On story ideas

Thought I’d share something random. I have a file on my computer with various story ideas. Each page has a different idea with some notes, like setting and character, plot, themes, etc. One page reads:

Cat Zombies

That’s it. I can vaguely remember waking up from a nightmare and thinking what a great story that would be. I had all these involved characters and detailed plot. Starting to think I need to get better organized.

This has been Elliot Arthur Cross reminding you that dreams are great inspiration for stories, so long as you record them better than two word titles.

On fake movie trailers

I recently watched Predators (movie review forthcoming) and it reminded me how much I hate fake movie trailers. By that, I don’t mean trailers for fake movies, like the live-action Doug or Grindhouse type fun shorts. I’m talking about when studios put fake stuff in their trailers. (Also not frustrated with a line of dialogue or an alternate shot because the trailer was released while they were still editing the movie. This happens all the time and is understandable.)

For anyone who remembers, the money shot from the Predators trailer involved hundreds of red dots on the cast members, making us believe they were surrounded by hundreds of Predators with their lasers on them. What are those called anyway? It’s the sight, right? Anyway, you know what I mean. It looked cool, and got people buzzing about the movie.

That scene doesn’t exist! There’s only three Predators in the movie, so it’s obviously not a deleted scene either. Director Robert Rodriguez admitted to shooting that just for the trailer.

Don’t do that! We don’t like it.

The Paranormal Activity movies are famous for that. Not that they necessarily film something solely for the trailers, but they include tons of alternate, creepy stuff that doesn’t happen. There’s a shot of a house burning down in Part 3, but no house burns down in the movie. Apparently they film tons of extra footage and create the movie while editing. Fine, but A.) don’t cut creepy stuff since not much happens in these movies, and B.) don’t tease that stuff in the trailers.

Here’s an idea filmmakers: if you think of something that looks awesome and would make people see the movie, actually put it in the picture.

How about Ang Lee’s Hulk? The studios crushed that film by their advertising. They made it look like an all-action popcorn flick. It was a slower, character-driven piece by the guy who gave us Brokeback Mountain. Don’t advertise it like it’s some fun romp. No surprise it tanked. People don’t like being fooled, what a shocker.

The Grey. The whole trailer is wam-bam wolves! Then you see the movie, and it’s a slow survival flick. Great movie, but not what the trailer advertised for.

And I’ll say it again, don’t show the whole movie (every rom-com or big studio drama) or give away the ending (usually in horror movies that not much happens until the end). Easy, done deal.

This has been Elliot Arthur Cross pointing out that these people have millions of dollars to play around with, but no one will finance a sequel to Leslie Vernon.

On Free Falling

My last two posts I tried writing sucked (I made them private and may revise at a later date), which explains my absence. That and Thanksgiving. Fun trivia, they didn’t eat turkey the first Thanksgiving, but boiled swan. I told someone that and she said, “Oh, I didn’t know people eat swan.” To which I replied, “They don’t. Apparently it tastes awful.” Yay for the puritans.

Weeks ago I saw a three-man band in their fifties or sixties rocking out at a bar. I actually thought they were great. Did some Billy Joel and classic rock stuff while they drank heavily. And they performed Tom Petty’s classic Free Falling. They rocked it out, and since then I’ve tried to find an intense version of the song on-line. So of course I listened to dozens of Youtube videos to find one like I wanted.

You know what happens when you listen to dozens of versions of the same song? It gets stuck in your head for weeks.

Weeks.

And half of them are aping John Mayer’s, ‘oh, I’m just doing my usual thing quasi-hipster strumming a guitar routine’ crap. I don’t really care for his version. If anyone knows of a gravelly, intense version, like Creed, doing Free Falling, please let me know.

Not that I couldn’t listen to Tom Petty sing every day. Or act. Every time I hear him say “Uncle Hank” on King of the Hill, I crack up. His Lucky is scrumtrilescent.

This has been Elliot Arthur Cross reminding you that all the vampires walkin’ through the valley move west down Ventura Boulevard.

On The Collector

Where have I been? The Collection is out and I never even saw the original. I knew about it, I was familiar with the plot when it was first announced, but then it fell off the radar for some reason.

I rectified that problem tonight. In preparation to see the sequel, The Collection, I just watched The Collector. Since this movie came out in 2009, there will be spoilers. Cliffnotes version: Kind of torn. Some good stuff, some not so good stuff.

So the movie is about this guy named Arkin (even the characters are like, Really, that’s your name?) played empathetically by Josh Stewart. He’s a handyman with a troubled home life and needs to give his baby mama a bunch of money or the mob will break her legs or something. So he decides to break in to his rich clients’ home to get her the money by midnight (since all mobsters set 12 a.m. deadlines), but the problem is that a psychopath has set up boobytraps and is torturing the family already. He’s trapped in the house, and since he’s a kindhearted thief, he does his gosh-darned best to save the day. Throw in some torture-porn and cat and mouse play and you have The Collector.

Note: This film is by the creative partnership that spear-headed the last four Saw films. It was originally meant as a Saw sequel, but the producers quickly nixed the idea. I’m not sure how this would have worked. Was the Collector Jigsaw when he was alive and less insane/creepy, or was Arkin meant to be a young Jigsaw who got the booby-trap idea by surviving this ordeal? No clue. The producers made the right call.

Cons: The cold opening feels a bit off. We meet a nice, wealthy middle-aged couple, and there’s an ominous box (why are there always creepy boxes?) and then there’s a smash cut attack to let us know something bad happened. Okay… Doesn’t really resonate. Arkin finds the same box later, which lets us know it’s the same villain I guess. Then the wealthy guy pops up and it’s like halfway through the movie the first two minutes finally make sense? Not horrible, but not very tight storytelling either.

The booby-traps felt like a poor man’s Saw. ‘Nuff said.

Arkin almost flees, then sees the little girl that reminds him of his daughter, and the music cue sounded way too similar to the classic Friday the 13’th ka-ka-ma-ma theme (which is taken from the first Friday when Jason says “kill her, mommy”). Maybe it was just me, maybe it was an homage, but it completely took me out of the movie. I expected the Collector to pop up with a machete and a hockey mask. Little disappointed he didn’t.

It felt like things had to keep happening not so organically. For instance, there’s a lull, what could happen? Suddenly the older daughter returns with her boyfriend, which occupies ten minutes. Then that scene’s done and what could happen? The 911 responder arrives. It was a little this happens, then this, then this.

Pros: There are underlying themes that are fun if you look for them. There’s a whole spider and fly thing going on. The Collector is an exterminator, and he’s set the house up as a parlor that Arkin, the fly, is trapped inside. It doesn’t hit you over the head, but it’s there.

Josh Stewart is a good horror leading man. I believed him.

There’s a very meta scene where I realized that I’m watching a protagonist watch the antagonist watch people have sex. Instead of focusing on the sex, it went through the voyeuristic layers, which was a fun turn.

The movie is very well shot. It looks gorgeous.

A horror movie is meant to creep you out, and this succeeded quite well. I actually liked the characters as much as I could, and felt bad when harm befell them. Well done.

Wrapping up, I’d give the movie a 2.75 out of 4. I’m leaning toward 3, but I’m holding back for some reason. I just can’t quite justify 3 whole stars.

This has been Elliot Arthur Cross reminding you that The Collection is now in theaters. Go support horror movies people, or they’ll go away.

On my new contract

Hey gang, since this blog is ostensibly about my writing “career” I figured I should give you an update. I recently signed a contract with JMS Books for a short horror story I wrote.

It’s called The Keysmith and is scheduled for release in February of next year. Once I get a cover and all that jazz I’ll post more. Just when I started to doubt my skills as a horror writer, I get good news. No complaints there.

To whet your appetite: Who is the Keysmith, and what are his intentions for two guys trying to score with their “straight” friend? And it’s not quite as smutty as that sounds.

Now I need to figure out where to focus my attention: another horror story, another erotic mystery, or a young adult. Yeah, I figure writing different genres keeps creative juices flowing.

This has been Elliot Arthur Cross reminding you to rake the lawn before the frost sets in.

On trailers

I saw an ad for Paranormal Activity 4 (recently reviewed) and I was filled with ire. They showed the last frame of the movie! How irritating is that? A movie trailer should tease the film’s plot and get you interested in seeing it. Don’t show the ending. How simple is that?

Here’s some history for you: trailers originally came on after you watched a movie, hence the ads trailed the feature. They quickly realized that most people didn’t stick around and left once the feature film was done, so they moved the trailers before the movie played, thus forcing audiences to watch them. No one changed the name to starters, as trailers had already stuck.

Here’s something else: when I go to the movie theater, I don’t want to watch regular TV ads or ads for sitcoms. How is that part of the movie-going experience? If i wanted to watch Coke or Ford Explorer ads, then I’d stay home.  Actually, I wouldn’t, because I have a TiVo and skip 90 percent of ads.

Trailers are so important to the film industry that Iron Man 3 actually had a countdown to the teaser, which of course is pre-trailer. First they get you excited with an image that promises five seconds of images and sounds strung together. That of course is just a little hint at what’s to come when the full blown-trailer comes out, which is a few minutes and gives the entire plot away. I mentioned in my review of Sinister that a massive, creepy plot point was spoiled in the trailer.

And how about dramas? I don’t even watch dramas anymore. I just watch the trailers. It shows the quirky main character, tells me that his friend is dying, gives me a couple of loves about their adventures, shows a poignant face and then him getting the girl at the end. Just for once I want to see a trailer that’s just the set with the director going, “It’s a good movie. Big stars are in it that you like and make you feel comfortable, and there’s some explosions. Come see it, eh?” Count me there. Surprise me.

This has been Elliot Arthur Cross reminding you that had they not advertised the first Hulk movie as an adventurous romp and instead more of a character driven Ang Lee film, maybe Eric Bana would still be playing the big green guy, no office Norton and Ruffalo.

On my first erotic novel

I realized that I haven’t written much, if anything really, about my upcoming novel. Crazy, huh? This will be out semi-early next year as an e-book. If it sells well, then my publisher will go print with it. Yay!

Ask Me No Questions: A Dylan Lakewood Mystery is the first in a series about sexy shenanigans that befall our hero, Dylan. He works at a mall in New England, as one of those guys who asks surveys about random TV pilots or movie trailers or deodorant.

Well, wouldn’t you believe it, but Dylan stumbles into a murder mystery when a sexy “straight” college jock is strangled in his locked dorm room? Sure there’s sex, and more sex, but Dylan tries to stay focused on task at hand and saving the day.

Cover art and official synopsis to come when ready. Look for this in March of 2013. When it comes out, I’ll post plenty more about inspiration and whatnot. And if there’s any burning questions, I’d love to hear from you all.

This is Elliot Arthur Cross pointing out that It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia rarely has any outdoor/sunny scenes. Peace.