The best films to come out of NYCC
Could it be a trend?
Most of the supernatural and genre films previewed over the weekend at New York Comic Con had a female-centric theme, featuring girls and women as witches ("Beautiful Creatures"), demons ("Evil Dead"), paranormal investigators and the possessed alike ("The Conjuring"), teen assassins ("Violet & Daisy") and telekinetic prom queens ("Carrie"). This was despite the general makeup of the more than 115,000 badge-holders for the convention being 60% male.
The influence of such fantasy and dystopic-fiction series as "Twilight" and "Hunger Games" is clear, at least as far as the market is concerned, even if the subject matter is wildly different. We sampled a variety of the film offerings and talked to those involved to give a sneak peek of what dark dreams lie ahead.
"Silent Hill: Revelation 3-D"
When Kit Harington limped onto the NYCC floor, nursing an ankle injury, he was bombarded by fans dressed as his television character, Jon Snow. But the "Game of Thrones" star wasn't at the convention to promote the show. Rather, he's got his first horror film coming out, "Silent Hill: Revelation 3-D," on October 26, co-starring his "Thrones" father, Sean Bean.
"There was a bit of teasing about being his bastard son," Harington laughed. "But it was nice to be in a different genre, a different environment, with the same actor. We shot this straight off the first season of 'Thrones,' and we got to be in normal clothes for once!"
Harington plays Vincent, a character originally found in the video game that the film series is based on, but his version is remarkably different from the order priest. "He has a change of heart," the actor said. "If we had been sticking to the video game, then I wouldn't have been cast."
Vincent accompanies the female protagonist -- let's call her Heather Mason -- on her journey back to Silent Hill, a town caught in a sort of dream dimension in which the darkness takes over and monstrous creatures of corrupted flesh torment the people there. When they enter Silent Hill, it looks like snow is falling, but it's ash, since the town is perpetually burning.
"I love the ash in 3D," Harington said. "It kind of freaked my eyes out at first, but I love the image of the girl walking forward and the ash coming down."
Since Silent Hill's dreamscape is about nightmares come to life, it's only fitting that its stars have had a little trouble sleeping since the shoot. "I hope I'm never strapped to a gurney with demon nurses trying to kill me again," Harington laughed.
When the actor had to have a pin removed in the hospital, he flashed back to his scene in "Silent Hill" "because I was on a gurney in a hospital," he said. "I was passing in and out of consciousness, because I'm quite a queasy person when it comes to blood and syringes, and I was like, 'Oh, my God, it's happening all over again!'"
One of the scariest -- and most iconic -- characters from the film and video game series is Pyramid Head, who rivals Harington (for now) in the fan devotion department. "All these people were coming up to me going, 'Pyramid Head, he's my favorite,' " Harington said.
Once the film is out, he hopes he'll inherit some of that fan love. "I'm collecting fan bases is what I'm doing," he said with a smile. "I'm taking over the world slowly through fan base collection."
En route from the set of her television series, "Shameless," Emmy Rossum nearly lost her luggage. Stuck in her hotel room without a change of clothing, she contemplated "grabbing the sheets off the bed and fashioning a toga," she said. "I could go as a goddess!"
Rossum's not quite a goddess in her new film, "Beautiful Creatures," the first film adaptation of the young adult fantasy book series the Caster Chronicles, out February 13, but she might as well be. As Ridley, she's a siren who can "seduce men and kill them," the actress said with glee before explaining that she based her character's mentality on a figure in Norse mythology.
The supernatural characters at the center of "Beautiful Creatures," written and directed by Richard LaGravenese, live in a Southern Gothic world where once they turn 16, they are claimed for either the Light or the Dark. It's a series that's been hyped as the next "Twilight," but it actual bears a closer resemblance to another vampire series, according to the director.
"To me, it's like 'Buffy the Vampire Slayer,' where it's a metaphor for a bigger idea," LaGravenese said. "I love that you have this idea where you don't know what your true nature is, you don't know who you are, and you have to claim who you are. You could take the supernatural out of it, and it still works."
One distinction it has from the current spate of female-centric fantasy fiction is that it's told from a male perspective, from that of a boy named Ethan who falls for Ridley's mysterious cousin Lena, who is on the cusp of her claiming but wants to choose her own path. Lena is played by newcomer Alice Englert, and the cast also includes turns by Emma Thompson, Jeremy Irons and Viola Davis.
Alden Ehrenreich, who plays Ethan, said he originally turned down the movie because "I thought, 'Oh, it's a genre love story with witches.' " But after the filmmakers cast someone else (who subsequently fell through), he read the script and reconsidered. "I fell in love after the first three pages," he said. "And so I got the part at 8 in the morning, and by 4 in the afternoon, I was in a car and on the way there. A week later, we started shooting in New Orleans."
Rossum, whose character can melt just about anyone with one lick of her red lollipop, hopes that next Comic Con will feature fans dressed as Ridley. Until then, her on-screen boyfriend Thomas Mann, who plays Link, is happy to dress up as Carrie. "I would be covered in blood, with a wig," he joked. "Chloë Moretz should watch out for me. I might be taking all her roles now. I'm that good."
Chloë Grace Moretz flew straight from the set of "Kick-Ass 2," shooting in London, to give a preview of her other highly anticipated film (at least within the NYCC crowd), "Carrie," out March 15.
The 15-year-old plays the role Sissy Spacek made famous in the Brian De Palma original, but she's not attempting to fill Spacek's blood-drenched prom shoes. "Some people just remake horror movies for the sake of 'I want to make it gorier' or 'I want to make it more marketable,' " she noted. "But this isn't a remake of the original. It's a retelling of the book by Stephen King, and it hasn't been made this way before."
Director Kimberly Peirce called up De Palma to see how he felt about her doing this film, "because if he felt bad about it, I wouldn't want to do it," she said. But he gave her the go-ahead, and while she wasn't necessarily seeking his permission, "it was great not to have a problem with him."
Peirce's version uses more modern communication and places a greater emphasis on Carrie White's telekinetic powers as a metaphor for her coming of age. "It would be like going to college for someone else," Moretz said. "This is more like, 'This might be who I am. This is how I'm going to grow up.' It's an extension of herself, and it can't be cheesy."
Neither could the violence, which is rooted in psychological motivations that are more clear this time around. "You've got to be careful with that," Peirce said. "How much is pornographic? How much is unreal? How much is real?"
Julianne Moore, who plays Carrie's mother, Margaret, voiced concerns about scenes requiring her character to abuse her daughter. "She was like, 'I don't want to beat her up,' " Peirce recalled. "She was like, 'This is the modern era. If a parent does that, they're going to get locked up.' So we had to find another layer of authenticity. She definitely uses physical punishment -- you're not going to get denied that -- but she made sure to layer it into a reality that worked.
Moore said the character was so isolated, she viewed "every physical act" as something to do with parenting and loving too much. "This child is the only person she sees or speaks to," the actress said. "So why would someone hurt someone they love so much? All of the damage she was inflicting is in the guise of parenting, because she only sees danger out there for Carrie."
To get Moretz into a space where she could play a teen trying to break free from an overly protective mother, Peirce said, she encouraged her to rebel against her family and fight with her mother. "I told her mother, 'Get ready. She's going to fight with you, because she has to.' "
Peirce also took Moretz to women's homeless shelters to understand suffering on a deeper level. "She's a sensitive girl, and she's going to use that to represent more accurately," the director said.
One other big shift between the De Palma movie and the new version, as glimpsed in footage premiered at NYCC, is the extent and scope of Carrie's wrath: it's not just the prom that she burns down anymore. "There are a lot of things that happen that you haven't seen before," Peirce promised. "Chloë had me crying at the monitor, and I don't cry."
Don't look for Ash in the "Evil Dead" reboot, due out April 12: Bruce Campbell is a producer on the project, but he won't be in it. "There's no hokey cameo from me as the ice-cream guy, 'Here's your $2. You kids be careful at that cabin!' "
Instead, the new film -- directed by Fede Alvarez -- focuses on a character named Mia (played by "Suburgatory" star Jane Levy), who has a serious reason to gather her friends at an isolated cabin in the woods. "I go to kick a habit, a heroin addiction, and I bring all the people who are closest to me to help me do it," explained Levy.
"The tagline should be, 'When interventions go bad,' " Campbell said, "because the problem is, by the time things get too far along, they think she's only in withdrawal. They don't realize it's a little worse than that, and when the evil, when the dead is unleashed, it's pretty relentless."
This is because they inevitably find an ancient tome that awakens the dead that they should have left well enough alone. Doesn't anyone ever learn? Apparently not, otherwise the five-kids-in-the-woods concept wouldn't have needed spoofing/deconstructing in the aptly named film "Cabin in the Woods" this year. "Evil Dead," however, sees no need to spoof itself any longer.
"This one is straight horror, more like the first 'Evil Dead,' " Campbell said. "And the first one was only funny because it was melodramatic dialogue delivered by bad actors. I'm less worse now, but the first one was not designed to be funny, although we evolved the series to go that way."
Levy said shooting the film was the worst experience of her life because of what the role required of her during the four-month shoot. "I was strangled," she said. "I was buried alive, fully, under the ground, with only a cell phone and a flashlight. I did one take, and I cried. I was like, 'That's it!' "
Alvarez said there was always something in the premise of "Evil Dead" that was meant for a main female character, since it's one of the few franchises where "women torture men," instead of the other way around. "Usually in horror, it's a girl running from some dude with an ax who is chasing her. This is completely the other way around, because it's the girl driving the guys crazy."
The violence quotient is at an extreme high in the new "Evil Dead," with first teaser footage shown at NYCC revealing a tongue cut in two with rusty scissors and an arm chainsawed off. As for other scenes, "How about a nail gun fight? How about a blood rain?" Campbell teased. "This is a balls-out movie that will torment people for the rest of their lives, but thankfully, there's not a frame of torture porn. I hope we're coming out the a**-end of torture porn, and may it never return."
Many horror movies tease that they're "based on a true story," but few actually are. However, two very real paranormal investigators and one of their more notorious cases form the basis of "The Conjuring," out July 19. Ed and Lorraine Warren (played by Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga) sniffed out supernatural stories such as the Amityville and Snedeker hauntings (which became the basis of "The Amityville Horror" and "The Haunting in Connecticut"), long before it became fashionable.
"Before videocameras, before people could edit their own scary YouTube video -- 'Look, a ghost moved my Coke can in the middle of the night!' -- the first people to do it were Ed and Lorraine Warren," Wilson said. "Any paranormal investigator, whether truthful or a charlatan, referenced them, and this is one of their first cases."
In Harrisville, Rhode Island, the Warrens investigated a case at the home of the Perron family, who were purportedly haunted by the ghost of a New England witch named Bathsheba Sherman who hung herself in their barn long ago. The mother of the family (played by Lili Taylor) was also allegedly possessed by the witch's spirit, and "The Conjuring" depicts those events.
The real-life Perron family came to the set to see their old home fashioned as a three-story house on a soundstage, and Lorraine Warren helped consult with the actors. Taylor took lessons from a heavy-metal vocal coach to learn how to scream for at least 20 minutes straight "and not lose my voice," she said. But her character's demon side might be heard more than seen, based on teaser footage showed at NYCC.
"I think they were aiming for a PG because they wanted the audience, and they were given a R for no reason other than how scary it is," Livingston said.
"It goes back to Steven Spielberg and 'Jaws,' " Wilson said. "When do you show the shark? How much do you want to hold back? So the moments when you see ... her, I'll say ... to me is pretty terrifying. But it's not just, 'Come see this crazy horror movie if you're 19.' I think it's a much broader story about a family in peril. It's a very human story in a supernatural world."
"It's so deep, emotionally," Taylor said. "My husband (author Nick Flynn) said he never cried and screamed at a horror film before."
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