Sunday, 24 May 2015

Sketches 15th May - 21st May

      Currently having a bit of a bad-art period at the moment, so quality has dipped. Sorry about that.

 15th May - secondary character from the fantasy film I'm working on.

 16th May - 3/4 and Profile images. Not overly taken with the 3/4 view.

 17th May - collection of random sketches. Never got anywhere with any of them. Odd proportions abound here.
 18th May - designs for one of my secret projects. The coat was the main image here, but the other sketches are just as important.

 19th May - Random doodles that maounted to nothing.
 20th May pt1 - rough layouts for comic pages
  20th May pt2 - rough layouts for comic pages

 20th May pt3 - rough layouts for comic pages

  20th May pt4 - rough layouts for comic pages

 20th May pt5 - rough layouts for comic pages

  20th May pt6 - rough layouts for comic pages. If you're paying attention, the page number skipped.
  20th May pt7 - rough layouts for comic pages
  20th May pt8 - rough layouts for comic pages
 21st May - Oppression. Angles and perspective are off, and no clue what'd going on with that guard in the background - 'twas there that I opted to stop work on the image.

Bonus - Beginning of a rough animatic for an animation.

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Trapped Ashes

                Anthology films and Horror go hand in hand – the short story format is particularly good for building up a tension and a quick pay off, which is often where longer films fall short, as they run out of steam too quickly. That’s not to say that all horror short films are good, but it is a genre that works well with the medium.
                Trapped Ashes (2006) follows in that grand tradition, taking four well respected directors, and one visual effects guy, and giving them each a short segment to run wild.
                The films wrap around, directed by Joe Dante, centres around the main characters all boarding a Hollywood tour bus with tickets they got through odd circumstances. As they pass by a Haunted House set, they urge the Tour Guide (Henry Gibson) to let them in, ignoring his warnings. Once inside, they all find themselves trapped in a trick room with no way out. The tour guide nervously suggests they re-enact the movie that was set there and recite horror stories. There’s one catch though – the story must be something that happened to them.
                The first story, directed by Ken Russell is entitles ‘The Girl with the Golden Breasts’. You can guess from the beginning that it’s not going to be particularly tasteful. Told by struggling actress Phoebe (Rachel Veltri), the story centres on her attempts to get hired. After numerous rejections (including on where she is rejected for being too old, despite being the exact age for the role), she opts to get plastic surgery to enhance her breasts.  Whilst the new implants do get her noticed, they come with a terrible cost…
                Next comes ‘Jibaku’ (directed by Sean S Cunningham), as told by architect Henry (Scott Lowell) and his wife Julia (Lara Harris). At an architect’s meeting in Japan, Julia is approached by a strange Japanese man (Yoshinori Hiruma), who shows her a painting of a woman being dragged to hell by a bizarre monster. Shortly afterwards, the couple see the man commit suicide in the cemetery of a temple. Not long after, Julia is plagued by erotic dreams of the dead man, and lets herself become consumed by lust…
                In ‘Stanley’s Girlfriend’ (Directed by Monte Hellman), Leo (Played by John Saxon in the wrap around and Tahmoh Penikett in the short) talks of his relationship with a young Stanley Kubirck (Tygh Runyan), who one day brings home a mysterious woman called Nina (Amelia Cooke). Leo sees the situation as odd, as Stanley had never shown interest in women before, but he quickly forgets the matter, as he finds himself falling in love with Nina himself…
                The final short, ‘My Twin, The Worm’ (directed by John Gaeta) is told by Nathalie (Michèle-Barbara Pelletier) tells of the character’s odd conception. Conceived at the same moment that her mother (also Pelletier) is infected by a tapeworm. The unborn Nathalie and the worm form an odd kinship, the effects of which are seen after Nathalie is sent to America to live with her father (Charles Siegel) and Step-mother (Deanna Milligan)...
                Perhaps the only thing that kept me going through the film was the Wrap around, particularly after the realisation struck me early on that the film would not be particularly pleasant in its depiction of women. The four shorts, whilst none of them are particularly good, all range in quality, with each having brief moments of praise mingled in with lacklustre sequences.
                Let us begin with the first short. After Phoebe gets the breast augmentation, the short becomes rather silly. Phoebe’s character noticeably changes in an instant, and she becomes a rather annoying (and rather stupid, it must be said) character. The big twist here is that the breast implants are feeding off of human blood, which is not particularly scary or horrifying, especially not with the poor reveal and cartoonish manner it’s depicted (also the fact Phoebe doesn’t realise that she’s not causing the large bite marks on her boyfriend speaks wonders for the characters intelligence post-surgery).
                However, pre-surgery, the short is actually very interesting and well made. It gives the idea of a different type of horror – of being abused by the system in the name of stardom – but the film goes for a cheap joke instead. I know I probably shouldn’t expected anything else from Russell, and he does own the silliness in the idea, but it feel cheap and shallow.
                This is made worse by the application of some very good prosthetics and a brilliantly directed surgery sequence. It’s simply failed potential, too obsessed with sophomoric humour than horror. Also, the brief CGI is terrible.
                ‘Jibaku’ suffers from similar issues. Julia, despite being the most important part of the story, is reduced to a simple sex object and is largely absent for the latter half of the short. Conversely, we see so little of Henry at the beginning that we simply don’t have any interest in him, and we know the outcome of the situation from the get go, leaving little in the way of stakes.
                The short does actually contain a distinct visual element, as part of the short is animated to mimic an Anime (though the animation is limited). It lets the filmmakers present a more demonic depiction of hell and the demon within, but it’s ruined by the actual life action footage getting in the way (literally, as both animation and life action are spliced together). Once again, the practical effects are particularly good, but there is no horror to be had here.
                ‘Stanley’s Girlfriend’ is also not a horror short, and it doesn’t even try to be. It’s actually a rather nice short drama, with the added horror sting at the end (which isn’t particularly well executed as it fails to take into account historical limitations in film). This is easily the best of the four shorts, but for the wrong reason – it’s because it isn’t a horror film.
                The final short is technically fine in its execution, but falls over the same hurdles. For the most part, this short works best as a narrated piece, and certainly comes across better on paper than it does on film. Much of the short is spent focused on the pregnancy, with there being some good interaction between Nathalie’s mother and father. Post birth, however, the short collapses in on its self by largely ignoring the main focus (the worm) for a good chunk, and offering nothing of worth until the largely boring end.
Perhaps the biggest annoyance of the short is the sheer idiocy of the idea – that a tapeworm and child are growing in the same space. True, they are both feeding from the same host, but they are in very different parts of the body and would have no contact with each other. What’s more, the worm would stay inside the human host, making the final scene rather idiotic. I understand that this is fiction and some leeway should be allowed, but the entire short is just really, really stupid. It would have made a much better short if the worm was an actual part of Nathalie.
Once more, I will say that the wraparound is the best part of the film, with the ending providing rather different resolutions to the stories (though it does bring up questions in regards to whether the events in the wraparound are really or not), and the character much better developed (and better treated) than in the shorts. The wraparound also makes the most of a limited budget, and relies mostly on visual tricks and sleight of hand.
In terms of the overall film, the performances and direction are very good, as is the production design. The film’s practical effects better some in high budget movies, and shows that the team behind the film know their craft exceptionally well. Musically, there’s not much to say, although the main theme is rather jaunty and out of place.  The film would probably have been much better off if it were a horror comedy rather than simply a horror film, with the more horror focused segments being retooled for laughs. Matters are not helped by the obvious disregard for female characters in favour of nudity and sex.
Overall, the film should probably be skipped. The film has no horror component, poor characters, a terrible representation of women, and nothing of interest to say. If it weren’t for the wraparound, I wouldn’t have even finished the film.

Mass Blog Update!

       Important news! I have just spent 2 hours sorting out the archives in order to update this blog! Yay!
      In this update you will find:
  • Update Review section, now featuring links to every review from the last year (effectively doubling the length of the list)!
  • Updated Gallery section!
  • Animations are now in the Portfolio/ Gallery section!
  • Slightly tweeked Bio section! Now includes links to my Youtube and my Twitter handle, @DaemonStalley
And yes, it has been a year since I last did this. I am apparently rather unorganised. 

Sunday, 17 May 2015

Sketches 1st May - 14th May

        Ok, so the delay in theres a two part reason for the delay in this. First reason was that I was dog sitting all of last weekend, so I didn;t have much time to scan things in. Second reason, and far more annoying, is I forgot to date everything. A lot of the dates here are approximate dates, as even though I know I drew something every day, I don't what was drawn when.

May 1st - See no Evil, Hear No Evil, Speak No Evil. As I did promise, this is a redesing of a rather lacklustre monster design from the previous week.

May 2nd - Unfinished location sketch.

May 3rd- Monster design. Also Unifnished.

 May 4th - Just a rough sketch of a female samurai. The left eye is a little off.

May 5th - Sketch of lead character from the fantasy film I'm working on.

May 6th - I'm working on a game project with some Game Grumps fans, and this was a rough for Suzy's design. It needs smoothing out - it is, after all, just a rough.

May 7th - This was supposed to be a dramatic image of the heart-warrior walking away from a battle, but I  was rather tired and didn't finish it off.

May 8th -  Very bad sketches of  a profile of lead character from my fantasy film. Excuse the damge done to the image - it fell behind my desk and got creased.

May 9th - Random sketches, including an Oddish. Nothing exceptionally interesting.

May 10th - Alternate angles of the Heart Knight .

May 11th - A redesign of an old charcter. The face could do with some work.

May 12th- Sketches of woman from profile. I generally dislike profile shots, so I never put a lot of effort into learning them, something I'm trying to work on now.

May 13th - Monster design 'Flower' The idea was that the back of the monsters head looked like a flower blooming.

May 14th- I'm putting to gether a 'short' Game Grumps animated based on their Bloodborne playthrough, so here's a collection of the designs.

Bonus: Zombie walk for an animation jam:

Wednesday, 13 May 2015

Jacob's Ladder

                For the longest time I was sure that this film didn’t exist. I knew of it, knew that it did purportedly exist, I knew of the effect it’s had on the horror genre. However, I’ve never met anyone that’s seen the film, or seen an actual copy of the film either physical or digital. Every attempt I made to order the film resulted in my order being cancelled. It made me start questioning if the film was actually real, or if the universe was playing some cosmic joke on me.
                As it turns out, that was a rather apt feeling.
                Jacob’s Ladder (1990, Adrian Lynne) follows Jacob Singer (Tim Robbins) a Vietnam veteran living with his girlfriend Jezzie (Elizabeth Pena), who is haunted by his experiences in ‘Nam and the death of his youngest son Gabe (Macaulay Culkin) who died before the war. As he attempts to live his life, Jacob finds himself being stalked by bizarre demons, and his world becomes gradually more nightmarish. With no idea as to what’s real or note, he sets out to find the truth.
                Jacob’s Ladder is not a pleasant movie. It’s dreary and depressing, filled with unsettling imagery and nightmarish sequences. Paranoia and conspiracy are rife, and reality is not always as it seems. It can be a tough film to sit through, and confusing to some. It is most definitely not a happy film, nor is it a traditional horror – rather, it is something quite, quite different.
Billed as a Psychological Horror, Jacob’s Ladder can be quite subtle in its delivery. There are several moments throughout the scene where facts don’t seem to quite mesh, and what you thought was fact may be fiction. Flashbacks and hallucinations come and go at will, often throwing the viewer off balance, making them question whether this or the previous scene was real.
The film itself is very character driven, and with a lesser actor the film could have easily been comical, but Robbin’s delivers an excellent performance, filled with small subtle touches and fuelled with determination. Robbins lives the character, and is beyond convincing in his performance. The same can be said for the rest of the cast, who each take to their characters perfectly.
                The direction of the film is probably the most praiseworthy aspect, as Lynne shoots the film as a claustrophobic nightmare, reviling in tight spaces and dark lighting. There is rarely any open space, and the few that do appear and shot in such an effective manner that they never feel too open, simply brief moments of respite before the high walls and tunnels return. Housing is cramped here, and characters are forced to almost sit on one another in order to fit into rooms, hospitals are filled to the brim with patients or medical aids. Everything is cramped and filthy, and the sense of unease thrives in such locales.
                Lynne also has great restraint in the depiction of his demons. Abominations that skew too close to human, these creatures appear throughout the movie in brief glances, never lingering too long, always leaving you wondering what they truly were of if they were there at all. On occasion, the camera does linger on a particular entity enough for you to see them clearly (or a specific part of them), but rarely do they take centre screen.
                The films score is rather beautiful, making good use of both a few instruments and a small orchestra, and the range is simply superb. Deeply unsettling tones can fade easily into tender piano, before descending once more into a tense rumbling.
                I will say I grew somewhat less interested in aspects of the film as it progressed, particularly the conspiracy that Jacob and the rest of his squadron were test subjects for a hallucinogenic drug. Whilst this may, for some, be more interesting than Jacob being haunted by demons, and the plot thread is noticeably drawn from actual speculation of the use of a drug called BZ. This comes from personal taste, of course, and I’m sure several people would view it as the more interesting part of the film.
                There’s also the slight issue of the film having aged considerably since its release, something not helped by the lacklustre quality of the video as the Blu-ray edition of the film appears faded and soft, and not up to par with a great many other remasters from the same time. The audio is also rather dated both in quality and in the choice of some sound effects. Whilst this was not a problem with the original film, it becomes one in a modern viewing of the film.
                Jacob’s Ladder is a superb, subtle horror film, and one that has since garnered a cult reputation, and has had a profound impact on the horror genre, inspiring the Silent Hill series and others. It is certainly worth a watch, though its more dated elements may be off putting for some.