Hunt for the Wilderpeople, 2016 – ★★★★★

This might be my favourite film of 2016.

It’s a cross between all the best parts of What We Do in the Shadows, Moonrise Kingdom, and Housebound (minus the horror).

It’s bursting with the heart, humour, and action of a big family blockbuster.

It has tenderly realised moments of sadness.

There are lots of laugh-out-loud repeatable lines of the caliber you’d usually only see in a well-edited improvised comedy.

The soundtrack, editing, and cinematography of every shot adds to the fun of the ride (less Wes Anderson and more Edgar Wright).

Much like Moonrise Kingdom, I’d demand a sequel if I didn’t already know how singular this movie’s creation likely is. Even so, I’d love to meet these characters again.

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Train to Busan, 2016 – ★★★★

Train to Busan is very much zombies by numbers done extremely well.

Where it shines is the key element of any classically effective undead flick: the emotional setup. We start with a family, we get an asshole who needs to gain some humanity, we meet a perfect and loveable couple, siblings, a scared man, an evil man; T2B provides all the trimmings when it comes to our key players; plenty pop up to provide a nice gradient of folk; from those you will hate and would love to see die to those you will fall in love will and hate to see die.

Although the quality of setup and general execution of T to the B is a glowing light of cinematic playtime, there are still dully expected moments sure to poke you in your eye and slow the ride down a little. They’re rare but they do reveal a sort of sitcom level of template adherence that can make some great performances appear wasted or silly.

The zombies in TtB perform an equally uncertain balancing act between being realistically realised, energetic, deadly and sorrowful, to reaching pantomime levels of silly facial expressions and blatantly-a-gymnast performances of Ring-style contortion.

Train to Busan’s positives by far out weight its negatives and although its often clearly formulaic the sum of its parts are delivered in such a convincing and fun way that you’re guaranteed to have all the excitement and heart break such a formula should result in.

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Fantastic Glass 1.2

glass_1_1_fb_1

As we’re about to release version 1.2 of Fantastic Glass we thought it pertinent to slap together a quick blog post detailing what on earth Fantastic Glass is and why version 1.2 might be of interest.

Fantastic Glass is a tool we built for creating and managing realistic and abstract objects with transparent volumes such as glass. We created it for use in Unity3D and version 1.1.1 is currently available from their Asset Store.

Rather than spew out a stream of bullet points (don’t worry there a-coming), here’s a couple of fun trailers we made:

The latest trailer:

and the earlier much girthier version:

“Why on Earth would you want to watch that gigantic 6-minute trailer?” I hear you think. Well, recipient of my mind reading, you’d get to see not only more examples of our funky fresh asset but you’d also get to hear two whole tracks by our musical friend Hizzlecrift (bandcamp, spotify).

OK, you want bullet points? Sort of? Good enough!

Here’s what the basic Fantastic Glass provides:

Shading includes:
-Refraction (texture, mesh, depth & more)
-Extinction (color, texture, depth)
-Aberration (color, texture, depth)
-Fog (color, depth)
-and more!

Presets, prefabs, materials, and scenes are included that demonstrate a diverse range of different types of materials

The easy to use tools and comprehensive parameters available allow you to create your own incredibly varied range of realistic and abstract materials.

And, because this post is about our new name-taking finished-gum-chewing Version 1.2, here’s a big dollop of information on what we’ve been working on:

The new and improved features of Fantastic Glass 1.2 will allow for more complex and realistic rendering. Fantastic Glass 1.2 also includes great features requested by our current users.

 

Render Order Manager
-Render glass inside glass
-Easy drag & drop interface
-Choose if & when to render each face
-Render objects and faces any number of times
-User friendly colourised layer distinction

 

Multiple levels of Depth Complexity
-More accurate rendering of Glass within Glass
-Single-pass (fast)
-Per-Glass
-Per-face (front, back, other)
-Can be  defined by Glass objects or overriden by Glass Manager per scene

 

Attribute Presets
-Quickly load elements of a preset
-e.g. Set the colour extinction of ‘water’ without altering other options

 

Improved Update Utility
-Loads and converts your existing presets
-Handles multiple versions of FG

 

New Example Scenes demonstrating Complex Depth & Render Order:
-Icebergs in Deep Ocean
-Plastic Goblets of Marbles
-Chipped Ice Logo in Realistic Water
-Chipped Ice Logo in Murky Swamp
-White Russian & Ice in a Coloured Glass
-Gemstones in Glass and Plastic Boxes

 

-Additional Improvements
-New Presets, Prefabs, Textures, Scenes (performance / quality examples)
-Improved & Updated Presets, Prefabs, Textures, Scenes
-Implemented Undo ability throughout
-Improved Glass and Depth shaders
-Added performance presets
-Added aberration cap option
-‘set default’ options where appropriate throughout
-Many bugs squashed
-Improved debugging with increased detail (where enabled)
-Added new EditorTools features such as fade-out elements and scroll pixel offset
-Glass versioning more visible throughout
-added automatic per-version update checks
-Added workarounds for crashes in Unity
-Improved Labelling and Enums to be more descriptive
-Added option to ignore exact copies in Glass matching
-Fixed warnings
-Added custom GUI option (enabled for Pro by default)
-Update utility can now handle multiple versions of FG
-Update utility is now aware of platform abilities
-Added bold labels to make some sections easier to read
-User can now define what ‘Optimum’ camera settings should be
-Optimum camera settings available from Glass
-Added warnings and errors for incorrect / missing layers
-Improved automatic setup of Camera, DepthCameras, and GlassManager

 

Release

All of the features listed have been implemented. We are currently testing on various platforms and versions of Unity for compatibility. Once we’re happy with this QA FG1.2 should be mere days from release.

Pricing

Currently, FG 1.1.1 is $5. This is a price definitely below Unity’s guidelines for pricing and was consciously chosen to increase interest and garner reviews (we’ve subsequently received only 5-star reviews so far – w00h00!). Due to this and the vast number of improvements in FG1.2, it is likely that we will be increasing the cost. The price hasn’t yet been decided but we’re considering keeping things enticingly low at around $10.

If you like the sound of FG1.2 but you’re unsure if anything above $5 is in your budget, make sure to get Fantastic Glass now and update to 1.2 for free when it’s released.

Get Outa Here!

Thanks for stopping by and Happy Developing!


The post Fantastic Glass 1.2 appeared first on Fantastic Development.

‘Left’ – A Short Halloween Prose

With a deafening bang a small red glistening bump appeared at the centre of the killer’s forehead. Their body slumped to the floor as a handgun slipped from the shaking fingers of what was almost their final victim.

Tears of relief fell down her cheek.

A television screen behind her flicked on, the loud static causing her to spin around in fear. “Say hello” came the familiar voice of the killer; childish yet gravelly and aged.

The static disappeared and camcorder footage faded in. It was of the wall behind her, in front of which the killer slowly walked to the middle of the frame.

She turned but there was nothing else in the dark and empty room except for the killer’s body on the cold wet concrete floor.

“…h-hello”, a weak voice conceded from the television.

This was far from the voice of a gleefully disturbed old man. This was her wife. Where was she?

She stepped closer to the screen, hoping to see and hear anything that could help locate Ellie.

The killer walked up to the camera and removed his hood and balaclava. What the fuck? It was Ellie.

Her eyes were red and her mouth was covered in thick black tape.

A black glove handed her a box from behind the camera. “Now, we’ve both agreed to a little game of pretend haven’t we El?” Ellie held the box to her mouth and nodded before the glove secured it to her head with more thick tape.

“Don’t forget your costume.” the killer’s voice chorused from behind the camera and out of the box.

Ellie put the balaclava back on and mumbled through the tape. “I think she’s saying she’s sorry but I don’t know why”, echoed the killer’s voice, “you’re going to be the one in trouble.”

The television turned off and a bright white daylight bulb lit the room.

She turned back around, shaking and sobbing.

She tried to kneel down slowly but her knees buckled and she landed hard before the body.

She picked up the gun, in the hopes of an un-dead killer, and fear of one still on the loose.

Leaning over the body, she was forced to see up-close the shiny black hole she had created.

Peeling back the hood, she saw long brown curls either side of the balaclava that she hated herself for not somehow noticing. She dropped the gun to the floor and gently removed the balaclava, smearing a dark line of blood across her wife’s forehead.

Panic started to set in.

She can’t be dead. I can’t have… I don’t want to think about it. There has to be something I can-

-the hole looked different than before. A different colour. Is that the end of the bullet? “Ellie!!” Nothing.

She touched the hole with her fingertip, her hands pale and shaking. It felt cold.

Carefully she pushed her fingernail at the edge hoping to ease the bullet back out but blood gently flooded up and refilled the hole.

“Fuck fuck fuck!” she looked around for something to pull it out with. A thought crossed her mind. “Oh god no.”

Maybe she could reach it with her teeth?

“There’s no time. Oh god, Ellie please be OK.”

She steadied herself with her hands flat on the concrete at either side of Ellie’s head.

She could taste Ellie’s blood as her lips pressed against her forehead.

She closed her eyes and pressed her teeth into the hole. She felt something hard against them.

It slipped away.

She panicked.

She hadn’t heard the lead hit the floor when she started to suck.

Martin, 1977 – ★★★★

“Nosferatu! First I will save your soul then I will destroy you.”

Much like Romero’s Night of the Living Dead, Martin takes on the subject of vampirism in a similar ‘Let’s say we’ve got a realistic world and we add this concept. What would happen?’ way. It bends the myth through a lens of skepticism and keeps it boxed into reality with great character studies and skits.

Martin is an 84-year old vampire who goes to stay with his cousin and his cousin’s granddaughter.

Martin is depicted as such a youthful – almost an awkwardly spotty teen – person that it’s hard to see him as anything approaching an ancient immortal but it actually makes some sense given the mythology.

“People are the hardest thing…They don’t talk, really…They have the other, the sexy stuff, whenever they want it…I’ve been much too shy to do the sexy stuff. I mean do it with someone who is awake. Someday maybe I’ll get to do it awake without the blood part.”

Although Martin is obviously a criminal throughout, the most significant battle in the movie is between old and new, elderly and young, religion and liberalism, magic and science etc. you get the point.

The soundtrack varies between amateurishly simple piano chords, cheesy bobbing quartets, and modern experimental soundscapes. It’s fitting but oftentimes feels a little cheap.

The movie’s colour and quality is tea-stained and dirty, with slight ghosting between frames, somewhere between an old BBC children’s drama and a grainy snapchat filter. I’m not sure if this is as it was in cinemas or if it’s the result of transferring from an old reel. The regular use of handheld cameras also gives a news documentary appearance to most outside footage.

A lot of audio is dubbed; the dialogue is fairly good and the environmental sounds are usually fine when they don’t sound like analog Dr Who loops but some sound effects and Foley work stand out as being unrealistic or out of sync.

Martin, although demonstrably a skeptic (he does a magic trick at dinner to prove this), acts like he’s mute, socially inept, and shyly curious around people he meets for the first time.

The movie’s thoughtfully modern take on the depiction of vampires, like a good skeptic, avoids any magic; our titular vamp is like a methodical sleeper cell agent when it comes to satiating his bloody need, yet he is always dogged psychologically by echoing memories of a past formative life of analogous situations.

“I wish somebody would kill me. It’s been a long time for me. A long time full of crazy people.”

Martin does not like what he does and people getting in his way only make his endless life worse.

“I’m pretty careful about not getting caught now… I have good tools. I have the needles.”

Martin is a bit slow and dreary in parts but I think it creates a deliberate comparison between the excitement we see in vampires committing their ‘acts’ and the monotony of living through eras of humanity generally unaffected by others.

Great ending and credits.

“What happened to the count!!?”

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Suspiria, 1977 – ★★★★½

“Bad luck isn’t brought by broken mirrors but by broken minds.”

Suspiria is a highly stylised movie that does its own thing, while maintaining a great grasp of cinematic story telling and all the most exciting elements of a good horror.

Our protagonist, Suzy Bannion, comes from a long line of dancers. She is a new student at Tanz Akademie (a dance academy in Germany) who arrives after the death of one of its recently expelled students.

The soundtrack by Goblins – which is amazing – begins somewhere between the creeping wintery orchestrations of Nightmare Before Christmas or Home Alone, and the whispering and lullaby glokenspiel of Friday the 13th or unrepenting tubular bells of The Exorcist. Soon onwards, we’re treated to far more experimental sounds verging on psychotic progressive rock which acompanies some equally striking imagery, including almost garishly bright geometric interior designs that wouldn’t look out of place in a Kubric movie or an absurdist Terry Gilliam-like unreality.

The soundtrack, set design, and incredible saturated colouring & lighting make you feel as though you are watching an artistic piece in which the horror or storyline are surely to be secondary, however, the first death comes at you with just as much inventive energy – something I in no way would wish to spoil but am absolutely dying to tell someone about. I’m definitely jealous of those who saw this in the cinema at the time and got to immediately talk about it with their friends afterwards.

To willingly repeat myself, I don’t think I’ve seen a movie so beautifully coloured and lit from the 1970s; there is a Gaspar Noe quality to the intensified natural lighting creating a hyper real palette, reminiscent of his Enter The Void. However, a thematic drenching of primary coloured light does sometimes come out of nowhere.

The dialogue in Suspiria is entirely dubbed. Each actor was speaking in their native language and then replaced by either their own ADR or by someone else speaking in English. It’s often not an issue and helps give a clean emphasis to the music, sound effects, and deliberately crafted mood, however, there are rare moments of voices not matching the actor to the point of appearing to be spoken off-screen.

The film’s characters includes some overt caricatures, however, they all fit comfortably into Suspiria, matching up to its landscape, like the eccentric inhabitants of a Wes Anderson world.

I was grateful that Suspiria doesn’t simply create a strange society around Suzy that ignores its own preposterousness, instead having everyone also react in their own way to events, unlike other surreal horrors where oddities are ignored by its inhabitants, because the protagonist is just a cry baby outsider.

For being a film, and especially a horror, about a load of pretty young dancers who are potential victims of something, Suspiria doesn’t become exploitative or depict women stereotypically. The students all have a wide range of personalities, they aren’t all pathetic victims, and there’s no gratuitous sexualisation or nudity.

When it comes to unfortunate ends, anyone, including the most furniture-like, can suddenly star in their own extravagant death scene – even the most hardened viewer will feel a pull at their heartstrings at the demise of the obese bat puppet. You won’t often guess who’s going to be killed, how, by whom, or why, until the scene is set. Suspiria then relishes in portraying the act inventively and with artfulness, tension and graphic morbidity.

A significant component of any movie depicting gory killings is blood. In Suspiria it looks like a combination of red paint and tomato sauce. There’s no getting away from how incorrect this appears but it works here better than it could in anything else. It seems as much an ill-judged design decision as it does a convincing one wherein all the people in the world of Suspiria have paint-sauce pumping through them. It doesn’t always work but it’s a respectably bold choice.

As we rattle through the Suspiria house of horrors, some ascending moments of terror feel like they’ve reached the shark jump ending – as you can often bet your legs on them when it comes to surrealistic movies – but instead they escalate to a deliberately dreamy horror that matches the overall grand painterly warped tone.

When the credits hit I laughed out loud, with a sense of appreciation and relief, like I’d just been told the end of a shaggy dog story while exiting a haunted house covered in ketchup.

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