ON VACATION

I am on vacation right now but will be back in about 1 1/2 weeks. In the immortal words of the Terminator ‘I’ll be back’.

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How I Snuck Onto The Set Of Terminator 2

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A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away I lived in a suburb of San Francisco called Fremont. Fremont was a typical suburb; there was nothing to do. In order to do something more exciting than hanging out in the local mall you either had to have a car or pay a lot of money to take BART, which is a commuter train type system. When something exciting actually happens the word gets around pretty fast because almost nothing ever happened there. So, when word got out that a film crew were filming some scenes for the then upcoming Terminator 2 people got excited. I was a huge Terminator fan so this was a huge deal for me!

Among the large web of people who I knew back then there was a sort of bet going around. Actually, not so much of a bet rather than bragging rights. How far could you get on the set of the film without being caught. Well, like the bored older teenager that I was I decided to see if I too could get on the set. It was me, a girl named Tiffany and a guy whose name I have forgotten who decided to drive to the set and see what was going on.

The scenes that were filmed in Fremont involved the headquarters of the evil company Cyberdyne. James Cameron and his crew had set up shop in an industrial area in southern Fremont and actually used a real building to film the scenes.  From what I remember it was a newly built area so all of the office buildings looked all modern and nice. Contrary to what some people say it was NOT a fake building built for the film. What they did was lease a building, build an extra story onto it, set that top story on fire and had a bunch of explosions coming out of it. Also, the scenes in the lobby of Cyberdyne were actually filmed on a set that was located in the bottom story of the building.

When my friends and I arrived there you could see a large group of people milling about watching the set. Some people had brought lawn chairs and coolers. I told you, Fremont was really boring. They had everybody behind some yellow tape and beyond a small little grass hill in the parking lot. There were fake cop cars parked at strange angles in front of the building and a helicopter that was just sitting there. Since there were too many people in that area to be able to try to sneak past the security tape we decided to go to the back of the set and see if there was a way in. We drove to the back of the complex, parked and started walking slowly towards some security tape. Surprisingly there wasn’t anybody guarding the rear of the set, so we very easily went under the tape. Since we were scared of being caught we would run from shadow to shadow like we were in a film. Looking back at that it seems very silly, but we were on a mission by golly!

How far did we get? I don’t know if it was dumb luck but I remember getting to the point where we were in parking lot alley of sorts that ran along the side of the Cyberdyne building and we could see the cop cars from the opposite side of where the other people were. For some reason I also distinctly remember seeing a very large wind fan.  At that point we all kind of freaked out and left the way we came. At the time I worked at a famous video tape chain, and I learned the next day that Arnold Schwarzenegger had come into my store while I wasn’t there. What the fuck, right? This was about the most exciting thing that happened to me in 1990, more fun then seeing MC Hammer’s dancers going to the mall. No, seriously, MC Hammer had a huge house in Fremont. I don’t know why he did either, so don’t bother asking. The ‘Cyberdyne’ building became kind of a hangout spot after filming was finished and I went there several times to breath in the atmosphere. Yes, I was that much of a film nerd even back then.

Review: Sound Of My Voice

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I knew absolutely nothing about Sound Of My Voice going into watching it so I was very pleased to find myself really enjoying it. It’s all about a couple who are documentary filmmakers who go undercover to join a cult. The cult is headed by a mysterious woman named Maggie who claims to be from the future and the couple want to expose her as a fraud because they think that she is going to end up having all the members commit suicide.

Sound Of My Voice is a hybrid of the drama, sci-fi and thriller genres that actually makes you think. Instead of relying on special effects or gore it has a story that makes you question your own sense of reality. Mind you, there is nothing wrong with special effects and gore, but it’s nice to be able to see a film that doesn’t rely on gimmicks in order to tell a story. Zal Batmanglij and Brit Marling have effectively written a screenplay that relies on how the main characters face the prospect of whether or not Maggie is actually from the future. Throughout the entire film I was trying to figure out whether or not she was, because there are several different avenues you can take to draw your own conclusion. This isn’t a ‘black and white’ film; there are no wrong or right answers.

The characters Lorna (Nicole Vicius) and Peter (Christopher Denham) are a couple who live together and yet by the end of the film they seem like strangers to one another. The dynamics between the two of them are played out really well, because they are both affected by Maggie, and each takes a different path as to what they truly believe. Personally, I can’t stand it when characters don’t change at all during the course of a film, so this aspect of the story was very original. Lorna and Peter go into the cult for the same reason, to make a documentary, but by the end of the film they come out as two completely different people. Both Vicius and Denham are good in their roles and bring a believability to the characters and their actions.

The main character in Sound Of my Voice is Maggie and she’s played convincingly by Brit Marling, who also co-wrote the film. She’s a very complex character, because she claims to be from a future in which food is scarce and resources very limited, and yet exudes this peacefulness. I would expect somebody from the future to be in a more of a panic about trying to tell people about what is going to happen, but perhaps the character is more believable because she doesn’t fall into that stereotype. Instead of running around like a chicken with its head cut off she has decided to train people in order for them to become good survivors in the near future.  You really won’t be able to quite figure out whether Maggie is for real or just a con artist until the end of the film, then you can easily jump to the conclusion that you want to have. In a sense Maggie becomes what we want her to be.

A lot of Sound Of My Voice takes place inside a basement, where the cult meets. As well as co-writing the screenplay Zal Batmanglij also directed this and for a film with limited location shots it really is quite stylized. I didn’t get the sense that this was a cheaply made film or that they had a limited budget. A talented director is one who can take what they have and make the most out of it. I noticed that he uses quite a lot of tight shots in the basement scenes, which makes sense since that is such a small area to shoot in, but it also gives the sense of life closing in on the cult members; that their little circle is what stands between them and possible destruction.

I am a huge fan of post-apocalyptic films, and Sound Of My Voice has a story that precedes that kind of genre of film, since it takes place before the world changes for the worst. Or does it? Is Maggie really from the future, or are the cult members doomed?

 

Horror Film Survival Tips #3

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Your child has been acting strange lately and you have been hearing strange sounds coming from their room in the middle of the night. When you enter the room you notice that the door to their closet is moving. Your child tells you not to open it because a monster in hiding in it. What do you do?

A. Open the closet, because there are no such things as monsters!

B. Listen to your child and leave the room without opening it.

C. Tell your kid that if they don’t stop making noise you’ll show them who the real monster is.

The answer is, of course, letter A. Children quite often have very fertile imaginations, so what are the chances that a monster is actually hiding in their closet? ZERO! You are the parent, you are supposed to show them who is boss, so open that closet door in confidence because you are in charge! What is really in the closet? There are only clothes and toys inside of it and do those move all by themselves? Of course not! So, get in there and do the right thing. Open that closet door!

Film Plot Reality: Could I become A Post-Apocalyptic Wasteland Survivior?

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When I am watching post-apocalyptic films such as The Road Warrior I wonder if I have what it would take to survive in such a hostile environment. Surviving in the wasteland would not be a walk in the park by any means and you would need many different kinds of skills to survive.

The first question you have to ask yourself is if you even want to be a survivor. I’m talking about a nuclear war of some sort, not a biological mishap that gets out of control. For example, if all of the nuclear weapons held by Russia, America and Israel went off I would personally rather just snuff it because the Earth is going to be just about impossible to live on for a very long time. The only way you are going to make it through total nuclear annihilation is if you live underground for a century, waiting for some of the fallout to go away. That is the basis for some books, specifically Wool, but it really wouldn’t make a totally interesting film would it? That sort of happens in A Boy And His Dog, but in that film there are also people still living above in the wasteland. In order to actually survive it could in no way be a full out nuclear conflagration.

Let’s say that a couple of nuclear weapons ‘accidentally’ go off. These strikes will happen in major metropolitan areas, so depending on where you live you are either going to be instant ash or have a chance to survive. Since Europe is a more densely packed area I wouldn’t imagine the chances to be very great that a sustainable population would flourish. A bomb hitting London is going to affect all of eastern England along with France and the rest of the continent. On the other hand you have countries like the US. and Australia that have population centers mostly along their coasts. In the US specifically there are cities that are inland, but there is so much empty land that people would have a chance of surviving. You live in the Seattle area, learn that bombs are going to drop and flee to eastern Washington state or to the Olympic Peninsula in the west and you will at least have fighting chance. It would all actually come down to how the wind is blowing the day that is happens.

Once the radiation has calmed down it will be safe to freely roam about after a few months. I imagine that you wouldn’t want to get too close to the bombing sites so you will have to wander about in the suburbs or countryside searching for food and shelter. The major problem would be the fact that all the crops, no matter what they are, will be contaminated to some degree. So, you would have to ignore those yummy apples and start eating canned food. Not everybody, of course, is going to realize that eating the fruit off of the trees is a bad idea so for a while finding canned food probably won’t be that much of an issue. Besides grocery stores going into private homes would be the best way to go about that. However, you will have to be very, very careful about entering a home because you don’t know if anybody is already occupying it, or perhaps wanting to catch you…for…food.

Cannibalism would definitely be one of the hazards you would face in the wasteland. It would be the only way that some people would have to survive; have the food come to them rather than going to the food. Since I’m a woman I would have some special problems to overcome. Personally, I would cut most of my hair off and bind my chest so that I look male. Who are a band of wasteland ruffians going to rape, a woman or a man? Okay, they may also rape a man, but by hiding my identity I would have a better chance of surviving. Society would break down, and law and order would probably be a thing of the past. That is unless you throw your lot in with a town. The problem with that is that they would be quite often run by people with delusions of grandeur who think they are some kind of President or even Jesus Christ. Sure, you would probably be more protected, but you are trading your freedom for a set of rules that might not be in your best interest. You would have to approach settlement with caution and always have an escape plan in case you have to get out of one in a hurry.

What about weaponry? That would totally depend on where in the world that you are. If you are in the US you would have a huge access to firearms; not only in stores such as Walmart but in private houses. I would carry some sort of assault rifle, a handgun and a knife. Never carry just one weapon because you never know when one of them may break down or get stolen. If you are somewhere else, such as Australia, you may be able to find some guns, but more than likely you would have to rely on other sorts of weapons. I think that some sort of sword would be an excellent weapon, because not only does it immediately intimidate your attacker, it also has the ability to chop their head clean off. As a backup weapon I would chose either a knife or a bow and arrow. It would all depend upon your dexterity and your ability to be able to find weapons.

The biggest issue is whether or not to take a vehicle or to go it out on foot. Having a vehicle of some sort would get you place to place faster, and you would be able to evade many of the ‘bad guys’. However, you would have to scavenge for gasoline and that bring about another whole set of problems. You are already spending a lot of your day looking for food, do you really want to spend the rest of your free time looking for gas? Then there is the issue of car maintenance. Personally, I think I could keep a car running as long as I had a manual and some basic tools, but I don’t think it would totally be worth the trouble. Something self propelling such as a bicycle, with a small trailer attached would make a lot more sense. Not only could you get to place to place more quickly than walking it would also keep you in good shape.

All in all I think that I could survive in a post-apocalyptic wasteland. It’s all about how resourceful you are and how much common sense you have. If you possess both of these traits then you too could probably make it.

Review: The Lords Of Salem

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The Lords Of Salem is a strange film. Not in a bad way, mind you, but quite different. If you have watched any of Rob Zombie’s films prior to this pretend that they don’t exist, because this is like nothing he has made before. Admittedly, I am not a huge fan of his other films. However, I actually enjoyed this movie for what it is; a strange trip.

The plot of this film is pretty basic. Heidi (Sheri Moon) is a DJ in Salem Massachusetts. One night she is given a mysterious record in a wooden box by a band called The Lords. After she plays it she, and other women, start experiencing strange dreams and such concerning a past coven of witches who were burned at the stake. There is of course more to the story than that, but everything else is secondary to the main plot. It is all mostly focused on Heidi and what happens to her as a result of the evil music she hears. All of the other characters in the film that she interacts with are concerned for her in one way or another; they either want to harm her or help her according to their own needs.

What impressed me the most about The Lords Of Salem is the fact that it’s directed quite well. Rob Zombie has moved away from his slice and dice approach of film making into a dark and moody style that is much more mature and enjoyable to watch. Contrasted to his earlier films this actually comes as a bit of a surprise. It’s like somebody sat him down and made him watch some old school horror films and told him that he should aim for those instead of trying to make a music video. Because of all of this it is more easy to concentrate on what is happening to the characters because you aren’t being thrown all over a room trying to figure out what the hell is going on. I see this as maybe a sign that he is maturing as a director and is perhaps beginning to choose substance over style.

Sheri Moon has annoyed the hell out of me in every single Rob Zombie film that I have watched before this. I would literally want to throw a shoe at the TV and tell her to shut up. Everything about her, from her voice to her manner irritated me. Imagine my surprise when I watched this film and I couldn’t even tell that is was the same actress. Whereas, all of her previous characters were hyper and annoying, Heidi is played as a totally different kind of woman. I really liked learning that Moon can actually act. Who knew? It even got to the point where I felt sorry for the character because of all the strange crap that she goes through. If somebody would have told me before watching this that I would find Sheri Moon to be a good actress and able to play a sympathetic character I would have thought they were on crack.

There are quite a few famous horror film, and otherwise, actors and actresses in Lords Of Salem. Ken Foree, Meg Foster, Bruce Davison, Judy Geeson, Dee Wallace, Patricia Quinn and Maria Conchita Alonso are all in this. I recognized just about all of them because I’m a film nerd like that. The only one that surprised me was Meg Foster, who plays an evil witch named Margaret Morgan. She has so much make-up on her that I quite honestly couldn’t tell who she was. Perhaps the scariest looking person out of that whole list was Alonso because it looks like she has gotten some major plastic surgery done. Seriously, I think the woman can now appear as a creature in horror films without any make-up. Just say no to plastic surgery folks! Everybody is really good and there isn’t a bad performance out of anybody, which is yet another new aspect of a Rob Zombie film.

The screenplay, also by Rob Zombie, is pretty interesting despite the fact that he got the whole witch thing wrong. We all know that the people who were convicted of witchcraft in Salem weren’t really witches who worshiped Satan, right folks? They were either practitioners of folk magic, or simply people who others didn’t like. Seriously, that’s all they were. Now, I know this and I’m sure others do as well, but I’m guessing that there are going to be some naive or ignorant fans of his that are going to actually think that the witches from Salem worshiped Satan. There is a large modern Wiccan community in Salem and I can’t imagine that they are too happy about any of this. Then again they have made a mint off of tourists going to Salem to see witches so maybe they are all excited and popping the cork off of some champagne. While he has gotten the history all wrong I will give him some leeway because it’s a horror film and not a documentary.

The last 30 minutes of The Lords Of Salem deserves its own paragraph. It goes from Heidi to having some bad dreams to out-and-out strangeness. It’s as if Zombie watched some films by Jean Rollin and the TV show Twin Peaks and decided to mash them together into this strange surreal acid trip. That’s not to say that it’s awful or anything like that, just very, very surreal and not like anything he has done before. Considering the plot of the film it kind of makes sense in a way. I mean, all of these strange occurrences are happening to Heidi, and the end of the film is aabout how all of her issues are resolved. I don’t think that Zombie could have made the ending in any other way, because that would have taken away from the rest of the film.

The Lords Of Salem gives me hope that Rob Zombie has it in him to make really great films. While it isn’t perfect by any means, it’s really interesting and that is in part what makes a film fun to watch.