INTERVIEW: Jim Cummings Talks Indie Filmmaking, Thunder Road, And The Value Of Creative Ownership

INTERVIEWED BY JESSICA PEÑA

Remember this name: Jim Cummings.

He’s been on the road (Thunder Road, if you will) promoting the release of his feature length film, which took home the Grand Jury Award for Narrative Feature at the SXSW Film Festival earlier this year. A total knockout of a film, it blends together comedic ingenuity with grounded tragedy, which results in a film you won’t stop thinking about for some time.

We were fortunate enough to chat with Jim and pick his brain a little about the state of the film industry, his creative process going from short to feature film and the way he used his time to create a haven of creativity and support for ten independent filmmakers.


So, you seem to be having quite the week with Thunder Road, premiering here in the US. So I wanted to ask, How have you been? Are you exhausted at all? Do you need some coffee?!

That’s very kind of you. I’m drinking coffee right now so I’m okay. I’m better now. It’s been- It’s been a whirlwind. It’s been pretty well. I flew from LA to Milan Film Festival, then to Montreal, then to Raleigh. And then over the last couple of days have been charging it up to the coast to different Alamo Drafthouse screenings and waving and saying hi to everybody. And that’s really cool. No, I’m not tired. I’m thrilled. It’s cool. I feel like it’s been so long since everybody’s been able to see it. And we’re finally getting to put it out there. So yeah, I’m happy as can be.

Yeah, I’ll bet you’re very grateful but tired. But it seems like you’re chasing this high and you’re just going along with it. So that’s great. And you’ve been on fire lately traveling around for press for your film right now. And I’m so thankful to squeeze in a chat with you. I wanted to start off a little light- what was the last movie you saw that wasn’t your own?

Whooo, that’s a great question.

How do you have the time?!

Yeah, I don’t know. I think that the last movie that I remember seeing at the cinema, that wasn’t mine… I see a bunch of movies at film festivals. So I saw this film, STYX, that was really good. That was at the Odesa Film Festival. It’s a German film. But the last movie that I paid for that I went to the cinema for was First Reformed. That was really good.

Oh, wow. Very dark.

It’s great. It was great. I loved it. Yeah, it was great.

You know, it sort of reminds me of your film right now, actually.

Little bit. Yeah. It has a harsh ending.

I watched Thunder Road actually back in May at the Nashville Film Festival. And I’m not kidding when I say that, the more I thought about it since then, the more I love it! You really made something so unique with this film.

You won a string of awards, both at the calibre of Sundance with the short and at SXSW earlier this year for your feature. And it begs a realization that filmmakers should be seizing their voice and their passion and make it into a film at any given day, really. I’m just so grateful to be talking to you today, because I love your ‘give no fucks’ attitude, ‘do it yourself,’ approach to filmmaking.

Through this whole ride with the feature, have you learned anything new about yourself or the way you work on ideas?

Yeah, sure. And and I hate to say it- like, when I say that stuff of you know, don’t wait to make movies with your friends, and turn yourself into a movie studio. It’s a nice sentiment but I still have to wake up and tell myself that everyday. There are very distracting encouragements from people who are telling us that they’ll give us money to make stuff and you know, more than nine times out of ten, it’s false. It just won’t happen or it falls through or something happens.

It’s very important to remember that at every level and just because we’ve had some moderate success over the last few years, it doesn’t mean that I’m in any better position than anybody else to continue to make stuff and make more movies. So, yeah, I think it’s crucial for everybody to continue to make stuff. But I think the thing that I’ve learned the most is that it’s possible and that if you do do this enterprise, if you do seize the means of production and just go and make things, you’ll be rewarded for it.

Like people, if you can make something that’s different and you can do it on a small budget with your friends from a Kickstarter campaign, and it’s any good at all, people will be happy that it’s not a superhero movie and support it.

JC-ARTICLE-IMAGE.jpg

And with the Kickstarter campaign for the feature film, I think you were asking like $10,000. What was your reaction when you saw just how much that amount grew to be?

Yeah, shock really. Okay, so we knew that we would probably be able to raise more than 10,000. We were thinking it’d probably be like 15 or 16 or 17 and we asked for 10 because Kickstarter has a policy where if you don’t raise the full amount, you get none of it. And so we asked a little low, but we didn’t dream that we would get, you know, 38 or 36,000, or that we would be able to raise the 10 in the first like, seven hours, which is crazy. Um, and then also the other shocking thing that when we were asking for help and making the film, we met a lot of associate producers who came on board who were strangers to us or were, you know, Twitter followers of ours until they joined the production and now they are good friends and they came and helped out, and it was just a really wonderful experience of tapping the community, and they learned a lot. We learned a lot. Yeah, it was a really great kind of collaborative experience through a crowdfunding campaign. We’re very lucky.

That’s really great. Yeah, I’ll bet the perseverance really paid off there. And just the song itself, “Thunder Road” is just so riveting and how he’s telling us to just pack our shit, forget about the troubles, and just hit the gas, you know? Would you say you’re tied to your work in very personal ways? Because Thunder Road is in itself a very intimate character study.

Yeah. I sympathize with that call to arms of leaving your life if you’re unhappy or if you’re on the verge, just hop in the car and pack things up. I think that is a really beautifully American anthem. But no, I don’t have a whole lot to do with the guy, I think. I am a divorcé, but I don’t have children of my own. Both of my parents are still alive, luckily. And yeah, I have very loving sisters. Yeah, there’s not a whole lot– I mean, I do feel that pathetic sometimes and I’ll put my foot in my mouth often, so I think everybody has that. So yeah, he’s just a product of me trying to make people laugh and trying to make people cry.

Yeah, and you did it very excellently, by the way.

Thank you.

You’re welcome! And his relationship with his mother just seems so far gone from the things he needs to deal with on a daily basis, like being a good father upholding his job, and it just continues to destroy his psyche and he becomes irrational because of it, although he means well. So how did you build up his traits and who this character would become in the film?

Yeah, so I guess it started out with story where I was like writing different ideas for scenes and trying to build out the plot of what the story would be and having it be structured for maximum audience engagement and fulfillment. And so I wrote down, you know, like 50 or 60 scenes and then narrowed it down to, 30 or 35. And some of them were crappy, some of them were fun. But then yeah, it was just that. It was throwing this person into interesting experiences and creating a scene where we were able to see a different side to this guy or an interesting side of this person from the Thunder Road short film.

Often when I was writing the feature, I’d be thinking a lot about the short film, what made that valuable, what audiences took from that. It was just like, you’re watching this person having a public meltdown, which is very interesting. That’s like number one, and then it’s also this love story for the mom and then this scary depiction of a possible future with his daughter. And it’s all contained in this performance piece and sometimes it doesn’t use a whole lot of dialogue, or it’s all monologue. And so I was like, kind of using that as the visual language of the movie. And that was part of the construction of the screenplay as well.

Yeah, it’s really magnificent how it all plays out on screen. You can see he’s put on such an act to the world trying to create this tough layer. And I thought it was so interesting how he’s a cop and yet the world just continues to disarm him. And it was so sad to see, but also somewhat cathartic to his character. Even his phrase, “See me wrestling an alligator, help the alligator,” as a viewer, you see just how defeated he is the next time he says that. It just goes hand in hand with how this guy continues to feel emasculated, humiliated, and yet this is actually just his way of grieving his mother. And I wanted to ask how did you come to the structure of the feature when the short film has become the opening scene here?

Yeah, so for a long time I thought that should be the climax because that’s a really big scene in this guy’s life and then I didn’t really like the idea. I couldn’t really find a way to make that work. I didn’t know what his real life relationship would be with his mom, but I’m a huge fan of short stories. When we’re writing a short story, they always say, “show up late and leave early.” So, you jump in the middle of a conversation and it kind of forces the audience to find out what’s happening, and it’s kinda like a riddle that you have to parce out and try to understand what’s happening, and I find that to be a really interesting and fulfilling experience. I don’t know, it’s like a game you’re playing with the with the filmmaker.

And so yea, I thought that eventually would be a good idea, to just start the film with that instead of have it be the crescendo in the movie. And then I, you know, started writing scenes with it in the beginning of the movie and then introducing the character this way and then having to have his daughter like him again, and the struggle of that, and then it just came like that. The goal was to never back down and to continue to build up the tension and the aggression, and the interesting dilemma that this guy is in all the time. So although it is a challenge to do that, having seen the short film, we just had the world crumble around him. He gets fired, he loses custody. I realized that it was going to be far more interesting to watch this guy take all of his clothes off in a parking lot and get fired than at the funeral, possibly.

Yeah, I love the part in the opening scene where they’re trying to get that Hello Kitty boombox to work and he’s like, “Should we just call the manufacturer?”

Yeah. Yeah, that was one of my favorites, too.

Do you have a favorite scene in the film?

Yeah, I really like the scene of me getting fired. I think that’s like, just a really awesome moment. And we get to see different sides of this dude. But it was also very similar to the short film. And I like that. I like the fact that there are a lot of similarities in the cinematography, the pacing, and the comedy and drama of that. And I think it stays true to the short film while also being something new and different and big. So I’m proud of that. It’s kind of like the sequel of the short film and I’m happy with that.

I think my favorite scene in the movie is at the ballet at the end. That’s probably what I’m most proud of because it’s so big and small at the same time. It’s like using the story that we’ve built up for the last 85 minutes or 87 minutes and then in these last few moments, you get catharsis. You get to watch this guy have a very important moment in his life in private in a ballet, and he’s crying and he has nobody to talk to about it. But it’s a lovely little moment. That’s probably my favorite moment of the movie.

JC-ARTICLE-IMAGE

Yeah. And how was it directing yourself with all the emotion you had to bring to the table? And was there ever a point in production where you thought you’d give up or did you just keep yourself steady on that high you’re chasing?

Oh, no. All the time. Yeah, I was always nervous that it wasn’t going to work. But we rehearsed it 1000 times. Like, at every moment of the day that I wasn’t doing something, I would go off at a Starbucks here, you know, into a parking lot and just act out some of the scenes and talk to myself and try and make it as good as possible. Um, but yeah, we shot it in 14 days in Austin. It was a very small budget. We were always nervous that something was going to go awry, and that’s the nature of independent filmmaking in America. So no, I was always nervous. And I’m not an actor. I’m not a trained actor at all. And so it kind of required me to rehearse a great deal. And in order to make sure that it was any good at all.

And at what point did you realize that you’re just gonna have to do this on your own as far as coming up with a budget with your team and the self distribution part of it?

Basically, whenever anybody who was supposed to be in charge of us or in charge of helping us out failed to do so. So like, you know, the production companies that had turned other very famous successful movies from short films into features were telling us no. So I was like, all right, well, there’s kind of nobody else to go to. Why don’t we just fucking– I guess we have to do it ourselves. And it was kind of better that way. We’d already done 10 short films independently and well, you know, this is gonna be nothing new. It’s just gonna be a longer duration.

How was the mindset changing from looking for the help that you thought you were gonna get to helping yourself and taking that ownership?

Yeah, ownership is something we talk about a lot. It’s not in the metaphorical sense, but in a literal sense of it. If you’re able to do it yourself, you own the thing. And really, the idea of getting greenlit in Hollywood is that they give you a little bit of money, and then they own the thing forever, and you don’t make anything off of it. And so although that sounds like the word “greenlight” is a really cool thing and success, it’s actually less successful since, you know, filmmaking has become more democratized. And so although our movie’s very small, we’re not spending a whole lot of money on marketing. We own the thing. And it’s our first movie. And it’s the first of many, and so I’m glad that we took charge. And we weren’t, you know, spectators of our futures.

We were able to say, okay, no we’ll put in a little bit more work, and maybe not even. The distribution of course is a lot more work. But you know we’ve had films, when I was a producer, we had films distributed and there’s still a lot of work, we still do a bunch of spreadsheets and do all these deliverables and pay a lot of money to get the DCP’s made and all that stuff. It’s no different from what we’re doing now. We just have to spend a couple more months doing other things too.

You mentioned before, I think, how you like to stand as you write and perform the script as you come up with it. So in your writing process, do you prefer to work in solitude? Or do you like to have those people around you to bounce ideas off of?

It depends on the script. So for the short films, for something like Parent Teacher or The Robbery, both of those were written and co written by my friend Dustin Hahn. And he is so much fun to work with because you just get to bullshit all the time and, like, come up with funny things to make each other laugh. And then that becomes the script. But then with this one, I wrote it for the first, few months, maybe the first month, kind of in private. And it was a very sad endeavor and I kind of wanted to do it that way. And I felt like I had to. I was crying a lot while writing and it was kind of a much more personal and private kind of experience in writing than many other things. But then I opened it up as soon as I had a first draft. I sent it to everybody and got good notes, and then it changed. We always say we’re building the plane while we’re flying it. So there were times where like, we’re actually on set and Dustin has a funny idea for a line, and we ended up using that instead of what was written on the page.

Are you like a meticulous planner or do you just prefer to go with the flow and let everything fall into place?

No, no, no. It’s gotta be planned out with long takes, specifically. It has to be like, everything has to be planned out because everything has to be in focus and if there’s anything that’s different or a stand out from the other takes, it’s not going to be in focus or it’s not going to work and everything has to be planned.

Yeah, and I actually just watched The Robbery the other night. I was like, how did I not go find this in his pile before?! It’s interesting. I’ve never seen anything like it.

Thank you. Yeah, so that poor girl, yeah. That’s funny.

She just wanted to save her pet.

Yeah, exactly.

So, juggling your personal life with work and passion, I can’t imagine it’s all that easy. How do you strike the right balance to ensure you’re keeping all the plates spinning?

Yeah, I might not be the best person to ask about that work/life balance. I’m not too good at it. And really, we have eight or nine projects going on all the time. So yeah, I struggle with it a lot, to be honest with you. I think really, work/life, I see them as both the same. I’m a filmmaker and I’m kind of the same person, you know, in the writing process as I am in the filming process. I’m just always trying to make something and get something going. So yeah, I don’t know. I don’t know how I do it. I think it’s just project management. I have five producers who are really wonderful and keep us all on task and you know, keep me calm. It’s nice.

Well, that’s really good. And something I can’t shake since seeing Thunder Road and the press you’ve done for it is the need for more unique voices as your own and we here at JUMPCUT ONLINE, we’re super grateful for the opportunity to talk to you right now, because honestly, you’ve become a necessary voice in film today and your message and the things you champion just go on to validate every single filmmaker out there who just wants to turn their passion into a living and just ignore the industry standards. So I was kind of hoping you can expand on that.

Yeah, so I didn’t have anybody to do that, really. I heard Mark Duplass and Jay Duplass saying the kind of stuff like, ‘the cavalry isn’t coming,’ and, ‘you have to do it yourself.’ And I just saw that as this big endeavor. I didn’t know how to do anything. And so it scared me a great deal. And then I met a filmmaker named Trey Shults and he made a film called Krisha which is one of my favorites, and to see him making movies in his backyard with his family, you know, I’m sure John Cassavetes is doing the same thing, but it was so much more relatable to see him do it.

But he doesn’t have a Twitter account, really. And you know, he’s a very quiet person. He’s not a big braggart like I am. And so I feel like I was the only person who was really inspired by him and his story and his family, directly. And so, that’s what got me off the couch to make the Thunder Road short film, for sure. I was like, well shit, I get to be that now. And, you know, I get to pretend to be him and try to help people who were going through hell like we were, for years and years, trying to make projects, you know.

JC-ARTICLE-IMAGE.jpg

Yeah, and it seems like making a movie these days, really, when you think about it, it’s just as easy as grabbing your iPhone and just shooting the thing because Sean Baker and Steven Soderbergh have clearly proved its capabilities, as of late. So going into what you’ve been working on lately, with the Short to Feature Lab, I was wondering if you can talk about its conception, how it all went down and if you’ve built some strong relationships with all 10 of your fellows as you guided them.

So yeah, the Short to Feature Lab was an invention of Benjamin Wiessner and mine’s. We  were talking about the toolbox that we have now of turning shorts into features. Our buddy, Danny Madden, turned his short Krista, which won SXSW, two awards at SXSW this year, into a feature a few months ago that Ben was the producer on and I’ve helped out on. Jocelyn DeBoer and Don Levy both shot the feature of Greener Grass, which was a short film at our production company as well, with the help of our producer Natalie Metzger for the Thunder Road feature. And, I don’t know. We just had the experience of doing that path of short-to-feature that we were like, well, why don’t we just start something to help people. We were so incensed that nobody would help us to turn our short film into a feature, despite the fact that we were good candidates for it.

Like, we know our short film is very, luckily, incredibly successful, and still, the channels of Hollywood were not there to help us out or catch us when we were falling. So it really just became this instrument of philanthropy for us of wanting to help people and we did it. We ran a Kickstarter campaign. We were able to raise almost $9,000 in total from donors and submissions, and we brought out these 10 filmmakers who have really cool short films.

Yeah, so we were able to meet these 10 filmmakers and bring them out to my parents’ house in Malibu and spend five days with them workshopping their features and just, like, giving them all of the tools that we learned how to do for free. We helped them with their Kickstarter campaigns or you know, just taught. There’s a lot of bullshit in the film industry and there’s a lot of strange old wives tales that get passed around. Like, one of our filmmakers said, “well, I need a million dollars to make my movie.” like that’s how much it’s gonna cost. Like, “everybody who I’ve spoken to said this is at least a million dollar movie.” But one of the arguments that the filmmaker made was, well this stuff happens. Movies get made. Like, people spend a million dollars on a movie, that happens, but it’s just, I’ve never seen it before.

And like, we’re doing fine. We’re making movies in the film industry. But there’s just these rumors that gets spread around that are very dangerous and can often make filmmakers spend years and years, and years not making movies, because they’re waiting for somebody to give them permission to or give them money to.

And it’s just a daydream that’s like, you know, verging on gambling addiction of wasting all this time and spending your whole life daydreaming that someone’s going to help you out and waiting for your boat to come in. And it’s just, it’s imaginary. And so really, reprogramming that kind of film school thinking was the first step and then walking them through Facebook ads, building your own audience, and all that stuff. It’s empowering the next generation of international filmmaking and I’m stoked about it.

Yeah, like going off what you said are the next generation of filmmakers, it sort of seems like the industry a lot of times is rigged against their best interest. So, it’s so refreshing to see how the Short to Feature Lab has been working, and you said it was five days that you took?

Yeah.

Were you able to fit in all the information and everything you wanted to teach them within that time frame?

Yeah, so the first evening were, you know, we were hoping to just have a meet and greet and then have the majority of the lectures and stuff the next day. But it very quickly turned into like, hey, you know, everybody had questions and so we were able to hang out by the fire that night, talk through stuff, and then have our full workshops the next day and then throughout the week. So the first three days of the five were mentorships and workshops where we had incredible filmmakers join up, like Derek Cianfrance, Rick Alverson and Sean Baker was actually really close to doing it, but couldn’t because he’s shooting a movie right now.

Frankie Shaw, Jocelyn DeBoer, Danny Madden. We have all these awesome filmmakers who took time out of their day to workshop these movies for these filmmakers that we paired them with, and it’s great. They are now on their way to making their movies. So that was the first three days. It was like, heavy workshops and hangout sessions. And then that afforded us two full days to just allow them to start working on whatever part of the project they’re on. So like some of them were writing scripts. Vishnu, who’s one of our fellows, spent the first like, day and a half workshopping, and then he spent the next three days writing the entire first act of his movie, which is really cool.

Same thing with Joey Izzo, he was workshopping his movie and writing out scenes and dialogue. It was a very, very cool collaborative process that we’re thrilled to do again and expand. We want to expand to other labs and do specific ones for sci-fi, or female stories, or LGBT stories, and basically anybody who needs help making their feature out of a short, we’re going to try and expand to.

Yeah, that’d be awesome if you guys expanded on that. And throughout the whole thing, the whole process of it, did you see a part of yourself in these filmmakers?

Yeah, sure. So like, I mean, they submit to me and I watch all of the films. So of course the movies are playing to my sensibilities, but they’re all original. Like, a lot of them are not the happy, sad kind of movies that I make. They just have really great craftsmanship. And that’s what I feel like most audiences respond to, is craftsmanship. So we picked movies that had a really great sensibility of cinematic storytelling. Um, but yeah, I was nervous showing up you know. It was Ben and me, and we’re like prepping and building the tents in the backyard and, you know, getting all the craft services and stuff. And we’re nervous that the filmmakers might not get along. But we picked the movies and all the movies were great. And so of course, they got along. They’re all now very good friends of ours, because they’re so cool, because their movies are cool.

That’s awesome!

Yeah, we’re lucky.

So what can we expect next from you and your team? How much can you tell us about your next project? I hear you’re working on a werewolf movie?

Yeah, I’m doing a werewolf movie right now with a major studio and then I am in development with a streaming platform to do a show about astronauts, which I’m really excited about.

That’s really cool stuff! I do want to stress how thankful we are for you as an emerging creative in general. Because seeing your strong success so far can actually go on to validate someone else out there who’s trying to lift their project off the ground, and as you say, anyone can do it, right?

So yeah, anybody can do it. Exactly right. Always keep that in mind.

Thanks so much for your time, Jim! Last question before I leave you, does pineapple belong on pizza?!

Absolutely not.


We really hope you enjoyed this interview with Jim Cummings! I encourage you to seek out his work and continue to support and talk about unique perspectives and what it really means to be fulfilled with your filmmaking and carving your own methods for success.

You can totally go ahead and pre-order Thunder Road on iTunes right now!

You can follow Jim on Twitter: @jimmycthatsme

You can check out all the amazing fellows and mentors Jim talked about on the Short to Feature Lab and be sure to check out Jim’s Vimeo page! There, you’ll find a couple of the shorts mentioned in the interview, as well as the glorious Thunder Road short, which inspired his feature length film.

JUMPSCARECUT: 5 Of The Worst Decisions Made In Horror Films

Written by Megan Williams

Warning: This article contains spoilers!

One of my favourite film genres is horror. I’m not sure why I love this genre, but I do. However, the majority of them seem to share the same thing: They’ll have at least one stupid character. These characters will usually make a decision that will affect the storyline, affect themselves or another character, or set the overall film into motion. Their decisions are either unrealistic, ridiculous or just plain stupid. Therefore, I’ve decided to put together a little list of the five worst decisions made in horror films. This is not a top five list; merely a collection of awful, awful choices.

Let’s begin…

FotoJet (5).jpg

 

Jeepers Creepers (2001): Going Back to the Pipeline

In this 2001 monster movie, Darry and Trisha, a brother and a sister, have just passed a cathedral where they see a stranger throwing white, blood-stained sheets down a pipe. What would you do in this situation? You’d probably get as far away as possible, or report the incident to the police, right? Well, the siblings don’t do either of these things but, instead, decide to return to the scene of the crime on the suggestion (or guilt-tripping) of the brother. I understand that this decision sets the whole film into motion, but come on. What makes this even more ridiculous is that Trisha even tells Darry that we, the audience, will hate him for making this decision.

 

Saw 2 (2005): Addison and the Box Trap

I love the Saw franchise (it’s actually my favourite horror franchise), but even I can admit that the film is filled with stupid decisions and brainless characters. However, out of all of the dumb decisions I had to place this well-known one, from Saw 2, on my list because her slow death could’ve easily been avoided.

In the red-circled area, you can just make out the key to open the box and get the antidote out. If Addison had stopped and actually looked at the whole trap then she would’ve seen this. Alas, this is not the case and she ends up putting both hands into the box and getting herself stuck.

 

Drag Me to Hell (2009): Wrong Envelope!

In this Sam Raimi film, the main character (Christine Brown) is cursed; in three days, she will literally be dragged to Hell. The cursed item, a button, is placed in an envelope, which she drops in the car after it breaks. A pile of other papers and envelopes also drop on the car floor as well. In a situation like this, where you’d be dragged to Hell in less than twelve hours time, any normal person would double, even triple-check that the envelope you picked up is the right one. However, Christine does not do this. It’s a stupid and unrealistic decision, but it leads to a sucker punch of an ending, so I can’t completely complain.

 

Blair Witch Project (1999): Mike Throws the Map in the River

So, I have a confession to make: I hate this film. None of the characters make a single sensible decision throughout the entire movie, and it was difficult to pick just one bad decision. However, I have to give this one to Mike who, for no apparent reason, decides to get rid of the trio’s map that’ll help them get out of the forest they’re lost in. Why anyone would do this is beyond me and he doesn’t seem to have a good reason for doing it, either. Instead, he laughs at his actions. Not cool, Mike, not cool.

(The reveal and reactions start at the 1:30 mark)

Jaws (1973): Mayor Vaughn keeps Amity Beach open

I know what you might be thinking: Is Jaws a horror film? I would say yes: it has the tension of a horror film (mainly thanks to the fantastic score). As well as this, it has the scares and, at times, gore that would be included in a horror film (e.g.: Quint’s death scene). And the idea of a man-eating great white shark is a pretty scary idea!

The decision I’ve chosen from this film is Mayor Vaughn’s decision to keep Amity Beach open throughout the film, despite warnings about the shark eating people. The reason for it is because the film is set near Independence Day, and the Mayor didn’t want the celebrations dampened by something as insignificant as a man-eating shark. It could be argued that, because Vaughn hasn’t seen any evidence of the shark, he would have no reason to believe them. However, by this point in the film, he’s aware of people dying at the beach and, if a policeman and a shark expert were giving him warnings, then surely precautions would be put in place, just in case they were telling the truth?

Even main characters, Chief Brody and Matt Hooper, disrespect him and dislike him as he sticks to his decision; Hooper even says “I’m not going to waste my time arguing with a man who’s lining up to be a hot lunch!”

INTERVIEW: Sean A Kaufman

Earlier this year we were given the exciting opportunity to review R&F Entertainment’s latest short film, Maturing Youth. The film will be premiering on October 21st at The Cutting Room International Short Film Festival, so we chatted with the film’s lead, Sean A Kaufman, to learn more about him and his time on the set of the film!


Would you like to introduce yourself to our readers…

Sure would! Hey everyone! Sean A. Kaufman here, but you can call me Seanzie – I play Roger in R&F Entertainment’s upcoming short film Maturing Youth. I’m a born and raised New Yorker (you get extra points if you’ve heard of Staten Island, and you win if you’ve ever been there!), a graduate of Dartmouth College and then The Maggie Flanigan Studio where I trained as an actor, and a lover of dogs of all breeds and sizes.

Maturing Youth is your first role in a short film – What was it like stepping onto the set on day one?

It was! And because of that, and this is probably going to sound so trite, but oh well, it was an experience I’ll always cherish very dearly. I drove out to location in Hempstead, Long Island in my 2005 Honda CR-V (more on that later, I promise), wheeled my suitcase up to the house full of excitement, and finally laid eyes on the halls I’d imagined walking for so long already. The first moments on a stage, once it’s fully designed, or a set when your eyes either confirm or deny your assumptions about what you’ve read are always full of wonder. Realness meets your daydreams and suddenly you can see the scenes in your mind with vivid clarity – and that’s what it was like for me as I toured the home we filmed in. I relished having so much detail to take in, from cartoonish kiddie magnets on the refrigerator to charming fruit-themed wall decorations, and a very reflective wall unit that I immediately (and unnecessarily) began to worry about, with respect to filming. The few hours leading up to filming were filled with an electric excitement for me, meeting all the crew members, going over safety and ground rules. I couldn’t wait to don my costume and makeup, get mic’d up, and start rolling. And yes, that was certainly make-up. I should hope I don’t normally look so druggy.

Did you have any previous acting experience before landing the role of Roger Maturing Youth?

Yes, I’ve been acting for years, in a sense, but this was a new sort of professional milestone for me. I started when I was a first year in high school, bitten by the theatre bug, doing two musicals each year, and in college I learned long-form improv comedy from my troupe The Dog Day Players. My senior year, I also did two plays, and they were really what launched me into life as actor. Soon after I graduated, I had an absolute blast doing summer stock theatre in New London, New Hampshire and that fall I did regional theatre in neighboring Vermont. The next year I spent my time back home auditioning as much possible and doing small plays. During this period I realized I’d need to start training seriously, which was how I ended up under the watchful eyes of Charlie Sandlan, Karen Chamberlain, and others at The Maggie Flanigan Studio for two years. Maturing Youth is not only my first film, it was also my first audition after graduating from that program.

Your character Roger is a care-free, weed smoking layabout. Are there any characters from film/TV that you used as inspiration for playing this role?

That he is, and yes, I had all sorts of inspiration. First and foremost, our writer/director Divoni Simon asked me to study The Big Lebowski for inspiration and character development. Fun and helpful as that was, I also turned to Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) from Breaking Bad. I found him to be particularly useful, albeit much more… entrepreneurial than Roger. I made it a point not to copy anyone; anyway, I’m of the belief that try as one might, it’s almost impossible to copy others’ acting since any actions you execute must play through you and your acting instrument, making it your own. As flattering as it has been to hear myself or my Roger compared to a well-known actor in a well-known comedy, I still take pride in the uniqueness of the Roger I’ve created. He’s definitely a far cry from Sean as the actor, yet hopefully believable enough for the audience to buy him as a real person.

What did you find most enjoyable about filming Maturing Youth?

There are a few different kinds of things I enjoyed – and I don’t want to cop out and just say “everything!” When it came to filming the scenes, our Director of Photography, Zach [Mayor], was really collaborative with my cast mates and me. Most of our ideas worked well together, and he always found great ways to motivate camera movement and action. I learned a lot from working with him. I also really enjoyed working with the crew. In less than three days we shot a whole film, so we became close. I was well prepared for most of my filming and wasn’t too worried about losing focus, so I enjoyed chatting with everyone during our breaks, and hopefully making them feel appreciated (because if anyone works hard, it’s a film crew). Lastly, and this was something that only occurred to me once we had finished filming, but the effect that this story has on the audience from the themes floating to the surface in Maturing Youth make me so proud to have been part of it. One crew member privately revealed to me how watching the scenes unfold as we filmed had such a visceral effect on him due to the nature of his relationship with his own son. Learning that this was more than just a role for me to play and feel and stick on a resume made it take on an entirely new meaning and sense of accomplished art. Maturing Youth is a funky story with lots of hidden depth just waiting to be experienced. The same way Roger is surprised by his status as a father, I felt I had just been granted responsibility for delivering the message this wonderful story holds.

Do you feel like you learned a lot during this shoot?

Let’s put it this way: for the three days we filmed, there was rarely a moment I wasn’t learning something. There are some things that seem to make sense that I learned on a film shoot, like what a focus puller does, or why a certain kind of makeup is applied, or that Craft Services is your best friend, lord, and savior. But then there are straight up life lessons you learn. Remember when I told you I’d have more to say about my car? Once we finished and I was packing up my car, I decided to drive it up the street to make it more convenient to load up in front of the house. Clunk. Clunk. Clunk! I thought, wow this street must be bumpy, but no! Apparently I had run over a huge nail when I parked three mornings earlier, and sure enough that tire was flatter than a pizza (more on that later, too!). Thankfully, those friends I made on the crew came to my aid. Apollo Figueras and Ray Adamavage taught me how to change a flat! Thanks again, guys. You are gentlemen and scholars. And in case anyone is wondering why, after filming a whole movie about fatherhood, my father hadn’t already taught me that important skill, don’t worry – he did; it had just been so long since I needed to do it that I forgot. Whoopsies!

Do you have any advice for anyone else who may be just starting out in the film industry?

More broadly than just for film, for any actor, I’d drill the point that it’s so important to get good acting training. Learn what it is that we are doing here. Learn that it’s hard work and soul searching and dedication to an art form thousands of years old. Learn that it’s so, so, so much more than learning lines and looking the part. Learn that it means a lifetime of learning!

And please, be considerate. Be nice. Actors get treated pretty well all the time, so the least you can do to give back is be kind to those also working on a project, in whatever capacity it may be. They’re people with feelings, hopes, and dreams just like you.

Do you have any future projects in the pipeline you can tell us about?

Yes! As of the time of this interview, I’m in rehearsals for the world premiere of the play Suddenly, produced by Live Source Theatre Company, based on the 1954 Frank Sinatra film of the same title. We run Oct. 5-20, 2018 at HERE Arts Center in NYC. I’m also starring in a feature length independent horror film still in production, and have assistant directed fellow Maturing Youth cast mate Terrence Keene in the feature film he co-wrote, Joaquin and Luke. Lots to be excited about at the moment!

What’s your dream role?

When they re-boot The Office and need someone out there to contend with Michael, Dwight, Jim, and the rest – that guy! I know I need to show the British version some love, too, and I promise I will! I just love the American version so much I’d sell my soul to be a part of it.

We like to end our interviews with the most important question of all – does pineapple belong on pizza?

Ah, back to pizza! Well, I’m a NYC boy and have already mentioned one preference, FLATNESS, none of that Chicago deepdish nonsense. Sorry Chi-town, I’m sure I’ll love it when I get there and try it. But I have tried pineapple on a pizza (Italian friends, it’s ok – I never had it again, I swear!). It’s like most things you try in college: done while sleep-deprived, probably harmless, but mostly for the story. I didn’t hate it, but I didn’t love it, either. When it comes to pizza, I’m somewhat of a purist, but you would be too if you were born in Brooklyn and raised on Staten Island. But I’ll tell you this: I love the idea of throwing pineapple on a pizza when it comes to acting. When you’re in rehearsal or filming and have an excess of time – try things! Make fun choices! Screw convention – you can discover something new and potentially unlock something great! If you’ve seen Maturing Youth already, the bag-diaper was my pineapple on a pizza! So I hope you enjoy!

Thanks Jumpcut Online for a great interview!


We’d like to thank Sean again for taking the time to chat with us and we’re excited for Maturing Youth‘s premiere at the end of the month! Keep your eyes peeled on our site and social feeds as we chat to more of the cast and crew of the film!

INTERVIEW: Paul Feig Talks A Simple Favour, Freaks and Geeks, Ghostbusters & The Box Office

Interviewed by Dave Curtis

Paul Feig is in the midst of a PR promo tour which will take him all over the world. At the start of his career, Paul wrote Freaks and Geeks which is now considered a cult classic but initially was considered a flop and quickly cancelled. Now the man who directed the hugely successful comedies Bridesmaids, Spy and the much talked about Ghostbusters remake is about to embark on a new challenge. A Simple Favour starring Anna Kendrick and Blake Lively, which is based on the hugely popular novel by Darcey Bell, is his latest endeavour. Not one to shy away from a conversation, Paul chats to us about his new film and what its like working with Anna and Blake. He also talks about his experience working on Ghostbusters and what he enjoys about filmmaking.

The following has been transcribed from a telephone interview between Dave and Paul.


Hello Paul, How are you?

I’m good, how are you?

I’m good. Thank you very much for talking to us.

My pleasure. Thank you for taking the time.

It must be a long day. It was your premiere last night wasn’t it?

Yes it was (laughter). I’m still feeling the effects. It was quite a celebration, but very very fun.

I could only imagine, with your sense of style I imagine it being very good.

(Laughter)

So Paul, ”A Simple Favour’- its a slight change in direction for you in that it is a thriller. Are you a fan of the genre?

Oh yeah. They are probably my favourite thing to watch, I’ve always loved them. Technically I don’t watch a lot of comedy. Its the bit I work in so I really enjoy the heightened tension and just the kind of drama and everything about thrillers. I also really love the old Hitchcock thrillers which were really fun and I kind of think that kind of thing is missing from the thrillers today. I still love them, but I really like the fun old ones.

Yeah a good thriller is quite hard to come across nowadays.

Well you know Hitchcock wasn’t afraid to inject humour into the characters and add quirkiness into them in a way that would make them fun. It can still be a real thriller and still let people have a good time.

Is that what attracted you to the project, were you approached by the studio or were you actively searching for something different?

I really wanted to find a thriller. You look at all my movies, they are all comedies really. You know there is a wedding movie, a buddy cop comedy, a spy movie. So a thriller was something I always wanted to do, but it’s one of the those genres I didn’t really know how to write. I feel like I would have to write it from scratch. So it was one of those things when you say hopefully a project will come in, that does and the script got sent to us. My company, we have a deal with Fox and at the time Fox 2000 had bought the book and had Jessica Sharzer write a version of it. They sent it to us because basically we had a producing deal with them. They were like ‘We have this movie and we don’t know what it is because its a thriller but its also really crazy and its kind of funny but we don’t really know’. So they were like ‘Maybe you can figure it out’. I read it and I just loved it so much and I said this is the thriller I’ve been looking for. This is one I know I can make. I can make it funny and fun and its mainly because A) it has so many twists and turns which I loved and B) because of the character that Anna Kendrick plays because I thought I can just get comedy out of that character. First of all its exactly the kind of character that’s in all my movies. Which is the awkward person, undervalued and sort of underestimated who really hasn’t found their place in the world yet. By going through whatever situation the movie throws at them to become a better person because of it and so that was my in. Just a fact that there was this nerdy mum who none of the other parents like. Its very earnest, sweet and that’s what I loved about it. I always want to make my movies good natured, you know even if they are dark. I don’t like things that are ugly and have a very negative statement about the human race in general. If you look at my movies they aren’t mean spirited.

Did you know of the book beforehand or was it the script that caught your attention?

Yeah it was the script. I read that first and then I read the book after that, but it was really the script which I thought was really fun. What Jessica Sharzer did which was so amazing, was that she really took the best moments from the book and then kind of mixed them around in a way that made it much better for the screen.

She is a wonderful screenwriter. I watched ‘Nerve’ the other day and I thought that was a good film. A bit of a hidden gem.

Oh yeah, and what a great person. A great partner to have, somebody who is so wonderful and so open to trying anything.

The trailer states that this is from your darker side. Should we be worried from now on, is this going to be something that is going to carry on?

(laughter) Honestly every project is new for me and I just want to tell great stories and so all the films that get sent to me, that I respond to or what idea I have that I want to write. But my next movie is going to be more of a romcom, kind of very fun, emotional movie. But I would love to work in the thriller genre again. I want to work in every genre that I can. Howard Hawks is my favourite director and the fact he worked affectingly in so many different genres has always been a inspiration to me and I think that’s the way to go.

You come across as a fun guy and a fun director. Was it fun making ‘A Simple Favour’ because it must of been fun making ‘Bridesmaids’ and ‘Spy’, but was this as enjoyable?

Oh yeah really fun. Sometimes even more fun than doing straighter comedy because you are getting so much out of the script than you already have because its so tightly plotted that you don’t have a lot of room to really to play around in that way. What you get to do is relish all these extreme emotions and these quirky extreme characters and so there is something incredibly fun about that. It helps when you have actors that are game and Anna and Blake were just so game to play and have fun with it and then I’m able to do my favourite thing which is to surround them with great supporting characters who are funny and quirky and just be so additive to the proceedings.

Talking about Blake and Anna, just from the trailer they look like they share wonderful chemistry. Was it like that from day one or had they met before or had you had rehearsals?

No not really. They only really met at a few times at social events over the years, showbiz events. They didn’t really know each other at all and you know when you are hiring movie star you can’t really go ‘Hey come in and audition with [this] person and see if you have chemistry’. You hire them and hope it works. But they hit it off from day one. I mean the chemistry was there and the dynamic of those characters was just kind of played in to their natural dynamic and also how they got to know each other and all of that. The way Blake’s character drops into Stephanie’s life and you know it was like when you cast somebody in a movie and you are like ‘and here is your partner out of nowhere’.

Yeah I’ve watched a couple of interviews with them recently and they just seem to get on really well, so it’s really nice to watch a film when two leads are so good together and actually have a friendship.

Yeah its really, really nice. But I’ve found in my career that all the actors I’ve worked with tend to just get along because they are just really professional and they are team players. You know the best movie stars are team players and not out for themselves. They know they are only as good as the people they are working with. That’s what is so nice, they know and realise they need each other.

You seem to attract many fantastic actresses like Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Kate McKinnon, Rose Byrne, Sandra Bullock, Leslie Jones and now Anna and Blake, what do you think attracts them to your projects in particular?

Well I think I have projects that have really good roles for women and the thing that I hate is people saying its strong female leads. No its not that, its just that they are good three dimensional roles and they can be strong and weak and vulnerable and they’re smart and they mess up. It allows whoever is going to play the role to just have a fully developed fun character and show off their comedic chops or just show off what a good actor they are. So you realise how bad things have been for actresses for so long. There weren’t enough roles that they could really sink their teeth into.

I totally agree with you. I think you have been spearheading the revival of good quality female comedies, starting with Bridesmaids, Girls Trip, Rough Night and most recently The Spy Who Dumped Me, which I felt was heavenly influenced by you. Kate McKinnon is just brilliant in that.

She is just so great. Thanks. The good thing now is that studios are letting people make movies about women and god forbid letting women behind the camera to direct them too. Its slowly course correcting and I mean its such a major course correction that they have to do. They’ve behind for a long time but at least its starting [to change].

Did you feel least pressure working on A Simple Favour compared to your other films?

You always feel pressure because of how much the movie costs. If it doesn’t do well there is still a mark against you because you may have made a bad decision or you are just creatively off. So I always definitely feel the pressure regardless, but it was nice not having to carry the pressure of an enormous budget because that help wins some fights and arguments you have with the studio. If you want something and they don’t want it you’re like ‘hey do you know much money I’m not making to do this, you know how much I’m sacrificing to do this!’ So yeah it really allows me to experiment a little more and do the things I wanted to do. That said the studio was so supportive of us because the movie ended up going to Lionsgate. It was going to be Fox 2000 and they at the last minute got nervous about it and decided not to do it. Lionsgate swept in and kept us on schedule and I will be eternally grateful. I’m really, really grateful to them for that.

Talking about the box office, is that something you look at. Do you worry about it or do you finish the film, finish post then go on holiday and try not to think about it. Because it seems some directors don’t seem to care, but do you worry about it?

All I worry about is the box office, its drives everything I do, every decision I make, every sleepless night. I’ve got different perspective of this than a lot of other people which is that I was in movie jail once. I started really good and fell apart really badly and then I was allowed to make movies again. That was a hard lesson like “unless you make me some money”, unless you get return of their investment you don’t get to do it again. So I’m sadly obsessed with it, but it does mean that I’m trying to make movies that I know are going to entertain the biggest amount of people. Well that’s what I’m shooting for. I’m not trying to shoot a little niche film I want, no matter how much my movies cost because I want everybody to see them, because I’m proud of them and want them to entertain.

Well I think you are doing a good job because all your projects make a good profit. For example Bridesmaids made a ridiculous amount of money from a moderate budget. So I don’t think you have to worry. (laughter)

Well thanks, the old saying is true, you’re only as good as your last picture. You never lose sight of that. You never rest on your laurels. Then they go and start giving you life time achievement awards and don’t let you work anymore.

(laughter) Well you don’t want one of those yet. Talking about your last picture Ghostbusters, which I really enjoyed, did the response from so called fanboys put you off for a while or did you brush it off?

Oh yeah it definitely bummed me out, it was a real assault which I wasn’t prepared for. Now I realise I made so many mistakes and how I dealt with all of that, because I just didn’t expect it. It really broad sided me because all my interactions on the internet before that were just absolutely lovely and just supportive. There was whole little group of people that liked what I did. So when I announced that project I just expected everyone was just going to be really happy (he laughs) and then there was daily stuff of awful awfulness. At the same time there were so many nice people. You just tend to focus and notice the bad stuff. It definitely threw me and definitely put me off but it didn’t stop my desire in doing stuff. It just made me think about ‘Ok what am I going to do next and what’s the next thing I want to say and what road do I want to go down to entertain people?’ Do I want to make another giant movie right away or do I want to make something? I don’t want to say smaller because that sounds less commercial, just something that’s not on the same scale, but hopefully something that is as entertaining or even more so.

You have a gift in casting male actors who are naturally funny but aren’t really known for their comedy chops like Jon Hamm, Jason Statham and Chris Hemsworth. Do you take credit for that? I truly believe if there was no Ghostbusters there would be no Thor: Ragnarok because Chris Hemsworth really shows his funny bones in it.

I mean I’ll own part of it, he is a funny guy. When I really got inspired, well it was a double thing that happened because we have the same agents so when it came to Ghostbusters my agent said ‘hey Chris Hemsworth said if you want him to do anything in your movie, he really wants to do a movie that his kids could enjoy’ so I was like ‘wow that would be awesome like to have Thor being their receptionist.’ Then I saw he hosted Saturday Night Live and I just thought he was really funny. What I look for, I don’t know if I look for people who are funny, I look to see if they have a sense of humour about themselves.

I’ve got to mention Freaks and Geeks, I think people would be disappointed if I didn’t. Your CV for TV is very impressive. You directed some episodes of The Office (US), Parks and Recreation, Arrested Development, and Freaks and Geeks. Do you still get offered to do more TV?

I love TV. TV is in such an amazing place right now. I wish TV would have been in this place when we did Freaks and Geeks, we might still be on the air. We were such a fish out the water at the time, just an hour long dramedy. It just wasn’t what people were looking for at that moment. But I love TV and what’s great about TV now is the fact that it is embracing the realization of story telling and so these series are big long movies. So I love that, but I never love anything more than the challenge of trying to tell a complete story in two hours. It’s the hardest thing to do but the most satisfying thing to do.


We’d like to say a huge thank you to Paul for taking the time to chat with Dave!

A Simple Favour is out now in the US and releases in UK cinemas 20th September!

Batman Day 2018: JUMPCUT’s Top 5 Cinematic Batmen

Today is Batman Day 2018, an annual event where fans come together to celebrate all things Batman. DC is marking the occasion this year by launching it’s highly anticipated streaming service, which will feature shows such is Titans, Doom Patrol, The Swamp Thing, and even Harley Quinn be getting her own show.

Here at JUMPCUT we’re marking Batman Day by ranking our top five favourite cinematic Batmen. As always with our rankings, the team have voted for their personal favourites, and we use a point based system to determine the final rankings – so the rankings below don’t necessarily reflect the teams personal rankings.

 

#5 LEGO Batman (Will Arnett)

JC-ARTICLE-IMAGE

Will Arnett’s LEGO Batman made his first appearing in the 2014 hit The LEGO Movie and he proved such a hit with viewers that Warner Bros. got big ol’ dollar signs in their eyes and made plans for a solo film. Chris McKay, who directed The LEGO Movie, signed on to direct LEGO Batman’s solo outing and he said the comedy in the film was heavily influenced by films like Airplane! and The Naked Gun – and boy does it show. This animated caper pulled no punches with its barrage of easter eggs, cameos, and its general bat-shit craziness. Arnett is returning to voice this moody vigilante in the upcoming The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part, which hits cinemas next year.

 

#4 Adam West

JC-ARTICLE-IMAGE

The late, great Adam West was cast as Batman after a producer saw him in an advert for Nestlé. West played Bruce Wayne/Batman in the Batman TV series that ran from 1966 – 1968 and had 3 seasons and one feature film. Even after the shows cancellation, West returned to the role of Batman in voice-over roles for both TV and animated films – most recently Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders and Batman vs Two-Face, which are based around the campy 60’s version of Batman and his enemies/allies.

 

#3 Michael Keaton

JC-ARTICLE-IMAGE

Michael Keaton donned the Dark Knight’s cape in Batman (’89) and again in Batman Returns (’92), but there were a lot of names in the ring before he secured the role. Actors such as Pierce Brosnan, Tom Selleck, Billy Murray, and Willem Dafoe were all considered for the role before Keaton. His casting caused some controversy amongst comic books fans and Warner Bros received over 50,000 letters of complaint (luckily for them there was no social media platforms back then!) . Complaints aside, Batman (’89) became the fastest film to earn $100m, a feat it managed it just 11 days.  Talks of Keaton returning the the role of Bruce Wayne/Batman have been circling social media later as fans say they would like to see him as an older version of the character in a live-adaptation Batman Beyond.

 

#2 Ben Affleck

JC-ARTICLE-IMAGE

Whilst his future as the caped crusader may be in doubt, Ben Affleck comes graciously in second place amongst our rankings of Batmen. For his first outing in the cape, Affleck went toe-to-toe with Henry Cavill’s Man of Steel in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Affleck was Zack Snyder’s first choice for the role, but it quickly became apparent that, much like Keaton, Affleck’s casting wasn’t popular amongst comic book ‘fans’. Practically minutes after news broke that Affleck would be the latest live-action Batman, people took to social media with a number of petitions calling for Warner Bros. to remove him from the role and cast someone else. Batman v Superman received what Connor4Real would call ‘mixed reviews‘, but Affleck was largely praised for his performance despite the initial backlash. The less said about Justice League the better, but we here at JUMPCUT hope to see Affleck don the batcowl at least one more time in the near future. The whole team are rooting for Ben and wish him all the best as he recently checked back into rehab for his alcohol addiction. You’ve got this, Ben!

 

#1 Christian Bale

JC-ARTICLE-IMAGE

Our number one likely comes as no surprise to you at this point. Bale suited up for Batman Begins (2005), The Dark Knight (2008), and The Dark Knight Rises (2012) in what is surely one of the highest praised comic book movie trilogies to date. Bale originally had to bulk up for the role in Batman Begins as he had just finished filming The Machinist when he was cast. He gained over 100lb in muscle in just a few months, then he and Nolan agreed he was too big and so he had to lose some of that newly gained muscle to get the look of his Batman just right. Bale’s portrayal of Batman is one of the most popular comic book performances to date and the trilogy as a whole has raked in just under $2.5b at the worldwide box office.

And that’s our cinematic Batmen ranked! We’d love to hear your rankings – feel free to tell us over on Twitter, or in the comments below!

Gremlins: Recall – The Mogwai Return in Fan Film

Written by Michael Dean

It’s been over 30 years since the 1984 film Gremlins, directed by Joe Dante, released to theaters bringing their cuddly Mogwai and horrific Gremlins to the big screen.  The film was such a success that a sequel followed in 1990.   A third film has been in discussion for years and has yet to gain any traction, so leave it to a director from Los Angeles who decided to whet the Gremlin fans appetite with a short fan film called Gremlins: Recall.

The film picks up 30 years after the events of the first film and the Mogwai can now be kept at your home as a pet, for a very large price.  However, there is a catch!  The owner must continue to medicate the Mogwai so they do not turn into those menacing green Gremlins.  So all should be fine right?  Well, as you will see from this story, something always goes wrong.

This fan film was written and directed by Ryan Patrick, who was a big fan of the original film.  So big that he went all out to bring this project to life by using high quality, animatronic puppetry for those pesky little gremlins.  Along with the fine puppetry are a nice soundtrack and solid casting with Katherine Rodriguez and Randy Irwin, which explains why the short film currently has over 182,000 views on YouTube.  I will admit, it was quite a thrill to see these creatures come to life once again and who knows maybe enough fan interest will get the ball rolling to get Gremlins 3 off the ground.

If you would like to learn more about how this all came together, be sure to head over to Ryan Patrick’s official website to view some behind the scenes footage as well as a director’s commentary, script, storyboards, photos and even download the soundtrack!

You can watch Gremlins: Recall below!

Grimmfest 2018: 10 Must-Sees!

Written by Sasha Hornby

GRIMMFEST, Manchester’s Festival of Horror, Cult and Fantastic Film, scheduled to take place from Thursday 4th October to Sunday 7th October at the ODEON Manchester, is celebrating its 10th anniversary. The line-up was announced on Monday 3rd September, and this year promises “the darkest, deadliest line-up yet of wild, weird, witty, thrilling, chilling, blood-spilling movies.” Each film shown is a premiere (of some sort) or cult classic, many with cast and crew in attendance.

To honour 10 years of it being Grimm Up North, we pick our 10 must-sees from the wicked roster:

 

AWAIT FURTHER INSTRUCTIONS

JC-ARTICLE-IMAGE.jpg

Northern Premiere showing Thursday 4th October at 8:45pm
UK / English / 2018 / 91 mins

Director: Johnny Kevorkian 
Cast: Sam Gittins, Neerja Naik, Grant Masters, Abigail Cruttenden, Kris Saddler, Holly Weston, David Bradley

It’s Christmas day, and one family wakes up to discover they’re sealed in their house by a mysterious black substance. On the television reads a single line of text: “Stay Indoors and Await Further Instructions.” The dysfunctional family, described as “the university-educated son and his Asian girlfriend, the horrible racist Grandad, the control freak father, the simpering doormat of a mother, the chav sister and her meathead boyfriend” are tense and confrontational around each other, not at all prepared for the strangeness of their situation. Shot in Yorkshire, and featuring mostly practical effects, this biting satire promises an unforgettable festive flick.

 

PLEDGE

JC-ARTICLE-IMAGE.jpg

European Premiere showing Sunday 7th October at 12:25pm
USA / English / 2018 / 75 mins

Director: Daniel Robbins
Cast: Zack Weiner, Phillip Andre Botello, Zachary Byrd, Cameron Cowperthwaite, Aaron Dalla Villa, Jesse Pimentel, Erica Boozer

American films set in or around University Fraternities and Sororities are hardly new. PLEDGE takes the “geeky social misfits vs. privileged jocks and preppies” set-up and presents a no-holds-barred, cranked-up-to-eleven, savage look at arcane hazing rituals.

 

TIGERS ARE NOT AFRAID (VUELVEN)

 JC-ARTICLE-IMAGE.jpg

Northern Premiere showing Friday 5th October at 9:15pm
Mexico / Spanish with English subtitles / 2017 / 83 mins

Director: Issa López
Cast: Paola Lara, Juan Ramón López, Tenoch Huerta

11-year-old Estrella has one desperate wish: for her missing mother to return home. As she joins a Lost Boys (Peter Pan) style gang of orphaned children in the violent, drug-war-torn, Mexican town where she lives, she learns some ghosts can’t be left behind, and the hardest battle is with bereavement. Brutal reality is given a whimsical twist through a child’s imaginative eye. Guillermo del Toro called Issa López’s haunting, artistic, urban fairy tale one of the finest films of the year – the highest of fantastical endorsements.

 

RE-ANIMATOR

JC-ARTICLE-IMAGE.jpg

Cult Classic showing Thursday 4th October at 6:30pm
USA / English / 1985 / 86 mins

Director: Stuart Gordon
Cast: Jeffrey Combs, Bruce Abbott, Barbara Crampton, Robert Sampson, David Gale

With an introduction by Grimmfest 2018’s guest of honour, star Barbara Crampton, this screening of the original unrated version of the cult comedy classic is a ghoulish and gory start to the festival. A re-imagining of H.P. Lovecraft’s weird pulp novella, Stuart Gordon’s blackly comic tale of a medical student and his girlfriend experimenting with reanimating the dead is a masterwork of the macabre.

 

ANNA AND THE APOCALYPSE

 JC-ARTICLE-IMAGE.jpg

Greater Manchester Premiere showing Sunday 7th October at 8:30pm
UK / English / 2017 / 109 mins

Director: John McPhail
Cast: Ella Hunt, Malcolm Cumming, Sarah Swire, Christopher Leveaux, Ben Wiggins, Marli Siu

Described as “Shaun of the Dead meets La La Land”, ANNA AND THE APOCALYPSE is a Scottish Christmas high school zombie musical. Bloody, festive, delightfully charming – watch Anna and her friends slash and sing their way to survival in the zombie apocalypse.

 

NIGHTMARE CINEMA

 JC-ARTICLE-IMAGE.jpg

UK Premiere showing Saturday 6th October at 4:30pm
USA / English / 2018 / 119 mins

Directors: Alejandro Brugués, Joe Dante, Mick Garris, Ryuhei Kitamura, David Slade
Cast: Mickey Rourke, Elizabeth Reaser, Richard Chamberlain, Annabeth Gish

In this twisted horror anthology, five strangers are drawn into an abandoned theatre and forced watch their deepest and darkest fears play out before them. Each film introduced by creepy projectionist, Mickey Rourke, all 5 grim moral tales represent the style of their director. From Joe Dante’s ‘plastic surgery gone sideways’ fable to Alejandro Brugués’ sly take on the cabin-in-the-woods trope, there’s something horrifying for everyone.

 

THE WITCH IN THE WINDOW

 JC-ARTICLE-IMAGE.jpg

Northern Premiere showing Saturday 6th October at 7:00pm
USA / English / 2018 / 77 mins

Director: Andy Mitton
Cast: Alex Draper, Charlie Tacker, Greg Naughton, Arija Bareikis, Carol Stanzione

An estranged father and son visit a rural gothic farmhouse in Vermont that has been purchased to flip. As renovations begin, the malicious spirit of the deceased previous owner makes it clear she doesn’t want them there, but also never wants them to leave. Part subtle ghost story, part emotional family drama, THE WITCH IN THE WINDOW plays on the hardships and fears of raising a child in 2018, and includes the supernatural to stress the situation to a “nightmarish and genuinely heart-breaking” conclusion.

 

PIERCING

 JC-ARTICLE-IMAGE.jpg

Greater Manchester Premiere showing Saturday 6th October at 12:30pm
USA / English / 2018 / 81 mins

Director: Nicolas Pesce
Cast: Mia Wasikowska, Wendell Piece, Laia Costa, Christopher Abbott, Olivia Bond

Adapted from the cult novel by Ryū Murakami, PIERCING spins the source material into a satirical, body-horror, rom-com. Deriving it’s aesthetic and aural influences from Italian giallo films of the 1970s, a man with a sinister plan, to commit the perfect murder, checks in to a hotel to meet a call girl. He meticulously rehearses every detail, but is unprepared for the disturbed blonde who walks through the door.

 

SUMMER OF ‘84

 JC-ARTICLE-IMAGE.jpg

Northern Premiere showing Friday 5th October at 11:00pm
USA, Canada / English / 2017 / 105 mins

Directors: Fran­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­çois Simard, Anouk Whissell, Yoann-Karl Whissell
Cast: Graham Vercher, Judah Lewis, Caleb Emery, Cory Grüter-Andrew, Tiera Skovbye, Rich Sommer

From the directors or TURBO KID comes this 80s-set teen adventure with slasher-movie instincts. Echoing the structure of IT and STRANGER THINGS, four 15-year-old boys spend their summer investigating the policeman next door, who they suspect is a serial killer – because all serial killers have to be somebody’s neighbour, right? Featuring a synth score to ramp up the pastiche, SUMMER OF ’84 is more than just a re-tread of familiar themes, it’s actually scary.

 

GIRLS WITH BALLS

 JC-ARTICLE-IMAGE.jpg

European Premiere showing Thursday 4th October at 11:00pm
France, Belgium, Luxembourg, Spain / French with English subtitles / 2018 / 77 mins

 

Director: Olivier Afonso
Cast: Denis Lavant, Manon Azem, Dany Verissimo-Petit, Anne-Solenne Hatte, Camille Razat, Louise Blachére, Victor Artus Solaro, Tiphaine Daviot, Margot Dufrene

The Falcons, an all-girls volleyball team, find themselves stranded in the middle of cannibal hillbilly territory when their mini-van breaks down. Described as a “slyly feminist reinvention of the “Cheerleaders in Peril” scenario”, GIRLS WITH BALLS is a blood-soaked black comedy about the hunted becoming the hunters.

Director Crash Course: Richard Linklater

Written by Corey Hughes

Back in 2016 I started a new series to my blog and twitter page titled ‘Director Season’, a monthly challenge whereby I attempt to watch the entire oeuvre of a chosen director.

With Steven Spielberg, Martin Scorsese, Guillermo del Toro, and the Coen Brothers given the special treatment, I was able to discover hidden gems and watch a handful of movies that I REALLY should’ve watched by now.

Since then, ‘Director Season’ has been given a facelift. Now titled ‘Director Crash Course’, I’ve restarted the challenge, and with Paul Thomas Anderson tackled back in July, I spent August focusing on the wonderful work of Richard Linklater; a filmmaker I have a new-founded adoration for. The aim of this article is to round up my thoughts for each of the films I watched in August and to present my personal favourites from Linklater.

FotoJet (5).jpg


SLACKER (1990)

Although IMDb credits It’s Impossible to Learn to Plow by Reading Books (1988) as Linklater’s debut feature, for many, Slacker is where it all began. Linklater’s low-budget, beautifully mundane depiction of a group of bohemians in a single day in 90s Texas is an inspiring piece of indie filmmaking, proving that creativity is not dependant on budget or studio backing.

Not much happens in Slacker, characters come and go, storylines evaporate into nothingness; but that’s the whole point. Linklater simply observes the extraordinary actions of the ordinary civilian, from a UFO enthusiast to a JFK conspiracy theorist, in their everyday lives. As such, there is a palpable social realist eye to the events unfolding, particularly the guerrilla-esque, documentarian cinematography on display. Linklater seamlessly travels through the narrative with minimal cuts and transitions, the camera following the misfits as they travel through the warmly lit streets of Texas.

It’s not a film I would revisit anytime soon, nor has it particularly aged well, but it’s a film that I’m glad exists.


DAZED AND CONFUSED (1993)

Dazed and Confused is a timeless coming-of-age tale shared amongst an ensemble of social misfits and high-school stoners.

The film is seeping with nostalgia, melancholy, and authenticity, with its impeccable dialogue helping to illustrate the final day of school before summer. The excitement, the unpredictability, and the anxiety of starting something new is expertly addressed in the film; emotions that are at the heart of every living person.

But above all, it has a true ‘feel-good’ vibe that makes for a fun, energetic cinematic experience. Linklater borrows from his feature debut Slacker; the ensemble of compelling characters, the storylines that seem meaningless, the blurring between real and cinematic timelines, and expands upon them to create what is a profoundly thought-provoking story. Such energy is channelled through the film’s killer, rock-filled soundtrack, one that I will find myself listening to for years to come.

I will remember Dazed and Confused for the rest of my days.


BEFORE SUNRISE (1995)

Well, where do I start?

Perhaps what I love most about the first entry in Linklater’s ‘Before’ trilogy is how character and place are intricately linked. People come and go but their experiences will always linger on. A couple’s laughter, their romantic embraces; they fade into memory. But for Jesse and Celine, Vienna will always be there. Their deep conversations about love, past relationships, the mannerisms that will inevitably become annoying; they all take place in a city that will always be theirs. But above all, their love for each other is real, one that blossoms by open dialogue and a genuine sense of connection between the two characters, and of course, Hawke and Delpy themselves.

Not many films have the same effect on me that Sunrise has. Many would argue that it takes multiple viewings of a film for it to be considered as a favourite, but after just one viewing, this is undoubtedly a favourite of mine. What a truly transcendent piece of cinema.


SUBURBIA (1996)

Although SubUrbia isn’t as ground-breaking nor as charming as Linklater’s previous ‘slackers in reality’ projects (particularly Dazed and Confused) there’s an undeniable sense of self-depreciating anger seeping through the cracks of Eric Bogosian’s story; anger pointing toward societal entrapment and the divide between fame and normality.

Linklater’s trademark ‘kitchen-sink’ direction, the grainy cinematography with long, dialogue-heavy takes, the focus on the characters and their personal quirks; is reliant on the performances, and thankfully, the ensemble cast is bursting with charisma. From Ribisi’s constant grumbles and Zahn’s drunken outbursts, SubUrbia is driven by these characters – and Linklater understands how to blend them together without feeling overly convoluted and incoherent.

SubUrbia is hard to pick out, but if you can get your hands on a copy, then I’d advise giving it a watch.


WAKING LIFE (2001)

By far Linklater’s most peculiar project, Waking Life tailors around the experiences of an unnamed main character who journeys through the dreamland via lucid dreaming. On his mind-bending journey, he encounters a roster of strange individuals whom question the values of life and the philosophical and existential ideologies that come with it: life and death, free will and determinism; notions that linger forever in the human mind.

Through Linklater’s mesmerising, rotoscoped animation, we become the dreamer; with his thoughts becoming ours. He merely exists in his dream world, listening to the rambles of those he encounters; the philosophical and the victimised, the rational and the irrational. He doesn’t challenge what he hears but just listens – his curiosity manifesting into a journey of existential self-discovery, as clichéd as that may be.

Waking Life, for some, will pass by with no sense of penetration. It will, like the dreamer, just exist; fading into nothingness. But for others, the film with change the way they perceive the world. For me, my experience falls dead centre between this threshold. I accept and appreciate its existence, and I also apply the many ideologies from the film to my own life; yet I fear I will never have the urge to watch it again. For a film that runs for just 99 minutes, it felt much longer; much heavier. A slight deviation of attention with result in a state of confusion, and sadly, I felt my attention slowly slipping away as the film progressed.


BEFORE SUNSET (2003)

Linklater’s second entry to the ‘Before’ trilogy is just as wonderful as the first, and I can’t express in words how much of a personal connection I felt to this sequel. The loss of romanticism in love, the feeling of what could have been, the fear of settling; these are all emotions that everybody in a long-term relationship consider at some stage of their lives.

Where Before Sunrise sets up this promise of romanticism, Sunset has the bravery to introduce the realism of Jesse and Celine’s relationship. They don’t meet 6 months after their mesmerising night in Vienna, instead they move on with their lives. Jesse has a wife and son; Celine works as a humanitarian in love with a war journalist. Yet when they meet once again 9 years later, their spark is reignited. Hawke and Delpy become Jesse and Celine, the pair morphing into their roles with a true sense of connection and raw authenticity.

Linklater somehow manages to find the perfect balance between hopefulness and realism; humour and melancholy. As the final scene fades to black, I found myself teary eyed. Was it with hope? Or was it with an unexplainable tint of sadness? Well, isn’t that what love is?

FotoJet (7).jpg


A SCANNER DARKLY (2006)

Linklater’s second animated feature, A Scanner Darkly, is an expertly crafted adaptation of Philip K. Dick’s novel; a story of existential crisis and voyeuristic surveillance.

It’s also a story of manipulation, coming in the form of Dick’s compelling, detailed characters; a catalogue of individualised creations that all have their own motives, whether it’s Robert Downey Jr’s sociopathic James Barris or Winona Ryder’s manipulative Donna Hawthorne; they all bring something unique to the table. This, of course, is a true testament to the performances on display and the preciseness of the post-rendered animation – with Linklater placing an onus on physical expression through the eye-catching cartoonish feel.

There are moments where the film becomes heavy with foreshadowing and subtle detail, but that only adds to the change of direction in the film’s final moments; a denouement that will undoubtedly encourage multiple viewings. I can’t wait to watch it again.


BERNIE (2011)

Linklater’s mockumentary about a former funeral director who shot his lover dead in Texas is much lighter and far more comedic than the actuality of the event itself, and the ethical implications of such a contradiction is enough to warrant discussion.

The film itself is utterly bonkers. Jack Black is tremendously cast as Bernie Tiede, the beloved funeral director who ‘fooled’ an entire community with his charm and generosity, whose malevolent actions are, as the tag line suggests, ‘so unbelievable that it must be true’. Funnily enough, however, I never once thought that these characters were based upon real people. The moment archived photographs of the real Bernie are shown on screen during the film’s closing credits, I found myself in a state of shock. “How on hell could this actually happen?”, I found myself asking.

Such disbelief is heightened through Linklater’s questionable decision to make Bernie as a comedy, albeit a black comedy. The humour is dry and relies solely on the ignorance of the characters themselves, which raises the issue of whether Linklater is sympathising or mocking them. I feel that for the average viewer, the ones from the outside looking in, this is a charmingly raucous story; but for those involved in the event, will find that the story criminally undermines the severity of Bernie’s actions.

I, however, found myself chuckling along. Perhaps I shouldn’t have; but when you have Jack Black at the forefront of such a project, you’d have to be dead inside to not find it amusing.


BEFORE MIDNIGHT (2013)

Linklater’s beautiful ode to love in all its truest forms comes to an end with Before Midnight; a nostalgic, melancholic, and most important of all, real depiction of human relationships.

Where Sunrise was brimming with hope and romanticism for Jesse and Celine, their relationship matured and blossomed 9 years on in Sunset. Now, in Midnight, the harsh realities of mature romance come to the fore. Now roaming the sweeping landscapes of Greece with twins almost two decades since their first meeting on that train bound to Vienna, Jesse and Celine’s relationship is tested like never before. The prevalence of parenthood is accompanied with conflict and compromise, flirtation and feud; the palpable friction between the pair slowly slipping through the cracks.

Said conflict culminates in an emotional implosion set in a hotel room during the film’s final moments that can only be described as perhaps the realest argument ever depicted in cinema. Hawke and Delpy bounce off one another in a way that most couples do, with little triggers resulting in overly catastrophic outbursts and the most minuscule of facial gestures emitting the wrong message. It’s hard to watch, as if you’re a child watching on as your parents yell and fight.

I can’t put into words how much I love this trilogy. Sunrise, Sunset, and Midnight act as the vicious cycle of love itself; the promising romance, the blossoming relationship, and the inevitable darkness of growing old together. If this isn’t the end, then I can’t wait to see the next chapter of Jesse and Celine’s journey. Even if it does mean watching them ramble on about the meaning of life in the lounge of a nursing home.


BOYHOOD (2014)

There’s not much more to say about Boyhood that hasn’t already been said. Filmed over a 12-year span depicting the Bildungsroman story of a boy and his journey through adolescence; this is a coming-of-age tale like none other.

The use of cinematic time in Linklater’s films has become somewhat of a recurring motif in his works, but in Boyhood, it’s taken to another level. The film simply observes the actions of Ellar Coltrane’s Mason, and thus forces the viewer to watch on as he progresses through life; hurdling over the barriers that rapidly approach. The issue of family dysfunction is profoundly prevalent throughout the film’s entirety, with Mason and his older sister being raised by a compassionate single mother who struggles to juggle abusive partners and achieving her own aspirations.

Ethan Hawke’s Mason Sr. provides a momentary rest-bite from the struggles his kids face at home; taking them bowling and buying them gifts. At first he seems like the conventional immature and incompetent teenage father, but like Mason Jr., he goes on a journey on his own; working backwards, as it’s referenced in the movie. In truth, Mason Jr. isn’t the only character that has his own story, it’s very much a family piece. The family unit, albeit tested at times, stay firm as one; moving together through life together as time relentlessly passes by.

It’s a miracle that this film exists. For Linklater and his cast to dedicate 12-years of their lives to this project is a cinematic achievement that exceeds all expectations; a monumental achievement that requires a meticulous amount of patience, precision, and preparation. How anybody can have nothing but admiration for this project is beyond my understanding.


EVERYBODY WANTS SOME!! (2016)

Everybody Wants Some!! has been labelled as the ‘spiritual sequel to Dazed and Confused’, and it’s not difficult to see where the similarities lie. Like his 1993 classic, Everybody Wants Some!! is brimming with charm and charisma; helped by Linklater’s eye for realist dialogue and the incredibly delightful cast on display.

Linklater has a distinct ability to create a sense of genuine, off-the-cuff chemistry between his cast members, and with this, it’s no different. It’s so impressive that with an ensemble cast of mostly unknown actors, Linklater’s catalogue of characters all feel distinctively different from one another; each of the members providing something new and original to the table. The humour between them all is unprecedentedly hilarious throughout the film’s entirety, with special mention to Glen Powell’s Finn and Austin Amelio’s Nez; who remain at the forefront of the laughs every time they’re on screen.

Without the charm and charisma from his ensemble, Linklater’s film would undeniably fall apart, but there’s not a second of this film that doesn’t make you ‘feel good’, heightened, I think, by the equally as delightful 80s aesthetic that is captured here.
If you want a feel good coming-of-age story helmed by a master of the genre, Everybody Wants Some!! is the film for you. I loved every second of it.


LAST FLAG FLYING (2017)

Linklater’s latest film, a story of ex-veterans who rediscover their friendship after the tragic death of Doc’s (Steve Carell) son, is by no means the strongest project on his ever-impressive resumè, but it’s a provocative, heavy-hitting piece of work.

The rekindled camaraderie between the long-lost veterans result in a heartfelt and inspiring trio of performances. At times, Fishburne and Cranston act as an angel and a devil on Carrell’s shoulders, both providing contradicting advice. Cranston is terrific as the heavy-headed Sal, the ‘devil’ in this instance; and Fishburne is equally as compelling as Mueller, a calm and collected vet-turned-priest whose optimism finds itself battling against Sal’s growing cynicism.

Last Flag Flying undoubtedly sheds light on the hypocrisy and corruption of the ‘heroic American soldier’ philosophy of Western culture; American sons being killed for what they believe in labelled as heroes, Eastern sons being labelled as terrorists for the same fate. It’s a controversial issue, but Linklater handles it with a true sense of objectivity; showing both sides of the debate from Cranston’s Sal and Carell’s Doc.


And that concludes my Linklater journey! Below you will find the list of films that I was unable to see this month, and my top 5 Linklater films.

Unseen films:
It’s Impossible to Learn to Plow by Reading Books (1988)
The Newton Boys (1998)
Tape (2001)
Bad News Bears (2005)
Fast Food Nation (2006)
• Me and Orson Welles (2008)

My top 5 Linklater films:
1. Before Sunrise (1995)
2. Before Sunset (2004)
3. Before Midnight (2013)
4. Everybody Wants Some!! (2016)
5. Boyhood (2014)

That was way too difficult…

The Conjuring Universe Ranked & Timeline Breakdown

Written by Tom Sheffield

The highly anticipated latest spin-off in The Conjuring Universe, The Nun, is just days away, so we’re taking a look back at the universe’s previous entries, ranking them, and also looking at what the future hold’s for the franchise.

We’ve pieced together the timeline so far, with The Nun set to take take us to the early 1950s. Looking to the future of the universe, it’s probably fair to assume the The Conjuring 3, which was still having its script worked on when we last heard from Wan in August 2017, will take place following the events of the second film. However, earlier this year Wan confirmed that Annabelle 3 was in the works and set to release in 2019 with Gary Dauberman confirmed to return to the director’s chair. The plot details we’ve been given so far would lead us to believe this film takes place directly after The Conjuring 2 and will see Annabelle terrorise the Warren’s young daughter and bring the artefacts in their house to life. Wan said this third film is “basically Night at the Museum with Annabelle”

The Crooked Man, who we met in The Conjuring 2, is set to get his own spin-off. When asked about the film in August last year, Wan said the film was still in the early stages of development and that Mike Van Waes was penning the script. With Annabelle 3 already scheduled for next year, it looks like Wan and co. are in no rush with this film and they’re likely targeting a 2020 release.

conjuring timeline


Our team have come together to rank the four entries in The Conjuring Universe so far, the results of which you can find below! As always, the results are determined by combining the team’s individuals rankings and using a point based system to give us our final ranking, so their personal order may differ from the final combined results.

 

(#4) Annabelle

JC-ARTICLE-IMAGE

Well, someone has to be in last place and that just happens to be The Conjuring Universe’s first spin-off, John R. Leonetti’s Annabelle. We first met the Annabelle doll in The Conjuring and it only took 14 months before Annabelle was in cinemas across the globe.

This first spin-off is a prequel to The Conjuring and takes place in 1967. The plot follows Mia and John Form, a young couple expecting their first child. The same night John brings his wife home an old porcelain doll, two members of a cult brutally murder the Form’s next door neighbours, the Higgins, before breaking into their home. The police shoot dead one of the attackers, whilst the other slicers her own throat whilst grasping the doll. After their traumatic experience, the couple move homes and Mia gives birth to a healthy baby girl, Leah. However, after throwing away the doll before their move, she appears in one of their moving boxes and it’s not long before paranormal activities begin to occur. The couple seek the help of Father Perez (who then seeks the help of Ed and Lorraine Warren) to help them exorcise the demon possessing the doll.

(#3) Annabelle: Creation

JC-ARTICLE-IMAGE

Coming in third place is a prequel of a prequel, Annabelle: Creation, which was directed by David F. Sandberg. The film was released in 2017 after the Annabelle doll made a brief cameo in The Conjuring 2, where we learn she’s locked in the Warren’s house.

Annabelle: Creation takes place in 1955 as doll-maker Samuel Mullins and his wife Esther open their empty home to Sister Charlotte and six young girls who have been left homeless after their orphanage is closed. We learn that the Mullins’ daughter, Annabelle, was killed in a car accident 12 years prior to the evens of this film, and the couple have locked her room to and forbade their new lodgers from going in there. Janice, one of the young girls, is crippled by polio and often feels left out when her friends are out playing and running around. One night, Janice finds a note that has ‘find me’ scribbled on it and sees that Annabelle’s room is now somehow unlocked. Janice discovers a porcelain doll locked away in a closet and unbeknown to her, she releases a powerful demon that begins to terrorize the Mullins couple and their guests. Sister Charlotte enlists the helps of Priests to help keep the spirit at bay, but the demon has other ideas…

SPOILERS AHEAD: After Janice becomes possessed by the demon, Sister Charlotte locks both her and the Annabelle doll in the closet where she was discovered at the beginning of the film. However, when police search the house the day after the incident the doll is the only thing in the closet. The possessed Janice managed to escape through a hole in the wall and relocates to Santa Monica to live in an orphanage. We then fast forward 12 years (1967) and Janice, who now goes by Annabelle, is adopted by the Higgins family.

Name ring a bell? It should.

The Higgins family are the couple brutally murdered at the beginning of Annabelle by none other that their adoptive daughter Annabelle and her boyfriend, who have joined a Satanic cult. We witness the murder of the Higgins through the window of their neighbours house, the Forms, and this immediately sets up the events of Annabelle. 

Annabelle: Creation also included a short post-credit scene that teased The Nun.

(#2) The Conjuring

JC-ARTICLE-IMAGE

Coming gracefully is second place is the film that kick-stared this horror universe, James Wan’s The Conjuring, which was released in 2013. The film stars Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson as Lorraine and Ed Warren, characters that are the heart of this horror universe.

In 1971, Roger and Carolyn Perron move into a run-down farmhouse with their five daughters and their dog. Not long after they move in paranormal events begin to occur, including mysterious clapping, one of the children encounters a malevolent spirit, and two of them are attacked by a spirit who is lurching on their wardrobe. Fearing for her families life, Carolyn, fearing for her families life, contacts Ed and Lorraine Warren. The Warrens investigate the house and agree an exorcism needs to be performed, but they need solid proof the house is haunted so they can seek authorisation from the Catholic Church to perform the exorcism. With time running out, the Warrens are in a race against time to help the Perron family.

(#1) The Conjuring 2

JC-ARTICLE-IMAGE

Taking the crown as our favourite entry to The Conjuring Universe is The Conjuring 2, which was released in 2016 and saw James Wan return to direct.

This sequel takes place in 1977 and is set in Enfield, London where a family believe the spirit of the man that used to live in the house is still present. After the whole family witness the paranormal activity, the local church enlists the help of Ed and Lorraine Warren. Lorraine is hesitant to help the family following a vision during a seance in which she followed a demonic nun to the body of her impaled husband. During their time at the Hodgson family home with two other paranormal investigators, evidence emerges that makes it appear as if Janet, one of the children, is playing a practical joke and calling it paranormal activity. Lorraine soon learns that the threat is more serious than she thought and learning who the demonic nun haunting her visions is is the key to helping the Hodgson family.

(It still blows my mind that Valak, the demonic nun, was an additional character added during reshoots of The Conjuring 2.)


 

Whilst you’re here, we highly recommend you checking out The Nursea short film that won a competition held by Warner Bros. when Annabelle: Creation was released. The competition asked entrants to create a short film to introduce a new spirit/demon to The Conjuring Universe that could potentially be given it’s own feature film. We have an exciting interview coming soon with the director of the short film, Julian Terry, who has had some exciting news lately that we can’t wait to talk to him about!