The Insidious Experience: An Interview with Leigh Whannell

Insidious has gone from a small low budget horror film to a full blown horror franchise powerhouse. The little horror movie that could came out of nowhere and ended up being a huge hit, becoming the most profitable film of 2011 while earning a total of 97 million dollars off of it's reported $1.5 million budget. Insidious delivered a fresh take on the haunted house genre by crafting a story which combined the best of the genres concepts and blended them with new ideas and an artistic eye. Upon the huge success of the first a second film "Insidious Chapter 2" was quickly put into production and would continue the story of the first as well as adding new story elements via flashback sequences which served to flesh out the characters history. Both films delivered plenty of creepy imagery and sequences and I clearly remember the first film scaring the hell out of my crowd, causing many to scream, jump and others just to sink into their chair covering their eyes. It was great time and I myself remember finding it to be one of the best new horror films in recent years. I am a huge fan of creepy films that give you chills and Insidious did just that anchored by it's strong cast of characters. I was excited when the second film was announced and it too picked up right where the first left off. The same combination of spooky fun and eerie set pieces was here and for the most part just as effective. The franchise has certainly divided audiences, it's PG-13 rating warding off the hardcore gorehounds who feel there is no place for yet another ghost related film in the world, while there are others who enjoy the care and effort put into these films and find the suspense and creepy scenarios to hit all the right notes. Such is the world of horror fandom. Still the films remain in the hands of those who truly care about it and are not simply "hired guns" cashing a check. That is one of the aspects I respected about it, it was a passion project for it's creators and I personally feel it shows in the final product and for me that makes all the difference in the world.

 Fast forward to 2015 and we are nearing the release of the latest chapter in the Insidious Saga, Chapter 3. This time in place of his partner James Wan is series co-creator and star Leigh Whannell. This will be Whannell's first time directing after years in the film industry as an actor, writer and producer on a number of films from Saw to Dead Silence and of course the Insidious series. Yesterday I was lucky enough to be invited to a special press event for the "Insidious Chapter 3 - Into the Further 4D experience (more about that in a bit) as part of the films promotional tour. As part of that, I was able to sit down with Leigh himself for a quick interview. It was all very last minute and I wish I had more time to formulate my questions prior, however I did get to ask him the majority of stuff I had prepared which he was more than happy to answer. You can watch the interview below.

As you can tell from the video, Whannell is a very humorous and easy going, down to earth person who is extremely passionate about horror and film. That passion is sure to extend itself to this supernatural world he has helped create and these characters that inhabit it. It is also apparent that he was very excited at the ida of reteaming with actress Lin Shaye who plays Elise, to get to tell more of her story and what she has gone through. It is when hearing him discuss her involvement and what her character will be tasked with here that I really started to anticpate seeing this new film and seeing what they have in store for her and audiences alike. I knew I would only have a few minutes to speak with him and naturally the more questions he answered the more that popped into my head that I wouldn't be able to ask. There is one however that I do regret not being able to ask and I was kicking myself after because I had thought of it earlier in the day as well. I would have asked him with James Wan having been the visual force behind the first two, how does he intend to put his own stamp on the franchise and this universe from a directors standpoint. It is one of the things I am most looking forward to seeing, just how does this film differentiate itself from the others while still being part of the same story in a sense.

UPDATE: Luckily, Whannell was kind enough to check out this article and took the time out to answer this unasked question via twitter. I can't thank him enough for this because by doing so he has stopped me from continually kicking myself forever for forgetting to ask it in the first place.

So there you have it, he definitely will be putting his own twist on the films visuals and I am looking forward to seeing how his visual influences come into play on screen. Listening to Whannell speak about his characters and horror in general even for a short while, I have no doubt that he is up to the task and I am rooting for him to succeed and deliver a new and creepy experience for audience to fear.

Now speaking of creepy experience, the other part of the day involved what you see in the photo above, that is one of the two trailers that house "The Further 4D Experience". Fans of the series know that the "The Further" is the name of ghostly otherworld populated by the lingering spirits of the dead. As part of the films promotional campaign Focus Features is inviting you into that world via what is best described as part haunt, part virtual reality experience. The Haunt part is similar to your traditional haunted house many visit during October, once you enter. You are in a dimly lit hallway featuring props and set design that match the film. My favorite item being the bizarre gas mask wearing, wooden mannequin seen in Elise's basement in part 2.

After you are greeted by your host at the end of the Hallway, you have to make your way through another short corridor till you reach another very dimly lit small room, you enter and sit down in a chair, it is hear that you will make use of Oculus Rift headset which is a fancy name for REALLY good virtual reality headgear. Once you place this on securely you are instantly transported to the living room of Elise's house and she is there with you. Actress Lin Shaye filmed all new material for this I imagine, and as she speaks to you warning you of dangers abound, you can freely turn your head looking around the room and up at the ceiling and you feel as if you are truly in this space. Inanimate objects move around the room, you see shadows in the windows, you feel a draft or something gently brushing against your shoulder, then it starts to get extremely creepy. I won't spoil it here in case any of you will be attending one of these, but I can say without a doubt that this is the closest I have ever felt to being in an actual horror movie. A haunt is one thing and those are awesome fun and can be scary as well, but this is a totally immersive experience where special effects come to life before your eyes, you feel as if you are in the movie and it's awesome. My only gripe would be that it is too short even if I understand the concept of time constraints and budgets. I had never used the Oculus Rift technology prior to this event and it was extremely impressive, I can imagine it not working for all things they have been applied to, but for Insidious where you literally are just sitting in someones living room it all feels very natural.

The Further 4D experience is a free exhibition that will be major cities within the next month leading up to the films release. It doesn't take more than 15 minutes tops to complete the entire walk through, but it was still a very enjoyable time. I can't recommend someone to drive for an hour to go to this unless you are A. really bored and/or the more likely B. just want something different and unique to do that won't be around long and can be your first fun stop during a night out. For that I can definitely recommend it as it is definitely very cool just not something that will take up your night. Overall I truly had a fun time with all of this. It was really cool to be able to meet and interview Leigh Whannell, I enjoyed talking with the different friendly people from Focus Features such as Kirstin and Ryan discussing movies, horror and other related topics. In addition I also got to meet some other new like minded people while waiting to go into the experience itself. All of this has easily helped heighten my anticipation for the next chapter in the Insidious Saga and much kudos go to Focus and everyone involved with the Insidious franchise that helped put this all together at no charge to us, the visitors, Nothing wrong with promoting the film while offering us the fans a fun way to experience what it feels like to be trapped within the mysterious Further.

They also tweet these photos out to you after you exit, pretty cool.

If you are interested in attending I would suggest tweeting to @focusfeatures for passes the closer you get to event hitting your town.


use the contact option at the following link


It Follows has been garnering heaps of heavy praise since it started hitting the festival circuits. I know I was anticipating it after watching the international teaser trailer, loved the tone it provided while not giving away anything. After seeing that, I was sold on the film and skipped any further trailers or clips that studios love to pump out in order to sell their movie by essentially spoiling the entire thing. So just as I always try to do, I went in knowing as little as possible and it paid off. 
It Follows is the horror film I hoped it would be. 

Written and directed by David Robert Mitchell, It Follows tells the story of Jay, a pretty young girl played by Maika Monroe (The Guest) who comes to find out that after a sexual encounter gone awry with her new boyfriend, an apparent supernatural evil has begun following her. Without getting into too much spoiler territory, Jay and her friends (all well casted with actors who feel as if they are real teens with real personalities) must try to figure out how to stay alive while avoiding the relentless titular "It". I can understand that it sounds pretty straight forward but there are many levels at play here and it is because of the care it is handled with that elevate it into something special and frightening. 

To best describe It Follows, I need to ask you to think of those nightmares that feel incredibly real while you are having them. Yet there are certain details and locations that are skewed just enough so you are aware that whats happening is not quite reality, which in turn make things even creepier. In that nightmare you rarely ever feel like you have control and are essentially at the mercy of your subconscious. Those are the nightmares you eventually force yourself to wake up from to escape, and then you realize that it's only around 4am and you are wishing it were already daylight. Watching It Follows is like witnessing someone elses nightmare unfold on the movie screen right before your eyes. That impression of the film ended up making a great deal of sense after reading that the entire thing is in fact inspired by a nightmare the director had where he was constantly followed by a relentless shapeshifting being. The film also skews it's own reality in a very subtle way as it's time period is never defined and full of contradictions in a sense as the tv's in the houses are vintage black and white sets, while one of the kids in the movie uses some sort of sea shell shaped e-reader while Jay herself has an old corded telephone in a bedroom that looks like something straight out of the 80's. It is a interesting production design choice that adds to the disorienting dream like nature of the film. In fact the entire film is beautifully shot in a sort of cold and hazy visual style that sets the mood perfectly and that mood is one of impending doom and overbearing dread. Mitchell utilizes the bleak landscapes and grey skys of his hometown Detroit to great effect as a backdrop for his story to unfold.  

That story on the surface is a metaphor for the dangers of sex, and how the decisions you make involving it can follow you for the rest of your life, however on a deeper level it's a story about coming to grips with ones mortality and the fear that death can be around the corner at any tme. These kids in the film are only just about to get into their 20's and already lamenting the loss of yesteryear back when they were just careless children having fun. It may not exactly resonate with everyone at the moment, but it certainly hit home for me. Death is coming for everyone at some point, and it is coming for these characters, they are constantly looking over their shoulders. In every frame you feel "It" getting closer and closer, you share in their uneasiness, even when it isn't on screen it's presence is felt. One presence that is not felt in the film, is that of the parents. Just like Nancy's drunk mother from "A Nightmare on Elm Street" or Laurie Strode's absentee parents in "Halloween" , the parents here are largely missing from the proceedings, which only helps to underscore how in over their heads these kids are. However that helps to keep the threat and horror much more personal and intimate. This is a story ultimately about youth, coming of age and realizing actions have consequences and in this case create literal demons that will haunt you for the rest of your life. 

Speaking of presence, one that cannot be overlooked and is certainly a highlight of the film is the incredible score by Rich Vreeland aka Disasterpeace. Just as John Carpenter once stated that Halloween was not effective nor frightening until he added his now iconic score, It Follows would not be nearly as effective a horror film if it weren't for the soundscape crafted by Vreeland. If watching the film is like viewing someone's nightmare, hearing the score is akin to listening to one. It amplifies that aforementioned sense of dread to chilling effect. From the moment we are introduced to it by way of the films chilling opening sequence, it truly captures your attention and doesn't let go. Pulsating synths, sparse piano keys, pounding basslines, among other sounds creep in and out of the film just as It Follows shapeshifting antagonist does. The score is best described as a mix between vintage Carpenter and Rob's more recent Maniac score, it's  also sprinkled with a healthy amount of it's own horrific touches that make it one of the best in recent years. Vreeland's music coupled with Mitchell's visuals perfectly compliment eachother to cement the nightmarish world presented to us. 

In the end It Follows turned out to be the type of horror film I love. It isn't perfect but delivers an extremely creepy moviegoing experience that remains fresh and original even while harking back to the fright films of our youth. It's cast delivers solid perfomances creating believable characters who sell the horror of their harrowing predicament. While there is little gore, it isn't needed here as It Follows establishes it's horror with mood and atmosphere and when all is said and done more than likely you will be thinking about it just like that recurring nightmare that leaves you shaken and uneasy within the dark. 


We are very excited to announce our newest project, TrueHorror Music. Music is a huge element of horror movies and for years the soundtracks and scores have become as iconic as their characters. Whether it's the haunting piano built soundscape of "Halloween", the epic saxophone of  "I Still Believe" from the "Lost Boys" soundtrack or the more recent addictive sonics of "Maniac" and "The Guest", music in both score and song form has always been at the forefront of the horror genre. So it was only a matter of time before we decided to do something for the site involving music. We obviously love music here and it is one of our passions, having previously released three mixes of horror themed music for the past two Halloween's, now it is time for us to bring something original to the table. 

TrueHorror Music is a way for us to put out original material from new artists who's music will not always be strictly horror themed, yet we still love and feel will perfectly compliment with what we represent and do here on the site.  We want help to introduce these artists to new audiences. We look forward to providing you more info on our first release in the upcoming weeks. We can tell you it will be released exclusively via limited edition cassette as well as digitally. (No vinyl as of now, sorry!)  Stay tuned for more info very soon. 


"Be my victim."

In 1992 director Bernard Rose adapted a short novella by Clive Barker entitled "The Forbidden" into a big screen horror film. That film would become Candyman. It starred Virginia Madsen as Helen Lyle, a Chicago Grad Student doing a thesis on urban legends,  and Tony Todd in a career defining role as the titular boogeyman. The following year it hit home video and my friends and I (probably in our final year of Junior High at the time) finally got around to seeing it. I still remember going over to my buddy Joey's apartment on a Saturday night, his dad, Bruce had rented it for us to watch (Thanks Bruce). I still remember the "ooooh shit" moment we both had as soon as the opening credits started playing and Philip Glass' brilliantly haunting score began to blare out of the surround sound. We knew were in for something frightening and different. Turns out, it was one of the scariest movies we had seen in a long time. We were a group of kids who were always watching horror films, renting whatever we could from the video store or staying up late watching Joe Bob Briggs or movie channels hoping for a new horror flick to show up. So we were not newcomers to horror and didn't particularly scare easy. Candyman scared us, it scared our other friends when they watched it, it scared alot of people. 

Over the years since it's release it has garnered heaps of praise and is regarded as a classic. It has found itself in my personal top 3 horror films and more than likely won't be moved from there at this point. I originally intended to write this article as a normal retrospective of the film and my experience with it, however that ended up kind of boring to me and was not letting me talk about the part of the film I always found the most fascinating and frightening. As most will know by now Candyman revolves around the story of Helen Lyle who is researching urban legend, particulalry the growing number of tales she is hearing from interviewees about the mythical figure of Candyman (the hook wielding ghost of Daniel Robitaille, a black man who was murdered in an act of racism during the civil war era ) The stories hook (no pun intended) was that if you look in a mirror and say his name 5 times, he will appear behind you. So it's basically the classic "bloody Mary" legend with a twist. Now Candyman as stated before was a frightening film, Tony Todd's portrayal of the ghostly figure was as perfect a performance as you will see. He played him with a gentlemanly quality and always spoke to his soon to be victims in a poetic dialogue, right before he would split them from "groin to gullet" with his large rusty hook jammed into the stump where his hand used to be. The film is full of creepy imagery, well earned scares, superb gore and overall extremely well put together. Still rather than go into detail about the film, recap and dissect it which I originally intended to do, I decided to talk about the thing that gives the film it's truly unique take on the old boogeyman story, it's location, the infamous Cabrini-Green housing projects of Chicago. 

"An entire community starts attributing the daily horrors of their lives to a mythical figure" 

One of the boldest choices by director Bernard Rose was setting his film in Cabrini-Green. For so long horror had been relegated to the old mansions, backwoods towns and of course the suburbs. 1988's Child's Play also set it's story in urban Chicago, including some of the more downtrodden parts of the city, still the majority of it takes place in the middle class confines of the Barclay family apartment. Candyman on the other hand brought supernatural horror to the ghetto and did so with the blight of the area being an integral part of the story. It's mythology was firmly rooted in the projects and it's director was adamant that it was important to set it in Cabrini-Green, regardless of the obvious obstacles and dangers of shooting in such an area. The Cabrini presented in Candyman is far different from the one J.J. Dynamite Evans and family called home on the classic t.v. show "Good Times". The films story starts out with Helen being told the story of a murder that occurred in Cabrini, where a woman named Ruthie Jean was killed by someone who came through the walls in her apartment. When Helen and research partner Bernadette head to Cabrini to investigate they are initially "greeted" by gang members (who were actual real gang members given parts in the film to ensure their cooperation and the safety of the production crew) eventually eluding them and making their way up to the apartment where the murder occurred, the residents all seem to blame the murder on The Candyman. Helen and Bernadette soon meet Ruthie Jeans neighbor Anne-Marie McCoy who proceeds to tell them the story of what happened from her point of view. Ann-Marie is a stark contrast to the Gang Members whom they encountered in the lobby area. I bring these points up for two reasons, the first and most important being that while the general belief exists that these areas in real life are populated with nothing more than dangerous criminals, the actual truth is that there are plenty of good people in the community just trying to live their lives and raise their children safely among the crime. Ann-Marie makes this clear to Helen and also states how Ruthie Jean called for help yet no police came till it was too late, she then adds "Everybody is scared, he could come right through these walls you know, I'm scared, scared for my child...they ain't never gonna catch him.." "Who?" Helen asks. "Candyman."

The reason I bring up that portion of the story first is because the entire Anne-Marie McCoy/ Ruthie Jean tale in which the movie builds a large part of its story around is inspired by an actual case that occurred in Chicago's Grace Abbot housing projects. The horrific true story of Ruthie Mae McCoy (see the similarities?) is one that I came across while researching the film online. Upon reading up on it, it becomes clear this is where the movie makers drew their inspiration/concepts for the Ruthie Jean/Candyman murders set up of the film. While I didn't know about the true story till 22 years after the film was released, nonetheless it's chilling stuff. On April 22nd, 1987, Between 8:45 and 9:00 pm, Ruthie Mae McCoy was shot and killed by someone who gained access to her apartment via the passageway behind her medicine cabinet. It would take police a day and a half to enter her apartment to discover her body. The in depth news article I read detailing the crime and it's aftermath entitled "They Came In Through The Bathroom Mirror" was written by Chicago writer Steve Bogira in 1987. It is a fascinating piece that details the horrors of the Chicago Housing Authority properties. He also wrote a follow-up regarding Candyman and its similarities to his article along with his conversations with Illinois native John Malkovich that may or may not have lead to the film being green lit. I highly recommend reading the full article because it is as fascinating as it is sad. While judging on his follow up article I get the impression Steve was not a fan of the film and also seemed to feel it exploited the people of the projects living situations, while there certainly is a bit of merit to that sentiment,  I personally feel otherwise and respectfully disagree. Nonetheless without Bogira article perhaps no one would know Ruthie Mae McCoys story and perhaps Candyman would be a far different film than what we have come to know. Director Bernard Rose has always been adamant about his desire to give his film social undertones and bring light to real life issues through the horror. In a 1992 article in Fangoria magazine entitled "Demons of the Mind" he stated "My element of social criticism asks how people can be expected to live in squalor, because the housing authority has allowed Cabrini Green to rot instead of trying to maintain it." Growing up in New York City, I have been to my fair share of housing projects in my life, some good, some bad. Some I felt perfectly comfortable in, others I knew it was probably better if I didn't hang around after it got dark. Cabrini-Green by all accounts from reading and speaking to friends from Chicago was a place that there was absolutely no reason to go near.

"I'm not trying to scare you Helen, I just want you to think okay? The gangs hold this whole neighborhood hostage."

While the tragic Ruthie Mae McCoy murder took place at the Grace Abbot housing project, it's film counterpart was set amid the ominous concrete towers of Cabrini-Green. Star Virgina Madsen who grew up in Chicago stated "Growing up here, I knew all about Cabrini-Green, you didn't even drive by there, let alone enter on foot."  In the film Helen (Madsen) discovers the hard way that initially it was a leader of a Cabrini based gang called the Overlords using the well known name of the mythical figure to cause fear throughout the neighborhood. By committing a series of seemingly mysterious murders in his name, such as Ruthie Jean's and that of a young boy, leaving his calling written calling card "Sweets to the Sweet" on  the walls where he committed the acts, he lead the residents to believe these crimes were committed by a supernatural being rather than man of flesh and blood. Helen being attacked by this man and left for dead eventually leads to his arrest, thus proving to residents that there was no Candyman and their belief of him begins to dwindle, prompting the REAL Candyman to prove his doubters wrong. While the gang culture in the film is touched upon often and part of the story, it is still a movie about a ghost, a monster, a boogeyman. However when it comes to the reality of this real life location, its reputation precedes it. In a 1992 interview Candyman himself Tony Todd had this to say about some of his experience filming in such a notorious area "I tried to come there with no expectations, but I still felt fear. Anybody who didn't belong there was subject to Danger. The Cops told me to keep my eyes on the rooftops for snipers, and then I ran into a woman and her two children, they were hustling back from the grocery store before it got too dark, and thought the film security people were cops, she asked us when we were going to clean the projects up, which really got to me." This exchange stands out for many reasons, but the two that pertain to this article are 1. The area is known for being extremely dangerous and 2. The woman knows it is and still has no choice but to live there. This is also illustrated in the film by the characters of Anne Marie as well as the young boy Jake who befriends Helen early on in the film. Good people stuck in a bad situation trying to make the best of it. That was sadly a reality for many residents of Cabrini-Green. It truly was Hell on earth. Gangs did in fact hold the area hostage, The "Gangster Disciples" or "GD's" were the dominant gang in the area and they are the same gang members who can be seen in the film, throwing up signs in the scene where Helen and Bernadette first arrive at Cabrini. The same gang that as stated before had to be put in the film as extras in order to be "allowed" to film there and assure the crews safety, and while there were no incidents with the cast and crew, there is the well known anecdote of one of the aforementioned snipers putting a bullet through the crews van. 

Cabrini-Green had become so dangerous in it's later years that at times police could not even respond to calls, the buildings became what were essentially fortresses for the gangs. Benard Rose stated "It's not a safe place, it's a place that police did not have control over" As seen throughout the film, the walkways for the towers on each floor were covered with a steel fencing, closing off the previously open aired areas, this was done initially as a safety precaution but unfortunately lead to it being used as cover for snipers and became a hindrance to police trying to access the buildings but would be unable to see who might be standing armed in those areas who occupied vacant apartments, tearing down walls in order to have an escape route whenever police did do their raids. The good people who resided in Cabrini received little assistance from the Chicago Housing Authority. What you saw in the film, the sparse playing fields,and graffiti laden hallways were only the tip of the iceberg. Broken windows, lights, clogged trash chutes went unattended for months at a time. Some stairwells were even pitch black due to the lights being broken while elevators in those same buildings were out of service. 

photo by Matt Tuteur
Murders sadly had become common place in this area, whether it was related to the gangs that called Cabrini home or others who saw the wild west nature of the property as an opportunity to do wrong. It just became a normal occurrence. Officers annually closed the streets to Cabrini on New Years Eve to keep any traffic out of the area as gangs would take to the streets firing their weapons any and every direction in a blatant display of disregard for the law. One of the most saddening occurrences was the accidental shooting of Dantrell Davis. He was 7 year old boy shot and killed by a gang member from one of the high rises who was aiming for a rival gang member. Dantrell Davis was holding his mothers hand as they walked to school when it happened. His tragic death would become one of the main factors over the neighborhoods lifespan that finally caused the city to take action. 

In 1997, 5 years after Candyman would bring the area it's most widespread notoriety, the city came out with a plan for redeveloping the neighborhood that would spell the end for Cabrini-Green. Many tenants were relocated throughout the city and the surrounding area was being rebuilt as a mixed income community. The last Cabrini-Green high rise was demolished on March 30th of 2011. Many of it's former residents who were not involved in the gangs and drugs have good things to say despite the horrific living conditions and dangers Cabrini presented to them on a daily basis. Proof that life is what you make it. Many good people certainly resided here, in fact I would be confident in guessing MORE good people than bad resided in Cabrini, however the influential power of the bad unfortunately outweighed the good. Still the good people spoke of friendships discovered and memories made. Even some who were affected by tragedy and crime still spoke fondly of it and did not want to leave. It was their home, their community and many of those people had bonded amid the hardships and had plenty of enjoyable times. No gang could change that. 

photo by Marc Poekempner
I remember after the film came out everyone now knew about Cabrini-Green, I remember in our old neighborhood we had an apartment building with an entirely boarded up, burned out floor, of course being kids, we eventually gained access to this floor and constantly drew comparisons to the burnt out apartment Helen and Bernadette enter to investigate the Ruthie Jane murder. It was scary for us to enter that hallway, not knowing what was in it, I remember there being talk of someone spray painting the Candyman face and "sweets to the sweet" on the walls, I also dont remember if I actually ever saw them or just pictured them via peoples stories, but everyone in the neighborhood would call that building Cabrini-Green for a while because of that floor, that stayed that way for years. While we knew it wasn't anywhere close to being the dangerous place Cabrini was, it was still an example of the influence Candyman had on people at the time. For years Cabrini-Green was synonymous with a danger and crime. While the rest of the United States along with Chicago had other housing projects reported to be just as dangerous or at times worse such as the Robert Taylor homes and the ABLA houses, they weren't put on display in a popular movie that we watched over and over again throughout our lives. 

Bring up the name Cabrini Green to horror fans and chances are they know exactly what you are talking about. However, chances are they don't know much more beyond what the movie showed, I took interest for whatever reason and wanted to find out more and wouldn't say I was shocked by how a prominent city such as Chicago could let such a large community turn into a war zone as much as I was just morbidly intrigued by the horrifying nature of it all. Gone forever are the looming towers where lives were lived, ended and lost. The residents have all moved on with their lives no doubt with the memories of Cabrini-Green etched into their minds. Candyman now serves as a bit of a time capsule for them as well as us. It's become one of those all time horror films that introduced the world to a now classic horror character. Still most people who have seen the movie won't ever know that the neighborhood was demolished. They won't know how severe the situation was while the gangs essentially held the neighborhoods hostage. Nor will they ever know the true stories of Ruthie Mae McCoy or Dantrell Davis. While the hook wielding spirit of Candyman is fictitious, The horrors and ghosts left behind by Cabrini-Green are all too real.

photo by David Schalliol

IT FOLLOWS : Listen To Four Tracks FromThe Upcoming Score/Soundtrack

One of my most anticipated films is David Robert Mitchell's "IT FOLLOWS" starring The Guest's Maika Monroe. It has been getting rave reviews since it hit the festival scene and is rapidly approaching it's wide release this March. It's international teaser trailer ( which is all I have watched and will be watching till it's release) is particularly effective. It's synopsis is also below.

"For 19-year-old Jay, fall should be about school, boys and weekends out at the lake. But after a seemingly innocent sexual encounter, she finds herself plagued by strange visions and the inescapable sense that someone, or something, is following her. Faced with this burden, Jay and her teenage friends must find a way to escape the horrors that seem to be only a few steps behind."

Just the other day we got a look at the beautiful One Sheet by artist Richey Beckett. (seen above) now we get a real treat with a preview of the films musical accompaniment which is scored by Rich Vreeland of Disasterpeace. Anyone who knows me, knows a great score will go a LONG way with me to solidifying a films impact. These new glimpses into it provided by Milan Records are fantastic and have raised my excitement for the film to even higher levels. We usually don't discuss unreleased films here, but I am hoping all the good will this is building up prior to it's release will pay off with a great film. At any rate, you can check out the wicked new tracks below. They certainly fit the sound profile that I respond to these days when it comes to a horror score. There is certainly enough synth involved to please any fan of Carpenter and fans of films scores such as 2013's Maniac, and last years The Guest.The IT FOLLOWS score will release digitally on March 10th, CD March 24th and Vinyl on April 7th. The Film sees its Theatrical release on March 13th and VOD on March 27th.

Blood, Babes and Boogeymen: Holly Will Make You Appreciate Life

As you may have noticed from checking out this site one of my favorite people to collaborate with is my good friend Holly. She has always been willing to jump into any projects I come up with for her and is always a blast to work with. She is a huge reason for the success of this site and helped me launch it in grand style with our  "Wanna Play?"  photo set, which to this day is a big fan favorite and still our most viewed set on the site. We followed that up with our popular "Movie Night" shoot. It was ultimately a no brainer to entrust Holly with's flagship character, our original female slasher bearing her name in our faux film project  "Carved"   (of which there will be a sequel later this year!)  So with all that being said, It seemed like a good time to go back to our first photoshoot together. The Billy the Puppet inspired Saw themed shoot we just about did 3 years ago. prior to the relaunch of this version of the site. It was this photoset that really cemented the fact I wanted to focus much more on photography and creating these images. It was a fun experience to first work with Holly, she was very patient and kept up a good sense of humor throughout which I find is always important during a shoot. I will say these to this day might possibly be my favorite shots I have done and also have to thank Natalie for doing a amazing job on Holly's makeup. Everything came together to create striking images that I never tired of looking at. 

My favorite photo from this set is the one seen above. It was the first photo I did that turned out exactly as I had envisioned it in my head. It was such a thrill seeing it realized and it received so many compliments upon initially sharing it that it made me really begin to trust in my ability to create these images. So I definitely see this set as a springboard for the everything that has followed. I cannot thank Holly enough for putting her trust in me with this one and glad that I could deliver.

The obvious thought here was to do a sexy version of Billy the Puppet's outfit from the Saw movies matched with a grungy setting that is so pervasive in those films. Having Holly sit on the tricycle for such a long time was not the easiest thing for her to do, but she never complained once and in retrospect,  I don't think there is any other model who could have fit on it and make it work. The green layer of texture just helped to add to the look seen in the films. 

I hope you guys enjoy revisiting these images again, as I am happy to give them some new life and some much deserved attention. After all they never had a dedicated post on the site till now. I am excited about the new projects Holly and I have been planning and can't wait to share them with you all, still till the time is right, hopefully all the previous images we have created will tide you over till then.

One more cool thing was that I got to actually share these a while back with Saw creator James Wan who was kind enough to approve. 

Below is a bonus outtake I always loved, I just really dig her expression. along with a random behind the scenes shot.

A Deeper Look into STARRY EYES

"Dreams require sacrifice...and so do they."

Truth be told, other than seeing it's superb retro styled poster by Jay Shaw (pictured above), I knew absolutely nothing else about Starry Eyes other than "girl trying to make it in Hollywood and things go bad" prior to my first viewing. I will always stand by the opinion that the best way to watch a film is to go in knowing as little about it as possible. I generally always prefer teaser trailers over full trailers, especially for the smaller films which sometimes have to bank on their money shots to help sell to an audience that is already skeptical when it comes to lower budgeted projects. I mention this because while Starry Eyes slipped under my radar somehow, that fact though definitely added to the excitement of finally getting to watch it. Starry Eyes ended up being my favorite horror film of 2014. However that is not to say I came to this conclusion instantly. Upon that first viewing I definitely liked it, and plenty of things that caused it to become the years favorite were there, but I really wasn't sure how much I liked it. Still it turned out to be one of those films that sticks with you long after you watch it which made me eager to revisit it. After the second viewing I knew that it would end up being in the tops for the year, then when time came to make our best of year list, it ended up coming out on top along with The Guest. The Guest certainly has horror roots and themes but for me isn't truly a horror film. That left Starry Eyes at the top for me. What I want to do here is highlight some of the reasons this film struck a chord with me because I feel it is a film worth talking about. 

Please be warned that there are Major Spoilers below which I normally hate to do however in order to fully discuss the merits of this film in the depth I want to it is necessary. I highly recommend watching the film first before reading on. 

1. The Performance by Alex Essoe as Sarah

Starry Eyes tells the story of Sarah Walker, a determined yet struggling actress who has been doing her best to juggle her day job at "Big Taters" fast food restaurant and the demands of chasing her dream of becoming a star in the cutthroat world of Hollywood. Sarah gets more than she bargained for when she auditions for a role in a horror film being produced by the fictional Astraeus Pictures. As you can guess things don't go as she hoped, in more ways than one. So as with any film, it is only as good as it's lead, Alex Essoe (who has done minor roles here and there as far as I can tell from researching online) breathes life into a character who in hands of a lesser actress, could have been very one dimensional and nowhere near as compelling. What's interesting is one of the biggest compliments I can give to Alex's performance is her willingness to fully physically transform herself in order to give the role what it requires. That directly mirrors the dilemma faced by her character Sarah in the film. Do all that is asked of you to land a star making role, regardless of the suffering that comes with it. Not all actresses would sacrifice their vanity for a role, yet here Essoe willingly undergoes the transformation from her own model-esque beauty to a deteriorating almost rotting corpse motif, the makeup FX Essoe endures here is borderline Brundle Fly levels of grotesqueness. While her receptiveness to the physical makeup aspect of the role is extremely impressive, it would be nothing without the wide range of emotions she has on display here. She runs the full gamut of emotions throughout the film, Paranoia, Insecurity, Sickness, Fear, Pain, Horror, Anger, Sorrow are all touched upon and it is in the subtle moments of emotion throughout the film that Essoe shines brightest. While Starry Eyes is well written throughout, without Alex's star making turn here, this film would be nowhere near as successful in telling it's story as it is. Just as her character Sarah does in the film, Alex Essoe gives her everything to a role in a horror film and comes out of it as one of Hollywood's most promising new talents. 

2. The Struggle is real. 

By now we have all seen plenty of films about "The Struggle". The Struggling artist, the struggling musician, the struggling athlete and of course we have had more than enough of the struggling actor trying to make it in Hollywood. Still none have ever felt quite as authentic as Starry Eyes does. I can't claim to be an expert or know the acting struggle first hand. However I have spoken with more than a few people who live in L.A. and Hollywood and all have stated that this nails what it is like to be one in a sea of thousands trying to "live the dream". What Starry Eyes writer/directors Kevin Kolsch and Dennis Widmyer have done here is not only give us an insightful look at what aspiring actors and filmmakers go through on a daily basis ( or not go through depending on how hard they hit the pavement) but they have also delivered a very smart commentary on the very nature of the film industry and how it prays upon the desires of those wishing to be a part of it. I could probably write an entire article about just this aspect of the film and how it sheds light on the darker side of show business. The entire angle of selling your soul to make it in Hollywood is addressed  literally and figuratively here. To someone just watching the movie without really paying attention they may not pick up on the metaphorical comparison between the two. It is this comparison that should be so obvious yet it is handled so well here that it is never TOO obvious or eye roll inducing. It works. It takes the whole concept to a place that is as horrific and outlandish as it is brutally honest and real. Remove the supernatural and horror elements and the film works just as well as a compelling cautionary tale. Still it is those supernatural and horror elements that make Starry Eyes so much fun, well fun might not be the best word, because this brings us to our next point. 

3. Oh The Horror. 

While the pacing of Starry Eyes may not be everyone's cup of tea, it's slower approach to building to it's climax serves it well. By the time it goes full on horror film it pulls no punches. I've likened it to another one of my favorites, Ti West's "House of the Devil" in that regard.Extreme gorehounds may be turned off by the fact it takes long to get to the gore bits, but everyone else should be satisfied with what is presented here. Starry Eyes is first and foremost a body horror film, and Sarah's horrific transformation is as gruesome as they come. On first watch it definitely left me wincing. The makeup by SOTA FX that highlights Sarah's deterioration/Transformation is superbly executed and visually disturbing. Anyone who has ever laid in bed while sick and has said to themselves "oh man I'm dying" will instantly relate. I personally can recall far too many times in my life where a flu put me on the bathroom floor for the night in full despair, this is the horror version of that feeling. While it wears its body horror on its sleeve, the film also features a very well orchestrated slasher-esque home invasion scene where Sarah unleashes carnage upon her so called friends. I know I stated there would be spoilers in this article, but this is one part I refuse to elaborate on because the impact of it would be lessened, just know the blood flows in impressive fashion here and everyone who HAS seen the film knows exactly what I am referring to. It's a grim and brutal sequence of events to say the least, I only wish it went on for a bit longer. As mentioned before Starry Eyes touches on a myriad of moral themes throughout, and its horror themes are no different as it is home to psychological, body, supernatural, ritualistic and slasher horror elements. All of these come together naturally due to the well told story making Starry Eyes a very versatile horror film with something that will assuredly get beneath the viewers skin. 

4. The Music of Johnathan Snipes

Anyone that knows me knows I love horror scores and always have. Ever since I was a kid and my dad would make me horror music mixtapes for Halloween featuring tracks from such films as Halloween, Nightmare on Elm Street, and others I have been heavy films scores. Horror films have always been tied to their scores, more so i'd say than any other type of film. A good score elevates it, a bad one can ruin it. In the last few years movies such as Maniac, Under the Skin and The Guest benefited greatly from their sonic counterparts. Starry Eyes is no different. Johnathan Snipes provides a synth heavy score with a touch of child like wonder that fits like a glove. It is the heartbeat of the film and adds a layer that a more traditional score would not have achieved. In listening to the commentary the directors stated they originally wanted to go with a more orchestral score and Johnathan convinced them to go with his concept of less traditional music. I am an admitted synth music addict so I am glad they decided to trust him. Everyone I have spoken to about the film comments on the merits of the music. I remember being excited as soon as I heard that synth first creep into the film and build from there on out. I can't imagine Starry Eyes with a different score and I am glad I don't have to. Waxwork Records seemed to feel the same as they'll be releasing the score on vinyl soon enough. Snipes music is once again proof of how important a score is to a horror film in enhancing it's themes and atmosphere. It is a truly great experience when the two perfectly compliment each other. Starry Eyes soundscape matches it's rather stylish look perfectly.

5. It's got the look. 

I am a big believer that style in a film goes a long way, you absolutely have to have substance, but just as music can elevate a film, a sense of style can take it to new heights. Looking back at my list of best horror films of 2014, The Remake/Sequel of "The Town That Dreaded Sundown" made that list based mostly for it's stylish visuals and creative shots. Superficial? maybe, but hey it's my list and I'm a sucker for some style.  I have already discussed Starry Eyes other merits such as the story and acting, when those are in place, you have a solid picture already, when you add to that a layer of finishing touches that visually help tell your story, you have something special. Starry Eyes has a gloomy look to it, that fits the mood of the film perfectly. It's stylish and feels slightly retroish (that can't be a word) at times but still has a very natural lit look to it. Hollywood and California are generally portrayed in films as the sunny paradise of every actors dreams, however here the bleakness of the characters reality is reflected by the ominous clouds and dark stormy skies above Los Angeles. You really never get a sunny sky in the film until the end when things...well, change for Sarah and thats the point. Every visual in the film was thought out and taken into account so that it reflected the story as well as just for a lack of better terminology, looked really cool. 

For more on the look of Starry Eyes I would recommend checking out this really solid interview with the films cinematographer Adam Bricker over at Deep Fried Movies where he details alot of the process and techniques used to achieve the look of the film. 

In the end Starry Eyes had plenty going for it across the board. I always enjoy when a film catches me by surprise to take a spot in my favorites, and now Starry Eyes has joined the ranks of  the movies I will tell everyone to watch when they ask for a recommendation. I look forward to watching it with friends who haven't seen it yet just to see their reactions and be able to discuss it afterwards. It sticks with you and keeps you thinking about it long after you've watched it and that is always the sign of a great horror film.

The Shape Revisited

Through it all our favorite boogeyman/horror icon here at will always be Michael Myers. That is just a fact. It won't change and we are more than okay with that. We may not love every movie or every mask, but at his best, Michael Myers is the epitome of everything we love about horror. Through the years we have shot our fair share of Michael Myers and Halloween related material. Yet we have never fully featured it on our site. So while Halloween is still a ways away, we decided to revisit these images and showcase them for everyone to see again. It has been a while since we have shot any new Myers(himself) imagery and I am sure that will change come this Halloween. In the meantime though we have re-edited these in an appropriate orange tinted theme to give them some new life, we hope you enjoy this look back at some of our earliest and favorite Michael Myers imagery that we feel captures the sinister essence of The Shape. 

Special thanks to everyone who was involved in creating these shots, it was a blast.