‘HOUSE OF SCREAMING GLASS’ (2024) is a wild exploration of dark legacy

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HOUSE OF SCREAMING GLASS

HOUSE OF SCREAMING GLASS poster

After inheriting an old schoolhouse, Elizabeth begins to lose time and experience visions of evil in her isolation and exploration of her familial connections.

Success lies within the use of a go-pro and the out-of-focus visuals. The set might be some artist commune or quirky AirBnB listing. It delivers jewel-toned decor choices and creepy corners, echoing loneliness. Elizabeth discovers a trunk filled with dark objects, including a book with sketches right out of Guillermo del Toro’s imagination. 

HOUSE OF SCREAMING GLASS Lani CallLani Call gives Elizabeth a dour and macabre personality. Bravo for her commitment to the role. The screenplay from director Richard R. Williams, Costanza Bongiorni, and Tom Jolliffe does not give her a moment of ease. HOUSE OF SCREAMING GLASS is a one-woman show that gets weirder and grosser by the minute. 

The film opens with a gruesome shot, transitioning to the world’s slowest upward pan. The pacing, while artistically intentional, remains an issue. Call’s narration deserved a pop shield in front of her microphone. Elizabeth makes questionable choices that defy logic as she plunges into her dark legacy. No doubt the practical FX team will make you gag as her physical appearance rapidly deteriorates. The film is out there. What’s good is great, but HOUSE OF SCREAMING GLASS ultimately suffers from the length. 

This otherworldly thriller arrives on VOD and DVD on May 21st

 

Directed and co-written by Williams (RUST BELT DRILLER) with a script co-authored by Costanza Bongiorni and Tom Jolliffe, HOUSE OF SCREAMING GLASS stars Lani Call.

Elizabeth Cadosia has lived a life of isolation under the shadow of her mentally fractured mother. On the day her mother dies, Elizabeth receives an unexpected inheritance—a timeworn schoolhouse from her grandmother—whom she has never met. Within the schoolhouse, Elizabeth finds herself entwined in a tapestry of unsettling visions and harrowing nightmares.

An incredibly surreal, ultra-low budget experiment in minimalist horror – inspired by classic horror, witchcraft legends, the Cthulhu mythos, and Tarkovsky and Antonioni’s “slow cinema” – the film was made by a very small group of close friends and is anchored by a powerful performance from actor Lani Call.

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DeskPop Entertainment was created to offer a dynamic scope of original content ranging from light-hearted genre entertainment to thought-provoking, mission-driven cinema designed to stir up engaging conversation.


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‘PITCH PEOPLE’ (2024) Wildly entertaining 25th Anniversary of the Never-Before-Seen Feature Documentary

PITCH PEOPLE

PitchPeople poster-25 Anniversary

Selling is theatre and coercion. Stanley Jacobs‘ documentary PITCH PEOPLE explores the very best in persuasive personas and the history of honest sales. 

The film is a clever “how-to” guide to moving products. They are magnetic and funny. Urgency and cleverness get your attention. Does the product make life easier? All people genuinely want is to smile and feel like they’re not being taken advantage of, and that’s the key to selling. 


PITCH-PEOPLE_Still-1.Nowadays, if you can find an operating mall, you might still come across an AS SEEN ON TV store. A small display remains at Bed, Bath, and Beyond locations. Back in the 1950s, Atlantic City was the hub of Pitchmen. Future American celebrities like Ed McMahon, of Star Search fame, began on the boardwalk. 

You all remember waking up at 3 am to infomercials. From Vitamix to ShamWow, you find yourself watching but just a bit longer than you anticipated. In person, it’s an electric energy. It has to be more personable to lock you in, and the moment these experts get you to pause and pay attention, they’ve got you sold. 

PITCH-PEOPLE_Still-2Between local television spots and fairgrounds, pitching products was (and still is) a lucrative career. Only the best survive and put bundles of cash in their pockets. In a world of MLMs, this intimate energy exchange is the oldest truck in the book, and it works. The modern version comes in the form of TikTok influencers, but those 10-30-second uploads have nothing on the original masters.

PITCH PEOPLE takes the “Always Be Closing” model and mesmerizes by showing audiences entire live pitches in the wild, then cutting in sit-down interviews and archival footage. The editing is the hero of this film. You’ll be dazzled. And maybe start Googling the products as I did.

PITCH-PEOPLE_Still-7.jpg

 
Here’s the trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OmW8R9TuwnE
 
 


PITCH PEOPLE will be available on iTunes, Amazon Prime Video and Google Play on May 17, 2024. The film, fully restored in 4K, is the 25th Anniversary of the Never-Before-Seen Feature Documentary.

 

Directed, written, and produced by Stanley Jacobs (96 Souls), PITCH PEOPLE features Arnold Morris, Nancy Nelson, Lester Morris, Al Spino, Sandy Mason, Ed McMahon, Jerry Crowley, Joe Fowler, Jan Muller, John Parkin, Chester Nairne, Wally Nash, Jerry Mascuzzio, James Mason, Ian Long, and Harry Matheson.

The documentary PITCH PEOPLE is an energetic look at the pitch business, a dynamic world that started in Europe, made its way to the U.S. boardwalks, and exploded on television in the 1990s.

Run Time: 88 minutes | Rating: Not Rated

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‘FOR SALE’ (2024) The Good, Bad, and Haunted

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FOR SALE

For Sale (2024) - www.imdb.com

Christopher Schrack‘s FOR SALE finds Mason, a shady salesman who gets the opportunity to score big if he can sell a murder house. Can his relentless determination drive a sale and the spirits away?

For saleCorrine Britti gives Psychic Claire a great quirkiness. Schrack and co-writer Jordan Friedber‘s screenplay allows her to play a dual role. Her commitment is applause-worthy. Andrew Roth does a fantastic job at filling the screen with his presence. His optimism and generally ridiculous “always be selling” persona keep the film in the horror comedy subgenre. Once again, Friedberg and Schrack mix it up in the final act so Roth can show off his acting chops.

For sale 5The soundtrack is fun. A handful of sharp jump scares had my heart racing. I wish Schrack and Friedberg had leaned into Mason’s unresolved trauma earlier in the film. That emotional pull hits another level, heightening the dark threats, but I respect them for introducing a redemption arc. While the pacing is uneven, the visuals and sound editing are phenomenal. Essentially, what is good is extremely good. FOR SALE ends with one final genuine gafaw.

https://youtu.be/8ii0G23fnJ4

NOW AVAILABLE ON DIGITAL PLATFORMS

FOR SALE is a handmade film in the truest sense – a crew of three, a cast of ten, and produced by director CHRISTOPHER SCHRACK and lead actor ANDREW ROTH. Despite its humble budget, the film went on to receive multiple awards on the festival circuit, including BEST FILM (Magic of Horror 2023), BEST COMEDY FEATURE (International Comedy Film Festival 2024), BEST ACTOR and BEST DROP DEAD FUNNY (Haunted House FearFest 2023), as well as receiving numerous other nominations.

Mason McGinness has always been good at two things: selling himself, and finding ways to cheat people into buying when they shouldn’t. One day, his brazen swindling catches up with him and he finds himself fired from his job and kicked to the curb by his ex-girlfriend. Mason finds a small realty company that needs someone to sell a piece of property that is considered “unsellable.” The catch? It is the infamous Scarlett Clay house — a haunted house where anyone who inhabits it ends up dead. Now, with the help of a quirky psychic, Mason must find his humanity to get his life back… or die trying.

PRE-ORDER TODAY ON APPLETV: https://apple.co/3xtjZR8

PRE-ORDER TODAY ON AMAZON: https://www.primevideo.com/detail/For…

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IG: @forsalemovieofficial

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‘THE LAST STOP IN YUMA COUNTY’ (2024) The good, the bad, and the opportunistic.

well go usa logoTHE LAST STOP IN YUMA COUNTY

The Last Stop In Yuma County poster

When a ragtag group of folks get stranded at a diner waiting for the gas truck to show, a pair of bank robbers complicate things for all involved. Francis Galluppi‘s heart-stopping THE LAST STOP IN YUMA COUNTY is one of the year’s most epic rides. 

 Last Stop In Yuma County Still 3Jim Cummings proves once again that his high-strung straight guy routine is gold. His eye for unique projects as an executive producer remains top-notch. His entire look, down to his Archie comic red hair, is perfection for The Knife Salesman. (Yes, that is his actual character’s title).

The Last Stop In Yuma County 1Jocelin Donahue brings authenticity to small-town waitress Charlotte. She is so watchable. Sierra McCormick (We Need To Do Something) is a delight as aspiring bank robber Sybil. She’s another bright spot in this wild ensemble cast. 

I can’t forget horror icon Barbara Crampton as the Sheriff’s secretary Virginia. She elevates every film with her unmatched screen presence. Connor Paolo uses his youthful energy to tap into newbie deputy Gavin’s well-meaning bumbling. He continues to surprise in his indie cred. 

 Last Stop In Yuma County Still 14Faizon Love that star quality. He brings a fully fleshed-out essence to gas station and motel operator Vernon. I request a spinoff feature of Vernon’s life. I bet filmmaker Francis Galluppi could make that happen in a heartbeat. 

Richard Brake is so good at being bad. Every villain he portrays is on another level, and Beau is no exception. Brake is effortlessly terrifying and commanding. Nicolas Logan owns each moment of screen time as Travis, hot-headed know-it-all sidekick to Brake’s Beau. The pair have fantastic chemistry.

Mac Fisken’s cinematography is outstanding. Galluppi’s script is wildly entertaining from the first shot to the last. I watch very few films as a critic without pause or notetaking. THE LAST STOP IN YUMA COUNTY easily takes that prize home. It is tremendous, risk-taking storytelling. Bravo. 

THE LAST STOP IN YUMA COUNTY
IN THEATERS: May 10, 2024
ON DIGITAL: May 10, 2024

The film is currently 100% on Rotten Tomatoes

DIGITAL PRE-ORDER LINK:

https://tv.apple.com/us/movie/the-last-stop-in-yuma-county/umc.cmc.3azd4vge5rrvoy9bxi3cez22p

Well Go USA will release the western, crime, thriller film THE LAST STOP IN YUMA COUNTY in Theaters and On Digital May 10, 2024. The debut feature from writer-director Francis Galluppi had its World Premiere Fantastic Fest before heading to Sitges where it won the best film prize in the Orbita section.

THE LAST STOP IN YUMA COUNTY stars an ensemble cast of Jim Cummings (The Wolf of Snow Hollow), Jocelin Donahue (The House of the Devil), Sierra McCormick (The Vast of Night), Nicholas Logan (I Care a Lot), Michael Abbott Jr. (Killers of the Flower Moon), Connor Paolo (A Creature Was Stirring), Alexandra Essoe (“The Haunting of Bly Manor”), Robin Bartlett (The Fabelmans), Jon Proudstar (Reservation Dogs), Sam Huntington(“Being Human”), Ryan Masson (“Good Girls”), and Barbara Crampton(Suitable Flesh, Re-Animator), with Gene Jones (Killers of the Flower Moon), Faizon Love (Elf) and Richard Brake (Barbarian).

SYNOPSIS: While awaiting the next fuel truck at a middle-of-nowhere Arizona rest stop, a traveling young knife salesman is thrust into a high-stakes hostage situation by the arrival of two similarly stranded bank robbers with no qualms about using cruelty—or cold, hard steel—to protect their bloodstained, ill-begotten fortune.

DISTRIBUTOR: Well Go USA

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Matt Vesely’s intense ‘MONOLITH’ (2024) takes podcast storytelling to another realm.

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Monolith 2024 poster

One suspect article takes down a once respected journalist. Holed up in her wealthy parent’s estate while they are on holiday, our leading lady tries to revamp her image by creating a conspiracy theory podcast. While wading through emails, she spots one that is particularly eye-catching. Following up on the information, she continues down a path of potential otherworldly objects influencing people around the globe. But truth and lies are closer aligned than you might want to believe. Matt Vesely‘s SXSW 2023 sci-fi feature MONOLITH pulls you into oblivion.

Lily Sullivan in Monolith The film takes place in a single location where The Interviewer records her podcast. The secluded and expansive modern mid-century estate allows her to wander, but most of the action happens at a desk or in front of the wall of windows that contain her discoveries. Our journalist creates an episode of her first phone calls. Editing the calls at her will, the audience questions her culpability. This small moment puts your morality compasses in a tailspin. It is a slick move from writer Lucy Campbell. Podcasts are my nightly ritual, cleaning motivation, and my travel companion. Since SERIAL, the industry has exploded. In MONOLITH, the story goes viral. People begin contacting her directly with their stories, always warning her to stop.

Lily Sullivan in MonolithAt some point, the danger reaches the front door of our journalist’s secluded location when she receives a package related to the mysterious story. The darkness attached to the object feels slightly Faustian and not of this planet. No one remembers how they received their object, but each reaches a point in questioning where they feel compelled to hang up out of fear.

Lily Sullivan plays The Interviewer. Her emotional arc is mesmerizing, acting as a therapist to her callers, a manipulator for personal gain, and a target of the unknown. As the only onscreen actor in the film, her ability to carry such an intense and mysterious film is quite a feat. Sullivan owns the audience.

Matt Vesely's MonolithIs this a case of mass hysteria? In many ways, the plot mirrors today’s conspiracy groups like QAnon. Our leading lady goes down the rabbit hole, and the audience follows. MONOLITH boasts a jaw-dropping final ten minutes. This is one hell of a sci-fi thriller. It is a must-see.

IN THEATERS AND ON DIGITAL: February 16, 2024 

 

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Review: ‘THE PORTRAIT’ succeeds in its psychological trickery

THE PORTRAIT

After her husband is devastated by a tragic accident, a devoted wife obsesses over a mysterious portrait that resembles him as he was; but when it starts to terrorize her, she must decide if it’s possessed or if she’s losing her mind.

Immersive editing and camera work immediately draw you into Simon RossTHE PORTRAIT. Fipsi Seilern creates stunning paintings that captivate and disturb. David Griffiths‘s screenplay leads us down a path that appears to be bit Dorian Gray, but the joke’s on us in the end.

Mark-Paul Gosselar plays Brookes, the groundskeeper. His dominant physical presence and the fact that he bears a resemblance to Alex make him an intriguing addition to the narrative. Virginia Madsen plays cousin Mags, a woman who knows more about the family history than Sofia wants to hear. She delivers a precise amount of eerie mystery. Ryan Kwanten is Alex, Sofia’s husband. Kwanten gives the role a frightening aura while simultaneously settling into the physical trauma left behind by the accident. These dual traits allow his acting chops to shine bright, especially considering the little dialogue Alex has. Natalia Cordova-Buckley gives Sofia a perfect balance of determination, frustration, and emotional trauma to keep you perched on the edge of your seat. Her raw vulnerability takes you on a journey that most women will find surprisingly relatable.

THE PORTRAIT pits hope against grief and science against the supernatural in a psychologically menacing manner.


Check out a clip below:


 

The Official Trailer for

THE PORTRAIT

 

Distributed By:

Saban Films

On VOD & Digital:

December 8, 2023

Directed By:

Simon Ross

Written By:

David Griffiths

Produced By:

Christian de Gallegos , David Griffiths

Starring:

Natalia Cordova-Buckley, Ryan Kwanten, Isidora Goreshter with Mark-Paul Gosselaar and Virginia Madsen

Rating:

R for violence, some sexual content, language and brief drug use

Run Time:

86 Minutes

Review: ‘DON’T SUCK’ – *sigh* If only.

PRESENTS THE NEW VAMPIRE COMEDY

DON’T SUCK

SYNOPSIS

Pete (Jamie Kennedy) believes that he has seen it all in his years as a road comic, that is until he meets his new killer opening act, a struggling comic qua vampire named Ethan (Matt Rife). During their time on the road, Pete fulfills his dream of becoming a comic’s comic.


DON’T SUCK follows a washed-up headliner and the newbie he agrees to mentor, who just so happens to be a vampire.

The film takes a solid 25 minutes for a genuine laugh, then weaves in and out of funny. Elyssa Mai is the perky and badass radio producer Carrie. She is a refreshing addition, as her delicious dialogue contrasts most of the script. Honestly, other than the following scene in the booth itself, the moments between Kennedy and Rife are the only watchable parts of the film. The numerous stand-up bits, some by well-known comics, are downright awful. Most of the jokes feel dated, misogynistic, and unfunny.

Jamie Kennedy plays Pete Brennan with a burnt-out, has-been energy, but there is an underlying reason for that. Listen closely for a perfect SCREAM reference. It’s probably the best joke in the script. Matt Rife is undeniably the best part of the film. Setting aside the controversy surrounding him as of late, DON’T SUCK would have been more enjoyable had they leaned more into Ethan’s history. Rife genuinely kills it in this role, even putting on a wonky affected accent. Somehow, it perfectly captures the oddly dour tone of the plot. You cannot take your eyes off him. His level of commitment deserves applause. The script needed vampire buddy comedy shenanigans in earnest. The possibilities were endless. As is, you might as well drive a stake through the heart of this film.


In Theaters & On Demand/Digital December 1, 2023

 

Distributor
VMI Worldwide

Starring
Jamie Kennedy, Matt Rife, Ellen Hollman, Russell Peters, Lauren Compton, Jimmie Walker, Jimmy Shubert, Scott ‘Carrot Top’ Thompson

Directed by
RJ Collins

Written by
Rick D’Elia

Run Time: 100 min  | Genre: Comedy, Horror


 

Review: ‘THE JOB OF SONGS’ brings light and legacy to adiences.

THE JOB OF SONGS

Tourists flock to the west coast of Ireland to take in the breathtaking Cliffs of Moher, but the real treasure lies in the soulful, acoustic sounds wafting out of pubs and living rooms of Doolin, County Clare. The denizens of this unspoiled coastal village of tight-knit neighbors and unlocked doors revel in the passion and history of their traditional folk songs, using music as a thread through generations to create community, connection, and joy.

Lila Schmitz brings audiences the magic of West Ireland through the melodies of the locals and the emotional pull of a tune. THE JOB OF SONGS is a toe-tapping, viscerally joyous film.

In Doolin, County Clare, Ireland, music is their heartbeat, their life breath. Ingrained in their blood and history, the musicians pass along tradition and history in their songs. It’s a personal look at the folks who bring their love of music to the community, thus creating one of their own. As any brand of artist, visual or performance, understands, sharing their gift with the world is survival of the soul. It is a cathartic experience of belonging and euphoria.

THE JOB OF SONGS explores the idea that songs convey truth, political messages, past lives, love, and lessons. It is a breezy celebration for music lovers and history buffs alike.


Gravitas Ventures will release the film on digital platforms on November 21, 2023.  The film has a running time of 74 minutes and will not be rated by the MPAA.

 

THE JOB OF SONGS was made by a crew of three women, who are first time feature filmmakers: LILA SCHMITZ (director, producer, editor), ANIKA KAN GREVSTAD (director of photography, producer), and FENGYI XU (producer).  The film was made with the support of acclaimed documentarians double Oscar-winning writer-producer-director Bill Guttentag and Emmy and Grammy Award winning documentarian Doug Pray.   The film has screened at numerous prestigious International Film Festivals including DOC NYC, Galway Film Fleadh, Newport Beach Film Festival, Rocky Mountain Women’s Film Festival, Milwaukee Film Festival, and many others.  It won Best International Documentary at the Galway Film Fleadh.


 

 

Review: Ira Rosensweig’s ‘SHARE?’ is one of the smartest genre films of the year

SHARE?

Disturbing, funny, and undeniably thrilling, SHARE? is an intriguing human experiment. The premise is slick, a mix of social commentary, the dystopian role of influencer culture, and the disease of instant gratification. The film opens with a man (Melvin Gregg), dubbed #14, in an empty room wearing nothing but a pair of underwear. Once he hears the ping of a rudimentary computer interface, SHARE? unfolds like gangbusters. 

Bradley Whitford is a veteran “participant” craving interaction. Each man gains knowledge from the other’s vastly different strategies for survival. Gregg discovers rewards flow when he either embarrasses or hurts himself. As one coaches the other, a mutually beneficial relationship develops. Alice Braga enters the scene as a woman on a mission, determined to find a way out. Her fiery passion counters Whitford’s stubbornness and Gregg’s growing popularity. When best intentions backfire, and another very influential participant butt heads with her, the consequences prove unthinkable. 

The performances are magnificent. Whitford’s energy is manic. It is like hypnotic live theatre. Alice Braga brings her usual fierceness, rattling the day-to-day flow of events. Melvin Gregg is a one-man show that gets better and better by the minute. His flawed vulnerability pulls you into this mesmerizing plot. He is magnificent. 

The first feature film to be shot entirely from one fixed camera angle, SHARE? is a wonder. The structure demands your undivided attention, as each captive, like Pavlov’s Dog, learns and responds to obtain food, water, clothing, nonessentials, and social interaction. Desperation, cancel culture, isolation, and voyeurism drive SHARE? headlong like a freight train and with a finale so fitting it’s breathtaking. You’ll scream at the screen.


ARRIVING IN SELECT THEATERS & ON DIGITAL AND VOD

NOVEMBER 10, 2023

 

SHARE?

Directed by: Ira Rosensweig

Screenplay by: Benjamin Sutor

Story by: Ira Rosensweig & Benjamin Sutor

Producers: Carissa Buffel, Kevin Matusow, Ira Rosensweig

Country of Origin: USA

Language: English

Genre: Sci-fi Mystery

Distributor: XYZ Films

Cast: Melvin Gregg (The Way Back, The Blackening), Bradley Whitford (Get Out, The Handmaid’s Tale), Alice Braga (The Suicide Squad, Hypnotic), 

Danielle Campbell (Tell Me a Story)

 

OPENING IN SELECT THEATERS ON NOVEMBER 10th

AND NATIONWIDE ON DIGITAL / VOD

NYC: Alamo Drafthouse, Lower Manhattan, November 6th (one night only)

Philadelphia: PFS Bourse Theater – November 7th (one night only)

Chicago: Alamo Drafthouse, November 8th (one night only)

Austin: Alamo Drafthouse, November 9th (one night only)

San Francisco: Alamo Drafthouse, November 10th

Los Angeles: Arena Cinelounge November 10th (full week run)

Los Angeles: Alamo Drafthouse DTLA, November 11th

Richmond, VA: BTM Movieland at Boulevard Sq, Richmond, VA, November 10th

Columbia, SC: BTM Dutch Square Cinema 14, Columbia, SC, November 10th

Oaks, PA: Oaks Center Cinema, November 10th


 

Review: ‘The Hive’ comes to Cable and Digital VOD tomorrow.

THE HIVE

Albie and Penny, a young couple with a failing marriage, try to rekindle the fire by having a night out by themselves. To make matters worse, the couple returns home to armed strangers. With no help from their neighbors or law enforcement, they attempt to get evidence of the intrusion. They’re captured by the intruders and tortured for information. There’s no hope until Albie escapes and saves Penny. So hellbent on revenge, he puts their marriage on the line. Unfortunately, all help has been compromised and there’s nowhere to run.


With a flailing marriage and erratic home invaders, THE HIVE has all the elements of a solid Twilight Zone-inspired feature. But this indie is more of a buzzkill.

The Hive still 2The performances swing widely. The score, while fine on its own, doesn’t match the over-the-top portrayals of everyone beyond Penny and Albie. Even Timothy Haug and Christine Griffin give us lackluster chemistry.

The set is not a house in which two small children reside. While the script states they’ve only been in their new home for two weeks, there isn’t a single toy on the floor or family portrait on the mantle, just a couple of balls in the backyard. But, an array of greeting cards hang on shuddered closet doors. Nothing makes sense.

The plot is glaringly apparent to everyone but Albie and Penny. Once revealed an hour and ten minutes into the runtime, the fact that our invaders have to explain and then begin to bicker while the score ramps up its intensity, things get increasingly eye-roll-inducing. I think there is supposed to be some overarching social commentary, but the film lost me, somehow flipping from thriller to comedy, and I wasn’t sure if that was the film’s intent.

Despite the classic sci-fi concept, THE HIVE could have been a 15-minute short.

The Hive will hatch on Cable and Digital VOD on October 27th, including Prime Video, Vudu, Vubiquity, Cox, and Comcast.

Review: Jeremy Pion-Berlin’s ‘Failure To Protect’ exposes a very flawed CPS system.

FAILURE TO PROTECT

FAILURE TO PROTECT follows five parents – Anna, Trish, Rheta, Ernst, and Rosa – as they fight desperately to reunify with their children taken by Child Protective Services (CPS). It’s an unwavering and nuanced look at the child welfare system where criminals have more rights than parents.

 The families’ stories showcase the variety of circumstance that can lead to a child’s removal from the home, as well as the trials and tribulations that inevitably follow. The cases are as complex as they are tragic. They include histories of mental illness, as well as allegations of abuse, neglect, and trauma. Parents are pitted against their own children and each other. Along the way, the parents fight to clear their names, and prove their fitness as guardians.

Through these highly personal stories, we explore many tough questions, such as do parents whose personal struggles compromised their children’s safety deserve a second chance? Is the CPS system biased against minorities, LGBTQIA+ couples, and the economically disadvantaged? To avoid leaving a child in an abusive or dangerous environment, do social workers remove children first and ask questions later?  The film offers an unprecedented, in-depth window into the grim realities of the child welfare system through the often ignored perspective of parents.

The families are eclectic. All shapes, sizes, races, ages, and socioeconomic backgrounds face the challenges of reuniting parents and children. Allegations range from neglect to sexual abuse. Each case is unique, and the system does not exist to react to those nuances.

The film features interviews with parents recounting the circumstances/allegations that caused their children’s removal and social workers explaining how the system functions. Civil rights lawyers and judges speak to the lessened burden of proof concerning children. The film illuminates the parent’s rights, most of whom have no idea they exist. Bodycam footage of children’s removal and news clips of the death of kids in foster care tear your heart out.

The amount of unresolved and generational trauma involved in these cases will not surprise you, but the manufacturing of “facts” by social workers will. When you hear “The Right To Lie” case, your jaw will drop to the floor. Or expletives come bursting forth. *raises hand* Netflix‘s TAKE CARE OF MAYA is a terrific companion film to FAILURE TO PROTECT. Each film shines a light on the faults in the family services system. While the film features a variety of families, the racial biases are pervasive. This eye-opening doc pulls no punches. It puts everyone in the hot seat.

FAILURE TO PROTECT l Official Trailer l from Jeremy Pion-Berlin on Vimeo.


OPENING ON DIGITAL PLATFORMS ON OCTOBER 17

FAILURE TO PROTECT was directed, produced, and edited by Jeremy Pion-Berlin.  It was executive-produced by Jordan Savage, Devon CollinsLisa Pion-Berlin, Jeff Porter, and Sgt. Major Keith L. Craig.  It has a running time of 98 minutes and will not be rated by the MPAA.  The film has screened at numerous prestigious film festivals including Phoenix Film Festival, Julien Dubuque International Film Festival, Atlanta Docufest, and Doc Boston, and has won numerous awards includingBest of Fest“ at Frozen River Film Festival, “Best Documentary” and “Best Director” at Oceanside International Film Festival, “Audience Choice Award” at Atlanta Docufest, “Best Director Documentary” and “Audience Choice Award” at First Glance Film Festival Los Angeles, “Best US Documentary Film” at Doc. Boston, among other awards. FAILURE TO PROTECT will be released on digital platforms by Porter+Craig Film & Media on October 17.

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@failure_to_protect


 

Review: Adam Ellis’ viral Twitter thread moves from phone screens to movie screens in John McPhail’s ‘DEAR DAVID.’

SYNOPSIS: Shortly after comic artist Adam (Augustus Prew) responds to Internet trolls, he begins experiencing sleep paralysis — while an empty rocking chair moves in the corner of his apartment. As he chronicles increasingly malevolent occurrences in a series of tweets, Adam begins to believe he is being haunted by the ghost of a dead child named David. Encouraged by his boss to continue the “Dear David” thread, Adam starts to lose his grip on what is online…and what is real. Based on the viral Twitter thread by BuzzFeed comic artist Adam Ellis.

Director John McPhail and screenwriter Mike Van Waes had the tricky job of taking Adam Ellis‘ real-life viral Twitter feed and translating it for the big screen. If you don’t know the “Dear David” story, let me sum it up. Cartoonist Adam Ellis starts to document the haunting of his apartment. Things get weirder each night, culminating in photographs of this little boy with a caved-in skull dropping onto Adam’s bed. It was truly terrifying reading the thread. I remember sweating as the incidents became creepier and more intense. It was an honest-to-goodness viral moment. This week, DEAR DAVID moves from small screens to movie screens, and the results are mostly comparable.

In his supporting role, scream king Justin Long is Buzzfeed’s deliciously douchey editor. You love to hate him. But the film hinges on the likeability and overall effectiveness of Augustus Prew as Adam. Prew does a fantastic job of charming us. He is relatable in a way that caught me off guard. I can only imagine Adam Ellis being proud of his portrayal regardless of how accurate it is to real life.

The film boasts amazingly timed jump scares. Let’s give a brilliant slow clap for editors David Arthur and Glenn Garland. The script is especially relevant in our ongoing age of vitriolic online engagement. It is also a mystery wrapped in a horror movie, using a personal connection about self-worth. If you know the Dear David canon, it might be better to separate the two. Did I shout with glee when the original “David” drawing appeared? Yup. If I’m being entirely honest, the climax feels a touch hokey, but the final scene brings some redemption. DEAR DAVID is inarguably intriguing. I needed to know how McPhail would expand upon the genuinely disturbing origin material, so there’s no denying I was along for the ride. Genre fans will eat this up.

Terror Goes Viral

 

Lionsgate will distribute the horror film DEAR DAVID in select Theaters, On Digital and On Demand on October 13th which is a co-production by Lionsgate and Buzzfeed Studios.

 

The film stars Augustus Prew (“The Morning Show”), Andrea Bang (“A Million Little Things”), Rene Escobar Jr. (Neon Lights), Cameron Nicoll (Slumberland) and Justin Long (Barbarian). The film was co-produced by BuzzFeed Studios and directed by John McPhail (Anna and the Apocalypse). The film was written by Mike Van Waes in his feature film debut based on a story by Waes and Evan Turner (The Out-Laws). 


Review: ‘VINDICTA’ is more convoluted than clever.

VINDICTA

Between violent protesters and a serial killer on the loose, Sean McNamara‘s VINDICTA is a tale of revenge that leaves a trail of bodies and plenty of deja vu.

Following the death of her mother and in her father’s footsteps, Lou dreams of becoming a firefighter EMT. On her first night on the job, things go haywire when she and her colleagues become the targets of a killer.

Jeremy Piven plays Lou’s super supportive father, Patrick. But his past puts his daughter in direct sight of the killer. Piven is fantastic. He is a master at his craft, no doubt. Elena Kampouris plays Lou with a solid balance of unresolved trauma and tenacity. She does her best within the convoluted premise to keep us emotionally invested. She deserved to show off more of her physical badassery. I could see her owning a post-apocalyptic role with ease. The film’s best scenes are the climatic mano-a-mano battles.

It is not an exaggeration to say I yelled, “Oh Shit,” following the first kill. I must hand it to McNamara here, as each is different and brutal. However, the film has an overreaching Saw (in its superfluous middle sequels) vibe, both in its performances and overly complicated premise. The killer wears a David mask and scrawls Latin phrases on the walls, placing sporadic traps and puzzles, which culminates in a need to, quite literally, explain the motive. VINDICTA is sort of an amalgamation of past films. Watch it for Kampouris, but a sequel should not be entertained.

In Select Theatres and Available to Buy On Digital
October 6, 2023

DIRECTED BY: Sean McNamara

STORY BY: Steven Paul

SCREENPLAY BY: Ian Neligh

STARRING: Elena Kampouris, Sean Astin and Jeremy Piven

EXECUTIVE PRODUCED BY: Scott Karol and Charles Cooper

PRODUCED BY: Steven Paul

DISTRIBUTED BY: Paramount Global Content Distribution

GENRE: Horror, Thriller

RATING: R for violence and gore, language and brief drug material

SYNOPSIS:
When a city is terrorized by a sadistic serial killer, a seasoned detective and a newly recruited paramedic are forced into a deadly game of vengeance, only to discover the key to stopping the bloodshed lies in unlocking the truth of their own haunted pasts. Elena Kampouris (Children of the Corn), Sean Astin (The Lord of the Rings franchise), and Jeremy Piven (Entourage) star in this edge-of-your-seat thriller from the director of On a Wing and a Prayer.

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Review: Jacqueline Castel’s ‘MY ANIMAL’ is the small-town sapphic monster movie we all needed.

MY ANIMAL

Heather, an outcast teenage goalie, falls for newcomer Jonny, an alluring but tormented figure skater. As their relationship deepens, Heather’s growing desires clash with her darkest secret, forcing her to control the animal within.

Jacqueline Castel gives us an incredibly nuanced and modern twist on the classic monster movie.  Heather is already a loner, with small-town gossip labeling her damaged goods based on her mother’s alcoholism. The film opens with a fantastic backstory of that scenario. One of the most intriguing aspects of the family dynamic has to be the calm acceptance of the curse but the loathsome attitude towards Heather’s sexuality. This clever dichotomy deepens our emotional investment in her happiness. MY ANIMAL transfixes with an almost slow-burn feel and the lack of gore. 

Stephen McHattie, a genre legend, plays Heather’s dedicated father, Henry. He is genuinely caring, encouraging, and a brilliant addition to this film. It’s a lovely turn. Amandla Stenberg plays Jonny with a fiery energy. She has an effortlessly commanding presence. Bobbi Salvör Menuez gives Heather award-worthy vulnerability. They bring fearless intention from beginning to end. Their chemistry with Stenberg is organic, keeping the audience emotionally invested.

Augustus Muller‘s synth-heavy score serves a dual purpose in establishing the period and eliciting an ominous horror vibe. The constant presence of red gel lighting and the handheld camerawork are hypnotizing. The film has one of the most erotic and masterfully crafted love scenes. Bravo to intimacy coordinator Mimi Côté. MY ANIMAL is a slick metaphor for the isolation and ostracization of small-town LGBTQIA+ individuals. Horror elements aside, being different might feel like a curse some days. MY ANIMAL shows the power of owning one’s individuality.


MY ANIMAL is in select Theaters on September 8, 2023 and on Digital September 15, 2023.


DIRECTED BY: Jacqueline Castel
WRITTEN BY: Jae Matthews
PRODUCED BY: Andrew Bronfman, Michael Solomon
CAST: Bobbi Salvör Menuez, Amandla Stenberg, Heidi von Palleske, Cory Lipman, Charlie & Harrison Halpenny, Joe Apollonio, Scott Thompson, Dean McDermott and Stephen McHattie

SYNOPSIS: Bobbi Salvör Menuez (Euphoria) and Amandla Stenberg (Bodies Bodies Bodies) ignite in this genre-bending supernatural love story. Tormented by a hidden family curse, Heather is forced to live a secluded life on the outskirts of a small town. When she falls for the rebellious Jonny, their connection threatens to unravel Heather’s suppressed desires, tempting her to unleash the animal within.


RUN TIME: 103 minutes
RATING: R for language throughout, sexual content, nudity, some drug use and violence
GENRE: Horror, Romance
DISTRIBUTOR: Paramount Global Content Distribution


 

Review: Yellow Veil brings Youssef Chebbi’s mysterious ‘Ashkal: The Tunisian Investigation’ to cinemas

Ashkal: The Tunisian Investigation

ASHKAL: THE TUNISIAN INVESTIGATION poster

Set amongst derelict, half-finished apartment complexes of a former regime, the discovery of a mysterious burnt body by two police officers reveals a puzzling repetition of events. As the investigation progresses, a network of violence and corruption is uncovered throughout the city.


Cinematographer Hazem Berrabah offers striking juxtaposing visuals of sheep grazing on open fields next to grey concrete structures. Half-built complexes with their innumerable exposed rebar present like monsters bearing sharp teeth and long claws. 

The defiance by detectives keeps your attention steady. No one wants to be told they cannot do their job. Performances from stars Fatma Oussaifi and Mohamed Houcine Grayaa are spellbinding. Their moody and grounded work feels personal and devastating. Oussaifi’s reaction to the overwhelming amount of misogyny hits hard. The writing is hard to shake, a compliment for writer-director Youssef Chebbi and co-writer François-Michel Allegrini.

US audiences who love TRUE DETECTIVE will love this film. This allegory for the return of self-immolation as a revolutionary protest engages a supernatural element that keeps the audience transfixed on the story. Ashkal: The Tunisian Investigation has completely unexpected, bold storytelling leaving you with more questions than answers. Do not miss it.

 

Theatrical Rollout
August 18th: NYC (Roxy Cinemas)
August 18th: LA (American Cinematheque Los Feliz, Lumiere Music Hall)
September 1st: Boulder (Dairy Center)
September 8th: Chicago (Music Box)

Digital
August 22nd
 

 

Director: Youssef Chebbi

Writer: François-Michel Allegrini, Youssef Chebbi
Producer: Farès Ladjimi
Cast: Fatma Oussaifi, Mohamed Houcine Grayaa, Aymen Ben Hmida
Festivals: Cannes Director’s Fortnight, Toronto International Film Festival, Beyond Fest

92 MIN / 2022 / TUNISIA, FRANCE, QATAR / ARABIC, FRENCH / THRILLER, HORROR

Trailer Drop: Marcel Walz’s Giallo slasher ‘THAT’S A WRAP’ reveals a bloody final cut.

Quiver LogoTHAT’S A WRAP

THAT'S A WRAP - PosterAward-winning director Marcel Walz’s upcoming horror/thriller THAT’S A WRAP is scheduled to release on digital platforms on August 25th, 2023 from Quiver Distribution. Cerina Vincent (Cabin Fever), Monique T. Parent (Jurassic City), Sarah French (Space Wars: The Quest for Deepstar), Gigi Gustin (The Retaliators), and Dave Sheridan (The Devil’s Rejects) star in a film written by Joe Knetter and Robert L. Lucas.
The cast of a film arrive to a wrap party, but someone has dressed up as the slasher in the film, and begins to stage their own kill scenes. One by one, the cast disappear until the true nature of the evening is revealed.


WATCH THE TRAILER:

 

ON DIGITAL AUGUST 25

STARRING
Cerina Vincent, Monique T.Parent, Sarah French, Gigi Gustin, Dave Sheridan

DIRECTED BY
Marcel Walz

Joe Knetter, Marcel Walz, and Sarah French produce, with BJ Mezek, Andreas Tremmel, Justus Heinz, Yazid Benfeghoul, Tina Limbeck, Robert L. Lucas, and Kai E. Bogatzki executive producing.


Says director Walz (Blind, Pretty Boy), “I’m so excited to have a colorful Giallo slasher as the first movie from our own production company, Neon Noir. Everyone involved in this project brought so much love and talent to the table and made the whole process from start to finish something special. I know the audience will see the love in the end product. My favorite film of all time is Wes Craven’s Scream. That’s a Wrap is a fun meta-slasher that showcases my love for that series of films combined with my love of Ryan Murphy’s American Horror Story. As a gay director, I’m thrilled to have an opportunity to have LGBTQ characters represented in the film. One even plays a key part in a scene that will no doubt get people talking about how that kill is something they’ve never seen before. It’s so ridiculous. I love it.”

ON DIGITAL AUGUST 25



Blood In The Snow (2021) compelling thriller, ‘PEPPERGRASS’ comes to digital tomorrow. (6/16/23)

PEPPERGRASS

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 the horror I was expecting from the 2021 edition of Blood in The Snow, but it is, nonetheless, intriguing as hell. You must have patience during the first third is heavy character-building. While 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 goal proves a more complicated 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 predominantly real-time fashion, the audience watches her physically and emotionally tap out at 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.

The score, at times, is this curious mix of ominous whimsy and borderline grating organ tones. It begs your attention. 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.


Coming to digital June 16 (US/Canada)

Review: ‘MOTION DETECTED’ has a solid concept but a glitchy execution.

MOTION DETECTED

Eva narrowly escaped being murdered during a recent terrifying home invasion in Mexico City. She and her husband decide to relocate to Los Angeles where she can recuperate. But when her husband has to travel for business, she’s left alone in an unfamiliar place and suffering from paranoia. She’s consoled by the smart home security system, but the technology is difficult to master and she starts to wonder if it will actually keep her safe or take over her life.


MOTION DETECTED relies entirely on Natasha Esca‘s performance as Eva. Her descent into madness goes from 75 to 200 very quickly. A moment with wine is, perhaps, a touch over the top. Esca shines brightest when speaking Spanish. It’s her most natural delivery.

I understand the need for lighting, but the nighttime bedroom scenes appear overlit. That aside, the set is gorgeous. This LA mansion has all the architectural features to swoon over. Using what appear to be Ring video clips to create palpable fear is a slick device, and the subplot of trauma heightens the stakes.

The film struggles with picking a storytelling lane. Eva’s PTSD and (*spoiler alert*) the haunted alarm system conflict more than they mesh. The idea that Diablo might manifest your greatest fears to lure you in needs a better narrative anchor in the film’s opening scene. Overall, the notion of tech knowing too much about us at every moment is a solid starting point. We can all relate to using some version of an AI assistant. The meat is on the bone in MOTION DETECTED, but it is a tad undercooked, in my opinion.

Motion Detected world premiered at the 2022 Dances With Films Festival and debuted on Cable VOD and Digital HD, including iTunes, Amazon, Vudu, Comcast and Verizon, May 19, 2023.


Trailer Drop: Sean O’Reilly’s animated fantasy ‘HEROES OF THE GOLDEN MASK’ is coming this June.

Patton Oswalt (“Veronica Mars”, The Secret Life of Pets 2), Ron Perlman ( Transformers: Rise of the Beasts, Hellboy), and, in his final performance, the late Christopher Plummer star in Heroes of the Golden Mask, coming to this June from Gravitas Ventures.

Inspired by the ancient bronze masks of Sanxingdui discovered on the archaeological site of Guanghan in the Sichuan Province in the late ‘80s, director Sean O’Reilly’s adventure-packed animated treat centers on Charlie, a wise-cracking, homeless, American orphan who is magically transported to the ancient Chinese kingdom of Sanxingdui, where a colorful team of superheroes need his help to defend the city from a brutal conqueror. Charlie joins the heroes, and secretly schemes to steal the priceless golden masks that grant them their powers.

Heroes of the Golden Masks will premiere on digital June 9 from Gravitas Ventures.

 

Produced by CG Bros Entertainment, Arcana Studios, and Golden Image Cultural Communication Inc, Heroes of the Golden Masks also features the voices of Natasha Liu Bordizzo (Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon : Sword of Destiny), Byron Mann (Skyscraper), Osric Chau (2012), Kiefer O’Reilly (“The Mighty Ducks : Game Changers”), and director Reilly.


News- Coming to Digital June 6th, with select theatrical screenings: Sex sells in new documentary ‘ALL MAN: The International Male Story’ how one “It” catalog introduced lifestyle branding for men.

All Man:
The International Male Story

The following is our original Tribeca Film Festival 2022 coverage:

The impact of men’s fashion takes center stage in Tribeca 2022 doc ALL MAN: THE INTERNATIONAL MALE STORY. One innovative catalog gave men the freedom to be themselves. Its global and cultural influence spans generations like no other men’s fashion publication. In building International Male, Gene Burkard’s emphasis wasn’t on sex, even if the catalog featured chiseled men in high fashion. He and his creative team broke the mold of selling menswear while pushing a lifestyle brand. In the same way men ogle Victoria’s Secret, International Male became a household object to covet for innumerable reasons. 

Matt Bomer‘s narration adds a brilliant touch of nostalgia in a way that is hard to describe until you experience it for yourself. The film uses archival footage and photography, sit-down interviews, and creative transitional animation. The catalog was bright, smart, and sexy, and gave men something to aspire to be. It challenged the idea of masculinity with its European-inspired fashion and copy, written by Gene. He was meticulous in his work ethic, taking customer feedback and recognizing that 75% of their shoppers were women. Watching the images from the catalogs made me want to order (almost) every single article of clothing for my husband. Gene clearly understood the broad appeal. If International Male existed today, I’d be begging them to take my money. 

Everything shifted for International Male once the AIDS epidemic touched the employees and the world. Gene sold the catalog, and the new creative directors were more hesitant to hire queer staff, in fact, firing a huge percentage of them. In the 90s, the positive changes came in the form of more models of color. But with the loss of gay buyers and department stores filled with men’s retail, International Male was no longer a cash cow. But it’s easy to see how the catalog catapulted our current influencers in pop culture with the freedom to express themselves on a gender spectrum now celebrated across the globe. So, thank you, International Male. You made a difference while allowing us to drool.

ON DIGITAL June 6, 2023
Select Theatrical Screenings to be announced

Written and Produced by Peter Jones
Directed and Produced by Bryan Darling & Jesse Finley Reed
83 minutes / Not Rated / English / 2022 / Documentary


ABOUT THE FILM
ALL MAN: The International Male Story journeys across three decades of the catalog’s unlikely but lasting impact on fashion, masculinity, and sexuality in America. Gene Burkard, a once-closeted Midwesterner and GI, found freedom in San Diego, where he transformed men’s fashion into something cosmopolitan, carefree, and trend-setting. International Male reached gay and straight customers alike as it redefined images of masculinity in popular culture, generating revenue and circulation in the millions.

This character-driven documentary crafts a portrait of a band of outsiders who changed the way men would look – at themselves, at each other, and how the world would look at them. This is their story – a modern day fairy tale about a dream that really did come true.