Film

The Golden Woods of 'Without Warning' Can't Kick the Camp

"It was a sci-fi and we could ham it up, so we did—and it was great,” Tarah Nutter says about Without Warning. "Ham it up" fits the film but "great", not so much.


Without Warning

Director: Greydon Clark
Cast: Jack Palance, Martin Landau, Tarah Nutter, Christopher S. Nelson, Cameron Mitchell, Neville Brand, Sue Ane Langdon, Ralph Meeker, Larry Storch, Lynn Theel, David Caruso, Kevin Peter Hall
Distributor: Scream Factory
Rated: R
Year: 1980
US DVD release date: 2014-08-05

A low-budget, campy sci-fi / horror thriller is the last place you’d expect to find a primer on acting, but that’s just what’s offered by Without Warning (1980) -- out in a Blu-ray/DVD combo pack from Scream! Factory. This comes in addition to just about every B-movie convention you can name, and some beautiful cinematography.

Two young couples head for the woods for the weekend: Beth and Tom and their respective best friends Sandy and Greg. Despite being warned away from the area by a local, they persist in their plans, and find themselves stalked by an alien who’s come to earth to hunt humans. It kills by means of flying parasitic discs with vascular appendages that pierce their hosts and drain their blood.

After Beth and Tom fall prey to the alien, Sandy and Greg fend for themselves, with the help of local hunter Joe, who’s been stalking the creature, and the hindrance of Sarge, a Vietnam vet who’s either crazy or in thrall to the alien.

Beth (Lynn Theel) and Tom (David Caruso in very short shorts) are too frisky to stay with their friends, and their lusty abandon gets them killed—one of many horror conventions that director Greydon Clark (who also brought us Satan’s Cheerleaders and Joysticks) deploys with the affection of a practitioner who’s also a fan.

Without Warning was shot by Dean Cundey, whose work gives the film a sophistication often missing in low-budget film. Cundey had worked with Clark before, but after the success of Halloween, which he had recently photographed, he was urged not to do any more low-budget work.

He ignored that advice and shot the film anyway. In a new interview included among the release extras of Without Warning, Cundey explains that the low-budget films he worked on were a “great training ground,” where he had the freedom to experiment and learn the skills he used on the studio films (including Jurassic Park and Apollo 13) that he eventually filmed.

Most of Without Warning was shot at night, on location, challenging Cundey to light scenes with only distant groves and mountains as background. One trick he used to compensate was to set up lights behind trees in the near distance, then flood the area with fog. The effect avoids oppressive darkness behind the actors and also enhances the mood of the film. Still, it’s a shame that there aren’t more daylight scenes, because Cundey took full advantage of the setting: the first scenes in the woods have a beautiful, golden glow.

Lively, yet smooth camera work lends the film vitality. Cundey used a Steadicam for many shots; “for the time, a pretty sophisticated piece of equipment,” he says. And a heavy one, to boot—the shoot gave him a hernia, he reports.

Clark cast a number of veteran actors in the film, most notably Jack Palance (Joe) and Martin Landau (Sarge). Cast members Christopher S. Nelson (Greg) and Tarah Nutter (Sandy) offer insights into their performances.

Of Landau, Nutter says, “he had a lot vested in this and he was a classic method actor. He took it all the way to the extreme, and you had to bring back that same energy”. “His ‘CRAZED’ was in all capital letters”, says Nelson, who wonders if “having the guts to go too far in this film might have been part of what got him to a place where he could do what he did in a quiet way as Bela Lugosi in Ed Wood.

Nutter, a dancer, talks about the connection she felt with Palance, a former boxer. “It was this B sci-fi movie, it was really campy and hokey, but there was this feeling especially outdoors ... it felt like we were doing this dance on this immense stage. There was no limit to how big we could get. It was a sci-fi and we could ham it up, so we did—and it was great”.

Interviews with co-writer and co-producer Daniel Grodnik and with make-up effects creator Greg Cannom round out the extras. Grodnik, who caught the film bug in a French New Wave course at the University of Minnesota, talks about the resourcefulness and fearlessness necessary to make movies in the '80s: “You grab a project, and you become a filmmaker”. For Without Warning, that meant a script that was eventually touched by four writers.

Cannom explains how he took over special effects duties from Rick Baker, who had created the alien head and already designed the makeup. He talks about getting to know actor Cameron Mitchell, whom he helped with a horror film he was trying to make, and about the fate of the plaster head he cast of actor Darby Hinton—used for after effects—which became part of the mine ride at Knott’s Berry Farm theme park.

5

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.


60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

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Music

The Best Dance Tracks of 2017

Photo: Murielle Victorine Scherre (Courtesy of Big Beat Press)

From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

In June of 2016, prolific producer Diplo lambasted the world of DJ's in an interview with Billboard, stating that EDM was dying. Coincidentally enough, the article's contents went viral and made their way into Vice Media's electronic music and culture channel Thump, which closed its doors after four years this summer amid company-wide layoffs. Months earlier, electronic music giant SFX Entertainment filed bankruptcy and reemerged as Lifestyle, Inc., shunning the term "EDM".

So here we are at the end of 2017, and the internet is still a flurry with articles declaring that Electronic Dance Music is rotting from the inside out and DJ culture is dying on the vine, devoured by corporate greed. That might all well be the case, but electronic music isn't disappearing into the night without a fight as witnessed by the endless parade of emerging artists on the scene, the rise of North America's first Electro Parade in Montréal, and the inaugural Electronic Music Awards in Los Angeles this past September.

For every insipid, automaton disc jockey-producer, there are innovative minds like Anna Lunoe, Four Tet, and the Black Madonna, whose eclectic, infectious sets display impeccable taste, a wealth of knowledge, and boundless creativity. Over the past few years, many underground artists have been thrust into the mainstream spotlight and lost the je ne sais quoi that made them unique. Regardless, there will always be new musicians, producers, singers, and visionaries to replace them, those who bring something novel to the table or tip a hat to their predecessors in a way that steps beyond homage and exhilarates as it did decades before.

As electronic music continues to evolve and its endless sub-genres continue to expand, so do fickle tastes, and preferences become more and more subjective with a seemingly endless list of artists to sift through. With so much music to digest, its no wonder that many artists remain under the radar. This list hopes to remedy that injustice and celebrate tracks both indie and mainstream. From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

10. Moullinex - “Work It Out (feat. Fritz Helder)”

Taken from Portuguese producer, DJ, and multi-instrumentalist Luis Clara Gomes' third album Hypersex, "Work It Out" like all of its surrounding companions is a self-proclaimed, "collective love letter to club culture, and a celebration of love, inclusion and difference." Dance music has always seemingly been a safe haven for "misfits" standing on the edge of the mainstream, and while EDM manufactured sheen might have taken the piss out of the scene, Hypersex still revels in that defiant, yet warm and inviting attitude.

Like a cheeky homage to Rick James and the late, great High Priest of Pop, Prince, this delectably filthy, sexually charged track with its nasty, funk-drenched bass line, couldn't have found a more flawless messenger than former Azari & III member Fritz Helder. As the radiant, gender-fluid artist sings, "you better work your shit out", this album highlight becomes an anthem for all those who refuse to bow down to BS. Without any accompanying visuals, the track is electro-funk perfection, but the video, with its ruby-red, penile glitter canon, kicks the whole thing up a notch.

9. Touch Sensitive - “Veronica”

The neon-streaked days of roller rinks and turtlenecks, leg warmers and popped polo collars have come and gone, but you wouldn't think so listening to Michael "Touch Sensitive" Di Francesco's dazzling debut Visions. The Sydney-based DJ/producer's long-awaited LP and its lead single "Lay Down", which shot to the top of the Hype Machine charts, are as retro-gazing as they are distinctly modern, with nods to everything from nu disco to slo-mo house.

Featuring a sample lifted from 90s DJ and producer Paul Johnson's "So Much (So Much Mix)," the New Jack-kissed "Veronica" owns the dance floor. While the conversational interplay between the sexed-up couple is anything but profound, there is no denying its charms, however laughably awkward. While not everything on Visions is as instantly arresting, it is a testament to Di Francesco's talents that everything old sounds so damn fresh again.

8. Gourmet - “Delicious”

Neither Gourmet's defiantly eccentric, nine-track debut Cashmere, nor its subsequent singles, "There You Go" or "Yellow" gave any indication that the South African purveyor of "spaghetti pop" would drop one of the year's sassiest club tracks, but there you have it. The Cape Town-based artist, part of oil-slick, independent label 1991's diminutive roster, flagrantly disregards expectation on his latest outing, channeling the Scissor Sisters at their most gloriously bitchy best, Ratchet-era Shamir, and the shimmering dance-pop of UK singer-producer Joe Flory, aka Amateur Best.

With an amusingly detached delivery that rivals Ben Stein's droning roll call in Ferris Bueller's Day Off , he sings "I just want to dance, and fuck, and fly, and try, and fail, and try again…hold up," against a squelchy bass line and stabbing synths. When the percussive noise of what sounds like a triangle dinner bell appears within the mix, one can't help but think that Gourmet is simply winking at his audience, as if to say, "dinner is served."

7. Pouvoir Magique - “Chalawan”

Like a psychoactive ayahuasca brew, the intoxicating "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique's LP Disparition, is an exhilarating trip into unfamiliar territory. Formed in November of 2011, "Magic Power" is the musical project of Clément Vincent and Bertrand Cerruti, who over the years, have cleverly merged several millennia of songs from around the world with 21st-century beats and widescreen electro textures. Lest ye be worried, this is anything but Deep Forest.

In the spring of 2013, Pouvoir Magique co-founded the "Mawimbi" collective, a project designed to unite African musical heritage with contemporary soundscapes, and released two EPs. Within days of launching their label Musiques de Sphères, the duo's studio was burglarized and a hard drive with six years of painstakingly curated material had vanished. After tracking down demos they shared with friends before their final stages of completion, Clément and Bertrand reconstructed an album of 12 tracks.

Unfinished though they might be, each song is a marvelous thing to behold. Their stunning 2016 single "Eclipse," with its cinematic video, might have been one of the most immediate songs on the record, but it's the pulsing "Chalawan," with its guttural howls, fluttering flute-like passages, and driving, hypnotic beats that truly mesmerizes.

6. Purple Disco Machine - “Body Funk” & “Devil In Me” (TIE)

Whenever a bevy of guest artists appears on a debut record, it's often best to approach the project with caution. 85% of the time, the collaborative partners either overshadow the proceedings or detract from the vision of the musician whose name is emblazoned across the top of the LP. There are, however, pleasant exceptions to the rule and Tino Piontek's Soulmatic is one of the year's most delightfully cohesive offerings. The Dresden-born Deep Funk innovator, aka Purple Disco Machine, has risen to international status since 2009, releasing one spectacular track and remix after another. It should go without saying that this long-awaited collection, featuring everyone from Kool Keith to Faithless and Boris D'lugosch, is ripe with memorable highlights.

The saucy, soaring "Mistress" shines a spotlight on the stellar pipes of "UK soul hurricane" Hannah Williams. While it might be a crowning moment within the set, its the strutting discofied "Body Funk", and the album's first single, "Devil In Me", that linger long after the record has stopped spinning. The former track with its camptastic fusion of '80s Sylvester gone 1940s military march, and the latter anthem, a soulful stunner that samples the 1968 Stax hit "Private Number", and features the vocal talents of Duane Harden and Joe Killington, feels like an unearthed classic. Without a doubt, the German DJ's debut is one of the best dance records of the year.

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