Shudder exclusive: ‘Blood Vessel’ is a genre mashup with bite.

Blood Vessel

A life-raft lost at sea encounters an abandoned Nazi vessel. Boarding the ship, they find a far more daunting enemy.

Totally insane and gleefully brutal, Blood Vessel, a new Shudder exclusive, is the genre mashup that we’ve been waiting for. Nazis and vampires? Yes, please. What is it with Nazi’s and their penchant for screwing with the occult? It will never end well. This ragtag crew of survivors is rife with big personalities, different accents, and abilities. While a few have a shorter shelf life (pun intended) it gives us a ton to focus on as the plot reveals itself. The camera work is awesome, from drone shots of the ocean to maneuvering inside the tight confines of a ship. The costumes are cool and period-accurate. The set design, too, puts you back in time and makes you feel the claustrophobia of the space. Kudos to the makeup team for innumerable reasons.

Performances are badass. Nathan Phillips gives a really grounded portrayal of Sinclair. As much as one can be discovering that a family of vamps are trying to kill you. Alyssa Sutherland, as a nurse who lost her daughter and husband in the war, is the sensible, even-keeled figure and voice of reason. She is fearless and kind and a nice foil for the boat’s majority of overly masculine residents. Ruby Isobel Hall is phenomenal in her timing and perceived innocence. It’s some truly nuanced work. For me, the star of this film is Alex Cooke. Frankly, I could have watched an entirely separate film of the history of his character (nudge, nudge, wink, wink, writer-director Justin Dix and writer Jordan Prosser!) His totally nonchalant epicness deserves more screen time. Cooke kills it in this role.

The most unusual aspect of Dix‘s and Prosser‘s screenplay is that I found myself questioning who the real villains are? A family is kidnapped for profit. Then said family is punished for defending itself. Our crew is merely intervening after a tragedy and gets caught in the middle. I found myself relating to the vampires as a mother, which is both weird and wonderful. While there are definitely a few telegraphed plot points, the majority of the script is super original and wild as hell. Blood Vessel could easily become a franchise based on a very satisfying ending. You’ll undoubtedly hunger for more.

 Starring Nathan Phillips (Wolf Creek), Alyssa Sutherland (Vikings), Robert Taylor (Longmire), directed by Justin Dix (Crawlspace). A SHUDDER EXCLUSIVE. (Also available on Shudder Canada and Shudder UK)

NightStream 2020 capsule review: ‘Lucky’ is biting social commentary in horror form.

A suburban woman fights to be believed as she finds herself stalked by a threatening figure who returns to her house night after night. When she can’t get help from those around her, she is forced to take matters into her own hands.

Nightstream 2020 audiences have undoubtedly heard about Lucky by now. Absolutely killing to on the festival circuit under the keen direction from Natasha Kermani it is not to be missed. Screenwriter/star Brea Grant has crafted a whip-smart script that is both a clever takedown of patriarchal bullshit and a scary as hell genre film. She is outstanding, essentially playing every woman ever. It’s perfectly timed in a week when “I’m Speaking” is being emblazoned onto merch thanks to Kamala Harris. The terror comes from the fact that it is more a woman’s reality than it is fiction. With great fight choreography and engrossing editing, Lucky is the feminist horror anthem we need right now. You’ll want to go back and watch it over and over to catch all the nuance. It’s simply fantastic and that has nothing to do with luck.

U.S. Premiere
United States | 2020 | 81 Min.
Dir. Natasha Kermani

A Shudder Original Film

Nightstream 2020 review: ‘Bloody Hell’ is delicious horror you can sink your teeth into.

In this relentlessly energetic, pitch-black horror-comedy, an ex-bank robber fleeing the country after a video of him goes viral, heads to Helsinki only to find there’s something in store for him there that is much more difficult to escape.

After 8 years in prison, and in an attempt to escape his newfound public notoriety, Rex flees to Finland. But the locals have something else in mind for him. Kidnapped from the airport, he is strung up in a basement like a piece of meat. Why is he there? What the hell is coming next? Is now the best time to start a relationship? What’s for dinner?

The action is relentless. The editing is pure awesome. The bizarre clues left along the way like breadcrumbs are genius. Ben O’Toole as Rex is outstanding. He gets to play multiple roles in this fast-paced, post heist thrill ride. We get a peek of what’s inside his head as his inner thoughts manifest as an entirely different side of his personality. It’s a brilliant, award-worthy performance.

The script is hilarious and ridiculously intriguing. It will be impossible to get bored as the plot goes barreling along. The crazy just keeps coming and it’s highlighted by a great score and absolutely nuts practical fx. Fee-Fi-Fo-Fum, I smell the beginnings of some franchise fun. Bloody Hell is a genre-bending descent into weird and wonderful. For Nightstream 2020 audiences, it’s a perfect fit.

North American Premiere
Australia, USA | 2020 | 95 Min.
Dir. Alister Grierson

Review: All hell breaks loose in Shudder Original, ‘The Cleansing Hour’

presents

I’m not even going to lie, if The Cleansing Hour actually existed I would watch it. Shudder is a genius platform for this film, especially now. Religion is always a solid platform to skewer but add in a social media angle and you’ve got yourself one entirely engrossing genre flick. The exploitation gets flipped by a demon in a terrifying (sometimes comical) way. It’s divine justice for a con man. But there is much more to it than first meets the eye. The writing is sharp and twisted.

The performances are outstanding. Truly scary shit. Kyle Gallner as Drew is the good guy, the brains behind the operation. His dedication to Max and Lane may be his ultimate downfall. Gallner is deep in this role, which is no surprise. I am a huge fan of his eclectic body of work. This is no exception. Ryan Guzman as Max is the perfect self-obsessed asshole. Guzman plays the victim very well but walks a phenomenal line between the need for attention and contrition. But it is the performance from Alix Angelis that is fully immersed in terror and sheer brilliance. The entirety of the film’s success is driven by her insane work, and I do mean work. She must have been exhausted after every take.

The practical fx missed with the sound editing made me almost vomit. It took me way too long to catch my breath. The look of the film is spot on. The camera work is cool as hell. But it is the storyline that will suck you in. The entire plot is centered around confession. This demon is looking for something very specific and until then, it will torture and kill until it is satisfied. I could not tear my eyes away from the screen even when I wanted to. Writer/director Damien LeVeck and co-writer Aaron Horwitz know exactly what they’re doing. The social commentary is unmistakable. The Cleansing Hour is full tilt, batshit crazy. The ending… you’ll never see it coming. Stay. Through. The. Credits.

Directed by: Damien LeVeck | Written by: Damien LeVeck and Aaron Horwitz

Starring: Ryan Guzman, Kyle Gallner, Alix Angelis

Review: Shut up, sit down, and watch ‘The Antenna’

In a dystopian Turkey, the Government installs new networks throughout the country to monitor information. The installation goes wrong in a crumbling apartment complex and Mehmet (Ihsan Önal), the building intendant, will have to confront the evil entity behind the inexplicable transmissions that threaten the residents.

Unsettling, oftentimes ear-piercing sound editing mixed with a 1984-esque storyline makes The Antenna an eerie watch. Set in an unnamed city in Turkey, this film is clearly an allegory for the current (yet timeless) right-wing propaganda spreading like a disease throughout today’s politics. Oppression is the name of the game. The government is installing new tv antennas so that hourly bulletins can more easily be broadcast to citizens. Accompanied by an evil black sludge coming from the new installation that seeps into the pores of high-rise tenants. Once they come in contact with it, their indoctrination is viscerally permanent. The Antenna represents the death of free speech.

The attention to detail in editing (both audio and visual), close-up shots, are all carefully crafted to induce madness in the residents and the viewer. The inspiration writer/director Orçun Behram has taken from Cronenberg and Ben Wheatley is unmistakable. I don’t know how this film was made on a $200, 000 budget. I am genuinely impressed. The Antenna is a highly stylized dystopian horror that will excite genre fans. Its smart script and dark as hell visuals are a real meal unto themselves. I will be waiting with bated breath for whatever comes next from Orçun Behram. You can watch the film in Virtual Cinemas this Friday, October 2nd, and On-Demand/VOD October 20th. Check out the trailer for some more insight.

THE ANTENNA

OPENING IN VIRTUAL THEATERS FRIDAY, OCTOBER 2  WITH A NORTH AMERICAN VOD RELEASE TO FOLLOW ON OCTOBER 20  ON ALL MAJOR PLATFORMS.

 VIRTUAL THEATERS (October 2)-Including: Los Angeles (Laemmle), New York and major cities (Alamo On Demand) and Philadelphia (Film Society).

VOD (US & Canada) (October 20): Including: iTunes, Amazon, Google Play, Xbox, Vudu, Dish Network and all major cable providers.

DIRECTED & WRITTEN BY: Orçun Behram

CAST:  Ihsan Önal, Gül Arici, Levent Ünsal, Isil Zeynep, Murat Saglam, Elif Çakman, Mert Toprak Yadigar and Eda Öze .

RT: 115 minutes; Color; Language: Turkish with English subtitles; Rating: Not Rated (Horror)

 Distributed in North America by: Dark Star Pictures

Review: There is ‘No Escape’ from your own demons.

SYNOPSIS: A social media star travels with his friends to Moscow to capture new content for his successful VLOG. Always pushing the limits and catering to a growing audience, he and his friends enter a cold world of mystery, excess, and danger. As the line between real life and social media is blurred, the group must fight to escape and survive.

NO ESCAPE puts a modern, social media-driven twist on the ultimate adventure seeker. Think Hostel (2005) meets The Game (1997) as Youtube influencer Cole (Keegan Allen) and his friends fly to Moscow to experience what they think is a one-of-a-kind escape room. Once they arrive, they’re wined and dined by a local rich kid before being led to their final destination. But not all is what it seems. As an avid watcher of all things horror, the setup rightfully lulls you into a false sense of fun with its club scene music, lighting, and awesome camera work. Then the other shoe drops, calling out Cole’s obsession with his stats over his own reality. His cocky persona is knocked down several pegs when he realizes his friends’ lives are in actual danger.

The film is written and directed by Will Wernick (Escape Room, which was fantastic), will easily tap into the younger generation who has literally grown up with social media. At 40, I was around for the birth of chat rooms in 8th grade. As someone who is at the mercy of social media in my work now, I understand the importance and the danger of such platforms. The internet is a weird place. One of the most effective pieces of the script is the ever-rolling comment section of Cole’s videos. It’s a fantastic insight into an audience “in real-time.” While the entire cast does a great job and has believable chemistry, Keegan Allen’s performance leads this film to success. Having been a fan since Pretty Little Liars, then watching his award-worthy skills in King Cobra, No Escape highlights his ability to change from beat to beat. The over-the-top influencer voice throughout much of the film falls away when fear takes hold. The ending of this film relies completely on his reaction, and it is warranted. No Escape, while hitting some familiar notes, is still a solidly acted, practical fx gorefest for genre fans. The emotional trauma goes both ways and it’s one hell of social commentary. Hot Tip: Keep watching once the credits start to roll.

Vertical Entertainment will release the horror/thriller film NO ESCAPE on Digital and On Demand on September 18, 2020. 

NO ESCAPE stars the ensemble cast of Keegan Allen (“Pretty Little Liars,” Palo Alto), Holland Roden (“Teen Wolf”, “Channel Zero”), Denzel Whitaker (“The Purge”, Black Panther), Ronen Rubinstein (“911: Lone Star” Some Kind of Hate)Pasha Lychnikoff (“Deadwood”,”Shameless”, A Good Day to Die Hard), George Janko (“NCIS: Los Angeles,” Millennial Mafia) and Siya (The First Purge). The film is written and directed by Will Wernick (Escape Room).

Review: ‘Rent-A-Pal’ fast forwards to frightening.

Synopsis:

Set in 1990, a lonely bachelor named David (Brian Landis Folkins) searches for an escape from the day-to-day drudgery of caring for his aging mother (Kathleen Brady). While seeking a partner through a video dating service, he discovers a strange VHS tape called ​Rent-A-Pal.​ Hosted by the charming and charismatic Andy (Wil Wheaton), the tape offers him much-needed company, compassion, and friendship. But, Andy’s friendship comes at a cost, and David desperately struggles to afford the price of admission.

The era of Blockbuster store glory also coincided with those weird interaction VHS boardgames. I had one called “Nightmare” where a Gatekeeper character would give you instructions and yell at you through the screen. It was equal parts hilarious and terrifying. Rent-A-Pal is a 90’s throwback filled with psychological terror that uses the same gimmick to the nth degree. Great stationary camera work and color choices really add the somber nature of our leading man’s state of loneliness at the beginning of the film. 15 minutes of brutally sad setup leads to a seemingly simple but chilling turn in the mood. Enter Wil Wheaton as Andy, David’s Rent-A-Pal. This bargain-bin VHS shows up when David seemingly loses out on the Video-Rendevous match of his dreams. His depression is palpable in Brian Landis Folkins’ performance. But, as someone who watched the degeneration of my own grandmother due to dementia, the heavy emotion is warranted. In an attempt to make himself feel better and out of sheer curiosity, David puts in this mysterious tape and “meets” Andy. A first glance, Andy is open and a really good listener. Lying just beneath the surface are clues of the more sinister. Perhaps it’s the language and mindset of the times, but some of his dialogue is almost like today’s incels. It is downright upsetting. Heightened by the editing, we get pieces of the video as David obsesses at learning its timing so his friendship becomes as real as it can be. To a lonely and socially awkward man, Rent-A-Pal is what the internet has now become to so many. Once he feels his luck changing, David is given the chance to take the girl of his dreams out on a date, but that instant connection is thwarted by Andy. The tension built up by the performances and clever structure creates an intensely ominous feeling. You’re constantly waiting for the other shoe to drop as David’s aggression ramps up and his sanity jumps over the edge. Wheaton brings a kind of brilliance to the film that is to be applauded. He has created a fully fleshed out villain without actually interacting with his co-star… as far as we can tell for sure. There were moments where I found myself staring at the screen longer than maybe I should have, wondering if my mind was playing tricks on me or not. Rent-A-Pal will disturb you. You will want to hit rewind again and again.

RENT-A-PAL

Written and directed by Jon Stevenson

Starring: Wil Wheaton (Stand By Me, “Star Trek: The Next Generation”), Brian Landis Folkins (Hoax), Kathleen Brady (“Breaking Bad”)
and Amy Rutledge (Neighbor)

In select theaters and on-demand September 11

Review: ‘The Owners’ is a twisted home invasion.

SYNOPSIS:  A group of friends think they found the perfect easy score – an empty house with a safe full of cash. But when the elderly couple that lives there comes home early the tables are suddenly turned. As a deadly game of cat and mouse ensues the would-be thieves are left to fight to save themselves from a nightmare they could never have imagined.

The film has a simple enough setup but the script goes off the rails in the darkest way possible. There is a thread of manipulation that runs deep with Sylvester McCoy‘s dialogue. It’s not even hidden but it is enthralling to watch. As a Doctor Who and The Hobbit fan, this was so far out of the box for my experience with his persona it made my skin crawl. Can someone be too good at being bad? Maisie Williams holds her own against this maniacal couple and the group of misogynistic thugs in her sphere. The violence in the film is extremely high and she bares the brunt of much of it. Handling it like a pro, we are rooting for her survival from the very beginning. Writer-director Julius Berg (along with co-writer Matthieu Gompel) turns up the weird and evil with a subplot that is downright heinous. You’ll be sweating and yelling at the screen as you watch what happens to every single character. Another interesting subplot is centered around dementia. It goes hand in hand with manipulation but at times, you have to respect the way in which it ties in. It’s just so sick you cannot look away. The practical fx are gag-worthy but completely appropriate. I can easily admit that my anxiety was through the roof while viewing. Rita Tushingham‘s performance, in particular, gave me flashbacks to The People Under The Stairs and more recently, Villians.  Under all the madness is both one of the saddest love stories I’ve ever seen and one of the most ghoulish. The Owners is totally unexpected. The ending is like a punch in the face. There is so much happening in this film that you’ll be stuck in this whirlwind of violence and mayhem just as I was. This one will take a bit to shake.

RLJE Films will release the thriller THE OWNERS in Theaters, On Demand and Digital on September 4, 2020.

THE OWNERS  stars  Maisie Williams (Game of Thrones,” The New Mutants),  Sylvester McCoy  (The Hobbit franchise, “Doctor Who”),  Jake Curran  (Spotless”, Stardust),  Ian Kenny  (Solo: A Star Wars Story, Sing Street),  Andrew Ellis  (Teen Spirit, “This Is England”),and Rita Tushingham  (“The Pale Horse,” Vera). The film is directed by Julius Berg (“The Forest,” “Mata  Hari”) who co-wrote the film with  Matthieu Gompel (The Dream Kids).

Fantasia 2020 review: ‘Bleed With Me’ slowly drains your sanity.

During a winter getaway at an isolated cabin, a self-destructive young woman becomes convinced that her best friend is stealing her blood.

Written and directed by Amelia Moses, BLEED WITH ME is an intoxicating look at social anxiety and self-harm.  Rowan is the third wheel on a weekend getaway with her work friend Emily and her boyfriend Brendan. After passing out night one from too much alcohol, she awakes to find a cut on her arm. With traces of previously inflicted self-harm scars, Rowan seems hesitant to explain how and why it got there. As fresh cuts continue to appear and as Emily continually suggests that Rowan is ill, the three inhabitants are at odds with the dynamics developing in the small cabin. Is Rowan losing her mind? Is there a more sinister plot? Rowan’s supposed sleepwalking might be to blame.

The performances from all three are incredibly satisfying in creating honest discomfort. Aris Tyros as Brendan is a fantastic foil for both Marshall and Beatty. He is genuine and down to earth. His character’s progression is sincere and grounded. I’d love to see more of him. Beatty owns the frame with s simple gaze. Her chemistry with her castmates lies somewhere between type A, seductress, and demure when necessary. It is Marshall’s performance as Rowan that leads us down the rabbit hole. Sometimes, guided only with her heaving breath we are left to interpret what terror she (ultimately us) is in the middle of.  She is the physical manifestation, along with Moses’ script, of a panic attack.

With what feels like a psychosexual undertone, the relationship between Emily, Brendan, and Rowan has a power dynamic that feels skewed towards Emily’s liking. You can see the shift in power as Emily feels like Brendan is connecting with Rowan. While I initially setup would lead you to believe Brendan is a quiet instigator, but that quickly proves false. When untold secrets are revealed, you begin to feel more unsettled. The film’s look, essentially natural light and fireside chats make for an immediate sense of claustrophobia and foreboding. When you’re left with only your own thoughts, and perhaps the idea that someone is drugging and violating you, it can do a number on your perception of reality. I’m still pondering the ending of the film, and that’s most likely the point. I am left just as dazed as Rowan in the end. Moses has given us a frightening and panic-filled story ripe for the Fantasia 2020 audience. I would love to know what other viewers come away with. Whose side are you on? Bleed With Me is a slow-burn into madness.

Find out more about Fantasia 2020 and how to watch Bleed With Me

Fantasia 2020 review: ‘Fried Barry’ is twisted commentary of the dark side of humanity.

Fried Barry is about an abusive drug addict who gets abducted by aliens. An alien then takes his form on a jaunt through Cape Town. Spectacularly edited from the opening to the end credits, Fried Barry is a drugged induced terror trip. The imagery is stunning, using color like a character of its own. The score and sound design by Haezer is menacing and intense. This is genre madness at its finest. This is why Fantasia 2020 audiences show up.

Do not watch this film while high. It’s fucked up enough as it is. Writer/director/producer Ryan Kruger does not need you to tell him you had a complete and total mental breakdown while watching. Or perhaps that would be a compliment. Our leading, Gary Green is unreal as a man clearly effed up by aliens. His physical performance is so bizarre it’s perfection. The film is a study in human behavior from an outside perspective. It’s an actor’s dream. Green’s work is award-worthy. With very little dialogue on his end, Kruger’s screenplay allows for him to be totally weird but somehow completely believable in experiencing the complexities of the human race. Sex, drugs, people talking at one another rather than listening pretty much sums it up.

Halfway through it goes from strange to utterly dark, but you’re so far down the rabbit hole it only makes sense. There is a childlike innocence to Green at this point that will freak you out. A sick turn in the plot will throw you for yet another loop. Fried Barry‘s unpredictability is what makes it so arresting. It’s not the alien that’s frightening, it’s people.

To find out more about Fantasia 2020 and how to watch Fried Barry

Fantasia 2020: Everyone’s a critic in feminist horror ‘The Columnist’

Columnist and author Femke is flooded with anonymous nasty messages and death threats on social media. One day she has enough and decides to take revenge.

When praise is what fills your void in a world where trolls thrive, The Columnist is perfect genre therapy. Fantasia’s own pool of critics and filmmakers alike will go mad for this film for innumerable reasons. Femke is exhausted by vile comments on social media. She obsessed over them. When she decides to do something about it, her newfound violent tendencies unlock her writer’s block. But, it only lasts one article at a time. Under pressure to write a book, this becomes a real problem for Femke. It’s the performance from Katja Herbers that makes this already brilliant script from Daan Windhorst even cooler. Its dark humor could not be more satisfying. Herbers’ delivery is so casual and effortless. Truly award-worthy stuff. I think my favorite thing might be what she decides to take as a trophy. It’s the most appropriate choice that may as well be phallic. Perfection. The Columnist is the definition of feminist horror.

I have to point out a key piece to the script. The tweets and comments are heavily right-wing conspiratorial. They read like they’ve been created by a bot or as if they’re right out of the Qanon playbook; crazy and completely horrible. As a female writer, this film was far more enjoyable than perhaps my male colleagues might have found it. Is this secretly my fantasy? I’ll never tell. Words hurt. Criticism of any kind can be brutal. (And I also get the irony of that statement considering what I write.) But, the best unsolicited advice I can offer after watching The Columnist: Maybe don’t track down ppl hiding behind a small screen and murder them? Although it does make for one compelling film. “Write what you know.” So to speak.

 

NETHERLANDS  /  2020  /  84 MINS  /  OV DUTCH  /  SUBTITLES : ENGLISH
GENRE: Horror

 

Find out more about Fantasia 2020 and purchase tickets for The Columnist

Review: SHUDDER and Jay Baruchel bring you ‘Random Acts of Violence’

Comic book creator Todd Walkley (Jesse Williams), his wife Kathy (Jordana Brewster), assistant Aurora (Niamh Wilson) and best friend, Hard Calibre Comics owner Ezra (Baruchel), embark upon a road trip from Toronto to New York Comic Con and bad things start to happen. People start getting killed. It soon becomes clear that a crazed fan is using Todd’s “SLASHERMAN” comic as inspiration for the killings and as the bodies pile up, and Todd’s friends and family become victims themselves, Todd will be forced to take artistic responsibility. Directed by Jay Baruchel. Premieres August 20 on only Shudder (US & UK).

Secretly centered around deep childhood trauma, Random Acts Of Violence, is one of this year’s most visually stunning horror films. Reminiscent of Creepshow with its comic book window integration, actor/producer/writer/director Jay Baruchel‘s newest feature will freak you out. The gore factor is insanely high, the kills are next level disturbing. The killer has a literal playbook. But from page to screen they are all the more unsettling. Bravo to the makeup effects team for building purely maniacal creations. But in truth, they come from Jay Baruchel’s brain. Scary shit, indeed. Performances are top-notch from everyone. The honest intensity and fear will rattle even the hardcore viewer.

The script is filled with just enough breadcrumbs to keep you invested but completely blindsided. The feminist monologue Baruchel writes for Brewster is amazing; throwing the glorification of violence against women in our faces. The psychological trauma being explored makes for such a smart screenplay. The camera work slowly reveals just how sick the premise is, how vile the imagery. And that’s coming from someone who ingests horror more than the average person probably should. Good news for Shudder, this film will reverb in viewers’ nightmares. Random Acts of Violence is anything but random. It is genre art.

RANDOM ACTS OF VIOLENCE is available now on SHUDDER US/UK/Ireland

Review: ‘Sputnik’ is stomach churning, sci-fi glory.

SPUTNIK

Due to her controversial methods, young doctor Tatiana Yurievna (Oksana Akinshina, Lilya 4-Ever) is on the precipice of losing her medical license. Her career may not be over, though. After she’s recruited by the military, Tatiana is brought to a secure science research facility to assess a very special case, that of Konstantin Sergeyevich (Pyotr Fyodorov, The Darkest Hour), a cosmonaut who survived a mysterious space accident and has returned to Earth with a unique condition: there’s something living inside of him that only shows itself late at night. The military has nefarious plans for it. Tatiana wants to stop it from killing Konstantin. And the creature itself thrives on destruction.

This intensely dark and visually frightening sci-fi film will get under your skin and stay there. The lighting choices alone, the perpetually dark and ominous choices will throw you into a state of disorientation from the very beginning. Practical effects, mixed with stunning CGI and creature design make for an enthralling watch. Performances are so strong you will be audibly rooting for our leads. As the tension builds, so does your heart rate. Oksana Akinshina as Tatiana Yurievna is a force to be reckoned with. Her measured tenacity, boldness, and bravery jump off the screen. As the sole female, her energy is what drives this film to success. Pyotr Fyodorov as Konstantin is an entirely different animal (no pun intended). His physical and emotional arch are the perfect foil for Akinshina. The emotional energy displayed onscreen will drain you as much as it must have Fyodorov Even with a runtime of nearly 2 hrs, Sputnik keeps you on the edge of your seat wondering how it will end. So, pop some popcorn, turn down the lights, and get ready for a spine chilling tale from a secret Russian location. Sputnik will make you look differently at the stars.

Release Details: SPUTNIK opens today, Friday, August 14th, in select theaters, digital platforms, and cable VOD, courtesy of IFC Midnight.  https://www.sputnik.movie/

Director: Egor Abramenko (THE PASSENGER)
Writers: Oleg Malovichko, Andrei Zolotarev
Cast: Oksana Akinshina (LILYA 4-EVER), Pyotr Fyodorov (THE DARKEST HOUR), Fedor Bondarchuk (9TH COMPANY)
Runtime: 107 Minutes
Distributor: IFC Midnight

Review: Take the ride of your life with ‘SPREE’

SYNOPSIS: Meet Kurt (Joe Keery), a 23-year-old rideshare driver for Spree, who is so desperate for social media attention that he’ll stop at nothing to go viral. He comes up with a plan to livestream a rampage as a shortcut to infamy – coining his evil scheme “#thelesson”, he installs a set of cameras in his car and begins streaming his rides. Wildly miscalculating the popularity that would come from his lethal scheme, Kurt’s desperation grows as he tries to find a way to overcome the plan’s flaws. In the middle of all this madness, a stand-up comedian (Sasheer Zamata) with her own viral agenda crosses Kurt’s path and becomes the only hope to put a stop to his misguided carnage.

Our favorite Stranger Things ex-boyfriend, Joe Kerry, is taking social media to the extreme. Eugene Kotlyarenko’s new film is what would happen if CAM had a baby with American Psycho. Spree is a found footage post Livestream extravaganza of crazy. It hilariously holds an unfiltered phone screen up to our faces and chokes us with our own carefully curated reality. Approximately 26 minutes in my mouth literally dropped open. It would not be the last time. Spree has incredibly fun kills. The editing is head-spinning. Extra points for the double entendre title.

Joe Keery is amazing. He is in almost every shot of this film. This would not be as successful without him. Cast him in everything from here on out. The nonchalance he has with this level of violence ups the anty. Stockholm syndrome because Keery’s portrayal of Kurt is something I fully endorse. Sasheer Zamata is the audience, the antagonist, and the protagonist. This is only something that will make sense when the credits roll. She is fierce from every angle. The script is so well developed it will blow you away with its sardonic wit. The setup is pure genius. The cast is superb. It’s a nonstop adrenaline ride of gore and laughs. Spree will kick you in the teeth with its irony. And now, the only way to end this… #thelesson #KurtsWorld96 #Spree #FiveStarRating

RED BAND YOUTUBE TRAILER:

SPREE is available in select theaters, drive-ins, on-demand and digital August 14th.

IN THEATERS: August 14, 2020

AVAILABLE ON DEMAND AND DIGITAL: August 14, 2020

DIRECTOR: Eugene Kotlyarenko

WRITER: Gene McHugh, Eugene Kotlyarenko

CAST: Joe Keery, Sasheer Zamata, Mischa Barton, John DeLuca, Josh Ovalle, Lala Kent, Frankie Grande with Kyle Mooney and David Arquette

RUN TIME: 92 min

RATING: NR

GENRE: Thriller

DISTRIBUTOR: RLJE Films

Review: ‘Day 13’ proves no good deed goes unpunished.

When 17-year-old Colton is left at home to babysit his little sister for the summer, he develops a crush on Heather, the beautiful girl who just moved into a mysterious old house across the street. He falls in love with her from afar — but also witnesses her foster father grow increasingly threatening towards her. When Colton suspects the man belongs to a Satanic cult, and is preparing to ritually murder her, he resorts to desperate measures to intervene. Once he learns the real truth, it is more horrifying than anything he had ever imagined.

Take a little Disturbia, add a bit of Fright Night, and a pinch of Rosemary’s Baby and you’ve got yourself Day 13. The slow burn mystery feels a bit predictable about halfway through. Then 45 minutes in, “Oh, hello. That’s new!” You are, without a doubt, rooting for Colton. He’s a genuinely nice guy, even if he mysteriously has a ton of cash for a high school kid. Also, his mother is a terrible person (who leaves their two kids alone for 16 days?!) and his sister acts like an 8-year-old even though I’m sure she’s meant to be at least 13. That’s A LOT for a kid to deal with. Oh, and besides the fact that his new love interest seems to be held captive by her adoptive father who definitely deals in some dark arts shadiness.

Alex MacNicoll as our leading man is charming and down to Earth. He’s totally believable as a brave and gentlemanly boy next door. The mystery girl next door is played by Genevieve Hannelius. She has an authentic Taissa Farmiga vibe ala American Horror Story, season 1. One of the most entertaining parts of the film is J.T. Palmer as Colton’s best friend, Michael. He is the audience. I loved his commentary.

That climactic twist. Sure, I’ve seen enough horror films to know when something seems “too easy”. I’ve learned two things from Day 13; first, maybe don’t leave a teenager home alone to take care of his younger sister, and second, no good deed goes unpunished. If only Colton could have been bored for 3 more days. The film is definitely entertaining. I have to admit I was fully into Colton’s ambitious plan to solve the mystery. I was certainly on the edge of my couch when he attempts to rescue Heather. You’ll need to get to the bottom of what’s really plaguing this girl… and Colton. Day 13 is now available on VOD. Check out the trailer below.

Day 13 – VOD Release 8/4/20 – Will be Available on:
Amazon, iTunes, Google Play, Xbox, Playstation, Vudu, Fandango & Vimeo
Click Below to Choose Your Platform!
Cast:
Alex MacNicoll, Martin Kove, Genevieve Hannelius, Darlene Vogel
Director: Jax Medel
Writer: Dan Gannon | Walter Goldwalter
Producer: Richard C. Brooks
Genre: Horror / Thriller
Language: English
Production Country: United States

Review: Shudder original ‘The Pool’ dives head first into the deep end.

A young couple find themselves trapped in a 20’-deep swimming pool with no way out—and that’s only the beginning of their problems. Starring Theeradej Wongpuapan, Ratnamon Ratchiratham, directed by Ping Lumpraploeng.

Relentlessly unnerving, The Pool takes a seemingly simple premise and turns it into an elaborate horror movie. From one moment to the next, this story keeps you on the edge of your seat and rooting for our leading man. Theeradej Wongpuapan must have been so physically drained after each takes, not to mention emotionally. The script highlights how desperation leads to ingenuity. Minus the holier than thou moment around abortion and the sometimes silly looking CGI, The Pool is successful because it’s so frustrating. It’s like watching a slow form of brutal torture, but undeniably entertaining torture. Some moments will be difficult to watch. They may break you. But, damn, this script is strong as hell. I don’t remember the last time I literally gripped the couch and was sweating near the end of a film. This is a film that I grant full permission to yell at the screen. I have no doubt writer-director Ping Lumpraploeng would approve. The visual starkness of (essentially a unit set) that occurs for the majority of the film is in high contrast to the dreamy opening shots that will make you gasp. This allows us to delve into the mindset of the characters, it heightens the panic. The Pool is incredibly unique. Great writing and exceptional performances keep it afloat.

The Pool is now available on SHUDDER

 

Review: Dave Franco’ directorial debut ‘The Rental’ may make you choose a staycation.

Two couples on an oceanside getaway grow suspicious that the host of their seemingly perfect rental house may be spying on them. Before long, what should have been a celebratory weekend trip turns into something far more sinister, as well-kept secrets are exposed and the four old friends come to see each other in a whole new light. Alison Brie, Dan Stevens, Jeremy Allen White, and Sheila Vand star in this unnerving and sophisticated debut thriller from Dave Franco (NEIGHBORS, IF BEALE STREET COULD TALK, THE DISASTER ARTIST).

My husband happens to have an Airbnb listing. Dave Franco just made our lives a whole lot more difficult and I’m not even mad about it. With one hell of a cast at his behest, he dives headfirst into the feature-length game with The Rental. The script is juicy and unafraid. Dan Stevens, Alison Brie, Sheila Band, and Jeremy Allen White leave you enmeshed in their emotional baggage. From the very first scene, you feel a subconscious bait and switch in the blocking. As someone who has always had close colleagues of the opposite sex, boundaries are constantly an issue regardless of relationship status. Two couples silently pitted against one another but the dynamics are not what you’d expect. It’s the secrets and lies that drive this plot forward. Add in a more sinister element and you’ve got a storyline that you will not see coming. Alongside Franco in the screenwriting seat in Joe Swanberg, who you can always count on for some true to life complexities. This was a great pairing.

Dan Stevens, whose star has been steadily rising since his departure from Downton Abbey, is strong as ever. We know by now he’s a full-blown Hollywood star. Sheila Vand, who just so happens to be the star of one of my very favorite films of all time, (A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night) is having an excellent year with Snowpiercer the TV series and The Wave. Here, once again, she is a tour de force. She’s an empowered role model while certainly owning her own failures. Alison Brie feels like a quieter presence but in reality, we are her character for more of the film than we realize. Jeremy Allen White might actually be the most sympathetic of the four. The challenge to his past transgressions is huge. These are really only things that struck me in ful as I have been sitting on them since viewing. 

These characters and performances are ridiculously nuanced. You may find yourself not wanting to root for them at one moment but then screaming at the screen the next. It’s confusing and manipulative and I am here for it all. The idyllic setting and isolation add to both the tension and the endgame. Without spoiling anything, it was an incredibly smart choice. Heads up, there is a very brief false ending. You better sit still if you want some real answers. I can safely say I want more from Franco is this is any indication of what he can do. The Rental genuinely through me for a loop in the best way possible. 

IFC Films will release THE RENTAL in select Drive-Ins, Theaters and On Demand on Friday, July 24, 2020.

THE RENTAL is the directorial debut of Dave Franco (Neighbors, If Beale Street Could Talk, The Disaster Artist) from a script co-written by Franco and  Joe Swanberg (“Easy”, Drinking Buddies). The thriller/horror film stars Alison Brie (“GLOW,” Sleeping With Other People), Dan Stevens (“Downton Abbey,” Beauty and the Beast), Jeremy Allen White (“Shameless”, Movie 43) and Sheila Vand (“Snowpiercer,” A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night).

Review: ‘Zombie For Sale’ is a genre-bending riot. Now playing on the Arrow Video Channel!

 

Synopsis:  When the illegal human experiments of Korea’s biggest pharmaceutical company go wrong, one of their “undead” test subjects escapes and ends up in a shabby gas station owned by the Park family – a band of misfits spanning three generations who hustle passersby to make ends meet. When the Park family uncovers their undead visitor, he bites the head of their household, who instead of transforming into an undead ghoul becomes revitalized and full of life! The family then hatch a plan to exploit this unexpected fountain of youth, allowing locals to pay to be bitten too… until things go wrong.

Boasting moments of Shaun of the Dead-like physical comedy, this film is beyond hilarious. Outstanding editing and cinematography add to the overall greatness. The filmmakers did not cut corners in storyboarding. The quick takes are all part of the film’s success. I’ve never found a zombie film more charming. A score that is reminiscent of anything composed by Danny Elfman for a Tim Burton movie, Zombie For Sale has more elements of genre fun than you thought you’d need in a single film.

Our zombie friend has a higher than usual self-awareness, as his ability to understand love, fear, and pain feature prominently in the storyline. He is being used for a “get rich quick” scheme and your empathy is with him. I’ve never wanted to put a zombie in my pocket before, and yet here we are. This absurdity makes it all the funnier. When our clueless family looks up a clip from Train to Busan, I literally guffawed. Each member has a distinctly different personality, besides being con artists. It’s safe to say that our two female leads wield the most power in this screenplay. Outside of the typical “final girl” scenarios, this was refreshing as hell. This is a true ensemble cast. You will not know what’s coming next. It’s safe to call this a genre-bending film. It is a zombie apocalypse redemption rom-com. These performances are laugh out loud funny from start to finish. Zombie For Sale is colorful and zany and it’s one of my favorite zombie films of the year.

The Arrow Video Channel is available on Apple TV in the UK and US, as well as on Amazon in the UK.

ABOUT THE ARROW VIDEO CHANNEL

The ARROW VIDEO CHANNEL gives cult movie fans the opportunity to watch a wide selection of movies that the ARROW VIDEO brand has been famous for – personally curated by members of the Arrow team. From horror to sci-fi, thrillers to westerns, the ARROW VIDEO CHANNEL is home to cutting edge cult and undiscovered gems such as Takashi Miike’s “Audition,” Wes Craven’s seminal masterpiece “The Hills Have Eyes,” George A. Romero’s contagion classic “The Crazies,” Edwin Brown’s slice-and-dice staple “The Prey” and so much more. In the coming months, the ARROW VIDEO CHANNEL will be adding more cult classics from East Asia such as Shinya Tsukamoto’s “Tetsuo: The Iron Man” and “Bullet Ballet” and a collection of the Japanese classic “Gamera” movies.  In addition to crowd-pleasing cult movies on the service, the ARROW VIDEO CHANNEL will continue to give you an exclusive platform to brand new genre as part of a new global strategy.

The ARROW VIDEO CHANNEL also hosts a growing collection of documentaries, interviews and never-before-seen content from the Arrow Video archives, as well as newly produced material. These documentaries will breathe new life on the ARROW VIDEO CHANNEL, giving movie fans an immersive look into the creation of many cult movie classics such as “Donnie Darko” and “Hellraiser.” The service will be updated regularly with new content, new curation focus and never-before-seen content, all hand-picked by the Arrow Video team.

 

 

Review: ‘The Beach House’ is an atmospheric chiller.

A romantic getaway for two troubled college sweethearts turns into a struggle for
survival when unexpected guests – and eventually the entire environment – exhibit
signs of a mysterious infection.

So I have to admit that the night after I watched The Beach House I had some of the weirdest dreams since beginning lockdown in Mid-March. A lot of horror films are incredibly formulaic, not that I’m complaining about that. Sometimes all you want is a final girl and a monster to die, there’s almost a comfort in that. The Beach House is not your average genre fare, and that is awesome. There is a quiet unnerving that creeps in from the very beginning. You almost can’t put your finger on it. You will not notice just when you begin to lean into the clearly underlying tension being built up. The dynamics between our four characters have a grounded and yet completely off-kilter foreboding. A nod to mother nature being a vengeful creature is something that figures prominently. While it has elements of Stephen King‘s The Mist, M.Night Shyamalan‘s The Happening, and H. P. Lovecraft‘s Colour Out Of Space,  there is most definitely something special about Jeffrey A. Brown’s writing and directorial debut.

As someone who grew up going to smaller Cape Cod towns, sometimes on the offseason, I felt that isolation of being the only ones in a neighborhood. I also felt the dread it would bring if something ever went awry. Liana Liberato is my hero in this film. She’s a freaking superhero as far as I’m concerned. I have been following her as of late in this year’s Banana Split and To The Stars. She is a force of nature, no pun intended, in the role of Emily. I guess the irony of her character’s major is what baffled me the most. It metaphorically and physically consumes her and oh man, do you want her to succeed. The script might be all the more unnerving because we’re living through a pandemic that could kill us if we inhaled it. Nature is pissed off and frankly, I don’t blame it. Strong performances from Noah Le Gos, Jake Webber, and Maryann Nagel round out our two couples who could not be more different from one another. While Emily and Randall do not seem to suit one another at all, Mitch and Jane feel like genuine life partners. It’s a plot point that will keep you engaged and aware throughout.

The Beach House highlights flight or fight from different perspectives. That will ring more true upon viewing. The sense of dread is genuinely palpable as most of the action occurs in what feels like painstakingly real-time. It’s uncomfortable to watch and isn’t that what we’re all looking for in a good horror film? You can watch The Beach House now on AMC’s Shudder. It’s a fine way to celebrate this weird summer.

Review: “BECKY” is a scary little girl.

SYNOPSIS: Spunky and rebellious, Becky (Lulu Wilson) is brought to a weekend getaway at a lake house by her father Jeff (Joel McHale) in an effort to try to reconnect after her mother’s death. The trip immediately takes a turn for the worse when a group of convicts on the run, led by the merciless Dominick (Kevin James), suddenly invade the lake house.

A grieving and angst-ridden preteen must save her family from a group of escaped, white supremacist prisoners in search of a hidden artifact. This film is about loss but also pure, unadulterated rage. Kevin James is unrecognizable as pure evil. His tattooed physique and manipulative dialogue are so upsetting. I can honestly say, “Bravo” to the casting directors for taking a chance on him. I’m hoping it will open new avenues in his career.  Lulu Wilson as Becky is next level. The pent up anger and fear have to go somewhere. Why not into a murderous revenge self-defense act? She is a perfect balance of age-appropriate and goddamn sociopath. Put her in all the things. She could be our next genre darling. 

The script allows her an outlet with help from what she finds around her. Think Home Alone clever but add actual permanent injury and/or death. The kills are straight-up savage and I am here for it. The climactic practical effect is gruesome and great. While the script still feels like something is missing ( I don’t know if there’s a sequel planned) Becky is incredibly strong in pacing and phenomenal on the action.

**World Premiere and Official Selection – Tribeca Film Festival 2020**

Quiver Distribution will release the thriller BECKY On Demand and Digital on June 5, 2020.

 

BECKY WILL SCREEN AT THE BELOW THEATERS & DRIVE-INS ON JUNE 5TH:
IOWA: Superior 71 Drive-In, Blue Grass Drive-In
INDIANA: Garrett Drive-In, Tri Way 4 Drive-In
KENTUCKY: Regency 8
MASSACHUSETTS: Mendon Twin Drive-In
MINNESOTA: Long Drive-In
NORTH CAROLINA: Hounds Drive-In, Raleigh Road Drive-In, Badin Road Drive-In, Eden Drive-In
NEW HAMPSHIRE: Milford Drive-In 2
NEW JERSEY: Delsea Drive-In
NEW YORK: Transit Drive-In, Silver Lakes Drive-In, Sunset 3 Drive-In, Vintage Drive-In, Delevan Twin Drive-In
OHIO: Mayfield Road Drive-In, Skyway Drive-In, South Drive-In Twin, Tiffin Drive-In, Starview Drive-In, Springmill Drive-In, Magic City Twin Drive-In, Van-Del Drive-In, Dixie Drive-In, Aut-O-Rama Twin Drive-In, Elm Road Triple Drive-In, Field of Dreams Drive-In
OKLAHOMA: Tower Drive-In
PENNSYLVANIA: Garden Drive-In, Circle Drive-In, Comet Twin Drive-In, Kane Family Drive-In, Riverside Drive-In, Silver Drive-In, Skyview Twin Drive-In
SOUTH CAROLINA: Hi-Way 21 Drive-In
TENNESSEE: Stardust Drive-In
WISCONSIN: Stardust Drive-In