Fantasia International Film Festival 2021 review: ‘MARTYRS LANE’ is one of this year’s best.

MARTYRS LANE

Leah, 10, lives in a large vicarage, full of lost souls and the needy. In the day the house is bustling with people; at night it is dark, empty, a space for Leah’s nightmares to creep into. A small, nightly visitor brings Leah comfort, but soon she will realize that her little visitor offers knowledge that might be very, very dangerous.


I feared this Martyrs Lane would be overlooked among the plethora of gore-filled content. That would have been the biggest shame to befall this year’s Fantasia International Film Festival. Writer-director Ruth Platt‘s carefully crafted tension and mystery should be celebrated. It has a quieter Babadook energy to it that is unmistakable. The film manages to be both a slow burn and a vice grip of tension. The editing puts your head in a spin in that you’re never sure what is real until the very final scene. Performances are outstanding. The fact that the entire premise mostly hinges on the work of two small girls will blow you away. It is no wonder young lead Sienna Sayer won the Special Jury Rising Star award. Martyrs Lane will hit harder for parents. Any story centered around children begets that internal ache from the very getgo and Martyrs Lane is no exception. It’s beautifully shot and elegantly lit. The exquisite progression in makeup heightens the overall dread. It speaks to the consuming power of grief and secrets. I cannot wait for Shudder audiences to experience this film in a few weeks. This one is special. Undoubtedly, one of my favorites from this year’s lineup.


Martyrs Lane Streams Exclusively on Shudder on Thursday, September 9th

North America, UK, Ireland, Australia, and New Zealand


Fantasia International Film Festival 2021 review: ‘HELLBENDER’ rocked me to my core.

HELLBENDER

A lonely teen discovers her family’s ties to witchcraft.


Honestly, if I could choose to grow up in another family, it would be the Adams family. I’m not talking about Morticia and Gomez. While I adore that lot, I’m talking about the indie horror filmmaking family. These industrious and smart people consisting of Mom, Toby Poser, dad, John Adams, and daughters, Zelda and Lulu. Fantasia 2019 audiences got their first taste of spooky genius with The Deeper You Dig. It was scary, intense, unique, and then some. This year, Fantasia 2021 audiences got to experience a new tale of terror with Hellbender.

Their cinematography is stunning. They really understand how to fill a frame. Their writing feels collaborative. John Adams’ score is deliberate and insanely effective. The songs are so fantastic I would buy their album! Within the first three minutes of Hellbender, I gasped and rocked out. If that’s not a winning film, I don’t know what is.

Zelda Adams as Izzy is so intriguing in her innocence and curiosity. Her journey from child to adult occurs before our eyes, whether we like it or not. Toby Poser, as Mom, is a force of nature. Often telling an entirely emotional story without words. Their chemistry is never forced. This is not always the case when a family works together. In the case of the Adams family, it’s their biggest strength. Their work is dark and that takes trust and guts. And allow me to assure you both are teeming in Hellbender, quite literally. There is one special effect in particular that blew me away. When you see it, you’ll know what I’m talking about.

It’s a mother-daughter relationship film that just so happens to center around a witchy heritage. Predictably, deceit under the guise of protection is bound to backfire. Hellbender is about a secret and sacred family history. But, it’s also about the power of the feminine and a slick takedown of any sort of patriarchal structure. The social commentary between the treatment of witches and any female, ever, is glaringly obvious, but no less genius. Hellbender is undoubtedly one of the most kick-ass films from this year’s festival. It’s no wonder it won Best Score and Best Actress (Zelda) in the CHEVAL NOIR AWARD FOR FEATURE FILMS. I cannot wait for Shudder audiences to join in their fandom.

*PS- The Adams’ have agreed to let me be part of their family via Instagram. I couldn’t possibly be more excited. I’ll run the camera and hold the boom next time. Also, not afraid to get covered in blood.*


 

Shudder exclusive: ‘Boys From County Hell’ working hard or hardly working?

Strange events unfold in Six Mile Hill – a sleepy Irish town that claims to have been traveled by the famed author Bram Stoker – when construction on a new road disrupts the alleged grave of Abhartach, a legendary Irish vampire said to have inspired Dracula. Deadly and sinister forces terrorize the work crew led by Francie Moffat and his son Eugene, a free-spirited young man who prefers pints to pickaxes, and they’re forced to fight to survive the night while exposing the true horror that resides in the town’s local myth.

When anyone moves a relic, I can’t help but think of the words of Martha Plimpton in The Goonies, “Brand, God put that rock there for a purpose and um, I’m not so sure you should um move it.” She’s always right, of course. But then we might not have fun horror films like Boys From County Hell on Shudder. The opening scene is jarring as hell. With a plot that revolves around a legend and the locals that are tasked to bring the modern world into small-town life, starting with a bang was a perfect choice. The score is truly something. Mixed with ominous string and kickass local rock songs. The script is funny and has a bit of a Shawn of the Dead vibe minus the heavy-handed camp. Take your vampire tropes and shove them, because this is altogether new. The comic timing of this cast combined with the writing gives you equal belly laughs and fright. I would watch an entire series about this town! The makeup and practical fx are phenomenal. For me, the biggest visual impact was the blood CGI. There’s something so unsettling about this that creeps under your skin. It’s incredibly effective. Boys From County Hell also touches on community. Respecting where you come from and being unafraid to expand your horizons. It’s a rollicking good time.

BOYS FROM COUNTY HELL comes to Shudder in the US and Canada on April 22nd

Starring Jack Rowan (Peaky Blinders), Nigel O’Neill (The Bookshop), Louisa Harland (Derry Girls), Fra Fee (Animals, the upcoming Hawkeye series) and John Lynch (The Terror, The Banishing) and Michael Hough (the upcoming Chapelwaite series), and written and directed by Chris Baugh (Bad Day for the Cut).

Shudder Original review: ‘The Banishing’ is overwhelming.

THE BANISHING

From acclaimed director Chris Smith comes THE BANISHING, which tells the true story of the most haunted house in England. A young reverend and his wife and daughter move into a manor with a horrifying secret. When a vengeful spirit haunts the little girl and threatens to tear the family apart, the reverend and his wife are forced to confront their beliefs. They must turn to black magic by seeking the help of a famous Occultist…or risk losing their daughter.

Portal mirror, dimensions, time loops of residual energy, religious mob, eccentric occultist, spirits with unfinished business… and Nazis? A doomed location and a church’s secret creates a perfect storm for a young family with skeletons of its own. Creepy dolls and things that go bump in the night fracture a fragile family dynamic. While British horror is a strong genre, The Banishing takes a familiar premise and cranks it beyond viability. You’ll be scratching your head as imagery rolls out… and rolls out, again.

The performances are brilliant. John Heffernan as Linus gives a fascinating and nuanced performance. Sexually repressed by choice and the church he is in denial of what is right in front of his eyes. Jealousy leads to rage and Heffernan is downright startling when it rears its ugly head. Sean Harris is a magical creature. Strawberry-dyed hair and a familiar eccentricity make Harris the only guiding light in making sense of this screenplay. I’d watch an entire series of his character’s adventures. That’s the franchise. Jessica Brown Findlay as Marianne is powerful. A palpable fear that only a mother knows seeps from her pores. Her feminist declarations will make you want to stand up and cheer.

The film’s final scene is so abrupt it’s actually irritating. This is clearly a massive plot point that is given but a moment, and that moment is the end of the film? That’s a ballsy way to, perhaps, set up a sequel. You must already have the audience on your side for that to succeed. The film is like taking every season of Ryan Murphy‘s American Horror Story and mashing them together with zero explanation. There is no consistency in the screenplay other than Marianne’s “take no shit”, anti-slut-shaming, mom-boss attitude, and Linus’ vile weakness. When you finally get to the supposed outcome with daughter Adelaide, it screams The Haunting of Bly Manor. The overall look of the film is undeniably gorgeous. Some scenes contain viscerally jarring imagery. Ultimately, Shudder subscribers can decide for themselves whether it’s overstuffed or if we’re more in a 13 Ghosts territory. You could give it a pass being that it’s based on the true story of the most haunted house in England. In my opinion, The Banishing deserves to be fleshed out as a series. Show up for the performances, the set, and the cinematography, and let me know what you think once the screen goes black for good.

THE BANISHING will stream exclusively to Shudder on April 15th in the US, Canada, UK, Ireland, Australia, and New Zealand, as well as via the Shudder offering within the AMC+ bundle where available.

THE BANISHING

Genre: Horror

Country: United Kingdom

Runtime: 97 min

Year: 2021

Rated: NA

Starring Jessica Brown Findlay (Downton Abbey), Sean Harris (Mission: Impossible franchise), John Lynch (The Secret Garden, Black Death), and John Heffernan (Eye in the Sky) and directed by Christopher Smith (Creep, Severance, Triangle).

THE BANISHING is a WestEnd Films production.

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Shudder original review: ‘SHOOK’ is a satisfying comeuppance.

SHOOK

When Mia, a social media star, becomes the target of an online terror campaign, she has to solve a series of tests to prevent people she cares about from getting murdered. But is it real? Or is it just a game at her expense?

Shudder continues to kill it with its original content. SHOOK pokes fun at the people we love to hate but cannot get enough of; Influencers. In a world where every minute detail is curated for an audience, i.e. for-profit, losing control is the biggest fear.

The colors in the film are striking and very on-brand for influencers. Bright pink and blue hues establish a cohesive theme. The editing is incredibly creative, mixing screen views, live streams, projections, and most thought-provokingly Mia’s anxiety manifested imagery. The backstory is an emotional stronghold and the introduction of a local serial dog killer is sort of the most ridiculous but perfect setup. By now we all know killing animals is a sign of a sociopath so we have an idea that even outside the influencer angle Shook has crazy potential, very much pun intended. The terror factor comes in the form of psychological trauma to the nth degree.

Daisye Tutor as Mia strikes a fantastic balance between self-absorbed and vulnerable. You’re rooting for her despite her hideous tendencies. Fans of Scream, Saw, CAM, and most recently Eugene Kotlyareno‘s Spree will love SHOOK. Writer/director Jennifer Harrington‘s screenplay is driven by fear, guilt, denial, and revenge. There’s an unexpected complexity tied to the plot. If you think you know how this ultimately plays out, you’re dead wrong.

Shook will premiere and debut exclusively to Shudder on February 18th in the US, Canada, UK, Ireland, Australia, and New Zealand, as well as via the Shudder offering within the AMC+ bundle where available.

Written and directed by Jennifer Harrington and starring Daisye Tutor (Guest House), Emily Goss (Snapshots), Nicola Posener (The Bold and the Beautiful), Octavius J. Johnson (Sleepless), Stephanie Simbari (Here and Now), Grant Rosenmeyer (Crazy Ex-Girlfriend) and real-life make-up and social media influencer Genelle Seldon.

SHOOK

Genre: Horror

Country: USA

Runtime: 89 min

Year: 2021

Rated: NA

Review: ‘The Reckoning’ – The good, the bad, and the terrifying.

The Reckoning

SYNOPSIS: Set against the backdrop of the Great Plague and subsequent witch-hunts against women, Grace Haverstock (Charlotte Kirk) must grapple with the tragic untimely death of her husband Joseph (Joe Anderson) in a society completely consumed by fear and death. Because she rejects her landlord Squire Pendleton’s (Steven Waddington) advances, she is falsely accused of being a witch and thrown in jail for a crime she didn’t commit. Grace must endure physical persecution at the hands of England’s most ruthless witch-hunter Judge Moorcroft (Sean Pertwee) and face her own inner demons as the Devil himself starts to work his way into her mind.

The Reckoning shines brightest in its performances and the attention to historic details. Firstly, without a doubt, the best aspect of this entire film is Sean Pertwee. His commitment to righteousness and torture without apology is what makes The Reckoning worth your time. Every second he is onscreen, he owns it. Watching him work is a masterclass. Charlotte Kirk does all the right things. But now for the bad… The amount of makeup on a person of her character’s social standing is completely unrealistic. It’s an unnatural amount for anyone outside of a royal court. It was genuinely distracting. This detail is a letdown considering the overall look of the film. One thing that is very clear is the amount of research that Kirk and Neil Marshall did to make The Reckoning as fact-based as possible. Kirk is stunning enough without a full face, so I am a bit baffled at the choice.

Now, the scary. This is a double-edged sword for me. While the creature makeup of The Devil is one of the most successful parts of the film visually, the ways in which he is utilized felt cheap. For me, it was a reason to exploit Kirk. It makes zero sense to have her fornicate (probably the first time I’ve used that word in earnest) with The Devil, without that being a major plot point that comes to fruition. It takes away from the overall feminist narrative of the film. I absolutely loved being terrified by the appearance of The Devil. Those moments stick in my head for their fright factor but make me cringe when used tom over sexual a character who is already sexually harrassed over and over for her appearance. This film might fair better if those scenes are cut altogether. The climax is most certainly unexpected and incredibly satisfying. Although with a runtime of 1 hour and 51 minutes, The Reckoning could lose a good 30 mins. Neil Marshall and Charlotte Kirk set out to highlight the atrocities committed against women in a time of fear, sickness, and paranoia. They are able to tell this story through the experiences of Grace and even a few ancillary characters associated with her. The real-life horrors are enough.

WATCH THE TRAILER:

RLJE Films and Shudder will release the action / horror THE RECKONING In Theaters, On Demand and Digital February 5, 2021. 

THE RECKONING stars Charlotte Kirk (Ocean’s 8, How To Be Single), Joe Anderson (Across The Universe, The Crazies), Steven Waddington (The Imitation Game, “The Tudors”) and Sean Pertwee (Dog SoldiersEquilibrium). The film was directed by Neil Marshall (Dog Soldiers, The Descent), who co-wrote the film alongside Charlotte Kirk, making her feature screenwriting debut, and Edward Evers-Swindell (Dark Signal).

Review: ‘PG: Psycho Goreman’ celebrates a genre-bending romp of relentlessly violent, gore-filled, sci-fi weirdness.

Siblings Mimi and Luke unwittingly resurrect an ancient alien overlord who was entombed on Earth millions of years ago after a failed attempt to destroy the universe. They nickname the evil creature Psycho Goreman (or PG for short) and use the magical amulet they discovered to force him to obey their childish whims. It isn’t long before PG’s reappearance draws the attention of intergalactic friends and foes from across the cosmos and a rogues’ gallery of alien combatants converges in small-town suburbia to battle for the fate of the galaxy.

Mimi is me as a kid; overly dramatic, kooky, aggressively brimming with sass. I played with all the boys, digging holes, making forts, playing with stick lightsabers. Am I obsessed with the fact that PG: Psycho Goreman is energized by a truculent little girl?! Hell yes. Do I love the fact that it’s over-the-top in every single way? You betcha. Is this one of the most fun viewing experiences I’ve had in lockdown? 100%.  It’s a genre-bending romp of relentlessly violent, gore-filled, sci-fi weirdness and I am here for it all.

Essentially, if you’ve ever been a genre nerd, you’ll love this film. Think Peter Jackson‘s splatstick trilogy, add a pinch of The Gate, with a side of Saturday morning cartoon realness and you can begin to comprehend what this film is. The costume and creature builds are out of this world fun. Every single detail of Psycho Goreman screams an homage to fans. It feels like it was tailormade for my 40-year-old self, and I will continue to tell myself this lie.

The chemistry between cast members is outstanding. The family dynamics are hilarious. I hope I talk to my kids that way when they get to be Mimi and Luke’s age. The dialogue is delivered with such commitment, it’s magical. The kids interacting with PG will force a grin that just won’t go away. Writer/director Steven Kostanski, who I already knew from his ABC’s of Death 2 segment, really gets it. You can tell from his extensive resume that he’s a fan that not only writes for an audience but for himself and I cannot wait to see what’s next.  PG: Psycho Goreman is destined for cult classic status. If I don’t see this costume pop up at a future Comic-Con, I will be shocked.

RLJE Films will release the Horror/Comedy PG: PSYCHO GOREMAN in Theaters, On Demand and Digital on January 22, 2021.

Written and directed by Steven Kostanski (The Void, The Divide, Father’s Day), PG: PSYCHO GOREMAN stars Matthew Ninaber (Transference), Nita-Josee Hanna (Books of Blood, 4teen), Owen Myre (NOS4A2”, Alternate Ground), Adam Brooks (The Return Father’s Day) and Steven Vlahos (“Alien House”, The Apprentice).

Shudder Original review: ‘HUNTED’ proves the big, bad wolf is real.

HUNTED

Directed by acclaimed French filmmaker and comic artist Vincent Paronnaud (co-director of Cannes Jury Prize and Academy Award nominee PERSEPOLIS), HUNTED is an exhilaratingly ferocious take on survival horror that blends primal violence with grindhouse pleasure in a predator-prey riff on Little Red Riding Hood. The film follows Eve (Lucie Debay), a woman who encounters a seemingly charming man at a bar, only to uncover his true sociopathic nature, sparking a dire, life-or-death chase through the wilderness. A Shudder Original Film.

Little Red Riding Hood becomes snuff film bait. HUNTED is a survival horror with a fairytale familiarity. The scariest part of this film is the fact that’s it’s completely plausible. There’s a reason women are told to park under street lights and carry their keys between their fingers. We are not allowed to lulled into a false sense of security because then we become targets. But buyer beware, when animal instinct drives survival, don’t f*ck with a woman. Writer/director Vincent Paronnaud understands this dynamic. This is made abundantly clear in the most glorious ways.

While being absolutely terrifying, HUNTED is beautiful to watch. Wooded landscapes look like a magical fairytale as they surround Eve in the quiet moments. That’s the false sense of security subconsciously. It’s pure genius. The visual juxtaposition throughout of wild and innocent animals alongside our leading lady, Eve, is a striking metaphor. Her wardrobe of an iconic red coat and hoodie says all you need to know as she is hunted by the biggest, baddest wolf I’ve ever seen. He is grossly manipulative emotionally and ceaselessly violent. He’s an incel with the balls to back it up. When we meet the classic Huntsman character we’re offered another twist in the plot. I literally went from exclaiming, “Oh, hell yes!” to, “Oh, shit,” in minutes. Performances from every single cast member are outstanding. The cinematography is nothing short of breathtaking. The last third of HUNTED is unhinged. It’s absolutely unpredictable and a complete WTF. SHUDDER’s audience is going to go nuts during the final scene. It’s a visceral satisfaction.

HUNTED premieres on Shudder January 14th in the U.S., Canada, U.K., Ireland, Australia, and New Zealand

‘Super Dark Times’ now available on Shudder!

Super Dark Times will stun Shudder audiences. Here is a flashback to our review from The Fantasia International Film Festival 2017…

SUPER DARK TIMES

Teenagers Zach and Josh have been best friends their whole lives, but when a gruesome accident leads to a cover-up, the secret drives a wedge between them and propels them down a rabbit hole of escalating paranoia and violence.

Set in the early ’90s, before Columbine was an event ingrained in history, a child’s innocence was not as easily spoiled as the kids in Super Dark Times. As someone who grew up at the same time as the main characters, I can attest to the typical dangers that surrounded our childhood. We were affected by the national news when a child was kidnapped, but that was about it. On the first evening of this year’s Fantasia Film Festival, audiences will see a film so brilliantly composed from the colors and textures of the costumes and cinematography to the incredibly disturbing storyline from screenwriters Ben Collins, Luke Piotrowski. The power of an act of violence changes a person. Born from that awkward time in our lives comes the idea that fear can control the room, where the older/stronger kids ruled the proverbial schoolyards. Drugs, alcohol, and cigarettes made you popular and badass and oftentimes, intimidating. Super Dark Times taps into those ideals in that very specific time in history, and yet it has a creepy timeless factor once you understand the full plot. With elements of the surreal, you will find yourself asking who is showing us the truth at any given moment. Director Kevin Phillips takes us on a sickening journey, one that’s become all too familiar as the years have rolled by.

  • Directed by: Kevin Phillips
  • Written by: Ben Collins, Luke Piotrowski
  • Cast: Sawyer Barth, Owen Campbell, Elizabeth Cappuccino, Amy Hargreaves, Charlie Tahan, Max Talisman
  • Company: 1091

A Shudder Original review: ‘A Creepshow Holiday Special’ is on the naughty list (and that’s a good thing)

In the holiday themed, hour-long episode, “Shapeshifters Anonymous,” fearing he is a murderer, an anxious man searches for answers for his “unique condition” from an unusual support group. Starring Anna Camp (Pitch Perfect) and Adam Pally (The Mindy Project), the special is written and directed by Creepshow showrunner Greg Nicotero, based on a short story by J.A. Konrath (Last Call).

If you are not laughing your ass off when the breakdown of evil hits both biblical proportions and the origin story of Santa Claus, then you need to check yourself. It will make you suspect of any of Santa’s Helpers all over town. Written and directed by Shudder series showrunner Greg Nicotero, A CREEPSHOW HOLIDAY SPECIAL  is a damn holiday horror treasure. Keeping in traditional Creepshow style, the striking comic book art by Kevin West and Michael Broom appears and dissolves when necessary making you take notice of the spectacular editing. Be sure to keep a sharp eye on the speech bubbles for added hilarity. Based on a story by J.A. Konrath, Nicotero’s episode is titled “Shapeshifters Anonymous”. When we discover that there is more to shapeshifting than the average Lycanthrope, a whole world of possibilities opens up to the viewer.

This cast’s chemistry is unreal. Adam Pally is mostly on the receiving end of tongue in cheek jokes when he’s usually the one dishing them out. Watching him volley with Anna Camp is pure Christmas magic. Accompanied by a phenomenal ensemble featuring Pete Burris, Frank Nicotero, Derek Russo, and perhaps the most spectacular of them all Candy McLellan. You will fall madly in love with her! Cast her in all the things immediately, please and thank you. Of course, the larger makeup FX are masterfully reminiscent of the original series; very 80’s campfest. The final twist gives up an epic showdown that only rings true in the Creepshow realm. While this episode is less frightening than funny, it’s an awesome holiday treat. I for one am looking forward to the release of Creepshow Season 2 in 2021.

A CREEPSHOW HOLIDAY SPECIAL will be available exclusively on Shudder on December 18, 2020. The episode will also be available on Shudder Canada, Shudder UK, and Shudder ANZ.

Review: ‘Girl With No Mouth’ has so much to say.

GIRL WITH NO MOUTH

In Girl With No Mouth, a group of children who suffer from deformities due to a toxic explosion, embark on an adventure in a war-torn post-apocalyptic region. The Turkish production comes from Can Evrenol, director of the successful TIFF Midnight Madness selection Baskin, and the horror film Housewife (currently available on Shudder).

This beautifully shot film tells the tale of a ragtag group of deformed children running from the evil Corporation responsible for their plight. Each is missing a key feature on their face, making for creative ways to communicate with one another. Captain finds Peri (our titular character) after she has fled her corrupt uncle’s clutches. With her father murdered and her uncle tracking her down to kill her, she escapes alongside her newfound friends. Captain is without eyes, Yusuf is missing his nose, and little Badger has no ears. This band of “Pirates” protects each other in search of sanctuary. Peace is coming, which means The Corporation must find any remaining children and destroy “the evidence” of wrongdoing.

Each child brings a different strength to their journey. Captain is a master tracker and relies on his heightened hearing to map. Peri uses science. Yusuf cooks and Badger scavenges. They happen upon an adult who is not a complete psychopath. The widow of the man responsible for all the agony caused by The Corporation. With her help and Peri’s engineering, can our group reach safety in time? The script is carefully crafted by director Can Evrenol and Kutay Ucun. There is undoubtedly a Peter Pan and The Lost Boys vibe to it. Add the tragic post-apocalyptic aspect and it goes from enchanting to unbelievably thrilling. You would never think this is the kind of film that would come from the director of Baskin. I’m so happy this film is now on people’s radars. I think it truly extraordinary.

This cast is outstanding. Their chemistry is pure magic. The film’s cinematography is simply stunning combined with a fantastic script, Girl With No Mouth is a captivating take of resilience and guts. You will be rooting for these kids. Their ingenuity and spirit are what hold you tightly to your seat. The finale strikes a gorgeous balance between heartbreaking and triumphant. Girl With No Mouth speaks volumes in a year where death and capitalism reign supreme. This film will have you cheering out loud at your screen. Do not sleep on this one.

 Girl With No Mouth is due to release on Blu-Ray, DVD and VOD across North America on December 8th via Indiecan Entertainment

 

INDIECAN ENTERTAINMENT focuses on independent, low-budget films. As a distributor, Avi Federgreen follows the same principle that earned him his reputation as a filmmaker; bringing audiences films they want to watch. Aside from the traditional distribution route, INDIECAN leans heavily on digital delivery. INDIECAN helps films find more opportunities with audiences through TV, Netflix, iTunes, websites, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other social media platforms. The jarvee provide the best tools to improve the growth of your social media platform.  INDIECAN’s vision is to not only support Canadian production but to encourage the viewing of quality independent films by North American audiences. Indiecanent.com

Shudder Original review: ‘Anything for Jackson,’ the devil is in the details.

Anything For Jackson

After losing their only grandson in a car accident, grief-stricken Audrey and Henry, a doctor, kidnap his pregnant patient with the intentions of performing a “Reverse Exorcism”, putting Jackson inside her unborn child.

The energy that this film has from the get-go is outstanding. It’s dark and disturbing and throws your understanding of morality out of whack. But it’s the nonchalance of it all that will keep you watching. Unlike creepy couples like Mommy and Daddy from The People Under The Stairs or Mickey and Mallory in Natural Born Killers, Henry and Audrey are simply so casual about everything they are about to do it’s all the more bizarre. After they perform what they believe to be a soul transference, things really go off the rails. Something has gone awry. Their grandson is not the only thing to come into their home. The arrival of a gaggle of seriously disturbing ghosts throws all their confidence out the window. Things do not go well for Audrey and Henry going forward. The devil does not care to be used. The things that appear to everyone in the house are more and more terrifying as the fallout continues. It is ceaselessly upsetting.

Performances from our three leads are outstanding. Konstantina Mantelos as young mother Shannon is the final girl we need to balance out the insanity. Her ingenuity and believable vulnerability is sheer perfection. The terror she experiences is visceral. Helped along by the ghastly practical fx and brilliant performances by the actors playing these tortured souls. The contortionist stylings of one, in particular, gave me full-body chills. The chemistry between Sheila McCarthy and Julian Richings is simply magic. You believe they’ve been married for decades without a thought. They are charming in their sincerity even if their acts are atrocious.

The structure of the story roots you deep into the drama. You’re genuinely invested in everyone. Upon a second viewing, and as a Mom myself, I understand the lengths each character is going to protect their loved one. It makes the stakes so much higher. The writing and editing are top-notch. The complexity is unreal. This was a carefully crafted piece of work. If you can get me with a jump scare after 40 years of watching horror films, well done. Anything For Jackson got me… and held me down.

You will never see what’s coming from one beat to the next. Anything For Jackson will undoubtedly entertain the hell out of Shudder subscribers. They continue to kill it with their content. Anything For Jackson takes your heart and your head and mangles them both. It’s one of the year’s best genre films.

ANYTHING FOR JACKSON premieres on Shudder December 3rd in the U.S., U.K., Australia, and New Zealand

Shudder original review: ‘LEAP OF FAITH: WILLIAM FRIEDKIN ON THE EXORCIST’

A lyrical and spiritual cinematic essay on The ExorcistLeap of Faith explores the uncharted depths of William Friedkin’s mind’s eye, the nuances of his filmmaking process, and the mysteries of faith and fate that have shaped his life and filmography. The film marks the sixth feature documentary from Philippe (78/52, Memory: The Origins of Alien), continuing his thoughtful analysis of iconic genre films. Starring William Friedkin. Directed by Alexandre O. Philippe. A SHUDDER ORIGINAL. (Also available on Shudder Canada, Shudder UK and Shudder ANZ

This is truly a peek behind the wizard’s curtain. The most shocking part of the in-depth conversation with William Friedkin is where he admits what was planned and, more strikingly, what wasn’t. He was often flying by the seat of his pants, but you can tell by the passionate way he describes his process that there was more planning than we can ever imagine. He uses music as a device in directing. In the doc, side by side juxtaposition from other iconic films and scores make his point perfectly. The editing makes you want to have The Exorcist on another screen to experience the full moments that are being referenced in snippets. The meticulously placed subconscious effects on the audience are profound. Once they’re explained, they will blow your mind.

Friedkin’s believes that every moment surrounding the creation of The Exorcist was fate. From getting the book to casting choices, to existing shooting circumstances in Iraq. He uses art to inspire the look of scenes. Discovering the painting that is responsible for the iconic cover art takes your breath away. The battle over the score is nothing short of epic. For someone who boasts about asking for one or two takes, his obsession with the minute details will astonish you. Friedkin is pretty much a mad genius. He explains how his faith had to be separated from the job. The philosophy behind the story is what solidifies the meaning for him. While this is solely Friedkin’s perspective, and we know the permanent physical and emotional damage on Linda Blair and Ellen Burstyn, hearing so much detail from the director’s mouth, his creative process, and the effect the experience had on him is nothing short of fascinating. You don’t have to be a fan of The Exorcist to completely love this documentary. The insight on what goes into making a film come alive is gold unto itself.  For genre fans, in particular, it’s magic.

LEAP OF FAITH: WILLIAM FRIEDKIN ON THE EXORCIST is available today on Shudder

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

Blood Vessel

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

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

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

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

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

Review: ‘The Dark and the Wicked’ is dark, disturbing, and brilliant.

The Dark And The Wicked

On a secluded farm, a man is slowly dying. Bedridden and fighting through his final breaths, his wife is slowly succumbing to overwhelming grief. To help their mother and say goodbye to their father, siblings Louise (Marin Ireland) and Michael (Michael Abbott Jr.) return to their family farm. It doesn’t take long for them to see that something’s wrong with mom, though—something more than her heavy sorrow. Gradually, as their own grief mounts, Louise and Michael begin suffering from a darkness similar to their mother’s, marked by waking nightmares and a growing sense that something evil is taking over their family.

I think sometimes people forget about the importance of sound and score. In horror, they are like an unseen character. In the opening of The Dark and the Wicked, sound and score put you on edge before the title appears on-screen. Christopher Duke, Joe Stockton, and Tom Schraeder, alongside writer-director Bryan Bertino carefully craft that feeling of uneasiness you want in a genre knockout. The premise is relatable enough, to begin with; a brother and sister return to their home as their father lay dying. Something is wrong with their mother. She tries to tell them but can’t quite express what’s invading her house. This plot gets more and more upsetting as clues are revealed. It made my skin crawl.

Stand out performances from Xander Berkeley, Tom Nowicki, Lynne Andrews, and Julie Oliver-Touchstone must be acknowledged. They are all key in the build-up to a shattering finale. Michael Abbott, Jr. is a great foil for Ireland. Their relationship feels very genuine. Marin Ireland is magnificent. The fear in her eyes is everything we feel. They portray the pull of family obligations to perfection. The Dark and the Wicked is one of the most atmospherically disturbing films of 2020. The colors and lighting scream bleak and ominous from the get-go. Smartly used tropes like spooked animals, doors opening themselves, and body horror mixed with ghostly visions let us know things are clearly not okay in this house. The practical fx are gruesome. The build-up is a bit reminiscent of Relic. Long lingering shots get under your skin. Alongside that keen sound is sharp scene editing. It creates small jump scares that have a massive overall impact on the mood. The film relies heavily (and brilliantly) on what you don’t see just as much as completely messed up, mind-bending imagery. The Dark and the Wicked succeeds in creating an unsafe space that is undeniably horrifying. This film literally made me shiver. It is a quick descent into spectacular terror.

RLJE Films will release the horror film THE DARK AND THE WICKED In Theaters, On Digital and On Demand November 6, 2020. 
Written and directed by Bryan Bertino (The Strangers, The Monster, Mockingbird), THE DARK AND THE WICKED stars Marin Ireland (“The Umbrella Academy,” Hell or High Water), Michael Abbott Jr. (Loving, Mud) and Xander Berkeley (“The Walking Dead”).
~The Dark and The Wicked will also arrive on Shudder in early 2021. Stayed tuned for more info!~

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

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

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

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

A Shudder Original Film

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Pool is now available on SHUDDER

 

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

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

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

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

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