scop (noun):

Old English – bard, minstrel, storyteller

Today’s reviews:
Nightmare Cinema & This Way to Egress

July 14th, 2018

This Way to Egress by Lawrence C. ConnollyI’m heading out to catch a flight, preparing to face what everyone in Montreal is describing as nightmarish traffic – road closures and construction between downtown and the airport. So … while I’m experiencing nightmare traffic, I’ll leave you with some links to the latest reviews on Nightmare Cinema and “This Way to Egress.”

It’s gratifying to see my collaboration with David Slade receiving such positive notice.

I also have some thoughts to share regarding another anthology film that played here at Fantasia. Tales from the Hood 2 from filmmakers Rusty Cundieff and Darin Scott is a topical mix of dark comedy and thought-provoking horror. I can’t recommend it enough, but I will try my damnedest tomorrow’s post.

For now, I leave you in the hands of the following reviewers. As was the case with yesterday’s installment (where I included some links to earlier reviews) Links at the end of each pull quote will direct you to the full article. Enjoy.

  • From the start, it’s obvious that Slade is working in a different mode, as he shoots in black and white and makes his threats dark and amorphous rather than flashing a lot of red. There’s overpowering corruption and filth in nearly every frame, and the mythology Slade adapts from Lawrence C. Connolly’s story is spelled out just enough to make the viewer wonder and worry. Reaser handles her end of it well, Slade’s team fits some Cronenberg-quality weird imagery into this, and as a result it reaches beyond the repeated plot devices of the other segments to the point where it makes one think about being overwhelmed and frightened by a world that suddenly seems worse. – Read full review at
  • A visual spectacle of mental illness, the fourth film is entitled This Way to Egress. Director David Slade introduces us to Helen (Elizabeth Reaser), a woman trapped in her mind. First, we rest in her black and white world with spotless people and symmetrical settings. However, as Helen interacts with these people and places, they start to become deformed and soiled with black netting. We suffer through her struggle to decipher the difference between false and reality, ultimately understanding that this puzzle can push anyone to insanity. – Read full review at Dread Central
  • Slade’s “This Way to Egress” […] commands a feature of its own. Paying homage to films like Eraserhead and Jacob’s Ladder, Slade’s black-and-white cinematography and nightmare-inducing imagery result in a chilling conclusion […]. – Read full review at Rue Morgue
  • The fourth segment in Nightmare Cinema is Slade’s “This Way to Egress,” an intense exploration of paranoia, as we watch the life of Elizabeth Reaser’s character, Helen, spiral out of control after her husband leaves her. Slade utilizes black and white cinematography for “Egress” and it beautifully complements the existential dread that drives his story. Read full review at Daily Dead
  • Slade’s segment is so wholly unique and […] demonstrative of the freedom anthologies give directors without the weight of the entire film’s success riding solely on their shoulders. It breaks the playful tone of the preceding film, but it remains a highlight. Read full review at Bloody Disgusting
  • “Egress” offers a surreal nightmare, as a woman hallucinates her world and its inhabitants devolving into a Silent Hill hellscape. Presented in black and white, “Egress” is uncomfortable, genuinely gross and totally serious[…]. It is also very assured and well done. Read full review at Birth. Movies. Death.
  • The fourth is the most ambitious, coming from David Slade, who shoots it in black and white, very much like his “Black Mirror” episode, “Metalhead”, although this is more successful I wager. Elizabeth Reaser stars as a woman experiencing hallucinations that make the world and everyone in it look nightmarish, reminding me a bit of the old “Twilight Zone” episode, “Eye of the Beholder”, but don’t expect any uplifting life messages at the end of this grim, stylish tale. – Read full review at JoBlo

Nightmare Cinema Premieres at Fantasia

July 13th, 2018

An enthusiastic crowd gathered well in advance of Nightmare Cinema’s premiere. By 9:00 last night, the line already stretched around the block, assuring a full house for a project that producer-director Mick Garris began dreaming up over a decade ago.

Shortly before 10:00, Festival Programmer Tony Timpone took the stage to introduce directors Mick Garris, Alejandro Brugues, Ryuhei Kitamura, and Joe Dante. (David Slade is in the UK working on the upcoming season of Black Mirror.)

Before the film, Joe Dante was honored with the Festival’s Lifetime Achievement Award, a presentation that included a montage of scenes from Joe’s five decades of filmmaking.

After Joe’s acceptance, the lights dimmed, and the 800 seat auditorium filled with animal sounds – mostly mewing – as it the audience members had suddenly transformed into cats. The mewing is a Festival tradition, and I must admit it’s pretty cool.

Then came Nightmare Cinema, the result of a collaborative effort of many producers, directors, writers, actors, and technicians (that’s 13 of us on the red carpet on the left).

I won’t review the film here. I’m too heavily invested in the project to be objective.

Instead, I encourage you to take a look at some of the reviews that have followed in the wake of last night’s premiere.

Here are some highlights:

  • “How Nightmare Cinema comes together is proof of exceptional teamwork and extraordinary planning. Each director brought their experience to the table to create something epic. As with any nightmare, this movie will have you thinking about it right after you watch it.” Read the entire review at Dread Central.
  • “This Way to Egress was truly nightmarish and weird, and of a completely different kind of horror than anything up to this point. This one leaves you unsettled….” Read the entire review at Nerdist.
  • This Way to Egress is perhaps the film’s most psychologically disturbing. It follows a mother of two who is hallucinating — or is she? — that the people she meets are transforming into monsters.” Read the entire review at Entertainment Weekly.

That’s just a sampling. Check them out if you like, and while you do, I’ll be putting together some reflections on how the Nightmare Cinema segment “This Way to Egress compares to the original story “Traumatic Descent.”

Stop back here tomorrow for more updates from the Festival. We’ll save you a place.


The standing ovation for Joe Dante’s Lifetime Achievement Award. Photo by Joe Dante.

Alejandro Brugues, Mick Garris, Ryuhei Kitamura, and Joe Dante outside the Auditorium des Diplomes de la SGWU. Photo by the 21st-Century Scop. 

Thirteen members of the Nightmare Cinema team on the red carpet following the premiere. Fantasia Film Festival.

Lunch before the premiere (clockwise from lower left) Alejandro Brugues, Kyle Newmaster, Ryuhei Kitamura, Lawrence Connolly, Stephanie Caleb, Mick Garris, Sandra Becerril, Joe Russo, Joe Dante, and G. Brandon Hill. Photo by Sergio Becerril.

Don’t sleep: Nightmares are coming!

July 12th, 2018

Montreal is gearing up for the event that Quentin Tarantino has called “The most important and prestigious genre film festival on this continent” – The Fantasia Film Festival.

It’s a fitting venue for the premiere of a project that producer Mick Garris began working on nearly a decade ago.

That’s a long time to be nurturing a dream (or a nightmare).

Nevertheless, David Slade and I have that record beat. It was 2001 when I first traveled to London to meet with David and his collaborator Charly Cantor to discuss a film to be titled This Way to Egress, based on my story “Traumatic Descent.”

Seventeen years in that making. That’s might not be a record (Jim Jarmusch’s anthology film Coffee and Cigarettes probably has it beat), but it’s certainly a stretch. Not that I’m complaining. It’s been a rewarding trip, one that’s provided the opportunity to work with folks who have since become good friends and valued collaborators. And tomorrow it all reaches a new level with the Fantasia Film Festival premiere of Nightmare Cinema.

I was one of the first of the NC team to arrive in Montreal. I landed a day early to meet up with fellow F&SF writer Michael Libling, who treated me to a tour of his native city. By Thursday morning, four of the film’s directors (all but David Slade, who is in UK directing a segment for the next season of Black Mirror) will be in town, along with some of the film’s producers and actors.

Over the past few days, media outlets have been buzzing with preview coverage of the premier, most notably Entertainment Weekly and the blog sites Dread Central and 28 Days Later.

If you’re in the area, I hope you’ll come out to join the Nightmare Cinema team in the 800 seat Sir George Williams University Alumni Auditorium. If not, the trailer below will have to suffice until the film’s wide release later this year.


The 800 seat Sir George Williams University Alumni Auditorium at Concordia University awaits the premiere of Nightmare Cinema. Photo by producer Joe Russo.

David Slade and Lawrence Connolly stand under the Egress sign on the set of Nightmare Cinema, June 2017. Photo by The 21st Century Scop.

Nightmare Cinema directors (left to right, front to back) David Slade, Joe Dante, Mick Garris, Ryûhei Kitamura, and Alejandro Brugués in the Rialto Theatre, South Pasadena. Photo courtesy of Cinelou Films.

Nightmare Cinema teaser, courtesy of Cinelou Films, Cranked Up Films, and Nice Guy Productions.

Welcome to My Nightmares:
A Video Essay on Cinematic Monsters

July 2nd, 2018

You’ve heard of man-made monsters. Today, let’s consider a video essay about a monster-made man … or at least a monster-made writer. Namely: the 21st-Century Scop.

Here’s the backstory: Last year I was invited to take part in a speaker series sponsored by the Uniontown Library. Helmed in part by author Heidi Ruby Miller (who also organized the successful Pennsylvania Literary Festival), the program included a series of promotional videos in which authors spoke about influences on their writing.

Thus, they had writers such as Michael A. Arnzen sharing Three Great Things about Horror, John Edward Lawson on Three Great Things about Poetry, and Matt Betts on Three Great Things about Godzilla.

Unfortunately, I was neck-deep in other commitments when Heidi contacted me a to take part in the series. Nevertheless, if they could wait, I was sure I could put together a video in time for an August 2018 visit to the library. An August appearance would follow the premiere of Nightmare Cinema, and I figured the topic Three Great Things about Scary Movies would make for a timely tie-in to the film. Alas, the speaker series concluded in May. Time waits for no one.

Nevertheless, Heidi’s Three-Great-Things premise got me thinking. It turned out I had a few things to say about scary movies. So I decided to shoot my own video, a slice of memoir explaining how monsters influenced (corrupted?) my childhood. Press play. I’ll tell you all about it.