Screamfest 2020 review: ‘A Ghost Waits’ conjures real emotion.

NORTH AMERICAN PREMIERE

A GHOST WAITS

Jack’s job is to fix up the house. Spectral agent Muriel’s eternal task is to haunt it. They should be enemies, but they become fascinated by one another and eventually smitten, leading them to question everything about their work, lives, and decisions. But as pressure mounts for them to fulfill their duties, something’s got to give for the time together they both so desperately want.
A Ghost Waits made its North American premiere at Screamfest 2020 last night and was not at all what I was expecting. This is a total compliment. Jack is just trying to do his job… and Muriel is trying to do hers. When two lonely souls connect, not even death can keep them apart. In A Ghost Waits, it is quite the contrary. A “morbidly romantic” story might be an appropriate description. This film is pure indie magic with dialogue that is equal parts hilarious and emotional. Not to mention the effect of using what appears to be a simple flashlight to create a ghostly glow for our spectral agent, Muriel. The usual tropes of self-opening doors and cabinets, mysterious crying babies, and things disappearing are all very effective tools unutilized in the script, but it’s the genuine relationship between Jack and Muriel that makes this film stand out.
The song “Yellow Cotton Dress” as performed by lead actor MacLeod Andrews is something I would listen to on loop. I was blown away by his comic timing as well as his ability to make me weep. A great deal of the film is just Andrews doing his thing. You will be enamored with him.  After the film ended, I actually watched a 12-minute video of him recording a chapter from an audiobook. It was outstanding. It was a completely different side to the loveable and vulnerable character of Jack we get in this film. I’m suggesting you cast him in all the things, pronto. Natalie Walker clearly has a handle on comedy as well, taking a seemingly serious angle to Muriel. Her commitment to tone is spot on. MacLeod and Walker as a team are spectacular. Their chemistry just works.
The ending swings from genuinely devastating and to simply beautiful. It speaks volumes about the things we don’t talk enough about to one another. Sometimes all we need is for someone to listen. Sometimes we just need some help. This is one of the most unique scripts of the year. Director Adam Stovall co-wrote the script with Andrews and they’ve given us an entirely different perspective on horror and mental health. A Ghost Waits will undoubtedly surprise Screamfest audiences long after the credits roll. It’s a bit of a genre-bending wonder.
Black and White
English Language

79 minutes
Not Rated
🏆 WINNER, FRIGHTFEST 2020 🏆
BEST ACTOR
BEST DIRECTOR
BEST PICTURE

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

Fantasia International Film Festival 2020 review: ‘Morgana’ opens with a bang.

‘Morgana’ is an artistic character portrait of a 50-year-old housewife, who re-invents herself as a sex-positive feminist porn star.

After 20 years as a dutiful housewife stuck in a loveless, sexless marriage, Morgana has had enough of her dreary life. Desperately lonely and starved of intimacy, she books a male escort for
one last hurrah before ending it all.

Her final night takes an unexpected turn when her relationship with the escort opens up a new world of personal and sexual freedom. After hearing about a competition for first time erotic filmmakers, Morgana directs and stars in a film about her own story, ‘Duty-Bound’. Unexpectedly her film wins, catapulting her into the international Feminist Porn community.

Life merges with art as Morgana uses erotic filmmaking as a tool for creative catharsis while struggling with demons from her past.

This year’s Fantasia International Film Festival brings feminist porn to audiences that may not even know it exists. Morgana Muses is not simply breaking all the gender norms, she is blowing them to pieces in the sexiest, most honest way, ever. This doc beautifully tackles depression and the lasting effects words can have on the human psyche. Touch is a human need. Lack thereof can mean the death of the body and soul. We are privileged to be witness to Morgana finding herself, in a sense giving us full permission to say, “Fuck it, this is what I like.”  Directors Josie Hess and Isabel Peppard have presented us with an in-your-face, fearless look, at a woman to be respected, loved, and held as an example of the ever-changing times. The mixture of sit down interviews, stunning still photography, exquisite miniatures,  and scenes from Morgana’s own films paint a vivid picture. In 70 minutes, Morgana will enlighten you, entice you, and turn you on.

A Feature Length Documentary Film: TRT 71 mins in English
Official Selection Fantasia Film Festival 2020
Screening Digitally August 20 – Sept 2
Directed by Isabel Peppard + Josie Hess
Produced by Karina Astrup

Fantasia International Film Festival 2019 review: ‘Ode To Nothing’ is everything a cinephile wants.

Synopsis:

“Sonya, an old maid is about to give up on herself until one day, she meets a corpse in her family’s embalming business that changes her life.”

Another North American premiere at Fantasia International Film Festival 2019 is that of Ode To Nothing. The slow burn of creepy factor launches this film into skin-crawling territory. The setting alone is horror movie gold. A family mortuary? Besides My Girl, when does anything fun and happy occur? Hell, even with a mostly delightful plot, the end of My Girl still makes me bawl my eyes out every damn time I watch it! “He needs his glasses! He can’t see without his glasses!” *Cue ugly cry* Anyhow, Ode To Nothing takes the family business and infuses humor as it transitions to the unsettling. As Sonya runs the business, the mystery body becomes her confidant. The reality of her loneliness becomes next level when she takes this unknown woman’s body and treats it as her own personal best friend. I don’t know if it’s sadder or more upsetting. Imagine you find a lost dog and take it in and begin to love it. You treat it like it’s your own knowing full well that at anytime the owner could show up to claim their dog. Now replace the dog in that scenario with a dead body. Yeah, it’s just as weird as you’re picturing. The audience is unsure if it’s supposed to laugh at the lunacy or cringe at fact that both father and daughter act like this is totally normal. Therein lies the brilliance of Ode To Nothing. The film’s framing feels reminiscent of a vacation slide. We often peer through a window, a door, or watch a scene in the reflection of the mirror. It’s simply beautiful. The dialogue is unexpected in its intimacy. If you can separate yourself from the odd, the number of monologues that Marietta Subong has are stunningly performed and wonderfully honest. As the body decays, this family’s life blossoms. Ode To Nothing is something special in its eccentricity.

Fantasia International Film Festival 2019 review: DREADOUT plays well on the big screen.

Jessica, Beni, Dian, Alex, Erik, and Linda want to increase their popularity through recording their adventures to upload to their social media accounts. They chose to go to an abandoned apartment famous for its awesomeness. Linda manages to persuade Kang Heri, security guard, to enter the apartment. Linda and friends found one apartment unit which is given a police line. Encouraged by curiosity, they brake down the door of the apartment unit. When they are researching the room, they find an old parchment, which only Linda could read. After Linda reads the writing on the parchment, suddenly a portal open. Inadvertently Linda and her friends have opened the door to the magical world and anger the portal guardian supernatural creatures.

Those crazy teenagers. Always opening the gates to other worlds. DREADOUT had its North American premiere last night at Fantasia International Film Festival 2019 and audiences were not disappointed. The film begins with all the buildup of suspense and visual feel of playing the DreadOut video games. The framing feels sharp and the character dynamics are as fresh as Cabin In The Woods. As the audience peers through the cell phone lense of the group’s live stream, it has an amazing effect on how the lighting is filtered and you find yourself glancing at the viewership every so often. But mostly, it forces your attention to the mysterious surroundings even more intensely. This is simply the introduction to this film’s plot. 30 mins in, some creative and fresh hell awaits our ingenue Linda (Caitlin Halderman). She must explore her new otherworldly environment and figure out why she’s there and how to escape. The film’s location bounces between realms keeping the audience on its toes and the pace moving. The sets are incredibly intricate and the film really never ceases to entertain. Now, I’ve never played the game but it is reminiscent of Silent Hill and I have played that for years. The best shots recall first player gameplay with pointed POV camera work that’s impossible to miss. I do wish that had not completely disappeared. If I’m being honest, I could have used a bit more otherworldly background, perhaps flashes just as the gang is discovering the storyline. As someone who has not played the game, I feel like this was a missed opportunity.  As a whole, I was fully engrossed. DREADOUT has all the elements of a great horror adventure. Genre fans should be nothing but pleased.

DREADOUT