Review: ‘The Friendship Game’ explores the dangers of our deepest and darkest desires

THE FRIENDSHIP GAME

From the Producer of THE WITCH and the Writer of “The OA”

Four best friends play a mysterious game procured at a tag sale, testing their relationship in unpredictable and terrifying ways. Glitchy body doubles and piecemeal memories are only the beginning of the nightmare-fueled film.

Performances from our five leads are exceptional. Dylan Schombing plays Kyle, a young webcam hacker essential to the audience following any trace of sense. Schombing’s eyes speak volumes. Kelcey Mawema is Court. She has a party-girl spirit with a drinking problem that hides an inferiority complex. Mawema gives us a solid performance, never letting herself become a third wheel as the story progresses. Peyton List plays Zooza. This role is a departure for List, even with her darker character of Cobra Kai. You cannot help but focus on her turmoil.

Brendan Meyer (who I loved in OA, and am still bitter we didn’t get our ending…) plays Rob with a trustworthy boy-next-door aura. But, Ober’s script allows him to explore a nuance that Meyer owns. Kaitlyn Santa Juana‘s turn as Cotton is enthralling. She is the thread we follow through the film as we unravel the game. There’s an “it” quality about her I cannot pin down, but I’m dying to see her in whatever she does next.

The script had me hanging on every word, every visual, and mind-ending twist. Writer Damien Ober and director Scooter Corkle hypnotize audiences with dizzying editing combined with slowly leaking reveals. It’s a ceaselessly engrossing marriage of devices. Add on the notable red/ blue lighting and jarring soundscape, and The Friendship Game holds you captive from the very first frame. It is emotional manipulation at its finest.

RLJE Films will release the thriller/horror film THE FRIENDSHIP GAME in theaters, on-demand, and digital on November 11, 2022.

SYNOPSIS: The Friendship Game follows a group of teens as they come across a strange object that tests their loyalties to each other and has increasingly destructive consequences the deeper into the game they go.

THE FRIENDSHIP GAME stars Peyton List (“Cobra Kai”), Brendan Meyer (“The OA”), Kelcey Mawema (To All the Boys I’ve Loved franchise), Kaitlyn Santa Juana (“The Flash”) and Dylan Schombing (“Watchmen”). The film was written by Damien Ober (“The OA”) and directed by Scooter Corkle (Hollow in the Land).


 

TIFF 22 short film review: Sophy Romvari’s ‘IT’S WHAT EACH PERSON NEEDS’ pulls the run out from underneath you with its intimacy.


IT’S WHAT EACH PERSON NEEDS

Filmmaker Sophy Romvari features a young woman named Becca Willow Moss as she embarks on a unique journey of self-discovery with others. IT’S WHAT EACH PERSON NEEDS has the audience eavesdropping on phone conversations. The voices on the other end of the line each desire something different. The men seem to seek romance, while others lean more sexual. Her other calls engage an entirely different demographic; the elderly. These chats revolve around memory, singing, reassurance, and pure love.

Becca has a knack for discovering what motivates each person. She describes herself to people as a multi-faceted artist. A label I covet myself. She is the most genuine and gentle communicator. She is giving and authentic. I remain completely enamored by her.

The cinematography is 90% comprised of closeup shots of mannerisms, objects in the room, Becca’s hair and clothes, and her face as she speaks and listens to those she calls. Combined with the fact that the 11-minute run has us solely inside Becca’s apartment lends to the intimacy already created by her words. It’s a brilliant choice, frankly.

Romvari had me thoroughly engrossed from the very beginning. I could have easily watched a feature-length version of Becca and her callers. Therein lies the irony of IT’S WHAT EACH PERSON NEEDS. As we get comfortable with the narrative structure, Romvari steps in, via voice only, and asks Becca what she thinks the project’s meaning might be. Her answer takes you aback. While we enjoy the film for unconsciously selfish reasons, Becca has her own motivation that I did not expect. Undoubtedly one of the best short films at TIFF22. It’s about the universal need for human connection. Everyone needs someone to listen. Everyone needs to feel seen.


Short Cuts Programme 06.
Sophy Romvari
CANADA | 2022 | English
11 minutes


Fri, Sep 16
IN-PERSON
Scotiabank Theatre Toronto
5:30pm


Sat, Sep 17
IN-PERSON
Scotiabank Theatre Toronto
9:05am


 

TIFF22 review: Marie Clements’ ‘BONES OF CROWS’ is an exquisite cinematic experience of trauma and hope.

BONES OF CROWS

Centuries of trauma reveal themselves on the big screen in the TIFF22 feature film BONES OF CROWS by writer-director Marie ClementsIt’s a visceral but undeniably important watch. The film occurs over the span of 100 years. Watching the Catholic church, aided by the government, nonchalantly discussing the planned eradication of the poor is infuriating. Indigenous children were ripped from the arms of their parents, under threat of incarceration, and placed in residential homes run by severe priests and nuns. Children were stripped of their culture and used as lab rats. The number of children buried in unmarked graves is unfathomable. 

In the film, we bounce in time as unresolved trauma and abuse rear their ugly head through decades. Actress Grace Dove plays Aline Spears beginning at age 16. Once a promising concert pianist, her hopes and dreams were dashed by physical, psychological, and sexual abuse. Her memories, accompanied by those of one of her siblings and husband, intertwine to paint a harrowing picture of torture and fear. But, the pain inflicted upon her never extinguishes her soul. As she endures continued racism, Aline has the last word through a chance visit to the Vatican and the legacy of her children. 

While BONES OF CROWS predominantly follows the fallout of one family, their story is tragically universal. Dove carries the weight of the film on her shoulders, reminding the audience of the strength of the Canadian native population. Her unrelenting and raw bravery lets the audience reside in her psyche with a quiet discomfort needed for BONES OF CROWS to succeed as it does.

The beauty and triumph of BONES OF CROWS occur in unexpected moments. The appearance of the titular birds becomes a recurring theme of hope. You cannot ignore the striking cinematography. The film’s finale is a much-needed emotional catharsis. When you hear and feel the song “You Are My Bones,’ co-written by Marie Clements, you won’t be able to hold back any longer. Bones of Crows is a soul-changing film. It’s simply exquisite storytelling. TIFF22 audiences are privileged to experience this first. BONES OF CROWS is a jaw-dropping cinematic experience. 


An epic account of the life of Cree matriarch Aline Spears that spans generations, Marie Clements’ Bones of Crows is a powerful indictment of the abuse of Indigenous peoples as well as a stirring story of resilience and resistance.

This programme contains scenes that may distress some viewers, especially those who have experienced harm, abuse, violence, and/or intergenerational trauma due to colonial practices.

Support is available 24 hours a day for anyone affected by their experience at residential schools and for those who may be triggered by content dealing with residential schools, child abuse, emotional trauma, and racism. The national Indian Residential Schools Crisis Line is available at 1-866-925-4419.


Canada, 2022
English, Cree, ʔayʔajuθəm, Italian
WORLD PREMIERE
127 minutes
Director
Marie Clements
Cast
Grace Dove, Phillip Forest Lewitski, Alyssa Wapanatâhk, Michelle Thrush, Glen Gould, Gail Maurice, Carla Rae, Cara Gee, Rémy Girard, Karine Vanasse, Jonathon Whitesell, Patrick Garrow, Summer Testawich, Sierra McRae, Tanaya Beatty, Joshua Odjick, Alanis Obomsawin


Bentonville Film Festival 2022 reviews: Short films ‘Anniversary’ & ‘The Syed Family Xmas Eve Game Night’ celebrate sisterhood in all its messy glory.

ANNIVERSARY

Laugh out loud funny short film Anniversary finds two best friends and next-door neighbors getting glam together in preparation for what Carla thinks is a surprise 25th-anniversary dinner with her husband.

This unapologetic and unfiltered look at friendship is hysterical. The film possesses timeless energy. The costumes are bright, and the camera work is notably fun. Actresses Johnnie Mae and Lin Tucci have magical chemistry. Director Lain Kienzle highlights the importance of female bonding. In the end, it’s pure delight.


The Syed Family Xmas Eve Game Night

Three very different sisters collide during holiday festivities. Seeking the approval of her eldest and feistiest sister, Noor hopes her partner Luz makes a good impression. 

The cinematography and editing are super fun. Instagram-style stories add a modern touch. It is what I do with my siblings during game nights. The cast is spectacular. For a short film, these characters are lush and eclectic. Director Fawzia Mirza and writer-producer Kausar Mohammed absolutely nail the family dynamic. The Syed Family Xmas Eve Game Night will make you laugh, cringe, and nod your head knowingly. Bentonville Film Festival 2022 audiences will love it.


 

Tribeca Immersive 2022 reviews: ‘Plastisapiens’ & ‘This Is Not A Ceremony’ are visions of despair and pleas for action.

THIS IS NOT A CEREMONY

I was greeted outside the exhibit by director Ahnahktsipiitaa (Colin Van Loon) before I knew I was about to enter his endlessly effective film. As I sat with VR goggles on in a small dark room, I was treated to an experience that would leave me forever changed. I bore witness to tragic stories of racism and mistreatment of Canadian Indigenous people. This structure is like a fever dream with reenactments, an enormous burning buffalo, and two indigenous narrators that guided my eyes in a 360-degree manner. When immersive tech first started to appear at film festivals, I was one of the earlier guinea pigs. Now, outside of the gaming world, immersive films have the ability to place an audience inside a story, touching almost every one of our senses. When This Is Not A Ceremony concluded, Van Loon handed me a Blackfoot tobacco tie, thanking me for being part of this narrative. The passion and format of this film are unmissable. You cannot help but feel the need to do something about the ongoing injustice. This Is Not A Ceremony is a haunting call to action.


PRODUCED BY
NFB (Dana Dansereau)
PUBLISHER
NFB (Dana Dansereau)
DIRECTOR
Ahnahktsipiitaa
PROJECT CREATOR
Ahnahktsipiitaa (Colin Van Loon)
SCREENWRITER
Ahnahktsipiitaa
EDITOR
Jessica Dymond
ART DIRECTOR
James Monkman
NAGAMO PUBLISHING
Nagamo Publishing
PRODUCER
Dana Dansereau


PLASTISAPIENS

Plastisapiens had an ethereal appearance as I approached the experience. Housed in a draped tent, with dripping and “organic” masses hanging from its ceiling. I was left to a small enclave and comfy stool where I was given my VR goggles and controllers. Plastisapiens had me on the bottom of the ocean floor back in time. The evolution of life and the introduction of plastic toxins into that environment are tracked into a speculative future. Used the controllers and my breath to maneuver forward through time and grasp objects. As the timeline pressed on, I skyrocketed upwards from sea to a new environment. The narration utilizes a modulated voice-over that is absolute perfection, as human merges with inorganic material, changing the very existence of life as we know it. Plastisapiens was mesmerizing. Writer-directors Miri Chekhanovich and Édith Jorisch created something mysterious, educational, and terrifying. I left awestruck.

PRODUCED BY
NFB (Marie-Pier Gauthier, Isabelle Repelin), Dpt. (Raphaëlle Sleurs), Lalibela Productions
PUBLISHER
National Film Board of Canada
KEY COLLABORATORS
Canada Media Fund, The National Film Board of Canada, Makor Foundation of Israel, The Israel Film Council, The Ministry for Culture and Sports
PROJECT CREATOR
Miri Chekhanovich, Édith Jorisch, Dpt.
CREATED BY
Dpt.
PRODUCER. NFB
Isabelle Repelin, Marie-Pier Gauthier
PRODUCER, DPT.
Raphaëlle Sleurs
PRODUCER
Lalibela Productions

Tribeca Film Festival 2022 review: ‘Corner Office’ has Jon Hamm trapped in workplace purgatory.

CORNER OFFICE

A Kafkaesque story about a corporate worker bee who prides himself on productivity and efficiency discovers an office no one else seems to notice. Jon Hamm plays Orson, a man who feels misunderstood and underestimated. As he isolates himself from his co-workers due to his holier-than-thou inner monologue, which Hamm provides with his iconic tone of voice, he finds respite in a wood-paneled, impeccably decorated, midcentury modern office space. Just down the hall, between the elevator and the restroom, lies a door to that room. Orson’s visits to the office slowly increase. The problem is that when he does, everyone around him sees something altogether different. They see Orson staring off into space, never moving, as if in a trance.

The audience must decern whether Orson is quite well. Ted Kupper‘s adaptation of Jonas Karlsson‘s short story allows us to go on the emotional journey from Hamm’s standpoint. I use the term “emotional” loosely, as Orson is almost robotic and socially inept. Hamm gives a performance that will undoubtedly be buzzing through awards season. It’s a departure from his sexy manwhore persona from Mad Men, even if Orson’s coveted space would have been Don Draper’s wet dream. It’s no coincidence that the building is a monstrous and overbearing piece of architecture that literally disappears into the clouds and that the company name is “The Authority.” We’re not exactly sure what Orson’s job title is, but when inspiration hits him inside “The room,” he impresses the higher-ups, including the never-seen “EVP.”

Despite the praise, Orson’s co-workers and bosses cannot emotionally manage his request to work in the room. The film begs the larger question about neurodivergence in the world. On a personal note, as a parent of a child with Asperger’s Syndrome, Corner Office can connect with audiences for innumerable reasons, whether intended or not. Corner Office is a unique entry into the mental health conversation. The script strings the audience along until the very end. It was, without hesitation, one of my favorite films from Tribeca 2022.


DIRECTOR

Joachim Back

PRODUCER
Dylan Collingwood, Matthew Clarke, Robert Mitchell, Luke Rivett, Oliver Ridge, Andrew Harvey, Joachim Back, David Milchard
SCREENWRITER
Ted Kupper
CINEMATOGRAPHER
Pawel Edelman P.S.C.
EDITOR
James Norris
COMPOSER
Frans Bak, Keld Haaning Ibsen
EXECUTIVE PRODUCER
Theodore Melfi, Raymond Fortier, Terry Williston, Robert Mitchell, Kimberly Quinn, Lucas Jarach, Robert Ogden Barnum, Jonas Karlsson, Niclas Salomonsson, Dylan Collingwood, Matthew Clarke, David Milchard
ASSOCIATE PRODUCER
Jeff Mosuk
CO-PRODUCER
Kirby Jinnah
CAST
Jon Hamm, Danny Pudi, Christopher Heyerdahl, Sarah Gadon


SXSW 2022 review: Teen angst and aliens in the Arctic tundra, ‘SLASH/BACK’ is a culturally cool coming-of-age film from director Nyla Innuksuk.

SLASH/BACK


We can all attest to being bored as teenagers. Even the Arctic tundra might seem uncool when you’re a certain age. SXSW22 feature film Slash/Back follows a group of Inuit girls who’ve had enough of being disregarded. Something is quite wrong in their town. When the adults won’t listen, they take matters into their own hands. Gather your pride, the girls from Pang are about to kick some ass.

The original music by The Halluci Nation and vocal performances by Tanya Tagaq are electrifying. It vibrates off the screen. During the opening credits, I stood up and danced in my kitchen because it was so infectious. The special FX makeup and CGI are startling. But it is the performances from this fresh young cast that pulls you into the narrative. These kids are stars. The emotional upheaval is all too familiar as they struggle with hormones, racism, and, in this instance, aliens. While most of us don’t have the alien experience in our back pocket, we can all agree that pre-teen to teenage years was complicated. The dialogue from writers Nyla Innuksuk (who also directs) and Ryan Cavan almost feels improvised. They have nailed the jargon of youth. The cinematography is breathtaking. Even if the characters aren’t impressed with the landscape, the audience unmistakably experiences the natural grandeur of Pangnirtung.

Pay close attention to the very intentional opening and closing credits as they change from Inuktitut to English. It’s a subtle but powerful statement. Slash/Back is a quirky coming-of-age tale with horror as a catalyst. With elements of The Thing and the energy of Stranger Things, the genre audience will adore this film.



Slash/Back at Online Screening
Mar 14, 9:00am CDT – Mar 16, 9:00am CDT
9:00am10:26am
Availability: United States
Slash/Back at Violet Crown Cinema 1
Mar 14, 2022
3:45pm5:11pm
Slash/Back at Violet Crown Cinema 3
Mar 14, 2022
4:15pm5:41pm
Slash/Back at Stateside Theatre
Mar 17, 2022
6:15pm7:41pm


Director:

Nyla Innuksuk

Executive Producer:

Hussain Amarshi, Neil Mathieson

Producer:

Dan Bekerman, Christopher Yurkovich, Alex Ordanis, Nyla Innuksuk, Stacey Aglok McDonald, Alethea Arnaquq-Baril, Ethan Lazar

Screenwriter:

Nyla Innuksuk, Ryan Cavan

Cinematographer:

Guy Godfree

Editor:

Simone Smith, Todd E. Miller

Production Designer:

Zosia Mackenzie

Sound Designer:

John Loranger

Music:

The Halluci Nation and Michael Brook

Principal Cast:

Tasiana Shirley, Alexis Wolfe, Chelsea Prusky, Frankie Vincent-Wolfe, Nalajoss Ellsworth


 

Slamdance (2022) review: ‘HONEYCOMB’ tackles female complexity in this unusual coming of age debut.

HONEYCOMB

Five small-town girls abandon their mundane lives and move into an abandoned cabin. Growing increasingly isolated, their world becomes filled with imagined rituals and rules but the events of one summer night threaten to abruptly end their age of innocence forever.


Honeycomb feels akin to watching a slumber party on Lord of the Flies terms. The timing of the film’s premiere is perfectly paired with the recent finale of Showtime’s Yellowjackets. It’s got similar energy with its underlying rage, free spirit intentions, and coven-like atmosphere. Each girl selecting a red party dress is not a mistake. The group creates a set of rules that they must obey in order to live in the house. Two rules struck me as most powerful. The “Empty” and “Suitable Revenge”. I’ll let you find out what those entail for yourselves.

It is an interesting commentary on female relationships. The vindictive nature combined with hormones with zero adult supervision is a recipe for disaster. The most insane part of this film is the plausibility of it all. If you’ve ever lived with a large number of girls, you understand. The raw emotion and uninhibited vitriol can be overwhelming. 

The majority of the acting is pretty hammy. There are disaffected or stagey line readings. But, two standout performances come from Destini Stewart as Leader and Henri Gillespi as PJ. Also, make sure you stay through the credits. It’s worth your time. 

There’s a voice here. It feels like the early stages of The Adams family films (The Deeper You Dig & Hellbender), sans Toby and John‘s guidance. I’m eager to see what writer-director Avalon Fast creates next. 


 

The feature debut from 21-year old writer/director Avalon Fast world premiered virtually January 27th, 2022


Blood In The Snow (2021) review: ‘Woodland Grey’ is a mesmerising tale.

WOODLAND GREY

A man living alone in the deep woods finds Emily, a hiker, unconscious and laying on the forest floor. He brings her back to his home and helps her get back to health so she can leave the forest and get home. After a few tense days coexisting, Emily makes a discovery. She finds a crudely built shed behind the man’s home. When she opens it, she unleashes something truly haunting. As Emily and the man come to terms with what has been released, they also attempt to find a way out of the forest which isn’t exactly what it seems.


Writer-director Adam Reider establishes isolation beautifully in the opening of Woodland Grey. With the sensory engulfing rustling of fall-colored trees, we watch William empty his trapped food and cook it over a campfire in front of his trailer. What appears to be a solitary existence is interrupted when he discovers Emily unconscious in his woods. His attempts to keep a dark secret and his controlled environment are about to go to hell.

The tension between actors Jenny Raven and Ryan Blakely is palpable. Reider, alongside writer Jesse Toufexis, gives these actors opposite personalities to the extreme. But this device keeps things interesting. Each brings a fire and nuanced perspective to the story. When you see it, you’ll understand how meaningful that becomes. They are truly spectacular.

The score helps to build a simmering unease from the very beginning. The structure of the script does not let you get comfortable. You cannot miss the references, directly and indirectly, to “Hansel and Gretel”. It’s all a bit maddening in the most brilliant ways. Could this film be a metaphor for purgatory? Completely possible. Could it be about the emotional stronghold of regret? Easily. I have so many questions and I don’t even care about the answers. I was too mesmerized to care. Woodland Grey is one of the most unique horror films of the year.


For more info on Blood In The Snow 2021 click here!


Blood In The Snow (2021) review: ‘FLEE THE LIGHT’ understands the power of the past.

FLEE THE LIGHT

A mystical horror-thriller where reincarnation, demons and sorceresses intertwine to tell the story of a spiritual search gone wrong. A psychology student (Annie Tuma) delves into her sister’s (Ariana Marquis) psychosis, exposing herself to an ancient predator who hunts souls. Also stars Jane Siberry.


Blood in the Snow 2021 screened Flee The Light last night, a classicly structured folk horror where two sisters with a witchy lineage choose between good and evil. Delphi and Andra become consumed by visions that turn more sinister by the hour. Can they save one another from pure darkness? Flee The Light has an evolution that you won’t see coming. The Wicca research is clear, beautifully shot, and carefully intertwined. I would watch a prequel in a hot minute. Props to the set dressers and location scouts for doing their homework. There is an ethereal quality in certain scenes that grab your attention. 

Screenwriter Jennifer Mancini uses childhood flashbacks to establish the sisterly bond. These are precisely what the audience needed to feel emotionally invested in their relationship. Annie Tuma and Ariana Marquis give fully committed performances. You believe their chemistry. The final scene genuinely brings everything together. I would be remiss if I did not mention actress Jane Siberry for her beautiful turn. With glorious cadence changes, she knocks it out of the park. Flee The Light has a final shot that is a whole lot of Yes. Alexandra Senza gives us a solid B-movie. But the potential for Senza and Mancini to develop an entire franchise is magical.



For more info on Blood In The Snow 2021 click here!


Blood In The Snow (2021) review: ‘PEPPERGRASS’ is a compelling thriller.

During a pandemic, a pregnant restaurateur tries to rob a priceless truffle from a reclusive veteran.


Peppergrass is a slow-burn thriller that ultimately turns into a survival film. It builds a similar tension that Alone did. Not exactly the horror I was expecting from Blood in The Snow, but it is, nonetheless intriguing as hell. You must have patience for the first third is heavy character building. As our two protagonists botch their unusual robbery, the camera continues its handheld intimacy. Forced into the dark woods, Eula attempts to make it to the car in one piece. This becomes more complicated a task as the landscape is unkind to a pregnant person.

Chantelle Han gives it her all as Eula. As the plot roles out in a mostly real-time fashion, the audience watches her physically and emotionally tap out at certain points. But it is when she barrels through the cold, darkness, and imminent threat that makes her a total badass. Han is the driving force of Peppergrass.

At times, the score is this curious mix of ominous whimsy and borderline grating organ tones. It refuses to be ignored. Peppergrass is nothing like I expected. It places you inside the action because there is literally nowhere else to go. The danger and isolation are palpable. It’s a solid film.


For more info on BITS 2021 click here!


Review: Terrifying tots take aim at Mommy’s new boyfriend in ‘Ankle Biters’.

ANKLE BITERS

Sean, a pro hockey enforcer, has fallen in love with Laura, a widowed mother of four young daughters. When Laura’s children mistake an act of lovemaking as an attack, they plot to protect their mother at all costs and with horrific results.


Are you fighting DUI charges in Wyoming and want a bit of crime and comedy on screen? Well, here is one. Poor Sean and Laura just wanted a little bit of rough sex, but his soon-to-be stepkids are seriously killing the vibe. Thinking the bruises on their mother’s body are from abuse, four menacing little monsters take matters into their own hands.  Ankle Biters, a new Canadian horror-comedy, lands somewhere between The Bad Seed (1956) and The Crush (1993). “What are little girls made of? Sugar and spice, and everything nice; That’s what little girls are made of.” Maybe, not so much. 

Sean was an extremely violent hockey player, so perhaps this is merely a case of karma by kids? Zion Forrest Lee plays Sean with an overly friendly stepdad vibe. It falls somewhere between sweet and super creepy. The appearance from Colin Mochrie, as Detective Morton, made me laugh out loud. It makes the last third of the film brilliant.

Genre fans, let me introduce Rosalee, Violet, Lily Gail, and Dahlia Reid. These sinister sisters are bonafide stars. Their genetically boosted chemistry is the stuff of movie magic. They are downright frightening, giving us four fearless performances. They scared me, and I’m a mom and former teacher! Sheer perfection. 

The camera work often hovers on the girls’ level. Panning closeups in slow motion add to the eerie feeling you get from this gruesome foursome. It’s a carefully thought-out choice. While the pacing drags a touch, overall, it’s a dark and wild ride. The climax boasts some of the most gagworthy FX. I even screamed out loud at the same time as Sean. The final scenes completely caught me off guard. Well played, Ankle Biters. Well played. 


ON DEMAND/DVD NOVEMBER 16


Director: Bennet De Brabandere

Cast: Zion Forrest Lee, Marianthi Evans, Lily Gail Reid, Violet Reid, Rosalee Reid, Dahlia Reid


 

Blood In the Snow (2021) Shorts reviews from Super Channel weekend.

Here are some of the short films showing on Super Channel this weekend at  BITS 2021…


Giant Bear (*shown alongside Don’t Say Its Name)
Gorgeous animation of the desolate and snowy tundra. One man comes face to face with a legend. The Inuit vocal track will consume you. This one left me with a lot of emotions.


The Death Doula
A man’s past interferes with his ability to usher a client into the afterlife. This nuanced story presents questions of morality and anguish. Beautiful and costumes sets help ease the viewer into a lulled sense of safety. It is incredibly unique.


Watershed
The world’s water supply is poison. A soul survivor stumbles across a young Mandarin girl who may have figured out how to create clean water. Danger lurks off of every overhanging eve. With powerful visuals, Watershed is an awesome treatment for a feature or series. I need to know what happens next.


Part of A Series of Web Bites:

Creepy Bits- Chapter 1- “Baby Face”
Is a young Mom seeing things on the baby monitor? This is still a fear for me. Are those dust particles or spirits gliding across my screen?! This one goes much further. It’s unsettling.


Narcoleap: S2
Thanks to a “previously on Narcoleap” recap, we get the concept of the show, immediately. And it’s cool. Director Kate Green, who also created the series, gives us drama, complexity, and a ton of great characters. As you keep watching, the show gives you a genuine Quantum Leap feel, but you also catch a Dollhouse vibe through its humor and sci-fi aspects. This is a full-on production. How has this not been picked up by Syfy or CW already? This is my formal push. It deserves a wider audience.


GHOST- A Primitive Evolution
Radio signals connect two post-apocalyptic survivors. This is both a short film and a music video. I have to say, this song rocks. Loved the bridge. I would watch this in longer form. There are solid concepts here and a very cool final shot.


Midnight Lunch Break
Becka is a mouthy shock jock radio host who gets an in-studio visit from a masked listener on Halloween. This one is laugh-out-loud hilarious. At 5 minutes, it’s such a tease, I wanted to see more!


The Revenge of the Snowflakes
A woman’s success is spoiled by online trolls. She takes her boyfriend along in a tongue-in-cheek revenge moment turned violet. This short was great but it was clear there is so much more to the story that we don’t get to see. I wanted a feature to back up the 5 minutes… Which is a great thing.


We All Dream (*being shown with Motherly at 9 pm this evening)
A young girl’s apparent sleepwalking poses a constant danger to her family. All is not what it seems. This is wildly fun and creepy. It produced a slow grin I couldn’t wipe off. Give me more of this story ASAP.


Disquietude (screening with Tin Can Sunday night at 11:30 pm.)
Grab your headphones or crank up the audio for this one featuring a musician. It’s vital to the plot. Trapped inside an anechoic chamber with only her music and thoughts, each infinitesimal sound becomes exacerbated to the nth degree. This would drive anyone mad. It’s perfectly panic-inducing.


You can check out the second half of BLOOD IN THE SNOW (2021) in person

November 18-23 at The Royale Theatre

Tickets are on sale now!


Blood In The Snow Film Festival (2021) capsule review: ‘Don’t Say Its Name’- Females leads, folklore, and fear. Oh, My!

DON’T SAY ITS NAME

The quiet of a snowy Indigenous community is upended by the arrival of the mining company WEC who have signed an agreement to drill the land. But before drilling starts, WEC employees begin to turn up dead, attacked by a mysterious force. As a local peace officer and a park ranger investigate, they come face to face with the vengeful spirits that have haunted the land for generations.


BITS 2021 audiences got an eyeful this weekend with indigenous tradition and terror. This complex story of activism and horror hits on more levels than you expect. Don’t Say Its Name utilizes local talent to cement its authenticity. Violet spirits collide with capitalism on a reservation attempting to maintain its soul. A mining company is corrupting the land. Both nature and the community will not have it. 

Two kickass female leads in one film? Thank you. The cast generally consists of more women, and I am not complaining. It’s inspiring to watch these actresses communicate with each other. Leads, Sera-Lys McArthur and Madison Walsh will make you stand up and yell, “F@ck Yeah!” Of course, we cannot forget the horror element that provides genuine jump scares and grounded storytelling. For gore fans, there is plenty of blood from the very beginning. The practical FX are classic. The terror factor alongside cultural erasure makes Don’t Say Its Name a fascinating watch. Add it to the growing list of great Canadian horror. 

Don’t Say Its Name is opening on VOD/Digital on November 16

Blood in the Snow Film Festival 2021 is taking place on Super Channel Oct 29 to 31st and at the Royal Cinema Nov 18 to 23rd, 2021


Review: ‘The Exchange’ is hilarious and surprisingly heartfelt.

THE EXCHANGE

In THE EXCHANGE, a socially awkward but highly enterprising teenager decides to acquire a “mail order best friend”; a sophisticated exchange student from France. Instead, he ends up importing his personal nightmare, a cologne-soaked, chain-smoking, sex-obsessed youth who quickly becomes the hero of his new community.

A unique fish out of water story, The Exchange is much more than a face value, raunchy comedy. In reality, it’s a complex look at small-town small-mindedness. It just so happens to be hilarious. Being set in Canada in the 80s brings an added notch of funny and relevance, using era politics and humor. One big-hearted young man, with some serious panache, can affect everyone around him. But don’t get too conformable with the formula; this film will surprise you in the best way possible.

The entire cast induces belly laughs. But you’ll definitely hone in on a few specific players. Justin Hartley plays the epitome of a narcissistic misogynist. Gary is the gym teacher and part-time local law enforcement. He’s completely ridiculous and you’ll love him for it. Jayli Wolf plays Brenda. She’s spunky and downright lovable in her adoration for an oblivious Tim. Her biggest quirk is one I can relate to. She makes up songs about literally nothing and everything. It’s ceaselessly amusing. Ed Oxenbould as Tim is everything we need him to be. His outward detestation for his life is palpable. He’s a social outcast, loathed for his love of cinema and general lack of trying to fit in. Avan Jogia as Stephan is sheer perfection. He is so likable in his commitment to this over-the-top character. He oozes a genuine charm that makes you fall in love with him. He’s an absolute star.

The soundtrack is magic. The Cure, The Smiths, Run DMC, and Phil Collins, play around an upbeat synth score. The script, by the actual Tim Long, has honest John Hughes vibes. It’s immensely fun. The Exchange is universally entertaining in its messaging and its heart.


THE EXCHANGE releases In Theaters, On Digital, and On Demand July 30, 2021.

Written by Tim Long (“The Simpsons,” “Late Show with David Letterman”), the film was directed by Dan Mazer (Dirty Grandpa). THE EXCHANGE stars Ed Oxenbould (The Visit), Avan Jogia (Zombieland: Double Tap) and Justin Hartley (“This Is Us”).


Review: “BLOODTHIRSTY’ overflows with music and metaphor.

BLOODTHIRSTY

Grey, an indie singer, whose first album was a smash hit, gets an invitation to work with notorious music producer Vaughn Daniels at his remote studio in the woods. Together with her girlfriend/lover Charlie, they arrive at his mansion, and the work begins. But Grey is having visions that she is a wolf, and as her work with the emotionally demanding Vaughn deepens, the vegan singer begins to hunger for meat and the hunt. As Grey starts to transform into a werewolf, she begins to find out who she really is, and begins to discover the family she never knew. What will it take to become a great artist and at what cost to her humanity?

The music is not only a major plot point but a character of its own. Lauren Beatty brings Lowell’s songs to life with an honest folk/pop vibe. They are haunting. Combined with the string-heavy score, the soundtrack enters bone-chilling territory. Wow. Now that most of us have watched Framing Britney Spears we understand the mental health pressure of pop stardom. To see that explored in Bloodthirsty on a more literal level was incredibly intriguing. A controlling father figure, isolation, and a strict diet all enhanced by horror make this story ceaselessly engrossing. Separately, there is a family and loyalty dynamic. It’s a brilliant combination of genres.

Greg Bryk as Vaughn is scary. His manipulation skills are daunting. He’s very punchable and I do mean that as a compliment. He infuriated me and made me so uncomfortable. I guess that means he’s done his job well.  Lauren Beatty, who was phenomenal in Bleed With Me (also directed by Amelia Moses), gives us a vulnerability that is consuming, pun fully intended. She’s got genre darling potential in spades. Here, she is allowed to challenge the audience’s perception of reality. What would you sacrifice for your art? Bloodthirsty will have you questioning the creative process long after the credits roll. 

 

 

Website: http://www.brainmedia.com/films/bloodthirsty

Directed by Amelia Moses (Bleed With Me), conceived and written by mother-daughter duo Wendy Hill-Tout and singer-songwriter Lowell, and featuring the original music of Lowell, BLOODTHIRSTY stars Lauren Beatty (Bleed With Me) and Greg Bryk (The Handmaid’s Tale). The film premiered at Fantastic Fest 2020 and opens In Select Theaters and On-Demand on April 23.

 

Review: ‘Parallel’ is thrilling genre greatness.

A group of friends stumble upon a mirror that serves as a portal to a “multiverse”, but soon discover that importing knowledge from the other side in order to better their lives brings increasingly dangerous consequences.

Rarely, does a film get me to holler, “Oh, Shit!” in the first few minutes. Parallel had me on my toes from start to finish. The early dialogue is a framework for what’s the come. It’s a smart script that challenges the audience’s moral compass, easily asking, “What would you do?” As a Doctor Who superfan and Back to the Future franchise nerd, I’ve seen multiverse storylines again and again. Parallel sets itself apart in every way possible. What could possibly backfire by messing with an alternate timeline? Nothing is that easy. The action starts right away. You understand the dynamics of this group, each serving a purpose. Ambition, self-worth, regret, sadness, and sheer curiosity all drive our leads to do things they wouldn’t normally dream of. I loved that the focus is no solely on one person. It lends depth to this sci-fi screenplay. A genre that is often heavy-handed in cliche when it comes to an ensemble piece.

The camera work is decisively cool and the subtle lighting change when they enter the parallel world is key. The truly minimal CG is pretty spectacular. The visual reminder that the mirror is but a reflection of the outside is featured prominently throughout. The cast has genuine chemistry based on their backgrounds. They walk the perfect balance of guarded when necessary and enamored with their past dynamics. It feels like a choose your own adventure but with the highest of consequences. Director Isaac Ezban (who ingeniously slips in a nod to his brilliant film The Similars), teamed with writer Scott Blaszak, has curated a complex script that begs you to sit up and pay attention. If you don’t you’ll be lost in the chaos. The only thing missing is another film. I want an origin film. I need to know more. Parallel is easily the beginning of an entire sci-fi franchise. It’s a genre standout in a year filled with fantastic content. My heart was pumping from the very beginning and did not let up until it blacked out to roll credits. You’re constantly waiting for something to go awry. It’s phenomenally unnerving.

Available In Select Theaters & On Demand December 11, 2020