REVIEW: “The Raid: Redemption,” “Intruders”

I must have missed the memo where this was the official weekend to release international films with mixed casts and filmmakers and styles. Only that could account for why Intruders (set in Spain and Britain with an international cast and in two languages) and The Raid: Redemption (set, I think, in Indonesia with a multi-racial cast and a Welsh director, but mimicking Hong Kong action films) are in theaters at the same time. Both are interesting messes.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Israel Luna’s “Ouija Experiment” screens at Inwood’s midnight movie this weekend

Israel Luna is used to working just as hard getting his movies to his public as making them — such is the life of the independent filmmaker. His Ticked-Off Trannies with Knives made it to the Tribeca and other film fests, but he’s taken an old-school roadshow approach to his latest, The Ouija Experiment.

Without a distributor, Luna has been taking the print of his low-budget horror film around the country himself, showing it wherever there’s an audience. And what better audience than his hometown for a traditional midnight screening? Ouija will show Friday and Saturday nights at the Inwood — fitting, since the movie was shot locally.

It looks pretty scary to us, too — just check out the trailer below.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Smith LOVES fags

Gay-friendly filmmaker Kevin Smith Phelps-bashes with his  satiric horror film ‘Red State’

THE HORROR | In ‘Red State,’ a family of homophobic, kidnapping maniacs get their comeuppance.

RED STATE
Texas Theatre, 231 W. Jefferson Ave. Sept. 25, 6 p.m. $20.
TheTexasTheatre.com

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Kevin Smith threw fans and critics a curveball with Red State, his horror satire about three teenagers kidnapped by a murderous Fred Phelps-esque religious fundamentalist and his virulently homophobic clan (Melissa Leo plays its matriarch). It represents a major stylistic and genre departure from Smith’s largely comic repertoire including Clerks and Zack and Miri Make a Porno.

Smith confounded the film industry with Red State’s distribution scheme, choosing to take it on a national roadshow tour (with premium ticket prices); it plays, with Smith participating in a live online Q&A, at the Texas Theater on Sunday.

The dependable ally of the LGBT community — “I’ve got a brother who’s been married to the same dude for 20 years, I work in Hollywood so I’m surrounded by the gay community and I’ve always said I’m one cock in the mouth shy of being gay myself,” the bearish Smith has noted — executive produced queer-themed documentaries, Small Town Gay Bar and Bear Nation, and currently spends time interacting with fans of all sexualities via SModcast.com.

— Lawrence Ferber

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Dallas Voice: Why such a dark film, Kevin? What was its genesis?  Kevin Smith: It was a bunch of factors. I saw Michael Parks in From Dusk Till Dawn in 1995 and the dude blew me away. He was onscreen the first five or ten minutes and he’s making choices I’ve never seen any other actor make. He’s the truth. I said, “My God, I’ve got to work with that dude one day.” It took me 15 years to figure out what that would be because I didn’t want to get in touch with him and say, “Hey, man, you want to play Silent Bob’s grandfather?”

Cut to years later, my friend Malcolm Ingram makes Small Town Gay Bar. It’s about a gay bar in Mississippi and how tough it can be in a community where nobody really wants you there. In the midst of it, Malcolm speaks with Fred Phelps. Malcolm sat with the beast, had an hour interview with him and sent me the footage, and he came across as terrifying to me. This dude is a fucking villain. He looks like a grandpa or uncle and speaks with all the homespun gee-shucks-isms, and then the content of what he says … that’s what’s bracing. It’s all hate, divisive, God-hates-this-and- that, and very anti-gay. I don’t think you have to be gay to be offended by that sort of thing, to find someone like Phelps and his backwards fucking family deplorable. And you don’t have to be gay to want to do something about it. I can’t stop them from speaking but I can go out there and do to them what they do to Matthew Shepard’s family and soldiers coming home from Iraq. They essentially stand there holding a sign and make them feel like shit. So this is my version of standing there holding a sign and making the Phelpses feel like shit.

Is there any concern this would inspire the Phelps family to get a cache of weapons together? Oh God, no! I mean, I don’t think those people are violent in the very least. This movie isn’t them. We tee off on them. It’s a satirical take on them. One of their kids told me they pray for the deaths of others, but they would never do that kind of thing.

You had a pretty great counter-protest at Sundance. I saw that one of your group’s signs said Dick Tastes Yummy. That was fun, watching people’s creativity sparked by these animals. A bunch of kids who go to high school there in Park City, Utah, heard about the Phelpses coming to protest us and came out to counter-protest. These kids were holding up signs like God Hates Homework. One dude had a sign that said Why Did They Cancel Pushing Daisies? That one fucking blew my mind. That’s how you shatter a monster’s brain: You hold up a mirror. What they’re doing is ridiculous, dude, so when you show up and counter them with ridiculous shit like Thor Hates Straights and God Hates Rainy Days and Mondays, you defang them. That’s what Red State is. I can’t stop them from saying what they’re gonna say, “Believe” — I can’t and don’t want to; that’s freedom in this country. But if they’re going to make other people’s lives miserable, that’s what Red State is. And whenever they talk about the movie you can tell it bugs them. They stopped digging the fucking attention because we held up a mirror.

I read that you actually provided tickets to some members of the Phelps clan for one of the roadshow’s screenings and they walked out. Yeah, in Kansas City. I’m sitting there watching [the movie with the audience] and seven minutes in I get tapped on my fucking shoulder. I turn around and it’s Megan Phelps [Fred’s 26-year-old granddaughter] and I’m startled because you never want to see a Phelps that close. And she goes, “Oh, Kevin, this is filthy… but we just wanted to give you a gift before we get out of here.” At that moment for a brief second I was waiting for the gun to come flashing out like, “The gift is God’s mighty bullets!” But they handed me two protest posters. One said God Hates Fag Enablers — that’s what they’ve called me many times. The other was a bit more abstract, very fucking strange. They took our title treatment from the Red State poster and put it on a sign and it said simply, Red State Fags, and they all signed it, like they were members of a baseball team or cast in a movie. Megan wrote, “See you in hell… not really because I’m not going there and you are.”

How kind of them! What did you do with it? My wife goes, “You’re throwing that out;” I said, “You’re out of your fucking mind! I worked hard for this, I fought these fucking monsters for a year! This is a trophy, like Batman’s giant penny in the Batcave!” She’s like, “Well, you can’t let the kid see it.” My kid don’t know nothing from hate. We live in L.A. and there’s a hell of a lot of liberalism and tolerance out here. There is no difference between gay and straight, there’s no negativity to her. So we unloaded the bus after we got home from the tour and there it is staring at us in the face, Red State Fags. My kid stares at this poster and my wife is looking at me like, “You fucking idiot, I knew something like this would happen.” And our daughter turns to us and goes, “What is this? The sequel?”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 23, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

The age of Ghostfacebook: ‘Scream 4’

ANOTHER STAB AT IT | Gale Weathers (Courteney Cox) pursues another series of murders in the clever reboot ‘Scream 4.’

‘Scream 4’ wants to be your favorite scary movie. And it just might succeed

When Scream came out in 1996 — Damn! Really?! — it turned the horror film on its head with post-modern genius: It was the first slasher film to acknowledge the genre of slasher films has rules, and that anyone aware of them could manipulate the outcome. It meant if you were the big-breasted bimbo babysitting alone in a house with lots of windows… well, let’s just say you won’t be around for the shreikquel. And certainly not the screamake.

By the time Scream 3 rolled around in 2000, the plot was folding in on itself: Movies were being made about the events portrayed in the original, and we had a metafilm.

The slasher film has morphed a lot in the last decade, partly due to the Scream series, with the rise of tortureporn (Saw, Hostel) and the docu-horror (Blair Witch, Paranormal Activity).

But society has morphed just as quickly, with reality TV documenting our lives and inventing fauxlebrity culture, victimization becoming a catch-phrase and Facebook, Twitter and smartphone apps changing the way we relate to one another.

So really, Scream 4 was overdue, even necessary.

Screenwriter Kevin Williamson is back, as are director Wes Craven and stars Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox and David Arquette, and the twisty Mobius strip of a movie they’ve conjured up is a worthy addition to — and a worthy evolution of — franchise.

It’s been 10 years since the murders in Woodsboro stopped. Deputy Dewey (Arquette) is sheriff now, and his wife, Gale (Cox) is smothering in small-town domesticity. Sidney (Campbell) has come home to promote her memoir and visit her cousin Jill (Emma Roberts). But Ghostface is back, and targeting Sidney’s family and friends.

Scream’s ability to reinvent itself has always been its greatest asset, along with actual actors doing good work and a wicked sense of humor that both undercuts and heightens the tension.

There are new rules to horror films now — one being the only way to survive is to be gay (only that doesn’t work out so well for the gay guy), and S4 does an admirable job adapting while still making some degree of sense. The body count may get unreasonably high, but Williamson’s snippy lectures about the Facebook generation have actual merit.

Part of the success of the series has always been Ghostface himself, both as a lithe, shockingly grotesque image and as a growling, threatening voice on the phone. It still offers chills, and if not as powerfully as it once did, well, we’ve all gotten older. And savvier. We’re all a little more meta. Maybe my enjoyment was po-mo ironic, maybe retro-GenXer-lame. I can’t tell anymore. But it was nice to revisit Scream and remember a time when “friend” wasn’t a verb and people talked to each other face-to-ghostface and not through meaningless modspeak. OMG! ; ) L8r, beeyotches.

— Arnold Wayne Jones

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition April 15, 2011.

—  John Wright

Snowed-in out film fest viewing

With all the arctic weather turning Texas into Palinland lately, it’s easy to think we have it really bad. But if you wanna see how the cold can truly put the “crazy” in stir crazy, you might check out the 2008 horror film Scarce. Filmed during a harsh Canadian winter, it stars Dallas Voice contributor Steve Warren as one of two middle-aged cannibals who live together in a rural cabin where they torture and dine on hot young men who happen by — who, in this film, often tramp around in their undies in two feet of snow. The gay themes are more suggested than overt, but with Warren playing one of the “confirmed bachelors” who eats other men … well, you don’t need great gaydar to get the point.

— Arnold Wayne Jones

—  John Wright

Shawn of the deadly

Homo and horror collide as out filmmaker Shawn Ewert slices his way into the movies

RICH LOPEZ  | Staff Writer lopez@dallasvoice.com

SCARED (NOT) STRAIGHT | Shawn Ewert has wrapped up his second short film with his first feature in sight. (Arnold Wayne Jones | Dallas Voice)
SCARED (NOT) STRAIGHT | Shawn Ewert has wrapped up his second short film with his first feature in sight. (Arnold Wayne Jones | Dallas Voice)

For some people, every day is Halloween.

The monsters and nightmares stick around all year long and they are just fine with that.

Definitely Shawn Ewert is. Actually, if it wasn’t for those nightmares, he might be out of his profession as a horror film director.

“If I’m working around the house, I’ll throw in any scary movie for the background,” he says. “It’s just another day.”

When a “cool aunt” showed him A Nightmare on Elm Street, it scared him like it should any 5-year-old. Now 32, he admits he can’t get enough of it. So he decided to turn his photography work into filmmaking.

“I love film in general but because of that, horror has special place for me,” he says. “I watched a lot of Hitchcock growing up. He wasn’t going for gore — he was all about story. That’s what it is for me. If I don’t care about story, I don’t care about the film.”

In junior high, his writing began to manifest as his outlet for his “freakiness:” No one read his stuff for fear they would freak out. In the back of his mind, though, he wondered what his stories would actually look like.

“I knew those stories would be so much cooler if I could watch,” he says. “All I thought was how could I make this on the screen. I’d love to show to somebody someday the way I see all this in my head.”

Ewert rolls his eyes at the thought of reminiscing over high school. Like many gay youth, they weren’t the best of times for him. He came out to a select few, but was publicly outed by the girl he dated. Still, Ewert came out relatively unscathed — even in a Mesquite high school.

But his second family was in the horror film fan community, and it’s there he found solace and even acceptance. Unlike comedy or musicals, there isn’t an actual community of fans, but those who like scary movies — who really like them — come together and Ewert found a home. When he began his coming out process on his own terms, he found acceptance among his brethren.

“For me, the horror community is pretty accepting,” he says. “Horror fans can connect to so many other people that it’s almost a family atmosphere. In that group, you’re less of a freak and that made it easier to come out to those people.”

Fast-forward to June 2010. Ewert’s production company, Right Left Turn Productions, screened his short Jack’s Bad Day at the first Fears for Queers film festival in Addison. The one-day event featured all gay filmmakers in the horror genre.  His 20-minute film is about a serial killer who comes up short in his murderous proclivity. Ewert calls it a horror-comedy.

“The stuff we’ve made so far has been tongue-in-cheek,” he says. “There’s a certain comedy to Jack’s Bad Day. All his victims die right before he kills them. What it would it mean for a serial killer to have that kind of day?”

He’s wrapping up his second short The Sleepover, a 10-minute-long film that leaves the comedy out in favor of sheer fear. “Oh gosh, it’s a horrifying story about a serial killer of little girls,” he says.

So where’s the gay stuff? Ewert doesn’t see things that way. Although he’s gay and a filmmaker, his films aren’t going to “be gay” just because he is. Got it?

“The problem I have with most LGBT films is the filmmakers make them as gay as possible without much of a story,” he says. “They make films that are so narrow just to fit one community. I want to see the gay community in my films. I also want to have appeal to everyone. And I don’t write gay-centric necessarily, but I do have a script I couldn’t stop writing.”

That would be his latest short, Out Come the Wolves, and it’s both scary and topical. Ewert’s first gay horror piece is about one kid’s revenge on bullies. But Wolves is also personal to him because his own run-ins were far scarier than any movie.

“I used a lot of language in the film that if someone were to say to me and I would be pretty upset,” he says. “When a truckload of guys once chased and threatened me, it was my first dose of reality that they could literally take someone’s life. That made its way into this film. This is revenge for me.”

He’s taking baby steps with his short films, but his first full-length feature is in sight. Ewert has scripts and ideas ready to put on camera. If he runs out of ideas, well,  all he has to do is go to sleep.

“Almost everything I’ve done has come out of a dream, or as close to a dream as I can remember,” Ewert says.
Or maybe he means nightmare.

For more on Ewert’s films, visit RightLeftTurnProductions.com.

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Scary gay

Horror filmmaker Shawn Ewert knows his scary movies. He also knows what’s so gay about many of them. He breaks down some of his favorites for us here.

The Hunger - “David Bowie is in the film. Oh, and the really hot romance between Susan Sarandon and Catherine Deneuve.”

The Lost Boys – “They only wanted Michael as part of the crew. The girl — secondary.”

A Nightmare on Elm Street 2 – “I keep this in a special place with the coming out story and so much homoeroticism.”

Fright Night – “Evil Ed’s ostracism from the rest of the kids, finds a “home”/acceptance with a sexy older man/vampire.”

Interview With the Vampire – “OK, really? Do I have to spell this one out?”

Psycho – “Overbearing mother, issues with women, liked to stuff things. Gay.”

Dracula - “ Oh, Vlad totally had it bad for Jonathan Harker”.

Night of the Creeps – “Yeah, at the end he gets the girl, but only after his “roommate” is killed by one of the phallic aliens that gets you by going through your mouth.”

— R.L

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 29, 2010

—  Kevin Thomas