Friday, January 21, 2011

Worth Mentioning - You'll Know When It Comes On

We watch several movies a week. Every Friday, we'll talk a little about some of the movies we watched that we felt were Worth Mentioning.

This week, Jay features Pop Skull and Cody continues talking about Dean Cameron "School" movies...

In this week's Worth Mentioning, I'll be focusing on a home grown project that got off the ground in my home state of Alabama as well as a special effects makeup guru/director who also honed his skills in the Yellowhammer state.  Let it be known here that I know both Adam Wingard and Lane Hughes and have collaborated with Hughes on a couple projects. So, this will most likely be a biased post, but I honestly feel that the subject material speaks for itself and is definitely worth mentioning.

POP SKULL (2007)
Starring Lane Hughes, Brandon Carroll, and Hannah Hughes
Directed by Adam Wingard

Set in Alabama, Pop Skull tells the tale of a heartbroken twenty-something, Daniel, played by newcomer Lane Hughes. Not only has Daniel suffered a recent breakup with his first love, but he lives in a house where a vicious murder took place before his family moved in. On top of that, Daniel is abusing over-the-counter drugs in an effort to delude himself from his personal problems.

Things get worse for Daniel when he starts experiencing paranormal activity inside his home, and the combination of the drugs, ghosts, and heartbreak begin to eat away at him mentally. Though one can never be sure if the drugs are giving way to the ghosts, the ghosts are feeding off the drugs, or if perhaps Daniel is just a heartbroken kid who is falling deeper and deeper into personal turmoil and manifesting his own ghosts. The film is slow, and to me works much better as a relationship drama than it does as a ghost story. The soundtrack is full of fitting rock songs, Wingard's camera work and color correction are beautiful, and Hughes turns in a subtle yet quietly horrifying performance -- all on a budget of around $3,000.

I saw the trailer for Pop Skull a couple years before I was ever able to see it, and was immediately impressed with the look of it, especially considering the budget. A year or so later, my friend Bart Hyatt and I were able to watch it in our own living room, with Lane Hughes in attendance. I wasn't let down, but was impressed even more with the final outcome. It's a beautiful film and is a shining example of Adam Wingard's talent, which is now being seen by the world, as his latest film, A Horrible Way to Die, (co-starring Lane Hughes) premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival last September and will be available on DVD this year from Anchor Bay.

Hughes deserves a lot of credit for making Pop Skull work as well, considering he had never acted before stepping in front of Wingard's camera, and because he was willing to base some of the emotional aspects off of his own past relationship. He does a good job of giving a natural performance and the real life moments are accurate enough to lend credibility to the ghostly drug-induced world that Daniel spends most of his time in. Make no mistake, this is a world that Wingard thrives at creating, but it's Hughes who helps make it believable.

I honestly can't say enough good things about Pop Skull. The horror doesn't live inside the ghosts that Daniel sees popping out from the darkness, but in a depressed reality that we've all had to slip into at some point, some of us more than others.

One last note: Through this film I discovered the music of the Liars. If you're too lazy to check out Pop Skull then at least check out this song - The Other Side of Mt. Heart Attack

*****There are some trippy effects that emulate what Daniel's pill popping might look like and the film opens with an epilepsy warning. Once you see the movie, you'll understand why, and if you're prone to seizures, you might want to stay away from this one.

Next up, I'm mentioning a person rather than a film, as I focus on Robert Hall, who is best known for his killer special effects, but has also directed a handful of films.

Hall was born in Detroit, but spent his teens in Alabama, where he dreamt of creating special effects. His 2004 film, Lightning Bug, seems to follow closely to his own life as it focuses on a teenager in Alabama who is determined to create horror movie effects. As far as directing, he's probably best known for the 2009 film Laid to Rest. Laid to Rest features some of his bloody effects and I can recommend it to anyone looking for a good gore-a-thon, though I can't comment on the film any further as I recall being slightly drunk during the viewing.

As far as effects go, Hall has turned himself into one of the busiest guys in the business. Under his label, Almost Human, he has credits on some of the biggest titles out there right now, including the upcoming Oren Peli directed picture, Area 51. Some of his other credits include Paranormal Activity 2, The Crazies, Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles and Quarantine.

Chances are, if you have a pulse, you've seen some of Hall's work, but his name may have slipped past you. Well, now you can put a face to that name. He's currently prepping a horror film titled Mile Marker 381 and has a sequel to Laid to Rest in post-production.

Cody's mentions:


A very respectful and in-depth look at the Nightmare on Elm Street series, this four hour documentary covers the making of every film (except the 2010 remake) and the Freddy's Nightmares TV show. Unlike some documentaries of this sort, there are no guests interviewed to discuss their fandom, the focus is on behind-the-scenes stories told by the people who were involved. It's like the video version of what Peter Bracke's great Crystal Lake Memories book was for the Friday the 13th series. A must-see if you're interested in the Nightmare franchise, Never Sleep Again is available at ElmStreetLegacy.


"It's not how far you go, it's how go you far."

Summer School stars Dean Cameron and Patrick Labyorteaux are teamed with Stuart Fratkin and Tom Bresnahan in this "Animal House on the slopes" about rival teams at a ski school - the partiers vs. the preps.

I remember watching this late at night on pay cable movie channels in the early 90s with my brother and his friends. At that time, based on the stories my brother told and other teen comedies, I thought this movie was a pretty accurate representation of what the future had in store for me - being part of a group of like-minded friends who have perfected the art of slacking and partying, overcoming oppression and obstacles with wit and irreverence, while getting girls like Charlie Spradling from Puppet Master 2. Unfortunately, life has not turned out like Ski School.

I still enjoy this movie, largely for nostalgic reasons. But I am not nostalgic for the fashions.

As with Summer School, Dean Cameron has recorded his own commentary for Ski School - with Labyorteaux and Fratkin - that can be downloaded for $1.50 at OddComment.

Dean Cameron returned for SKI SCHOOL 2 (1994), and if you watch this one you might as well check that one out too.


A cops and mobsters story written/directed by Fred Williamson and starring Williamson, Jim Brown, Jim Kelly, and Richard Roundtree. I'm mentioning it because of this image:

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