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

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

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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: Shudder’s ‘HOST’ is the scariest film I’ve seen all year.

Six friends get together during lockdown for their weekly zoom call. It’s Haley’s turn to organise an activity and instead of a quiz, she’s arranged for a Medium to conduct a séance. Bored and feeling mischievous, Jemma decides to have some fun and invents a story about a boy in her school who hanged himself. However, her prank gives license for a demonic presence to cross over, taking on the guise of the boy in Jemma’s made-up story. The friends begin noticing strange occurrences in their homes as the evil presence begins to make itself known, and they soon realise that they might not survive the night. A SHUDDER ORIGINAL.

Cast: Haley Bishop, Radina Drandova, Jemma Moore, Caroline Ward, Emma Webb, Edward Linard

Playing out in real-time (56 minutes to be exact), 6 friends jump on a Zoom call after they hire a medium to entertain them. The visual set up is key. What appears to be totally casual laptop setups is actually compromised of very specific angles that will put any genre fan instantly on alert. A well placed open door in any frame is a constant cause for anxiety. Since we’ve all been doing these damn calls for months now, Host stylishly lulls you into a false sense of familiarity before pulling the rug out from underneath you. It’s quite genius in it’s simplicity.

25 minutes in and I was genuinely frightened. I’m talking chills, and jump scare, heart-pounding, all in. The cast is us, but we get to experience it through them. I’m not sure if I would even watch this on a big screen. I suggest you watch it on a laptop for the ultimate immersive experience. It’s as if you’re on the call but muted. What a fantastic set up for this moment in time. Remember that feeling when you first saw The Blair Witch Project? For those like myself who saw it opening night at a sold-out screening, before the internet ruined everything, we felt real terror. As soon as the screen went black, there was screaming and a stampede for the exit. This has that special kind of fear attached to it. HOST is found footage reinvigorated.

The acting from every single person is phenomenal. It makes me wonder how much of the script they had knowledge of because they are superb. Director Rob Savage never even entered the same room as his cast members, directing them through Zoom to maintain social distancing. This feat is impressive. Not only did they shoot the film themselves, but set lighting, and executed the practical fx. When you see the final product, wow. This may be the scariest film I’ve seen all year. I watch A LOT of horror and this film’s second half was almost all watched through my fingers. Bravo to everyone involved. I, for one, will not be sleeping tonight and what better a compliment for a horror film.

HOST is now available on SHUDDER

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