Hey folks, Harry here... This internet is a strange thing and AICN is even more weird. Doc Poison below is someone that I've never not known. He used to be a kid that would mow our yard and bag comic books for trade with my dad. He was always a big brother - and he moved off into the world far away from Austin. Then I am clicking through a million emails and lo and behold... there he is. Not only that, but he's seen a really badass movie that I saw that fell through the cracks... OUTLANDER. This is the best indie film that I've seen this year. And Doc's assertion that this guy should be considered for CONAN is dead on. Howard McCain is the real deal, and this movie is like some crazed Ron Howard dabbling with Science Fiction gone perfect. But screw that, here's Doc to tell you all about it!
I got a chance to see Outlander last night in Seattle at the Science Fiction Museum, which is on the Space Needle campus. The show was hosted by Warren Etheredge of The Warren Report, a local movie site. Warren was funny and personable though I find his site kind of stuffy. Director Howard McCain was very entertaining, telling all kinds of stories about making the film, which was 16 years from first draft to the big screen. More on this later. About the movie: it was fantastic! He took potentially humorous material and treated it with great respect. Vikings, aliens, and monsters? C'mon, that sounds like a National Lampoon or Monty Python set up. But he was able to make a straightforward, dramatic film. The movie itself has been reviewed on your site already so I will not get into a lengthy plot description here. Yes, it is definitely a retelling of the Beowulf story, and according to McCain that was his intention all along; "What if the Grendel was really an alien from outer space?" It has a big budget studio feel to it, not at all like an independent film. The eighth century Norse setting is very convincing, in the same way you really believed you were in a different time while watching Braveheart. No, it's not as big a film as that, but it sure shares some traits. I would call it Braveheart meets Predator. The acting was top notch, but Sophia Myles as Freya really stands out. And she holds her own in this film, she is no fair maiden needing to be rescued. Jim Caviezal as Kainen was solid, though a little stiff. And of course you can't go wrong with John Hurt or Ron Perlman. If anything, Perlman needed more screen time, he only had a dozen or so lines. The monster effects were outstanding. Again, it looks like a big budget studio movie, though I wish the monster had more screen time. The flashbacks telling Kainen's back story were very well done, the alien worlds totally convincing. There were a couple of things that broke the spell of believability, but they were very small. There was an underwater scene where Kainen seemed to hold his breath for 10 minutes or more. Another scene was one of those "one person holding a huge amount of weight by one arm" kind of things, like Ripley in Aliens as she's holding onto the ladder while the queen aliens hangs suspended from her leg. And in another scene we see a sword being made in what appears to be a couple of hours. Swords take weeks or months to make. But most of these hiccups were due to the forced running time limit insisted upon by that dick weasel, Harvey Weinstein. The post-movie interview was very interesting. Seems that it took 16 years to make this film, meaning it was written in advance of 13th Warrrior or that 3-D Beowulf, so the "criticism" that it is just "copying" these movies is totally off base. But it has bio luminescent monsters, so at least it got that on screen before Avatar does. As mentioned before, Harvey Weinstein insisted on a certain arbitrary running time, and a lot of good stuff got cut to make it fit. (A few spoilers ahead) When the monster is finally killed, they were not allowed the 15 seconds to show that it was really, really dead, not "gonna come back in the next scene" semi-dead. Several gory deaths were cut, and an alien birth scene was also shortened. And, of all things, they were forced to scroll the credits at a faster rate than industry standard. Seems that Weinstein decided he did not want to spend any money on marketing this film, and since he only had $2 million dollars in it (out of a total of $30 raised from other sources), he figured he could make more money by skipping all marketing and going direct to DVD. So basically he took McCain's life long dream and crushed it, just to make a few bucks. Typical Hollywood producer asshole, I know. Still it was sad to see how much love and attention was clearly put into this project only to hear that it is unlikely to be shown on the big screen for very long, if at all. As you have noticed, this film is in super limited release, and in most places it only showed for one week. That's because one week was all Weinstein was obligated to show it to comply with the terms of his contract, and with no marketing at all. Very sad. This is an entertaining, dramatic, period film that is well worth watching on the big screen. But get it on DVD if that's your only option. Lots of other stuff was discussed in the post-show chat session, but the most important was about the Conan film he is now writing. According to McCain, Brett Ratner is NOT confirmed as the director. Hurrah! Seems that Ratner is being pursued by two studios to direct two different films: Conan or Rush Hour 4. He can do one but not both, and has yet to commit to either one. Obviously, he would be better suited to Rush Hour 4. So there is still hope that Conan will get a real director who actually cares about the source material. In fact, Howard McCain would be an excellent choice. One thing I noticed about Outlander is that it felt very much like a Robert E. Howard story. It had a gritty, warlike primitive culture, giant scary monster, brooding main character with a shady past who does not really fit into the group, great battle scenes and violent death. It could have used a few more scantily clad wenches and maybe a wizard, but other than that it is true to the flavor of the Conan stories. McCain would be an excellent choice to direct Conan- write Lionsgate and let 'em know! I can tell you more about the post-show talk if you are interested. If you use this call me "Doc Poison".