Review: ‘WRONG TURN’ is an incredibly smart reboot you won’t see coming.

WRONG TURN

SYNOPSIS: Backwoods terror and never-jangling suspense meet when Jen (Charlotte Vega) and a group of friends set out to hike the Appalachian Trail. Despite warnings to stick to the trail, the hikers stray off course—and cross into land inhabited by The Foundation, a hidden community of mountain dwellers who use deadly means to protect their way of life. Suddenly under siege, Jen and her friends seem headed to the point of no return— unless Jen’s father (Golden Globe® nominee Matthew Modine) can reach them in time.

The reboot (and the seventh installment of the franchise) of Wrong Turn starts with another group of successful 20 somethings hiking the Appalachian Trail. When the local Virginians get aggravated by their presence, and they veer from the trail, things get deadly but not for the reasons you think. This script is completely different than the original, which is the greatest bait and switch from the clever set-up in the beginning. That’s the difference between a remake and a reboot. This cast is diverse and cool. They get to take their initial instigators to task, at least verbally. All the tropes are there but they’re used smartly. The first kill is so brutal you’ll both gasp and respect the decision to go all-in so early. From that moment on, the violence and gore are used for shock value that is carefully intentional in forwarding the plot.

Matthew Modine plays Jennifer’s father who comes searching for her 6 weeks after she goes missing. He is great. He walks this fantastic balance between modern man and totally self-sufficient badass that just feels incredibly believable. This is the updated father figure that will resonate with a large genre audience. It’s yet another successful aspect of screenwriter Alan B. McElroy’s reboot of the franchise. Bill Sage is a nice familiar face. He always lives in whatever role he tackles. This is no exception. Even with a runtime of one hour and fifty minutes, I would have been pleased to see more of him on screen. Charlotte Vega as Jen is outstanding. She has a genuine presence that grows stronger with each scene. There is an unexplainable accessibility to her character. Hollywood should continue to take note of this talent. Also, audiences should keep an ear open for Modine’s daughter Ruby as she sings the film’s final song. Stunning performance.

The score is classic staccato string work. Combined with the handheld camerawork and quick-cut editing, the terror is firmly in high gear. This is a totally fresh take of new world versus the old. The complexity of the script will throw you off-kilter. It challenges the viewers’ sense of morality. Who are the true villains? It’s about intrusion and disrespect of cultural differences on a multitude of levels. It’s quite brilliant in a time a faux “wokeness”. The nuance will knock you off your feet. You will not know where this plot is going. It’s twist after twist. That. Ending. Pure perfection.

Saban Films will release the horror film On-Demand, Digital, Blu-ray, and DVD on February 23, 2021. 

THEATRICAL RELEASE: January 26, 2021

ON DEMAND, DIGITAL, DVD, and BLU-RAY: February 23, 2021

DIRECTOR: Mike P. Nelson

WRITER: Alan B. McElroy

CAST: Charlotte Vega, Adain Bradley, Bill Sage, Emma Dumont, Dylan McTee, Daisy Head, Tim DeZarn, and Matthew Modine.

RUN TIME: 109 minutes

RATING: R for strong bloody violence, grisly images, and pervasive language.

GENRE: Horror

DISTRIBUTOR:  Saban Films

Review: Watch with glee as Nicolas Cage battles evil animatronics in ‘Willy’s Wonderland’

WILLY’S WONDERLAND

When his car breaks down, a quiet loner agrees to clean an abandoned family fun center in exchange for repairs. He soon finds himself waging war against possessed animatronic mascots while trapped inside Willy’s Wonderland.

So we can all agree that Nicolas Cage is now firmly his own genre, right? I can’t believe this is the same guy from Raising Arizona and National Treasure. He is a force of nature. When you’ve reached this cool of a status you can pretty much pick whatever project you want. Bless Nic Cage for providing the masses with his particular set of skills on screen. WILLY’S WONDERLAND is the perfect place for us to experience this latest chapter of “Cage rage’ with some popcorn on our couches.  As “The Janitor”, Cage’s combination of nonchalance and violence is pure badass. This is a dude comprised of mystery and soda. But for a significant part of the film, we’re actually watching him clean this place. This Academy Award-winning actor clean urinals. It’s the weirdest bit of intrigue to witness but talk about commitment. Alongside a vat filled with horror tropes, all used masterfully, this film is sure to be a cult classic. Dare I say, even franchise potential for his character? With a ragtag group of teens, townspeople in on the rouse, evil possession a la Child’s Play, WILLY’S WONDERLAND is a damn good time. The cast is so committed to this story you just get to sit back and watch with giddy energy as the mayhem ensues. The final third of the film is relentless chaos, highlighted by a 3-minute interlude of Cage improvising at a pinball machine. It’s pure magic. This is why we watch movies.

G. O. Parsons‘ screenplay is so batshit it works. A possessed weasel, a fairy, a turtle, an alligator, a chameleon, a gorilla, a knight, and an Ostrich provide us with hilarious and gruesome kills and calamity. The Janitor’s mission of cleaning this damn place will not be deterred. There will undoubtedly be comparisons to the Five Nights at Freddy’s games and The Banana Splits movie but who cares. WILLY’S WONDERLAND has execution that is out of this world. The creature, set, and prop builds are wild. Attention to detail is award-worthy. My mother used to work at a Chuck E. Cheese. The atmosphere built for Cage and company to exist in is spot on. The handheld camerawork is dizzying and fantastic. The lighting is often enhanced with a black light hue that is simply delicious. It’s a funhouse of horrors. This is a genre fan’s dream watch. The practical FX are bloodsoaked and brutal. The soundtrack is epic. You will be singing Willy’s theme over and over because it balances on the edge of maniacal, weird, and wonderful. Where can I buy that and an official Willy’s Wonderland t-shirt? I’m as deadly serious as The Janitor.

WILLY’S WONDERLAND is now available on VOD platforms

Review: ‘I BLAME SOCIETY’ is weird, smart, and dark as hell. I’m obsessed.

I BLAME SOCIETY

Synopsis
Gillian (Gillian Wallace Horvat) is one of those many struggling filmmakers in L.A. who just can’tseem to get the money for their first feature. Feeling like her friends and her partner (Keith Poulson) are losing faith in her abilities, she decides to resurrect her abandoned documentary based on a pseudo-compliment she once received that she would make a good murderer. But while she documents what makes “the perfect murder” a hitherto unseen dark side of Gillian emerges and grows. Furthermore the problem with being a successful serial killer, she discovers, is keeping the whole thing stealth, denying her the recognition that she craves… and that unhinges her even more. After accidentally-ish killing her best friend (Chase Williamson), Gillian goes on a killing spree culminating with a final bloody act that nobody would dare deny her credit for.

There is no female equivalent for the phrase “Ballsy”. What would that even look like? Lippy? I BLAME SOCIETY is extra lippy. Starring as a version of herself, filmmaker Gillian Wallace Horvat says all the quiet parts out loud. Then she acts on them just to make a point. And goddamnit, virtual high five from me. This script is unapologetic, bold, and genuinely hilarious. It’s the “die for your art” meets “tell me I can’t and see what happens” mashup I didn’t know I wanted. Highlighting the ridiculously misogynistic side of the industry in the smartest ways. When the phrases, “This is a really big opportunity for you!” “You’re like the female him!” “We need an ally on your side!” I died laughing and I died inside. But the film also tackles social media, communication, and ambition all inside a twisted presentation of Dexter-esque mayhem.

The pace leading to murderous activities works so well to build up a tense WTF feeling. It’s just so imaginative and absolutely terrifying. You get to a point where you stop thinking it’s funny and start genuinely worrying about everyone she encounters. Wallace Horvat is awesome. I wanna hang out with her in real-life and make fun of everything that she makes fun of in this film. She knows exactly what she’s doing even as she leads you to believe otherwise. She has an overtly narcissistic sociopath nuance to “Gillian” and nothing short of that would have worked as well. When she references makeover sequences, I laughed out loud and then immediately gasped exclaiming, “Holy Shit! That’s her actual hair!” When you see it you’ll fully understand.

The DIY look of the camerawork makes it even more relatable, especially after last week’s Twitter battle claiming “you can’t make a film with just an iPhone.” I BLAME SOCIETY is a giant middle finger to still male-dominated and faux #MeToo accountability in Hollywood. And not just the film industry. I’ve been on the other end of these conversations, yes in writing rooms and screening rooms, but also retail jobs, teaching jobs, do I need to go on? Even outside that theme, I BLAME SOCIETY is for every single person obsessed with true crime yelling at the TV, “The Husband did it,” or “You know what I would have done…” We get to sit back, relax, and watch someone else live out our darkest fantasies and that’s satisfying and entertaining.

I BLAME SOCIETY Debuts February 12th on VOD
For More Info Visit HERE

Review: ‘The Mimic’ is like nothing else you’ve seen or heard.

THE MIMIC

mimic: noun mim∙ic <\‘mi-mik \>

: a person who copies the behavior or speech of other people

: a person who mirrors other people

: an animal that naturally looks like something else

Based on a true story, this clever, intriguing, and hyperbolic comedy follows the main character – ‘the Narrator’ (Thomas Sadoski) who is befriended by his young new neighbor ‘the Kid’ (Jake Robinson), after he joins the local newspaper team.

Obsessed with the idea that the Kid may be a sociopath, the Narrator goes to extreme lengths to uncover the truth about him and his wife, a woman he ultimately begins to fancy. Between long walks down the street, a twisted dinner date, and a car drive gone terribly wrong, the Narrator gets closer and closer to the truth about the Kid. But the truth, as he finds, is anything but what he expected.

With a genuine laugh out loud, “Who’s On First?” meets  Adaptation (2002) energy, THE MIMIC so damn quirky you’re sort of hypnotized by its rhythm. It hums like a David Sedaris story that he’s narrating himself. The back and forth, rapid-fire dialogue is a bit dizzying but it certainly leaves you perched on the edge of your seat trying to keep up with the antics of these two gentlemen. You are so invested in them and their dynamic, you get swept up in this completely unexpected and magnetic film. I’m not exactly sure why there’s essentially a Febreze commercial halfway through the script but at that point you sort of just shrug and say, “Sure, why not.” We also experience a very meta scene, not including the moment when The Narrator turns to look straight into the camera. I was obsessed with it. Writer/Director Thomas F. Mazziotti’s screenplay has a rich theatrical feel. There is no doubt this could be an award-winning stage production. I would buy tickets to watch this live over and over just to feel the electricity between two actors up close and personal.

The ancillary cast of The Mimic is truly unreal. But the main focus is on our two leads; Thomas Sadoski and Jake Robinson. Sadoski’s mix of morose and obsessive behavior barrels the plot forward. Robinson’s overtly sunny disposition is so cringe-worthy (especially to this New Yorker critic) that you’re immediately placed in The Narrator’s (and Sadoski’s) mindset that something is off with The Kid. I first fell in love with Thomas Sadoski on The Newsroom. He’s just so goddamn good at what he does. He lives in a character’s skin with what looks like such ease. In The Mimic, you can see it all in his pained facial expressions. The Kid must be a sociopath. Jake Robinson looks like an ad for toothpaste from the 1950s. He’s got this classically handsome, old Hollywood charm that’s infectious, which is exactly why he was the perfect choice for this role. His comic timing is magic. The chemistry between these two men at odds is like a ticking time bomb. I was mesmerized by their report.

There is just something about this film that makes it special. I think it will garner a bit of a cult following. I can hear it being quoted in the same way Swingers still gets quoted among a certain age group of cinephiles. It’s got that same buzz about it. The Mimic will not be replicated and that’s what makes it so fantastic.

THE MIMIC will be screening in select theaters, and available on VOD beginning Friday, February 5, 2021.

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

The Reckoning

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

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

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

WATCH THE TRAILER:

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

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

Review: ‘The Right One’ oozes with charm, laughs, and hidden complexity.

The Right One

 

SYNOPSIS: In this heartfelt and hilarious rom-com, Sara, a novelist struggling with writer’s block, needs inspiration — and finds it when she serendipitously meets Godfrey, a down-on-his-luck oddball who constantly changes personas and alter egos in order to cope with his past and avoid reality. Just as Godfrey begins to open up to Sara, he discovers that she’s been using him as inspiration for her next novel, and he vanishes from her life. Did Sara just lose the man of her dreams, or will she be able to find him and make things right?

Procrastinating romance novelist Sarah is attempting to finish her third book after breaking up with a longtime boyfriend. It’s not going well. Her agent Kelly forces her out into the dating scene causing her to repeatedly stumble upon a mystery man with many different personalities. Can she figure out who he is and in return also discover her true self? The Right One is laugh out loud funny from beginning to end. Though it’s not simply a rom-com, it’s much more complex. The script is rightfully presented in three clean acts. It allows the characters to develop naturally. 35 minutes in we get our first clue to Godfrey’s past and it is unexpectedly dark. While the funny doesn’t stop, it lets the cast explore the underlying messages in writer Ken Mok‘s directorial debut.

Iliza Shlesinger is basically playing her standup self and I mean that as a compliment. Her aggressive manner is pure magic for this role as Sarah’s literary agent. But don’t let her fool you, there’s a softer side hiding in there even if just a little bit. I can see her acting career turning out to be akin to Kathryn Hahn‘s. I would put money on it. Cleopatra Coleman as Sarah is exactly who we need. Solid romcom sweetness with an edge. I could watch an entire series of her being quirky. She’s a damn delight. Nick Thune has a total Bill Murray/ Steve Martin energy. It was like watching an incredibly curated improv show. He is charming as hell. His chemistry with Coleman is fun and natural. I was first introduced to his amazing abilities in the fantastically weird and wonderful indie, Dave Made A Maze. Can we please cast him in all the things?

The Right One taps into a lot of very real fears that dating and relationships bring. Opening up yourself to potential hurt but also actual love and acceptance. We see abandonment issues and self-doubt, jealousy, and trauma. . You’ll laugh and be forced to look at some of your own flaws along the way.

Lionsgate and Grindstone Entertainment Group, a Lionsgate Company, will release the romantic comedy film THE RIGHT ONE on Digital and On Demand on February 5, 2021 Worldwide and on Blu-Ray and DVD on February 9, 2021 in the U.S.

THE RIGHT ONE stars Nick Thune (Dave Made A Maze), Cleopatra Coleman (“The Last Man on Earth”), Iliza Shlesinger (Pieces of a Woman) and David Koechner (Anchorman series)The film is written and directed by Golden Globe and Emmy nominated Ken Mok making his feature film directorial debut. Mok is the Creator and Executive Producer of “America’s Next Top Model,” Producer of Joy starring Jennifer Lawrence and Invincible starring Mark Wahlberg.

Review: ‘Happy Cleaners’ is a gem.

HAPPY CLEANERS

Members of the Choi family navigate personal struggles, cultural clashes and inner angst while trying to keep their dry cleaning business open in Queens, N.Y.

Hands down the most engaging character is Mom. Hyanghwa Lim owns every single minute of screentime. She is a fireball. The way she interacts with her family members is magic. Each relationship is specifically curated. She makes some of the best choices, performance-wise, in Happy Cleaners. They are honest and funny and ultimately filled with love. The film tackles a bunch of relatable topics; generation gaps, cultural expectations, pride, the changing times, and food, glorious food. There aren’t enough Korean American stories being told right now, so Happy Cleaners has the honor to stand out a little extra. If you don’t fall in love with the Choi family, I’ll be shocked. Directors Julian Kim and Peter S. Lee has given audiences a fresh perspective on modern family dynamics and very real discrimination living right here in NYC. Happy Cleaners pushes past cliche and honors tradition.

IN THEATERS
Feb 5-11, 2021

ON DEMAND
Feb 12, 2021

 

 

Review: ‘The Wanting Mare’- more than just a pretty face?

The Wanting Mare

In the world of ANMAERE, north of the city of Whithren, wild horses run through the moorlands and up the coast.

These horses are the city’s most valuable export. They are are hunted and trapped, shipped and sold across the sea once a year.

In a small house just north of the city, a line of women pass a single dream through the generations. They inherit it from mother to daughter; a memory of a time where magic and myth were alive in the world.

This stunningly gorgeous sci-fi film has so much potential. What drags it down is the amount of information we’re missing. A lot of the backstory is buried inside writer/director Nicholas Ashe Bateman’s mind. It’s juicy, no doubt. Uniquely told. It would be glorious as a stage play. There’s enough intrigue in The Wanting Mare to indeed sustain a series of films, as is the intention. The audience has to commit themselves to what they are given. It’s a lot of trust to put in the viewer. What is abundantly clear is that there is a cyclical nature to the female characters and that these elusive tickets put a target on your back. This script is filled with people lying to each other, either to protect someone or keep them from leaving. It’s an interesting concept. The horses are treated similarly to unicorns in Legend. A commodity, yes, but also they must be protected at all costs.

Performances, across the board, are excellent. While there are a lot of characters to track, there is not a single actor who lets you down. Each beat is curated. This cast left it all on the screen. I want to know how these characters got here. What was it like in the constantly referenced “Before?” Frankly, I’m dying for a prequel. I think you need it. Having sat o the film for a day or two now, I think it would only benefit a potential Amnaere franchise. Visually, you are immersed in this mysterious land.  Would I continue to watch films made in this universe? Yes. Do I think a general audience will stick with an entire series? That remains to be seen. The one thing I do know for sure, The Wanting Mare is breathtaking to look at. People will be talking about this film in one way or another.

Nicholas Ashe Bateman’s THE WANTING MARE, which opens in select cinemas and on video-on-demand Friday, February 5th, from Gravitas Ventures.

 

Written & Directed by: Nicholas Ashe Bateman

Director of Photography: David A. Ross

Production Design: Cassandra Louise Baker

Gaffer: Z. Scott Schaefer

Art Direction: Duncan Bindbeutel

Review: ‘PVT CHAT’ is a raw look at sex and money.

PVT CHAT

 
Jack is a lonely internet gambler living in New York City. He quickly becomes fixated on Scarlet – a cam girl from San Francisco. As Jack learns more about Scarlet, he discovers her unrealized talent as a painter and begins to fall hard for her. His obsession reaches a boiling point when fantasy materializes in reality and Jack sees Scarlet on a rainy street in NYC Chinatown. While Scarlet is clearly hiding her whole truth, milking Jack’s wallet in the process, she also seems to develop genuine feelings for him. Jack has to find out – is their emotional connection real or is he just being taken for a ride?
This is a fearless film. There is nothing shy about it. Writer/director/editor/DP Ben Hozie has given us an unapologetic look at sexual impulse, gratification, and all the complex feelings that come along with it. It’s not often we see an actor do full-frontal nudity. Leading man Peter Vack is not just full-frontal but masturbates (a lot) in PVT CHAT. And so he should. His character Jack has zero stability in his life with the exception of his need to connect with other humans. This is mostly achieved through cam sessions. While sexual gratification is s short-term goal, he’s really looking for companionship. He’s a great online gambler, that’s how he survives monetarily. At the heart of it, he has fallen in love with a girl he doesn’t completely know is real. Vack is excellent. His vulnerability pours off the screen. His portrayal of a seriously flawed and real human being is stunning.
Scarlet, played beautifully by Julia Fox, gives an equally nuanced performance. She brings power and presence to the screen, especially in cam-girl mode. Slowly, Scarlet’s walls tumble to reveal a sad and used woman. Fox’s gives us everything we need from her. The role also required her to perform sexual acts. She does so with abandon. It’s bold of both our leads to take such a risk and I applaud them for it. The overall aesthetic of the film is very Clerks; gritty, low-budget, 90s feel, from the sets to the costumes. We get to focus on the dialogue and Scarlet and Jack and that’s exactly what this story needs. That final scene sums it all up. And while what happens after the screen goes black remains a bit ambiguous, that’s entirely the point. Love is messy and complicated and I respect that. The relationship between love, money, sex, and emotional abuse are fine lines. It’s all explored in PVT CHAT. It’s a film worthy of your time and intellect.
Darkstar Pictures will release the psycho-sexual thriller PVT CHAT in Theaters February 5, 2021 and On Demand & Digital on February 9, 2021.
PVT CHAT is written and directed by Ben Hozie (The Lion’s Den, Annunciation) and stars Peter Vack (HBO Max’s “Love Life”), Julia Fox (Uncut Gems, Puppet), Buddy Duress (Good Time, Beware of Dog), Keith Poulson (Mercury Plains, Little Sister), Kevin Moccia (Unbound, Snitches), David J. White (This Side of Heaven, Required Field).

Review: ‘#LIKE ‘ will shock you to your core.

Synopsis
Woodstock teen Rosie (Sarah Rich) is mourning the first anniversary of her younger sister Amelia’s death, when she discovers that the mysterious man (Marc Menchaca, ALONE, “The Outsider”) who sexploited and bullied her sister into committing suicide, is back online trolling for new victims. After the authorities refuse to get involved, Rosie discovers a darker side she never knew she had as she takes justice into her own hands.
Rosie is trying to figure out who is responsible for the death of her sister, Amelia. A year afterward, she is obsessed with watching her old YouTube diaries for any sort of clue. The darkest side of the internet comes to light in this unapologetically raw indie. We live in a world where a single tweet can incite violence. But since the beginning of the internet and chat rooms, pedophiles have stalked kids, acted like peers, and lured them into unsafe situations. People don’t seem to grasp the permanence of posting online. The consequences can be life-altering. #Like delves into all these things and in the #MeToo era. Writer/director Sarah Pirozek gives us a revenge thriller that will punch you in the gut.

Marc Menchaca stars in another unsettling role, post ALONE. Here, he is allowed to explore the nuances of his own fear. He is captivating to watch. Sarah Rich is outstanding. You are rooting for her every step of the way. You live in her anger and grief. She gives a fearless performance.

#Like a great companion piece for Promising Young Woman and Hard Candy. The writing is fantastic. The complexity of this screenplay will blow any expectations you have out of the water. The scenes with her closest friends allow them to discuss toxic masculinity in an approachable way. Rosie is balancing teenage life with a vigilante life. She does the police work that the adults have stopped doing. We follow along with her investigation and remain on pins and needles as she digs deeper. Her boldness steers the emotional journey of the viewer. You will not see the twists coming. And that spotlighted song choice? Let’s just say it perfection in its skin-crawling nature. #Like is shocking and brilliant. You’ll walk away slightly traumatized. People will be talking about this film for a long time.

#LIKE will be available on TVOD January 26, 2021 on iTunes,
Amazon Prime, Vudu, FandangoNow, and Microsoft Store
Running Time: 95 min
Country: USA
Language: English

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Review: ‘White Lie’ catches you in the web.

A university student who fakes a cancer diagnosis for the attention and financial gain struggles to maintain her secret.

Sir Walter Scott said it best in his poem “Marmion”, ‘Ohwhat a tangled web we weave,/ When first we practice to deceive!’ The genius of this script is the storytelling structure. Minutes in you understand that our leading lady is caught in a web so large she cannot get out now. The relentless danger he allows herself to be in is astounding. The audience is constantly waiting for the other shoe to drop. Now that I have had time to sit on my viewing, I am actually aghast at the pace of the film. It barrels along in its deception and doesn’t let up for a minute. While there is clearly a backstory that predates the present timeline in White Lie,  I found the lack of information all the more intriguing. I was forced to make assumptions thus leading to, perhaps, a completely different take than anyone sitting next to me. Bravo to writers/directors  Yonah Lewis, Calvin Thomas for being bold enough to make such choices.

Kacey Rohl‘s performance as Katie makes the film as enthralling as it is. Her ability to make you loathe her and sympathize with her is uncanny. You understand that the complexity of this role is massive. She absolutely nails it. White Lie will have you uncomfortable from start to finish. It will be impossible to look away even though you’ll feel as entangled in the lies as Katie. It’s quite masterful.

Rock Salt Releasing will release it on various digital streaming platforms on 1/5/2021 (DirecTV, Amazon, InDemand, iTunes, FlixFling, AT&T, Vimeo on Demand, Vudu, Fandango & Google Play).

Review: ‘Go/Don’t Go’ consumes you with mystery.

GO/DON’T GO

Caught between a lost love story and inescapable paranoia, “Go / Don’t Go” is a genre-bending slow burn thriller that follows Adam, a wallflower who happens to be the last person left alive-or so he thinks.

Rarely do I stop a screening link every 5 to ten minutes and reiterate what is happening out loud to my husband. While viewing Alex Knapp‘s post-apocalyptic psychological thriller GO/DON’T GO, I did just that. I was so intrigued I had to share all of the subtle genius happening on screen from beat to beat, sometimes blink-and-you-miss-it imagery. The meticulous thought that went into this script is noteworthy. The breadcrumbs are laid out to entice your imagination with theories. Here is what I can glean from what I saw, stay with me; Agam and K are dating, an unknown world event happens, in a panic, they try to make their way to the mountains to better assess the situation. Something goes awry and K disappears, leaving Adam as the sole human left on Earth. What we and Adam are left with is to piece together disjointed information to try and escape what feels like a little bit of a purgatory-esque version of Memento. Yup. Until the final image, I wracked my brain as to the innumerable possibilities that this story presented me. Was Adam in hell? Was Adam in a parallel timeline? Was Adam insane? Is this an allegory for grief?

GO/DON’T GO could easily be developed into an entire series based on the flashes of information we receive in a 1 hour and 30-minute runtime. What’s with the lightbulb diary? How is all the food so fresh? Why is there still electricity at all? Where is his dog? *Silent scream* I want to know so much more, but completely respect the fact that a massive mystery still remains. If you want to run and tell people and/or ask them if they’ve seen this film while on the festival circuit, well I don’t know what a bigger compliment you could give a first-time filmmaker. Alex Knapp is not only captivating in the role of Adam, but he clearly understands how to effectively build suspense with his writing. He holds the viewer captive with questions and punctuates those moments with a superb soundtrack. The ever-changing lighting is haunting. GO/DON’T GO grabs you from the very first scene and keeps you guessing until the screen goes black. The thought that went into this film is palpable. While I still have so many things I want to know about the ending, I am a cheerleader for Knapp. Whatever’s coming next, I want it now.

GO/DON’T GO, from writer/director Alex Knapp, releases via Gravitas Ventures TUESDAY, January 12, 2021.

ON DEMAND AND DIGITAL
iTunes, Amazon, Google Play, Xbox, Vudu,  Direct TV, Dish Network, and all major cable providers.

[my_mοvie_db id=669644]

Review: IFC Midnight’s ‘Hunter Hunter’ is one of the most intense films of 2020.

HUNTER HUNTER

HUNTER HUNTER follows a family living in the remote wilderness earning a living as fur trappers. Joseph Mersault (Devon Sawa), his wife Anne (Camille Sullivan), and their daughter Renée (Summer H. Howell) struggle to make ends meet and think their traps are being hunted by the return of a rogue wolf. Determined to catch the predator in the act, Joseph leaves his family behind to track the wolf. Anne and Renée grow increasingly anxious during Joseph’s prolonged absence and struggle to survive without him.  When they hear a strange noise outside their cabin, Anne hopes it is Joseph but instead finds a man named Lou (Nick Stahl), who has been severely injured and left for dead. The longer Lou stays and Joseph is away, the more paranoid Anne becomes, and the idea of a mysterious predator in the woods slowly becomes a threat much closer to home.

The contentious relationship between Devon Sawa and Camille Sullivan is what makes the initial framework of this film so intriguing. With Anne longing for more traditional stability for her family, Joe thrives in the wilderness. Trapping is just not meeting their monetary needs any longer. With their daughter Renee to protect, they are in for a bigger surprise than running out of food and a rogue wolf on the prowl. Hunter Hunter goes to a place so dark, you won’t be able to get it out of your head.

The survivalist and tracker methods ring true. Sawa, who has been churning out films the past few years, once again holds the audience captive with his presence. I’ve stated before that his talent is often overlooked. His commitment to a role is stellar and he’s a lovely human in real life. Here his portrayal of Joe is steadfast and loyal, with a side of heroic intention. His chemistry with Summer H. Howell as daughter Renee is a touch reminiscent of Ben Foster and Thomasin McKenzie in Leave No Trace. Howell gives a “raised off the grid”, tough as nails, but thoroughly innocent age-appropriate performance. It’s just right. Nick Stahl and Devon Sawa in one movie together, have made my schoolgirl fantasies a reality… in the most satisfying, genre nerd girl way. Stahl is downright scary. You can read the unspoken backstory he’s given himself in his posture and gaze. It’s startling.

Camille Sullivan has been written as a fully nuanced woman, forced to activate her Mother Bear instincts. The power she brings to this film is unmatched. This cast has to not only contend with a terrifying script but the elements of filming in the wilderness. I have so many questions since the credits rolled but the mystery that remains isn’t even relevant when the screen goes black. You are simply left in shock.

That sharp turn in the plot blows up everything you think you know about how this story will end. Your heart will be in your throat for the final 3rd. Writer/director Shawn Linden has given us one of the most disturbing films of 2020. The utter carnage, both emotional and physical, inflicted on this cast is brutal. The visceral horror of that befalls the viewer is skin-crawling and nausea-inducing. Hunter Hunter is complex and precisely crafted. Camille Sullivan‘s performance will go down as one of the most iconic final girls, ever.

STARRING:

Devon Sawa – Nick Stahl – Camille Sullivan – Summer Howell

DIRECTED AND WRITTEN BY:

Shawn Linden

IN SELECT THEATERS, ON DIGITAL & ON DEMAND – DECEMBER 18, 2020

Interview: Adam Eqypt Mortimer discusses his latest film ‘Archenemy’

Once again, our amazing colleague Matthew Schuchman brings great questions to one of the coolest filmmakers in the biz. Adam Eqypt Mortimer brought us Daniel Isn’t Real last year and now we’re jumping into the superhero genre in only a way Mortimer can. With brooding visual similarities and a fresh script, Archenemy (read my review here) is hella cool. Yes, I said it. Matt gets some awesome info from Adam. Wait until you find out who was originally in talks to play Max Fist! Joe Manganiello ultimately landed the role and is balls to wall amazing. The rest of this kick-ass cast combined with a screenplay that keeps you guessing will undoubtedly win you over. Can Archenemy save audiences during one of the weidrest movie viewing years in history? Find out for yourself. The film is now in Theaters, On Digital and On Demand. Check out Matt’s interview with writer/director  Adam Eqypt Mortimer below.

Did you always intend to show Max’s origin as animations?

That’s an interesting question. When I was first writing it I knew that that was always part of the story; that we were gonna see his stories that he’s telling about Chromium. But I wasn’t super certain how I was going to do it. I knew that I wanted there to be a big contrast between the present-tense story, and what we were seeing from the past. So it was kind of a confluence of– I understood how we were going to be shooting the present, but how different can we make the past? One of the issues I struggled with when I was writing the script was the scene where Max is falling out of a giant building and flying through the sky and punching his enemy and all this crazy stuff. If that was hyper realized or looks exactly the same as the rest of the movie, then it would only ever appear as truth. So ultimately, I thought I could do animation. Daniel Noah from SpectreVision and I talked a lot about what it should be and I really came around to animation in thinking about things like, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, and Pink Floyd’s The Wall. Watership Down, too. In ways that those film’s innovations can be very expressive and interact with reality and all of those kinds of things. Then it started to feel like the right move, as long as it didn’t feel like comic book pages or motion comics. It’s not supposed to be referencing comics, it’s supposed to be referencing more. The feeling of this sort of superhero world and how that might present itself in Max’s deranged mind. 

Well, I do also appreciate that the film doesn’t try to force-feed me everything through pointed exposition.

You know, there’s whole scenes of Max and his new friend Hamster walking down the street and Max is telling him all of this stuff about how he had the crystal fist, and the cosmic source, and all this stuff. But,I tended to think of all that, not like an exposition, because it’s not really there to set the stage to advance the story. I thought of it more like music, or decoration, or poetry. You can let all of this madness and all these strange world constructions flow over you and take it however you want. I said to Joe [Mangainello] when we started the process of building the character, “I don’t even care that much if I can understand what you say.” Joe and I are both metalheads and I told him to think about the way he talks as being like the guitar player from Slayer, Kerry King. Like, it’s sloppy and insane, loud and fast, and it’s really not about precise musical construction; it’s about getting some kind of point across through all this other stuff. So that was how I thought about things both in terms of how Max talks and about how he sees things. 

Joe was really amazing in the film, and I feel like no one else could have really been Max Fist. Was he always the first choice?

I’m glad it was him; I think he was amazing. There was a moment though when I was talking to Nicolas Cage about it. We had lunch and talked about it and he was interested in it. He seemed great for it also, because he is somebody who had once almost played Superman, but he had also been in Leaving Las Vegas and one of my ideas in this movie was always; it’s Superman in Leaving Las Vegas— but we couldn’t do it. It didn’t work out with him and so then I got Joe and like you say, Joe is absolutely the perfect person; and a long time ago, also, was up for the part of playing Superman. He was going to be Superman and it didn’t work out and, but you can just see how he is Superman. But it’s not just him as a physical actor. He has so much confidence that he can deconstruct himself into a tragic mess of a man and pull that off too, which is what’s wonderful about it. 

Why does Max care about Hamster so much? Is it just because Hamster is willing to listen to him?

I don’t know, I mean that that’s one of the emotional mysteries of the movie. When you meet Max, he’s somebody who doesn’t care about anybody. He lives this emotional life that he can’t get out of his own head. That’s the journey, and I hope it’s a believable one. I think you get this idea of him talking about how important it was to be a superhero. Then you increasingly see that imagery in terms of people’s love for him, they build statues to him. You start to go like, “wait a minute…” What does it mean to have been a hero and I think by defining things in this tiny relationship between him and hamster, there is a whole different way to look at why you would be a hero. 

I don’t know if it is just me– and this is kind of getting away from the point– but I started focusing on smaller things. There’s the henchman Finn, and he carries this book in his hand but I couldn’t see what the book was. Was it something like, “The Big Book of Zen?”

It’s called; Nihilism for Beginners. There is a frame or two where you can see it. And I’m glad that you are looking for details like that because I put a lot into thinking about the world and all of the characters. Even when they are just in a scene or two, they’re really building part of that universe. The idea with him is, he’s a guy who’s just started to think philosophically about the world and he’s like, “God I’m just a hired hitman goon, but the world is so much more complex.” There’s a scene where he’s interrogating Indigo about this other guy who died but you can see that there’s this incredible sort of sorrow or grief about what he is doing. That was all Joseph Reitman; super great actor. I will always want to do things where there’s tons of fucking violence and bleakness and it’s crazy, but there’s also the theme of empathy and who can have empathy and what does that feel like. There was a little patch of that in that character. 

It’s clear that–and especially from talking to you now– that you had a specific point of where you wanted this to end, but were there thoughts about deciding whether the ending would flip the other way, maybe?

I think it was more a question of how it would play out, or what the timing of it was. The question for me really was, “It’s going to be a story about a betrayal of some kind and a mistruth of some kind.” So where exactly does that play out? Does that play out in terms of everything he said is invented? Or is it that he’s telling the story differently than he should? It’s important to have a narrative twist or a narrative, revelation, but the emotional revelation around it is really the key.

Most movies do kind of give up the kitty a little too early. I love the fact that, as an audience member, just as you may start to believe Max, he’s doing a bump of coke on the stairwell before going in to punch a bunch of guys. 

There’s nothing that gives you superpowers better than amphetamines and that’s one thing I want people to take away from this [joking laughter]. If you’re gonna run into people who are shooting at you with uzis; you take meth. It’s gonna be bad, but it’ll be better that way. 

Has the casting process gotten easier for you, now that your stock is on the rise?

No doubt, Archenemy was so much easier to get done, than Daniel Isn’t Real. With this movie, I had all these people able to see my last movie. Glenn Howerton, Paul Scheer, and Joe; all saw my previous film, and they think, “I love that movie, I would work with this director.” That’s how I was able to get them in it and that’s the wonderful, wonderful aspect of starting to build up a body of work that you can point to. When I was making my first movie, nobody gave a fuck that I wanted to make a movie. None of my set ideals are real, it was like very few people gave a fuck to help stretch my vision. Now they’ve got my back and it’s sort of grown like that in a way. It’s wonderful because the most important thing to me is to be able to attract brilliant people to work with me and particularly get actors who are really good and can really do all of it. So to be able to point to other examples of what I’ve done is a blessing.

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RLJE Films will release the action/thriller ARCHENEMY In Theaters, On Digital and On Demand December 11, 2020. 

Review: ‘Archenemy’ is not your average super hero tale.

Max Fist (Manganiello) claims to be a hero from another dimension who fell through time and space to Earth, where he has no powers. No one believes his stories except for a local teen named Hamster. Together, they take to the streets to wipe out the local drug syndicate and its vicious crime boss known as The Manager.

After hitting indie badass status with Daniel Isn’t Real, one of my top ten films of 2019, writer/director Adam Eqypt Mortimer has given us a new feast for the eyes. Enter Archenemy. If a script can keep you guessing until the very last scene that’s quality screenwriting and directing. Mortimer revamps the superhero genre. This is something that straddles the line between a classic comic book approach and an altogether fresh origin story… with a seriously kickass soundtrack. If you saw Daniel Isn’t Real, and dammit you should have by now, you’ll notice a penchant for saturated jewel tones and dark lighting…  and opening with a wormhole. With the heightened voiceovers from Skylan Brooks, you feel as if you’re watching a graphic novel playing out in real-time. Instead of using cartoony “BAM!” and “POW”, Brooks’ hyped narration does that for you. Add in some specifically stylized animation during Joe Manganiello’s dialogue, Archenemy challenges the audience to take in a larger picture and really use their brains. In my humble opinion, the character of Hamster is not-so-secretly a little slice of Adam. You get that genre fanboy brightness that makes Archenemy as cool as it is. Hamster is also a master storyteller, that’s his art. I don’t think this theory is such a stretch.

The underlying social commentary cannot be missed. Social media monsters and drugs are the newest and loudest villains ( besides this effing pandemic) around presently. All that aside, the story itself is complex in the best way possible. It builds a narrative in which you’re constantly asking questions like, “Is he who he says he is?”, “Is this a mental illness?”, “Does it even matter?!”. The answers are actually beside the point when you’ve got great acting to back up the script. Joe Manganiello is perfection in this role. Once you realize that he’s half hero half megalomaniac your mind explodes. It is in the flaws of these characters where we fall in love with them in earnest. Skylan Brooks brings this “kid in a candy store vibe” that never gets old. I cannot wait to see more of him and Zolee Griggs. She has this mature presence that makes you care for her and understand what a badass she already is.

Archenemy has all the makings of a franchise. I hope we see more of this crew! Amy Seimetz, Glenn Howerton, and Paul Sheer level up this film. Every single cast member gives a nuanced performance. It’s dark and complex and nothing like you think it’s going to be. How often do we genuinely get to say that? You can check out Archenemy today!

Stay tuned to Reel News Daily for interviews with Adam Eqypt Mortimer and Skylan Brooks by our awesome colleague Matthew Schuchman! In the meantime, you can check out the trailer below:

RLJE Films will release the action/thriller ARCHENEMY In Theaters, On Digital and On Demand December 11, 2020. 

 

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

GIRL WITH NO MOUTH

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Review: ‘Parallel’ is thrilling genre greatness.

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

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

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

Available In Select Theaters & On Demand December 11, 2020

 

 

Review: ‘The Stand In’ pits Drew Barrymore against Drew Barrymore.

The Stand In

When ordered to serve a year in rehab, actress Candy (Drew Barrymore) hires her on-set stand-in to take her place. The unassuming woman flips the script and steals her identity, career and boyfriend in this hilarious comedy about trading places.

Drew Barrymore gets to play two polar opposite roles. Candy Black is character number one. For sure a nod to Drew’s vast collection of lovable characters over the years but with a seriously jaded mean streak. And perhaps also a not-so-hidden, tongue-in-cheek riff on Melissa McCarthy, who gets named dropped immediately in the best way possible. For Barrymore’s character Candy, 5 years after a breakdown on set, she is another person. Her sadness has consumed her. She is a recluse who is court-ordered to go to rehab for 90 days. Frankly, she has other plans. Her second character is the titular role. Paula is seemingly lovely, sweet, and bright, but now also out of a job until she gets an auspicious call to get back on the horse for Candy. Both women get the opportunity to reshape who they are… for better or for worse. You think you know where this story is going, but you’re in for a big surprise.

When they play the same scenes it’s an excellent dynamic. Watching Drew commit to these two women is really fun. You’re constantly waiting for the other shoe to drop. It makes for a heightened watch. It becomes unexpectedly dark. Drew is actually scary to watch. The marketing is doing a disservice to the film. There is so much more to The Stand In than the trailer offers viewers. I hope they can appreciate what comes their way.

It is definitely an interesting commentary on fame and notoriety. There are innumerable moments that will make you cringe but you have to ride them out. The Stand In makes fun of itself in a thoughtful way. The cameos are aplenty and each person is given the opportunity to highlight the trappings of Hollywood with their dialogue. I think that’s what I appreciated most. The dark honesty is what sticks with me as the credits rolled. The entire success hangs on Barrymore’s ability to play two characters we’ve never seen from her before. Congratulations to director Jaime Babbitt for helping a film that’s much deeper than an audience is expecting.

In Select Theaters, On Demand, and on Digital December 11, 2020

Review: ‘What Lies Below’ is a new breed of supernatural thriller.

In WHAT LIES BELOWLiberty, a socially awkward 16-year-old, returns from two months at camp to a blindsided introduction of her Mother’s fiancé, John Smith, whose charm, intelligence, and beauty paint the picture of a man too perfect to be human.
This script does an excellent job of presenting something that feels familiar but layering it with the lust of a teenage girl. Braden R. Duemmler gives us a nuanced look at relationship dynamics wrapped in an enigma of anxiety and fear. We get a fantastic balance of a real-life scenario with the understanding that something is indeed very off about John Smith. The cringeworthy moments are aplenty and that’s a compliment. The character of Liberty is fully fleshed out. I was that girl, in many ways, at 16. While my passion was writing and theatre, I understood the awkward encounters and the sensation of excitement at the thought of an attractive older man having an understanding of the things I liked.  Liberty ends up being a badass through her terror and she is a hero in my book. That’s the kind of female protagonist we need.
Mena Suvari plays Michelle, Liberty’s lovesick mother. She is an incredible foil for Ema Horvath. She plays a kinda lost, flaky mom with serious (albeit warranted) daddy issues. When she essentially chooses John over Liberty you cannot help but detest her. But, their dynamic is set from the very beginning and it is what drives Liberty until the end of the film. Trey Tucker strikes a great balance of charming, smart, slightly weird, and intense as hell. His performance and Horvath’s create the needed mystery and vibration that make What Lies Below such a success.
Ema Horvath is outstanding. Having just seen her in The Mortuary Collection, I was aware of her innate ability to slide into someone else’s skin (no pun intended), but this role fits her so well. She’s bright and self-aware and brings that careful insecurity to this performance. I, for one, cannot wait to see what she does next.
There are subtle classic sci-fi references throughout, leading you to think you know where this is headed. The ending smacked me hard in the face. I was not expecting it and to Duemmler’s credit, I say “Bravo”. It’s a bold choice and I think genre fans will love it. Check out the trailer for a taste of What Lies Below.

Vertical Entertainment will release the supernatural thriller WHAT LIES BELOW on Demand and Digital on December 4, 2020.

Written by Braden R. Duemmler, who is also making his directorial feature debut, the film stars Ema Horvath (“Don’t Look Deeper”), Trey Tucker (The Space Between Us), Mena Suvari (American Beauty), and Haskiri Velazsquez (“Saved by the Bell”).