Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Guillermo Del Toro on Video Games

The internet is a buzz lately about Guillermo's desire to create the CITIZEN KANE of video games, as quoted in an excerpt from a recent WIRED magazine interview. In it, Guillermo said,

Wired: You're describing a model that's more like a videogame. Is the merger of movies and games the first step?

del Toro: Unfortunately, I've found in my videogame experience that the big companies are just as conservative as the studios. I was disappointed with the first Hellboy game. I'm very impressed with the sandbox of Grand Theft Auto. You can get lost in that world. But we're using it just to shoot people and run over old ladies. We could be doing so much more.

Wired: But these nonlinear, hybrid storytelling forms involve gaming tech, which could trap them in a geek ghetto. What's going to bring down that wall?

del Toro: Go back a couple of decades to the birth of the graphic novel—I think we can pinpoint the big bang to Will Eisner's A Contract With God. Today, we have very worthy people doing literary comics. I think the same thing will happen on the Internet-gaming side. In the next 10 years, there will be an earthshaking Citizen Kane of games.

Wired: Are you going to create it?

del Toro: I'll be trying to make it. But I won't be trying until after The Hobbit.

Guillermo has talked about this sort of thing before - he has always had an interest in video games and melding them with film and/or TV to create a complete multimedia experience. If you want to read a fantastic interview with Guillermo about video games, check out this August 2008 Q&A with EDGE MAGAZINE.

It briefly mentions GDT's first attempt to develop a video game, a failed project called SUNDOWN with Terminal Reality, which we reported on here at DTF briefly in 2006.

Monday, May 18, 2009


Do you want to have some fun?

Well, if you're idea of fun includes vampires, biological horror, scary folk tales, and the undead walking the earth, then I have a recommendation for you:

THE STRAIN - book one of the trilogy of novels from Guillermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan.

If you're a big GDT fan (and I assume you are because you're reading this blog), then you are getting some classic, old school Guillermo here. This is his triumphant return to horror in a whole new medium.

The end result?

BLADE 2 meets CSI.

THE STRAIN is not a meditation like PAN'S LABYRINTH, or a metaphorical folk tale like THE DEVIL'S BACKBONE. It is an in-your-face horror thriller that is not for the squeamish.

Here is the set up:

A Boeing 777 arrives at JFK and is on its way across the tarmac, when it suddenly stops dead. All window shades are pulled down. All lights are out. All communication channels have gone quiet. Crews on the ground are lost for answers, but an alert goes out to the CDC. Dr. Eph Goodweather, head of their Canary project, a rapid-response team that investigates biological threats, gets the call and boards the plane. What he finds makes his blood run cold.

In a pawnshop in Spanish Harlem, a former professor and survivor of the Holocaust named Abraham Setrakian knows something is happening. And he knows the time has come, that a war is brewing . . . So begins a battle of mammoth proportions as the vampiric virus that has infected New York begins to spill out into the streets. Eph, who is joined by Setrakian and a motley crew of fighters, must now find a way to stop the contagion and save his city—a city that includes his wife and son—before it is too late.

Needless to say, I really enjoyed this book. It is very well written and honestly, I couldn't put it down. For my money, nothing holds my interest like a vampire plague, and this book has some cool new twists to the vampire mythology.

The premise of a vampire "infecting" its victims with a virus is not completely new: I've seen the idea before. What THE STRAIN does well is explore the infection of the unfortunate victim in great detail. The main character of THE STRAIN is Ephraim Goodweather, epidemiologist for the Center of Disease Control. His investigation as to the nature of this sudden and mysterious plague requires understanding the nature and effects of the virus itself.

In other words, the entire book is like playing in GDT's sandbox of the scientifically weird and grotesque. It is a medical journal for Guillermo's vision of the ultimate vampire.

Talk about Gross Anatomy.

But let's not forget Mr. Hogan's contributions. A master mystery writer (PRINCE OF THIEVES), Hogan's sense of pacing and suspense compliments Guillermo's sense of fantasy and horror perfectly - although from what Guillermo has said, it appears Chuck has a prolific eye for the macabre as well. He had never written a horror novel until now, but you would never know it.

In addition to Ephraim, there is a large cast of characters to this story, ranging from the heroic to the evil to the infected. Particularly ingenious is the character of Vasiliy Fet, a tough pest control expert that lends his expertise to Eph. It turns out that rats aren't all that different from vampires - and Fet uses that to his advantage.

Another strong character is the enigmatic Abraham Setrakian. A former professor, and current pawnbroker - his ties to the vampire threat not only go back to the WWII Holocaust Death Camps, but also to his childhood. He may be the best chance mankind has of surviving - too bad he's on heart medication.

I won't spoil anything about the vampires for you - that's the best part of the book - but I will say that they bare a striking similarity to the Reapers in BLADE 2. I know Guillermo said that he wasn't able to fully realize the Reapers the way he wanted to in that film, so perhaps this is finally his perfect vision of a vampire: grotesque, horrible, thirsty and a perfect evolutionary predator.

The wonderful part about THE STRAIN is that the novel is the perfect medium for bringing GDT's vampires to life. You understand them inside and out (literally), but also you'll get uncomfortable access to the thoughts and fears of those who are infected...or are being infected.

And that's stuff you'll never get from a movie, so consider it the ultimate bonus feature.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Meditations on a Friday

I'm kind of giddy today - not sure why. Maybe because it is Friday...or maybe its because I'm working on putting together something cool for you GDT fans out there. I make no promises - let's just keep our fingers crossed, shall we?

I realized today that with the marketing buzz for THE STRAIN finally starting to hit the general public - book tours, the official website, etc. - I'm actually getting excited AGAIN over the book. And I've already read it.

I was sitting on my couch last night, typing out some emails on my laptop, going over some of THE STRAIN news items you awesome fans out there forward to me, and I realized I needed to read it again - you know, to get all the little details I missed the first time.

I'll have to wait though - my wife snagged it. Maybe I should get her to post a review...

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Get THE STRAIN on the web

Have you seen the official website for THE STRAIN?

Seriously, how cool is that? It almost feels like there is a new Guillermo Del Toro movie coming out, doesn't it?

Not just a GDT movie, but a GDT HORROR movie.

When's the last time we could say that? Answer: 2002 with BLADE 2. Seven years ago.

I've read the book, but I'm keeping my review in my back pocket for now. Let me just say this - reading a GDT story in a book is much different than watching a GDT movie on film.

First of all, there are things in this book that would never make it on film. The studios would never go for it. I have two specific moments in mind, but I won't spoil them for you. But think of this artform as GDT "unleashed."

Second, the advantage of reading a book is that it can literally put you inside a character's head. You can hear his thoughts and feel his emotions. Now imagine what those thoughts and feelings might be if the character is being violated by a vampire. This book puts you there, and it's not pleasant. The term"violated" is not strong enough to describe it.

For these two reasons alone, I love GDT's choice to put this story in a trilogy of books - I actually like it better than his original vision of a TV series.

He and Chuck Hogan will take you places that you could never go on film. And that's a good thing.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009


Ah, finally - the long awaited MY NAME IS JERRY review. You crazy Fan-Sapiens have been waiting for this, haven't you?

(And you ARE crazy - don't try to deny it. I troll your message board sometimes.)

I'm happy to report that you won't be disappointed. JERRY is definitely what you had been hoping for: Doug Jones playing a romantic lead in a sweet independent comedy. And the film works. Doug hits just the right tone with his performance. He is melancholy, funny, likeable and most importantly - he creates a character that you want to root for. You want Jerry to get the girl. You pull for Jerry to get the new job. All of these things are integral to the movie succeeding, and Doug pulls it off well.

So, you ask, what is it about?

It is about a man that is lost, and his name is Jerry. Jerry has a mundane job as a salesman and a lonely home life. He is divorced. He is estranged from his daughter. He eats TV dinners at night and turns down invitations to socialize with his co-workers.

But one day, something sets off a spark inside him. Looking for a co-worker's party, Jerry mistakenly goes to the wrong address. Answering the door is Jordan (Katlyn Carlson). She's young and quirky and fun - everything that Jerry is not. As Jerry walks off the doorstep, a slight smile touches his face and the transformation begins.

Soon, he finds himself in a record store, learning about punk music, and making friends half his age. Is it a mid-life crisis? Not really - more like a mid-life awakening. He meets Jordan by chance at a bar where she works and a relationship begins - a relationship that is more of a mystery to Jerry than to Jordan.

The drama begins when Jerry's daughter returns to him after her mother's death. Soon we realize that the mistakes of his past are the biggest obstacle for him to build a new future. To Jerry, it's not only that he doubts his daughter will forgive him - he doubts if he can forgive himself.

Jerry and his daughter have a long overdue conversation

The cast was strong throughout, with Don Stark (That 70's Show) playing Doug's encouraging co-worker, Catherine Hicks (7th Heaven) as Jerry's forgiving boss, and Allison Scagliotti as Jerry's daughter. Especially good was Carlson as Jordan - her character reminds me of that really cute girl in high school that was always nice to me, but I was always too scared to ask her out. Her performance made me want to go back in time and try again.

I suppose the big question you are wondering is this: will this independent film find a distribution deal? I would say unlikely. The film is good, and director Morgan Mead and writer David Hamilton did an wonderful job of telling a story with a lot of heart, but it does fall a little short in some categories. I would have liked to have seen the film probe deeper into the punk rock scene. Also, some of the comedy falls flat at times, especially with Jerry's college-aged buddies. I feel like there was room for more laughs in the film overall. It slows down with the number of dramatic scenes. As it stands, the film is more drama than comedy. I think Mead missed an opportunity to make the film...well...more fun. Still, it is a good film and has some potential to have a cult following on DVD (particularly among the Fan Sapiens out there - you know who you are).

All in all, I would recommend MY NAME IS JERRY to my wife for a cozy night on the couch, and honestly that is a pretty good compliment for any film.

Friday, May 8, 2009

MY NAME IS JERRY Test Screening Report!

Last night I had the great privilege of attending the MY NAME IS JERRY test screening in Muncie, Indiana.

As most of you know, MY NAME IS JERRY is an independent film from Clothespin Films and Ball State University - the first time ever a university has developed a commercial film. The star of MY NAME IS JERRY is Ball State's distinguished thespian alumn (and GDT film veteran), Doug Jones.

As webmaster of, I keep a close eye on Doug's film career - a lot of GDT fans are Doug Jones fans as well, and hey, you can't help but love the guy - he's a hoot. But when I heard he was filming an independent film in Muncie, IN, I knew I was in a unique position to cover this project as I only live about an hour or so away. I was lucky enough to make a set visit a year ago, and finally, last night, I got to see an early cut of the film, along with 800 other lucky people.

Ball State sponsored a test screening, which was meant not only to get feedback from viewers, but to raise funds to allow the film to be submitted to various film festivals and such. It is clear that the city of Muncie, IN - which serves as the backdrop of the film and is host to Ball State University - is fully behind this film. The event was sold out, and it was shoulder-to-shoulder in the VIP area. Attendees were decked out in their finest film premiere attire, and for at least one evening, it was "Hollywood in the Heartland." With attendees sipping wine, enjoying appetizers, and rubbing elbows with the cast and crew, I could tell this was a special night for Muncie. Folks were giddy with excitement - most notably the director of the film, Morgan Mead. Morgan was so impressed with the turnout, and knowing how hard he worked on the film, I couldn't be happier for him.

Morgan Mead at the premiere

And Doug was definitely in his element - he was like Mick Jagger - working the reception floor like a rock star (only with more hugs and without the surliness). He was definitely the man of the night, as he signed every autograph and took every picture before and after the film, up until the very end of the evening (I didn't last that long, but I'm sure security had to "encourage" him to leave!)

Doug signing autographs...on the floor

The screening was in the auditorium in the Horizon Convention Center. I had an assigned seat, which made me feel important until I realized that so did about 300 other people!
Doug spoke to the audience and the sense of community at this event really came through - not only did the residents of Muncie cheer Doug, but it was clear that friends from every part of Doug's life - high school, college, internet (he gave a special shout-out to the Fan Sapiens) had come to support him in one of his finest career moments.

You see, Doug has had a lot of fulfilling moments - most notably PAN'S LABYRINTH and HELLBOY I'm sure, but he has never had such a commanding role in commercial film before - he is the lead actor. He is JERRY. His dream role.

Jerry is a man unhappy with his life. He is a salesman. He has an estranged daughter. He is lonely. But something snaps - he makes a decision to make a change in his life - his first step is to walk into a music store and buy a punk rock album. This begins a chain of events that will change Jerry's life forever.

I will save my review of JERRY for another day - but for today's blog, I just want to describe what a special night this was for Doug and the community of Muncie. I will say that all the Fan Sapiens out there (Doug's fan community) will love him in this film. It really is a perfect role for Doug and he plays it beautifully.

Will it put the town on the map? No - not any more than Ball State University already does, but it will make any resident of Muncie feel, if only for a couple of hours, a little more special about themselves.

Just as Mr. Jones does with everyone he meets.