The McKinley Monster

The McKinley Monster is a short film about a giant lizard that takes up residence on the McKinley Monument — a science museum in Canton, Ohio. According to their website:

Nightwine Productions, in association with the William McKinley Presidential Museum and Monument, provide a film camp every summer for students who are interested in the art of film-making. The one-week intensive course covers scriptwriting, storyboarding, set design, filming, editing and special effects. The result is a world premiere of the movie at the Great Escape Theaters in Massillon, Ohio. (Nightwine website)

The giant monster flick The McKinley Monster was the result back in 2004.

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Synopsis:

Deep within the bowels of the McKinley Museum lies a chest unopened for over 50 years. When two kids from the Science is Cool camp find the chest and open it, they release a white-bearded dragon that has been mutated from nuclear fallout from the 1950s. As the dragon runs loose in the museum, people from the Science is Cool camp begin to disappear. Time is running out. The kids from the Science is Cool camp must find their friends and stop the dragon, who has grown to over 100 feet, has busted out of the museum, and is bent on taking over the McKinley Monument!

The production schedule was, needless to say, a tight one:

Monday through Thursday the students read their lines from a 17 page script. Nightwine personnel provided the script and covered the basics from storyboard design to set design. Filming also consisted of special effects such as a fog machine, human skeleton, webbing people up and a 8 foot by 9 foot giant lizard claw. The claw was built to simulate the lizard crushing a student who got too close.

Nightwine personnel also filmed the production of the movie so that a documentary could be made detailing the creation of the movie. …. On Friday, the students were able to see the rough cut world premiere of the 14-minute movie The McKinley Monster.

Each student received a DVD that includes the 17-minute movie and a 43-minute Making-Of documentary. Here is a clip of the giant lizard reaching the monument, plus some sample Behind-the-Scenes footage:

Though featuring some interesting no-budget creature SFX by Nightwine Productions and its professionals, the amateur film is intended as an educational exercise, albeit an entertaining one, and must have been very exciting for the kids involved. Those concerned are rightfully very proud of the result. It represents an intriguing learning initiative.

Nightwine’s slogan is: We make life interesting.

The picture below shows part of the crew who helped in the creation of the McKinley Monster. From left to right are James Gerren (Writer/Director), Jeff Heimel (Special Effects Supervisor, who provided the bluescreen effects of the monster climbing the monument), Jerry Sandifer (Actor who played President McKinley in another Nightwine Production, “President McKinley vs the Alien Marauders”), John Gerren (Keygrip and boom technician) and Matt Person (Mechanical Effects Specialist and Graphic Designer, developed the sets and the official poster, as seen above).

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You can purchase the movie at the following site, The McKinley Monster on DVD.

To check out other films made by Nightwine and Science is Cool campers, check out the Nightwine website.

Posted in Film, Giant Monsters, Independent film | 3 Comments

Tim Burton and 9

In 2005, director Shane Acker, with assistance and encouragement from Tim Burton, made a short animated film set in a post-apocalyptic world. The short was nominated for an Oscar in the Best Short Film, Animated category.

9 (US-2005; animated short [10:38 min.]; Dir. Shane Acker)

Synopsis:

A rag doll fights a monster that has been stealing the souls of his people.

Here it is:

Now a feature-length animated film based on this short, produced by Tim Burton and directed by Shane Acker, will be released on 9 September (9th of the 9th — get it?).

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9 (US-2009; animation; dir. Shane Acker)

Short Synopsis:

9 takes place in a world parallel to our own, in which the very legacy of humanity is threatened. A group of sapient rag dolls, living a post-apocalyptic existence, find one of their own, 9 (Elijah Wood), who displays leadership qualities that may help them to survive.

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Long Synopsis:

When 9 first comes to life, he finds himself in a post-apocalyptic world where all humans are gone, and it is only by chance that he discovers a small community of others like him taking refuge from fearsome machines that roam the earth intent on their extinction. Despite being the neophyte of the group, 9 convinces the others that hiding will do them no good. They must take the offensive if they are to survive, and they must discover why the machines want to destroy them in the first place. As they’ll soon come to learn, the very future of civilization may depend on them. (IMDb)

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The film will be voiced by Elijah Wood, John C. Reilly, Jennifer Connelly, Crispin Glover, Martin Landau amd Christopher Plummer.

Trailer:



Posted in Animation, Apocalypse, Giant Monsters, Humour, Robots, Science Fiction, Trailers | 1 Comment

Chihuahuas With Very Sharp Teeth

So in the scramble to come up with a new cinematic monster, there are many possibilities. How about a prehistoric mammoth that is brought back from the dead as a rotting, rampaging menace? No, that’s been done! In Mammoth (US-2006; dir. Tim Cox). Okay, then, how about a dragon made of fire? Hmmph, easy! There’s probably lots of those already, most recently in Dragonquest (US-2009; dir. Mark Atkins). Anyway, there are lots of possibilities… but who would have thought of this one: hybrid monstrosities that are a blend of Chihuahua and Piranha?

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Synopsis:

A school/pack of vicious, cross-bred Chihuahua and Piranha are unleashed upon a pristine Mtn Lake and quickly consume summer campers before a team of misfits, led by the lake’s ranger, evade and destroy the evil little critters. IMDb)

The film is still in production, but here’s what the critters will look like:

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And in 3D:

This concept art and the final CG images are the work of Hive-FX, which is part of the production company Hive-Pictures. The film was written by director Jim L. Clark, who among other SFX positions was a rotoscope artist on Hellboy in 2004 and, going back further,  a creature animator on An American Werewolf in Paris (1997). The stars so far revealed are October Moore, Melik Malkasian and Skylar (who was a stand-in for Kate Winslet on Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind).

Another important aspect of the film is clearly the setting as the website proudly displays some of the production’s spectacular locations, such as Trillium Lake and the intriguingly named Porn Star Campground at Frog Lake:

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Well, if you’re going to get eaten by ravenous chihuanha/piranha monsters, at least it should happen somewhere picturesque.

You know, this concept could really work and, if done right, might be the next Gremlinesque franchise. We’ll give you more information when we get some!

Posted in Film, Horror, Monsters in general, News | 3 Comments

Wolfman Remake Lopes Closer

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As remakes go, The Wolfman (UK/US-2010; dir. Joe Johnston) looks like a beauty — if only for Rick Baker’s make-up SFX and design work. It stars Benicio Del Toro as Lawrence Talbot — and the Wolfman:

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Geraldine Chaplin (as Maleva), Anthony Hopkins (as Sire John Talbot), Hugo Weaving (as Inspector Aberline), Geraldine Chaplin, Elizabeth Croft, Sam Hazeldine, David Sterne and Emily Blunt are also lurking in the underbrush.

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Synopsis:

Lawrence Talbot is a haunted nobleman lured back to his family estate after his brother vanishes. Reunited with his estranged father, Talbot sets out to find his brother…and discovers a horrifying destiny for himself.

Lawrence Talbot’s childhood ended the night his mother died. After he left the sleepy Victorian hamlet of Blackmoor, he spent decades recovering and trying to forget. But when his brother’s fiancée, Gwen Conliffe, tracks him down to help find her missing love, Talbot returns home to join the search. He learns that something with brute strength and insatiable bloodlust has been killing the villagers, and that a suspicious Scotland Yard inspector named Aberline has come to investigate.

As he pieces together the gory puzzle, he hears of an ancient curse that turns the afflicted into werewolves when the moon is full. Now, if he has any chance at ending the slaughter and protecting the woman he has grown to love, Talbot must destroy the vicious creature in the woods surrounding Blackmoor. But as he hunts for the nightmarish beast, a simple man with a tortured past will uncover a primal side to himself…one he never imagined existed. (Yahoo! Entertainment)

Trailer:

Check out the Yahoo! Entertainment site for more stills — and a larger hi-res version of the trailer.

Posted in Film, Horror, Monsters in general, Trailers | 3 Comments

Review: The Land That Time Forgot

The Land That Time Forgot (US-2009; dir. C. Thomas Howell)

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The Asylum’s latest foray into the world of B-film genre mayhem is an enjoyable adaptation of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ novel, The Land That Time Forgot. Its blend of good-natured low-budget monster SFX, likeable and distinctive (if largely uncomplicated) characters, and familiar narrative (spiced up with a few unexpected turns) makes it an appealing evening’s entertainment — one that may not be on the dino-pic A-list, but which at least gets a table in the main dining area.

In the present day, a group of holidaying middle-class adventurers on a yacht piloted by the crusty Captain Burroughs (played with idiosyncratic conviction by Timothy Bottoms) find themselves caught up in a very strange storm at sea. Their boat is dragged into a tear in time and space and they are stranded on an island that is the enforced home of pteradactyls, over-sized T-Rexs, a WW1 pilot and the surviving crew of a Nazi submarine. They are consequently faced with some important questions: Can they avoid becoming dino-food? Can they escape the island? And who exactly can be trusted?

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The Land That Time Forgot‘s clear and colourful cinematography — it’s filmed on location somewhere green and open, with at least the appearance of being an actual island paradise — gives it an expansive quality that makes the film look glossier than you would expect from its restrictive budget. Available resources are used effectively. Though director C. Thomas Howell (who also plays the narrator, pictured below) keeps the narrative moving with all due aplomb, the setting itself and the competence of the cast carry us over the gaps between monster action without feeling like the human drama bits are merely filler. I was actually impressed by some of the performances, and especially so when it came to the unexpectedly non-stereotypical depiction of the Nazis.

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Not that the monsters lack presence. They turn up enough to keep all but the most attention-deficient satisfied and the SFX guys manage to work enough alternative perspectives into how we see them that their scenes are neither repetitious (a problem with many low-budget monster films) nor rushed in a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it manner.

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On the question of SFX, here at least the low-budget CGI is definitely watchable. The creatures may not sit as solidly in the scene as, say, Kong in Jackson’s remake or the dinosaurs of Jurassic Park — but they look pretty good and are a lot more convincing than the puppets of the 1975 Doug McClure version of the story (as effective as those were in context). Neither these nor 1975 director Kevin Connor’s look entirely “real”, but they are used imaginatively in both films and, failing an injection of an extra $100 million, that’s good enough for me.

It’s inevitable, I suppose, that The Land That Time Forgot will not be forgiven by many net-critics for being made by the notorious Asylum — but at the risk of sounding like an apologist for the company, I don’t think such an attitude is fair. The fact is, this is a decent and entertaining B-monster romp, infinitely better than many of the so-called “classic” creature features thrown together by B-film specialists in the past and now revered by the very fans who rubbish The Asylum for its often entirely acceptable exploitation endeavours. Sure, I’ve seen Asylum films that are more-or-less unwatchable, and others that are OK but rather more rough around the edges than one would like. But seen in the right perspective, this new straight-to-DVD version of The Land That Time Forgot needs little apology.

So I won’t apologise for it. I’ll just say that I enjoyed it. It didn’t bore me nor did it feel like a waste of 90 minutes of my time. If you like dino-flicks — and don’t carry grudges — check it out for yourself.

Posted in Dinosaurs, Film, Review | 5 Comments

Bollywood’s First “Creature” Film

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Bollywood auteur Vikram Bhatt describes the impetus behind his filmmaking:

Every filmmaker has a genre he’s comfortable with and every filmmaker is a peddler. Karan Johar peddles emotions. Yashraj peddles romance. Priyadrshan and David Dhawan peddle comedy. I peddle fear! And I teach my audience how to fight their fear and come out stronger!

Bhatt’s last film was 1920 — an angry spirits/haunted house/exorcism flick that apparently did rather well despite less than enthusiastic reviews.

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Synopsis:

1920 takes place in the pre-independence era and revolves around Arjun and Lisa who are newlyweds. Arjun works as an architect and has been hired to build a hotel where an old mansion is currently placed. To prepare for the reconstruction, the young couple moves into the mansion, but Lisa quickly realizes that something’s wrong. The spirits in the house don’t seem to want them to demolish the old building, but what can they do to prevent it? (Slasherpool.com)

Bhatt is currently in the midst of filming (in London) another horror film, Shaapit, which is due for release in 2010. Though there seems to be little information available on the plot, the poster is at least indicative:

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Romance and supernatural threat…

But while fending off the demons, Bhatt has found time to announced that he has two other films going into production. There’s no word on the first except that it’s a “home-grown” one, but the third will be Bollywood’s first-ever “Creature” film — and Jaws and Jurassic Park are quoted as examples of what the “creature” genre offers: films in which the main interest lies with the monster itself. This could mean Big Monster or “natural”-sized monster, though the fact that Bhatt is touting it as the first one ever made in Bollywood, all bets seem to be on the possibility of a Giant Monster film — seeing as Bollywood has made many films with human-sized monsters.

At any rate Bhatt is ambitious. He is quoting the budget at 100 crores (which translates to 1,000,000,000 rupees, I think, or roughly $US20,650,000) — the largest ever for Bollywood — and a big risk as the film will not feature big-name stars.

Though Bhatt won’t reveal anything much about the film, he has said:

Yes, I’m planning to announce something very big. Wait and watch but it’s too early to tell you the details. I’m working on this script for a creature film and yes, I’m meeting up with certain people on the same. But I will make the announcement when everything’s ready. (Glamsham.com)

And he is apparently seeking special effects and technical assistance from “the technical guys who have worked with Spielberg and the like”.

Could be interesting. Once again, we can only wait and see.

Meanwhile, here’s a trailer for Bhatt’s 1920:

Source: Various (as mentioned in text), via Avery

Posted in Film, Ghosts, Giant Monsters, Monsters in general, News | 2 Comments

Weekend Fright Flick Bonus: Spider

Spider (Australia-2007; short [9:39 min.]; dir. Nash Edgerton)

And just because I’ve had this one for a while and forgot to put it up, here’s a short morality tale about two people and a “spider”. It’s slow-build, too — the way such things should be.

“It’s all fun and games — until someone loses an eye.” (Mum)

Be warned. It has several things that will freak you out — and the spider is only one of them.

Posted in Film, Independent film, Weekend Fright Flick | 1 Comment

Weekend Fright Flick: Road to Moloch

Even if you don’t normally watch the films I put up here on a more-or-less weekly basis, this one is a Must-See. It’s a new short film, only recently completed — a supernatural thriller/action film with superb production values and lots of impact.

In recent times, not surprisingly, there have been a number of feature-length horror films set in contemporary war hot-spots, especially Iraq and Afghanistan, such as Red Sands (US-2009; dir. Alex Turner). But what they do in 90-odd minutes, Road to Moloch does in 16 minutes or so, and with considerable force. Whatever you do, if you like horror films (and if you don’t why are you here?), take the time to check it out.

Road to Moloch (US-2009; short [16.35 min.]; dir. Robert Glickert)

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Synopsis:

While on a mission to locate three missing soldiers, a team of reconnaissance marines encounter a blood-spattered Iraqi stumbling through the desert. After following the distraught man into the depths of an insurgent cave, the marines make a horrifying discovery bringing them face-to-face with an ancient evil.

High Resolution Version: Watch it fullscreen if you have the computer grunt….

Road to Moloch (Higher Res) from Robert Glickert on Vimeo.

Lower Bandwidth version:

Road to Moloch from Robert Glickert on Vimeo.

  • Official website
  • Source: Chris Mirjahangir via Avery. Avery would like to thank both Chris and director Robert Glickert, not just for the film but for bringing it to his attention.
Posted in Demons, Film, Horror, Independent film, Weekend Fright Flick, Zombies | 1 Comment

Update: Return to Yucca Flats

Remember Leon Cowan’s remake of The Beast of Yucca FlatsReturn to Yucca Flats: Desert Man-Beast — which David C. Hayes bravely wrote and is producing, and in which he even more bravely plays the titular Man-Beast? No, well, go to this Undead Backbrain article and check it out. Go on! We’ll wait for you.

While we’re waiting, here’s a faux trailer for a 1970s-style B (for Bad) film called Love Tard, created by Hayes. Be warned, however; the B also stands for “Bad Taste”.

Hmmm, sorry about that. Okay, before we return to Return to Yucca Flats: Desert Man-Beast, here’s a warning (again from Hayes). The actor is Kim Sonderholm:

Ah, you’re back. Up to speed now?

Okay, the good (?) news is that Return to Yucca Flats: Desert Man-Beast will be finished filming by the end of the month — and Hayes says that they may have a distributor.

In case you’re wondering what we’re in for, here’s a clip of Hayes as the Man-Beast dancing in the desert.

I think I need to go lie down now.

Posted in Film, Horror, Independent film, Update | 1 Comment

New: Dog

Dog (US-2009; dir. Tim Gates)

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This upcoming horror film from Tim Gates offers a very promising approach to the animal/human interface. Definitely not your average lycanthrope.

Synopsis:

A vast salvage yard lies nestled in the woods, on the edge of a small, Mid-Western town. Owned and operated by a pair of sadistic, murderous brothers, the yard is a place of death and unimaginable horror. A place that hides the darkest of family secrets. When night falls, the salvage yard is watched over not by canines of the four-legged breed but by ‘Dog’, the owners’ younger brother.Warped by years of abuse at the hands of his siblings and horribly deformed by generations of in-breeding, the feral and misshapen boy (more beast than man) prowls his shadowy domain, viciously slaughtering anyone foolish enough to enter after dark.

One day, Lizzie and her friend ‘Pump’ enter the salvage yard and from a distance (within the darkened confines of an abandoned school bus), Dog takes notice. The sight of the young woman causes something to rise from deep within him … a feeling he’s never felt in his entire, tortured existence. These urges drive him into the night, to track the troubled teen and his journey takes him beyond the fences of the salvage yard, to the outside world … with deadly consequences.

Featuring an experienced cast and crew, it seems to offer more than the rather soulless plotting of much recent horror cinema, recognising the narrative power that can be generated by monsters that elicit our sympathy at the same time as they threaten the normalities we cling to.

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Dog was an “Official Selection” at 5th Annual Fright Night Film Festival, held in Louisville, KY, on 12-14 August, after premiering at a special showing on 29 May at the Michigan Theatre in Jackson, MI.

Actor John Lennox, who is trained as a fight director, plays the lead character Dog, a role for which he had to lose 30 pounds to get the right look. He commented:

“It was one of the hardest gigs I’ve ever done. A lot of running about, moving about, jumping on people.”(mlive.com)

Creature and other effects for the film were handled by special effects artist Vincent Guastini and his fellow artists in V.G.P. EFFECTS and DESIGN STUDIO. V.G.P.’s credits include Letters From Iwo Jima, Flags Of Our Fathers, Dogma, Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, Scary Movie 4, Stephen King’s Thinner, Child’s Play 3, Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey, Virus, The Last Of The Mohicans, Super Mario Bros: The Movie, Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, Snoop Dogg’s: Hood of Horror, Driftwood and Unearthed.

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Hopefully, the film will be released more widely very soon. Director Timothy Gates has promised to keep us informed.

Gallery (including some alternative posters):

Posted in Film, Horror, Independent film, Monsters in general, News | 5 Comments