Tim Pratt
SF and Fantasy Writer

Archive for the ‘movies!’ Category

WhiskeyHorror: A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night

Wednesday, May 13th, 2015

We drank perfect manhattans with bourbon and sazeracs with rye, and watched Farsi-language vampire movie A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night.

I enjoyed this one a lot. At first I thought it was going to be a gloomy, stately, minimalist affair – the long shots of ruined buildings, the fact that it’s shot in black and white – but there is a ton of quirky humor in this film. (When you have a vampire woman skateboarding down the street of a desert town wearing a hijab – the filmmakers are having fun.) I loved the vampire’s preferred method of stalking, mirroring the movements of her intended victims, matching her pace to theirs – it was creepy, and funny, and maybe also suggested an attempt to better mimic humans.

The villain in the first third of the film is ridiculously over-the-top, a complete caricature of a sleazeball drug dealer and loan shark and pimp – he has neck and face tattoos and smacks around a prostitute and has fish tanks and animal heads and blankets with pictures of tigers on them in his apartment – but I stopped rolling my eyes after a while and just rolled with it instead. He’s supposed to be irredeemably awful; that’s why it’s fun to see him get eaten… and it makes some of the vampires later (and less morally defensible) attacks more disturbing by contrast.

The film *is* minimalist in a lot of ways. The James-Dean-esque male lead and the vampire fall in love without a lot of talk, and the most erotic scene they share involves him piercing her ears. We don’t get much in the way of backstory for the vampire (or anyone, but especially her), and there are a lot of moments when affectless characters gaze affectlessly into the distance… but it works, especially when there’s a very expressive cat sitting between them, calling attention to their blankness in an amusing way.

There’s also a whole lot of effective acting, too, with gazes and body language over words. I’d argue that the climactic moment of the film comes late, when the hero paces back and forth on the side of the road, struggling with a moral choice, and then making a decision – his entire struggle takes place silently, with no discussion or verbal agonizing before or after; it’s all in the way he moves.

The movie was filmed in Kern Country CA, not in the Middle East, but that area has a lot of empty places and dilapidated things and also palm trees anyway, so it works well as the setting for the nowhere-town of Bad City.

And it’s the first ever Farsi vampire Western! I’ll be watching director Ana Lily Amirpour with interest.

WhiskeyHorror Double Feature: Dead Snow 2 and The Woman in Black

Wednesday, February 25th, 2015

There have been two WhiskeyHorrors since my last report: one last Saturday, and one on Tuesday night. So much horror. So much whiskey. (Well, the usual amount of whiskey.)

Both times we mostly drank the 10-year-old Bulleit reserve, which is delicious. Also a bit of Monkey Shoulder blended Scotch, which I hear is hit-or-miss depending on which batch you happen to get, but our bottle is very good with soda and even tasty by itself over ice.

Saturday we watched Dead Snow 2: Red vs. Dead, which was an improvement in pretty much every way over the first one — funnier, more lively, equally gruesome with better effects. It picks up immediately after the end of the first film… except all the Norwegian people now inexplicably speak English. (Guess it was a condition of giving the director actual money.) Martin Starr was amusing as the leader of an American “Zombie Squad” (though I wish the two women on the squad had been better written and fleshed-out) and the business with the tank was great. Recommended if you like funny zombie stuff and dead Russians hitting dead Nazis with shovels and, uh, generally enjoy films that involve snow.

Tuesday was rather more serious: we saw The Woman in Black, with Daniel Radcliffe being pale and sad in the English countryside as blank-faced children committed suicide all around him and in the past also. As the father of an adorable blond moppet myself, the film certainly gave me some terrible twinges. Stately and deliberate without being dull, with a good mix of jump scares and tension-building-dread stretches. At one point when Radcliffe’s character was Making A Plan to deal with the supernatural menace I complained that in many old ghost stories there’s not a damn thing you can do; the ghosts are just there, and will remain there, and there’s not a ritual you can conduct to put them to rest. I suppose I’ll adhere to local norms and avoid spoilers but suffice to say, I was pleased with how Radcliffe’s plan turned out. The ending is an utterly bleak downer — and yet because it’s not as bad as it could have been, it actually manages to feel weirdly hopeful!

We’ve also been watching the From Dusk Till Dawn TV series, which is total gonzo fun, very cinematic, well directed, engagingly acted, gross, grotesque, funny, smart, pulpy, and narratively complex. We’re four episodes in, and I can’t wait to watch more. (Note: not for ophidiophobes.)

WhiskeyHorror: The Den

Wednesday, February 11th, 2015
WhiskeyHorror report:

We drank Larceny, a wheated bourbon from Heaven Hill distilleries, with ice and the odd splash of bitters. Pretty tasty stuff.

We watched The Den, a recent found-footage (sort of) horror movie, quite tense and disturbing, with a nice mix of mounting discomfort, dread, jump scares, and graphic horror. (Plotwise it’s basically “Chatroulette, with murderstalking,” or “Hostel Online,” though it’s less torture-porn-y than the Hostel movies; which isn’t to say there’s no gruesome violence, because there is a bit.) The lead character was a bit passive/ineffectual for much of the film, to the extent that I said, “Wow, I wish she’d do something,” but as things became more imminently dangerous she did step up and make some impressive moves, and I ended up liking her character a lot. (I’m not saying things turn out well for her — it’s a horror movie, not a thriller where order is restored at the end — but at least she made the bad guys feel a degree of her pain.)

As we finished watching American Horror Story we needed a new show to add to the rotation, and after poking around Netflix a bit found Darknet, which even fits a bit thematically with The Den. It’s a Canadian anthology horror show (non-supernatural, for at least the first few eps anyway). Each episode has several intersecting storylines, with a non-linear approach to chronology, and an emphasis on twist endings which range from the silly to the delightfully creepy. (Of course, once the twist-ending thing was established, we started to see the twists coming, or at least to look for them.) It’s an amusing show, organized around the common thread of a website devoted to the macabre and murderous and disgusting. (Sort of 4chan meets the Morbid Reality sub-Reddit.) Fear Itself is still the better Canadian anthology horror series, but Darknet is fun.

No Whiskey, Some Horror

Saturday, November 1st, 2014

Haven’t done a WhiskeyHorror report in a while, because we’ve been watching episodes of American Horror Story, and the last actual movie we watched was my old favorite Trick ‘r Treat, and rewatches don’t inspire much in the way of musing for me.

But, hey, Halloween. Horror movie time. While my wife was out dancing last night, I decided to watch a couple of movies in my lonesome living room, even in the absence of whiskey, in the spirit of the holiday.

I finally watched Kevin Smith’s very odd Red State, which is less a horror movie (despite its initial premise) and more an oddball thriller. I liked John Goodman’s performance as an ATF agent, and Michael Parks was mesmerizing as the evil but charismatic preacher, but mostly the thing was a mess of endless noisy gunfire. I had some faint hope when they hinted at a weird twist ending, which wouldn’t have redeemed it but would have at least been interestingly strange, but they didn’t go that way. Alas.

After that I gave You’re Next a try. I’d ignored it in the past because it looked like a standard home-invasion thriller, and I figured it would just be gore and jump scares, but Netflix assured me it had a high user rating, so it seemed likely to have more going on than I thought. And while it does have gore and jump scares galore, it’s much funnier and more odd than I’d anticipated, a dysfunctional family drama/black comedy mingled with home invasion thriller, with some nice twists and ways to change things up and increase the tension as it goes on. Plus a smart, interesting, badass female protagonist, which is always a delight. Recommended, but maybe don’t watch it alone if you live in a big empty house that could possibly be full of hidden murderers in animal masks.

Impossible Dreams Screening This Saturday!

Wednesday, May 9th, 2012

There’s a screening of the short film version of Impossible Dreams this Saturday, at 3 p.m., at the Temescal branch of the Oakland Public Library. If you are local, please come — it’s a really cool film. (It’s different enough from my story that I can say that without any unsavory arrogance.)

Here are some more details, and the library address, and all that. I’ll introduce the movie, show the movie, and then I’ll take questions, talk a little about writing and other East Bay writers, and so on. It’ll be fun.

Here’s the trailer:

It’s 21 minutes of romantic science-fictional weirdness; with kazoo. Don’t miss it! (And for those who attended the SF in SF screening, where we had technical difficulties: I’m 99% sure we won’t have any such difficulties this time. We are taking steps and having backup plans. It should be good.)

Movie Night! Tonight!

Wednesday, February 15th, 2012

The short film Impossible Dreams, based on my Hugo-winning story of the same name, is screening tonight in San Francisco as part of SF in SF! Here’s where and when:

The Variety Preview Room
582 Market St. @ Montgomery
1st floor of The Hobart Bldg.
Doors Open 6:00PM
Film starts: 7:00PM
Free Popcorn!

Just take BART to Montgomery if you don’t want the hassle of finding parking. I’ll do a ten- or fifteen-minute intro about the story and the movie (which is itself only 20 minutes long). The short film will be followed by the Harlan Ellison documentary Dreams with Sharp Teeth. I hope to see lots of you locals there. (And, you know, anyone farther away who feels like jumping on a plane.) There’s a cash bar. Donations are welcome at the door ($5-$10 suggested), and benefit the Variety Children’s Charity of Northern California.

My wife and I will likely slip out during the Ellison movie to get some dinner, since we won’t have time to eat before the event, so if you want to talk to me, captivate me beforehand!

Chaos and Trains

Monday, February 13th, 2012

I worked a lot this weekend, writing the first chapter and a half (and a synopsis) of the current novel, a work-for-hire job I think I’ll just call “the spy book” here for now. So that’s off to the publishers — let’s hope they like it, so I can continue to zoom onward in the same vein. I had a conference call with the main guys running the project last week, and told them my ideas for the storyline, and they were super enthusiastic, so I have high hopes. We seem very much on the same wavelength about how this book should go.

There’s a new chapter of Grim Tides up: “Meet Elsie Jarrow”. This is the chapter that properly introduces my favorite villain of the entire Marla series — probably my favorite of any antagonist I’ve ever created.

My wife and I have a reward system for our son. If he behaves, does his (largely symbolic at this point) chores, is helpful, etc., he earns points on a chart, and when he gets enough points, he gets a reward. Last night he cashed in a bunch of points to get a “movie night,” in which he was allowed to stay up a bit past his bedtime and watch a movie of his choosing with us on the couch. He picked The Iron Giant, which my wife had never seen, so that was fun. He was pretty good, too — engaged with the movie, and had a lot of questions, and was also quite rapt during some of the spectacle parts, and laughed a lot at some of the funny parts. I don’t think he entirely followed the plot, but he got the gist. We’ll do it again sometime.

In a couple of weeks I’m taking a train down to LA. I know, wacky, but on such short notice it’s cheaper than flying, and I can work on a train more comfortably than I can on an airplane. Besides, I’ve never been on a train trip, really (commuter trains don’t count), and the Coast Starlight route is supposed to be quite beautiful. I’ll be staying with my dear friends Jenn and Chris, who are letting me invade their guest room for a week of intense writing. Friends like them are a great help when one has a short deadline. It’s much easier to focus on writing if I’m not in my own home/town, where it’s too easy to get distracted by running errands, cleaning up, playing video games, etc. (And, yes, I’m cruelly leaving my wife as a solo parent for a week. But it’s okay — she’s doing the same thing to me later this year. We’re nothing if not equitable.) I’m excited. With luck I’ll be able to get half or two-thirds of my first draft done that week.

Impossible Dreams: The (Short) Movie

Monday, June 20th, 2011

Behold! The trailer for a short film by Shir Comay based on my Hugo Award-winning story “Impossible Dreams.”

(If that embedded video doesn’t play for you, try this link instead.)

I’ve seen a not-quite-final cut of the whole film, and it’s really lovely, retaining much that I love about my own story without being a literal or slavish adaptation, and with the director’s personal vision shining through.

So: how cool! The first film inspired by my work! And it’s a movie of a story that’s all about movies. (So meta.)

A couple of years ago the director got in touch and asked if he could make a short, non-commercial Hebrew-language film, and my agents and I said, sure. To be honest, I wasn’t expecting much — I figured it would be a couple of the director’s college roommates as actors, mumbling their lines into the camera. Instead he got the marvelous Ayala Zilberman and Ori Yaniv, who do an awesome job. It’s going to be in the Jerusalem Film Festival, and the director plans to submit it to some international festivals as well.

I’ve been full of “Whee!” about this for a week. Hope you all enjoy the trailer, and if and when it’s possible to point you toward the full film, I will.