Interview: Writer/director Dean Kapsalis and star Azura Skye for ‘THE SWERVE’ – now available on Digital and VOD!

Holly seems to have it all: two kids, a nice house, a good job as a teacher, and a husband with his career on the way up. But there are troubling signs that all is not right in her world. The insomnia. The medication for the insomnia. The dreams from the medication for the insomnia. The arrival of her estranged sister and a mouse invading her home doesn’t help either. Add the weight of a dark secret, and her already delicate balance collapses, sending her spiraling out of control.

Last year’s Brooklyn Horror Film Festival brought a movie into my world that still haunts me. The Swerve is a film that, in many ways, made me feel seen. You can read my review here. This week, The Swerve finally comes to audiences nationwide. I was lucky enough to chat with writer/director Dean Kapsalis and star Azura Skye this week. When I say this film will stick with you longer than it should, I am not exaggerating one bit. It is unpredictable, it gets under your skin, and Skye is remarkable. Pay attention to this carefully crafted script. There is foreshadowing everywhere, the classroom especially. These are deliberate choices made by Kapsalis. They are genius.

Here is my interview with Dean and Azura…

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Firstly, congratulations to you both on an extraordinary film. There is so much amazing material to talk about in The Swerve, so let’s dive right in!

Dean, what or who inspired this script?

 

Dean – I was raised by and around strong women.  Over time, I witnessed the weight of living manifest in them as mental illnesses.  My experiences and observations became lodged somewhere deep in my psyche and coincided with (or perhaps fueled?) my appreciation for Gothic literature, Greek tragedies, Shakespeare, etc.  

 

Azura, what was the first thing in this script that made you think, “I have to tell this woman’s story.”

 

Azura – When I first read the script, I immediately recognized Holly as the role of a lifetime.  As an actor, you can only hope that you’re given something this juicy, and layered, to work with — but it’s rare. This is without a doubt the most challenging role I’ve ever tackled, but given the opportunity, how could I say no? I knew it was something I had to do, as daunting, and intimidating as it was.

 

Dean and Azura, Moms are so often pushed aside in narratives. This script highlights the weight of motherhood in such a real way. The isolation, the stress, the pressure to be everyone’s caretaker. What were you hoping the take away would be for an audience? I imagine it might be different, perhaps based on gender? 

 

Dean – My hope is that audiences feel something from it.  The reign of patriarchy over women is as powerful and relevant now as it was during the era of Shakespeare.  Different, modern pressures, surely, but it hasn’t changed much on an emotional level.  I think that’s why the characters and themes in Shakespeare are still so identifiable.

 

Azura – A big part of Holly is her silent suffering. She puts on a smile, and a brave face as she seems to adeptly juggle the various roles of wife, mother, sister, daughter, teacher — but inside she’s nearing a breaking point, as she struggles to keep it together. She’s right at that tenuous edge, where something as small as a mouse can be the tipping point that sends her spiraling downward. The straw that breaks the camel’s back, if you will.

One thing I hope audiences of all genders take from this movie is a reminder that you never know what’s going on with the person next to you at the grocery store. You have no idea what kind of day they’ve had. Maybe they’ve just lost a loved one, or are dealing with any number of possible traumas or tragedies.  Everyone’s having to cope with a lot, some more than others — especially now. I hope this film is a reminder not to assume that you know what’s going on in someone else’s life, or in someone else’s head. Often times, we don’t even know what’s really going on with our closest friends and family. Or even our partners, for that matter. Everyone suffers, in ways we often never know, so let’s try to be kind and careful with one another.

 

As a 40-year-old mom of two toddlers who used to teach high school, this obviously hit me in a personal way. The character of Paul is so impactful. Even with the inappropriate power dynamic, you understand why his presence is so consequential to Holly’s entire journey. Dean, can you talk about the decision to use him as a catalyst? And for Azura, what was your reaction to Holly’s choice to go along with such an affair? 

 

Dean – I never thought of it as an affair, but as a need for Holly to express and connect.  But there is no joy in it.  Paul has a kindness to him.  He sees Holly in a different way than the other male characters in the film, but it is absolutely an adolescent’s fantasy and is no less dangerous.  

 

Azura – Holly feels invisible most of the time. Especially at home, where she feels taken for granted, unappreciated; unseen. Paul is so pivotal because here’s someone who really sees her — and thinks she’s amazing. Thinks she’s beautiful. With Paul, Holly feels recognized, and appreciated, for the first time in far too long.

When I first read the script, this particular storyline was so interesting to me, because it was written in such a way that even though this woman is clearly behaving in an abhorrent, and inexcusably inappropriate way, I did not see her as a monster. It just made me really sad. This thread of the story is also one of my favorite parts of the film. Zack Rand, who plays Paul, was so brilliantly cast, and he gives a phenomenal performance.

 

Let’s talk about the score. It really makes the mundane feel important. The grocery shopping in the beginning, for example. It’s a melancholy that puts you into Holly’s state of mind. 

 

Dean – I noticed mothers, my own included, that seemed to take grocery shopping not as a chore, but as a respite from other activities.  However, the aura of the past and the outside world is inescapable.  It was important that the score reflect that.

 

Dean, Paul’s sketchbook is stunning. Who did the illustrations? 

 

Dean – The artist is Jocelyn Henry.  She was a recent fine arts graduate and I took a shine to her work.  Her initial sketches were a little too polished and I had her scale them back so that they were more reflective of the hand of a developing high school student.

 

Azura, had you seen the drawings prior to filming?

 

Dean – I showed them to Azura, but explained little or nothing.  I guided her to the reactions needed for the scene.

 

Azura – I don’t think I saw the illustrations until the day of filming. I definitely had a visceral reaction to the ones of myself. There’s something quite intimate and slightly jarring about it. There were a couple that I actually wanted to keep, but sadly I was denied. I was told they were done by an artist in New York, but I’ve always secretly suspected that perhaps Dean himself is the artist. I’m curious to see how he answers this question.

 

Holly’s very buttoned-up, very conservatively presented. Can you tell me how her wardrobe affected your physicality?


Azura – It affected me very much. As wardrobe always does. In some ways, I don’t really know who a character is until I put on their clothes, and it was no different with Holly. I didn’t meet the costume designer (Eric Hall) until a few days before we started filming, and as soon as I started putting on the wardrobe I started to get a really strong sense of who Holly was. She really started to make sense, and take shape, quite literally. I thought her clothes were a little sad, sometimes even a little silly. Someone who’s really making an effort, but doesn’t always get it quite right. There was a vulnerability and a self-conscious quality to the way she put herself together. I found the buttoned-up rigidity to be very informative, and it was helpful in that it was a constant reminder as to the way Holly held herself. It very much affected the way I moved. In her restrained, buttoned-up attire, she herself is contained, and restrained; even slightly holding her breath.

 

You’re really rooting for Holly when she stands up for herself but the emotional abuse from her family is endless. They are incredibly manipulative. But Dean’s script and your performance are so strong that I began to wonder if I was seeing things along with her. Azura, did you ever think that what Holly was seeing and experiencing wasn’t real? 

 

Azura – Of course I thought about it, and that was something I discussed with Dean. I like that certain parts of Holly’s experience are open to interpretation, but for me the actor, I had to play it as if it were all 100% real, because for the character it is.

 

Let’s talk about the mouse. Is the mouse Holly? 

 

Dean – It could be.  Or was it a warning?  A guardian?  Was it ever even there?  It’s more important how the viewer feels about it.  And I never discussed meaning with the cast or crew.

 

The final chapter of this film is nothing short of devastating. As a mother, as a human, it has stayed with me since I saw the film last year. It’s truly haunting. It’s a bold choice that is not only a beautiful recall to the story in the beginning but one hell of a gut-punch to the viewer. Did you both hope the audience would sympathize with Holly as the credits rolled? 

 

Dean – Yes.  Prior to the pandemic, abuse, mental illness, and suicide were on the rise across genders, and since it’s only increased.  My hope is that audiences feel something and can relate in some way to her plight.  We’re all human.  We’re all in this together.

 

Azura – It is a harrowing and haunting final act. One that in large part made me want to do the film. I think I was probably far too consumed with the task at hand to really think about how an audience might interpret it.

 

Mental illness is a hot button issue. Do you think people are now more comfortable talking about it openly? 

 

Dean – Social media is a two-edged sword, but people seem to be more open about sharing their experiences.  The world can be so overwhelming.  They want to connect.  They want to heal.  

Azura – It does seem like we’ve started to talk about it a lot more in recent years, which is so great. You have people like Michael Phelps doing commercials encouraging people to seek help, and so many other public figures speaking candidly about their struggles, which makes it so much more accessible, and perhaps even acceptable. It definitely seems like something we’re discussing more and discussing more openly.

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Massive thanks to Dean and Azura for their very generous time with this interview. THE SWERVE is now available on Digital and VOD

 

THE SWERVE celebrated its world premiere at the 2019 Cinepocalypse Film Festival, and screened at the 2019 Panic Film Festival; winning both awards for Best Actress for Azura Skye. The film will be releasing on major VOD/Digital platforms beginning Tuesday, September 22, 2020.

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

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 review: ‘SLEEP’ is a waking nightmare.

Marlene, a woman plagued by horrific dreams, suffers a breakdown in a remote village. As her daughter Mona follows, she comes upon a well-kept family secret and an old curse that ultimately threatens her life – a never-ending nightmare.

I can finally relax my entire body after watching Fantasia 2020’s Sleep. The mystery that unfolds has such a tight grip that I was tense from head to toe with anxiety, much in the same physical manner as our matriarch Marlene. Two brilliant women inhabit the roles of mother-daughter team, Marlene and Mona. Sandra Hüller, from what should have been 2017 Oscar winner for Best Foreign Language Film, TONI ERDMANN) and Gro Swantje Kohlhof, ( Nothing Bad Can Happen –  one of the most unsettling films I’ve ever seen and written about) make for an intriguing balance on screen. For what little interaction they actually have from scene to scene, you genuinely believe they are connected.

The scares are intensely scored and intriguingly edited. The script by Thomas Friedrich is weird from the beginning. The performances have this unnerving, larger than life essence to them. You can feel something is very off about everything and everyone. Overly excited, excessively nice and informative, to unusually angry for no apparent reason. Sleep is like a living, breathing panic attack. The cinematic dynamics are stunning. The plot feels a little like a twisted hereditary version of Nightmare on Elm Street. But then you have a bloodline double entendre thrown in. It’s quite complex but extremely entertaining. As someone who has had reoccurring dreams her entire life, Michael Venus ‘ direction of SLEEP disturbed me to no end. And if you’re anything like me, you will continue to question what is real long after the credits roll.

To find out more about Fantasia 2020 and how to watch SLEEP click here

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: 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: ‘A Good Woman Is Hard To Find’ puts power back in the most deserving hands.

Forced into an emotionally and physically abusive relationship under unusual circumstances, Sarah must navigate her family’s safety and survive financially. Essentially being held hostage by the ripple effect of a drug dealer’s irrational behavior, she strives to regain control of the situation all while attempting to solve the murder of her husband. The intrusive nature of the plot will stifle the viewer. You will not even realize how long you’ve been holding your breath.

Sarah Bolger, who terrified me in Emelie, now plays the complete opposite. She’s a woman on a mission for good. You will root for her. You will be nervous for her. You will cheer her on as she finds her voice. What she must do in self-defense is gruesome. Each beat is so genuinely played, you will not soon forget this performance.

There is a beautiful dichotomy in the fact that she is being terrorized and is financially empowered by her captor. But the abuse is not limited to him. She is verbally assaulted and disrespected where she goes. The assumptions made by everyone in her path are insulting and cruel. As a woman, this film is excruciating to watch. This is a complete complement to the authenticity of the judgment and misogyny (not just from men) that we deal with on a daily basis.

The practical FX are gruesome but completely necessary to feel connected with Bolger’s crisis. The augmented sound editing combined with slow-motion dynamics in a particular scene is visceral. A Good Woman Is Hard To Find proves to be an amazingly insightful commentary on power dynamics and a pretty satisfying story of revenge.

Review: ‘We Summon The Darkness’ makes satanic panic rock.

On the way to a heavy metal concert, Alexis (Alexandra Daddario) and two girlfriends hear a news report of a local murder believed to be tied to a series of satanic killings. After the show, the girls invite three guys to join them at the estate owned by Alexis’s father, a fire-and-brimstone preacher (Johnny Knoxville). What starts as a party suddenly turns dark and deadly in this devilishly entertaining thriller.

The amazing connection between heavy metal music and satanic worship in the ’80s is exploited to it’s fullest and most awesome extent in We Summon The Darkness. This film flips the script on the typical slasher film. Not only does it challenge religious extremism, but it puts the power in the hands of our three female leads. While we’re used to a final girl, this script does what few did back in the day. Some of my favorite genres films A Girl Walks Home Alone A Night and High Tension, take female characters that would otherwise seem the victim and make them the antagonist. We Summon The Darkness splits the difference.

The chemistry between Alexandra Daddario and Maddie Hasson is off the charts cool. You’ll find yourself rooting for something you never thought you would because it’s entertaining as hell, no pun intended. The kills are fun, which always sounds weird no matter how much horror I consume. We also get everything 80’s you ever wanted, iconic tunes, over-the-top decor, bitchin’ cars, big hair, and cocaine. It’s no surprise that with a team of Marc Meyers and Alan Trezza, We Summon The Darkness has, at the very least, sequel potential.

Saban Films will release the horror/thriller WE SUMMON THE DARKNESS on VOD and Digital HD on April 10, 2020.

WE SUMMON THE DARKNESS stars Alexandra Daddario (Baywatch, San Andreas), Johnny Knoxville (Bad Grandpa, Jackass), Keean Johnson (Midway), Maddie Hasson (“Impulse”), Logan Miller (Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse), Amy Forsyth (Hell Fest) and Austin Swift (Live by Night).  The film is directed by Marc Meyers (My Friend Dahmer) from a script by Alan Trezza (Burying the Ex).

Review: ‘The Postcard Killings’ keeps things twisted.

In The Postcard Killings, based on the James Patterson and Liza Marklund #1 New York Times bestselling novel, NY Detective Jacob Kanon’s (Jeffery Dean Morgan) world is destroyed when his daughter and son-in-law are brutally murdered in London. Unable to sit idly by and do nothing, Jacob travels to London get the answers he needs. As he learns of similar heinous murders happening across Europe – each preceded by a postcard sent to a local journalist – Jacob is in a race against time to stop the killings and find justice for his little girl.

Famke Janssen becomes more relevant as Jacob’s ex-wife Val in the second half. She is his eyes and ears on a lead back in the States. Her ever dark, brooding, and strong presence was the perfect casting choice. Denis O’Hare‘s startling appearance is awesome. He can essentially do no wrong and is one of the most sought after character actors working, just ask Ryan Murphy. Jeffery Dean Morgan, who I have adored since his Supernatural days, has superstar range. Not only does he have a booming voice but truly dashing good looks. He owns the entire screen whenever he appears. Here, he plays NYPD detective thrust into the honeymoon murder investigation of his own daughter and son-in-law in London. When the details seem familiar, he makes it his mission to find the killer on an international chase. Morgan has the ability to say very little but expresses so much simply through a glance. He is undeniably fantastic. I hope we see more big-screen appearances once The Walking Dead comes to an end.

Opening with some gruesome imagery, The Postcard Killings immediately captures your interest. The script is thoroughly engrossing. It has a bit of a Se7en feel with a body horror aspect. Just when you think you know what’s going on, think again. As bodies pile up, clues are revealed that will both intrigue and shock. You will place yourself in Jacob ‘s shoes. One hour in, you will be thrown so much information and the tonal shift will knock you down. You will never be bored. The international locations are stunning, mixed with the light orchestral score, The Postcard Killings is an entertaining thriller.

RLJE Films will release THE POSTCARD KILLINGS in theaters and On Demand and Digital on March 13, 2020. The film is based on the #1 New York Times bestselling novel “The Postcard Killers” by James Patterson and Liza Marklund.

THE POSTCARD KILLINGS stars Jeffrey Dean Morgan ( “The Walking Dead”), Famke Janssen (X-Men franchise), Cush Jumbo (“The Good Fight”), Joachim Król (Run Lola Run), Steven Mackintosh (Rocketman), and Denis O’Hare (“American Horror Story”). Written by Andrew Stern (Disconnect), Ellen Furman (The Infiltrator), Liza Marklund and Tove Alsterdal, the film was directed by Academy Award Winner Danis Tanovic (No Man’s Land).

Review: ‘Run This Town’ is a successful look at who does the dirty work in truth telling and true suppressing.

A young journalist and a young political aide become entangled in a larger-than-life political scandal as they struggle to navigate adult life. Like all their friends, Bram and Kamal are struggling to climb the ladders at their respective workplaces: Bram at a newspaper, Kamal at City Hall. When Bram learns of a scandal involving Kamal’s larger-than-life boss, he seizes the moment to advance his career. Meanwhile, Kamal grapples with containing the story while maintaining his integrity.

Ben Platt is swiftly becoming a household name for anyone outside of the Broadway, music industry, and Netflix world. Frankly, shame on you if you haven’t heard of him at this point. In Run This Town, Platt plays a budding journalist, Bram, who has Toronto’s biggest political scandal fall into his lap.

This entire cast has fresh and energetic chemistry. They ooze the ambition that each of these characters needs. Platt, Speedman, Dobrev, Ehle, and Massoud make things more than interesting. If I had to nitpick, the makeup on Damian Lewis as Ford is a bit over the top. It feels a bit cartoonish and is slightly distracting. That being said, the performance is so good I actually didn’t know it was Lewis under the makeup. The scene where Ford goes on a drunken rant with his employees is so cringey and intense, it will make your skin crawl. Replace Ford with any current slime ball “politician”, it’s an easy swap. Lewis’ performance is unhinged in the best way possible. Ben Platt is solid as ever. The specificity that he brings to Bram both physically and emotionally is top-notch.  His casting was a perfect choice. Massoud and Dobrev are equally vulnerable. Their performances are nothing short of captivating.

The editing in this film alone is so sharp that it forces you to sit up and pay attention. You have to keep up with the dialogue and quick cuts from the get-go. This script is timely as hell. It may revolve around Toronto’s Rob Ford but the rest of the world has its own garbage politician. This film is about the down and dirty and real work journalists have to do to battle to bullshit. But it’s also about the political spin; the young and hungry aides that twist the truth to put a party base at ease.

The score, along with the title and credit sequences are simply brilliant. Sort of a visual metaphor for finding the truth. The script takes a look at where On the whole, Run This Town is a super intriguing look at scandal, those who try to expose it, and those who suppress it. It highlights the work you don’t see and who is really responsible for moving the needle behind the scenes. It’s a great commentary on power, greed, ambition, xenophobia, and #MeToo. Run This Town is a fantastic feature debut for writer/director Ricky Tollman. The dialogue, in pacing and quippiness, is very reminiscent of Aaron Sorkin, particularly in the opening scene. That is precisely how you get an audience’s attention. Well done.

 

RUN THIS TOWN will be in U.S. theaters through Oscilloscope and On Demand and Digital through Quiver Distribution on March 6th, 2020.

Review: ‘Blood On Her Name’- a killer neo-noir brimming with tension.

SYNOPSIS: The dead body lies at her feet, its blood still draining onto the floor. It was an accident, borne of self-defense, but its discovery could have devastating consequences for local garage owner Leigh Tiller and her son.

Feat. Bethany Anne Lind (REPRISAL, OZARK), Will Patton, (REMEMBER THE TITANS, ARMAGEDDON) and Elizabeth Röhm (AMERICAN HUSTLE, JOY)

There is a heavy and devastating state of dread that occurs as you experience Blood On Her Name. The film occurs in what feels like real-time pacing making the tension truly palpable. As details of a haunting past slowly leak into view, karma’s long-arm feels destined to right the universe. This story is nothing short of tragic. Leigh simply wants to make a better life for her son but circumstances will not release her from childhood trauma and poor current choices. As a mother, I immediately put myself in her shoes. The fear and panic were overwhelming. It was an actual experience sitting through this film.

Bethany Anne Lind is a force to be reckoned with. She has an extraordinary ability to own the screen and pull you along her emotional journey. She is the heart of this film. Frankly, the other members of the cast could have been played by anyone. Don’t get me wrong, the chemistry among everyone else is spot on. What I mean is, Lind is so captivating that it’s her performance alone that remains seared into your psyche. Blood On Her Name is a triumphant feature debut for director Matthew Pope and co-writer and producer Don Thompson. It opens in select cinemas (Today) Feb. 28th and on VOD.

BLOOD ON HER NAME will expand nationwide in the coming weeks.

Review: ‘The Night Clerk’ keeps you guessing until the very final moment.

SYNOPSISWhile on duty, a young, socially challenged hotel clerk (Tye Sheridan) witnesses a murder in one of the rooms but his suspicious actions land him as the lead detective’s (John Leguizamo) number one suspect.

Tye Sheridan is immensely talented, this is a solidly indisputable fact. In The Night Clerk, he takes on the role of Bart, a young man with Asperger syndrome, a high-functioning form of autism. In order to be socially accepted, he studies the behavior of other people; the inflection of their voice and their body language. His honesty in one on one conversations with others is nothing short of jarring. His attention to detail is astounding, his split-second observations revealing. Truth be told, he is spying on the guests of the hotel where he works.

John Leguizamo plays detective Espada. He nails this role. He’s a hardass but very sly in the way he handles his job. He’s really great in this role. Helen Hunt plays his mother. Her Mama Bear persona is viscerally familiar to me, personally. She is gentle with Bart and commanding with Detective Espada. The yearning to protect, teach, and soothe is palpable. The moments of acquiescence really hit home. It’s all done with love.

Ana De Armas plays a mysterious hotel guest Andrea. Her kindness and grace pair well with Sheridan. Their chemistry is genuine. The scenes between the two actors are the perfect balance of sensual and heartwarming. But there’s a duality to this role that keeps you on your toes.

Tye Sheridan‘s specificity hits close to home as a mother of a child on the spectrum. The eye-contact avoidance, repetitive verbiage, comfort in routine, the incredibly high intelligence are all things I have experienced first hand. The care with which he handles this role is refreshing. Major applause from a community who tends to see over-the-top characterizations of loved ones.

The script challenges your concept of right and wrong. It grabs you from the first scene and never lets up in its intrigue. It is a love story and mystery all in one. The performances are simply stellar. The Night Clerk is a smart film. Writer-director Michael Cristofer weaves a tale that is nuanced and thrilling. Everyone involved should be extremely proud.

Saban Films will release the thriller film THE NIGHT CLERK in select theaters, on demand and digital on February 21, 2020.

Review: ‘You Go To My Head’ has a long lasting psychological effect on its audience.

In a desolate stretch of the Sahara, a mysterious car accident leaves a young woman lost and alone. Jake, a reclusive architect, finds her unconscious. He drives her to the nearest doctor, to discover that she’s suffering from post-traumatic amnesia. Intoxicated by the woman’s beauty, Jake claims to be her husband. He names her Kitty and takes her to his remote desert home to recuperate. The Angell Law Firm knows personal injury law, which is why our Atlanta car accident attorneys are able to offer the best legal representation in the state. For best legal advice, check out your url. At JLF Firm | Accident Attorneys, we will fight for the rights of all the victims who are injured in accidents or caused by negligence. We are the car accident attorney Riverside residents trust. Your life is valuable and you deserve fair compensation. If you have an accident, then you need to get a Riverside accident attorneys to fight for your rights. When it’s time to find a law firm it’s very often because of a sudden unexpected event. Perhaps an accident or injury that you need to act on right away. Sometimes it’s not unexpected as much as it is just delaying the inevitable. This is often the case where bankruptcy attorneys are involved. Many of their clients spend time looking for simple answers to their debt until they get sued by a creditor and it’s time to find a bankruptcy attorney. So the question is, how do you go about finding an attorney? Seems like a simple enough question on the surface, but when you start to look for a Long Island Personal Injury Attorneys firm, you’ll notice right away that there seems to be an endless number of law firms and how will you manage to find the one that’s right for you. As good as the search engines are, the legal profession is just as good as marketing themselves on the search engines. For this reason, if you type in a particular legal issue, such as bankruptcy or medical malpractice, it’s very likely that you will get results from law firms all over the country. In a medical malpractice personal injury lawsuit, a victim seeks compensation for the injury or injuries he or she has suffered. Compensation can include past and future medical expenses, disability or deformity, loss of income, emotional and mental anguish, loss of a spouse’s comfort and society, past and future pain and suffering, and an amount which would be necessary to make the person whole as respects a permanent personal injury. You can check this news for more detail about the medical malpractice attorney. Those firms that have done such a good job trying to get noticed on search engines will be displayed when you are searching. Exploring a bankruptcy attorney’s website and finding a lot of great information may lead you to believe that this is the attorney you want to retain. It is a bit disappointing to find out that when you click the contact tab, you find out the attorney is in Chicago, and you are in New York. Certainly I am not suggesting that you turn to the Yellow Pages! However, there are sources that still let your fingers do the walking, but this time, on the keyboard. One of the most underused resources on the Internet is the local search directory. The major search engines have long recognized this with sites like Yahoo Local and Google Places, but many people don’t know that they have to access those sites differently. It’s hard to change old habits, and eve the major players aren’t making inroads to the local marketplace as fast as they had hoped. In addition, the thrust of their marketing seems to be directed to retail stores and services.
Vehicle accidents are the most common type of incident which will require you to go seeking the services of Attorneys’ dealing in personal injury cases. Aside from auto accidents, there are other kinds such as motorcycle, truck and boat accidents as well. These can result in personal injuries or death at worst. The main reason why there are car accidents is the failure to exercise care while driving. Irresponsible and reckless driving is usually the main reason why car accidents occur. Unfortunately not all countries have laws that can protect people from personal injury. As a driver one should follow the rules, exercise care and adjust to different driving conditions. The failure to do so could result in serious injury and your lifestyle to be compromised. When an auto collides with another, personal injury is very likely to occur and this leads to having to be represented in court by an Attorney for personal injury. Usually the case is taken to court to determine fair and just compensation and this is when you need an experienced Attorney to represent you. You can check this https://www.stephenbabcock.com/ site for more information regading to personal injury and accident attorney.
The party who is proven to be responsible will be ordered to pay for damages, loss of income, medical bills and other related items. If a car is damaged, they have to pay for repair or if a victim is suffering from injuries, the medical bills need to be paid which can amount to a considerable sum of money. The victim may also suffer from mental anguish and trauma as well. This will all be taken into account when the judge makes his decision. As a victim, there are things you need to bare in mind. When the injury is severe, call an ambulance and the police, so that everything is recorded. There are cases when injuries are not visible like fractures or internal injuries so receiving hospital treatment is vital. A good idea is to take a picture of everything like skid marks, location of cars and injuries to the injured. These should be available for immediate release. Photographs are considered to be great evidence. It is also a good idea to collect details from witnesses. The success of a case is often determined by witnesses and an instance of this is when a driver runs a red light. In order to make sure that the maximum payment is received, you need to do some research on Attorneys for personal injury in view of engagement. You need to select a licensed person to ensure that they are legitimate to practice. Perhaps asking friends and family for personal recommendations can help you in your selection process. Being confident that you have the very best personal injury Attorney representing you will lessen the stress involved when dealing with a court case.
There is no need to worry about upfront payments, we can guarantee there will be no charges until we get you your compensation. We can handle any type of situation such as car accidents, truck accidents, motorcycle accidents, dog bites, slips, falls, wrongful death, and any situation which involves negligence. You will not have to worry about anything because your Riverside accident attorney from the JLF Firm| Accident Attorneys will take care of you. You can trust our knowledge and experience in this stressful moment of your life. Contact your Riverside accident attorney today. Jason Stone Injury Lawyers are great firm if you need someone to handle your injury case. Jeff and his associates and legal assistants are very precise in what they do. They are skilled, efficient, professional and compassionate. They did such a great job that I even didn’t have to appear in a court. I could not have had better representation. I would highly recommend him to anyone! Thank you for the amazing job Jeff! The personal injury attorneys at denton & zachary, pllc are committed to helping victims in Little Rock obtain the compensation they deserve for his or her injuries. Our injury lawyers will go above and beyond to carry the at-fault party accountable and make sure you are fully compensated for your medical bills, lost income, and pain and suffering.
As Kitty struggles to come to grips with who she is, Jake invents an elaborate life they can share – the life he has always yearned for. Little by little, Kitty begins to fall in love with him. But when shreds of her past begin to surface, Jake takes steps to ensure he will not lose the love of his life…
As a viewer, you feel just as captive as our leading lady. The constant feeling of dread looms large. The beautiful desert landscape in stark contrast to the modern, predominantly white architecture, allows us to fully immerse ourselves into the relationship between Kitty and Jake. You will feel the isolation and wonder if you have a bit of Stockholm syndrome. Waiting for “the other shoe to drop” is maddening. The score is jarring and incredibly effective. You Go To My Head is a masterfully structured film from every angle. Not to mention it is breathtakingly shot.
Performances by Delfine Bafort and Svetozar Cvetkovic are hypnotizing. They are both charming and flawed, and their chemistry is a perfect balance of wonder and skepticism.  And while the film is almost a full 2 hrs with a slow burn, the anxiety holds you down and forces you to watch. That is a sign of a truly successful film. I cannot stop thinking about this story. It sincerely through me for a loop. You Go To My Head will confound audiences long after the credits roll… and that’s a great thing.
DIMITRI DE CLERCQ’S GRIPPING 
PSYCHOLOGICAL THRILLER 
YOU GO TO MY HEAD
OPENS ON VALENTINE’S DAY (FEBRUARY 14) IN 
NEW YORK CITY & FEBRUARY 21 IN LOS ANGELES

Panic Fest review: ‘Greenlight’ – Making movies takes a killer instinct.

A young director is looking for his big break, but when a producer asks him to goes beyond his limits the opportunity could break him. Coming this month to Kansa City, MO’s Panic Fest, Greenlight is an industry thriller you’ll want a ticket to.

Jack’s passion for filmmaking is put to the test when he is hired to direct his first feature: a psychological thriller about a sleep experiment gone awry. But when the producer makes a request from Jack that he knows he cannot fulfill, everyone and everything is at risk. He wants to last kill in the film to be real.

There are some really smart heads up lines in the dialogue. When the production begins, the coloring and shots improve tenfold. The film has a sleek look, especially if you’ve even been on a set. The tension is immediately felt. When the shit hits the fan at about 30 minutes in, you can see where Jack has no choice but to comply. Threats of manufactured blackmail and violence leave him in a panic. The audience is with him on this sick ride. We now own his paranoia.

Chase Williamson as Jack is thrilling to watch. His amped-up slide into desperate madness is palpable. Shane Coffey as Williamson’s best bud and DP is incredibly natural. He very much deserves a mention. Director Graham Denman does a great job with this script from Patrick R Young. The anxiety is brilliantly enhanced by the metaplot and the literal use of the word “Cut!” Greenlight is entertaining as hell and you will need to see how the end plays out for your own sanity’s sake. The film has already garnered Best Feature and Best Male Performance awards at multiple festivals. I am excited to see what Denman brings to the genre world next.

 

https://panicfilmfest.com/greenlight/

GREENLIGHT comes to VOD and digital platforms Feb. 25th, 2020

Santa Barbara International Film Festival 2020 review: The world premiere of ‘The Night’ is as captivating as it is terrifying.

Kourosh Ahari’s THE NIGHT
The Iranian-American Ahari makes a startling feature directorial debut with a stylish psychological thriller about a young couple trapped in a mysterious hotel that hungers for their secrets and may not release them or their child back into the world. The film stars Shahab Hosseini (star of A SEPARATION and THE SALESMAN).

What a knock out world premiere for director Kourosh Ahari. Beautifully lush cinematography (including some early haunting POV shots) props up the richness of The Night. The score adds a layer or jarring dread that is simply gorgeous. While the script skillfully utilizes a number of classic tropes, it is also stacked with a multitude of original imagery that unnerves the viewer from the very beginning. I was thrown for a loop more times than I can count. The heightened sound editing also pushes The Night into next-level scary. The plot will have you questioning your own sanity. Is this a dispute between exhausted new parents? Is this an alcohol-induced hallucination? Or is this hotel housing unwanted guests?

Performances are so strong you will quickly forget that the film is predominantly in Farsi. As Parasite director Boon Jong-Ho so eloquently stated at this year’s Golden Globes, “Once you overcome the one-inch tall barrier of subtitles, you will be introduced to so many more amazing films.” This is the most important quote in cinema right now. Kourosh Ahari’s THE NIGHT is a heart-pounding and twisted watch. Santa Barbara International Film Festival is lucky to host its world premiere. This film should be on every genre fan’s radar this year.

WORLD PREMIERE – SATURDAY, JANUARY 18

Review: ‘The Sonata’ has a script and score to die for.

Synopsis: After being informed of the sudden death of her long lost composer father (Rutger Hauer), a young virtuoso violinist Rose (Freya Tingley) inherits an old mansion in which he used to live. There, she discovers her father’s final work: a mysterious music score marked with strange symbols. With the help of Charles (Simon Abkarian), her agent and manager, she deciphers the symbols and, little by little, starts to unlock secrets concerning her father’s past, setting in motion the mechanisms of a somber plan imagined since the very day she was born. They soon discover that there’s more to the sonata in question than meets the eye which, when played, triggers and unleashes dark and terrifying forces

When first-person horror video game POV camera work ramped up the discomfort and intrigue even before the titles appear, I was fully immersed in The Sonata. What an interesting choice for a film that only utilizes this mechanism once. I had no idea what I was in for next. What I got, what unexpected and wonderful. Music is a character in this film. The score is as powerful an entity as any actor. Bravo to composer Alexis Maingaud. The Sonata has stunning cinematography. The shots are incredibly thoughtful. The lighting is haunting, perhaps even reminiscent of a Guillermo Del Toro film. The sets are simply breathtaking. The script is complex and thoroughly engrossing with Davinci Code-like intricacies. You appreciate that doom seems inevitable but you are genuinely glued to the screen. Performances, across the board, are magnificent, including the late, great Rutger Hauer. The Sonata is a masterpiece of genre filmmaking.

The Sonataprominently features Rutger Hauer in one of his last on-screen roles. Co-written and directed by Andrew Desmond, the film also stars Freya Tingley (Hemlock Grove, The Spinning Man) and Simon Abkarian (Casino Royale), and was co-written by Arthur Morin. The film marks Desmond’s feature directorial debut. Screen Media will release the film in theaters and on demand January 10th.

Review: ‘The Wolf Hour’ will close in on your comfort level.

SYNOPSIS: It’s July 1977, and New York City is awash with escalating violence. A citywide blackout is triggering fires, looting, and countless arrests, and the Son of Sam murders are riddling the city with panic. June, once a celebrated counterculture figure, attempts to retreat from the chaos by shutting herself inside the yellowed walls of her grandmother’s South Bronx apartment. But her doorbell is ringing incessantly, the heat is unbearable, and creeping paranoia and fear are taking hold. Visitors, some invited, some unsolicited, arrive one by one, and June must determine whom she can trust and whether she can find a path back to her former self.

Naomi Watts gives a powerful performance that is so raw, it will get under your skin for long after the credits have rolled. This stylistic film hits a nerve for the viewer instantly. Its claustrophobia consumes you as much as Watts’ character June. Clearly suffering PTSD exacerbated by the current overwhelming outside forces that play out keep June locked in her house 24hrs day for God knows how many years at the point we meet her. Her desperation is palpable. The colors and sound editing combined with brilliant slow-burn pacing make The Wolf Hour hypnotizing. It feels post-apocalyptic. It feels far too relevant. Watts is like a ticking timebomb. Her performance is one of the year’s best. This could have been a stage play based upon its singular location but I’m not sure you could have captured the heaviness of the air and environment in the same way. In film form, The Wolf Hour digs its nails into you in the fiercest way.

In theaters December 6

Written & Directed by: Alistair Banks Griffin
Starring: Naomi Watts, Jennifer Ehle, Emory Cohen, Kelvin Harrison Jr.

Review: ‘Grand Isle’ is much like the hurricane it’s set against.

Grand Isle follows Walter (Nicolas Cage) and his neglected wife (Strickland) who lure a young man (Benward) into their Victorian home to escape a hurricane. When the man is charged with murder by Detective Jones (Grammar), he must reveal the couple’s wicked secrets to save himself.

Kelsey Grammer plays a southern detective with an old-world charm, attempting to get the truth in a twisted case of breaking and entering turned murder. Buddy is a young, working-class father who gets wrapped up with one of the most volatile couples in town. (Nic Cage and Kadee Strickland) These two have secrets and a love/hate relationship for the ages. The plot seems cliche but it’s anything but. You will not be able to predict what’s coming next. I have to give credit where credit is due to co-writers Iver William Jallah and Rich Ronat. The script is much more emotionally complex than expected. It’s a film about deep down trauma and how we do or do not cope. With some decent fight choreography and a whole hell of a lot of weirdness, Grand Isle is a sick mystery no one will see coming. Cage is scary and bizarre as usual. Kadee Strickland is sexy as hell and damn lunatic. She pretty much owns this entire story. Luke Benward as Buddy, our main protagonist, gives a solid performance. Besides Strickland, Kelsey Grammer is my favorite part of this movie. While he is in fewer scenes than I’d like, his delivery and presence is exactly what Grand Isle needed to succeed.

The southern gothic thriller stars Nicolas Cage, Kelsey Grammer, Luke Benward and KaDee Strickland. Directed by Stephen S. Campanelli, the film was co-written by Iver William Jallah and Rich Ronat. Screen Media will release the film in theaters nationwide and on-demand December 6th.