Grimmfest (2021) review: ‘The Free Fall’ lands a win with unexpected storytelling.

THE FREE FALL

Sara wakes from a coma to a life she doesn’t remember; a fragile, slippery reality that spirals into a nightmare where nothing is as it seems.


Boasting a bloody good opening, Adam Stillwell‘s The Free Fall is brimming with sinister intent. The set is a genre fan’s funhouse. During the title sequence, the camera explores the rooms with sweeping POV shots, placing the viewer on a haunting tour of the space. The house is vast, dark wood from ceiling to floor, art, and jewel-toned furnishings create both a warm and eerie feel. You know this house, and you anticipate evil in its halls.

Shawn Ashmore and Andrea Londo have a chemistry that remains at arm’s length. Londo plays Sarah with an overwhelming sense of anxiety shared openly with the audience. She commands with her innocence. Shawn Ashmore, as Nick, is cocksure and manipulative. There’s something off about his behavior. Ashmore makes you just as uncomfortable as Sarah. His commitment to the arc of Nick’s character is awesome.

Screenwriter Kent Harper‘s use of gaslighting and genre tropes keeps the audience guessing. You’ll need to understand what the hell is happening. There is a dinner party scene that has a cultish overtone. The transitions in this scene, score in particular, change the dynamic of the entire film. From that moment on, theories will wrack your brain. You will not see where this is going. When all is said and done, The Free Fall is a twisty mindfuck.



[Available October 16, 2021, 1:30 – 11:30 PM] Watch now online…


Review: In ‘Pharma Bro’ Martin Shkreli Lives Up to His Reputation as “The Most Hated Man in America”

PHARMA BRO

Martin Shkreli, the 38-year-old financial entrepreneur and pharmaceutical tycoon from Brooklyn, New York, was dubbed “the most hated man in America” by the media after he rose to infamy in 2015 for price gouging the prescription drug Daraprim by 5500% overnight depriving patients of the life-saving medication. That same year, Shkreli purchased the Wu-Tang Clan’s single copy of “Once Upon a Time in Shaolin” for 2 million dollars, and was arrested for securities fraud, eventually resulting in the subsequent forfeiture of the album and recent reselling of it by the U.S. government to an anonymous buyer to pay off Shkreli’s debt. He has gained notoriety for his unchecked online presence, which was ultimately his downfall and sent him to prison, where he continues to provoke the public with bombastic declarations about finding a cure for the virus which has upended the world, Covid-19.


This was hard to watch. The documentary PharmaBro: An In-Depth Look at “The Most Hated Man in America” is exactly what it sounds like– an approximately 90 minute deep dive into a man so profoundly unlikeable that despite filmmaker Brent Hodge’s best efforts to develop a nuanced character study, Martin Shkreli remains a nihilistic cartoon until the end. Shkreli is the rare kind of person that is who you think he is: a prolific online troll that thrives off of controversy, leans into his worst impulses, and utilizes notoriety as a springboard to fame. 

Martin Shkreli – AKA Pharma Bro
Credit: Nigel Parry

Martin Shkreli’s utter lack of redeeming qualities, unfortunately, makes the rest of the film fall flat. It is impossible to care that his Livestream fans think he’s the victim of a witch hunt, particularly because the same community aided and abetted such severe harassment of Teen Vogue journalist Lauren Duca that Shkreli became one of the first high profile accounts permanently banned from Twitter. Trump-era horror show Milo Yiannopoulos, a personal friend of Shkreli’s, has multiple confessionals in a bizarre and distasteful addition. Somehow, even the feud with the Wu-Tang clan misses the mark.

The most interesting parts of this film confront and analyze what Shkreli did. While renowned for his ethically vapid pharmaceutical drug pricing, ultimately, he was convicted of securities fraud stemming from multiple Ponzi schemes. I would love to know more about the actual crime that caught up to him at last, and I am fascinated by the concept of an “orphan drug” hedge fund market. What under-the-radar mad capitalist is leading that industry now? Has the government conducted subsequent investigations or drafted new regulations? Is there an activist movement? Alas, those questions are left unanswered.


Available On Digital Platforms For Rent or Purchase Tomorrow, October 5, 2021


Directed by Brent Hodge (A Brony Tale, I Am Chris Farley, Freaks and Geeks: The Documentary)
Produced by Blumhouse Television and Hodgee Films

Featuring:
Martin Shkreli

Wu-Tang Clan’s Ghostface Killah
Musical artist and friend of Shkreli, Billy The Fridge 
Journalist Christie Smythe
Shkreli Defense Attorney Ben Brafman

Review: ‘PRISONERS OF THE GHOSTLAND’ sees Nic Cage paired up with director Sion Sono in some fantastic weirdness.

PRISONERS OF THE GHOSTLAND

PRISONERS OF THE GHOSTLAND is set in the treacherous frontier city of Samurai Town where a ruthless bank robber (Cage) is sprung from jail by wealthy warlord The Governor (Moseley), whose adopted granddaughter Bernice (Boutella) has gone missing. The Governor offers the prisoner his freedom in exchange for retrieving the runaway. Strapped into a leather suit that will self-destruct within three days, the bandit sets off on a journey to find the young woman—and his own path to redemption.


Is this another out-of-this-world Nic Cage movie? Duh. Is it like watching a graphic novel and an episode of MST3K, all at once?! Yup. Overall, the screenplay features the smallest bit of backstory, and perhaps an homage to films like Return To Oz, Mad Max, and even The Wiz. There is so much happening in this wild story. I would not be angry if sequels popped up sooner rather than later. I have so many questions about this world that I’d even love a prequel! Give me all the whacked-out colorful silliness that is Prisoners of The Ghostland. I demand a franchise.

Bill Moseley is a genre giant. While my favorite role happens to be from Repo! The Genetic Opera, he’s undeniably awesome as The Governor. It is no surprise that his iconic voice makes for an entrancing watch. I love everything about this man. Sofia Boutella, who was fantastic in Settlers, absolutely holds her own against the chaos of the film and Cage. Her presence is glowing, and this performance is phenomenal. How is Nic Cage so effortlessly cool? This is one of life’s great mysteries. He’s in his element among the strange that is Prisoners of The Ghostland. This might as well be a double feature with Willy’s Wonderland. Hell, it could be the same character in an alternate dimension. You’re either a fan of Cage, or you’re wrong.

This film’s visual is all about vibrant color. Your eyes dart everywhere in an attempt to take in every detail. Joseph Trapanese’s score is gorgeous. You will not be able to ignore it. The costumes are wild, and the set dressing is bewildering. Prisoners of The Ghostland is a genre-defying spectacle. It’s captivating in its eccentricity. It deserves to be viewed on the largest possible screen. You’ve never seen anything like this film. The story is completely disjointed at times, but that’s not a reason to write this off. Will I watch this again because it’s destined to be a cult favorite? You know it.


RLJE Films will release PRISONERS OF THE GHOSTLAND on September 17, 2021, in theaters, on VOD, and Digital.

The film made its world premiere at this year’s Sundance Film Festival.


Directed by the acclaimed Japanese director, Sion Sono (Why Don’t You Play in Hell), the film was written by Aaron Hendry and Rexa Sixo Safai (Western Wonderland).  The film stars Nicolas Cage (Mandy), Sofia Boutella (The Mummy), Nick Cassavetes (Face/Off), Bill Moseley (Texas Chainsaw Franchise), Tak Sakaguchi (Tokyo Tribe), and Yuzuka Nakaya (The Forest of Love). Joseph Trapanese (Tron: Legacy, The Raid: Redemption, The Greatest Showman) composed the original score.


vhjv bleeper

Review: ‘SHELTER IN PLACE’ is a slow burn lockdown horror.

SHELTER IN PLACE

SYNOPSIS: A honeymooning couple gets stranded at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel and learns that there is more to fear than just cabin fever.


“What’s out there, is scarier than what’s in here,” sound like famous last words. Shelter in Place has a relatable setup, especially considering the past 18 months. There’s an empty hotel, a newlywed couple, two hotel staff, and a whole lot of questions. Jonathan and Sara have an enormous chip on their shoulders as they are in quarantine in the beautiful Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel. Sara is an influencer and David moves money around. They fill their time wandering the halls of the hotel, taking advantage of the two staff members, and snooping in places they should not be. Consumed with the boredom and getting on one another’s nerves, Sara finally realizes something is amiss in this luxurious and lifeless hotel.

Ty is the general manager of the hotel, with the patience of a saint. Kevin Daniels plays him immaculately. I think he’s the most nuanced character. Daniels is a star. I’d watch him in anything. Adela is the overly attentive maid from Poland. There’s big Season 1 of American Horror Story energy coming from her. Actress Ola Kaminska gives it her all. She’s eerie as hell. Jonathan is played by Brendan Hines. He’s pretty punchable, super douche, and I do mean that as a compliment. Tatjana Marjanovic is Sara. She’s strong in her emotional journey and has all the makings of a scream queen.

The editing and cinematography are noticeably effective in allowing you to feel trapped and isolated. The use of red lighting is ominous and consuming. Directed and written by Chris Beyrooty and Connor Martin, the screenplay has Sara run out of the medication she’s taking, leading to panic attacks. The realism factor of a couple in lockdown allows Shelter in Place to push genre boundaries. It is anything but your typical genre film. There is some powerfully mean dialogue that will sound familiar to anyone in a relationship crisis. Just when you think the narrative hits a lull, you are reminded that something is very wrong here. While the final 15 minutes is heart-pounding, ultimately I haven’t a damn clue what Shelter In Place‘s ending really means. It’s a lot of successful, slow-burn build-up for a payoff that could have gone a million different directions. I’m not sure this was the right turn.


WATCH THE TRAILER: 

1091 Pictures will release the horror film SHELTER IN PLACE on VOD and Digital on September 14, 2021.

Directed and Written by Chris Beyrooty and Connor MartinSHELTER IN PLACE stars Brendan Hines (The Tick, Lie to Me), Tatjana Marjanovic (Great White, Purgatory), Kevin Daniels (Atypical, Modern Family, The Big Leap), Ola Kaminska (The Madness Within), and Jey Reynolds.


Review: ‘APARTMENT 413’ is a horror-filled heartbreaker.

APARTMENT 413


Marco spends his days applying for jobs online and waiting for Dana, his pregnant girlfriend, to get home. Strange post-it notes mysteriously appear around the apartment with cryptic warnings. A mechanic texts and calls him with menacing messages from an old non-functioning cell phone. The walls close in and tensions build between Marco and Dana’s relationship until all sense of safety dwindles as the lines between imagined and reality blur for both Marco and the audience. When Marco discovers the root of it all, his real problems begin.


Right as the screen faded to black, I realized how smart this script is. Apartment 413 starts with a bang. Slowly, we are introduced to the dynamic between the apartment’s newest tenants, Dana and Marco. With a baby on the way, Marco is desperately trying to find a job. Dana is gone all day, at work herself, but comes home with loving arms and encouragement for the future. As Marco continually fails to get interviews, strange notes begin to show up on their front door. A mysterious cellphone rings incessantly, sending Marco vile texts. No matter what he does, he cannot seem to escape the things he’s seeing or feeling. Can he keep his family and sanity intact?

One of my favorite scream queen-writer-directors, Brea Grant, plays Dana. Because of the ever-evolving nature of Marco’s predicament, Grant is allowed to play the entire emotional spectrum. Her nonchalant chemistry with Saenz is astounding. Nicholas Saenz is impeccably engaging. The film’s success hinges on his likability. Much like the script, his performance has more of an impact once the credits roll. The film takes place almost exclusively inside the small apartment. This set is a tight squeeze that the audience feels just as much as Marco. Saenz gives us his all. It’s a dizzying and heartbreaking performance. Screenwriter Ron Meade gives us all the breadcrumbs along the way. They’re so slyly distributed. Along with anxiety of job searching, feelings of inadequacy, and isolation, Apartment 413 is a slow burn psychological horror that punches you in the gut. As that final puzzle piece falls into place, it turns out this is one of the most disturbing films I’ve seen in a while.


Trailer
Terror Films presents APARTMENT 413 on Digital Download September 17

Nicholas Saenz (“American Crime”), Brea Grant (“Beyond the Gates”), and Dave Buckner star in Matt Patterson’s unnerving APARTMENT 413, premiering On Digital this September from Terror Films.


Review: IFCMidnight’s ‘WE NEED TO DO SOMETHING’ lets your imagination do a lot of the terrorizing.

WE NEED TO DO SOMETHING

After Melissa and her family seek shelter from a storm, they become trapped. With no sign of rescue, hours turn to days and Melissa comes to realize that she and her girlfriend Amy might have something to do with the horrors that threaten to tear her family – and the entire world, apart.


This is perhaps, one of the most batshit premises for a horror film I’ve seen in a very long time. That is one hell of a compliment. Innuendo sneaks in from the beginning, and while you can grasp Melissa’s guilt, never in a million years will you expect We Need To Do Something to unfold in the manner it does. That is the absolute genius of this script. Except for a handful of flashbacks, the entire film takes place inside the family bathroom. Terror arrives in many forms throughout this film. One of the most shocking is the progressive violence from Pat Healy‘s character, Robert. If you want to see a character study of epic proportions, Healy has got you covered. He begins as a disgruntled husband and selfish father, eventually succumbing to forces both inside and out. It’s a maniacal performance.
Sierra McCormick, who I believe was the best part of American Horror Stories, nails it again. Her anxiety is palpable, and she is unafraid to leave it all onscreen. If she isn’t the next genre darling, I’ll be shocked. The script does a great job of highlighting the awkwardness, the lack of privacy, and the growing tension under duress. Who wants to use the toilet in front of your family? Screenwriter Max Booth III provides us with a sharp left turn a third of the way in. The gasp and look of horror on my face must have been hideous. No matter how I assumed this story would play out, that one moment is so mind-blowing it will send chills down your spine. The film’s most impactful aspect is the sound. Man does this cast sell it. Your own imagination is your worst enemy while watching. The ambiguity lets every viewer come away with a different and twisted result. Director Sean King O’Grady has an undeniable hit with We Need To Do Something. Here’s hoping he and Booth team up again and again.

IN THEATERS, DIGITAL and VOD on FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 3RD

Review: ‘The Last Matinee’ is a bloodsoaked love letter to genre fans

The Last Matinee

SYNOPSIS: The audience attending the last showing of a horror film in a small downtown cinema are terrorized by a murderer who begins to pick them off, one by one. The only person to notice that something strange is going on is the projectionist’s daughter.


I had to Google the film while watching to make sure it wasn’t a restoration. Every single aspect, from the costumes to the sets, to the audio editing screams a genuine 80s slasher. The Last Matinee is created as the perfect piece of genre nostalgia. Horror fans should keep their eyes peeled for Easter eggs and cinematic homages. The kills get progressively more gruesome. I’m particularly fond of #2. Undoubtedly Giallo inspired from the black gloves, the faceless killer, to the candy-red lighting and gore, The Last Matinee is a goddamn bloody treat. Don’t get too attached to anyone. No one is safe. The practical FX are so good, I almost lost my lunch. That rarely happens to me. I’ve watched so much horror that I’ve become a bit numb. This got me looking away wondering if I need to press pause just in case. The synopsis pretty much tells you everything you need to know, so do yourself a solid with this one. Turn off your brain and turn on your love of horror. Make some popcorn and settle in for the night. I hope you survive.


The Uruguay-Argentinian horror film THE LAST MATINEE is available TODAY on VOD, Digital, and DVD courtesy of Dark Star Pictures and Bloody Disgusting.


Directed by Maxi Contenti (Muñeco viviente VNeptunia) from a script by Manuel Facal (High Five, Fiesta Nibiru) and Contenti, the film stars Luciana Grasso (El Secreto de Julia), Ricardo Islas (El Que No Corre VuelaBailiwick), Julieta SpinelliFranco Duran and Pedro Duarte.


Review: ‘BEHEMOTH’ is a visual stunner that would make Faust proud.

BEHEMOTH

In Peter Sefchik‘s directorial debut, BEHEMOTH, we find Josh in dire straights. A whistleblower for his former chemical company, he is convinced the corporation has made his daughter critically ill. In a last-ditch effort to make them come clean, he kidnaps his former boss in hopes that he’ll admit to wrongdoing. The plan quickly spirals out of control when Josh gets shot and begins to see things that may or may not be drug-induced. What happens when you sell your soul to the highest bidder? Josh is about to find out.

Sefchik’s visual work is nothing short of stunning. This should come as no surprise given his extensive career as a digital artist with the likes of George Lucas and James Cameron. The details are immaculate. While the performances from our dedicated cast veer into the amateur lane at times, their brightest moments come when interacting with what isn’t actually there. That’s more impressive than it sounds. Sefchik also co-wrote the script with producer Derrick Ligas. Social commentary is smartly placed inside a horror film. Themes of environmental destruction, media, and capitalism soak this story in realism. Using personal fears to goad our players into darkness is a brilliant touch. When greed rules, evil prevails. The fact that this entire film was made for $65,000 is mindblowing. Any indie filmmaker can attest to that. BEHEMOTH is a win in its script and most certainly in Sefchik’s mesmerizing VFX. If this is his first foray into feature storytelling, I cannot wait to see, quite literally, what comes next.


BEHEMOTH opens on digital platforms next Friday, August 27th.


BEHEMOTH is the stunning, VFX-heavy directorial debut of digital artist Peter Sefchik, whose lengthy career began at George Lucas‘ legendary Skywalker Ranch. His most notable past projects include AVATAR and the HARRY POTTER, SHREK, and STAR WARS franchises. He also serves as BEHEMOTH‘s Co-writer, Producer, and VFX Supervisor. The film’s cast includes Josh Eisenberg, Paul Statman, Jennifer Churchich, Richard Wagner, and Whitney Nielsen.

Color
English Language
88 minutes
Not Rated


Review: ‘RIDE THE EAGLE’ is endlessly charming, authentic, and funny.

RIDE THE EAGLE

When Leif’s (Jake Johnson) estranged mother Honey (Susan Sarandon) dies she leaves him a ‘conditional inheritance’. Before he can move into her picturesque Yosemite cabin, he has to complete her elaborate, and sometimes dubious, to-do list. Leif and Nora, his canine BFF, step into Honey’s wild world as she tries to make amends from beyond the grave in this hilarious and heartfelt comedy.


Ride The Eagle is a one-of-a-kind film. The script is written by director Trent O’Donnell and star Jake Johnson. Tackling regret, forgiveness, and everything in between, there’s an honesty that stings and inspires. Mostly, Ride The Eagle makes you smile.

The script is filled with quirky characters. J.K. Simmons is fantastic in his manic energy. His delivery makes you involuntarily grin. Susan Sarandon, who we only see in her videotape to Leif, gives us warmth, and wisdom, and a boatload of snark. Her dialogue is yet another example of the care taken by O’Donnell and Johnson in their writing. There is a specificity that allows us to sit in Leif’s emotional shoes.

I want D’arcy Carden to be my new best friend. The scenes between her and Johnson are pure gold. Their chemistry is off the charts. Made even more impressive by the fact that they speak exclusively over the phone. It’s like watching a masterclass in scene partnering. Their report nudges the script into rom-com territory. But, in truth, Ride The Eagle is consistently genre-defying. Jake Johnson owns every frame he appears in. He has this innate ability to put you at ease while simultaneously making you giggle. He keeps you on your toes, always making you wonder what is scripted and what might be improvised. He’s just that talented.

The score is vibrant and incredibly thoughtful. Ride the Eagle shines with heart and charm. It has a palpable vulnerability that makes it undeniably relatable. Of the nearly 200 films I’ve seen in 2021, Ride The Eagle easily soars onto my top 10 list.

DECAL will release comedy RIDE THE EAGLE In Theaters, On Demand, and Digital on July 30, 2021. 

RIDE THE EAGLE is directed by Trent O’Donnell (“New Girl,” “No Activity”) with a screenplay by O’Donnell and Jake Johnson (“New Girl,” Spider-Man Into the Spider-Verse), who also stars alongside Susan Sarandon (Thelma & Louise, Dead Man Walking), J.K. Simmons (Whiplash, Juno) and D’Arcy Carden (“The Good Place,” “Barry”).


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

THE EXCHANGE

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

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

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

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


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

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


Review: ‘Catch and Kill: The Podcast Tapes’ debuts parts 3 & 4 tonight on HBO & HBO MAX

Catch and Kill: The Podcast Tapes, a six-part, half-hour documentary series, brings to life Ronan Farrow’s intimate, revealing interviews with whistleblowers, journalists, private investigators and other sources, conducted for the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist’s podcast and best-selling book, Catch and Kill: Lies, Spies and A Conspiracy to Protect Predators.

Directed by Emmy-winners Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato (HBO’s Carrie Fisher: Wishful Drinking), the series expands on the podcast and book with never-before-seen footage and new insights into this culture-shaking story. Interviews are interwoven with additional sound and imagery from documents, audiotapes, photos, archive footage, and illustrations. With fresh perspectives and detail — not just on the harrowing effort to expose one powerful predator, but on the systems that help cover up terrible crimes to this day — the series presents new revelations in the reporting on one of Hollywood’s most ungettable stories.

Reporters Ken Auletta and Kim Masters explore the roadblocks that stalled their years-long quests to expose Weinstein.​

Catch and Kill: The Podcast Tapes is set during a period of recent history when the world seemed unrelentingly bleak. The documentary demonstrates that even during those dark times, however, courageous individuals worked hard to expose the truth for the sake of justice.

Throughout six 30-minute episodes, Ronan Farrow guides viewers through a complex web of conspirators fighting against his journalistic investigation into the “open secret” of Harvey Weinstein’s rape offenses. While many may be familiar with the outlines of the case, like the many credible allegations of abuse and how Farrow’s New Yorker story helped trigger the #MeToo movement, the documentary focuses on many lesser-known aspects of the saga. 

Model Ambra Gutierrez reveals the high-stakes police sting operation that captured a chilling admission from Harvey Weinstein – and her plan to preserve the evidence after authorities declined to prosecute.

Each episode in the series uncovers a new layer in a complex web of protection, manipulation, and gentlemen’s agreements that Harvey and others have relied on to shield them from critique and consequences for decades. The thesis of this project is clear: Society should not be content with the conviction of high profile men like Harvey Weinstein alone. Instead, we must dismantle the complicit power structures that allowed Harvey Weinstein’s abuses to continue for years without repercussions. Farrow makes clear that media companies, attorneys, and literal spies worked together to shield powerful men from criminal prosecution and public contempt. 

Although I intended only to watch the first two installments, I ended up binging the rest of them in a single afternoon. Every chapter in the series is intriguing, closing on a cliffhanger that compels you to roll into the next. 

It is said that the arc of the universe bends towards justice. Although there is still a long way to go, Catch and Kill instills a sense of hope that perhaps many of the traditional systems of power that have kept bad men on top for generations are more tenuous now than they have been before.

The documentary series debuted on HBO & HBO MAX with two back-to-back episodes MONDAY, JULY 12(9:00-10:00 p.m. ET/PT), with new episodes airing back-to-back subsequent Mondays at the same time.

 

NBFF 21 review: ‘TALIGATE’ is heart stopping terror.

TAILGATE

A cocksure, road-raging family man finds himself pursued and terrorized by the vengeful van driver he chooses to tailgate.

The villain in this film initially appears completely unassuming. That’s the bait and switch that is Tailgate. A simple premise of road rage produces one of the evilest monsters of all time. The level of fright this film provides will blow your mind. My palms were sweating, my heart pounding from start to finish. The terror is relentless. Performances are all top-notch. I give extra credit to our youngest cast members, Roosmarijn van der Hoek and Liz Vergeer. Their keen ability to keep up with the adults is outstanding.

Our very good friend Steve Kopian, from Unseen Films, pointed out an important device in Tailgate that heightens its entire concept. This story occurs entirely during the day. In fact, it essentially happens in real-time. But it’s the daylight factor that makes it the most sinister. Every atrocious act occurs both in broad daylight and before innumerable witnesses. It is baffling and infinitely exciting. Congratulations to writer-director Lodewijk Crijns. Tailgate is one of the best films at this year’s North Bend Film Festival, without a doubt.


Showings – select to order tickets:

NBFF 21 capsule review: Udo Kier leaves it all on the screen in ‘SWAN SONG’

SWAN SONG

SWAN SONG follows retired hairdresser and local bar performer icon Pat Pitsenbarger (Kier) who has given up on life from the confines of his small-town Sandusky, Ohio nursing home. But when Pat gets word that a former client’s dying wish was for him to style her final hairdo, he sets out on an epic journey across Sandusky to confront the ghosts of his past – and collect the beauty supplies necessary for the job. SWAN SONG is a comical and bittersweet journey about rediscovering oneself, and looking gorgeous while doing so.

Udo Kier is a cinematic treasure. In Swan Song, his specificity and nuance make this an unforgettable viewing experience. He is elegant, funny, and simply entrancing. Jennifer Coolidge gives her most understated performance yet.  As Patrick’s former apprentice hairdresser, she gives the audience a fantastic combination of disgruntled diva and grounded humanity. Her chemistry with Kier is vital. The script smartly delves into regret, spite, loss, and redemption. It’s genuinely hilarious and endlessly touching. The soundtrack is beautifully thought out. And no, YOU started crying when “Dancing On My Own” played. Swan Song is a literal walk down memory lane. Kier deserves the Oscar for this role. I’m starting his official campaign right here, right now.


  • Director: Todd Stephens
  • Screenwriter: Todd Stephens
  • Producer: Stephen Israel, Tim Kaltenecker, Todd Stephens, Rhet Topham
  • Executive Producer: Jay Michael Fraley, Rhet Topham
  • Cast: Udo Kier, Jennifer Coolidge, Linda Evans
  • Cinematographer: Jackson Warner Lewis
  • Editor: Spencer Schilly, Santiago Figueira W

Showings – select to order tickets:


 

Review: ‘Dachra’ takes a familiar formula and annihilates it.

DACHRA

An investigation into witchcraft leads a trio of journalism students to a mysterious town marked by sinister rituals. Inspired by true events.

Dachra‘s initial formula is similar to The Blair Witch Project. Soon going off the rails into something we’d never imagined experiencing. What sets this film apart is remarkable cinematography and ghastly twists and turns. The runtime is lengthy but necessary to place you inside the shoes and minds of our three protagonists. Being thrown into a new culture is oftentimes shocking and uncomfortable. Dachra takes discomfort to the next level. The script forces the viewer to endure a deranged and prolonged experience of hospitality. As the mystery grows, so too does the terror. So many questions swirl as the film progresses. This isn’t just one story. Dachra has franchise potential, with sequels and prequels possible.

Sometimes a film has the ability to sear an image into your brain. It’s rare when one film does it over and over.  Hatem Nechi‘s camerawork is both dizzying and hypnotic. The long takes are impressive and eerily effective. There is real movie magic in Dachra. I am scarred by some of the things I saw. Performances are nuanced and skin-crawling. The practical fx are gag-inducing. The fact that this is writer-director Abdelhamid Bouchnak‘s first film is mindblowing. This story is very carefully curated to scare the hell out of the audience.  It’s the perfect storm of horror and history.

Dachra | Dekanalog US Trailer from Dekanalog on Vimeo.

DACHRA opens in theatres and virtual cinemas nationwide on Friday, July 9th.

DACHRA is written and directed by Abdelhamid Bouchnak and stars Yasmine Dimassi, Aziz Jbali, Bilel Slatnia, Hela Ayed, Hedi Majri, Rahri Rahali.

Color
Arabic Language with English Subtitles
114 minutes
Not Rated

Review: ‘DOWNEAST’ is wicked authentic.

Downeast dives into the often-ignored seedy underbelly of Maine, following Emma Maddox as she returns to her hometown, haunted by the mysterious death of her brother Mikey years ago. As she reconnects with his best friend Tommy, the two rekindle their flame and Emma begins to uncover the web of lies the town has been keeping. Will Emma get the closure she so desperately seeks, or fall victim to the town’s turbulent ways?

As a New Englander born and bred, I know where my loyalty lies. New England is comprised of small coastal town charm and great regional food. More importantly, it has an unmistakable attitude that lies somewhere between territorially standoffish and genuinely friendly. Like every small town, secrets can easily keep the locals at arm’s length or connected for life. DOWNEAST is a fantastic example of that very idea. While I grew up in Connecticut and now reside in NYC, Maine is in my blood on my father’s side. I’ve seen things, and as an adult, I understand more than I care to. DOWNEAST‘s success lies within its authenticity and smart writing. You can thank director Joe Raffa and lead actor Greg Finely for that. This crime drama has everything you want; murder, revenge, and redemption. The slow introduction of the history of each character makes for a beautiful build-up of suspense.

Performances are top-notch. Greg Finley as Tommy manages to be both powerful and sympathetic all at once. There is a familiarity to his entire being that puts the audience at ease. Dylan Silver as Emma has an inspired tenacity that makes her a gorgeous foil for Finley. DOWNEAST could almost be considered an ensemble film. While the entire cast is incredibly solid, I feel compelled to mention one actor in particular. Kirk Fox‘s performance as Marty provides the much-needed levity to a heavy-handed storyline. He’s a star.

Gravitas Ventures and APS Films have announced the Digital HD and cable VOD release of Joe Raffa’s DOWNEAST will be available July 13th on a number of digital and cable platforms, including iTunes, Amazon Video, Vudu, Comcast, Spectrum, and Cox.

Downeast was produced by APS Films and directed by Joe Raffa, who wrote a script based on a story by Maine native Greg Finley. Finley produced alongside Cory Pyke.  Edwin Pendleton Stevens served as executive producer.

Downeast had its world premiere at the Garden State Film Festival in March, kicking off a screening tour across North America. The film has taken home a number of awards including Best Director and Best Actor at Worldfest Houston and Best Film, Best Director and Best Actor at the Montreal Independent Film Festival. Downeast screened at the Beverly Hills Film Festival, the Phoenix Film Festival, and the Show Low Film Festival.

Review: ‘Too Late’ takes the appetite for success to the next level.

TOO LATE

This cozy horror comedy set in the Los Angeles indie comedy scene features Violet Fields who works a thankless job as the assistant to Bob Devore, famed comedian and host of the live variety show, Too Late. But what only Violet knows is that Bob is a monster both literally and figuratively. Resigned to her fate, Violet is caught by surprise when she meets aspiring comedian Jimmy Rhodes and sparks fly. But as her feelings for Jimmy grow and Bob starts to doubt her loyalty, she and Jimmy could end up as Bob’s next meal.
Violet toils away curating her smaller comedy show all while taking the abuse of her boss, Bob. Taking back control is the name of the game, but things get a bit messy along the way. Bob Devore, whose name (I’m assuming) is intentionally close to the word “devour,” is the accomplished late-night figurehead on the comedy scene in L.A. He’s a real monster of a boss. No, like, he’s an actual monster. Under his thumb and in the shadow of his longstanding career, Violet longs to cut ties and make her own way. When love unexpectedly arrives, she must navigate everyone’s appetite for success and take matters into her own hands.
Too Late really digs into the idea that Hollywood is an all-consuming industry. Alyssa Limperis as Violet has that “seasoned pilot actress just waiting to hit it big” kind of energy. She’s a damn natural and I want to see much more of her in the future. Her chemistry with Ron Lynch is sheer perfection. His smarmy, oftentimes flat-out gross, glad-handing demeanor catapults this entire narrative. One of the funniest things about Too Late is the fact that it could be a franchise based on Devore’s origin story. He cannot be the only monster lurking. You could do an entire riff on agents and vampires. That’s comedy gold. The possibilities are endless. On the condition that you bring Limperis back into the fray, of course. With stand-up not only as a major plot point but using actual sets to keep the laughs going, Too Late is a breezy, sometimes gross, definitely unique film. Also, anything with Fred Armisen gets my eyes on it.

 

OPENING IN SELECT THEATERS & ON DIGITAL PLATFORMS ON JUNE 25
STARRING ALYSSA LIMPERIS, RON LYNCH, WILL WELDON, MARY LYNN RAJSKUB, & FRED ARMISEN
TOO LATE is the debut feature film from director D.W. Thomas and writer Tom Becker. It stars Alyssa Limperis (Aunty Donna’s Big Ol’ House of Fun), Ron Lynch (Bob’s Burgers, Adventure Time), Will Weldon (Comedy Central’s This Isn’t Happening), Mary Lynn Rajskub (24, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia), Fred Armisen (SNL, Portlandia), Jenny Zigrino (Bad Santa 2, 50 Shades of Black), Jack De Sena (Avatar: The Last Airbender), and Brooks Wheelan (SNL).
TOO LATE has a running time of 80 minutes and will not be rated by the MPAA. Gravitas Ventures will release TOO LATE in select theaters and on digital platforms including iTunes, Google Play, Fandango Now, and all major cable/satellite platforms on June 25.

Review: ‘Chasing Childhood’ is essential viewing for parents and policymakers, alike.

CHASING CHILDHOOD

Overprotected and over directed, American children are wilting under the weight of well-meaning parents. In the pursuit of keeping them safe and creating an impressive resumé of extracurricular activities to wow admissions boards, over-parenting smothers children across socioeconomic classes. This thoughtful film follows education professionals and reformed helicopter parents who seek and offer solutions for developing more confident, independent young people while restoring some joy and freedom to childhood.

I grew up in Simsbury, Connecticut. Getting less than an “A” on an assignment my entire childhood was, shall we say, frowned upon. When I struggled with pre-Algebra in 7th grade, my parents got me a math tutor. I loathed it. To be clear, this was triggered because I had a “B+” grade point average. That pretty much sums up the pressure I felt to excel. I was in dance classes 5 days a week until I aged out of the studio, performing En Pointe at age 9 with girls 4+ years my senior. I was an overachiever born and, most definitely, bred. Once high school began, my anxiety hit new heights. Silently struggling with dyslexia, believing that my peers would hear the millisecond long pause when I had to read a date out loud was panic-inducing. Starring in every school play, managing boys Cross-Country & Track, maintaining a social life, and prepping for college were all-consuming. This was in the late 90s. That disquieting grew exponentially over the years. I used to be fearless, attending a performing arts conservatory in Manhattan, moving across the country to audition for Disneyland on a whim. But social pressure from my parents for not following the “traditional” educational path weighed on me like an elephant on my chest. I never felt like any of my success was enough. I’m 41 now, and that sense of inadequacy remains. Despite the incredible stories I have from living abroad, making movies, writing, teaching, creating a small business, the list is obnoxious, I have been trained to think I can be better.

Chasing Childhood is a film that could not have arrived at a better time. After the year we’ve had in lockdown, it’s time to confront some harsh realities. Chasing Childhood is tailor-made for parents, educators, and policymakers of every age. I have a 4 and 5-year-old living in an apartment we own on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. By all measures, life is great. What you don’t see is the aura of tension that surrounds the admissions process when applying to preschool. Now, we’re entering Kindergarten with my son. The questions of, “Where are you all applying?” have been swirling around me since he was 2. The idea that the school we picked for our 2-year-old would somehow determine what tax brackets my children would fall under in 20 years is exhausting. Filmmakers Margaret Munzer Loeb and Eden Wurmfeld clearly explain how we’re stifling kids. They are exhausted. This trend of micromanaging their futures kills their present joy. The doc talks to parents, teachers, experts, and kids about how we can change this negative trend. With stats about recess and play Vs. standardized testing will undoubtedly move your needle in terms of curriculum and quality of life. Wilton, Connecticut is featured quite heavily, alongside Patchogue, NY, and of course, Manhattan. Wilton is actually one of the towns we’ve considered in making our city exodus. The irony of how I stumbled upon Wilton should not be surprising. I googled, “Top School Districts in Connecticut.” Simsbury was always in the Top 5. I should have guessed that any town along what Connecticut calls “The Gold Coast” would be the other top districts. After watching, Wilton is looking better and better. What makes Chasing Childhood so successful is the film’s honesty. The interviews with every participant are authentic. The implementation of more play is key to a well-balanced life. The film is not preachy. It does not judge. It does explain how we’ve become wired this way. How seemingly small societal shifts went from ripples to tidal waves in policy and parenting. It’s nothing short of fascinating.

I have a greater understanding of my own parents now. We all want better for our kids. I try to keep this in mind when signing up my littles for activities. They are few and far between on purpose. Besides the logistical and monetary commitments involved, it’s because I vividly remember the years before high school. Playing outside until it got dark, riding my bike across town, exploring the woods, jumping off things that most definitely should have broken my bones. I retain the joy and excitement and calm from those moments. If nothing else, Chasing Childhood is a perfect reminder to stop, take a breath, and realize that success in life doesn’t come from the longest resume. It’s time and memories. Let’s step back and honor childhood. Let the kids be kids. Happiness comes first.

Virtual Live Premiere on June 24, 2021, and

Nationwide Watch Now @ Home Cinema Release on June 25, 2021

Directed by: Margaret Munzer Loeb, Eden Wurmfeld

Produced by: Lisa Eisenpresser, Eden Wurmfeld

FeaturingGenevieve Eason, Savannah Eason, Julie Lythcott-Haims, Peter Gray, Lenore Skenazy, Dr. Michael Hynes

 

World Premiere in the American Perspectives section at the 2020 DOC NYC Film Festival 

Official Selection of the 2020 Annapolis Film Festival

Official Selection of the 2021 Portland International Film Festival

Official Selection of the 2021 Cleveland International Film Festival

Official Selection of the 2021 Julien Dubuque International Film Festival

Official Selection of the 2021 Sonoma International Film Festival

REVIEW: ‘An Unknown Compelling Force’ Takes You Deeper Into the Mystery

An Unknown Compelling Force

An Unknown Compelling Force is the True Story of the Dyatlov Pass Incident, known as Russia’s greatest unsolved mystery. In 1959 a group of student hikers were attempting a difficult winter expedition in the remote Ural Mountains of Russia when an unknown event lead to the mysterious deaths of all nine. When the team failed to report back, search parties lead by the Soviet Government and fellow students uncovered the grizzly remains of the hikers. Found a mile from their shredded tent, they seemingly fled into the freezing temperatures without their winter clothes or boots. Adding to the mystery, many of the bodies had suffered brutal and inexplicable injuries, and some even showed traces of radiation.
                                                            
The case was closed by investigators at the time, stating that the hikers died from “An Unknown Compelling Force.” For more than 60 years the story has been shrouded in mystery and conspiracy theories, suggesting everything from UFOs, murder to a Soviet Government cover-up. British adventure filmmaker Liam Le Guillou travels under the radar to Russia in search of answers. Braving the dangerous conditions and hundreds of kilometers in sub-polar conditions, the documentary team attempts to reach the very location of the incident, a place the locals call “The Dead Mountain.”

About two minutes into watching this documentary, it occurs to me that I may be its exact target audience. As a lifelong fan of Unsolved Mysteries (the old school 90s version with Robert Stack, naturally), the opening montage with talking heads spouting their pet theories had me instantly hooked. For the next two hours, I was engrossed in Director Liam Le Guillou’s exploration into the unknown events that caused the mysterious deaths of nine student hikers in Russia’s remote Ural Mountains.

The Dyatlov Pass incident is a topic that regularly pops up in true crime and history podcasts because of the many bizarre and cinematic elements at play. A group of experienced young hikers goes on an adventure, something terrifying and inexplicable happens, and no one makes it back alive. More than a week later, the search and rescue team discovers a tragic tableau– the hikers had fled their tent only partially clothed and their bodies were discovered a mile away from the campsite riddled with violent, inconsistent injuries. After an initial investigation, the Soviet government quickly buried its findings and the records were sealed for sixty years.

With a team of journalists, eyewitnesses, and researchers, the documentary sorts through many common theories about what may have happened to the hikers ranging from the scientific and rational (avalanche) to the more whimsical and outrageous (alien abduction/ Russian yeti), and intriguing geopolitical angles (Cold War military experiment gone wrong). The documentary adds color to the historical narrative by bringing a crew into the Ural Mountains to complete the same trek as the doomed hikers, which adds striking visuals into the bleak and unforgiving landscape. 

However, what sets this film apart from other retellings is that the Director has a favorite pet theory that he builds a case for throughout. In the final minutes, there is a bold closing argument to explain the fate of the hikers that I had never heard and seems to not have been fully explored. Although I am not convinced, the argument is compelling and as good as any other put forth to explain this mystifying series of events. 

If the title or synopsis of this project makes you want to spend the next half hour on Wikipedia doing a deep dive, then this film is for you.

 Available Digitally on June 15, 2021

 Order Now: https://geni.us/Watch_UCF

Directed by Liam Le Guillou

Review: ‘La Dosis’ explores who we are in the shadows.

La Dosis

Synopsis:
Marcos is an experienced nurse who works the night shift of a private clinic. He is successful and professional, though it is soon revealed that he uses his position to help suffering patients find early peace. A new nurse in the clinic, Gabriel, shakes the sector: he is young, intelligent, beautiful, and seduces everyone. He soon deciphers Marcos’ secret and the clinic becomes a battle of wits and seduction. Marcos retracts until he discovers that Gabriel also dabbles in euthanasia, though for different reasons. This revelation forces him to confront Gabriel and Marcos knows that only by exposing his own true identity will he be able to stop him. 

La Dosis is a dark psychological thriller that from the very first scene pushes viewers to consider the harsh and subjective balance between life and death. At its center is Marcos, the lead overnight nurse of the ICU unit in a private hospital. By now, audiences are accustomed to anti-hero protagonists, so it is not hard to find compassion for Marcos even as he makes the ethically murky decision to euthanize critically ill patients that are suffering in their final days. In a nuanced and complex performance, Carlos Portaluppi excels in infusing Marcos’ actions with compassion. Through the many moody silent stretches of the film, the audience watches Marcos alone in shadowed rooms and backlit hallways as the weight of his actions plays across his face. 

The fragile morality of Marcos’ world is shattered, however, by the arrival of Gabriel (Ignacio Rogers), a young charismatic nurse that immediately charms patients and hospital colleagues alike. Gabriel understands Marcos’ impulses at once, but it soon becomes clear that he has his own darker code. The discovery compels Marcos to reexamine the complex web of justifications that he has been telling himself for years. When is it mercy? When is it just power? Is there a difference? It also pushes Marcos toward action, even if he is putting himself at risk by exposing more egregious crimes. 

The most compelling scenes in the film are interchanges between Gabriel and Marcos as they confront, coerce, and ultimately conspire for and against each other. In one tense nihilistic exchange, Gabriel exclaims to Marcos, “We are the only ones who care about what we do. Have you realized that?” 

At its core, La Dosis is a complex meditation on power, the balance of which shifts subtly from scene to scene. It is not until the final shot that it is revealed who comes out on top.

LA DOSIS, the sharp slow-burn thriller from distributor Samuel Goldwyn Films, will be released on-demand and digital on June 11, 2021. The film world premiered at the Rotterdam Film Festival in 2020, and also played BFI Flare, the Fantasia Film Festival, and others.

Release Date:                        On VOD/digital on June 11, 2021
Directed by:                           Martín Kraut
Cast:                                       Carlos Portaluppi, Ignacio Rogers, Lorena Vega
Genre:                                    Thriller
Specs:                                    93 min
Distributor:                            Samuel Goldwyn Films

Review: Be careful what you wish for in ‘The Djinn’.

The Djinn

THE DJINN follows a mute twelve-year-old, Dylan Jacobs, as he discovers a mysterious book of spells inside his new apartment. Grieving the loss of his mother, and feeling isolated from everyone except for his father, Dylan performs a ritual that promises to deliver his heart’s desire: to have a voice. But he soon discovers that every gift has a toll when a sinister djinn arrives to collect his soul. Now trapped in his new home with nowhere to hide, Dylan must find a way to survive until the stroke of midnight or pay the ultimate price.

For as many times as children accidentally come upon The Book of Shadows (or any ancient text with a pentagram on the cover), I’m beginning to wonder if I should teach my 4 and 5-year-olds to stay away. Yet again, I don’t want to stifle their inevitable love of all things horror-centric. As a mother of a child on the spectrum, I understand the importance of communication. The frustration and longing to be heard are endless. If we could change our circumstances, wouldn’t we try? David Charbonier and Justin Powell‘s new film The Djinn combines the themes of grief, trauma, and a mysterious legend to create a story that will both terrify and tear your heart out.

The score immediately reminded me of The Goonies. It is a perfect mix of ominous and whimsical. Dylan’s reading voice is costar Rob Brownstein’s voice.  As a mute boy, Dylan’s internal vocal reference would most certainly be that of his father. This moment of specificity from Charbonier and Powell is magic. The entire film’s sound design is award-worthy. Dylan’s hearing is likely acutely sharp due to developmental adaptation. The audio is jarring in a way that places the viewer in his constant state of hyper-awareness. His panic is our panic and it is palpable.

It’s a fresh take on the legend and more shudder-inducing than you’d expect. The pacing is perfection. All the tropes are there but with a hell of a twist. The Djinn‘s main conflict plays out within an hour, making the stakes feel higher as we count down the minutes alongside Dylan. Speaking of our leading young man, Ezra Dewey is a star. His chemistry with Rob Brownstein is charming and genuine. Dewey’s ability to own this entire film sans dialogue is the stuff of dreams. Mark my words, he will be everywhere. The Djinn is a very scary bedtime story warning us all to be careful what we wish for.

THE DJINN will be in THEATERS, DIGITAL, and VOD NEXT FRIDAY, MAY 14TH