Thursday, September 18, 2014

The Strangers (2008, USA)

Directed by: Bryan Bertino
Produced by: Doug Davison, Roy Lee, Nathan Kahane
Written by: Bryan Bertino
Starring: Liv Tyler, Scott Speedman, Glenn Howerton, Gemma Ward, Laura Margolis, Kip Weeks
Music by: Tom Hajdu, Andy Milburn
Cinematography: Peter Sova
Editing by: Kevin Greutert
Production by: Vertigo Entertainment, Mandate Pictures
Distributed by: Rogue Pictures, Intrepid Pictures
Release dates: May 30, 2008
Running time: 86 min
Country: United States
Language: English
Budget: $9 million
Box office: $82,391,145
Plot: After returning from a wedding reception, a couple staying in an isolated vacation house receive a knock on the door in the mid-hours of the night. What ensues is a violent invasion by three strangers, their faces hidden behind masks. The couple find themselves in a violent struggle, in which they go beyond what either of them thought capable in order to survive.

Info: The Strangers is a 2008 American horror film written and directed by Bryan Bertino and starring Liv Tyler, Scott Speedman, Glenn Howerton, Gemma Ward, Laura Margolis and Kip Weeks. The film revolves around a young couple who are terrorized by three masked assailants, who break into the remote summer home in which they are staying and damage all means of escape.

The Strangers was made on a budget of $9 million and after two postponements was released theatrically on May 30, 2008, in North America. It grossed $82.3 million at the box office worldwide. Marketed as "inspired by true events", writer and director Bryan Bertino stated that the film was inspired by a series of break-ins that occurred in his neighborhood as a child, as well as some incidents that occurred during the Manson killings (though website iO9 submits there is lack of legitimacy towards claiming the events are inspired as true). Critical reaction to the film was mixed.

Director Bryan Bertino also wrote the film's script, which was originally titled The Faces. Bertino took a particular interest in the horror genre, noting how one can connect to an audience by scaring them. He also stated that he was significantly inspired by thriller films of the 1970s while writing the film.

The Strangers original 2008 trailer.

According to production notes, the film was inspired by true events from director Bryan Bertino's childhood: a stranger came to his home asking for someone who was not there, and Bertino later found out that empty houses in the neighborhood had been broken into that night: "As a kid, I lived in a house on a street in the middle of nowhere. One night, while our parents were out, somebody knocked on the front door and my little sister answered it. At the door were some people asking for somebody who didn't live there. We later found out that these people were knocking on doors in the area and, if no one was home, breaking into the houses".

In interviews, Bertino stated he was "very impressed" with some of the theories circulating on the Internet about the "true events" the movie is allegedly based on, but said his main inspiration was from the true crime book Helter Skelter; some have said that the film was also inspired by the Keddie Cabin Murders of 1981 that occurred in a small vacation community in California's Sierra Nevada. The 2006 French film entitled THEM is very similar in plot.

When casting the two leads in the film, Bertino sought Liv Tyler for the part of Kristen; Tyler, who had not worked for several years due to the birth of her son, read the script out of a stack of others she had been offered; "It spoke to me", she said. "I especially liked Bryan's way of saying a lot, but not saying everything. Often in movies, it's all spelled out for you, and the dialogue is very explanatory. But Bryan doesn't write like that; he writes how normal people communicate—with questions lingering. I knew it would be interesting to act that."

Early promotional posters for The Strangers.
Canadian actor Scott Speedman was cast as James, Kristen's longtime boyfriend. Speedman was also riveted by the script: "The audience actually gets time to breathe with the characters before things get scary as hell. That got me interested from the first pages", he said. In casting the three masked intruders, Bertino chose Australian fashion model Gemma Ward for the part of Dollface, feeling she had the exact "look" he had imagined. In preparing for the role, which was her first major acting part, Ward read Helter Skelter for inspiration. Kip Weeks was then cast as the looming Man in the Mask, and television actress Laura Margolis, who found the script to be a real "page turner", was cast in the part of Pin-Up Girl.

On a $9 million budget, filming for The Strangers began on October 10, 2006, and finished in early 2007 – the movie was filmed on location roughly ten miles outside of Florence, South Carolina, and the 2,000-square-foot (190 m2) house interior was constructed by a set crew. Though the film takes place in 2005, the house itself was deliberately constructed with an architecture reminiscent of 1970s ranch houses and dressed in furnishings applicable to the era. The property was located on the outskirts of Timmonsville, South Carolina. During production, it was reported that star Liv Tyler came down with tonsillitis due to screaming so much. Despite some weather complications, the film was largely shot in chronological order.

In late July 2007, director Bertino and stars Liv Tyler and Scott Speedman attended San Diego's annual Comic-Con event to promote the film; all three were present for a questions-and-answers panel session, as well as a screening of the film's official teaser trailer; this trailer was released on the internet several weeks later, and can be found on YouTube. It was not until March 2008 that a full-length trailer for the film was released, which can be found on Apple's QuickTime trailer gallery. The trailer originally began running in theaters attached to Rogue Pictures' sci-fi film Doomsday (2008) in March 2008, and television advertisements began airing on networks in early-mid April 2008 to promote the film's May release.

The Strangers promotional/press photos. The Mask (Kip Weeks), left. Dollface (Gemma Ward), right.
Two one-sheet posters for the film were released in August 2007, one showing the three masked Strangers, and the other displaying a wounded Liv Tyler. In April 2008, roughly two months before the film's official theatrical debut, the final, official one-sheet for the film was released, featuring Liv Tyler standing in a darkened kitchen with a masked man looming behind her in the shadows.

The producers originally planned for a summer release in 2007, which was eventually postponed to November 2007. It was pushed back yet one more time, and officially opened in the United States and Canada on May 30, 2008; in its opening weekend, the film grossed $20,997,985 in 2,467 theaters, ranking #3 at the box office and averaging $8,514 per theater. As of June 23, 2008 the film has grossed $52,597,610 in the U.S. alone exceeding industry estimates, and is considered a large box office success considering the production budget was a mere $9 million. The film opened in the United Kingdom later that summer on August 29, 2008, and as of September 21, 2008, had grossed £4,025,916. The overall box office return was highly successful for a horror film earning an outstanding $82.3 million at the box office worldwide. The movie received a rating of R from the MPAA.

The Strangers was released on DVD and Blu-ray in the United States on October 21, 2008. Both the Blu-ray and DVD feature rated and unrated versions of the film, with the unrated edition running approximately two minutes longer. Bonus materials include two deleted scenes and a making-of featurette. The DVD was released in the UK on December 26, 2008. The film was available on Universal VOD (Video on Demand) from November 19, 2008 through March 31, 2009.

The Strangers promotional/press photos. Scott Speedman (left). Liv Tyler (right).

The soundtrack of this film was released on the May 27, 2008. The album consists completely of 19 scores composed by score producer tomandandy. The soundtrack was distributed by Lakeshore Records. The album was received with generally positive reviews by critics. "It's a creepy score for what appears to be a movie that will make you jump as well as make sure that the doors are locked at night," writes reviewer Jeff Swindoll. "This is an impressive score and adds a tremendous chill-factor to the film," says Zach Freeman, grading it with an A.

Rogue Pictures' producers confirmed to Variety that a sequel is in the works, tentatively titled The Strangers: Part II. The film will be written by Bryan Bertino and directed by Laurent Briet. Shock Till You Drop reported that Realitivity Media put The Strangers: Part II on hold because they found that the movie might not be in their interest, even though Universal Pictures is willing to release it. However, Rogue Pictures confirmed in January 2011 that the sequel is now in production, and was supposed to begin filming as early as April 2011.

The plot follows a family of four who have been evicted from their home due to the economy, and are paid a visit by the same three strangers from the first film. It is not known whether the sequel will receive a theatrical or a straight-to-DVD release. Liv Tyler will return as Kristen McKay while the original three masked villains are also set to return, however, in an interview Tyler had announced that she would only have a minor role. According to Liv Tyler, The Strangers: Part II will be released in late 2014.

Film Facts: The script was originally titled "The Faces."

Bryan Bertino said the film was inspired by the infamous Charles Manson murders.

The Strangers masks. The Girl (left). Dollface (right).
Above is a Amazon link to the closest look we could find for The Strangers mask. The Strangers masks is not produced. The picture above is custom made prop replicas. You can make your own or purchase the Emo Girl Mask through Amazon. That's the only mask we could find that looks the closest.
Arguably based on the 1981 Keddie Resort murders in northern California, although this has not been substantiated by anyone connected with the movie, with the writer claiming it is based on a childhood experience.

According to director Bryan Bertino the film is partially based on an incident he experienced as a child. One evening, a stranger came to his door, asked for someone who wasn't there, and left. Later, Bertino found out that other homes in his neighborhood had been broken into that night.

Before filming any scene after The Strangers begin terrorizing the couple, Liv Tyler would have to run laps, do jumping jacks, and other physical activities to get her out of breath. This was so she would have the panicky feeling the real life characters would have been experiencing.

During filming, in order to get an actual reaction from Liv Tyler, Bryan Bertino would tell her where to expect a loud bang from, but would then have the loud noise come from a completely different direction.

The film was shot entirely with hand-held cameras or steady cams. Every shot has some camera movement.

Many theaters across the United States were sent faulty reels of the movie, containing sound problems, which made a few minutes to several scenes of the movie filled with nothing but static. Most movie-watchers didn't even realize the sound was a problem, since the dark overtone and loud background music at some areas make the static seem like part of the movie.

The film makers tried to design the house as one that "your brother could have lived in, that you could have grown up in" in order to make the audience feel more attached to the film. The movie was not shot inside of an actual house, the interior of the home was built on a sound stage.

The exterior shots of the house were filmed at an actual farm house. The film makers were surprised to discover the property had a barn, garage, a forest and a long enough road. The film was shot in chronological order.

The song "Mama Tried", which is heard several times during the film playing on the record player, is a 1968 hit by Merle Haggard and the Strangers.

The car crash sequence was filmed in three takes.

Originally scheduled for release in summer 2007. After 2 delays, it was released May 30, 2008.

Liv Tyler suffered from tonsillitis during shooting.

Liv Tyler is Aerosmith vocalist Steven Tyler's daughter.

Mark Romanek was originally slated to direct the film.

According to Bryan Bertino and Liv Tyler, the finale had much more interaction and dialog between the victims and the strangers in the original script. It was cut to keep the intruders mysterious and eerie.

There were two special prosthetic makeups for Glenn Howerton. One of them was for fresh kill (which took 3 hours in the make-up chair), when he was shot in the face by Scott Speedman, and the other was for 1-hour-later prosthetics.

I seem to be approaching nihilist films on a streak, viewing "The Virgin Spring" recently. The Strangers has a lot of that "philosophy" crammed in. I read comments claiming the film doesn't connect us to the characters, and is crammed of every cliché to be. Oh the irony. When we see horror films, being attached to characters is a repeated figure, a screenwriter's must. Bertino does good in creating the night horror without any development, no overbearing crudeness, playing suspense and psychological terror like piano keys.

This is the approach: the strangers attack because their victims "are at home", and they do not respond to pleas, long reasonings or emotions. It's nihilism pure: they kill because they find control and domination powerful, and they don't care about consequences, moral or of any other kind. In that optic, "The Strangers" is truly scary. We are not dealing with supernatural beings, but human beings, who chose the path of downright evil and can't be convinced of not doing it. People like that may be lurking out there, and that scares most of us viewers.

Amazon: The Strangers (Universal Studios) - $5.99 (DVD)
Amazon: The Strangers (Universal Studios) - $7.49 (BLU-RAY)

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Night of the Comet (1984, USA)

Directed by: Thom Eberhardt
Produced by: Andrew Lane, Wayne Crawford
Written by: Thom Eberhardt
Starring: Catherine Mary Stewart, Kelli Maroney, Robert Beltran
Music by: David Richard Campbell
Cinematography: Arthur Albert
Editing by: Fred Stafford
Production by: Thomas Coleman and Michael Rosenblatt Productions, Film Development Fund
Distributed by: Atlantic Releasing Corporation, CBS/FOX Video
Release dates: November 16, 1984
Running time: 95 min
Country: United States
Language: English
Budget: $3,000,000 (estimated)
Box office: $14,418,922 (USA)
Plot: Two pretty high school girls (one a cheerleader!) don't like their stepmother or her new boyfriend ("Daddy would have gotten us Uzis!"). One morning, they wake up to find that everybody in Los Angeles has been turned to dust by a Comet except them, a guy who looks like Erik Estrada, some zombies and the occupants of a secret underground government installation.

Info: Night of the Comet is a 1984 horror/science fiction film written and directed by Thom Eberhardt and starring Catherine Mary Stewart, Robert Beltran, and Kelli Maroney. The film was voted number 10 in Bloody Disgusting's Top 10 Doomsday Horror Films in 2009.

Night of the Comet was released on VHS cassette and CED Videodisc on August 30, 1985, and distributed by CBS/FOX Video. A second U.S. VHS printing, distributed by Goodtimes Video, was released on August 30, 1990. The film was officially released on Region 1 DVD on March 6, 2007, and on Region 2 DVD in the U.K. on January 18, 2010. Night of the Comet was released in a Collector's Edition on Blu-ray by Shout! Factory on November 19, 2013.

Rotten Tomatoes, a review aggregator, gave the film an 81% based on 26 critics reviews. Variety noted that Eberhardt "creates a visually arresting B-picture in the neon-primary colors of the cult hit Liquid Sky as well as pointing similarities with Five, The Day of the Triffids, The Omega Man, Dawn of the Dead and Last Woman on Earth. They concluded "a successful pastiche of numerous science fiction films, executed with an entertaining, tongue-in-cheek flair that compensates for its absence in originality."

Night of the Comet original 1984 trailer.

A soundtrack for the film was released on vinyl LP Record and Audio Cassette from Macola Records shortly after the movie was released. The soundtrack's "Learn to Love Again", a love duet performed by Amy Holland and Chris Farren, played in the final scene in the movie and in the closing credits. Other songs include "The Whole World is Celebratin'" (also performed by Chris Farren), "Lady in Love" by Revolver, "Strong Heart" by John Townsend, "Trouble" by Skip Adams, "Living on the Edge" by Jocko Marcellino, "Virgin in Love" by Thom Pace, and "Hard Act to Follow" by Diana DeWitt.

Film Facts: The original working title for the film was "Teenage Mutant Horror Comet Zombies". But, at the time Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comics was being produced. So, the company decided to change the title to Night of the Comet to keep from getting into legal issues.

When cheerleader Kelli Maroney (Samantha Belmont) is playing at the radio station as a disk jockey, she says that she is taking requests from "all you teenage mutant comet zombies". This was the working title of the film.

The production designer, John Muto, used what he describes a "comic book" sensibility for the film. Characters were given specific colors, with the bad guys in blues and grays and the girls in colors. Regina's colors were deeper than Sam's to reflect that Regina was more intellectual than Sam and that Sam was wackier than Regina. For example, Sam's cheerleading outfit is made in magenta and turquoise to make it really stand out.

Night of the Comet promotional/press photos. Photos by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images - © 2012 Getty Images

When her MAC-10 jams several times Sam says "See that's the problem with these things, Daddy would have gotten us UZI's" At the time the MAC-10 had an (undeserved) reputation in popular culture for jamming and the UZI had a (well deserved) reputation for reliability.

The LP that Sam tosses over her shoulder is the soundtrack to "Valley Girl", which would become, for a short time, one of the most sought-after albums of all time.

The comet passes over on Friday the 14th December 1984. When Regina is trying to convince Samantha that everyone is dead she says "It's Saturday, where are all the kids?" so the comet passed on Friday night. In the radio station the recording mentions that there are 11 more shopping days till Christmas. If they count the 24th as the last shopping day that means the comet passed on the 14th.

As Regina emerges from the movie theater the morning after the comet, a poster for Death Race 2000 (1975) can be seen on the theater door. Mary Woronov appears in both films.

One of the posters in the projection room of the theater is for the movie "Red Dust". Everyone that was exposed to the comet directly was turned into red dust.

Night of the Comet 1990 VHS distributed by Goodtimes Video.
At the start of the movie, Regina is upset because the player "DMK" has upset her perfect list of wins on the video game in the theater lobby. The car that almost runs over Samantha at the end of the movie is driven by Danny Mason Keener. "DMK" is his license plate.

The motorcycle featured is a 1972 650cc Triumph T120 Bonneville. The Triumph is the most sought for motorcycle by History Channel's American Pickers.

Kelli Maroney and Catherine Mary Stewart had both previously acted in soap operas on television.

Hector was originally supposed to have a major emotional breakdown when he went back to his family's house.

The scenes of an empty Los Angeles were shot on Christmas day. The film crew shot on Christmas day because not many people would be out; spending time and staying home with their families, leaving the streets empty.

The sequence at the department store was shot at night. It was shot at Sherman Oaks Galleria. Sherman Oaks Galleria is a shopping mall and business center located in the Sherman Oaks neighborhood of Los Angeles, California, United States, at the corner of Ventura and Sepulveda Boulevards in the San Fernando Valley.

Night of the Comet promotional/press photo. © Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Night of the Comet stars Kelli Maroney (who appeared in Chopping Mall). Chopping Mall (1986) was also filmed at Sherman Oaks Galleria.

The radio station set was built in an abandoned warehouse. Mary Woronov wrote all of her dialogue for her scene at the radio station with Robert Beltran.

Writer/director Thom Eberhardt's car can be seen at the stoplight in the montage of a desolate Los Angeles.

Thom Eberhardt while writing the script asked teenagers for their input on what they would do if they survived the end of the world.

The two police officers who are seen riding motorcycles in Samantha's nightmare were actually location cops who worked on the movie stopping traffic so filming can be done.

Catherine Mary Stewart did almost all of her own stunts except for riding the motorcycle through Los Angeles. The long shots of Stewart on the motorcycle is a stunt woman while the close-ups of Stewart were done by putting the motorcycle on top of a flatbed truck.

Kelli Maroney kept one of the two cheerleader outfits that she wore in this film.

Night of the Comet poster design by Madison Mathews.
The photos of Hector's family are actually pictures of various family members of writer/director Thom Eberhardt's wife.

Heather Langenkamp auditioned for the role of Samantha.

Chance Boyer, who plays little boy survivor Brian, is the real-life son of actress Sharon Farrell, who plays Doris in the film.

Ivan E. Roth pulled out a prop gun during his audition for the role of Willy.

Make-up artist David B. Miller had his first supervisor job on this film.

Robert Beltran initially turned down the role of Hector because he didn't want to play Hector as a typical 'Cholo' type.

Trapped in a hellish copyright limbo for over a decade, Thom Eberhardt's "Night of the Comet" is a film whose reputation is due for a serious rehabilitation. Generally--and wrongly--categorized with typical 80s teen horror films, "Comet" is in fact a smart, skillful parody of the low-budget sci-fi horror classics of the 50s, 60s and 70s--and a wry commentary on teen culture in the 1980s as well. For those familiar with the original films, the parody "clues" are all over the place--not least of which is that the early part of the film takes place in the back of LA's classically offbeat El Rey movie theatre, which is showing low-budget B horror movies. Most of the "scary" scenes are preceded (subtly or otherwise) by the famous "red light" warning used commonly in the 60s and 70s. And the apocalyptic plot, settings and dialog, especially among the scientists, are straight out of the 50s.

Night of the Comet art by Nathan Thomas Milliner. Shout! Factory Blu-ray art (right).
Catherine Mary Stewart is by far the centerpiece of the movie as Reggie, the only teenage girl in Los Angeles who's both a lowly-paid theatre usher and an expert with assault weapons. She is most definitely *not* a Valley Girl. A pre-"Voyager" Robert Beltran is Hector "date night in the barrio" Gomez, the classic b-movie hero, and far more engaging here than his stoic, dry-as-bones role for the McTrek franchise. Kelli Maroney brings the totally 80s camp value as Valley Girl Samantha, who realizes with horror that her pool of potential Izod-clad boyfriends has just shrunk dramatically. Geoffrey Lewis sheds his mostly Western image here as the deliciously megalomaniacal leader of the researchers, whose taste for superscience soon gives way to a craving for hot buttered gray matter.

Eberhardt is a canny director who doesn't miss a trick--the scares are rare, but when they come, they'll get you. The gore is minimal, but the atmosphere of malevolence gets progressively thicker until the climax. The tightrope between comedy and fright is skillfully toed--undead droog stockboys, anyone? The effects may not be the digitized visual pablum people take for granted these days, but in a way they're more engaging for their rawness. Anyone who thinks this was a low-budget movie has never tried to completely empty out downtown Los Angeles at 7 am for a film shoot. Thom Eberhardt should be hailed for his brilliantly sharp, funny script and his deft execution as director.

Veteran sci-fi/indie/horror actress Mary Woronov is "Night of the Comet"'s direct physical and spiritual link to the golden days of the genre. She's passing the baton here to a new generation of camp sci-fi/horror fans. That nobody has thus far picked up that baton is a tragedy.

To address a distressingly common misperception: the comet in question is *not* Halley's comet. Both in-film plot elements and the film's tagline suggest this comet only appeared once before, when it wiped out the dinosaurs. Halley's comet, on the other hand, has had more comebacks than Cher. "Night of the Comet" works pretty well the way a lot of people view it--as a simple 80s cheesy sci-fi comedy. But as with "Rocky Horror," if you've seen the original material it's spoofing, the results are a hundred times more rewarding.

The MGM / Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer DVD is becoming RARE and OOP (out of print). Get the Night of the Comet DVD while it's still IN STOCK.

Amazon: Night of the Comet (MGM / Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer) - $35.99 (DVD)
Amazon: Night of the Comet (Shout! / Scream Factory) - $20.35 (BLU-RAY)

Chopping Mall (aka Killbots) (1986, USA)

Directed by: Jim Wynorski
Produced by: Julie Corman
Written by: Jim Wynorski, Steve Mitchell
Starring: Kelli Maroney, Tony O'Dell, John Terlesky, Russell Todd, Karrie Emerson, Barbara Crampton, Suzee Slater, Nick Segal
Music by: Chuck Cirino
Cinematography: Tom Richmond
Editing by: Leslie Rosenthal
Distributed by: Concorde Pictures, Lightning Video, Vestron Video International
Release dates: March 21, 1986
Running time: 77 min, 95 min (original release)
Country: United States
Language: English
Budget: $800,000 (estimated)
Box office: Unknown
Plot: A group of teenagers that work at the mall all get together for a late night party in one of the stores. When the mall goes on lock down before they can get out, the robot security system activates after a malfunction and goes on a killing spree. One by one the three bots try to rid the mall of the "Intruders". The only weapons the kids can use are the supplies in other stores. Or... if they can make it till morning when the mall opens back up.

Info: Chopping Mall is an American horror/science fiction film, produced by Julie Corman and originally released on March 21, 1986 under the title Killbots. Lionsgate released the film twice on DVD; once in 2004 with special features including a featurette, commentary, still gallery and trailer, and in 2012 as part of an 8 horror film DVD set. Upon release, the movie did poorly at the box office. It did better when it was re-released as Chopping Mall. The film is based around killer security robots taking over a shopping mall and murdering teenage employees. The term killbot is never actually mentioned during the movie.

Jim Wynorski directed the movie and wrote it with Steve Mitchell. It was filmed mostly at Sherman Oaks Galleria, with occasional set shots (e.g., the paint store). The movie starred Kelli Maroney (who appeared in Night of the Comet and the daytime soap opera Ryan's Hope) and Tony O'Dell (from the TV series Head of the Class). Roger Corman and his wife, Julie, produced it. Paul Bartel and Mary Woronov share a cameo as their characters from Eating Raoul, Paul and Mary Bland.

There are at least two different versions of the movie. The TV cut has some extra footage, like a small homage to Attack of the Crab Monsters, extended scenes of Ferdy and Allison watching TV, some aerial shots, and an extension of one of the Ferdy/Allison scenes. This is one of those rare times when the TV edit has more than a few extra seconds of footage over the theatrical version, but no official source offers this version.

Chopping Mall original 1986 trailer.

On the DVD commentary tracks, Wynorski and Mitchell discussed many details of making the film, including an injury that the director suffered while helping prepare a stunt sequence, their unfriendly relationship with the Galleria's security chief (and friendly one with the mall's owner), the many beautiful women who were part of the cast, and ways that they dealt with having little time or money and finished their work on time.

Julie Corman wanted to make a film about a killer in a mall and Jim Wynorski agreed to write one cheaply if he could direct. Wynorski said he was inspired by the 1954 film Gog; he claims he never saw the 1974 TV movie Trapped which some believe inspired Chopping Mall.

Film Facts: The movie was originally theatrically released in March 1986 under its original title, "Killbots." It performed poorly during its initial release. The producers felt the movie's title might have disinterested audiences, who might think based on the original movie poster that it was a "Transformers"-like children's cartoon instead of a violent exploitation movie. After some time, the movie was re-released on video under its new title with over 15 minutes cut.

When the stunt crew was setting up a scene involving a character being thrown to his death from the third level of the mall, director Jim Wynorski volunteered to try the stunt himself as long as they set him up from the second level. He completed it successfully but found out he'd broken a rib in the process; Wynorski did not tell anyone he had gotten hurt and no one found about it during the remaining production time.

Chopping Mall 1986 VHS distributed by Lightning Video.
The horror movie that Allison (Kelli Maroney) and Ferdy (Tony O'Dell) are watching in the furniture store is Attack of the Crab Monsters (1957), another Roger Corman movie.

The book Gerrit Graham's character is reading is "They Came from Outer Space" which was edited by the film's director, Jim Wynorski. One of the stories in the collection is "The Racer" which was filmed as Death Race 2000 (1975) featuring Mary Woronov.

The film was allowed to shoot at a real California mall as long as they did not damage any facilities and had removed any traces of their presence before the mall opening time of 9AM. While the mall's head of security didn't like the filmmakers and was constantly accusing them of causing disrepair, the mall's owner was supportive of the film and made sure the production was able to complete its work on schedule.

Chopping Mall was filmed at Sherman Oaks Galleria. Sherman Oaks Galleria is a shopping mall and business center located in the Sherman Oaks neighborhood of Los Angeles, California, United States, at the corner of Ventura and Sepulveda Boulevards in the San Fernando Valley.

Chopping Mall stars Kelli Maroney (who appeared in Night of the Comet). Night of the Comet (1984) was also filmed at Sherman Oaks Galleria.

Originally theatrically released in March 1986 under Killbots. Later re-released as Chopping Mall.
The budget for the film was very limited (around $800,000 total) but the director had no problems with this, as he was happy to work on a Roger Corman film and knew beforehand that Corman always kept expenses to a minimum.

John Terlesky's character of Mike is seen chewing gum in all of his scenes. Kelli Maroney did most of her own stunts.

The Lost Empire (1985), is seen in the background of many shots in the restaurant.

The Killbot claws were made from plastic toy grippers adapted with electric solenoids.

Despite the iconic VHS cover and ad campaign, the mechanical claw seen gripping the bloody shopping bag never appears in the film. Similarly, there is only one actual mutilation in the film (the exploding head scene). The rest of the victims die either by having their throats slit, being electrocuted, set on fire, or falling to their deaths.

Director Jim Wynorski provided the voices of the three Protector robots.

The film's negative was tied up in legal limbo, so the Lion's Gate DVD edition of the film was mastered from a Lightning Video VHS master.

Killbots 1986 VHS distributed by Vestron Video International.
Cameo Dick Miller, the same character he played in A Bucket of Blood (1959), another Roger Corman production. Other cameos include: Mary Woronov, the same character she played in Eating Raoul (1982). Paul Bartel, the same character he played in Eating Raoul (1982).

Debra Blee was originally cast as Linda Stanton, but dropped out prior to the shooting of the film. Blee was subsequently replaced by Karrie Emerson.

The special effects crew actually built five remote controlled robots to serve as the Protector killbots. Three were required for the scenes of the robots together in the first half of the film, with two extras as backups in the event that the originals were damaged during any of the action sequences. In order to keep the robots looking realistic (as well as due to the film's budgetary constraints), they were constructed out of such items as wheelchair frames and pieces of conveyor belt. Excluding shooting laser beams, most of what the killbots are seen doing onscreen was the result of the effects crew operating them via remote control.

In this insignificant but nevertheless fun 80's low-budgeter, the sex-hungry teenagers for once aren't chased around by a killer wearing a ridiculous mask but by a troop of malfunctioning and heavily armed security robots! Four couples that work in various stores at the Park Plaza shopping mall secretly throw an after hours party during the same night when a lightening storm completely disorientates the 3 brand new "Protector" robots and get killed off one by one. "Chopping Mall" (how can you not love that title?) is a lot of fun to watch and it's easily Jim Wynorski's best effort out of more than 60 directed films.

Limited edition 180 gram colored vinyl of Chuck Cirino's score for the classic Jim Wynorski film Chopping Mall. This new vinyl reissue features audio remastered from the original tapes. Released in 2014 by Waxwork Records.
Despite the fact that "Chopping Mall" doesn't take itself too seriously and mainly focuses on satire, there really are some tense moments and properly mounted suspense sequences. The laser head-explosion sequence is famous and there are multiple other cheese-highlights. But what is perhaps the most surprising, are the engaging acting performances and the welcome amount of tasteful nudity. The most familiar cute face in the cast is Barbara Crampton who stars as a screaming beauty in between her two greatest films "Re-Animator" and "From Beyond". Truly ingenious are the endless references towards Roger Corman's repertoire, especially illustrated through cameos of Paul Bartel, Dick Miller and Mary Woronov. Unquestionably, "Chopping Mall" is a righteous guilty pleasure of many, many horror fans.
I never thought I would see this movie released on DVD. And if I did I would have guessed it would have been ultra bare bones. But I have to say, this release was pretty good. The movie itself is a fun, cheap 80's flick, with some better special effects than a normal movie of this caliber would have. The acting is decent. The script is campy, but fast paced enough. The characters are okay, and work well within the story, and the direction is actually pretty good, considering how cheap this movie was.
Watching this movie made me realize how different the B-Movie market was then. Now you get a movie with almost no style, and a lot of point and shoot direction. The movies now usually look like they were filmed in someone's back yard (and probably were), and had his neighbors do the acting. Then you had a movie that had decent direction, actual working actors, and some minor semblance of dignity. Over all the movie is an 7/10. It's pretty good, but needed a little work in the final act.
The disc for Chopping Mall is actually way better than the price, or cheap cover art would let on. For starters, the extras are actually decent, with an informative documentary on the making of the Killbots, which then goes in to the production on the film a bit. Why Lions Gate went and did this, I don't know, but I'm glad they did. It's a nice extra, which is informative. There is also a commentary, which I haven't listened to. But the fact that Lions Gate even bothered is a plus in there case. You also get the theatrical trailer to the film.
The picture for the disc, while somewhat soft, is very good. I mean, the movie is old, and the original prints are probably damaged, so the fact that the movie looks as good as it does is a major plus. It is full frame, but I don't think this movie was shot in Wide Screen, so nothing wrong there. The audio is very good, clear, and with almost no distortion or drop outs. It also is nice that the disc is about 14 dollars. A fairly cheap price for a very well made disc. I recommend the film, and even more now that the DVD is out, and turned out so well.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Cargo (2013, Australia)

Directed by: Ben Howling, Yolanda Ramke
Produced by: Ben Howling, Yolanda Ramke
Written by: Yolanda Ramke
Starring: Andy Rodoreda, Alison Gallagher, Ruth Venn
Music by: Helen Grimley
Cinematography: Daniel Foeldes
Editing by: Shannon Longville
Distributed by: Dreaming Tree Productions
Release dates: February 17, 2013 (Australia), May 23, 2014 (USA)
Running time: 7 min
Country: Australia
Language: English
Budget: Unknown
Box office: Unknown
Plot: Stranded in the midst of a zombie apocalypse, a man sets in motion an unlikely plan to protect the precious cargo he carries: his infant daughter.
Info: Who said you can’t try your damned hardest to be an amazing father during a zombie apocalypse? Here’s a superb short film, published on February 17, 2013, that became a finalist in Tropfest Australia 2013. The short is directed by Ben Howling and Yolanda Ramke, and produced by Ben Howling, Yolanda Ramke, Marcus Newman, and Daniel Foeldes. This team has formed a collective under the umbrella Dreaming Tree Productions.

We've seen angry zombies, extremely gory zombies, shuffling zombies and smart zombies. We think it's pretty safe, in fact, to say that the whole "zombie" thing has pretty much played itself out (although that probably won't stop it from shuffling along tiredly all the same). What we haven't seen a great deal of in zombies is poignancy and humanity. There's John Ajvide Lindqvist's Handling the Undead and perhaps Shaun of the Dead, just a little, at the end.

And now there's also Cargo, an Australian short film by Ben Howling and Yolanda Ramke. It's not about the scares and the gore (although there is a little bit of the latter). Instead, it takes a real human dilemma and puts it smack bang in the middle of a zombie apocalypse. Eschewing the exposition about how the apocalypse came about, it starts with our unnamed protagonist, who's been bitten, with a young child to somehow get to safety. His solution is both ingenious and heartbreaking, elevating zombie fiction in a way we always hoped was possible.

Above is the full Youtube video for Cargo. Keep in mind it is a 7 minute short film. Cargo is a brilliant and beautiful. My only complaint: I wished it didn't ended. I hope they turn it into a full length feature.

Cargo premiered in 2013 at the Tropfest Film Festival in Australia. Surprisingly, it didn't win any awards at the festival. Even though it deserved first place. But, Cargo was nominated for 'Best Editing in a Short Film'. Director Nicholas Clifford walked away as the winner of Tropfest 2013 for his short film We’ve All Been There.

It’s a phenomenon that didn’t really exist before the internet: going viral. The term has come to mean quite a few things and can be applied to all sorts of different scenarios, but in this case, we’re talking about a video that is seen by millions of people in a relatively short amount of time — a near impossibility for the average person just a decade ago. Ben Howling had this exact situation happen to him about a month ago, when the movie he co-directed with Yolanda Ramke for the Australian Tropfest Film Festival was considered a finalist and then posted online, going viral long after. It has now been viewed over 2.7 million times in just a matter of weeks.

Here's a discussion with director Ben Howling about the production and how the sudden success of the film caught the filmmakers off-guard: It was shot on Red One MX, with Zeiss CP2s. Was mostly handheld, with some Steadicam. Pre-production was messy, because Yolanda (Writer/Co-Director) and I were working interstate at the time, whilst our producer and DOP (also a producer) were doing the ground work and recces to help find locations. Landing Andy Rodoreda was a big coup for us, because he’s had some leading feature roles over here, and we didn’t think he’d be interested in a little short film concept.

When we contacted his agent, he informed us that Andy had recently stepped away from acting, but he was happy to pass on the script – and from there, Andy liked the script, and the rest was history. Everything was sorted via emails and drop box. Yolanda and I were back in Sydney 3 days before shooting. We shot it over the course of a weekend, had 2 weeks for post, which was made even tighter because it was around Christmas time, so people were flat out with end of year deadlines, and going away for Christmas. Our Composer was actually working on Christmas day for us!

From there, we entered it into Tropfest, were listed as a Finalist, had a great time but ultimately didn’t place on the night. Since then, we’ve submitted to other festivals, and been invited to screen at others. But then, out of nowhere, Cargo was picked up and screened on Buzzfeed and, and the video took on a life of its own from there. Part of the T’s and C’s with Tropfest is that they own the rights to distribute the film as they see fit, so they put all finalists online. Ideally, if you’re submitting to other festivals, you don’t want that, but in this case, it’s worked out well for us and garnered more exposure than we would have had hope for on the festival circuit.

After the film was picked up by a number of different outlets online, it blew up. The response to Cargo has been overwhelming, to say the least. We’ve had people from major agencies and studios in the USA and UK reach out to us, and off the back of that we’re now organizing a trip to LA to meet with them. Moving forward, we’re currently developing our next short film with plans to go into production later this year, and we have a slate of feature concepts which we are also developing, with the intent to make our feature debut in the near future.

His advice to anyone releasing a film: For anyone else who is planning to release a short film in the near future, my advice would be to be prepared. Have your next project ready to go, so that if it were to start gaining viral traction, you can capitalize; whether that’s via talks with agencies and studios, or launching a kick starter campaign to fund the next project.

I think his last point is something everyone should keep in mind. You never really know if a movie you’re making will find its way onto millions of screens, so having a few projects ready to go isn’t a bad idea. I know for film festivals, if you catch the eye of a producer or agent, it can help to have other material prepared (like scripts) or at least an outline of a number of different movie ideas. Even if you release a short and it doesn’t go viral, having a strategy for getting the movie out there and getting it seen by as many people as possible is important if you want to take advantage of any possible exposure.

Editors note: I was watching a documentary on Netflix the other night called Doc of the Dead. It was actually a very good documentary, covering almost everything zombies. Not to be confused with the George Romero documentary, Document of the Dead. But, it was showing clips of different zombie movies. Most I recognized right away. Then it showed this clip that caught my attention titled Cargo. I was so impressed by the clip I decided to research it further. Come to find out Cargo was a short film that was made in 2013. This 7 minute short film made in Australia blew me away. Cargo was a Tropfest Australia 2013 Finalist. Cargo received a 7.7/10 rating at IMDb. The only complaint I had I wished it didn't ended and hope they turn this into a full movie. Cargo is beautiful and brilliant.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Distortions Unlimited: Die Zombie Die! Prop (2013)

I often get asked 'what's my most favorite item in the shop?' Well, to be honest I've got a lot of favorite items. Here lately I've been really into the props. Go figure, that is some of the most expensive items we have. But, I don't know what it is about them that attracts me. Is it their lifelike size? Is it because they are so detailed?

Currently at the shop, we have several props in stock. Including a life size Hellraiser Pinhead, Teddy Bear Girl Walker from AMC The Walking Dead and a couple of zombies. One of the props I like the most is a prop called 'Die Zombie Die!'. We got this prop in last year.

This prop is just absolutely amazing. A must see in person. Stands at almost 4 feet tall. Reminds me of a famous walker off The Walking Dead that goes by the name 'Bicycle Girl Zombie'.

Distortions Unlimited, featured on the hit TV series 'Making Monsters' (Travel Channel) made this amazing prop. The prop is also signed on back by Distortions Unlimited. This is a must for the die-hard collector! Distortions Unlimited is one of the premier Halloween Animatronics manufacturers in the industry. Featuring a huge selection of various Halloween Animatronics and Halloween Props, Distortions Unlimited has something for everybody, from low-budget home haunts to high-end professional Haunted Houses. Their work is top notch. They are considered the best in props.

Distortions Unlimited, known in the world of animatronics and mask makers as innovators with their impeccable design and execution. Ed Edmunds, the founder and co-owner of Distortions Unlimited Corporation, specializes in building animatronic monsters, creatures, zombies and aliens. Edmunds also constructs props, masks, set designs and haunted houses that have changed the industry across America. In Making Monsters, Edmunds and his team create some of most realistic and frightening masterpieces for events and tradeshows.

Edmunds’ fascination with popular sci-fi flicks and television began when he was a teenager living in rural Illinois. He studied Art Education at the University of Northern Colorado, and he used his artistic abilities to make and sell high-quality masks which eventually led to the creation of his company. He currently resides in Greeley, CO, with wife and co-owner of Distortions Unlimited, Marsha Taub-Edmunds.

Martha began working for Ed Edmunds in 1981 while working on her Teaching Certification in Biology at the University of Northern Colorado. She became intrigued by the creations of this booming local business and took it upon herself to learn the business, inside and out. Marsha and Ed connected through their shared artistic passion and wed in 1992; they have been running Distortions Unlimited as a team ever since. Together, the couple has spurred a revolution in America’s haunted house industry.

World-renowned designer and sculptor, Jordu Schell, assists Ed Edmunds and his Distortions Unlimited crew with sculpting their unbelievable monsters. Although Schell lives in Hollywood, he has become a dear friend and colleague of Edmunds over the years and often travels to Greeley, CO, to contribute to the Distortions Unlimited creations.
Schell became infatuated with Ed Edmunds at the age of 14 when he came across a Distortions mask at his local Halloween store. From that moment on, he knew he wanted to make monsters. Schell’s creativity led him to Hollywood, where he has contributed to award-winning films including Avatar, 300, Men in Black and Batman Returns. Schell also teaches sculpting and design at his studio, Schell Sculpture Studio, in Chatsworth, CA.
The Die Zombie Die! Prop is also signed on back by Distortions Unlimited.

There is also a animated version of this prop. The animated zombie shakes, twitches and moans in pain but just won't die! Foam-filled body with metal armature and heavy duty motor. All electric. Soundtrack CD is included. You provide CD player. But, the downfall is it's more expensive. We have the regular version in stock at our shop. But, you can order the regular or animated version at Amazon.

Amazon: Die Zombie Die! Prop (Distortions Unlimited) - $232.95 (REGULAR)
Amazon: Die Zombie Die! Prop (Distortions Unlimited) - $332.95 (ANIMATED)

Photo credits: Little Shop of Horrors (London, KY)

Nightmare Factory: Dug Up Afterlife Prop (2007)

Here's another cool prop we have in stock at our shop. This prop is called 'Dug Up Afterlife'. We have had this one for a couple of years. Surprisingly, no one has purchased this prop. Which I sort of hope they don't, so I can keep it for myself. I really dig this one. I love zombies.

Seasonal Visions International's Nightmare Factory produced this prop. Sculpted by talented Mario Chiodo. This prop was produced in 2007. It is discontinued, no longer made. Good luck finding it online. I've searched all the Halloween shops, Amazon and Ebay. It was listed sold out or no longer available. There was only one listing on Ebay. It costed a arm and a leg, literally.

But, lucky for you. We have one in stock. Before anyone asks. Sorry, at the moment we don't do online ordering. We only sell out of our shop. We are a affiliate with the trusted online retailer Amazon. Unfortunately, this prop is not listed on Amazon. For more information about our shop read this post: ABOUT US.

Nightmare Factory: Dug Up Afterlife Prop - $139.99 (IN STORE ONLY)

The Exorcist (1973, USA)

Directed by: William Friedkin
Produced by: William Peter Blatty
Screenplay by: William Peter Blatty
Based on: The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty
Starring: Linda Blair, Ellen Burstyn, Max von Sydow, Lee J. Cobb, Kitty Winn, Jack MacGowran, Jason Miller, Mercedes McCambridge
Music by: Jack Nitzsche (additional)
Cinematography: Owen Roizman
Editing by: Norman Gay, Jordan Leondopoulos, Evan A. Lottman, Bud S. Smith
Distributed by: Warner Bros.
Release dates: December 26, 1973
Running time: 122 min, 132 min (Director's cut)
Country: United States
Language: English
Budget: $12 million
Box office: $441,071,011
Plot: A visiting actress in Washington, D.C., notices dramatic and dangerous changes in the behavior and physical make-up of her 12-year-old daughter. Meanwhile, a young priest at nearby Georgetown University begins to doubt his faith while dealing with his mother's terminal sickness. And, book-ending the story, a frail, elderly priest recognizes the necessity for a show-down with an old demonic enemy.

Info: The Exorcist is a 1973 American supernatural horror film directed by William Friedkin, adapted by William Peter Blatty from his 1971 novel of the same name. The book, inspired by the 1949 exorcism case of Roland Doe, deals with the demonic possession of a 12-year-old girl and her mother's desperate attempts to win back her child through an exorcism conducted by two priests.

The film features Linda Blair, Ellen Burstyn, Max von Sydow, Jason Miller, Lee J. Cobb, and (in voice only) Mercedes McCambridge. It is one of a cycle of "demonic child" films produced from the late 1960s to the mid-1970s, including Rosemary's Baby and The Omen.

The Exorcist was released theatrically in the United States by Warner Bros. on December 26, 1973. The film earned 10 Academy Award nominations, winning two (Best Sound Mixing and Best Adapted Screenplay), and losing Best Picture to The Sting. It became one of the highest-grossing films of all time, grossing over $441 million worldwide. It is also the first horror film to be nominated for Best Picture.

The Exorcist original 1973 trailer.

The original teaser trailer, which consisted of nothing but images of the white-faced demon quickly flashing in and out of darkness, was banned in many theaters, as it was deemed "too frightening".

The film has had a significant influence on popular culture. It was named the scariest film of all time by Entertainment Weekly and and by viewers of AMC in 2006, and was No. 3 on Bravo's The 100 Scariest Movie Moments. In 2010, the Library of Congress selected the film to be preserved as part of its National Film Registry. In 2003, it was placed at No. 2 in Channel 4's The 100 Greatest Scary Moments in the United Kingdom.

Aspects of the novel were inspired by an exorcism performed on a young boy from Cottage City, Maryland, in 1949 by the Jesuit priest, Fr. William S. Bowdern, who formerly taught at both St. Louis University and St. Louis University High School. Hunkeler's Catholic family was convinced the child's aggressive behavior was attributable to demonic possession, and called upon the services of Father Walter Halloran to perform the rite of exorcism.

Although Friedkin admits he is very reluctant to speak about the factual aspects of the film, he made the film with the intention of immortalizing the events that took place in Cottage City, Maryland in 1949, and despite the relatively minor changes that were made, the film depicts everything that could be verified by those involved. It was one of three exorcisms to be sanctioned by the Catholic Church in the U.S. at that time.

 The Exorcist 1973 VHS distributed by Warner Home Video.

In order to make the film, Friedkin was allowed access to the diaries of the priests involved, as well as the doctors and nurses; he also discussed the events with the boy's aunt in great detail. Friedkin doesn't believe that the "head-spinning" actually occurred, but this has been disputed. Friedkin is not a Christian of any denomination.

Although the agency representing Linda Blair did not send her for the role, Blair's mother brought her to meet with Warner Brothers's casting department and then with Friedkin. Pamelyn Ferdin, a veteran of science fiction and supernatural drama, was a candidate for the role of Regan. April Winchell was considered, until she developed Pyelonephritis, which caused her to be hospitalized and ultimately taken out of consideration. Denise Nickerson, who played Violet Beauregarde in Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, was considered, but the material troubled her parents too much, and they pulled her out of consideration. Anissa Jones, known for her role as Buffy in Family Affair, auditioned for the role, but she too was rejected, for much the same reason as Ferdin. The part went instead to Blair, a relative unknown except for a role in The Way We Live Now.

Friedkin originally intended to use Blair's voice, electronically deepened and roughened, for the demon's dialogue. Although Friedkin felt this worked fine in some places, he felt scenes with the demon confronting the two priests lacked the dramatic power required and selected legendary radio actress Mercedes McCambridge, an experienced voice actress, to provide the demon's voice. After filming, Warner Brothers attempted to conceal McCambridge's participation, which led to a lawsuit from McCambridge and opened a grudge between her and Friedkin.

The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty. 1971 hardback 1st edition (left) and 1974 paperback (right).

The studio wanted Marlon Brando for the role of Father Lankester Merrin. Friedkin immediately vetoed this by stating it would become a "Brando movie." Jack Nicholson was up for the part of Karras before Stacy Keach was hired by Blatty. Friedkin then spotted Miller following a performance of Miller's play That Championship Season in New York. Even though Miller had never acted in a film, Keach's contract was bought out by Warner Brothers, and Miller was signed. Jane Fonda, Audrey Hepburn and Anne Bancroft were under consideration for the role of Chris. Ellen Burstyn received the part after she phoned Friedkin and emphatically stated she was going to play Chris.

Warner had approached Arthur Penn (who was teaching at Yale), Peter Bogdanovich (who wanted to pursue other projects, subsequently regretting the decision), and Mike Nichols (who did not want to shoot a film so dependent on a child's performance) and John Boorman—who would direct the second film—said he did not want to direct it because it was "cruel towards children". Originally Mark Rydell was hired to direct, but William Peter Blatty insisted on Friedkin instead, because he wanted his film to have the same energy as Friedkin's previous film, The French Connection. After a standoff with the studio, which initially refused to budge over Rydell, Blatty eventually got his way. Stanley Kubrick was offered the film (and later on its first sequel) but declined. Production of The Exorcist began on August 14, 1972, and though it was only supposed to last 85 days, it lasted for 224.

Friedkin went to some extraordinary lengths, reminiscent of some directors from the old Hollywood directing style, manipulating the actors, to get the genuine reactions he wanted. Yanked violently around in harnesses, both Blair and Burstyn suffered back injuries and their painful screams went right into the film. Burstyn injured her back after landing on her coccyx when a stuntman jerked her via cable during the scene when Regan slaps her mother. According to the documentary Fear of God: The Making of the Exorcist, however, the injury did not cause permanent damage, although Burstyn was upset the shot of her screaming in pain was used in the film.

The Exorcist on the cover of HorrorHound and Fangoria magazine.
After asking Reverend William O'Malley if he trusted him and being told yes, Friedkin slapped him hard across the face before a take to generate a deeply solemn reaction that was used in the film, as a very emotional Father Dyer read last rites to Father Karras; this offended the many Catholic crew members on the set. He also fired a gun without warning on the set to elicit shock from Jason Miller for a take, and only told Miller that pea soup would hit him in the chest rather than the face concerning the projectile-vomiting scene, resulting in his disgusted reaction. Lastly, he had Regan's bedroom set built inside a freezer so that the actors' breath could be visible on camera, which required the crew to wear parkas and other cold-weather gear.

The film's opening sequence was filmed in the Iraqi town of Sinjar, near the Syrian border. The people of Sinjar are mostly Kurdish members of the ancient Yezidi sect, which reveres Melek Taus. Outsiders often equate Melek Taus with the Devil, though this benevolent being has little in common with the Islamic and Christian Satan. The archaeological dig site seen at the film's beginning is the actual site of ancient Hatra in Nineveh Province.

The "Exorcist steps", stone steps at the end of M Street in Georgetown, Washington, D.C. were padded with 1/2"-thick rubber to film the death of Karras. The stuntman tumbled down the stairs twice. Georgetown University students charged people around $5 each to watch the stunt from the rooftops.

The MacNeil residence interiors were filmed at CECO Studios in Manhattan. The bedroom set had to be refrigerated to capture the authentic icy breath of the actors in the exorcizing scenes, while the bedroom scenes along with many other scenes were filmed in the basement of Fordham University in New York. The temperature was brought so low that a thin layer of snow fell onto the set one morning. Blair, who was only in a thin nightgown, says to this day she cannot stand being cold. Exteriors of the MacNeill house were filmed at 36th and Prospect in Washington, using a family home and a false wall to convey the home's thrust toward the steps. In fact, both then and now, a garden sits atop the embankment between the steps and the home.

Curtis Reynolds's The Exorcist leg tattoo. Tattoo by Clint Lewis R.I.P. 1973-2012 (London, KY).

The scenes involving Regan's medical tests were filmed at New York University Medical Center and were performed by actual medical staff which normally carry out the procedures shown. In the film Regan first undergoes an early type of cerebral angiography, then (when the results come back negative) a pneumoencephalography – two painful diagnostic tests nowadays obsoleted by far less invasive neuroimaging studies using modern CT or MRI scanners. As was the common practice in those days, the angiography was performed by direct puncture of the carotid artery resulting in blood squirting that caused some movie viewers to faint. The follow-on procedure, pneumoencephalography, though routinely performed through the 1970s, was very taxing on patients and sometimes required months of recuperation. In the film Regan is shown to be in great distress while undergoing it, as actual patients often were. Consequently, Chris MacNeil experiences a breakdown when the doctors suggest it be attempted as the other tests failed to locate a brain lesion they are certain would be found.

The interior of Karras' room at Georgetown was a meticulous reconstruction of Theology professor Father Thomas M. King, S.J.'s "corridor Jesuit" room in New North Hall. Fr. King's room was photographed by production staff after a visit by Blatty, a Georgetown graduate, and Friedkin. Upon returning to New York, every element of King's room, including posters and books, was recreated for the set, including a poster of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, S.J., a paleontologist on whom the character of Fr. Merrin was loosely based. Georgetown was paid $1,000 per day of filming, which included both exteriors, such as Burstyn's first scene, shot on the steps of the Flemish Romanesque Healy Hall, and interiors, such as the defilement of the statue of the Virgin Mary in Dahlgren Chapel, or the Archbishop's office, which is actually the office of the president of the university. One scene was filmed in The Tombs, a student hangout across from the steps that was founded by a Blatty classmate. The motion picture St. Elmo's Fire includes scenes filmed at The Tombs.

The Exorcist 'Regan Possessed' deluxe box set (left) and 'Regan (Spider-Walk)' action figure (right) by NECA.

Amazon: The Exorcist 'Regan (Spider-Walk)' Fig.

The Exorcist contained a number of special effects, engineered by makeup artist Dick Smith. In one scene from the film, Max von Sydow is actually wearing more makeup than the possessed girl (Linda Blair). This was because director Friedkin wanted some very detailed facial close-ups. When this film was made, von Sydow was 44, though he was made up to look 74. Alan McKenzie stated in his book Hollywood Tricks of the Trade that the fact "that audiences didn't realize von Sydow was wearing makeup at all is a tribute to the skills of veteran makeup artist Dick Smith."

Contortionist Linda R. Hager performed the infamous spider-walk scene on April 11, 1973. Director Friedkin deleted this scene just prior to the December 26, 1973 premiere because it was technically ineffective due to the visible wires suspending Hager in a backward-arched position as she descends the stairs. According to Friedkin, "I cut it when the film was first released because this was one of those effects that did not work as well as others, and I was only able to save it for the re-release with the help of computer graphic imagery." Additionally, Friedkin considered that the spider-walk scene appeared too early in the film's plot and removed it despite screenplay writer William Peter Blatty's request that the scene remain. In the book, the spider-walk is very quiet, and consists of Regan following Sharon around and occasionally licking her ankle.

In 1998, Warner re-released the digitally remastered DVD of The Exorcist: 25th Anniversary Special Edition. The DVD includes the BBC documentary, The Fear of God: The Making of The Exorcist, highlighting the never-before-seen original non-bloody variant of the spider-walk scene. To appease the screenwriter and some fans of The Exorcist, Friedkin worked with CGI artists to digitally remove the wires holding Hager. The director reinstated the bloody variant of the spider-walk scene for the 2000 theatrically re-released version of The Exorcist: The Version You've Never Seen. In October 2010, Warner released The Exorcist (Extended Director's Cut & Original Theatrical Edition) on Blu-ray, including the behind-the-scenes filming of the spider-walk scene.

 The Exorcist 1973 premier at the Rendevous Jewelbox Theatre in Seattle, WA.
The film earned $66.3 million in distributors' domestic (US/CAN) rentals during its theatrical release in 1974, becoming the second most popular film of that year (trailing The Sting). After several reissues, the film eventually grossed $232,671,011 in North America, which if adjusted for inflation, would be the ninth highest-grossing film of all time and the top-grossing R-rated film of all time. To date, it has a total gross of $441,071,011 worldwide.

Roger Ebert, while praising the film, believed the special effects to be so unusually graphic he wrote, "That it received an R rating and not the X is stupefying." Theaters provided "Exorcist barf bags".

The Exorcist was also at the center of controversy due to its alleged use of subliminal imagery. Wilson Bryan Key wrote a whole chapter on the film in his book Media Sexploitation alleging multiple uses of subliminal and semi-subliminal imagery and sound effects. Key observed the use of the Pazuzu face (in which Key mistakenly assumed it was Jason Miller made up in a death mask makeup) and claimed that the safety padding on the bedposts were shaped to cast phallic shadows on the wall and that a skull face is superimposed into one of Father Merrin's breath clouds.

Key also wrote much about the sound design, identifying the use of pig squeals, for instance, and elaborating on his opinion of the subliminal intent of it all. A detailed article in the July/August 1991 issue of Video Watchdog examined the phenomenon, providing still frames identifying several usages of subliminal "flashing" throughout the film. In an interview from the same issue, Friedkin explained, "I saw subliminal cuts in a number of films before I ever put them in The Exorcist, and I thought it was a very effective storytelling device... The subliminal editing in The Exorcist was done for dramatic effect—to create, achieve, and sustain a kind of dreamlike state."

In August of 1973, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that obscene content was not protected by the First Amendment of the Constitution and went on to define obscenity. This ruling gave states more power to bring cases against what the community felt was "obscene." After the film's release in December of 1973, a case was brought against film distributors in Boston siting a new obscenity ruling; the case sought to ban The Exorcist in Boston. Although the judge's ruling stated that "it does not meet the guidelines of obscenity as laid down by the United States Supreme Court" and the case was dismissed, the field was open for additional lawsuits. Soon after, the Division of Film and Broadcasting for the U.S. Catholic Conference rated the film A-IV, morally objectionable. They condemned the MPAA for giving the film an 'R' rating. Finally, in Washington DC, community action achieved a success.

On New Year's Day of 1974, the U.S. District Attorney's Office ruled to ban the film's ticket sales to anyone under 17 and warned theaters that arrests would be made for any violations of this ban. Luckily for the film, produced by the author William Blatty, the 'R' rating stuck and The Exorcist became one of most talked-about films and biggest money maker in film history.

The religious nature of the film was also very divisive, and a release date one day after Christmas heightened reactions. Billy Graham claimed that the film itself was possessed, while the Catholic Church called the film “deeply spiritual.” Religious controversy is always fodder for the media, and Walter Cronkite devoted 10 minutes of his nightly news broadcast to covering the reception to the film. This is another example of how the film changed cinema and how movies are promoted: The Exorcist became a cultural phenomenon that people were eager to experience so they could join the conversation about, and Hollywood studios learned that controversy was something to embrace rather than run from.

The enduring legacy of The Exorcist is that audiences want to be terrified, and that filmmakers can achieve spectacular results when they step away from the safety of the tried and true. Horror films have become the testing ground for new ideas, often taking cinema in completely different directions. Without the success of The Exorcist, studio executives may not have been willing to back the wide release of The Blair Witch Project in 1999. That film went on to turn a $25,000 production budget into a $248 million box office return and pioneer the new found footage genre.

The Exorcist promotional press photo. Linda Blair was 13 years old when The Exorcist was filmed.
However, these quick, scary flashes have been labeled "[not] truly subliminal" and "quasi-" or "semi-subliminal". True subliminal imagery must be, by definition, below the threshold of awareness. In an interview in a 1999 book about the film, The Exorcist author Blatty addressed the controversy by explaining that, "There are no subliminal images. If you can see it, it's not subliminal."

The Exorcist was nominated for ten total Academy Awards in 1973, winning two. It is the first horror film to be nominated for Best Picture. At the 46th Annual Academy Awards ceremony, the film won two statuettes.

Film Facts: Due to death threats against Linda Blair from religious zealots who believed the film "glorified Satan", Warner Bros. had bodyguards protecting her for six months after the film's release.

Father Dyer is played by William O'Malley, an actual priest who still teaches to this day at Fordham University.

On the first day of filming the exorcism sequence, Linda Blair's delivery of her foul-mouthed dialogue so disturbed the gentlemanly Max von Sydow that he actually forgot his lines.

Upon its initial theatrical release the film affected many audiences so strongly that at many theaters, paramedics were called to treat people who fainted and others who went into hysterics.

The Exorcist promotional press photo. The infamous levitation scene.
In A Decade Under the Influence (2003), William Friedkin talks about the original poster that the studio created for the film. It was a drawing of Regan's hand holding the bloody crucifix that she masturbates with. The original tag line was "God help this girl". Friedkin rejected the poster, stating that the word "God" should not be used in a movie tag line.

One of the most famous scenes in the movie and the shot used for the posters and the cover of the DVD/VHS releases was inspired by the 1954 painting "Empire of Light" ("L'Empire des lumières") by René Magritte. It is the scene where Fr. Merrin steps out of a cab and stands in front of the MacNeil residence bathed in an eerie glow.

In the scene in the language lab, a white banner is visible with the following letters TASUKETE written in red. TASUKETE means "Help me" in Japanese.

Director William Friedkin eventually asked technical advisor Thomas Bermingham to exorcise the set. He refused, saying an exorcism might increase anxiety. Rev. Bermingham wound up visiting the set and gave a blessing and talk to reassure the cast and crew.

There are tales about ominous events surrounding the year-long shoot, including the deaths of nine people associated with the production and stories about a mysterious fire that destroyed the set one weekend. Actors Jack MacGowran and Vasiliki Maliaros died before the film was released.

Author William Peter Blatty once won $10,000 on the Groucho Marx show You Bet Your Life (1950). When Groucho asked what he planned to do with the money, he said he planned to take some time off to "work on a novel." This was the result.

Turning Linda Blair into 'Possessed' Regan. Before and after makeup.

Ever since Thomas Edison Studios produced the first Frankenstein film in 1910, movie makeup artists have been shaping the faces of Hollywood monsters. As one of the grand masters of this bizarre art, Dick Smith has thrilled audiences and inspired colleagues with his innovative makeup techniques for more than half a century. Recently turned 85 and retired in Connecticut, Smith has had a career as legendary as the work he created.
Richard Emerson "Dick" Smith (born June 26, 1922) is an American special effects make-up artist (nicknamed "The Godfather of Make-Up") known for his work on such films as Little Big Man, The Godfather, The Exorcist, Taxi Driver, and Scanners. He won a 1985 Academy Award for Makeup for his work on Amadeus and a 2012 Honorary Academy Award for his career's work.
"'The Exorcist' was really a turning point for makeup special effects," Baker says. "Dick showed that makeup wasn't just about making people look scary or old, but had many applications. He figured out a way to make the welts swell up on Linda's stomach, to make her head spin around, and he created the vomit scenes."
According to William Peter Blatty, Warner Bros. wanted to change the title of the film after taking a survey which found none of the participants knew what an exorcist was.

A filmgoer who saw the movie in 1974 during its original release fainted and broke his jaw on the seat in front of him. He then sued Warner Brothers and the filmmakers, claiming that the use of subliminal imagery in the film had caused him to pass out. The studio settled out of court for an undisclosed sum.

Ellen Burstyn agreed to doing the movie only if her character didn't have to say the scripted line: "I believe in the devil!" The producers agreed to eliminate the utterance.

The Exorcist behind the scenes photo. Linda Blair in makeup.
When originally released in the UK a number of town councils imposed a complete ban on the showing of the film. This led to the bizarre spectacle of "Exorcist Bus Trips" where enterprising travel companies organized buses to take groups to the nearest town where the film was showing.
During the scene where Father Karras visits Chris MacNeil as she's ironing, the infamous Ivory Snow box featuring porn star Marilyn Chambers can be clearly seen in the background.
Christian evangelist Billy Graham claimed an actual demon was living in the celluloid reels of this movie.
William O'Malley refers to this movie to students as the "pornographic horror film" he once did.
Upon its 1973 release in the Middle East, the film was shown only in Lebanon while in the rest of the Middle East, the film was banned. On its re release, the film got banned throughout the whole Middle East including Lebanon.
To entertain and distract Linda Blair during the long makeup process she had to sit through, the crew set up a television near her makeup chair so she could watch The Beverly Hillbillies (1962).
The entire exorcism scene, from start to end, lasts 9 minutes. The sound of the demon leaving Regan's body is actually the sound of pigs being herded for slaughter.