** The website of independent digital filmmaker Jeff Kirkendall **
Very Scary Productions - Thoughts Archives 2004
Thoughts For The Month - by Jeff Kirkendall
Columns for the year 2004: January 2004 through December 2004
On the Very Scary Productions Thoughts For The Month pages I discuss different topics (both horror-related and not) each month. This page contains a listing of all the columns
I wrote for the year 2004, as well as a summary and the first paragraph for each topic. Click the links to read the full columnsin separate browser windows.
This is the spot where I discuss, and offer my opinions on, different topics (both horror-related and not) each month. I decided to create this page because I find that I often come across things that either interest me, excite me or maybe just bug me. For example, I'll often read about movie projects that I have a strong interest in, or opinion on, for one reason or another. This page gives me a forum to discuss these things. Anyone who has feedback concerning what I have to say here, feel free to contact me. I'd also like to point out that the following is just my opinion, and everyone
is free to agree or disagree with what I have to say. ENJOY!
Click the links below to view each column in a separate window, or scroll down to read column summaries and first paragraphs:
SUBJECT: Movie Review - "More Than Friends?" December 2004
(an independent short film)
More Than Friends is a well-acted and competently produced short dramatic comedy from Upstate
New York-based indie filmmaker Jeff Burns. It's definitely worth checking out.
This month I'd like to review a picture which was produced in Upstate New York's Capital Region.
*More Than Friends? is a 26-minute digital video movie from Albany, New York-based Knightsfall Productions. It was written and directed by independent filmmaker Jeff Burns and is billed as "a comedy about a guy, a girl, and a frisbee". The movie tells the story of a college student named Alex who comes to realize he's in love with his best friend Ashley. Since he is unable to tell Ashley his true feelings face to face, he decides to send her an E-mail instead. He then decides it was a mistake
and gets his friends Kevin and Sarah to help him break into the campus computer center and delete the E-mail. After all this will Alex and Ashley become romantically involved? Will their friendship last? Or will an attractive Frisbee-throwing girl on campus become the object of Alex's affection?
SUBJECT: Halloween Reminiscences November 2004
As a kid I always enjoyed the challenge of putting together a good costume for Halloween, and the excitement of going from house to house at night gathering candy. Nowadays things have changed and Halloween has become much more of an adults celebration. Indoor Halloween parties have become very popular, while the adult costume business has flourished, thanks in part to the horror film industry and characters like Freddy Krueger and Michael Myers. I've attended some great Halloween parties over the years, and when I don't go out I like to get in the spirit of the season by watching classic horror films such as Night of the Living Dead and Carnival of Souls.
For me Halloween has always been one of the more entertaining and unique times of the year. *Considering the fact that I'm an independent filmmaker specializing in the horror genre, this makes perfect sense. But back when I was a kid, before I was even interested in the horror genre, Halloween was enjoyable because it promised a night of fun and adventure. It was always a personal challenge
to put together a unique and memorable costume that friends would talk about days later. This challenge was amplified by the fact that our school always had some sort of party or event where everyone got to show off their costumes in either the school's auditorium or in the classrooms. Even
at a young age I understood the value (and challenge) of trying to personalize costumes, whether they were store-bought, hand-made, or some combination of both. What was even more exciting however was Halloween night. My friends and I would get together and venture out trick-or-treating in our costumes, traveling from house to house on our street, and then over to other nearby streets. When
I was really young my parents or someone else's parents would walk with us or drive down the road
in front of each house to watch over us. Then when I was a bit older we would be allowed to head out
on our own, as long as we promised not to go too far from home. One thing I remember is that more
often than not Halloween night would turn out to be a cold, rainy and dreary evening, which I think bothered the adults more than us. I never cared that much about the weather (or about getting sick from it) because I was always so immersed in the excitement of the trick-or-treating. A bag full of candy at the end of the night was well worth the prospect of coming home tired
SUBJECT: Movie Review - "Alien Vs. Predator" (AVP) October 2004
Alien vs. Predator is a monster movie teaming that sounded promising, and one that had great potential like the previous genre pairing Freddy vs. Jason. Unfortunately this cinematic battle between the two species falls flat. It is a film filled with stock characters and very little originality.
Arriving about a year after the successful pairing of knife-fingered Freddy Krueger and silent, hockey-masked killer Jason Voorhees (in the excellent Freddy Vs. Jason*), comes the much talked about Alien Vs. Predator (AVP). First, I'll say right up front that I've never played the video game, so I can't compare the movie to that. However I have seen all the Alien and Predator films and unfortunately this teaming between the two other-worldly species fails to be as compelling as even the weakest sequel in either franchise. Read More...
SUBJECT: Euro-Horror and the films of Dario Argento September 2004
An alternative to the mainstream
Euro-horror refers to horror movies made in the European film community. In contrast to American horror films, which often focus on moving a story along at a brisk pace, Euro-horror tends to emphasize lush visuals and fine detail. Movies made by Italian filmmaker Dario Argento, such as Deep Red, are good examples of this type of cinema. They often employ extreme close-ups and visceral moments for impact, and are perhaps less commercial in nature than American pictures. For me Euro-horror is an acquired taste.
This month I'd like to discuss a topic that many horror fans are already very familiar with. Euro-horror
is a term used to categorize horror movies made in the European film community. Some writers limit the definition of the term to only include movies produced in that region between the late sixties and the early eighties, but many also apply it to films made in the present day. Before going any further
with this discussion, I'd like to freely admit that I am not what you might call an expert on the subject.
I know people who are much bigger connoisseurs of this horror subgenre than myself, and therefore are much more knowledgeable about it as well. However that having been said I have, over the years, developed a taste for Euro-horror, and find it to be a nice alternative on occasion to American fright films. It is from this perspective of the casual viewer that I offer the following observations on the subject. Read More...
SUBJECT: Movie Review: "The Village" August 2004
A look at M. Night Shyamalan's latest.
M. Night Shyamalan's latest movie is a brooding, dark drama with rich characters and a very original storyline. It also features good performances from a fine cast. However the surprise
ending may very well be a big disappointment to many fans.
The latest film from suspense master M. Night Shyamalan is a brooding drama called The Village.
The movie has a top-notch cast, including Joaquin Phoenix, Adrien Brody, William Hurt, Sigourney Weaver, Brendan Gleeson, and Bryce Dallas Howard in the pivotal role of Ivy Walker, the daughter
of one of the town elders. The story is set in the small, quiet town of Covington Pennsylvania, which
is surrounded by large and foreboding woods. The people of this isolated town live a simple and pleasant life; however they also live with a deep fear of the mysterious creatures that are said to reside in the nearby woods. When a headstrong young man named Lucius Hunt (Joaquin Phoenix) ventures into this unknown territory, it appears he has upset the long-standing peace between the villagers and the creatures. His actions may have changed the fate of the village and its people forever. Read More...
SUBJECT: Vampire Hunters - Modern Day Heroes July 2004
Plus: A review of "Van Helsing"
With recent big-budget movies such as Van Helsing and Blade: Trinity, vampire hunters are taking center stage along with their fanged counterparts. Vampire Hunters have become a mix of the old and the new, battling classic creatures in high-tech action movies. These characters have a dual nature and are often portrayed as anti-heroes. An example from independent cinema would be Shadow Tracker: Vampire Hunter. (This column concludes with a review of Van Helsing.)
Of all the classic monsters in cinema history, it can easily be argued that the vampire has always been one of the most enduring. While other screen menaces such as werewolves and mummies seem to run in cycles, remaining popular for a number of years and then fading away for awhile, vampires consistently maintain a strong presence on movie screens both big and small. This is evidenced by the continual stream of bloodsucker pictures produced by both large Hollywood studios and independent filmmakers alike. The history of vampire movies has been discussed in depth in numerous articles, publications, books and videos, so I will not delve into that subject
here. However, what I would like to talk about is the enduring popularity of a related horror icon - the vampire hunter. With the recently released Universal Studios monster epic Van Helsing, and the upcoming Blade: Trinity, not only do vampires continue to retain their hold on audiences, but now
it appears the vampire's counterpart - the vampire hunter - is taking center
SUBJECT: Independent Film in the Hudson Valley June 2004
by guest writer Jessika M. Pasko
Filmmaking and film distribution have become heavily monopolized by corporate interests. Fortunately some people have invested in independent movies and movie makers. The Hudson Valley region of Upstate New York is one area where this is the case. The Woodstock Film Festival is a prominent one geared toward the independents. Several filmmakers from the Upstate New York region have also worked to produce and promote independent projects. (I'm one of the filmmakers written about in this article contributed by Jessika M. Pasko).
** The June 2004 column is an essay contributed by Jessika M. Pasko, who is a writer from Upstate New York's Capital Region. I'd like to thank Jessika for including me as a featured filmmaker in this piece. **
(And for anybody who may be wondering, it's not a typo: Jessika's name is spelled with a "k", not a "c". )
As the media world becomes more and more monopolized, it can seem that even some art
is not sacred. Hollywood and corporate control of the distribution and presentation of film can often be limiting, particularly to independent film projects. Fortunately there are many who refuse to let corporate influences keep them down, and so independent film continues to thrive in many communities. The Hudson Valley region of New York State is just one example of an area with a growing community of filmmakers and film fans pursuing independent film projects. Read More...
SUBJECT: Movie Magic in the Age of Information. May 2004
Extras such as behind-the-scenes "making of" footage have become a big part of marketing films on DVD, and are in fact expected by audiences nowadays. There is no doubt there are great educational benefits gained from this type of material; however can the argument be made that breaking down how movies are created step by step in some way lessons the art form? The fact that "Movie Magic" has all but disappeared from modern cinema today is the focus of this column.
Recently I was watching an independent movie with a friend of mine. This particular effort was a short, no-budget, shot-on-video picture. * Put another way, it was exactly the type of filmmaking I'm engaged in. What I found most interesting however was not the film itself, but rather the fact that while the movie ran under a half hour, the running time on the tape was over an hour. How, you ask, is this possible? Well, the tape contained over a half hour of extras, the bulk of which consisted of behind-the-scenes "making of" footage. We were treated to watching most of the key sequences being discussed, choreographed, rehearsed, and taped. I've noticed that this is becoming an increasingly popular trend in underground and independent cinema, as well as with mainstream Hollywood movies. While we
were viewing this particular movie on VHS, the trend is most common with DVD/DVD-R, where additional material is today almost expected by audiences. What's good about behind-the-scenes
(or bonus) material is that audiences can learn about, or at least get a brief look at, the different processes involved in creating motion pictures. Chats with writers, directors, composers and other
key players give the viewer insights they wouldn't have had otherwise. The filmmakers in turn get to
talk about what they do. (I know that I for one always enjoy talking about my filmmaking activities.)
On-screen demonstrations of such processes as makeup effects also enlighten the viewer as to how things are done. Additionally, this type of material is obviously entertaining to audiences, as the
SUBJECT: Movie Review - "Dawn of the Dead" (2004) April 2004
Does the remake cut it?
Despite some good action sequences and horrific moments, the new version of Dawn of the Dead fell flat in many respects. The movie had an uneven, jumpy quality that made it difficult
to become invested in any of the characters. Also, unlike in George Romero's 1978 classic, here the mall was not used as a main character, thus greatly reducing the effectiveness of the overall story. Hopefully this remake will draw unfamiliar audiences into seeing the original version.
Over several of my past columns I've given my thoughts on remakes of classic horror films, and
I've also reviewed some of these remakes. * For those tired of reading about the topic I apologize. However this does seem to be a significant trend as of late, and since George Romero's 1978 zombie movie is considered such a horror classic by so many people (including myself), I felt compelled to write about the new film. With any luck this will be the last big remake for awhile (not likely), and this will be the last such review I'll write for awhile. That having been said, let's discuss the new Dawn of the Dead. Read More...
SUBJECT: Movie Review - "Beyond Re-Animator" March 2004
Dr. Herbert West returns to the screen!
Beyond Re-Animator is the third movie in the cult horror franchise. This film is sure to please gore hounds and those who like visceral terror. The movie also mirrors the original in many positive ways, and character actor Jeffrey Combs puts in another fine performance as the
brilliant but demented Dr. Herbert West. Although the movie is not without its flaws, it's good crazy fun, and a welcome addition to the Re-Animator film series.
For those not familiar with the Re-Animator film series, the movies follow the horrific adventures
of one Doctor Herbert West, played by genre favorite Jeffrey Combs. The good (mad?) doctor is
on a never-ending quest to bring life to the dead. The original Re-Animator was based on a short story by writer H.P. Lovecraft called Herbert West - The Re-Animator. The first film came out in
1985 and was followed in 1990 by the sequel Bride of Re-Animator. Now, after a long wait, we finally have the 2003 release Beyond Re-Animator. While this movie doesn't quite compare to
the original cult classic, it is, in my opinion, slightly better than the second entry in the series, and
SUBJECT: Fangoria's Weekend of Horrors convention highlights February 2004
Here I discuss highlights from my trip to New Jersey for the Fangoria Weekend of Horrors convention. The day featured some fantastic panel presentations from some great guests.
There were also some very entertaining movie trailers shown, such as I Drink Your Blood/I Eat Your Skin, and Broken Lizard's Club Dread. I especially enjoyed the talk by Drive-in Movie
Critic Joe Bob Briggs, as well as a panel featuring the women of Friday the 13th. Additionally, Friday the 13th: The Series actor John D. Lemay gave an informative talk. All in all it was an excellent convention.
This past January 9th, 10th, and 11th, FANGORIA magazine (see TFTM March 2003) teamed
for the first time ever with Chiller Theatre to present Fangoria's Weekend of Horrors in East Rutherford, New Jersey. Previously, the Chiller Theatre show (see TFTM May 2003) and Fangoria's Weekend of Horrors were serious rivals, competing for the horror crowd each year. Having attended both conventions numerous times in the past, I can definitely say that this new teaming was the best of both worlds. Read More...
SUBJECT: The Independent & Underground Film Scene in 2003 January 2004
- Some random thoughts.
This column focuses on the underground movie scene, which I am a part of. In my own area of Upstate New York several filmmakers were hard at work on projects in 2003, while on the internet web sites such as microcinemascene.com began to focus on the work of indie movie makers. (The trailer for my own vampire movie The Temptress was publicized on that site). Increased interest in movies of this type will hopefully strengthen what I like to call "the democratization of filmmaking".
My initial idea for my first column of 2004 was to repeat what I did last year, which was to give a "best movies of the year" list. However, upon considering the matter, I realized that I pretty much covered my favorite movies over several previous columns. The past year was such a great time for the horror genre that there was never any shortage of material to write about. I can only hope that the tide will continue into 2004. That having been said, I'd like to turn my attention now to the independent and underground movie scene in 2003. Read More...
All images, photographs and videos contained within this website are copyrighted material.