Sunday, October 31, 2010

Latino Land Halloween

Growing up in the suburbs of Boston, Massachusetts, Halloween was always amazing in its cliched simplicity. It was a veritable checklist of typical fun:

Drawing Haunted Houses
Horror Movies
Scary Music
Carving Pumpkins
Eggs Selling out in Grocery Stores
Trick or Treating

In the suburbs, you'd find a nice neighborhood away from the main streets where cars never really drive through, and ghosts and goblins could roam free without a worry in the world. You had your one house that other kids dared you to go near, and you had an abundance of families who really went the extra mile with decorations and spooky devices to scare the pants off you. As I said, it was a lovely mix of cliches, wrapped into one night, different than any other day.

But Latino Land in Los Angeles is different.

In the city, it seems the last place you'd want to go to is a quiet neighborhood. Who knows what lurks behind the dark, chain-linked fences? There's so many weirdos in the city, I'd be afraid to knock on any stranger's door. And with the high amounts of apartment complexes that you can't enter, where are kids supposed to get their candy from?

Cue the local businesses.

It's a bizarre experience to see five year old Darth Vaders walking into a bakery (panaderia), the butcher shop (carniceria), and even liquor stores (needs no translation). Never in a million years would I expect to walk into a Taco Bell to get free candy. You might say, this isn't just Latino Land, this is what happens in all cities. Frankly, I don't know. Los Angeles is the only city I've experienced the trick or treating of Halloween.

What adds to the glorious mayhem of a Latino Land Halloween is that you have the Day of the Dead lurking in the shadows. Just a few days away from Halloween, El Dia de los Muertos is a celebration of those family members and friends who have passed on. While more traditional Caucasian grieving seems to be done on a more personal scale, it's the exact opposite in the Latino culture.

Honoring the dead is important in every culture. For me, a small town kid growing up 3000 miles from these Latino traditions, being able to see how they honor the dead still mesmerizes me every year.

In graveyards, Latinos build huge altars filled with personal belongings, favorite food and music, etc. of the deceased. Large parades travel through the streets and end in cemeteries. Every festival, every party, every gathering, for El Dia de Los Muertos is for one thing and one thing bring back the dead!

Where a majority of the white culture honors the dead with thoughts and prayers, the Latinos extend this into a world most whites can't comprehend. The Latinos don't just honor the dead. They hope to see and speak with them again.

And this is where Latino Land Halloween differs from other cities. Walking through some of the less crowded streets, many of the Latino households are already attempting to guide the spirits of lost loved ones home. For example:

Multiple houses with stairs leading to their front door would have small candles on each step, lighting the way for any souls who need help finding their way home. These candles are anything but mere decorations. In fact, on the night of the Day of the Dead, when families sit down to have their dinner, they cook and set an extra plate of food for when the deceased comes home. Toys are bought if they expect dead children to return, and alcohol for adults.

For me, this is the difference. That's an extra step I could never take in honoring the dead.

Ever since first seeing a the Latino culture, it's always fascinated me. After all, "The Devil's Forest" involves Mexican folklore throughout the entire script. I've always toyed with the idea of doing a sort of "Mexican Trilogy." The first film would be about La Chupacabra. The second is La Llorona, and finally, the third involves El Diablo. But now I really love the idea of those who die in "The Devil's Forest" to return through one of these Day of the Dead celebrations in a sequel.

Imagine sitting down at the dinner table with your family, with that one spot left open for a soul to join you. You say your prayer, then begin to eat. All of a sudden, you get cold, you start to see your breath come out of your mouth, and as you look to your left, you see SOMETHING forming. You hope it's that little brother, or son coming back for one more meal to share. Instead, as it take shape, you realize it's not your son or brother at all, it's something else. Something that never should have come back. Its features are hideous, the stench is overwhelming, the bones protrude from its gooey, leftover skin.

And as you sit there, wondering what you should do, you realize it's already too late. The human-like shape attacks with malice.

How many times do I have to point out in this blog that "Sometimes, dead is better"?

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Dreams, etc.

"Dreams are often most profound when they seem the most crazy.” - Sigmund Freud

Met with an actor this week to discuss "The Devil's Forest." What I learned most from it was this...finish editing the script! As helpful as it was to talk about the script, it's a lot better when it's not a one sided conversation. The entire time we sat there, I only wished he had already read the script. Hopefully, I sparked an interest in the stories I told him.

The meeting also made me want to have a reading of the script ASAP to hear how the dialogue sounds when actually spoken as opposed to how it sounds in my head.

However, the discussion did lead me to have a dream about the film. I did not have an opening for "The Devil's Forest" that I was happy with...until this week. It's good to know my film is in my subconscious. Not only did it give me an idea for the opening, but also for the beginning credits sequence too.

Hoping to have my script out to my initial readers next week as long as the joyous festivities of Halloween don't interfere too much.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Another Dose of Allah Las

Been getting good feedback in regards to the music of Allah Las. So here for your listening pleasure, is one more song from them, entitled "Long Journey."

As for the random, out of focus picture being shown, the weather has been a bit abnormal lately here in sunny California. It's a photo of some bizarre looking clouds looming over Hollywood.

So get the gunk out of your ears and listen up...

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Why the Flaws of Pet Sematary Help to Make It My Favorite Movie

The more research I do on horror movies for the well being of my own scary flick, the more I realize just how brilliant "Pet Sematary" is.

Even to this day, I remember seeing this movie as a kid and distinctly remembering two visuals that will never leave me for the rest of my life.

1. The tiny shoe tumbling after the truck hits little Gage. No gore, no visual of impact, just a slow motion shot of that shoe explained everything.

2. The character of Zelda (suffering from spinal meningitis), with her creepy laugh and her spine practically puncturing out of her skin. "I'm coming for you Rachel, and this time, I'll get you."

Written by Stephen King and directed by Mary Lambert in 1989, the movie was a box office success. Shot for 11.5 million dollars and earning 57+ million domestic, it spawned a sequel starring Edward Furlong, as well as a 2012 remake, written by "1408" scribe Matthew Greenberg with a rewrite from the great genre screenwriter David Kajganich. Needless to say, it's rare when box office success meets popular success (both commercially nationwide, and horror/cult status). "Paranormal Activity" is obviously the latest example.

It's hard to put your finger on a single reason why "Pet Sematary" works so well. Its initial audience obviously came with the Stephen King following, but the film DOESN'T work well on many levels, and that's one reason why it works. Wait...does that make sense? I think so.

Again, "Pet Sematary" works on many levels, but it's the things that don't make any sense at all that really catapult "Pet Sematary" into super stardom. The following is a list of things that make no sense to me whatsoever pertaining to the film. If you disagree, please feel free to elaborate. And remember, I'm talking strictly of the movie, not the book. The book might have these answers, but the movie does not. Here goes:

1. What type of mother are you? Those trucks are freaking dangerous. Why not have a fence installed so the kids don't go wondering into the street? Why is there no discussion of this between parents.

2. I love Jud as a character, but why would you show them the powers of the cemetery when you know what evil it does? You tell the family that kids have to learn about death sometime but then you teach the father about bringing a dead cat back to life? Pretty sure you're making the whole death thing a bit confusing.

3. As a child, why leave Rachel alone with someone clearly close to death with Spinal Meningitis. I mean, that is parenting at its finest. Can we teach that after Lamaze class? Would Charlie Manson even do that to his own kids? (Did he ever have offspring?)

4. Denial is a main character in this one. Louis Creed brings back a goes wrong. Then he brings back his son...he goes wrong (but soooo right). Then he brings back his wife...she goes wrong. This is a doctor, a man of science. Check the stats, play the odds.

If it didn't work the first time, it won't work the second or the third. And I don't care if he says something about not doing it soon enough. He's out of his mind and Dale Midkiff needs to be in more things. If anyone has connections, I want him in my movie. Please, someone make a call for me. He could be Ash's younger brother.

(Coincidentally, Bruce Campbell was the first choice for this role.) And if he was bringing all those people back, I really wished he brought Jud back. Jud would have came back like a George Romero zombie. It would have been cinematic history.

5. How many people have ever gotten into a fist fight with either their father in law, or son in law? I'm sure there are many of you. Of that number, how many of you had that fist fight at a funeral? At either your son's, or your grandson's funeral. Really? You couldn't have taken it outside? Now yes, seeing that coffin open and close after getting hit was a great moment, but damn. You have to pick the right moments for a fight.

6. Jud saves Gage from going into the street of killer trucks once, and yet they still end up letting him get ran over by a truck. Worst parents ever?

7. Spot the dog came back evil. Then Jud witnesses a person being brought back and they had to burn his house down. Again, why would Jud teach Louis how to bring the cat back after going through all that? This is beyond my comprehension.

8. Victor Pascow is a great character. But let's resort to a hypothetical. Say you've just died. Don't you have things to figure out? Look at Patrick Swayze in "Ghost." He has so much work to figure out where he is, and what his capabilities are.

Pascow dies and all of a sudden, he's helping out this doctor he doesn't even know. Yes, I know he's helping Louis because Louis tried to help him. But doesn't Pascow have dead family members he could be reacquainting himself with? Or maybe he could be trying to send these messages to a wife or mother and not the doctor he's never met. Isn't that bizarre? And stop saying things like "The soil in a man's heart is stonier." Why is it that ghosts can't just say simple sentences. How about the version where he says, "Don't bring the dead back to life Louis. That's messed up."

He could learn from Jack Goodman in "An American Werewolf in London." He goes to his best friend and helps him right away and doesn't speak in gibberish either. He says, (paraphrasing) "Sorry best old buddy, you're going to have to kill yourself." Simple and to the point.

Okay, I'm pretty sure the list can go on and on. But remember, it's the faults in horror movies that make them great. The best example is this:

A beautiful bimbo runs through the forest at night from a hideous serial killer. She almost gets away until...she trips.

As soon as "the trip" occurs, the whole audience in the theater moans and groans. Why? "The trip" has to be in horror movies because of the reaction it gets. I love the moan and groan every time I hear it. This is why horror movies will live on way past romantic comedies and other genres. You get the moan and groan, you get grossed out, you get aroused, you get spooked, etc. You get all these wonderfully bizarre moments.

"Pet Sematary" is my favorite scary movie. I watch it multiple times every year, and find something new that I hadn't spotted before. It wasn't til this year that I realized a man played Zelda. Apparently, the reason was because they couldn't find a woman emaciated enough to play the part. Won't have that trouble for the remake.

Can't wait to go home and watch this film again. I want to see Gage in his cute little outfit at the end saying "No fair" and then tripping and hitting his head on the wall.

All in all, the only thing I can say is this, and I want you all to truly take this to heart..."Sometimes, dead is better."

Sunday, October 17, 2010


With the initial first draft of the script complete, I've decided to take some time off from the script before diving into the editing process. It's a breath of fresh air to have the initial draft finished, but it's the rewrites that will make the script better.

Before sending "The Devil's Forest" out to my first round of readers for notes and suggestions, I have to make my own changes beforehand.

"Write with the door closed, rewrite with the door open." - Stephen King

Thursday, October 14, 2010

A Special Thanks

A few months ago, I went to Max Leitman, COO of Bandito Brothers. I wanted his advice on a project called "The Long Corridor," which was a short film I wrote. For me it wasn't about the money. This was a story I felt needed to be told and it was important to me to get it made.

Looking for Max's help, his reply was brief, and went something like this:

Max: It's a short film?
Shaun: Yes.
Max: There's no money in short films. How much are you going to spend?
Shaun: Maybe $20,000.
Max: Why don't you just write a longer story and make a full length feature for like $40,000?
Shaun: Max, that doesn't help. This short film is a story I really want to tell. It's important.
Max: Eh.

Leaving his office, my first thought was, "Man, he just doesn't get it." Turns out...he understood completely.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Allah Las

My male lead in the script is a musician. His grandmother was a famous producer in the music industry and the male lead's parents were a part of the wonderful world of sex, drugs, and rock and roll in the 70s. His father was a great musician, but he hit legendary status when he died.

With music being so vital to the film, both in story and character, it was a necessity to find the perfect type of music. And unfortunately, when I started writing, I had no idea what musicians would suffice.

When I asked Miles Michaud if I could listen to some of his music, I had no idea what to expect. I burned a copy of some tracks he gave me and listened to it on my way home from work. Needless to say, that cd is still being played to and from work. His band is Allah Las.

Their music is raw, their lyrics have depth, and their voice is unique. I'm looking in their direction to create songs specifically for the film, and also to perform in it as well.

For your viewing pleasure, please find two songs that I can't stop playing. They're fun, energetic, and have nothing to do with the visuals I've chosen to display.

Click on the title of this post to go to their myspace page with updated concerts, videos and songs. Also, Miles Michaud has a radio show called Reverberation on KXLU 88.9 Los Angeles on Wednesday mornings. Be sure to check it out.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

The Cabin

Scouted out this location the same day as The Overlook and Abandoned House (see earlier posts for pictures). This cabin helped me mold the story and individual scenes during the writing process. It made it easy to visualize my characters in these places geographically, and my writing picked up in tempo because of it.

One of the things that really draws me to this cabin is that it has so many different locations within such a small area, and each spot has a totally different personality to it. Take the red walls of the bedroom and contrast it with the long steps surrounded by the crisp greenery. Or the bleakness of the dry, dead trees mixed with the blooming flowers.

As most of ACT 2 will take place in or around the cabin, it's important to have multiple areas to shoot to keep it fresh.

Double click the youtube clip so the images aren't cropped!

Music by Goblin from the Dario Argento classic, "Suspiria."