Benson and Moorehead: Springing Forward

 "I just saw a zombie shooting heroin."

Two years ago Aaron Benson and Justin Moorehead made the highly ambiguous and ambitious low budget film RESOLUTION. At, I championed the film with a glowing review and it also made its way into the 13 MIND BLOWING HORROR MOVIES OF 2013 as an honorable mention. For their first film, they tackled themes of friendship, drug abuse, the haunting re-occurrence of history, and indecipherable endings. Resolution, at its heart is a drama about two childhood friends. Without the horror, Benson and Moorehead would have created a great indie buddy film. With their second feature, they continue this concept. The horror of SPRING is secondary to the budding relationship of the story.

I was provided the opportunity to see SPRING at the Telluride Horror Show last October. In all of my research leading up to the festival, I overlooked the fact that it was the same directors behind RESOLUTION. It was a rookie mistake, but when I saw their names pop up in the credits I was even more excited than before. Prior to that screening there wasn't much in the way of reviews, criticisms, or word-of-mouth. I had no expectations going into the film. It was the last screening after a twelve hour day of horror and it still held a captive audience.
From its premiere at TIFF until now, Benson and Moorehead have had a very successful six months. The title of their film is not only ridden with metaphors throughout the story, but is also reflected in the lives of its creators. In the film, the death of Evan's (Lou Taylor Pucci) mother and a bar brawl become the impetus to a trip to Italy. The slow death of both his parents has left him stuck within his own purgatory. By fleeing to Europe, he seeks change and a new beginning. Evan is a flower crippled by the many winters of his life. His journey of self-discovery begins his new season. Benson and Moorehead have also found a restorative metamorphosis through the distribution juggernaut that is Alamo Drafthouse. I collect every title Drafthouse releases, they are quickly becoming the Criterion of independent cinema. By finding distribution through Drafthouse, the creators of SPRING have blossomed.

Lou Taylor Pucci, who proved himself as a young actor in the indie scene back in 2005 with the back-to-back release of Thumbsucker and The Chumscrubber, is no stranger to horror films. Though I'm not too keen on the remake craze, he was great in Evil Dead (2013). In Spring, Pucci handles himself with a soaring grace. Pucci's Evan is a character in conflict. Though the grief of being without a family hits him hard, there is also a guilt-stricken freedom he's never been afforded before. He starts a new chapter of his life by travelling. What begins as a debaucherous adventure to soak his mourning in alcohol, eventually becomes a longing for companionship. This is when Louise (Nadia Hilker) enters his life. Louise is a beautiful and brilliant scientist who has traveled the world, knows countless languages, and somehow is seduced by the broken Evan. At this point we begin to ask ourselves about the horror. Louise has a mystery to her that feels ominous as does the atmosphere of the film. While the cinematography utilizes every aspect of this picture-esque fishing village, it also infuses extreme close-ups of battling insects and decaying animal carcasses. The score emphasizes a foreboding by amplifying sounds of the insect kingdom to a point of distortion. We truly feel the horror way before any is shown to us.

SPRING moves from being an homage to Richard Linklater's Before trilogy into the realm of H.P. Lovecraft during its final act. Some will disagree with any mention of 'the ancient ones' in regards to this film, but who else are we to credit with transformative creatures that defy category? The love story that blooms in Spring is not normal by rom-com or rom-dram standards, there is an obvious reason for this and one more subtle. Evan and Louise are not lovers like Noah and Alice or even Romeo and Juliet, they form a bond out of necessity. Evan has been caring for others most of his adult life, while Louise has been running away from others. When Evan's life becomes a meaningless void he seeks to fill it with someone to care for. Louise has never known full acceptance until meeting Evan. He becomes the first person she can disclose anything to without judgement or fear. This is not a love often seen on celluloid. Moments after the film's conclusion we wonder what will become of their relationship. It provides us a similar feeling as The Graduate did in 1967.

The creature effects fit perfectly within the story. Though the monstrous images stand out, they do not detract from the love story being told. Benson and Moorehead have struck gold again. By not falling victim to the repetitive nature of horror tropes they have solidified themselves as new and innovative voices in genre-bending cinema. If they continue this course of treating the horror in their material as secondary to the story, I see a long career of thought provoking indie films in their future.


Cloyne and the Persistence of Persona

CLOWN (2014)

Directed by: Jon Watts
Written by: Jon Watts, Christopher D. Ford
Produced by: Eli Roth
Rated R
100 min

Digging Up The Marrow and finding Adam Green

Adam Green's latest film is mostly a tribute to Adam Green. He wrote, directed, produced, edited, and starred in a film about monsters... and himself. If your a random horror fan, who for some reason doesn't know who Adam Green is, don't worry. DIGGING UP THE MARROW gives you a full recap of his career. It may come across as narcissistic at first, but Adam is so lovable that you watch in hopes that he will actually find monsters.

The plot is simple: while Adam is gearing up for a new season of HOLLISTON he receives a piece of fan mail that sends him down the rabbit hole. The journals of William Dekker outline a new approach to what creates something monstrous. Armed with a camera and a never doubting belief in creatures, Adam and his long time friend/cinematographer Will Barratt set off to the Marrow (an entrance into the catacombs of freak city).

Adam is willing to put his show and his life in jeopardy just for a tiny glimpse of otherworldly beings. By starring in the film as himself and featuring members of the horror community, Green creates a very post-modern monster film. You will see a fantastic list of cameos in the film: Tony Todd, Joe Lynch, Lloyd Kaufman, Don Coscarelli, Mick Garris, Tom Holland, and Kane Hodder. It becomes a game of who's who in "Horror Hollywood." These directors all coming together to be featured in Adam's film, creates a reality to all of the subsequent events. Which is the main goal of any found footage film. The only problem within DIGGING UP THE MARROW is who plays William Dekker. While everyone else is themselves, the role of Dekker went to the brilliant Ray Wise. Normally, there would be no issue with casting Wise. Since we all know who he is, this fact actually steals away from what Green is trying to accomplish. It would have been an excellent choice to have used Alex Pardee for the part (his artistry is featured throughout the film).

This is no gripe against Ray Wise, who cemented himself in the nerd community by giving us one of the best television performances ever captured. His Leland Palmer is etched into our memory. Leland's daughter has been murdered, his hair has turned white, and he cries while dancing - no character has ever shown the absurd reality that grief can be. Wise began his horror career as Dr. Holland in SWAMP THING and throughout the years has held our attention with an onslaught of small roles. He's worked with Paul Verhoeven in ROBOCOP, Victor Salva - the sex offender - in JEEPERS CREEPERS II, Mike Mendez in BIG ASS SPIDER!, and had the stand-out performance in Richard Bates Jr's SUBURBAN GOTHIC. Ray Wise has been everywhere and while he's never been Hollywood's leading man, he holds a special place in our hearts. He worked with Green in CHILLERAMA and as a landlord in HOLLISTON's first episode. It would seem only right to provide him a leading role in DIGGING UP THE MARROW, but it deters you from the cool reality that Green sets up. Wise's conspiracy theorist/monster hunter character is believable and delivered with such ease that you almost forget that it's Ray Wise - but in the end, you just can't forget that it is RAY WISE!

Everything else about Adam's film is a work of love. The monsters look beautiful and the world-hidden-from-ours concept is intriguing. While watching, you will want to believe in this realm Adam's found. I appreciate that besides Ray Wise, the reality of the film is kept intact. This means that the real people, who play themselves, do not die. This may seem like a spoiler but it's not. Anything can happen to William Dekker since he is a fictitious character, but everyone else in the film is alive and well today. To have any 'real' person die within the story would have been a huge letdown and ruined the film. So, I'm just saying, you do not have to worry about this letdown. It's an all-around fun experience and you get to see fellow horror nerds talking about monsters. I would highly recommend it! You know, if your into Adam Green, Ray Wise, and monsters.


The Great Western Adventure Part 2: Horror Show

We checked in with the festival and received our passes. Once we were official, we stood in line for the kickoff meal. The sacrificial pig was delicious. His meat coursed through our veins as we talked about our weekend to be. Some people were just winging their decisions on what films to see, but my days were carefully planned out. After two weeks of researching the films, I felt my choices were pretty solid. 

Once the pig was devoured and greetings were made, the walk to The Nugget theater began. We made our way in droves to the first event. Our first outing was "Squirm," a short film showcase filled with extreme horror. No one in that audience was disappointed. I've never seen so much genital mutilation in such a short amount of time. The highlight had to be when a teenage girl and her parents walked out of K.W. Roach's stark and beautiful Dead Fuck. I guess the naked girl having sex with a decomposed corpse was a bit too much for the family. What I didn't understand was that the family had already sat through a giant kidney-stone-monster eating its way back inside its father and a teenager having sex with a vagina alien that was stuck in his bedroom wall. Lesson learned: ripping open a penis and killing an alien-human infant are okay taboos to break, just don't include any necrophilia - that's going too far. With the family gone, I felt bad that they missed out on a woman giving birth to millions of tiny spiders in full detail, forced cannibalism with a seamen syrup, and amateur sex reassignment surgery. All in all this was a perfectly curated shorts block. We laughed and cringed when appropriate. It was a great beginning to the weekend.

The Mirror or Suburban Gothic

While I was interested in a film dealing with the James Randi Foundation and the search for true paranormal occurrences, the horror-comedy won. Suburban Gothic featured the greatest Ray Wise performance to date. His racist father character is so extreme and ignorant that just seeing him on screen makes you laugh. He's a high school football coach and when he invites players from the team home for a celebration, he apologizes to the black players because he forgot the grape pop. Looking past Ray Wise, we have a great comedy but not so much a great horror film. Richard Bates Jr. has shown us with his debut film Excision that he has an impressive working knowledge of what thrills an audience, but with Suburban Gothic the tacky special effects deter from the great comedic elements of the story. Even though Kat Dennings is her normal disenfranchised self, she at least channels her inner Marla Singer. The star of the film is Matthew Gray Gubler who puts most hipsters to shame with his emotionally stunted stoicism in the face of horror and crazy "city" outfits. Suburban Gothic is worth it just for the comedy.

Creep or ABCs Of Death 2

This was an easy decision since ABCs was on demand. It would have been great to see it with an audience, but in the end after seeing both films, Creep is in many ways superior. I have a full review over at that you can check out here. Creep is just pure brilliance in so many ways. Patrick Brice has truly outdone himself with his debut film. From the opening twenty minutes you can tell that it was a labor of love. In interviews with Mark Duplass and Patrick Brice they have stated that the characters came out of a constant filming during the pre-production phase. Not until later in the process did it become clear that the story was going in a dark direction. Creep is absolutely a contender for the Top 14 Horror Movies of 2014.

Friday night ended with a drink at The Sheridan and a nice walk through the darkened streets of Telluride. I was told to watch out for bears! Saturday began with food and coffee from The Steaming Bean - both very lovely. The films began at 10:30AM and would continue till 12:30AM. I knew I would be chugging caffeine just to keep going, but that's the way it is supposed to be at a film fest.

"Horror, Ha Ha!" Shorts or Bag Boy Lover Boy

When given the choice between shorts and a feature, I'll tend to choose the feature film. As a writer, it provides you the opportunity to write for a wider audience. So for completely selfish reasons I chose the full length films. I did hear that the horror comedy shorts were really good and judging by the low attendance in Bag Boy Lover Boy, most people wanted to start their day off with a laugh. We went the opposite direction with Bag Boy. In Andres Torres' first film, he displays a New York very different from how recent films portray the city. He goes back to the seventies grittiness of the streets, not the well lit shopping mecca that Times Square has become. This reflects in his main protagonist Albert (Jon Wachter), a hot dog vendor, who is a strange mix of lovable and disgusting at the same time. His diabolical nature rests beneath a rather child-like mind. It is only when he is dragged into the deplorable world created by photographer Ivan Worthington (Theodore Boubukos) that Albert's carnal side comes to the surface. Ivan creates misogynistic and masochistic art for the highest bidder and he uses Albert as a model. Albert dreams of becoming a great photographer, so he emulates Ivan with terrifying results. It reminds me of some weird mash-up of Martin Scorcesse and Hershall Gordon Lewis - which is a good thing.

Ejecta or Backwater

Dialogue based horror about a man recounting his close encounter or a couple camping in the woods and terrible things happen? I may have chose the wrong film. We went to Backwater thinking it would be a fun, people-in-peril, scary shit happening in the woods kind of film but we were wrong. I'll always be a supporter of indie filmmaking and Christopher Schrack does a lot with the $40K budget, but his story is filled with plot holes and inconsistencies. I am happy that he was able to secure distribution through, but I felt as though he had too many ideas that he wanted to compress into his short run time. The end of Backwater, which I will not totally give away, had a total of five endings and each one fell short - including one that incorporated a found footage aesthetic which was not previously mentioned. The sound design for the film, which I hope will be corrected when the film is released, consisted of ear shattering bass that was recorded within a car interior while driving. This did not provide for suspense, but it did give everyone a headache.

Closer To God or Gravy

The festival programmer, Ted Wilson, championed Billy Senese's Closer To God. So, even though Gravy looked like a fun cannibal variation of Funny Games, we were more inclined to see Senese's film. I'm glad I saw Closer To God and had the privilege of a Q&A with Senese and the star Jeremy Childs. Closer is a pressure cooker, you feel it slowly building all the various layers of plot until it reaches its apex and releases the steam with an explosion. The story is a modern day retelling of Frankenstein, but instead of stitching a corpse together and using lightning to bring it to life, they just use cloning. Jeremy Childs plays Victor - like Victor Frankenstein - but that's an obvious one. Less obvious homages to the classic tale include enraged sign carrying protesters against cloning, as the angry villagers. Also, Victor's first clone was a throw away that seeks to destroy him, this is another intentional nod to the Mary Shelley classic. Closer To God is disturbing and taboo breaking for the modern world, like Frankenstein was when it was originally released.

Among The Living or The Houses October Built

This was the toughest decision of the entire weekend. In other words, what an incredible time you must be having when your biggest problem in life is choosing between two potentially great horror films. There were a few hours before either film started and we all spent time researching each one. The French extremism of Alexandre Bustillo and Julien Maury - the minds behind Inside (2007), Livid (2011), and next year's Leatherface (fingers crossed) - or an unknown found footage film about haunted houses. My first instinct while composing my list two weeks prior to the show was Among The Living, then it changed to Houses. I kept feeling as though I had seen Bobby Roe's documentary of the same name (alas, I have not), so I imagined Houses would be a great experience in the theater. We finally all chose The Houses October Built and it was a sold out show. The group that we had amassed during the weekend, took up nearly two rows of seats. Before we entered the theater, they were handing out promotional masks for the film - which were awesome. I love promo items and these masks were perfect for a photo shoot - and that is what they did. Once we were all seated they took pictures of the theater and all of us had our masks on. It was a fun experience and the film was really good. I was genuinely scared for a lot of the scenes, but the film was released on demand after the festival whereas Among The Living is still nowhere to be found. 

"Fear Itself" Shorts or Spring

I didn't know much about Spring going in. It was a last minute addition to the fest and I didn't have time to research it. I had seen the trailer and that was it. Now, had I looked the film up I would have been even more excited. Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead created the wildly interesting and ambiguous Resolution (2012), which I've seen multiple times. Each time I see that film it becomes more bizarre than the last, which I never thought was possible of any film (except maybe Terry Gilliam's Brazil). Spring is a different beast for these directors. The story is a slow moving love story with a monstrous secret. It instantly reminded me of Only Lovers Left Alive in its tone - not much else. Lou Taylor Pucci is great as the American whose life falls apart and he moves to Europe to mess up his life even more. Nadia Hilker is the love interest and she's fantastic to watch. The film is Stuart Gordon body horror mixed with the film Love Story.

Our night was over, and after 14 hrs of horror movies, what do you do? Go home and watch more. Those are signs of a true horror addict. 

The Editor or The Boxtrolls

Another simple choice. The Boxtrolls was playing at any theater. I was really excited for The Editor and not a single frame let me down. I've seen Father's Day, but not Manborg. Still, I roughly knew what was in store. Mike Snoonian from introduced The Editor and made sure to let us know that the dialogue was out of sync as a stylistic choice not an issue with the screening. It provided for another element of humor while spoofing the Giallo genre. Adam Brooks and Matthew Kennedy do for the Giallo film what Scary Movie did for the post-modern slasher film. Though, in the case of Brooks and Kennedy, many are not familiar with the tropes present in trashy Italian thrillers. There are homages to The Beyond, Suspiria, Videodrome, Black Belly Of The Tarantula, Zombi, and When A Stranger Calls Back to name a few. There's also an 80's synth score that sounds like Claudio Simotti, blue and green gels over lighting, and many other references to Dario Argento and Lucio Fulci. The Editor was made by fans for fans and every scene is perfect.

Wolfcop or Backcountry

Backcountry was another last minute add, but even if it wasn't, my heart was set on Wolfcop. It is exactly what you think it is, a movie about a cop who turns into a werewolf. It is also Canadian, which makes the spoken dialogue even better. Lou Garou (Leo Fafard) is an alcoholic cop - but not even a functioning alcoholic cop - until he is transformed into a wolf. Between the drinking and the wolf sex he learns how to actually stop crime.

After Wolfcop I had the pleasure of meeting Tony Strauss of Weng's Chop a quarterly publication dedicated to cult and horror cinema. He actually gave me a copy of their last issue and it has been incredible reading material. I think Weng's Chop is high on my contributing material wish list.

The Babadook 

The last film of the fest and one of the scariest. Jennifer Kent's debut film is stunning, dark, and disturbing. She has created a modern myth and within the current remake craze, this is a feat all of its own. The Babadook itself is a terrifying faceless entity that possesses an already troubled host. He is first seen in a disturbing children's book - which should be released, I'd love to own this book - and through the fear of a mother and child is brought to life. The Babadook is not a Freddy Krueger or Michael Meyers, he is the actual boogeyman. This was another audience favorite of the weekend. I still find myself saying, "Baba dook dook dook!"

Once we came out of the theater, a sadness overwhelmed us as we realized the fun was over. We would all have to return to our lives and only memories of the horror marathon would last. Over the course of twenty-six hours we were given werewolves, boogeymen, Frankensteins, mutilations, scare actors, homages, giallos, creeps, laughs, and romance. All of it was made possible by Ted and Lynn Wilson, the festival directors. Brad McHargue of Dread Central and Mike Snoonian from AllThingsHorror made each introduction exciting and psyched up the crowd. Even after all the films were over there was a closing party at the Last Dollar Saloon that was organized by Colin Sullivan. Everyone wore werewolf masks and got drunk. I would say it was a once in a lifetime weekend, but I know I'll be back next year. 

A special thank you to Telluride Horror Show's publicist Travis Volz, who did an amazing job circulating my festival preview, I'm always glad to help.

The Great Western Adventure: Part 1

My journey began in New Orleans and took me to the secluded mountain town of Telluride, CO. The show kicked off at 5PM on Friday, but my adventure started on Wednesday. It would become my most beloved memory.

My flight from New Orleans to Denver was at 6PM, but I was dropped off at the airport at 1PM. It gave me a few hours to kill. I was still compiling notes for The Horror Show, so the extra time was needed. The flight went first to Atlanta, GA then to Denver. I got in at 10:30PM and needed to juice my phone, so I sat in the airport for a while then made my way to the bus. There's a regional bus that takes you from the airport directly to Union Station - it takes 45min. When I got to downtown Denver, I had a custom google map to let me know where to go, but of course I got lost. What is there to do in Denver at midnight on a weekday? Not much. My first stop that seemed close on the map was a bar/arcade. 

It took me twenty-five minutes to walk there with a 20 lb. pack on my back and a 10 lb. messenger bag across my shoulder. The Jameson and Ginger Ale drinks I had at the bar were a bad idea since I hadn't had any food in ten hours, but the time playing Tron, Frogger, and a Tales From The Crypt pinball machine (which I was really good at for some reason) were great. I left the hipster haven with a buzz and deep hunger. I knew that Tom's Diner was a 24hr hangout, but I didn't know it was nearly an hour walk. My stomach was eating itself. I made it to the diner at 2AM and ate a feast that couldn't be beat. A huge thank you to my server, it was her first night and the place was strangely packed. She was awesome. I told her to take care of the rude customers first, I had all the time in the world. The food came out and it was an okay breakfast, but when you're starving everything tastes like Thanksgiving. I took an Adderall that kicked in after my fourth cup of coffee. 

The pack was lighter and everything I saw began to render itself into a deep focus. My phone died when I was trying to find the next spot of my all-nighter. It's not like you can ask anyone for directions at 3 in the morning. I was asked if I had any bubbles, which I later found out translates into: you got any pot? Finally, I made my way into Leela's European Cafe. With the drugs taking effect, I wrote nearly twenty pages of my ongoing novel - and when I look back at those pages, they actually work.

The next step in my trip was supposed to be a train ride through the Rocky Mountains that left at 8AM, but I received a notification that the train would be delayed till noon. So I sat in the cafe and watched as the sun rose through the city streets. The barista put Maury Povich on and the stragglers at the bar laughed at the various paternity tests. I left Leela's at about 8AM and walked to the train. They let me leave my luggage. When I took that pack off I finally felt free. I then watched as the 16th Street Mall filled with people. It is a mile stretch of stores complete with its own free bus. I grabbed a french toast cinnamon roll from Duffey Rolls and waited for a certain store to open.

By 10AM I just wanted to lay down, so I hopped on the train - though it would not leave the station till noon. I figured I could get a few hours of sleep, but that was simply not the case. Every sound was amplified and there was no such thing as comfort. Normally, a nice train ride is accompanied by short bouts of napping, but after 25hrs of being awake all I could do is close my eyes and imagine what sleep would feel like. 
The train left the station at 12:15 and for 8hrs I stared out the window as we climbed further up the mountains. We passed through a handful of tunnels along the way, but there was one in particular that lasted for ten minutes. We were told that there was 3,000 feet of rock above us and not to travel between cars due to the gasses that build up in the tunnel. Not even in total darkness could I find the sleep I needed. The train ended up in Grand Junction. I had a reserved motel room that was nearly a two hour walk away. I decided to call a cab. The room was CHEAP, but it had a surface level clean. You know the type, everything was dated but there wasn't any visible dirt, but when you stare at any one spot for too long you begin to notice a possible blood stain or two. Nothing else mattered. I had a shower, bed, and a tube TV with 12 channels. I fell asleep at 11:30PM. For those of you that have been keeping track, you're right, I was awake for a little over 38hrs. The dead don't sleep as well as I did that night.

The next morning, I decided that my choice in carrying a back pack for this journey was a stupid one. I figured there was a few hours to kill before I had a friend picking me up, so I'd go to Target. The map said it was only two miles away, but because it was off a main highway it suggested a route through neighborhoods that would take me an hour and a half. I decided to check for any buses in the area and one was scheduled to arrive a few minutes from when I looked it up. I quickly grabbed my things and made the bus. The downside of the bus was that it traveled into two other towns before circling back to Target. A five minute car ride took an hour, but it was shorter than walking. I walked around Target for a few hours, got some terrible Starbucks, a rolling suitcase, and waited for my ride. Once she arrived it was smooth sailing. We arrived in Telluride with a few minutes to spare before the roasted pig kickoff party.

Stay tuned for Part 2, The Telluride Horror Show

A New Procrastination

So you've spent 20 minutes on Facebook, a half an hour going through your news feeds, and you are waiting another 20 minutes for a life in Candy Crush (insert any fad game here: Angry Birds, Clay Jam, Temple Run, Song Pop, Words With Friends, Flow Free ect.), and you still don't feel like doing anything useful with your life.  Well here's a new way to waste time: The IMDB Game.

At first glance The IMDB Game may seem like its only for cinephiles, but that is not the case.  Sure film geeks may do a bit better, but anyone can play.

The Rules:

Pick a random number 1-100, or two random numbers 1-100.  Now go to the IMDB Top 250 and see the corresponding film, then go to the Bottom 100 and see what terrible movie you chose.  With the two movie titles link them any way you can.  You can use actors, directors, screenwriters, and crew members.

Here's an example: 
If you choose 46 you will get Citizen Kane from the top 250 and The Blade Master from the bottom 100.  Let the game begin.  Joe D'Amato directed The Blade Master and Emmanuelle In America which starred Laura Gemser.  She had a role in Voyage Of The Damned with Orson Wells who created Citizen Kane.

*46.) The Blade Master -> Joe D'Amato -> Emmanuelle In America -> Laura Gemser -> Voyage Of The Damned -> Orson Wells -> Citizen Kane

Now you try.  Comment below on the ties you've made.  And remember you can do that important life stuff later.

*The lists change frequently.  Upon writing this The Blade Master has been moved to 45, while Citizen Kane still sat at 46.

Our Week In Telluride

Cineniche's editors were given the opportunity this year to invade the Telluride Film Festival. It was a week of celebrity sightings, immense beauty, intense hiking, and film premieres.

We have close friends who have given up on the modern hustle that city life can be. It has been to their benefit, we have never seen the couple more at rest. They moved out to the tiny village nearly a year ago and now live in the serenity of a mountain paradise.

Telluride, CO is a mountain town nestled in the middle of nowhere. It sits at an elevation of 8,750 feet and boasts a population of around 2,500. Originally established as a mining town, it has now become the alternative to Aspen. Seeing a ski resort during the summer is odd because you see all the paths that lay in wait of that first snow. Besides the great slopes, Telluride is also a host to countless festivals. This brings us to the film fest.

Each year as film festivals gear up for their time to shine, they release program guides and issue press releases that entice the film community to make the trek. Telluride on the other hand, has a long running tradition of secrecy. We spent nearly a month digging around for any news on what to expect, but found nothing. Not even a forum with inside info. You go in blind but come out enlightened. The passes were sold out five months prior to the event. We knew without these sacred passes we would be limited in what we could see, but that didn't stop us.

The fest offers free films, films in the park, open lectures, and conversations. This was our gold. The first thing we witnessed was a discussion panel that included our idol Werner Herzog. He was just as amazing in person. He was asked if putting himself in life threatening situations made him feel more alive, to which he replied, “I feel most alive when I'm eating a good steak.” After this we popped on over to the courthouse where Leonard Maltin was interviewing Bruce Dern about his role in Nebraska. We ended the first day by seeing a free screening of Jodorowsky's Dune.


Early reviews have promoted the film as a documentary about the greatest film never made. This really sums it up. After El Topo and Holy Mountain, Alexandro was given carte blanche on his next project. He chose the drug-addled characters that populated Frank Herbert's sci-fi epic Dune. He came so close to making his concept a reality. He hired artists to help shape his vision and created a comprehensive visual screenplay. He avidly worked in pre-production and the finish line of production was in sight. Unfortunately, it came down to a lack of a mere five million dollars. All the other funds were raised, but no one would back the little that was left. Mick Jagger, Orson Welles, Salvador Dali, and Gloria Swanson were signed on. Pink Floyd was tapped to do the soundtrack and H.R. Giger was designing the creatures. Even if it all would have ended up as a mess of a film, it already had a built in cult status.

The influence of Jodorowsky's Dune reached far beyond its limited confines. Without Jodorowsky spending all his time and money attempting to create his masterpiece there would be no Alien (1979). Dan O'Bannon and H.R. Giger met for the first time as hand picked artists for Dune.

Frank Pavich's documentary allows Jodorowsky to tell the story in his own words and by doing so the film becomes an exploration of the filmmaker's life and work. By diving into the director's greatest failure you don't find a man mourning the way things could have been, instead we see someone sharing the excitement of the creative process.


The next day we found a free showing of Milius, another documentary about a filmmaker. John Milius was the inspiration for Walter Sobchak (John Goodman) in The Big Lebowsky. This gives you an overall image of the man. He was big, burly, militaristic, loud and stubborn. We didn't know much about him prior to the film, but walked out with a girth of knowledge. Milius is good friends with Spielberg and Lucas – they were in the same film classes. Once out of school John became the go-to writer. He mainly did rewrites, but his words were believed to be gold. A key monologue in Jaws is the work of Milius. He was unaccredited for the best scenes in Dirty Harry, but co-wrote the sequel. He went on to write Apocalypse Now, Conan, and Red Dawn (he also directed the latter two).

Milius was constantly criticized for his right wing beliefs, and this documentary showcases everyone he's worked with. They all stand up for him and his brilliance.

Later that day we caught another discussion panel, this time for Steve McQueen's 12 Years A Slave. Michael Fassbinder was intelligent and respectful of the subject matter even when harassed by the Q&A. Someone asked why Hollywood continues to make sub-par films? The resounding answer from the panel was: because people go see them.

That night we were treated to an outdoor projection of Death Rides A Horse, an under-seen spaghetti western from 1967 with The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly's Lee Van Cleef. Though the lawn was a bit muddy from the day's rain and we were all uncomfortable and tired it was still great to see.

The following morning we skipped the festival to take in the scenery. We went hiking, and it made us regret every cigarette that had ever polluted our lungs. That day our friends found us free passes which were good for any film at the fest. It was a difficult decision. Do we see Gravity, Palo Alto, or Inside Llewyn Davis? Being lifelong Coen brothers fans and seeing them outside a restaurant while we were trying to decide helped seal the deal.


It is with a heavy heart that we cannot give the Coen's latest effort our ultimate praise. It may take another viewing to fully understand our feelings toward the film. The cinematography is spot on, everything feels like a drab version of the sixties. Oscar Issac's performance is perfect, and John Goodman's ten minutes is unforgettable. It is difficult to say what is missing.

We would recommend the film to everyone, but provide a warning for your expectations. Do not expect any of the quirkiness of Coen comedies or character revelations that can occur in their dramas. Do not expect to love the protagonist since he is also the antagonist; Llewyn's choices and who he is as a person are the reasons he cannot progress. The music is fantastic, and it shows the depth of Llewyn, while his actions are in constant battle with the beauty he is able to produce.

Leaving the utopia of Telluride and our closest friends may have been the most difficult thing we've ever had to do. Cineniche may have to unshackle its Chicago chains and flee to the land that feels like a permanent vacation.

We would like to thank Megan and everyone over at The Steaming Bean for providing all of our caffeine needs during our 5 day stay.

The Steaming Bean
221 W Colorado Ave
Telluride, Co 81435