Greetings once more to Derek Easley’s “31 Nights of Nightmares”! I certainly hope your October is as chilling as mine so far. In this installment, we’ll look at 2 new television pilots (one that is quite worthy, and one that is just fair) , a controversial horror art film (which is masterful and atrocious at the same time), and I’ll tell you about a scary real-life adventure I had on a haunted bridge up here in NorCal. So sit back, relax, and let the nightmares begin again!
My fiancee, Megan, and I ventured to the Felton Covered Bridge, doing some location scouting for a horror feature film we are developing. The bridge, which is over the San Lorenzo River in Santa Cruz County, was creepy as you could imagine. Built in 1892, this spooky landmark is the tallest covered bridge in the United States. There are lots of colorful vagrant folks up here in Northern California, and when we pulled up to the park, police officers were dispersing a group of homeless people drinking on a park bench, with one woman who appeared to be erratic and verbally combative, giving them trouble. This pack lingered in the area where we were heading, as their friend argued with the cops close by, making an uneasy feeling fill the air. So the backdrop of this experience was already interesting upon our arrival! We ventured down a narrow trail toward the river, with me filming most everything for reference shots, and Megan almost walked into a gigantic spider and its web, visible only from just the right angle! She survived that, and we pushed back sharp branches from low-hanging and over-growing trees that would jab our legs, to find the cliff-side water, greeted by a quacking duck family. Hiking back up, we started to use our phones as flashlights as it started to get dark.
We finally found the bridge, and it was tall, glorious, and ominous. Walking into the enclosure, the temperature dropped instantly, and the smell of old wood and dust kicked up in our nostrils. I noticed as I filmed with the flash on, I could see thousands of dust particulates darting about as if they were tiny alive creatures. Strange orbs or distortions showed up in some of our still photos as well! “The rafters above us would be a perfect place for vampires to hang from,” Megan said, for our movie. We explored behind the bridge to find a grassy clearing into a forest, with a downed tree which looked torn in half unnaturally, and some rickety barn-style houses not too far up a hill from us. I found a lone, carved walking stick with a pointed edge on the ground, and I drawn to it, so I picked it up, wanting to take it home. I felt like it was somehow left for me, but by whom, and for what? Megan immediately got bad vibes from the stick, and wanted me to put it back down, so I did, trusting her gut feeling…We had a fun time overall, but we could definitely feel the echoes of the past still looming about in the cold, and in the dark…
It felt like something was behind us! And now, enough of the true-life ghost stories, let’s take a look at some fictional fare!
Night 4, watched #TheExorcist on #Fox. Wow, I was surprised at how good it was! The methodical pacing and build is worth it. Well shot, atmospheric, creepy, and a convincing cast (glad to see #GeenaDavis in a strong part). I think a big reveal they did could have been executed slightly better, but overall, they had me hooked. There are some terrifying scenes that take place in Mexico City that are really well done. I’m sorry to see the ratings aren’t stellar thus far, I certainly hope more people tune in and the network allows them to finish out this storyline (and God willing, go further!). #ThePowerOfChristCompelsYo
Night 5, watched #VanHelsing on the #SyFy network (based off the Zenescope comic “Helsing”), and it’s interesting to see this classic character as a badass female lead. I feel like I need to watch a couple more episodes of this show before I can give it an accurate review. The pilot sets up a dystopic future in 2019 where #vampires have plagued the earth with an event they call “The Rising” (which is somehow related to a volcanic eruption?). Our hero, Vanessa Helsing (played by#KellyOverton, who I recognize from #TrueBlood where she played a werewolf), is comatose for most of the episode, kept under protection by a couple of soldiers in a barricaded in a Seattle hospital, as she as a secret VIP to the military. Survivors fight among themselves and deal with vamp attacks (sometimes the acting, action, and writing isn’t quite top notch, other times it is pretty solid and entertaining).
Our hero awakens after she is bit by a vampire during a middle of the night assault, and she mysteriously is not harmed, can instantly heal, and has superpowers along with amnesia! It’s not quite clear why people start to double cross each other, or why the characters are behaving the way they do (people randomly challenge and accuse each other, the male lead soldier inexplicably and indelicately tells Vanessa that her daughter is dead, and then hops in the shower with her in the next scene to “conserve water”), but it ends with a cool twist, and I hope the show finds its footing and gets better as it goes on!
Night 6, I watched #TheNeonDemon by auteur filmmaker #NicholasWindingRefn, who previously gave us polarizing masterpieces #Drive and#OnlyGodForgives. His latest endeavor, which is an art-film horror epic, stars #ElleFanning as the beautiful & virginal model new to the LA fashion scene, #JenaMalone as the makeup artist/protective friend, and #KeanuReeves as a predatory landlord (a role that is quite different than what we see usually him in). Fanning quickly climbs the ladder of her profession (inadvertently and purposely stepping on her rivals and allies along the way) with a deer-in-the-headlights expression peppered with sinister smirks as she succeeds. Some of the performances come off as flat and clinical at times, but that could very well be purposeful within the atmosphere of the egotistical and compassionless modeling scene full of jealously and passive aggressiveness.
The Neon Demon is either an original, beautiful, captivating and jaw-dropping spectacle, highlighting the exotic and cutthroat world of fashion while examining the unhealthy obsession of beauty, or it is a self-indulgent, boring, confusing 2 hour and 37 minute set piece of masturbatory pretentiousness, bordering on the glorification of child abuse. The viewer will have to judge which it is, or if its a little of both. I cannot recommend this film to mainstream audiences as it is so strange, slow-paced, and graphic in unexpected ways (I don’t mean simple gore, I mean at least 3 or more WTF moments). I was confounded by most of it, but blown away by the spectacular cinematography (Natasha Braier is a genius), the lighting, composition, set design (those wallpapers!), music, and overall aesthetic of the film. The 3rd act is insane and surprising, and I congratulate the boldness of the direction it took. There is a lot I love about this film along with a lot that I shook my head at, and it will definitely haunt me for the next few days as I digest what this quest for purity, youth, beauty, and elegance in death truly meant…
NIGHTS 7-9 COMING SOON!
Derek owns a teaching and networking studio called LBAFA that can be found here: https://www.facebook.com/LongBeachActingAndFilmAssociaton