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FEARNET.com News and Reviews

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    New comic book Wednesday has come and gone. The dust at your local comic shop has settled. An eerie silence descends as you finish reading your last superhero book of the week. Now it's time for something a little more sinister. Welcome to Bagged and Boarded: comic reviews of the sick, spooky, twisted and terrifying!

    Willow No. 1

    Another new entry into the series of comics creating a "9th Season" of Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Willow focuses on the titular character as she quests to get magic back into the real world. Willow's been feeling the hurt as she lives without her powers in a world that constantly drains all imagination, flavor, and fun. With the help of a motley crew of adventurers, she's headed to another world where she believes magic may exist in abundance. The plan is to get in, tap some magic for Earth, and get out.

    Bag it or board it up? Some of the Buffy comics really rely on the reader being fluent in the universe of the show. Willow is greatly aided by such knowledge but even without that background this is still a fun book full of adventure and magic. Putting a fantasy spin on Willow and her comrades, this series promises to have a lot of high adventure and a lot of snarky wit.

    Animal Man No. 14

    The forces of the rot are turning much of the world into a mutated nightmare. The troubled hero Animal Man has been split up from his monstrous buddy Swamp Thing and now he's got to find a way to stop the madness. All around him heroes have turned their backs on goodness and are mutated into fleshy, rotten monstrosities. Now it's Animal Man and a really rag-tag group of superheroes (Beast Boy, Steel, Constantine) trying to fend off the rot.

    Bag it or board it up? I'm conflicted here. I love this story. I think the new Swamp Thing comics coming out are amazing. But reading it without knowing mountains of lore and backstory is… troubling. It's like being on an acid trip. Mutated heroes, talking animals, dogs with wings, it's all nuts. I'm all for experimental comics, and this is as close as we'll get to a truly avant comic from one of "The Big Two," but Animal Man really isn't for the uninitiated (I guess it never was, though…).

    Nancy in Hell on Earth No. 4

    Nancy was killed, cast into hell by a mad scientist/monster, and used her mental willpower to call forth a chainsaw. After hacking her way through hell, the girl comes back to earth, where angels, demons, and regular people all fight and die and freak out and get naked. It's all a mess, and Nancy tries to save the day and wrap up a billowing storyline.

    Bag it or board it up? I guess if you like gratuitous nudity for no reason (the angels are all topless supermodels) you may like this comic. The story is weak. The artwork feels like a cross between Crossed (wildly violent, depraved, etc.) and the way Mike Judge draws women in Beavis and Butthead. Seriously. Not sexy. Whatever, move on. And the cover art, which was drawn to mimic an old grindhouse poster, looked so amazing. What a shame.

    Colder No. 1

    An evil sprite, or demon, or other-planar trickster, or… something, named Nimble Jack creeps and climbs around feeding on the madness of others. In the 1940s he delights in the destruction of a mental institution and tells a man named Declan that he'll feel "colder" - and we cut to present day. This magical creeper flits around Boston until he comes into contact with Declan again, who is in a frozen state at a cute nurse's house.

    Bag it or board it up? This comic is very hard to summarize. It has a lot going on, and the art is very tricky and interesting. This may not be a cut-and-dry comic, but it was a lot of fun to read and it's a series I will definitely follow moving forward.


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    Some of the most fascinating movies out there are the ones culled from fact rather than fiction; the ones that focus on the making-of a classic film in the time period before they are heralded as classics. Gods & Monsters. RKO 281. Tim Burton's Ed Wood, being one of my personal favorites. But the one I can't wait for is Hitchcock, based upon Stephen Rebello's book 'Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho' which is set for a limited theatrical release on November 23rd and stars Anthony Hopkins and Helen Mirren. We've already seen one trailer, as well as a slew of images from the production, but now we've got a great little featurette titled "Hitch & Alma" that talks a bit about the great love story at the center of Hitchcock between the legendary director and his wife. Also, the international trailer for Hitchcock has surfaced today and it gives us our best look at the feature thus far. Check them both out below!


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    There's a new clip from Silent Night that features a young man (Brendan Fehr) facing Santa's axe because he was naughty with a married woman. He, if you're going to die, at least you get to die wrapped in brightly-colored Christmas lights.

    Silent Night is a loose remake of the 1984 slasher Silent Night, Deadly Night. In the new version, a small-town sheriff (Malcolm McDowell) and his deputy (Jamie King) must hunt down a serial killer who dresses like Santa - in a town full of Santas. Silent Night opens to a limited theatrical release on November 30th, with a blu-ray / DVD release to follow on December 4th.

     


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    Hot on the heels of our post earlier today featuring an exclusive clip from CITADEL, we've now got 6 more clips from the movie, as well as a  featurette with writer/director Ciaran Foy giving tour of the Roosevelt! If you like "creepy kid" movies, then this one will be right up your alley!

    Tommy Cowley (Aneurin Barnard) lives a quiet life in a decaying apartment complex with his highly pregnant wife. The couple is attacked one day by a group of hooded young thugs, and after a shocking act of violence, Tommy is left to raise his newborn daughter alone.


    So shaken by the events that he’s developed extreme agoraphobia, Tommy alternates days hiding out indoors in his new flat from imagined threats and intense therapy sessions aimed at bringing him back to normalcy.

    When the same hooded gang, seemingly intent on kidnapping his daughter, begins terrorizing his life again, he’s torn between his paralyzing fear and protective parental instinct. With the help of a vigilante priest who has uncovered the genesis of this ruthless, potentially supernatural gang, Tommy must overcome his fears and venture into the heart of the abandoned tower block known as the CITADEL to save his family.

    Citadel hits theaters November 9th.

     
     
     
     
     
     
     

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    Guillermo del Toro is one of the hardest working men in genre, so it is hard to limit an interview with him to just one topic. We started on The Strain, his trilogy of vampire novels that has just been adapted into a comic book series, but that quickly spawned into The Strain TV series, Pacific Rim, Frankenstein, and Haunted Mansion. You may be tired after just reading this interview.

    What was it about The Strain that felt like it was a good choice to turn it into a graphic novel?

    From the very start, The Strain was conceived with a visual medium in mind. Originally, that was going to be a pilot at Fox. Then when they didn’t pick it up, we switched to novels and wrote them with Chuck Hogan. But there was something about it that made it perfect for a visual medium. I didn’t want to do it as a movie where I had to condense the books into a movie or two or three. Mike Richardson [from Dark Horse Comics] and I have a good relationship. He offered me 10 to 12 issues per book, so I didn’t need to condense as much. That was a very big temptation. I thought it would be a good trial to see if it really retained the roots of its visual conception.

    Do you feel it has transferred well into a graphic novel?

    It did, but I cannot take credit for that. David Lapham and Mike Huddleston did a terrific job, and we had great editors at Dark Horse. They were the right people. Fortunately I had my first choice of colorists, color artist, the artist, and the writer. Once those choices were made, they really took the ball and ran with it.

    Was it difficult to make those choices and turn your vision over to someone else?

    No, it wasn’t. Frankly, I saw how Mike Mignola was when he allowed us to adapt Hellboy. We took a lot of liberties with Hellboy to bring it to the big screen, and Mike was always really laid back and said, “The books will be the books; the movies will be the movies.” Frankly, David Lapham was far more respectful, but he was right about his decisions. I asked for consultation on the script, the drawings, the color, the inking, but when it comes to David’s scripts, I seldom have anything to say. I have comments about basically everything else, but his scripts are dead-on.

    Was there stuff that didn’t translate well from novel to graphic novel?

    A lot. If you translated from the novels exactly, you would have 20, 24 issues per book - and not necessarily the best issues. You need to time the narrative for a different medium. A lot of us thought if we put in the first third of the first book, it would slow down the narrative of the comic. So David was very judicious about what made it and what didn’t. He omitted characters, he omitted situations, he omitted beats. But the way he condensed it I thought was marvelous. Frankly, when I read his first script, I wrote him immediately and said that it was perfect. [Throughout my career] I have given many, many very detailed notes. With David, I think I gave him two notes, three notes max on the whole process. Most of the time I just write him back and say, “Wow. I love it.”

    The Strain is a very different take on vampire lore than most people are used to. Did you have the vision of the creatures in your head while you were writing the novels?

    I’ve had [the idea] since I was a teenager. When I was a teenager I discovered a few books: The Natural History of Vampirism, The Vampire’s Kith and Kin, Passport to the Supernatural. They all dealt with vampirism throughout the world. You discover that Filipino vampires can protrude the tongue 20 or 30 feet. You find out the Malaysian vampires can detach from the body - it’s a head floating with a bunch of intestines. You find out that the Greek vampires, the Roman myths - each culture has their own slant. Some are covered in green hair. One that stuck with me was the image of Eastern European vampires having a stinger on their tongue like a bee. I liked that very much. I thought that was better than the little fangs, because fangs don’t make much sense. Vampires in nature would use a razor blade then lick the blood. I started writing about [the stinger vampire] and I tried putting it in Chronos; I tried to put some of what I imagined on Blade; finally I was able to translate every single note I had on the biology of vampirism into The Strain.

    Seeing how The Strain has been adapted as a graphic novel, do you want to give this project another try on television?

    Yes. We are doing the series for FX. We are going to shoot the pilot over the summer or early fall next year. Frankly, I think I will go into more detail than David did because in the TV medium, you have more leeway in time. But the pacing was quite good. It proved that it could be adapted in a chapter by chapter format.

    Where are you at with Pacific Rim?

    We’ve finished a couple of cuts, and are about 50% delivered on basic animation with ILM. We have started the process of converting it to 3D. We are building the soundtrack - you know, composing the music - so it is well on its way. [The movie] should be ready around April next year.

    When might we see a trailer?

    The trailer is coming up during the holiday season. [It will be attached to] a couple of movies.

    Pacific Rim is one of those movies that has had an intense amount of secrecy around it. Do you find the secrecy beneficial?

    It’s the second time I have gone through it. The only other time was with The Hobbit. Normally I run an incredibly open and collegiate process. I am very used to there being zero secrecy. Hellboy 1, Hellboy 2, Blade... basically there were no secrets! I posted a lot on the internet.

    I was on the set visit for Mama and you were very open about everything.

    Yeah. Movies like this I think require it. It’s not a branded movie. It doesn’t have characters that people are clamoring to recognize. It needs to exist and open to the imagination very carefully. You don’t want the wrong image to go out first and it be the wrong image. In this case, I think I am completely okay with it.

    Do you worry that people will build it up too much in their minds?

    No, I think that people know what to expect [from me] and that’s what we are going to deliver. The production is insanely big. We already know we have the action and the set teasers and what people will be expecting from it in a major way. I think they will be pleased. Hopefully.

    You have a bazillion projects in the works. What are you directing next?

    I’m doing Pinocchio in the summer, right around the time when Pacific Rim comes out. I will be starting voice recording with Pinocchio and with a little luck we will be storyboarded or in the process of storyboarding and doing animation reels. Then the next thing after that will be the pilot for FX. Then after that we will do another feature, which we are still determining.

    I know Frankenstein is one of your pet projects; something you have always wanted to do. Is there any movement on that?

    We are finishing the deal to write the project for Universal. It’s not done yet, but hopefully soon enough. We have a very enthusiastic push for it from Donna Langley, the co-head of the studio.

    I have to ask about the Haunted Mansion movie because I am a rabid Disneyland fan.

    I am too! We are finishing the deal with a new writer to do a draft on it. I delivered my drafts with Matthew Robbins. Now we have hired someone else because I am going to be doing Pacific Rim, I’m going to be doing the series, and I know I won’t have the time to write that one. We are doing one more revision, and we are very close to getting the movie made. I think we need a fresh point of view on the screenplay.

    Will you still direct that one?

    It depends on the scheduling, but hopefully!


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    The Walking Dead Episode 305
    “Say the Word”
    Written By: Angela Kang
    Directed By: Greg Nicotero
    Original Airdate: 11 November 2012

    In This Episode...

    At the prison, Rick is in shock. Rather than hug his son or hold his new baby (it’s a girl) he grabs an axe and heads into the prison to kill anything he can find. Hershel gives the baby a once-over - it seems healthy - and gives it over to Carl. Maggie and Daryl go on a supply trip to find baby food. Glenn digs graves for their fallen friends, then watches the perimeter with Axel and Oscar. Hershel and Beth take care of Carl and the baby. (The baby doesn’t get a name tonight. The group leaves the naming rights to Carl since Rick is MIA. Carl’s only ideas are Sophia, Carol, Andrea, Amy... Lori. Names of women who they have lost.) When they return, Daryl feeds the baby and it turns out he is great with kids.

    The Governor is having a party in Woodbury. While he is entertaining, Michonne sneaks into his house and takes back her sword. She hears something behind a locked door and tries to open it but the Governor, Merle, and Milton come in for more beer. Michonne escapes out the window and around the back of the building she discovers a holding pen with a half-dozen zombies in it. She jimmies the lock to let them out, then uses them as target practice. She slices them up with ease and it seems to be a good release for her - until someone carrying a bucket of zombie slurry comes out and tattles. The Governor gives Michonne a real talking-to. When rules are broken, punishments must be doled out, otherwise chaos will ensue. The Governor offers to Michonne that he will keep this quiet and she can stay in Woodbury if she joins Merle’s recon gang. She refuses. The Governor reaches out to Andrea to alert her to what is going on and gentle encourage her to encourage Michonne to stay. But Michonne wants out, and she leaves. Andrea stays in Woodbury because she doesn’t think she can last another eight months alone in the wilderness.

    In order to cheer her up after Michonne’s departure, the Governor takes a special interest in Andrea, inviting her for a drink and a chat. Evening falls, and the festivities are underway. Andrea is the Governor’s “special guest” for the entertainment: Gladiator fights with zombies. A half-dozen or so zombies are chained up in a circle, with two humans in the center. The humans go into bare-fist boxing and not only have to keep an eye out for their opponent, but also for the zombies. With every round, the stakes are raised and the zombies’ chains are loosened a little bit, making the circle smaller.

    Dig It or Bury It?

    Good episode. Nothing major happened - not like last week - yet it was still engrossing. Carol hasn’t come back yet - I have to assume she is still alive somewhere, maybe hiding or lost. But the rest of the group doesn’t know that.

    Kill o’ the Week

    Rick’s rampage was fun. He finds the walker that ate Lori. It is bloated and sluggish from eating too much. Rick feeds it one more thing: his gun. He then picks up a knife and starts stabbing the bloated bastard in the gut. I thought that he was going to cut the zombie open to retrieve Lori’s wedding ring or something, but he just stabs it violently a few times then sits down and cries. It would have been better if he dug her ring out.

    Zombie o’ the Week

    This week’s disturbing zombie fact about the Governor: his daughter has become a zombie, and now he keeps her wrapped in a straight jacket with a sack over her head (“nap time”) in a locked room. In his spare time, he enjoys brushing her hair.

    Prophecies?

    Andrea starts to see that maybe she should have listened to Michonne and she jumps the fence.


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    666 Park Avenue Episode 107
    “Downward Spiral”
    Written By: Leigh Dana Jackson & Mimi Won Techentin
    Directed by: J. Miller Tobin
    Original Airdate: 11 November 2012

    In This Episode...

    Jane is still intent on going back home to Indiana. She even has Walter, the doorman, turn in her letter of resignation to Gavin. Henry clearly doesn’t want her to leave. Olivia and Gavin clearly don’t want her to leave, so they suggest that Henry propose to her. Olivia takes him ring shopping. While there, Shaw surprises her and asks Olivia to cut the ties with Gavin - he wants her to betray her husband. When she tells this to Gavin, he suggests she play along with him, mainly to keep tabs on him.

    At her grandmother’s behest, Nona begs Jane not to leave the Drake. She is the only person she can trust - even after Jane wants to call social services when she discovers Nona is caring for her old, sickly grandma. Nona shows Jane the collection of news clippings about the Drake, first started by her grandma, now continued (as much as possible) by Nona. One of the things in her grandmother’s collection of Drake paraphernalia is a photo of Jane when she was eight years old. Jane is mystified - she didn’t leave Indiana until she was in high school.

    Dr. Evans sewed a scalpel into Kaminsky’s stomach while he was operating on him. Kaminsky presses his skin until the scalpel cuts its way out. He then starts screaming and guards come running. He uses the scalpel to kill them. Kaminsky goes to Gavin, who needs Kaminsky to bring Shaw to him - alive. Dr. Evans is furious about being used and demands Gavin let him out of his contract. Gavin refuses and even adds another $10,000 to his debt. Evans is a mess and decides to pull a gun on Gavin during a symphony fundraiser. He is distracted when Shaw collapses in spasms, thanks to a poisoned kiss from Olivia. Evans is honor-bound to go help Shaw. He rides with him in the ambulance, and is soon introduced to the driver, Kaminsky, who is bringing Shaw back to Gavin. It is Evans’s job to keep him alive.

    Jane decides she loves Henry too much to go home without him, and she can’t ask him to give up on his dreams. They are on a love high and leave the fundraiser early. In the lobby of the Drake, Nona stops them and speaks to Jane privately - her grandmother is missing. Henry goes upstairs (where Olivia has decked the place out in candles and rose petals) and waits for Jane to come back up so he can propose. Jane and Nona find grandma in the basement. She snatches Jane’s necklace off her and holds it up to her eye. Jane realizes that this signifies the eye of the mosaic in the floor. It was the only tile not original to the design. Jane puts her pendant in place of the eye pendant. The tiles start to fall away, and a never-ending spiral staircase (the one from all the ads) appears. Jane feels like she is meant to go down there, so she descends. The floor swallows her up, sealing itself behind her.

    Also: Brian comes home to grab some things, runs into Alexis, and they have sex. Of course, it is after that Brian discovers Dr. Evans didn’t bang his wife - someone pulled a prank, and that someone was Alexis.

    Dig It or Bury It?

    Finally - we are getting into the dirt. Literally. The plot is starting to take shape a bit. I am ready to get a better idea of what Gavin’s master plan is, why he needs his pandora’s box back, and what the hell is going on with the Drake. I am intrigued to find out what kind of Wonderland Jane has gotten herself in to, an am also hoping this will cut back on her screen time. Though I have to admit, she and Henry are starting to annoy me slightly less. Slightly.

    Meet the Neighbors

    In 1998, Nona’s mother, Melanie, came to visit her mom Claudia, who lived in the Drake. Melanie was “watch your shoes” pregnant with Nona at the time, and Claudia was furious that her daughter would come here while pregnant. She made her promise not to come around while she was pregnant. On the way out of the building, the elevator jammed and Melanie goes into labor right then and there. This makes Nona a “child of the Drake,” and she insists Jane is one as well.

    Prophecies?

    Henry is worried sick over Jane’s disappearance. Olivia is torturing Shaw when he blurts out that Olivia’s only daughter is still alive.


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    “I’m a white male, age 18 to 49.  Everyone listens to me…”

    --Homer Simpson

    Publishers resurrecting a popular franchise from the past will use any number of marketing friendly quotes to justify digging up an old icon to parade on the market again. 

    “We’re introducing it to a new generation of gamers!”

    “It’s x like you’ve never seen it before!”

    In all reality, there’s really only one reason that they pull the Lazarus routine on old gaming icons: to make a generation of old gamers wax nostalgic and open their wallets to relive the fond memories of their gaming past, when we were scrounging our allowances to hit up an arcade as opposed to balancing the family budget to make the mortgage payment.  These were the carefree days of summer vacations, only having to clean our bedroom as opposed to a whole house, and having a weekly income that wasn’t subject to taxes or insurance premiums.

    I’m thirty-one, so XCOM falls firmly into that nostalgic niche for me.  Released back in 1993, it came out in the heyday of PC gaming, when a cardboard box the size of a midsize sedan would hold a single floppy disk that somehow held more hours of entertainment than the Blu Ray bound monsters of today, and even came with a manual, and a color one at that.  It came onto the scene right before Command & Conquer and Warcraft (not World of Warcraft) made every strategy game that followed into a real-time affair, and it was unrivaled for its scope and hair-pulling intensity, in spite of its slower, turn-based tactics.  This was a game that fed on your doubt, making you question every maneuver that you executed during your turn, watching as the enemy descended upon you and quickly tore your tactics to bloody shreds.  Despite its now-chunky sprite based graphics, the game was actually pretty damn scary by making you bear witness to your squad either being cut to ribbons or—hopefully—defeating the extraterrestrial invaders.

    XCOM’s initial resurrection was revealed as a 1950’s-set first person shooter, where your group of G-men wearing homogeneous suits from the Robert McNamara collection faced off against abstract aliens in an Eisenhower-era America.  That game has since gone into hiding, but that didn’t stop Firaxis (Civilization) from returning to XCOM’s strategic roots in their own XCOM: Enemy Unknown.  While it may not have the high-concept flash of the 2K Marin title, its expert execution of nostalgia, flavored with enough modern sensibilities to make it fresh, make it an even more compelling title.

    XCOM: Enemy Unknown once again puts you in command of a paramilitary organization called XCOM, who protects the world from alien threats with the funding of countries around the globe like an intergalactic U.N.  The gameplay is split into two separate styles: a resource-management sim set in an underground facility where you research new technologies, secure funding from the countries you protect, and accept missions from around the world.  Accepting these missions leads into the second type of gameplay, the tactical strategy portion.  This is the real meat of XCOM where you take command of the squad in battle against the various ETs, where your objective vary from killing or capturing the aliens, rescuing abductees, or disabling bombs before they can decimate populated areas.  The game plays almost exactly like its predecessors, right down to its top-down viewpoint, although this camera view will go dynamic for certain moments, such as when you open fire on your alien enemies.  While the tile-based movement of the almost twenty-year-old XCOM has been replaced with a more flexible vector-based map, series vets and newcomers alike should be able to dive right in with little confusion.  The interface is almost perfect, balancing eye-candy with usability and control without making any major concessions to any of the three aspects.  Strategy is a tough sell on a console controller (I played the game on my trusty Xbox 360), but XCOM thumbs its nose at the relative lack of buttons compared to a mouse and keyboard by giving you everything you need on the controller.  It really is a thing of beauty.

    This simple interface allows you to focus on your tactics, which are positively nerve-wracking.  Despite the more cerebral approach that the turn-based gameplay allows you to take, the adrenaline rush that you get is almost as strong as a fast action game.  Plotting out your moves and watching them either succeed  or fail miserably is an intense affair, especially with the brutal perma-death that the game employs.  The units that you carry from mission to mission, upgrades and all, can easily be cut down in battle, taking all of their upgraded skills and stats with them.  In a genre that’s usually populated by nameless, faceless grunts that can be replaced with the right amount of resources, having a distinct soldier that you groom over the course of several missions fall to the enemy is a refreshingly demoralizing experience.  The gut-churning fear for your units is enhanced by some deliciously gruesome creature designs that twist familiar archetypes (like the iconic big-headed Greys) into frightening new forms. 

    Nostalgia may be an easy emotion to exploit, relying on name recognition in lieu of quality to keep product moving off of the shelves.  Thankfully, the team at Firaxis didn’t adhere to this sensibility and created not only one of the best strategy games of the year, but one of the best games of the year.


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    Hugh B. Sterbakov has written numerous screenplays and comics for some of the best companies in film and comic book entertainment. If you watch the hilarious clay animation comedy, Robot Chicken, you may be familiar with his work (Star Wars parody, anyone?). He took some time out of his schedule to answer a few questions for FEARnet about his debut novel, City Under the Moon.

    What inspired you to write City Under the Moon

    I had a traumatic childhood fear of werewolves — a phobia, really — and I’m not even sure why. I had this beloved Spider-Man book and record where Spidey fought against a werewolf, and one night I suddenly, inexplicably, made my father throw it away. Maybe I repressed whatever started it. But it still haunts me.

    So it’s a personal journey, exploring the primal terror of the transformation of man into wolf — the sensation of your own body turning on you. As one of the characters explains in the book, the vampire is the violator and the werewolf is the betrayer. City Under the Moon explores that theme in so many ways — from the misanthropic blogger ripped out of the safety of his basement, the woman whose faith and humanity are torn away, the citizens watching as the fundamental rules of society break down, and the scientists who are confronted by a disease that defies the basic tenets of biology. These massive concepts all boiled down to my most dreaded childhood fear.

    You've written, and had produced or published, both screenplays and comic books. How was writing a novel different?

    From a structure and storytelling perspective, the novel format offers an unprecedented amount of freedom. Screenplays and particularly comic books are necessarily slavish to specific lengths. In a novel, I could step outside the flow and explore each character’s backstory and motivation, as long as it didn’t interfere in the pacing. In fact, I learned to use those diversions to mount tension. Character development was extremely important, because this is a massive, fantastical plot that requires the grounding of real people making real decisions.

    On the other hand, scripts are written in shorthand — fragmented sentences that ignore grammar in favor of utilitarian description. I had to learn the art of narrative writing — and that means not only understanding the rules but also how and when to break them. However, I did have one advantage over most first-time writers — a natural aversion to adverbs.

    How did you get started writing professionally?

    Writing has always come to me naturally and compulsively. As a kid, I’d race home from movies and begin writing sequels. I wrote and drew my own comics throughout my teens. In college, I took as many writing courses as possible, because I could write papers in 20 minutes and collect easy A’s. 

    I wrote my first two screenplays as an undergrad at Ithaca College, and then I moved to Los Angeles and entered the UCLA MFA Screenwriting program. During that time, I won a couple of small screenwriting contests and placed as a finalist in the two biggest ones. My first script, a horror set in the old west, garnered a lot of interest and scored me an agent. The first screenplay I wrote out of UCLA was optioned by Disney. That was six years after I wrote my first one, six years of nonstop, top-notch education. 

    I hear from a lot of folks who’ve written one spec script and hired a lawyer, and they think they’re entitled to careers. They assume it’s all some kind of luck-based lottery, just because they’ve seen a couple crappy films and think they could do better. And sure, there are always people who fall into success. But it’s not something you just decide to do one day, and most writers, particularly in television, write five or ten scripts before they write a great one. 

    Any plans to adapt City Under the Moon for the screen?

    That’s a goal and it’s in the works, but it wasn’t my primary concern. In fact, getting out of the Hollywood development machine and putting a story into the hands of enthusiastic readers was the reason I wrote the novel. City is well-liked in Hollywood and I’ve had interest from fantastic producers of spectacular blockbusters, but ultimately it’d have to be an R-rated horror film with a massive budget, and that may not be a practical endeavor in today’s market. It has epically cinematic moments that’d make for incredible spectacles on screen, but, personally, I think the novel’s ability to dive deep into the characters makes it the best interpretation of the story.

    What's your typical writing process like?

    I’ll take my time, letting a story marinate for months or years while I write other things. City Under the Moon, for example, sat at the top of a list of story ideas on my white board for two years before I actively started working on it. It took that long to break the story, which in this case meant finding a motivation for the bad guy. Once I had that, everything else fell into place. 

    I’ll start with a three-act timeline on my white board and plug in the major plot mechanisms. I’ll continue to populate that until I’m finished, but once I’ve got a solid three-act structure, I’ll turn it into a document and flesh out the details. As a rule, the more time I spend outlining, the easier the process and the better result. That includes collecting quirks for my characters, considering their arcs, integrating themes, conducting research, and weeding out tangential ideas. I do my best work when my mind can wander. 

    Once I start writing pages, I tend to get laser-focused. I’ll be irritable whenever I have to stop. Before I had kids, I’d write around the clock, my laptop attached like an umbilical cord. I’d have to take shifts in restaurants so I wouldn’t forget to eat. I’ll take breaks, answering e-mails and even playing videogames, but my mind is always in the story — I’ll stop whatever I’m doing, even if I’m mid-conversation, and take notes. And I always stop writing in a place where I know exactly what comes next. I do at least three drafts before I show anyone.

    Typically, writing a screenplay should take six to eight weeks. City Under the Moon took six months to first draft and 18 more to rewrite. On top of learning narrative writing, I did a colossal amount of research. Screenplays are shorthand — the production will hire scientists or cops or military advisors for verisimilitude. A limited vocabulary is rescued by set design. But in a novel I had no such support system. 

    I interviewed a USC professor of microbiology for my scenes at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. She taught me how my scientists would study the werewolf disease. I spoke to a retired colonel and government lawyer to weigh the president’s doomsday options. A retired USMC sniper helped with weaponry, and an active Apache pilot sent e-mails from Afghanistan detailing the helicopters they’d deploy over New York. A friend in Romania helped write Romanian dialogue and conducted research in sources that aren’t available in English. And through the entire process, I spoke several times a week with an FBI agent.

    It was exhausting, but it’s all on the page. 

    Anything you'd like to add about your other works?

    My comic book, Freshmen is an action comedy about a combative group of college kids that gain pseudo-useful superpowers. One guy can burp and make people drunk, another can talk to plants, and there’s a spiteful ex-couple who can only use their telekinesis when they’re in physical contact. I created it with Seth Green, and we have two graphic novels available on Amazon or at most comic shops. And I’ve written a R-rated stop-motion animated comedy called Hell & Back that’s now in production. We have an amazing cast, including Danny McBride, Mila Kunis and Susan Sarandon, and it’ll be out next year. Keep your eyes out!

    ***

    NANCY O. GREENE started writing at the age of nine. Her short story collection, PORTRAITS IN THE DARK, received a brief mention in THE YEAR’S BEST FANTASY AND HORROR 2007. Other works have appeared or will appear in CHIZINE; LOVECRAFT EZINE; CEMETERY DANCE; TALES OF BLOOD AND ROSES; HAUNTED: 11 TALES OF GHOSTLY HORROR; Shroud Publishing’s THE TERROR AT MISKATONIC FALLS; DARK RECESSES; FLAMES RISING; SMILE, HON, YOU’RE IN BALTIMORE!; and others. She has a BA in Cinema (Critical Studies) and a minor in English (Creative Writing) from the University of Southern California, and is a Film Independent: Project Involve Fellow.


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    In all honesty, I don't think anything can prepare you for Bath Salt Zombies. This zero-budget flick imagines bath salt addicts as flesh-eating zombies and claims to make "Trainspotting look like My Little Pony." Directed by Dustin Wayde Mills, and co-written by Mills and Clint Weiler, the film features a punk rock soundtrack by Combat Crisis, The Dwarves, Murder Junkies, World War IX, The Gaggers, and more.

    Official Synopsis: "Present day, United States... The bath salts epidemic facing the southern and mid-western US has been stifled by an unprecedented government crackdown. Head shops have been raided and shut down, component imports from the UK, India and China have been completely stopped, and aggressive penalties for users have been instated. This has led to a tremendous amount of surplus stock hidden by black market dealers, and a migration of those dealers (and in turn, users) to the northeast and other areas. In New York City, potent strands have surfaced and have attracted the most devoted bath salt junkies. In an attempt to outsell said strands, a young aspiring chemist has developed and even stronger batch... but something has gone horribly wrong. The new ultra potent bath salt batch has revealed a major side effect... It turns users into violent flesh seeking "zombies." When the zombies are high on balt salts, they are completely unaware of their actions and they seem to float in and out of consciousness. When they kill / eat people, they are unaware of what has happened when they come down off the drug. The drug is also more addictive than other forms, and users feel the need to stay constantly high due to the fact they become incredibly feeble when sober. They come down HARD."

    Bath Salt Zombies hits DVD on February 19th.


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    It seems pretty safe to say that Ridley Scott's long-awaited Alien prequel Prometheus fell a little short of expectations. Could the original script have saved the project? Judge for yourself. Jon Spaihts's original Alien sequel, Alien: Engineers has popped up on Scribd. Spaihts himself confirmed via Twitter that the script is authentic. We've got the full script embedded below. Check it out - do you think Spaihts's script would have made a better a better prequel?

     

    Alien Engineers


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    In 1972, David Cronenberg directed a 20-minute dystopian short film called "Secret Weapons" for a Canadian anthology series called Programme X. After its initial airing, the series pretty much disappeared and with it, one of Cronenberg's earliest films.

    But because media never dies, "Secret Weapons" is currently available to view, in its entirety, on the interwebz. Set in the near-future, in an America divided by civil war, scientists are working on a process which drives soldiers to kill. 

    Source: Cinephilia & Beyond

    Like shorts? FEARnet has a ton that you might enjoy.


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    Whether you're a fan of Rob Zombie or not, it's hard to deny his distinct style as a filmmaker and the diversity of his filmography thus far. From House Of 1000 Corpses to The Devil's Rejects to his Halloween remake (dubbed Rob Zombie's Halloween) and its' sequel Rob Zombie's Halloween 2 to the upcoming Lords Of Salem, you gotta admit, they are most certainly all their own thing. And while people can argue the merits of his take on Michael Myers all they want, most people agree that The Devil's Rejects is not only a fantastic tribute to 70's style exploitation cinema, but Zombie's best film to date as a writer/director. And now, you can watch Rob Zombie's The Devil's Rejects streaming here on FEARnet for a limited time. If you've never seen it, now's a good opportunity to check it out. And if you have seen it, why not revisit it here? It's just a click away. Our other movies this week are the cult favorite sequel Return Of The Living Dead 3 and the Tibor Takacs fan favorite The Gate! Happy streaming, fiends! 

     


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    This is one of those news stories that makes you do a double-take: James Wan is in talks to direct the MacGyver movie.

    MacGyver was a 1980s TV series about a detective (played by Richard Dean Anderson) who always found himself in dangerous situations, and was able to get out of said situations using everyday items, like rubber bands and paperclips. SNL's MacGruber skit was a mock of MacGyver

    James Wan is best known for low-budget, pull-no-punches horror flicks like Insidious and Saw.

    So how the hell will these two aesthetics blend? Will MacGyver be darker than its TV series? Has James Wan "sold out?" Hey, everyone has to make a living; I'm just having a hard time reconciling these two ideas - anyone want to help me out here?

    Source: Hollywood Reporter


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    Alfred Hitchcock: The Masterpiece Collection is the second enormous, remastered collection to come from Universal in the last month or so (the first being the Universal Monsters Collection.) The 15-disc set includes some of Alfred Hitchcock’s most well-known films - and some lesser-knowns: Saboteur, Shadow of a Doubt, Rope, (one of my favorites of the lesser-known films, along with Lifeboat which, sadly, is not in this set) Rear Window, The Trouble with Harry, The Man Who Knew Too Much, Vertigo, North by Northwest, Psycho, The Birds, Marnie, Torn Curtain, Topaz, Frenzy, and Family Plot

    With so many films, and so many old films, it is tough to do a bevy of special features for every film. As such, only the bigger, more popular films have the better goodies. All the films include theatrical trailers, and stills, lobby cards, storyboards, and other art from the archives. Most have a featurette or two; films like Psycho and North by Northwest have several featurettes. A couple of the films are equipped for something called D-Box, which apparently is a motion ride-like feature that I assume most people won’t have in their homes. Vertigo and The Birds both are D-Box-equipped.

    One of my favorite parts of this set is the book of “liner notes.” In addition to brief profiles of Hitchcock, his collaborators, (costumer Edith Head; musician Bernard Hermann) and his motifs, (Hitchcock blondes; the MacGuffin) the book lays out Hitchcock’s cameo in each film, and includes some truly interesting facts and trivia about the films (for example, Shadow of a Doubt was only supposed to be a working title for the film; no one ever got around to picking a new one.)

    Here are a few of my favorite extras from across the set:

    Psycho

    Psycho is undoubtedly Alfred Hitchcock’s most famous film, as well as being one of the most influential films ever made, so naturally, it is jammed with the most goodies, including a feature-length documentary on the making of Psycho. Other stand-out extras on this disc include a comparison of the shower scene both with and without score (Hitch originally wanted it to play without score until he heard Bernard Hermann’s score) and original newsreel footage. The shower scene storyboards are included here, but they are just static images that flash slowly across the scene. No interactivity, no music, not even the ability to flip through them.

    My favorite Psycho fun-fact is one that doesn’t get much attention - even in the documentary, it is a mere footnote at the end, but it is a landmark in motion picture history. Psycho was the first feature film to command scheduled start times. Before Psycho, films would play in theaters throughout the day, essentially on a loop. For your admission price, you could go in whenever you wanted, and stay as long as you wanted. Hitchcock was worried that audiences would be waiting for Janet Leigh to appear, or the ending wouldn’t be as impactful, so he would only allow it to screen in theaters with advertised showtimes and theater managers were under strict orders not to let anyone in after the show started. As such, Psycho created massive lines as audiences waited for their chance to see the picture. This garnered great interest in the picture, and great publicity, and was the turning point for theaters. It wasn’t long before every film had a schedule.

    Rear Window

    Rear Window is one of several films that feature audio excerpts from the Hitchcock / Truffaut interviews. For those that don’t know, filmmaker and critic Francois Truffaut interviewed Hitchcock over a number of days and compiled the interview into a novel-length book, Hitchcock/Truffaut. It is one of the most important books on Hitchcock’s films and is used in many university classes (it was used in my Hitchcock class.) So for those who don’t want to read, you can listen.

    The Birds

    Don’t be fooled; the “deleted scene” on the extras for The Birds, while it was shot, has long since been lost. Now, is just a couple pages of script and some production stills. Likewise, an alternative ending was scripted and sketched, but never shot. This is all included, but the choice pick for me on this disc is Tippi Hedren’s screen test and more newsreel footage.

    Vertigo

    In order to play in many foreign markets, Hitch had to tack on an extended ending. It is included here, along with the warning that, had it not been for censor boards, Hitch would have never shot this short, dialogue-less ending.

    Alfred Hitchcock: The Masterpiece Collection is available for $210.99 at Amazon.com


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    Shoes are trying to eat me! Apparently the new trend in freaky footwear is to use teeth. Not paintings of teeth, but actual teeth (or reasonable facsimiles of.) First, there were these men's Oxfords made by the design team of fantich&young which are soled with 1,050 teeth (from dentures, not extracted teeth) including a couple of gold teeth. From Laughing Squid:

    Then, earlier today, the women's version popped up on Boing Boing. Origin is unknown, but for my sanity I would like to believe that these teeth also come from dentures, not bleeding gums.

    Two things I have learned from these pairs of shoes. Number one: it is more important than ever to avoid being trampled. Number two: don't forget to floss.

    Bonus! This photo was taken in 1946 in an Indian dentures shop... or from my nightmare last week. 

    Via io9.com

    Want more crazy shoes? We wrote about dinosaur footwear a few weeks ago.


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    This is one of the most fascinating forms of fandom I have ever seen. The fan-tastic duo of Waffle and Meringue are on a mission to recap every episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer - as a limerick. They are almost finished with season three. Here are a few of my favorites:

    Keep up with the latest limericks at Waffles and Meringue


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    And you never thought there would be a child-safe Edward Scissorhands toy on the market. Funko has proved you wrong with this soft, plushy Eddie Scissorhands doll. I'm sure an enterprising youngster could find a way to make this stuffed doll dangerous, but at least if you roll over him in the night, you are not likely to give yourself a splenectomy.

    $11.99 at Amazon.com


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    What was it the Misfits said? Oh, yes.

    Brains for dinner
    Brains for lunch
    Brains for breakfast
    Brains for brunch
    Brains at every single meal
    Why can't we have some guts?

    While it might not be exactly what they had in mind, this Zombie Banana French Toast comes pretty close. If only in looks. Because it looks really, really gross.

    Thankfully, it tastes far better than human brains ever could. (At least I think so, the taste of fresh human brains is theoretical at this point.)  And horrors! It’s even vegan.

    According to our friends over at Babble.com the toast is a naturally green color with a “sweet banana flavor” and extra fluffy white zombie sugar on top. Zombie french toast not quite slimy enough on its own? Add some extra zombie juice.

    EWWWWWWW ... MMMMMMMM... EWWWWWW.... BANANAAAAAASSSS …

    Zombie Banana French Toast
    vegan, serves 4

    4 large slices or 8 small slices day-old bread
    banana mixture

    Banana mixture “zombie juice”
    1 1/2 bananas, very ripe
    1/2 – 1 cup non-dairy milk (almond or soy work best)
    1 tsp maple or agave syrup
    a few dashes of cinnamon
    1 handful baby spinach
    optional: pinch of fresh orange zest

    To cook: 1-2 Tbsp Earth Balance Buttery Spread
    Over top: powdered sugar, organic

    Directions:
    1. Blend the zombie banana mixture in a blender until smooth and pale green.
    2. Soak the bread in the green banana mixture.
    3. Heat the Earth Balance in a hot saute pan. Add i the soaked wet bread.
    4. Cook about 3 minutes on each side – you can add an extra drizzle of green liquid about a minute before removing from the pan to leave a nice green pop of color on the surface.
    5. Serve with some powdered sugar sprinkled over top – a side of green zombie juice too.
     


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    Even before Pennsylvania-based metal unit Motionless in White released their debut full-length album Creatures, they had already grabbed my attention... and not just because frontman Chris Motionless and I happen to own the same Bauhaus t-shirt. It turns out Chris is a huge horror fan, and much of the band's music is directly inspired by horror stories and movies. My first taste of their dark, intense gothic hardcore came three years ago with a sick cover of Rob Zombie's “Dragula,” which impressed the hell out of me. The album's arrival the following year both met and exceeded my expectations, and their rapidly growing fanbase exploded in response.
     
    For example, when FEARnet premiered the band's controversial video “Immaculate Misconception” – directed by Cody Snider, son of Twisted Sister's Dee Snider (who also played a small role) – it became an overnight viral sensation. [If you somehow missed that one, you can still watch it right here.] So when the band announced the impending arrival of the long awaited follow-up record Infamous, I knew fan anticipation (including my own) would go through the roof... and to send things completely over the top, we also got a hold of their new music video for “Devil's Night,” with Snider again behind the camera and featuring Chris and the team at their most shocking.
     
     
    Before we get to that, let's dig into the music of Infamous, which finds the band turning a creative corner. Creatures allowed the band to establish their signature balance of gut-punching, deeply-dropped riffs and sweeping keyboard passages, creating a threatening but compelling emotional tone that gives Chris's vocals the right combination of pained urgency and violent rage; Infamous continues to explore the first album's themes of social angst in a horror context, although this time many of the moody gothic elements have been dialed back in favor of a more brutal, measured approach incorporating industrial metal structures and beats, thrash riffs & leads, and fewer metalcore elements. Adding to this tonal shift, Chris's vocals feel more disturbing this time – distinctly demonic on the harsh passages but deeper and more ominous in the clean sections, running the spectrum from Marilyn Manson to Dani Filth. It's quite a seismic shift, which Chris readily acknowledges. 
     
    “I feel like a lot of bands today stick to these unwritten set of rules when writing their songs, as though there's this barrier that they aren't allowed to break through that prevents them from taking risks,” he explained. “I really wanted to challenge that concept and explore a lot of different styles of music in one record, even more so than we did with Creatures.” This metamorphosis is aided in large part by the production skills of Tim Skold, a heavyweight in industrial music and a long-time collaborator with (and former member of) the legendary KMFDM.
     
    That sonic switcheroo is more shocking than you might expect... the opening cut “Black Damask (The Fog)” begins solemnly, with a spooky gothic piano entry which is literally scorched into cinders by burning thrash riffs, as soaring synths supply vintage string chords as counterpoint. There's as much dread as anger here – a mood which continues in “Devil's Night,” one of the album's most ruthless cuts which meshes blippy synth sequences with crushing industrial-grade riffs. Chris's clean vocals have a moodier tone than he employed on Creatures, so there's no escape from the overall feeling of doom. (You can hear for yourself in the video at the end of this article.) Off-kilter keyboards and phasey riffs combined with leering vocals land “A-M-E-R-I-C-A” solidly on Marilyn Manson turf, all the way down to a skewed carnival rhythm and the creepy solo. The band thrashes things up again in “Burned at Both Ends,” which features some cool gang-singing and vocal harmonies.
     
    Lyrically “The Divine Infection” could be considered a sequel of sorts to “Immaculate Misconception,” but musically it's a huge departure from the earlier song, opting instead for the decadent devil's-playground approach. I'm sure the Manson comparisons will really rain down on this piece, but oddly enough I'd say it beats the Spooky One at his own game here, carrying off an anti-oppression message with such emotional intensity that it quickly became my favorite track on this record. “Puppets 2 (The Rain)” continues a narrative thread from the Creatures track, this time with a vocal assist from Soilwork's Bjorn Speed Strid, and it amps up the earlier version's gothic mood in both speed and aggression, resulting in an effective fusion of Scandinavian melodic death and gothic/symphonic metal.
     
    “Sinematic” is a great adjective to describe MIW's songwriting style, so it's fitting that the song by that name shifts the mood into pensive drama, with a deep rhythmic undercurrent that keeps the tension high. Bleeding Through vocalist Brandan Schieppati shares mic duties with Chris on “If It's Dead, We'll Kill It,” resulting in one of the album's most varied tracks, where the hand of Tim Skold is quite apparent in lightning switch-ups from electro sequences to brutal dropped chugs to gothic metal keyboard washes. There's a sick lyric video for this track featuring a gallery of classic movie monsters, so be sure to give it a spin:
     
     
    “Synthetic Love” sports a wicked dark riff synched with massive keyboard chords, building into a grand-scale production that fills every corner of the sound field (Chris's final scream sounds like it's coming from another dimension), and anthemic chorus chanting. “Hatefuck” is a return to sleazy industrial metal (Manson's ghost is again evident), driven by an electro-metal loop and stacks and stacks of twisted power chords. The mighty chugs return for “Underdog,” which returns to the gothic flavor of Creatures, but with the horror elements dialed back a bit... that is until the monstrous industrial riffs of the title track, with Chris snarling talk-sung verses, all dripping with delay and reverb, multi-tracked to sound like a Greek chorus from hell. Chris was right when he said Infamous would be an album of many flavors, and while some may come as a shock to fans of the previous album, I think they'll find their tastes expanding to include this new recipe.
     
    As I promised, we've also acquired Cody Snider's highly dangerous music video for “Devil's Night,” and although all of MIW's clips tap into horrific imagery, this one is the first designed to be truly terrifying. “When Cody and I first started discussing the video for "Devil's Night,” my original idea was to just for once go all out in the direction of creating a badass horror movie... something that could potentially scare the hell out of someone... and step back from trying to really drive a strong message home,” Chris said. “After really digging in to ideas, we came to the point of asking ourselves 'Why not do both?'” 
     
    And so they did. The result lies below...
     

     


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