How Cynicism is Killing Entertainment



Dinosaurs clobbered the combined super hero talents of The Avengers. They also handed Schwarzenegger his T-800 ass. Interestingly all three films are bred from the same cynical experiment that might have started in JJ Abrams's lab...repackaging.


Cynema has evolved or been upgraded much like Arnie's T800 at the end of the latest Terminator franchise. My definition of Cynema says that a movie is made deliberately bad even if the filmmakers have the means to do it better. In the case of Jurassic World, Terminator Genysis and Star Trek: Into Darkness they are beautifully produced films, but all the more deceptive.


These films all lack a central thing: a well done script. All three of these films are not unfolding stories, but rather set pieces stitched together with basic dialogue and character development to push things toward the next set piece. The argument could be made, that in a few years, the need for directors and even screenwriters could be gone. They are made obsolete by "managers" who push a film through a written "To Do" list.


Some have said Jaws 2 was a film made by committee. The director, Jeannot Szwarc was simply a gun for hire in the wake of the firing of original director, John Hancock. While the reasons for Hancock's firing vary, one consistent line is that his vision for the film and the studio executives' did not marry and 6 months into production, Hancock was relieved of his duties as director.


Roy Scheider (r) onset with original Jaws 2 director, John Hancock (l)


While sequels were no new thing in Hollywood by 1975, Hollywood was bitch slapped by Spielberg's original Jaws into seeing how summer blockbusters could generate huge revenue. "Sequel" was kind of a dirty word at that time, but Hollywood warmed to the idea of wringing out more dollars from the same, familiar story. And hey, it didn't always have to be good. The process had begun...


Jurassic World, Genysis and Into Darkness all depend on nostalgia as their lifeblood. They simply can not exist without the hard work of the previous, better written films. These three films define style over substance and exist only because of the hard work done by a previous generation. Interesting that this has been said of the Millennial generation--a generation that has little regard for what came before it, but wants to reap the rewards of the hard work done before them.


The scripts for these films are not so much actual three act screenplays, but rather "To Do" lists containing the recognizable elements from the better previous films while a "manager" pushes the "story" through to the end. In between are thin characters and a strong reliance on the recognition of scenes from better movies, now called "nostalgia."



I am going to pin the actual start of this process on Star Trek Into Darkness. I admit, I enjoyed the JJ Abrams 2009 Star Trek reboot. I am NOT a fanboy, Trekker(ie) or really a series fan. While I saw the original series growing up, it was The Wrath of Khan that got me into the movies. I never embraced The Next Generation, or any series spinoffs and saw only a handful of episodes from various seasons of the Picard years. I thought TNG feature films were lackluster and wasted opportunities.


However I got into Star Trek II-VI. I was moved by Spock's death and Kirk's sacrifices and I was rightly turned off by Shatner's fifth film. Part six was a classy exit for the original cast and Kirk's death in Generations was a waste and a cynical cash grab to lure audiences to watch the new crew.


Stick with me here. I will circle back to Jurassic World and Genysis.


When Abrams was picked to revamp the declining Star Trek franchise, even ardent fans knew something had to change. The last Trek film, Nemesis, was a dud--some storyline that should've been reserved for a series episode. Everyone in that last film looked bored and ready to collect their paycheck.


The 2009 reboot did something clever. It didn't break canon. Instead the writers brought back the old "alternate timeline" plot device and made it work. Basically they could go back and redo everything, even remake old film and series plots because now everything was different. They figured out a way to have their cake and eat it too.



Leonard Nimoy was wisely chosen to bridge the venture and officially made the film a sequel, while at the same time it WAS a reboot. Goddamn, it was the ultimate cinematic hat trick. When Nimoy meets face to face with Chris Pine's wonderfully realized James T. Kirk;  he clearly recognizes him as his old friend, thus firmly making this film a sequel and is a remake, reboot, re imagining.



Liked the film or not, it made money and relaunched the series and breathed new life into the half century old franchise. Abrams did it, and while the film had its issues, I left it feeling entertained and that the filmmakers afforded considerable respect to the previous films and work without pandering to fanboys.


Then came Into Darkness and Abrams showed his true colors.


Abrams has a formula I call "no it's not, no it's not, okay it is..." He did it with his TV series  Lost where he denied the island was purgatory and all the castaways were dead. Then in the final episode that's exactly what it was. He claimed the creature in Super 8 was not an alien and again, he lied. Then he did it with Into Darkness.



Into Darkness is a deceptive film, because instead of relying on a strong script, it cannibalizes the previous and superior Wrath of Khan. It is a cynical film that eschews good writing for boxoffice surprise, knowing it was a retread and had nothing new to offer. While many assail Shatner's Star Trek V, I offer Into Darkness as the worst of the films. Why? Because it isn't a's a committee made package.


Abrams lied from the beginning about Benedict Cumberbatch playing the series greatest villain, Khan. Dopey fanboys make excuses that the altered timeline would alter Khan's appearance, I call bullshit. Altering timelines does not change race, ethnicity or sex of characters. If it does, then make Kirk Indian or black. Khan is made Caucasian to throw off the public and deliver a "twist" in a lackluster lazy script.


Into Darkness is nothing more than a patchwork of scenes openly ripped from The Wrath of Khan. The horrible ending where Spock shouts "KHAN!" at Kirk's death is an embarrassment. The "script" did nothing to understand that the emotion from the 1982 film was built on decades of adventures and relationship between Spock and Kirk. The rip off scene means nothing in the Abrams film as these two men had basically just met and built nothing between them. This is a cynical rip off and Abrams tried to excuse the whole film as a "tribute" to Wrath of Khan. It is not. It is not a remake either. What Abrams did however, was repackage classic old scenes from a better film that resonated with audiences, and updated them in his lousy film.



Jurassic World followed Into Darkness's lead. This is a paint by numbers film, made by a committee. They brought in an unknown director who did anything but direct. He managed this film from one set piece to another. The amount of tributes to the first film are so frequent, it simply reminds you of how much better the first film was.


Jurassic World is a remake Trojan Horse. It gets away with being a sequel, but it's really nothing more than Jurassic Park v.10. All the same elements are there: the kids in peril, the reluctant romance and the conspiracy of technology falling into the wrong hands. Throw in convenient plot devices (a dinosaur that is suddenly discovered to posses the ability to evade thermal scans, use camouflage and possess superior intelligence) and you have set pieces stitched together with thin characters, sophomoric dialogue and punctuated by a crash and boom ending.


Yet Jurassic World pulled it off. The fifth biggest film of all time is a total middle finger to audiences. They've been served up the same shit for the fourth time and told it is something new. Even the male lead, Chris Pratt, can be swapped out with your sandy blonde hunk of choice. Pop in Chris Hemsworth, Channing Tatum or even Zach Effron, add stubble and you have a Chris Pratt stand in. Nothing in this film is original. Bryce Dallas Howard is painfully boring. She is given no real dialogue and has as much sex appeal in the badly placed romance scenes as a prop dinosaur. Zero character development.


I am sure that director Colin Treverrow was told something like "This is how it's gonna go. Don't get any ideas." He was brought into manage, not direct. This thing will direct itself.


There are so many scenes that openly copy the moments from the first film, that for a moment, I wondered which movie I was truly watching. From the T Rex attack on the Jeep in part one to the dinosaur stampedes and the "Nature Finds A Way"'s all blatantly copied in Jurassic World and passed off as a loving "tribute.  Hell, the final battle with the victorious T-Rex of the first film is a total Godzilla ripoff, aping his majestic walk into the sunset. Fifth biggest film of all time...maybe, but it's a screw job for popular culture and audiences either so starved or so ignorant, they don't even realize they've been had.


This is lazy filmmaking at its best and most expensive.



Terminator Genysis continues this trend. First time it's a mistake. Second time it's a pattern. What started with Into Darkness was followed by Jurassic World and solidified in the dead on arrival Terminator Genysis. Again, this is a film that is fueled by nostalgia. The best characters and scenes from the superior The Terminator and Terminator 2 are reshot and repackaged and placed into a threadbare timeline.


Not only is there nothing new here, they steal the Abrams "alternate timeline" bit and basically try to remake the first two films with a weaker cast, an aging Arnold and for all purposes, no real script. Genysis is a committee film. Large set pieces are stitched together with threadbare characters that, while in a different timeline, bear little resemblance both physically or personality to their alternate universe counterparts. Dialogue is again sophomoric, written for teenagers and the sad part is the adult characters sound like teenagers. This new Sarah Connor sounds less like an adult woman, than an Ellen Page-Juno brat. Spouting such witty lines like "bite me" and calling the T800 "Pops," she is an affront to Linda Hamilton's gritty portrayal of Connor.


This movie is a mess.


There are moments in Genysis that serve as a warning for the technology we think we control. The film itself is a warning to both filmmakers and audiences...either take back your entertainment or it will continue to take you. Jurassic World, Into Darkness and Genysis are signs of more ominous things to come. They represent a deliberate dumbing down of content and open contempt for audiences by serving them old movies sexed up in new outfits. Two of these films were rewarded with big boxoffice returns (World is the fifth largest film ever while Darkness had the biggest opening in the Star Trek series).


The only way to stop this, is like the theme of the Terminator films, we must seize control of our destiny.  The scary part is that it seems most people just simply don't know any better and...don't want to.


These three films are the next generation of Cynema. The contempt for audiences is real by the studios that fabricated them. They can do better, but they simply choose not to do it. Why? Because they don't have to. Genysis clearly showed that the series is not just old but also obsolete. It brings nothing new to the table. It offers a thin, convoluted script to make people think it is smarter than what it really is. In reality this is simply a bad film with a big budget and nothing more.


This could apply to all three films as a new wave of "filmmaking" evolves from the technology that spawned it. It may signal the rise of the executives as the real directors of movies with screenwriters relegated to over glorified story boarders providing notes and captions. The Rise of the Executives. God help us.


We have seen the future and, like the enemy, it is us.





Camp Dread: The Filmmaker Strikes Back

A bane of social media is the "Inspirational Tweeter." This is the person whose life is going so well, they feel the need to tell you how you too can find the happiness they have. They're a digital Hallmark Card, the cyber chicken soup for the soul. It's amazing how much annoyance can be packed into 140 characters.

Another facet is the "Hipster Movie Reviewer." These are the folks (usually male) with a blog or You Tube Channel who think they know about movies. Some are ballsy enough to take on real reviewers like Scott Weinberg and tell THEM how they're wrong or "set them straight" especially when it comes to super hero or Adam Sandler films.
The production values are overwhelming in many online reviews

These "reviewers" usually have websites whose design pitched camp at 1998 or video reviews set in living rooms or bed rooms. They're shot with basically no lighting or professional sound and while some have under 50 views they usually start their critiques with "Hey Everyone..." Everyone? You mean the 6 viewers minus the ones to hear your own review?


It would be interesting but not worth the time to turn the tables and review the reviewers: physical appearance (Some look like they've crossed directly over from, dialogue (it's mostly a mental vomit of free association while trying really hard to be bitchy, snarky and cool), lighting and sound (it's basically non-existent with standard web cam or camcorder technology). I watched one review of the classic 1967 Rankin/Bass Film "Mad Monster Party" with a guy under a sheet almost the whole time. I guess he's the "Unknown Reviewer." Regurgitating the plot of a movie is not a review, which is pretty much what this guy did, save for ragging on Phyllis Diller's laugh and casting.


Apparently, he thought his sheet "shtick" was better.


So I ask, would you see a doctor with similar standards of quality? A mechanic? Eat in a restaurant with a chef who looked like he hadn't showered in several days and likely takes a dump without washing his hands? If the answer is no, why are the opinions of such unqualified "reviewers" taken into account at all?


A computer, blog and a love of watching movies doesn't make someone qualified to critique movies. The Internet invites everyone to share their opinion, however it doesn't mean everyone is qualified to comment on everything.


Apply this concept to Web MD, allowing it to be edited like Wikipedia and you get what I mean.


Camp Dread writer, director, producer, Harrison Smith onset with Eric Roberts and Danielle Harris


Whenever a filmmaker answers back to criticism, it's usually seen as being thin skinned and unable to take the heat. The respected film critic, Scott Weinberg recently said something that stood out to me. He basically said it isn't criticism that most filmmakers mind. It's when it's written with ignorance that it becomes an issue.


Scott Weinberg's assessment of what this article is about.


Camp Dread has received glowing reviews. It's also been given negative ones. Some of the great ones are empty accolades and some of the negative ones are tough but written well, with a full understanding of film. They support their opinions with a knowledgeable response and as the film's director/writer/producer, I understood what they were saying.


A recent positive review from Culture Fix hit every single thing we wanted this film to bring to its audiences. It was written by a a reviewer who understood the horror genre and the slasher sub genre. You can read the full review here. Short and to the point, the review hits the film's essence and what we set out to do.


It's nice to get good reviews isn't it? However this was more than a positive review. It took our film apart and examined it succinctly and got it. It's tight, well-written and done by a qualified reviewer.


However some of the sloppy, negative reviews stood out to me because it wasn't that they were negative. Example, Shock 'Til You Drop was not a fan of our film, but the review is solid, well-written and well-supported by the author. There are a few of these that while I was disappointed they didn't like the film, their criticism was respected.

The "miscast" Eric Roberts and the "underused" Danielle Harris in Camp Dread.


These were problems I had with some reviews that did not hold to similar standards:


- One reviewer knocked us because of a killing made by a watermelon at the end of the film. He felt it was silly. I agree it is, but the problem is there IS NO SUCH KILLING at the end of Camp Dread. I reached out to this reviewer to correct this. I pointed out that while indeed a watermelon-type launcher is used in the film's climax, it wasn't a watermelon that was used. The reviewer was surprised and then admitted he watched the film a few WEEKS previous to writing the review and was going by "notes." If you saw the film, it's pretty damned clear that's no watermelon, so I don't know what "notes" were taken at the time of the viewing, but it's clear better attention should be paid to screenings.

This same reviewer also knocked us on the miscasting of Eric Roberts as swarthy, sleazeball, hack director Julian Barrett. While audiences and major reviewers alike have praised Roberts for one of his best performances in years, this reviewer broke with the pack. Granted, it's one man's opinion, yet there wasn't a shred of data to support such a strong and damning statement.



- A POSITIVE review literally thought Camp Dread was a SEQUEL to Sleepaway Camp! It's a tip of the hat but this film is NO WAY connected to the storyline of those previous Robert Hiltzik films. This reviewer LOVED Camp Dread. The only problem is it is not a sequel to Sleepaway Camp.


- Several other negative reviews hold the "reality show concept" as the culprit for a cliched horror film. While I whole-hardheartedly agree, if you saw the film then you know that the reality show concept is a Hitchcock McGuffin. This is not a film about spy cameras, surveillance and watching people to exploit them. It is quite the opposite, and the last seven minutes of the film give you a "get the fuck out" ending to let you know that the audience has been had.


We were well aware that the reality show concept was overdone. We knew there would be comparisons to Battle Royale and others, but the game show idea has little to nothing to do with what's happening in Camp Dread. This isn't in backtracking, it's fact.


- Sloppy negative reviews go to extremes in the characters and their purpose. Understanding the horror sub genre, there must be certain adherence to formula. Go a little too far off mark and fans will assail you for not being traditional enough. Stay on point and you get blasted for being cliche and stereotypical. Our characters indeed are the usual suspects: the jock, the wiseass, the bitch/slut, the nerd/introvert and so on and so forth.


This is the core of the slasher and Friday the 13th spawned endless sequels copying and pasting these characters into each installment. We took these characters and added some new spins to them but kept them near their roots and yet you still have uniformed reviews that range from "too much character development" to "shallow, thinly drawn characters." So which is it?


The characters are given specific dialogue reminiscent of classic slashers. Yet one negative review said (without quoting) we had a piece of dialogue reminiscent of Shark Attack 3. In case you don't know horror, here it is:


There is nowhere in our film that has a piece of dialogue anywhere near this bad or most of all ill-placed and out of context from the genre of the film. All dialogue was carefully written with regard to the slasher genre and what fans would expect.


It may sound like "it's not me, it's them" but in this case it really is. Bloodbath and Beyond totally got what we were doing with our dialogue. In fact, they also presented their review with high production value, cool graphics, proper lighting and even well done sound. They know their horror and had a fun, original way of reviewing that made them stand out from the rest.


On the flipside we got a solid review from The B Movie Avenger, Drew Mead, who does have the low production value we discussed but yet mitigates all of that with an informed review that reflects a solid understanding of the genre.
Before the "Oprah Crowd" feels I am being a bully, picking on people who can't make slickly produced reviews, I am again saying that the real issue is an informed review and not an ignorant one because it's just cool to be a snarky, negative prick to stand out among a glutted market.

Weinberg's tweet sums up everything that we are saying in this article. In other words, if you want to write a review charging us to step up our game as filmmakers, then make sure you are playing your best too. Know your stuff, and hold yourselves to the same standards that you allege to hold filmmakers and their product.


Didn't like Camp Dread? That's fine. Just get your facts right as to why not, and know your horror. Be less interested in being funny, snarky or just a plain old dick.


It's that simple.


B Harrison Smith























CAMP DREAD: Eli Roth, Formula and Fans

Venerated film critic Roger Ebert gets the credit with coining the phrase "Dead Teenager Movie" for the slasher sub-genre. When the time came around to doing a new film on the heels of 6 Degrees of Hell, the Friday the 13th, Sleepaway Camp type of killer film was the last thing on my list.



Our financier wanted a Friday the 13th kind of movie. "Gimme tits, blood and ass" -- all the hallmarks that go with this type of picture. The knee jerk response was, "that's not the kind of picture I want to write, let alone make."
I was then told I would be expected to direct it as well or there would be no deal. Since any indie filmmaker worth their salt will tell you, the goal is to continue working, I agreed to the project, if anything to keep the bills paid and the lights on.
So this is where I could easily be a hypocrite since the overall theme of this blog is against cynical filmmaking. By accepting the terms outlined above for a paycheck, there are few other words aside from cynical that can be used. However I tried to look at it as a challenge and the hope was to possibly do something different, if not the run of the mill slasher Dead Teenager Movie.

Director, writer, producer of Camp Dread (l) and cast and crew at the Philly kickoff screening

It's all been done: the nudity, the over the top splatter murders, the hulking masked maniacs or reverse sex killers...power tools, machetes, chicks smashed in sleeping bags...nothing new under the sun or on the camp ground. As with 6 Degrees, I also did not want to move it into misogyny. I sat down at the computer and tried to do something else but keep the main things the fans of the genre wanted.


Camp Dread released to solid reviews from some of the big publications: Dread Central, Film Threat, Ain't It Cool News, The Horror Honeys and of course the social media would light up with fans and haters alike as they took to Twitter and Facebook to state their opinions.



I wanted to look at one Facebook post because it so defines what Eli Roth once talked of in an interview (his video is here and above) This "review" was posted to the Camp Dread FB:


"Worst film I have EVER seen. Plot makes no sense, characters have pointless stories and to say Danielle Harris stars in it is a joke, 5 lines if that."


When it was suggested this person should see a few more films before judging ours "the worst" this reply posted:


"Don't see why I should watch several other films to enjoy this one but thanks for your irrelevant input there Jay but I'm aloud to have an opinion. Maybe the fact this film page has 700 something likes and actually decent horror movies have hundreds of thousands, millions in fact. Films today should have a bit of depth and realism. Clearly a handful of people now days are easily pleased."

Scenes from Camp Dread and Danielle Harris doing more than her alleged five lines.


Anytime you make something and put it out there you are open to criticism. However Eli Roth makes a point about horror fans. They might be the most myopic group of fans out there. They are so entrenched in the genre they can sometimes become blind to it. They know what they like, what they want and while they say they want something different, most really don't.


This person was told to watch more films. Why? Because you need to know film before you launch your mouth in a social forum. What was so hard about the plot? The reality show thing is a gimmick to the plot and the ending is very clear when the twist is revealed. There is nothing nebulous or confusing.


This person is the kind of "fan" Roth talks about. They wanted their slasher served like a Big Mac. When you order a Big Mac you want it the same whether you are in Philly, London, LA or Bejing. A Quarter Pounder with Cheese is NOT a Royale. Gimme what I want because when I bite into this, it better be what I am expecting.


Roth is talking about that fan that reveres the terrible 1981 Halloween II which we looked at in our look at the reviled Halloween III from 1982. Here is a perfect example of when horror does something different and gets slapped for it by fans who asked for something different, got it, then complained.


Read our support for Halloween III HERE.


This is a great, educated explanation of why Halloween II ('81) is a terrible film:


"The main problem is the film's underlying motivation. Halloween was a labor of love, made by people committed to creating the most suspenseful and compelling motion picture they could. Halloween II was impelled by the desire to make money. It was a postscript—and not a very good one—slapped together because a box office success was guaranteed."  – James Bernardinelli 


Camp Dread gives you the stock slasher characters. They're all here: The slut, the wiseass, the nut job, the jock, the weirdo...yep, all present and accounted for. We give them some dialogue that is expected by the formula. You get the obligatory panties, boobs, shower scenes (we actually give you two shower scenes) and the false scares, cheesy dialogue...the formula is mixed well.


But we don't go all New Coke in our formula change up. We do indeed take a stab at the reality show culture, but the reality show itself is a McGuffin. If you're asking yourself, "what's that?" then you don't know horror and Roth is again validated.



Fans expect twist endings. The staple of the 80s twist ending was the sudden resurrection of the killer in the final seconds of the film. The eye snaps open, the hand moves or the survivor is suddenly snuffed and that worked for awhile. The best horror also works as a social commentary. George Romero's 1979 Dawn of the Dead comes to mind as a critique of our consumerism as well as the redneck, animalistic "civilization" we degraded to.


The issue with the Friday the 13th series is that aside from Corey Feldman's Tommy Jarvis, there really isn't a single stand out young character audiences remember, let alone care about or identify with. Yes, there's Jason and Mrs. Vorhees, but they're villains. When you think of the constant array of counselors and young folks parading along the death march, few can name character names or really care too much about them.


Sleepaway Camp killer, Felissa Rose all grown up, now a counselor with her campers onset of Camp Dread


There had to be real characters, people with backgrounds and some you're gonna root for and others you hope get it in the worst way. There had to be solid character development and most of all a good story instead of the "kids gather at a camp/cabin in the woods and die one by one." It was not going to be Ten Little Indians with blood and boobs.


I wrote the film for Felissa Rose, the cult actress best known for her mind bending ending in Sleepaway Camp.

I saw that film when I was 15 and it so freaked out my date, she had to rethink our relationship if this was the kind of horror movie I thought was fun. Since then I wanted to put Felissa Rose in a movie and I wrote the part of Rachel Steele solely for her. Thanks to associate producer Joshua Emerick, I got the script into her hands and she took the part and was Rachel in every way I could have hoped.


Felissa Rose as Camp Sunfish counselor, Rachel Steele in a scene from Camp Dread


Casting was important. Danielle Harris is a strong female figure in the horror community. Her role as sheriff Donlyn Eldridge was something different for her and it was hoped that would appeal to her. It did and we locked her in. While there are female victims in Camp Dread,  the guys are up for slaughter as well and the killer(s) may be both sexes. This is NOT a "Binders full of women" horror film concerned with degrading females. In fact it's one of the things we turned on its ear.


Our fan above said she had "five lines, if that." Wrong. Danielle occupies quite a bit of screen time and she is used well. While we sure wanted her in more of the film, time and money dictate otherwise, however as most reviews pointed out, she was used to great effect.


Danielle Harris with Eric Roberts in a scene from Camp Dread


Eric Roberts rounds out the cast as horror director Julian Barrett. His legendary status as an Oscar nominee for Runaway Train, his roles in The Pope of Greenwich Village, The Dark Knight and The Expendables...he was at the top of the list for the role. Roberts laid back LA style, his light Southern twang and his silver fox appeal brought a legitimacy and uniqueness to a horror film like this.


Oscar nominee Eric Roberts in a scene from Camp Dread


Camp Dread  works. If you're a fan of blood and gore, relax...Cleve Hall, SyFy Channel's Monster Man designed and executed the makeup FX. No CGI here, folks. Real, practical makeup gags, lots of blood and violence and all the things fans of the slasher want and will expect.


Cleve "Monster Man" Hall did the makeup FX for Camp Dread


All of the expected things are here but there's more. The slasher film has grown up, this isn't your father's 80s killer movie. Instead it has a slamming take on the reality TV obsession and the Cult of Celebrity and the voyeuristic society we have become. The line between entertainment and reality has never been more blurred...bloody.


Yep...the quasi homoerotic lesbian suntan lotion scene is in and lots more hijinks...and terror.


The film's website: Follow it on Twitter: @campdread


A smart script, solid and detailed performances and top notch makeup effects makes Camp Dread a more mainstream and wide appealing horror that dissembles Ebert's Dead Teenager Movie and approaches the sub-genre from a whole new angle.


So what would you do for your fifteen minutes of fame?








Prometheus: Somewhere Over the Prequel



Ridley Scott and his creation that "isn't a prequel" to itself.


Damon Lindeloff is full of it--along with his cohorts on the "Lost" TV show; lied for seasons saying the island wasn't purgatory and everyone was dead, he does it again with Prometheus:


PROMETHEUS IS A PREQUEL TO ALIEN.    Period. If you refuse to believe it, you did not see the original 1979 film or you don't know half as much about it as you thought  you did. None of that  fanboy studio parroting "now wait...there are strands of Alien's DNA in it but..."     


There's so much Alien DNA it's a alien porn facial.




- The film uses the exact same HR Giger bio-mechanical/sexual art design:

HR Giger's concept art for the 1979 film, Alien.


- The company financing the exploration is Weyland. It will become known as Weyland-Yutani in the subsequent Alien films, with the second film, Aliens creating the "Building Better Worlds" company tagline


- The horseshoe shaped alien ship is the exact model in the 1979 film:



- The Space Jockey(s), known in Prometheus as "Engineers" are the same discovered in the derelict spaceship in the 1979 Alien film

Top: Prometheus. Bottom: Alien


- The alien creatures morph with each victim closer to the original 1979 Alien design and if you watch to the end credits you are either in serious denial or did not see the 1979 Alien to see what is birthed in that crashed craft. The creature that attacks the "Engineer" in the final moments of the film is a giant precursor to the "Facehugger" that will become so famous in 1979. Oh yeah...the eel-like creatures in the derelict ship wrap tighter when removing them and they bleed acid when cut. Sound familiar? Wait! They also enter the mouth and incubate embryos inside. Still not a prequel, huh?



Above: The wormy creature entering the mouth to do its business Bottom: Nah, that has NO resemblance to the alien from the 1979 film. The creature appears in the closing minutes of Prometheus.


These are the most obvious. Throw in the filmmakers either subtle Easter eggs or outright treats with dialogue like: "Are you seeing this?" This line is said when the alien pyramids are discovered by the explorers back to the ship. This same line was the same used in the 1979 film spoken by Captain Dallas back to Ash on the ship when they see the derelict craft for the first time. The film ends as both Alien and Alien 3 ended with the lead female survivor signing off to the ship's log.


Enough of all of that. If you don't believe it is a prequel by now, stop reading and go rant on your own blog. Fanboys go away, you've done enough to wreck movies.


Charlize Theron perhaps wondering what she's doing in this movie. Many in the audience were.


The advance press and back story of this film's inception being a prequel and then merging into something different is half correct. There's a a civil war of scripts going on in this film and it lessens the impact of what could have been a revolutionary classic in the science fiction genre.


Noomi Rapace setting the stage for Sigourney Weaver's Ellen Ripley in Prometheus.


The original Alien was a horror film. It succeeds because it's pure. Alien, in this writer's opinion,  is close to perfect. Like the android Ash says in the 1979 classic, he admired the alien's purity--the best reason to admire the original Sigourney Weaver classic.


Where the original Alien was pitched as "Jaws in Space" this prequel could easily be pitched as "Frankenstein Meets The Wizard of Oz." Everyone's looking for something in this one: a robot is looking for a heart, a scientist wants courage, another wants eternal life and Charlize Theron just wants to go home. They've all come a long way to meet the Wizard and indeed they find that there's something very different behind the curtain.


There's a lot going on in Prometheus but it doesn't always click well together.


Michael Fassbender as David, setting the stage for Ash and Bishop with a little HAL thrown in.


When Prometheus is busy evoking wonder, it works beautifully and that's the right word: it is beautiful. However, this is a cynical age, far more so than in 1979. "The Company" (the studio) wants profits, much like "The Company" in the Alien films so sacrifices must be made. Audiences want their big screen scares and heaven forbid they sit through a truly high concept motion picture without someone in a cape or doing a mighty CGI flyby these days.



So a conscious effort was made to connect this film to a series of films that waned into the same flaccid goo that is discovered in the derelict ship canisters. Most critics and fans will agree that the series should have stopped at Aliens. While the third film is not a "bad" one, it is a mess, with even its director, David Fincher disowning it; citing studio interference as making the production a living hell. On top of it Alien 3 is downright depressing, nihilistic and nullifies everything that the second film worked so hard for.


It was downhill from there with the ridiculous graphic novel come to life Alien Resurrection (Joss Whedon gets credit for the script but he says they butchered his screenplay). That's okay, Whedon gets his revenge this summer as his film The Avengers will pummel the aliens anyway. The ridiculous and "let's make a buck" Alien vs. Predator series knocked Sigourney Weaver and Ridley Scott away from the series for awhile, as they rightly said going in that fanboy mashup direction would kill the series and whatever dignity it had left.


Now it's full circle. Alien returns to meet its maker and it left me and from what I could hear of the people exiting around me, wanting more and wishing it wasn't so Alien heavy. To this day, Spielberg's Close Encounters of the Third Kind still leaves me with a genuine sense of wonder--a real "what's out there beyond us?" kind of feeling. There were parts of Prometheus that had me starting to feel this way and then: cut to monster stuff or worse yet, a cheesy 1950's bad guy plot that has become a science fiction cliche and was before the 1979 film.



As reviews have said, the technical aspects of the film are magnificent. It looks real and Rapace and Fassbender indeed deserve the accolades they are getting for their performances (although I think Fassbender's praise is a little over exuberant. Lance Henrickson and Ian Holm did much better android turns).


When Prometheus is challenging you to think, it's on its 'A' Game. However it cowtows to an ever dumbed down audience that, right now, most prefer their films heavy on the action, less on the story and thinking.


And maybe, that's the answer to the ultimate question Noomi Rapace asks: "What happened to make them hate us?" What IF we were created by other world beings? What WOULD they think if they came to visit and saw how we are running things--if they read our tweets, watched E News, reality TV and looked at our political and legal systems?


Hell, all they have to see are the comments sections under any news article and we might have the answer to Rapace's question.














"TROPES" are devices and conventions that a writer can reasonably rely on as being present in the audience members' minds and expectations. On the whole, tropes are not clichés. The word clichéd means "stereotyped and trite." In other words, dull and uninteresting.  We are here to recognize tropes and play with them, not to make fun of them. --

Brian Gallagher breaks The Fourth Wall  in 6 Degrees of Hell, in a scene that functions as a tribute to classic horror and William Castle style filmmaking of the 1950's




6 Degrees of Hell was described in recent test screenings as a "horror film with Easter eggs." The film is packed with classic horror inspiration and references without going the route of self-reference or parody. 6 Degrees  is straight up horror but owes its soul to the Golden Era of Universal, 60's Hammer and the best of 80's horror. The 1985 classic Fright Night played a major influence in 6 Degrees of Hell in both style and tribute to previous days of of the genre.


We want and need our audience to know their horror genre as this film is chock full of references and inspiration from the genre's long and diverse history.


I had so much fun seeing horror films as a kid and teenager. Audiences screamed, applauded, cheered and shouted at the screen. I remember the terror of Alien as a packed house shrieked and I almost bolted from my seat when John Hurt gave "birth" at the dinner table.  I laughed my ass off in the James Brolin Amityville Horror (the puking nun is classic) and saw John Frankenheimer's Prophecy, the mutant bear monster movie at least three times in theaters just for that kid in the yellow sleeping bag scene.


The late, great Dr. Shock, horror's gentleman host of Horror Theater out of Philly


I ate up Dr. Phibes, The Tingler, Frankenstein, Dracula, The Werewolf, Creature From the Black Lagoon, The Pit and the Pendulum and knew the names of William Castle, Roger Corman, Sammy Arkoff and others before I hit my teens. Dr. Shock on WPHL-17 brought Universal monsters, Lugosi, Lorre, Godzilla and so many Saturday afternoon treats from Horror Theater and Creature Double Feature.


In writing 6 Degrees of Hell, I wanted to bring that same fun of being scared back to the genre. While we went for scares in 6 Degrees of Hell, we also wanted to pay homage to so many of those great films that made up such an important part of my life. George Romero and Stephen King's Creepshow so moved me in 1982, I left the theater and went home to write in my journal about the movie going experience. Creepshow embodied fun and yet delivered the scares in the uneven anthology.


1982's Creepshow played a major influence on style in 6 Degrees of Hell





FRIDAY THE 13TH & OTHER SLASHERS: The opening scene with our four young stars is a direct reference to those camp counselor introductions in the Friday the 13th series. That forced dialogue and the lame sexual innuendos are all there. This is a direct tip of the hat to the venerable slasher franchise as our star, Corey Feldman stole the show in Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter.


The young cast of 6 Degrees of Hell (left) in a direct nod to Friday the 13th and other slasher films like those randy, oh so carefree camp counselors from the 1980 slasher classic (right).


NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, THE EXORCIST: We focused our makeup effects to reflect iconic images from specifically these two films. Our undead girl was modeled after George A. Romero's game changing 1968 zombie classic:


Left: The iconic zombie makeup from Romero's Night of the Living Dead. Right: Our "dead girl" patterned on the photo to the left

Our makeup for Jeff Wilde (left) is a nod to the "strobe face" demon in 1973's The Exorcist




HAMMER FILMS: I educated my young director of photography, Charlie Anderson and director Joe Raffa on the lighting for the film. I wanted specific attention to be paid the graveyard scene which is a turning point in the film. The lighting, the fog...everything right down to the size of the hole dug in Kelly's grave had to be done to reflect the great style of classic 1960's Hammer horror. 

The graveyard scene in 6 Degrees (above) designed to reflect the style of classic Hammer Films (below):


A Hammer Films mortuary scene (L) and a scene from 6 Degrees of Hell:




6 Degrees of Hell draws heavily from Creepshow in its lighting and set design while the pacing of 6 Degrees of Hell reflects the frenetic last 15 minutes of the 1983 classic, Poltergeist (above). Below : scenes from 6 Degrees of Hell illustrating the influence of the aforementioned films on its design and lighting


Lighting style and the random terror chaos of the film's climax in 6 Degrees of Hell


The Hotel of Horror is very much a character, much like the house in Burnt Offerings, The Legend of Hell House or even the Amityville films. Inanimate objects take on a life of their own, lending a tip of the hat to Trilogy of Terror and the killer Zuni Doll that plagued Karen Black.


June's incident at her front door in the dead of night evokes the dread of the classic short story, The Monkey's Paw while the chaos that erupts at the conclusion of 6 Degrees is like the roller coaster ride conclusion of Poltergeist. Perhaps even closer, the startling events inside the Hotel of Horror in the third act recall a Grand Guignol style as it plays out before an unsuspecting audience.



Hush, Hush, Sweet Charlotte: The Bette Davis thriller is invoked in our main female character June who could easily be compared to the mental anguish Charlotte Hollis endured in the famous film. June's plight is long and tortuous having been stalked by something sinister for her whole life...chipping slowly away at her...

Poster for the classic Gothic film and Nicole Cinaglia as the long suffering June in 6 Degrees
We have a direct reference for quick ears in 6 Degrees of Hell to the other Bette Davis classic, Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? We hope fans will catch it.


MUSIC: There are so many references to classic scores from great horror: Bride of Frankenstein, Fright Night, Psycho II...too many to mention but the horror score fan will be in heaven listening to this film's soundtrack.




The true horror fan will pick up references to Whatever Happened to Baby Jane, The Abominable Dr. Phibes, The Monkey's Paw, Psycho II, Rosemary's Baby, Dracula, The Tingler, The Haunting, The Last Man on Earth, Fright Night, Ghost Story, The Werewolf, The Creature From the Black Lagoon, Mad Monster Party, Beetlejuice and so much more.


Will 6 Degrees of Hell be "the scariest movie of 2012?" Who knows? Who cares? However it will be a blast--the perfect scary movie date picture that evokes a time missing from present day horror. Top quality production value, fantastic acting, a fresh supernatural story and scares played out to do just that: scare.



































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