This Motion Test For ‘Mama’ Will Give You Nightmares

The jury may be out on whether Mama, the new Guillermo del Toro film starring Jessica Chastain, is actually any good. But the motion test for actor Javier Botet, who plays the film’s ghost, Mama, will scare the shit out of you.

Botet has Marfan syndrome, a connective tissue disorder which causes and elongation of the body and the fingers. 

In this motion screen test, posted on the blog io9, Botet is seen skulking around in a wig and generally being creepy. SlashFilm explains that those wires you see are Botest literally being manipulated like a marionette; two special effects studios also added more layers of creepiness.  

You can also see a scary-ass pic of Botet from Mama on the blog HorrorBoom (scroll down to the bottom of the page). 

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We Can Get Behind A Movie Where Idris Elba and Charlie Day Save Humanity

Pacific Rim looks like any other major monsters-and-robots film from the past decade or so. There are Transformers-esque hybrid weapon-bot things, bridges being turned into heaps of twisted scrap metal, explosions and visions of a dark, post-apocalyptic America.

But Pacific Rim, whose early footage was well received at Comic-Con this year,also has a lot of things that most normal monsters-and-robots big-budget action movies do not have. One is Almighty Master of All Things Creepy Guillermo Del Toro directing what he calls “a very, very beautiful poem to giant monsters.” Two is Ramin Djawadi, who in addition to scoring the Iron Man films, is perhaps best known for his commanding theme tune for HBO’s Game of Thrones.

It also has Idris Elba giving a stirring speech about how “it’s time to cancel the apocalypse” and then using said robot to punch a sea monster in the face (and being in this role instead of Tom Cruise, which would not be nearly as cool), and Charlie Day hopefully continuing to be the Wild Card. (Charlie Hunnam, Ron Perlman and Rinko Kikuchi round out the noteworthy names in the cast.) Plus, can’t go wrong with some explosions. Of course, it’s also in 3D.

The trailer for Pacific Rim was released this week, and you can see it in all its explodey splendor below. The film will be released in July 2013.

Guillermo Del Toro Has Really Nice Things to Say About Alfonso Cuarón’s ‘Gravity’

One could argue convincingly that Alfonso Cuarón is the most talented filmmaker working in Hollywood. Though underrated when it came out, Children of Men eventually took its rightful place as one of the best movies of the aughts, a modern classic. Cuarón’s entry to the Harry Potter pantheon, The Prisoner of Azkaban, is also widely considered to be the best in that entire series. And Y Tu Mamá También, well, watch it. But Cuarón hasn’t made a feature film since 2006’s CoM, a hiatus that’s only added to his mystique. That changes next year with the release of Gravity, his long-gestating sci-fi picture starring Sandra Bullock and George Clooney. Yesterday, one of Cuarón’s close friends and collaborators upped the anticipation factor with some tantalizing words.

Speaking to MTV, Guillermo Del Toro called Gravity, about an astronaut (Bullock) trying to find her way back to earth after a disaster, “completely mind-blowing.” According to him, Cuarón and his team traveled the James Cameron route and invented their own technology to shoot revolutionary anti-gravity scenes, which Del Toro thinks will “forever change certain types of productions.” You’ll recall that Children of Men featured several how-did-he-do-it single-shot sequences (like this one) that at the time were pretty groundbreaking. The last time a visionary sci-fi filmmaker took forever to make his next movie, James Cameron (who Cuarón consulted on this film) gave us Avatar. So color us blue with excitement. Del Toro’s full comments are below.

Guillermo Del Toro Teams With James Cameron For ‘At The Mountains Of Madness’

What do you do when you’re a beloved cult fantasy filmmaker who pulls out of directing Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit after the project encounters numerable frustrating delays? How do you come back from abandoning one of the holy grails of fantasy cinema? If you’re Guillermo del Toro, you team up with James mother-frickin’ Cameron to direct a 3D adaptation of H.P. Lovecraft’s At The Mountains Of Madness. Wow. The original Lovecraft story dealt with a scientific expedition to the South Pole in the 1930s. Horrible discoveries are made, life forms are awakened, discoveries challenge what we know about ourselves, and lots of terrifying et cetera happens. This might actually be so good that it’s a good thing del Toro dropped out of The Hobbit?

As unexpectedly awesome as this seems, the project isn’t so left-field as you might think. Del Toro wrote a script for Mountains back in 2004 when the project was at Dreamworks. In 2006, del Toro had difficulty getting Warner Brothers to finance the film due to its unhappy ending. However, it was acquired as part of the package deal that Universal negotiated in 2007.

It’s clearly going to be an incredibly ambitious film, but with Cameron producing, a generous six year gestation period, and the financial backing of Universal, who wouldn’t be confident that del Toro, one of his generation’s most visceral and visually poetic — yet fun — filmmakers will put together an incredible movie?

Peter Jackson to Direct ‘The Hobbit?’

Apparently bored with the set-backs and snafus caused by MGM’s endless turn on the auction block, director Guillermo Del Toro backed out of his gig directing the long-gestating, two-part adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit, leaving many to wonder who might take his place. Given the unprecedented box office track record of the Lord of the Rings series, a planned budget of 150 million dollars, and LOTR director Peter Jackson on board to produce—an enterprise worthy of that shopworn canard, “too big to fail”—it’s easy to imagine there’s a long list of would-be Hobbit directors chomping at the clichéd bit. So who’s likely to get the deed to this directorial goldmine? In what I’m sure will be happy news for Frodo fans everywhere, it turns out Jackson himself might be stepping behind the camera.

The New York Times writes that Jackson hasn’t ruled out the possibility of getting his hobbit on once again. He’s got a lot of other commitments right now—among them two Tintin movies he’s producing for Steven Spielberg—but Jackson’s hinted that he’s not necessarily out of the running. “If that’s what I have to do to protect Warner Brothers’ investment, then obviously that’s one angle which I’ll explore,” he told The Dominion Post. Good news, methinks. By chance (and largely out of boredom) I watched the entire LOTR series last week. While I came away thinking of them as a lot of hokey landscape porn (the subtending message of the films is “Visit New Zealand!”), I nevertheless like the idea of a singular vision providing continuity across the many installments of the series. Jackson and his dare-I-call-it legacy will be a heavy burden for anyone else to have to shoulder anyway, so it seems like a natural choice for the (once quite tubby but now shockingly skinny) director. At this point he’s the goddamn ring-bearer.

‘Splice’ Director Vincenzo Natali on His New Film and the Future of ‘Neuromancer’

Director Vincenzo Natali has been making inventive movies for decades, but none managed to capture his audience’s imagination the way his sci-fi thriller Cube did, back 1997. That all changed when Splice premiered at Sundance, shocking audiences. Warner Bros. decided it was a movie people needed to see and are giving it a nationwide release on June 4th. In it, Adrien Brody and Sarah Polley play unusually good-looking geneticists who let their ambitions get the better of them when they create Dren, a strangely beautiful creature of mixed human and animal DNA. Things get wacky, and, well, you’ll have to see the thing to find out what we mean by that. It’s by far Natali’s biggest movie (Guillermo del Toro is a producer), and things are only looking up for the director, who’s slated to helm the long-in-gestation adaptation of Neuromancer. Here he is on the status of that project, the strange experiment that inspired Splice, and taking things too far.

What about science fiction first attracted you to the genre? It’s just been a life-long obsession. I consider my life to be very dull, so I was always attracted to fantasy of various kinds. Star Wars was a huge influence on me. My mom used to take me to this old theater when I was a kid, where every Tuesday they would have a Universal horror film. So I remember seeing the original Frankenstein and the original Bride of Frankenstein in a movie theater and those films always stayed with me. They’re definitely part of the DNA of Splice, for sure.

It seems so natural that Guillermo del Toro is one of the producers. How did he get involved? I met Guillermo at a film festival and he expressed a desire to produce a film for me, which I was very happy about because I was a tremendous fan of his work. I immediately thought of Splice, which was a script I already had and that had been gathering dust on my shelf in my office. I felt intuitively that he would respond to the theme of the creature—of discovering humanity in the creature— and just thought it would appeal to him, and it did. He was wonderful. He’s basically Dren’s godfather. He really helped shepherd her into the world and he lent us his name, which opened a lot of doors and legitimized what we were doing. I see him as the great impresario of fantastic art. I think he’s done this for me and for many other people as well.

I understand that your point of inspiration was the Vacanti mouse experiment. The Vacanti mouse was such a shocking image because it was basically a naked mouse with what appeared to be a human ear growing out of its back. It wasn’t a real ear. In fact, it wasn’t even a genetic experiment, but it was such a powerful image, and I think part of its power came from how vulnerable the mouse looked. I immediately identified with it. I really felt for it. It was speaking to some pretty strange avenues that are now opening up to us with the advent of this new technology, so I really think from its very earliest stages, Splice always put the emphasis, the emotional connection, on the creature. We were always going to be suspect and dubious of the humans and, in fact, in the making of this creature, we discover the monster lurking within the humans. In other words, I never thought this should be a story of a monster going on the loose and wreaking havoc and killing people. That was just not the story I wanted to tell. I was much more interested in how the people would end up smothering their own creation. It becomes kind of a hostage story. That’s the road we followed. So the mouse was a very influential mouse.

I read that George Charames, your technical consultant on genetics, actually said that this type of experimentation is occurring clandestinely around the world, that these human-hybrid chimeras were being created. Do you think that’s true? Well, they are. They absolutely are. Not like what we have in the film, but in the UK they legalized the creation of human-animal chimeras for medical research. They destroy them after, I don’t know, a few days or a week or something, so they never go beyond the embryo stage. That’s what Clive and Elsa at the start of the film plan to do: destroy it before it grows. But it grows a little bit quickly and once it’s born, they don’t have the heart to kill it, so you can easily see how life often trumps the best-laid plans and how things can go horribly, horribly wrong.

You’re currently attached to Neuromancer as both writer and director. Have you already started working on the adaptation? Well, this is another example of technology out of control because I haven’t even signed a deal yet. That information leaked out on the Internet somewhat unexpectedly and it’s just amazing to me how fast it traveled. I mean, now it just seems like common knowledge. It’s amazing. But I have every intention of doing it. I’m very, very excited and honored to be given such a seminal and important book to adapt.

How do you envision creating the Neuromancer universe? Like Splice, I think the way to do it is to make it real. A lot of people will tell you that after The Matrix, there’s no point in making Neuromancer, because The Matrix borrowed so much from the book, and the Wachowskis will be the first to admit this, but I think that’s actually not right. I think The Matrix films were, in the best possible way, comic books, whereas Gibson’s book is a much more serious work of fiction. So I want to make it real. Actually, even though a lot of people have borrowed from it, there’s a lot in there that has not been explored. To me, it’s a treatise about the post-human world. Unlike Splice, it’s not quite as much about physical transformation as it is about the transformation of our consciousness and how we’re going to merge with our machine consciousnesses.

Have you ever talked to William Gibson? Yes. One of the great thrills of my life was when I had a very lively conversation with him on the phone prior to all this happening. He’s everything I hoped he would be. He’s a lovely man and he really supported the idea of me doing the book, so I feel like I got the blessing to move forward. He wrote the script. I’m working from his script and I want to do it with his approval.

You’re also attached to an adaptation of the J. G. Ballard book High Rise, which is more about a devolution, a breakdown of humanity. It sounds like Cronenberg’s Shivers. He [Cronenberg] must have read High Rise before he made the film, the difference being, in High Rise, there’s no parasite or chemical or external force that causes this breakdown. It really comes from within; it’s the psychology of the society. I call it a social disaster film. It’s about a society in collapse, but like all of Ballard’s fiction, it’s somewhat ambiguous. Like, it doesn’t really condemn what’s happening. It doesn’t really couch it within the terms of it being a devolution. It’s more open-ended. I think that what makes Ballard so special is that he is an author of dystopian fiction, but the dystopias may just be a necessary step. You feel like he’s not implying any kind of moral judgment on what’s happening and that’s what makes it rich. That’s what makes it really interesting.

Returning to Splice, were you ever concerned that you were going too far and that you’d lose the audience? Well, I think we do lose some people. That’s the litmus test. There are some people who just can’t go there and that’s fine, because that’s the movie I wanted to make. That’s why I’m so delighted and amazed that the film is getting a mainstream release; it was never intended to be mainstream. It was made as an independent film, but I think that overall, audiences are smarter and more desirous of innovative films than studios often give them credit for. I’m willing to believe that if the film is a success, it will be because it pushes the boundaries of what’s acceptable. And that’s consistent with many of the great films in the horror canon, like you think about Texas Chain Saw Massacre or Alien, these are movies that put things on the screen that shocked people and truly frightened them and I think that’s why people go to see horror films. There’s no question, not everyone will make the leap.

Revenge of the Nerds!

The nerd revolution has been in full-swing for, like, ever now, but it was especially felt this past weekend. First, we sat down for the two-hour season finale of “Grey’s Anatomy,” in which Chandra “Dr. Bailey” Wilson sheds her tough veneer—again—for an unlucky schlub who jumps into a pit of drying cement for the woman he loves. During the surgery-to-end-all surgeries—again—Bailey calms her patient with references to Han Solo and “The Force.” For the record, though, I don’t think any amount of science fiction camaraderie would help me forget that I was encased within tons of toxic armor that threatened to burn me, poison me, and kill me. Just saying.

Also over the weekend was an online chat (nerdy on its own merit) between Tolkien fanboys and directors Peter Jackson and Guillermo del Toro. It was all done in the name of finding out more about this movie adaptation of The Hobbit. When asked if Gollum would return in a big way, del Toro wrote, “Yes! As all of you know, Gollum has a rather fascinating arch to go through and his alliance to Shelob or his period of imprisonment in Thranduil’s, etc.” Of course. As we all know.