little new visual material — just a superimposed soundtrack, new subtitles that bear no relation to what is actually being said (a tradition in US dubbing of Godzilla films) and careful editing that juxtapositions diverse scenes and carefully chosen moments. It’s not only cleverly done, it’s entertaining and very funny. If nothing else, see if you can identify which films were cannibalised to create it.
GEORGE CLOONEY (George Clooney) is a jaded superstar. After winning the Oscar® for Best-Supporting Actor®, Clooney retires from Hollywood to sail around the world. His retirement plans come to a screeching halt when he accidentally releases GODZILLA (Godzilla), who was frozen deep in the arctic ice by the Japanese Military in 1985. Chaos ensues as Godzilla begins a rampage of world-wide destruction.
Can playboy George Clooney, with help from his estranged pet pig Max and a mysterious Goose Oracle, save the world from the mighty Godzilla?
Note: the film is a “YouTube Exclusive Event” and embedding has been disabled.
The big news at the moment is that hard-rocker and exploitation filmmaker Rob Zombie has decided to make a move from his iconic serial-killer trailer trash flicks into the realms of scifi horror, having signed on to do a modern remake of The Blob. Variety reports that the film will go into production next spring, quoting Zombie as saying:
I usually follow a movie [in this case his Halloween 2] by putting out a record and going on tour, and I write the script during that tour. The tour will take me through Christmas.
He sees the film as offering a chance for him to “broaden his range”:
I’d been looking to break out of the horror genre, and this really is a science fiction movie about a thing from outer space… I intend to make it scary, and the great thing is, I have the freedom once again to take it in any crazy direction I want to. Even more than Halloween, where I had to deal with accepted iconic characters like Michael Myers and Laurie Strode. The Blob is more concept than specific storyline with characters, so I can go nuts with it.
He says that he’s abandoning the image of the Blob as “a big red blobby thing”:
That gigantic Jello-looking thing might have been scary to audiences in the 1950s, but people would laugh now. I have a totally different take, one that’s pretty dark.
Apparently Zombie will produce with Genre Company’s Richard Saperstein and Brian Witten, original Blob producer Jack H. Harris, and Judith Parker Harris of Worldwide Entertainment Corporation. Saperstein commented that funding is in place to make an R-rated film that will cost around $30 million.
It will be interesting to see what he comes up with as Zombie follows his strategy of not being overly reverential in his approach to genre icons.
I’ve often felt that the Blob is one of those monster icons that is more interesting in theory than he has been on film — though Chuck Russell’s 1988 remake certainly made a decent stab at doing him justice.
Originally developed for the screen by Irvine H. Millgate, a professor of humanities at Northwestern University, the first version of TheBlob (US-1958; dir. Irvin S. Yeaworth Jr. [and Russell S. Doughten Jr. uncredited]) is very much a product of its time, with themes relating to teenage rebellion and the inability of authority figures to deal with it. It was Steve McQueen’s first film and though his character, as a rebel, seems extremely tame by modern standards (or even those set by James Dean in 1955 in Rebel Without a Cause), he did represent the “nice”, rather cuddly side of youthful alienation — sporting a decency blindly ignored by the adults in the small American town that becomes the alien invader’s hunting ground. It is of course McQueen and his teenage mates who save the day.
For those who don’t know the plot, it involves a strange “meteorite” that plunges to Earth spectacularly:
The meteorite comes apart when poked with a stick (an incident which has forever given me a deep suspicion of stick-poking generally),
disgorging a reddish jelly-like entity that surrounds and consumes living flesh:
This results in scenes of gooeyness that are fairly tame and implied in the original but which get much more graphic in Chuck Russell’s very decent 1988 remake:
These events are witnessed by McQueen and his girlfriend, but when they attempt to warn the townsfolk they are scorned and reviled and even accused of murder. After a while the Blob gets rather big, and after appearing (in a famous moment) through the screen of a movie theatre and feasting on the patrons, it traps our protagonists in a diner and is eventually dealt with through teenage (and military) heroics.
The best thing about it was the credit sequence, which features an oddly appropriate inappropriate theme song:
The Blob reappeared in a sequel called Beware the Blob! (US-1972; dir. Larry Hagman), which took a somewhat tongue-in-cheek and ironic approach and wasn’t very successful.
The 1980s remake — The Blob (US-1988; dir. Chuck Russell) — modernised the concept by giving the Blob a different origin that reflected that era’s paranoid attitude toward the Government as well as offering a better script and characters, decent dramaturgical control from the director, more gore and good 1980s SFX.
It will be fascinating to see what someone like Zombie makes of all this. What’s the bet that the teenage rebellion theme (which was still prominent in the 1988 version) becomes trailer trash antics instead?