Panels Pixels Frames | PPF: To pimp a podcast
Panels Pixels Frames | PPF: To pimp a podcast
Panels Pixels Frames | PPF: To pimp a podcast
Panels Pixels Frames | PPF: All that was and all that will be
3 Dead Girls
Chris Broadstone recently edited together a collection of some of his short films, 3 Dead Girls. Overall, these three short films are some of the best micro budgeted shorts I have seen, and that opinion holds strong after screening many short film festivals over the years.
One of the limitation of short films is trying to squeeze an entire story within a very short period of time. With the 2000 short film, Scream For Me, it is readily apparent. We’re given much of the backstory through an extensive and well performed monologue by Gabriel Sigal until Tony Simmons steals the show with his Madman character. Because there was a lot of back story to quickly digest through narration, it may easily slip by how Broadstone perfectly paralleled the beginning scene between Gabriel Sigal and his victim and later when Simmons victimizes Sigal. However, there was no shortage of perversity, sadism, and industrial music to hold our attention for the ride. There were some bonus features which illuminated the behind the scenes fun. Apparently, many out-takes were due to Simmon’s inability to know how to use Duct tape, and I quite enjoyed watching him make the tape completely unusable while never missing a cue or a line.
My Skin is another collaboration between Tony Simmons and Chris Broadstone as well as the final entry, Human No More. Tony Simmon’s transforms from his Madman trucker persona to a pale skinned figure of death incarnate. This story functions more of a final act to a New England Gothic story, as we come upon Death finally having revenge on a killer who keeps messing up his Date of Death ledger. Broadstone, with a micro budget, used the mise-en-scene combined with Simmons performance to create an unsettling sense. However, with such a short story I was kept wanting. I also couldn’t help but think that this incarnation of Death was a precursor to Broadstone’s Puzzleman novel which explores this creepy atmosphere in much more depth and detail.
Human No More is a confessional from a burnt out homicide detective. Broadstone zooms in on the final moments before the detective relinquishes his soul in order to carry on the good fight against evil. This story is very much about surrendering morals. If given a proper amount of time and budget, it’s easy seeing this unfolding into a mashup between Exorcist III and Fallen. Once again, it’s amazing how much insight Chris is able to reveal in such a limited budget and schedule. Despite setting up time, it’s a wonder how he was able to envision these creative and stylized shots. Although the monologue focuses solely on Tony Simmon’s character, he still manages to set up multiple points of view and even one that is presumably of the detective’s inner demon.
3 Dead Girls is a fun compilation of short horror movies. Along with the films, this release also comes with enough extra content such as behind the scenes footage, interviews, and commentaries to justify picking it up. I, for example, enjoyed listening to the banter between Broadstone and Simmons. Also, despite the packaging and name, these horrors don’t fall on the extreme/snuff side of the genre, so there’s no reason to be timid to show these among a diverse crowd of friends. These gothic films are perfect for a fright night party.
Now, I could start this off talking about the impact David Bowie had on the culture I grew up in. It had been quite clear for a long time that he had affected every section of the art community. There are many articles that show parallels and connections to him that we can play Six Degrees of David Bowie. In fact, for being someone from another planet, he has impacted my culture quite significantly.
As his last gift to us earthlings, Bowie gave us the beautiful album Black Star. When I first heard about Black Star, I wasn’t excited because we were getting a quick follow up to his solid The Next Day. I was particularly excited to see him so thrilled about the prospect of star KIC 8462852 having life that he paid homage to the idea by creating another work of art. Sadly, no aliens have been observed, but it would have been one hell of a departing gift for Ziggy. Don’t you think? Regardless, that is my attraction to him.
David Bowie is an artist who keeps his mind open and allows possibilities to spark his imagination and throws him into a creative frenzy. He never seems to be too concerned for his passions making him look too nerdy or too weird. That may have been why much of his lyrics adopt an outsider’s point of view, but it’s why I found him to be the most relatable artist. Every time I saw him perform or heard him sing or act, I knew that was 100% him. He was always genuine.
As I go back and look over David Bowie’s discography, it certainly reminds me of looking over a wine list. There’s quite a selection, but it’s hard to find someone who has a pallet for each choice. Also, just like wine, some of his material, such as the Berlin Trilogy, aged quite well over time, and for some people they themselves haven’t aged enough to appreciate the selection. I was one of those people.
Growing up I remember David Bowie being the Thin White Duke with the sexy songs. I would sing to myself Let’s Dance while peddling my way over to my girlfriends house. Then I would sing Dancing in the Street on my way home. I would sing along with Mercury and Bowie to their love song to humanity, Under Pressure. Then, when nobody was looking, I would sing China Girl. In fact, I blame Him for my pseudo English accent that permanently set into my singing voice.
Another great part of Bowie was that I could easily listen to him around the grandparents. Originally, to me he was that top ten artists with safe sounding hits. So, when I saw him take the stage next to Trent Reznor, my mind became blown. I was young, but it was at that moment when I realized he was so much more than the guy with the hits. He was the artist who wasn’t afraid to reinvent his style and passion for music. He had made a career out of being an iconoclast. He would build his image only to disassemble it and rebuild it again and again.
Much of consumerism America prefers their “artist” to stamp out hits, albums, whole bodies of work that are nothing but an imitation of the original money maker. However, true artists such as David Bowie in particular never conform to the demands of the public. They continue creating something new and inspired that reflects their current mindset. For example, I love the fact that those radio friendly hits I mentioned came out right after his most experimental phase. As I aged, my pallet now consistently hungers for those experiments during that Eno, Bowie, Visconti era.
During my time couch hopping, I also found myself personally embracing more of his later works. His lyrics and themes often portrayed a voyeuristic wanderer discovering humanity. It was one of the tracks buried in Earthling that particularly resonated with me, Searching for Satellites. The minimalist lyrics over wailing synths and guitars reflected the mood of a lonely vagabond packing and taking inventory of his personal possessions while flicking through the news on the TV, which is something I’ve experienced more than enough times. Somehow, that was always the trick to his profound lyrics. He could be singing about walking out of a spaceship, but for me it’s a soundtrack about shedding my past and walking into tomorrow.
As obituaries and eulogies pour out after news broke of Bowie leaving us, there’s one story from Duncan Jones that warmed me up. Back in Jones’s youth his father use to read SciFi tales to him. For me, this parallels my reading tales of black holes and quantum physics to my preschool daughter. I’m sure he also hoped that these tales would not only spark the imagination in his son but also illuminate the possibility of change. After all, David Bowie lived a life that proved that reinvention isn’t scary but rather beautiful.
Age Of Ultron:
The Movie that Broke My Love for Superhero Movies
Age of Ultron is the worst movie to happen to the Superhero franchise genre. Despite its publicity and praises on the script, Age of Ultron was the Transformers release of 2015. It made its bank, but critically it was a bomb.
The AoU announcement came quickly after Marvel Comics finished up their reboot of Age of Ultron story arc, which is arguably the worst Avengers story arc in recent memory. However, Marvel has adopted cross media promotion. Remember the whole, “it’s all connected” thing? So, it wasn’t a surprise when the announcement finally came.
When news was first breaking about the script, it was called dark and cerebral. Early readers praised AoU in its complexity and thought it would be strong enough to stand up next to Winter Soldier’s success. After all, they had a lot of material and foundation to work up from. Also, us Geeks had wondered when the time gem would come into play. Because Ultron story arcs ultimately like to play with time, it made sense that AoU would play into the Infinity Gauntlet mythology. Because the gem grants the user the time traveling power, which Avenger would be worthy or responsible enough to hold on to an Infinity Gem? Often, the comics choose Captain America to hold onto the gems because he is the most altruistic. But, what if they had to go back to 1950’s America to stop Ultron from being developed, as they often do in the comics but Steve Rogers wanted to stay? We even hinted at his longing for his past in previous installment as well as Age of Ultron. Simply put, a moral dilemma would have been a welcomed addition to the franchise. Now, that is just one of many areas they could have gone. However, bestowing the gem to a completely new character creation undermines the Avengers role or purpose regarding the Infinity Gauntlet.
In case those of you who forgot, the Infinity War is something the Marvel Cinematic Universe has been building up to for over a decade now and it has now become the slowest moving McGuffin to crawl into the cinematic world. Now, most McGuffins are just there to fuel the plot, yet it should have some sort of impending consequence to the characters involved. However, each time we hit play, all tension surrounding the gauntlet has been subdued and white washed. The gems are somewhere but who cares? Do they matter? None of this became more confusing until Marvel decided to blow their own horn and show all of their Marvel releases back to back to those die-hard fans who inevitably became overburdened by the undeniably loose plot threads. For me, the Ultron/Infinity slap in the face didn’t truly hurt until Thanos decided to break the fourth wall and yell at the audience for the incompetence and mishandling of the Infinity Gauntlet story arc.
Then we must address the overall purpose of this franchise. Within the first five minutes of AoU, I am quickly reminded of Super Bowl America. Scenes of American white male fantasy include the gridiron offense overpowering linebackers, tough Ford trucks overcoming boulders on mountains, and now Avengers beating down some Nazi-esque terrorists. As my fist is pumping and these scenes of masculinities are playing in slow motion through my head, Pauline Kale and Alejandro Inarritu’s words are echoing in the back of my mind. Are these superhero franchises nothing more than immature white boyhood fantasies? Are any of these relatable characters? By the time we leave Hawkeye’s farm, the answer is no. First of all, the family and farm undermined the sexual tension that was not only building between Natasha and Hawkeye since the first Avengers but also building from an earlier exchange of dialogue while Hawkeye was in recovery. Who uses a wife and kids plot twist outside of the romance genre? In fact, I can’t quite think of a sequel undermining its characters relationship since Princess Leia kissed Luke Skywalker. Then there’s Mark Ruffalo’s character and romance. By the way, in the same year Mark Ruffalo is the guy who just came off of doing the three-hour Foxcatcher, which relied on body language to fully explain the complicated relationship between Ruffalo and his drug-addicted brother, and also the guy who may win awards for his supporting performance in Spotlight. So, it wasn’t the acting. It was that the scene had no clear direction or purpose. This is the part of the story which serves as the character development phase, yet it was all too awkward.
There are some people who scream about social injustice in regards to Ruffalo and Johanson’s character romance. However, I say the social injustice is directed at the homoerotic tension that’s been building up between Chris Evans and RDJ’s respective characters since the first Avengers movie. Don’t the quips between Evans and Downey sound like that of a recently married couple? Wouldn’t it make more sense why Tony Stark is mad at Steve Rogers when he finds out about his secret lover Bucky; therefore, their breakup is kicking off the Civil War? If we don’t want to admit to Avengers being a conservative male fantasy, then isn’t it time Marvel pony up and show their progression by changing the status quo, at least a little?
That is the reason why the Marvel franchise became pointless. Outside of their respective origin movies, nobody and nothing change. The Age of Ultron is about the Avengers overcoming a robot with daddy issues. At the end of the day everyone high fives each other and white washes anything that might kinda affect future plot lines, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t going to name drop like a sponsored prize fighter. It isn’t cerebral. It isn’t dark and full of character depth. It’s a timid blockbuster and it’s full of product placement for a bloated franchise. Perhaps, if Joss Whedon stuck to the original script or somehow stopped outside influences, we could have experienced what was promised. However, what we received was a 280 million-dollar commercial for a franchise that has overstayed its welcome.
Overall, what is the relevance of the super hero genre? One issue that sparked debate later in the year was when Spielberg mentioned that the super hero movie will go the way of the western. The western genre back in the day was its era’s blockbuster. That’s where Hollywood threw all the big names in the pot, and they made sure that it was fun for the whole family. However, these days westerns come out much less frequently and aren’t the big dollar maker that they use to be. After Spielberg let these words slip during an interview for Bridge of Spies, which isn’t related to blockbusters or super heros, many reporters asked everybody for a few insightful words. During a press conference for his directorial debut, Before We Go, another movie that has nothing to do with blockbusters or superheroes, the most insightful response came from Mr Captain America, Chris Evans. he mentioned that, “I certainly think that given the fact that technology has finally advanced, they’re always going to be looking for other films to match their technological accomplishments… whether it’s superhero film or fantasy in general”. That argument makes a lot of sense. SuperHero, Fantasy, as well as Sci Fi should be great places to showcase our newest Hollywood technology. However, I can’t think of a single instance in Age of Ultron where the technology particularly stood out, at least Ant Man had the Quantum Realm.
Personally, I now regret ever wanting to see my favorite comic book characters turned into celluloid and keep slapping my eight-year-old self for being slightly interested in the Infinity War and Civil War. Jesus, none of the entries really can come up with an original title or identity.
This beautiful film is about self sacrifice and submitting to the awesome forces of nature. What this film is not about is a monstrous whale. The narrative is clearly divided. One follows Tom Nickerson’s journey from innocence to experience. Meanwhile, we discover Chase and Pollard’s hubris downfalls.
Thematic approach is tantamount to Howard’s Apollo 13. We’re presented with a story of people shaking loose their societal safety net and rediscovering their strengths in the volatile nature. Also much similar in theme is how space wasn’t an active agent yet it was always dangerously close to our Apollo astronauts. Similarly, the white whale constantly lurks beneath the dark waters reminding us of death’s indiscriminate hold on everyone and everything.
First we’re introduced to an old Nickerson who is convinced by Melville to relay his tale of the fateful journey of Essex. As he flashes back, a young Nickerson discovers the inherent brutality of nature. Although eager to set sail on the ocean, the ocean quickly greets Nickerson with helpings of sea sickness. Although excited to join his first whale hunt, as harpoons slice into mother whales while their calves flee, he is quickly burdened by the savagery. In addition, the boy’s size unfortunately grants him the ability to crawl inside the whale cavity and scoop out oil. This imagery builds up tension until Nickerson finally reveals his most dreadful secret.
We also watch Chase and Pollard become diminished by forces of nature. When we begin their tale, they are both men trying to live up to their families’ expectations. Although each man has a different history, Pollard points out that he was born into whaling while Chase was born to do the job. However, both men are arrogant to a fault. Pollard fails to conquer a storm, while Chase fails to fill the ship with scarce whale oil. Their onboard resources become depleted while they struggle to find people to trade with. The voyage slowly strips away their status, command, mission, and resources until the godlike whale finally takes everything away.
The 3D presentation is a wonderful treat. Instead of going for the poke your eye out entertainment, the 3D and coloring made long shots pop with beautiful and vivid contrasts. Each shot looked like a 19th century oil painting. Also, instead of zooming close for dialogue shots, they would creatively use the 3D to sculpt the foreground and use the illusion of depth to frame each shot. It’s always a welcome treat when directors don’t use the 3D tech as a gimmick.
All the actors did a very fine job, and bravo to being able to put in those performances while filming on water. Even the small supporting roles shown brightly. In fact, Michelle Fairly 19th century naturalism, Cillian Murphy sober desperation, or Jordi Molla haunting narration stole the spotlight.
Although Ron Howard is a master of style, each film is very well distinguished film. This doesn’t look like a Howard film. It looks and feels like a 19th century epic. He has a wonderful ability to embrace his subject’s story and not let anything or anyone interfere with its identity. He allows the movie to subtlety reveals itself. For example, instead of quoting scripture or subverting the religious subtext of Moby Dick, he quietly places a priest in the background to help nail down the underlying meaning of this epic. Not only is this movie worth watching, but also it worth watching multiple times.
Seedy Review recently caught up with Mike Mayhall to talk to him about his new Slasher film, Jake’s Road.
Hello, Mike. Please tell us a little about yourself and Mayhem Productions.
Hello All …
Where to start? I grew up outside of New Orleans. A city of large character, filled with characters. I starting studying theatre in high-school … went to college for it … and I have never looked back. I started Mayhem Productions when I was living in Orlando, FL. We did improv comedy sword fighting shows. It was a super fun and creative time in my life. At some point I moved to Los Angeles with the want to work in Film. Then Louisiana’s film industry started booming and moved back home. With one goal. Make movies. And, I am happy to say … that’s what I am doing.
Besides Jake’s Road, what has been your favorite or most challenging experience of your career?
I can’t choose just one. It’s been a career filled with great memories. And, hopefully tons more. Each project is my favorite. Each experience challenging. I can say this. Every time I stepped into a new arena it was a challenge. When I went from a stage actor to wanted to produce my own live stunts shows … challenging. When I decided I wanted to do stunts in movies and TV … challenging. Making my own film. Very challenging. It’s when ever, I think, anyone steps out of their comfort zone towards a bigger goal or a bigger dream. And, I guess that’s why everything is my favorite. Because I keep trying to move forward.
Can you tell us about the conception and development of Jake’s Road?
I started to focus on Jake’s Road when I moved from Los Angeles back to New Orleans. I wanted to do a thriller and horror movie, because I just love the genre. But, I wanted it to be intelligent and suspenseful, rather than hack and slash. I also wanted it to have personal meaning beyond the story.
I spent many of my younger days at my stepfather’s hunting cabin out in the backwoods of Folsom, LA. A place simply called, ‘The Camp’. It sits on 250 acres of land next to a small stream and is ideal for a horror movie. It’s a place where your imagination can run wild. It was the site of some epic parties. It was an escape from the everyday and was filled with so many wild tales of the unexplainable that they bordered on supernatural.
It was also the birthplace of an old campfire story about a hired hand, named Jake, who went crazy one night and took revenge on the former owners of The Camp. So, I guess you could say Jake’s Road is one half my twisted imagination and one half stories and events from my youth.
But, the story of Jake’s Road is so much more than that. All that is just the back drop. It’s got some great acting, some fun action and twists that are just soul crushing.
I think, as with anything, if you love what you do it shows through. That’s an old adage from my theater days. If you are having fun, if you enjoy you’re performance the audience will enjoy it as well. I just happen to enjoy thrillers …
Did anybody else help collaborate with the development?
Everyone helped. I would have been lost with out my fellow producer and long time friend Tim Bell. We started sword fighting together back in Florida and we always talked about doing a film together. So, when the time came I called him first. He also played ‘MIKE’ in the film.
It amazed me how supportive everyone was. From start to finish. And, what I really love is that everyone because a little family. We all still talk today and hang out and support each other. I think that friendship shows in the film. Everyone gave their all, take after take.
How long did it take to go from concept to final cut?
Once I had the script done … it happened rather quick. I wrote it over the course of a few months. It was my only focus. Then we hit pre-production and to be honest that was a bit of a blur. It involved hurricane’s, cancellations moving shooting dates, locations being flooded. It was a mess. The actual shooting went great. Super smooth. Then I guess about 4 months after we wrapped he had a final cut.
There are a lot of beautiful and brutal shots in the forest. Where was this filmed?
We filming in South Louisiana. And that comes through. Especially when you film in the more rural areas. When those cicadas start up it adds another layer to the world. Something you can feel. Those deep woods. Where there is no where to run for safety.
Night in Louisiana is my favorite. It’s warm with a breeze and teeming with life. You are surrounded by an orchestra. Actually, at times the cicadas and crickets got so loud we couldn’t film. They drowned out the actors.
Was it challenging to travel to and film in a dense remote location?
It wasn’t that tough. We had big pick up trucks. Everyone loaded up and off we went.
What equipment did you use?
We shot, believe it or not, on a 5D camera. We had a great DP and sound department that made us look like a million bucks.
The knife attack scenes were very brutal. What are some of your favorite kill shots?
I have two favorites … I don’t want to give them away, but if you’ve seen it, you’ll know what I am talking about. One is with the main characters. When Sam and Kay stubble across a killing. It’s just macabre. Their slow realization of whats happening. The other is after the group is divided and running. And the killer starts hunting. That’s a brutal, bone crunching hard one to watch.
How did you conceive them?
I have a twisted warped imagination.
Can you share any information on upcoming projects?
Sure … I have written to full on action films. I am hoping to get them off the ground next year. One I have written for Leticia Jimenez, who plays Kay in Jake’s Road. It’s a darker action film. Think Smoking Aces meets Saw. And the other is an action fantasy.
Where can people watch Jake’s Road?
This was fun.
Recently, PPF and SeedyReview got a chance to sit down with Mark Netter, the director of Nightmare Code, and talked in depth about Nightmare Code and horror movies in general. The podcast can be listened to over at PPF.
PPF: We have MARK NETTER, the director of Nightmare Code, and we actually get to talk to him about the nature of movie and what his intent was. So, where you from?
MARK: Oh gosh, originally I’m from my outside of Albany New York, a town called Delmar New York. I’m actually happy to say that this past month we did a hometown screening in Albany, and we got a great turnout.
PPF: Awesome, did everyone like the movie?
MARK: Yeah, they seem to. It’s funny because a lot of them were my parents friends. We actually had the oldest average age audience. Because the movie has a kind of interesting visual style where for at least half the movie we’re using four images at once on a surveillance monitor and I really wondered how it would play out. If people see it in their teens or 20s they got no problem. I have kids that are 12 and 15. They watched TV with a devices in their hands. But believe it or not, it went really really well.
We got a tremendous set of questions in the Q&A afterwards and great compliments, and I think it worked.
PPF: And we really I enjoyed it, as well.
MARK: Thank you so much.
PPF: We think it’s always fun to explore the antagonist, especially when it comes to Horror. So, maybe start off talking about the AI and explore that a little?
MARK: Sure, let me take you back to the original concept. The whole movie grew out of an initial concept which was when I worked in the video game industry years ago. I am not a programmer. The movie takes place in a troubled startup trying to finish this behavior recognition program called Roper, and it’s called Roper because it ropes in all the video in the area. We came with an acronym for it as well, but it’s not as interesting. and I actually been put on the spot to come up with that and I kinda forget the whole thing.
What was interesting was the idea that before I started in the business I thought if you had two programmers of similar skill and gave them a task to perform, like creating elevator programmer or a calendar app, that the code would look side-by-side 90% similar maybe 95%. It turns out it’s not true at all. Any programmer will tell you that different programmers solve problems different ways and build things differently. What that means is that deep inside of your programs in your computer, your phone, the DOS kernel that’s hidden inside Windows, which goes back to the late 70s early 80s, there is the personality of a programmer that expresses logic, just like a film-maker would be expressed in shots and editing and music choices and things like that. Our idea was well what if that logic and personality were sentient and what if it was extremely pissed off? That was the core idea behind Nightmare Code.
Then I guess the antagonist in the movie is really the program, ROPER. They’re desperately trying to finish it, but it doesn’t seem to want to be finished. The program is writing its own code. Then there’s some question as to whether or not the original architect of the of the program was an old programmer from the old days, a guy named Foster Cotton and this is gonna be his last hurrah. As you learn during the movie and before the movie starts, Cotton had gone on a murder suicide rampage at the start-up. He started killing the top executives who he felt was lying to him about certain things. Then he kills himself.
The question as the movie goes on is whether or not this code is taking on a greater intelligence. Not only can it recognize people’s behaviors and interpret what they’re thinking and feeling, but it is sort of modifying the behavior and starting to resemble those who are closest to the programmers working on it, as well as resemble that of the dead programmer. The question is are you just dealing with a super brilliant artificial intelligence that Cotton created? Or, Did Cotton’s personality or soul in some way enter the machine, and is he the true antagonist that you’re up against. Hopefully with the movie you’ll have an opinion But I hope it’s also ambiguous enough that it’s something you could argue about or discuss afterwards.
PPF: In my reading, when he became part of the computer he lost his humanity. Is that what your intent was? Once you digitize yourself, you lose your physical form and some aspects of your humanity?
MARK: I love that. You know, it’s funny like a part of me is the film-maker and I don’t want to give you all the answers. But I think what you’re bringing up are incredibly great questions to explore.
So, here’s a couple different things about it. One of them, is there is a good question of why Cotton is so bitter and so angry that he’s being betrayed that this program is being outsourced and that other people will be finishing it. You know, if his soul does enter the machine or he programs his soul into the machine in some way which I wanted it as, I tend to lean more toward your camp although not all of the people who worked on the movie would agree with you. Maybe that it is just an anger that just continues on.
I love this idea about the loss of humanity because of what the title Nightmare Code is actually inspired by. To me, it has three different meanings. One of them is obviously working on computer code that’s very difficult. Sometimes programmers are brought on to work on someone else’s code. Those programmers will always say that the code is written really badly. They’ll say it’s spaghetti code, it’s all over the place, or in our case it’s Nightmare Code. It’s also reference to one my favorite film noir. It is a really dark movie called Nightmare Alley. I’m gratified to see if you do a search on Amazon for Nightmare Code usually Nightmare Alley is right after it. I even took a screen shot of it. Then, the third thing is the idea that I think all movies are about codes of behavior and that at some level you figure out in the first 5 to 20 minutes of the movie who are the good guys who are the bad guys and why are they good. Depending on the type of movie, you may be rooting for the mafia guy who is the better one of the mafia guys. You might be rooting for Clint Eastwood out there killing people. I think that you know the set of values and codes. I think that what Nightmare Code is kind of saying is that the human codes of behavior, those things that for centuries bound us together, are being loosened or changed. Maybe our humanity, like you’re saying, in the characters are metaphors for being lost because of our interactions with technology.
The example that I like giving is; all these guys who think that somehow they are going to get away with cheating on their spouses by going on AshleyMadison.com. Until the day that, just like Roper, Ashley Madison betrays them and their names are released to the public. Not AshleyMadison itself but the hackers who manipulated the technology. For example, in the movie the main character is Brett Desmond who is this young programmer that is brought in after Foster’s done this horrible act. He’s the one guy, the one programmer left in the office trying to fix it. He’s sleeping in the office. He’s away from home. He is desperate to help finish this because of problems in his own past. He’ll be on Skype or a video chat with his wife and daughter who’re halfway across the country in Chicago. The great thing just like with our Skype call right now is technology enables us to be connected in ways that we never could prior to the existence of things like Skype. By that same token, it can also be very distancing and can provide the sense of “well, they’re really over there, so it doesn’t matter what I do over here”. Or, it can provide a sense of loneliness. They can engender a sense of loneliness that I can say good night to my kid but I can’t kiss her, I can’t give her a hug or I can’t be sleeping in bed with my wife. Sometimes I think technology can emphasize that sense of loneliness. I really do think we’re asking the question is technology not only getting beyond our control but is it changing the way we behave. Is it loosening those bonds.
PPF: The one that we really dug about this movie was that your protagonist wasn’t a clean-cut character. He wasn’t your traditional protagonists. He wasn’t a hero. We have seen this guy before in the real world.
MARK: I don’t think it’s too much of a spoiler to reveal that this past him to be involved in some sort of whistleblowing. I think it’s a good question as to whether or not that was a good or bad thing to do. I mean, there is obviously laws that he is broken and things that he’s in hot water for. Supposedly if he helps finish this program, everything will be okay. I think the tragedy of Nightmare Code is Brett Desmond. He is played by Andrew J Wester who did a great job. People, and your fans may know from The Walking Dead where he played Garrison in Terminus.
This guy is a brilliant programmer and in a sense he is the best guy for this job, but the question the movie asks is can anybody beat technology, can anyone beat ROPER? Even the best guy… to avoid giving away the movie but it takes a pretty dark view.
There are also things in his personality that we want to be kind of R-rated, you know? You don’t know if he’s completely good or completely bad. I mean, there’s this way he’s somewhat dismissive when he’s talking to his Indian counterpart. He’s the company our optics is now outsourced almost all the programming to except for Brett over to India. There’s some moments he is dishonest. He doesn’t particularly take good care of himself. He is using some chemicals to stay awake at work late nights. I just like that because I think most of us and believe we’re good people but everybody’s got some sort of secret. Everybody’s got different sides to them depending on the situation, certainly depending on the amount of pressure you’re put under.
PPF: Would you say knowledge is one of the corrupting factors in this story?
MARK: You know that’s kinda like a real Adam and Eve thing, right? It’s like the whole idea that the Apple was knowledge and that somehow they got the knowledge of their nakedness and then suddenly down comes the garden or they were kicked out of the garden. I think that’s really kind of interesting idea.
We were kinda going with the idea with Cotton. That you never know who’s watching you. I think we live lives now where even in private we have to be careful of what were doing isn’t being publicized in some fashion. Since we started working on the movie and telling people about it, other people tell me that they cover up the camera on their laptop or their computer. Unless they want to be seen and they flip-up a piece of cardboard, but they keep it covered.
But, I think you’re kinda right in a way. I think it’s kind of a cool horror movie thing to write. The the familiar classic horror idea is Bluebeard. Bluebeard gets his young wife and says, “you can go to any place in my home you like. I’m going out on a business trip or hunting trip or whatever it is just don’t go in to that room, okay? If you stay out of that room everything will be okay, and of course she goes into that room. She finds mutilated previous wife corpses. She drops the key. The key gets blood on it. She can’t get the blood off. She comes out. She thinks that she’s okay and locks the door. Bluebeard comes home and within five minutes he knows that she’s been in there and that’s going to be curtains for her. So I think that’s kind of our horror idea of be careful what you want to know. Maybe that’s our way of doing it in Nightmare Code.
Also, if you’re an audience member, you know that the way we kind of ended up showing what happened and the actual massacre that Foster did is we find out when Brett does. Brett gets onto Foster’s computer because he has to at a certain point look for previous builds because his old and new ones are getting corrupted. He finds the videos that Foster has saved on his computer around and even after Foster’s death. The one that Brett finds one that’s a whole point of view sequence for Foster going to the office and basically extracting his revenge on people. Each time he comes across somebody, it’s in a sensor of ROPER. The technology is making a decision and you see it based on how they’re interpreted with it whether they’re friendly or whether they’re angry or they are somebody that Foster is gonna want to kill or not. He makes his decisions about who he’s going to pick off and who he is not going to pick off. To some people who are fans of the movie it is a sense of justice. They almost agree with him about his choices which is crazy, but I think that what is really fun for the audience is you’re kind of seeing it go through Foster’s eyes and are also seen through Brett’s eyes, because he’s watching it at the same time and getting just as shocked as you are. Then you’re watching through your own eyes as well, so you’re getting a triple vision going on. There’s a lot of knowledge coming at you very very quickly.
Many people have been waiting for Johnny Depp to shed his Jack Sparrow persona and return to the world of acting. Although Black Mass delivered his long over due performance, that wasn’t all Scott Cooper delivered. Johnny Depp equally shares the screen with Joel Edgerton, who delivered a performance that was full of range and believability. In particular, Edgerton portrayal of John Connolly is always able to gain great sympathy from the audience, even when the character was the most despicable or self righteous.
The story itself may have been slow or less kinetic than what the movie audience has grown to expect from gangster movies. However, this is not a bad thing. The plot is organic, and although it is all being told through interviews and interrogations, each piece evolves naturally. There’s never a time when one is left scratching their heads over leaps of logic. There is a part of the movie where Johnny Depp’s character, Whitey, explains to his son that, “If nobody saw you do it, then it didn’t happen”. This phrase is part of Cooper’s meticulously crafted movie. Through out the movie, one may notice that Whitey never appears in a scene by himself. Therefore, there isn’t a time where we see Whitey’s express his inner turmoil or hear long voice over monologues. This isn’t to say there aren’t opportunities where we could have been clued in, yet we don’t witness the personal transformation of Whitey. Instead, Cooper puts us in the witness’ chair. Not only does this technique help remind us this is story compiled through interviews and research, but also it forces the audience to only focus on the crimes Whitey committed. After all, that is why we know who Whitey is in the first place. Watching him grieve over the loss of his family would have helped further develop the character, but it would have also distracted us from this movie’s intent. That is why Depp was perfect for this role. Depp has an amazing talent of embodying his character to the point where we don’t need exposition and back story to understand his role.
In a relatively short career, this being Cooper’s third directed movie, he has shown us that he is confident in his actors as well as himself and even the audience. There’s never a moment where we feel he had to dumb things down to hold our attention. Black Mass simply flows with a natural rhythm that feels right for the story he is telling.
Nightmare Code is part of the Techno Horror genre that takes aim at the dangers of AI or technological dependancy while captivating the audience with unnerving tension balanced with twitch style editing.
The Techno Horror genre flourished in the early nineties with movies like Lawnmower Man or franchises like Terminator or Cyborg. However, due to budget restraints or poor execution the genre quickly went dormant. After all, this was a genre where it was ok to hit stop before the final act. Twenty years later, society has AI on the horizon and is struggling with its addiction to technology. So, it shouldn’t be a surprise the Techno Horror genre is being revitalized. Nightmare Code is one of the newest additions to the genre.
Largely, it’s shot and edited together, and using fixed camera perspectives giving us the illusion of watching everything through security cameras or webcams. Often, each scene cycles through a four-panel grid giving the audience a lot of information to digest. The pacing of these scenes and edits keeps our eyes glued to the screen absorbing every detail looking for clues. In addition, the panels are often out of chronological sequence with one another. The camera will also focus on protagonists and points of interests. This creates the unsettling revelation that everything we’re seeing is subjective, and someone or something is behind our monitor’s controls. This is much similar to My Little Eye where the audience becomes voyeurs while trying to unravel the who-done-it mystery.
Because of the unforgiving nature of the camera style, it’s unfair to assess the actors’ performances. There are times that the acting seems awkward or comical because of the camera’s high-low direction. On the other hand, much of the script’s character development is done through philosophical dialogue, which can go from thought provoking to superfluous in a single breath. That isn’t to say all the characters aren’t well done. This movie provided the antagonist with an original and very eery character arc. One of the highlights of the film was when it put us in the POV of the antagonist, Foster, via techno sunglasses and is able to provide a jaded understanding for the character.
The movie juggled a lot of paranoid themes against technology and it struggled to focus on just one. However, it decided to settle upon society’s desire to become immortalized through our technological avatars and the willingness to sacrifice our real lives and our connection to everyone around us. Although Nightmare Code’s final act stumbled with pacing, struggled with its lofty idea, and broke its camera style, it was able to push the audience to a satisfactory finish.