Review: The an action-packed, visual feast ‘YAKUZA PRINCESS’ is in theatres tomorrow!

YAKUZA PRINCESS

Based on the acclaimed graphic novel “Samurai Shiro” by Danilo Beyruth and set in the expansive Japanese community of Sao Paulo, Brazil — the largest Japanese diaspora in the world — YAKUZA PRINCESS follows orphan Akemi (played by pop star MASUMI), who, upon turning 21, discovers that she is the heiress to half of Japan’s expansive Yakuza crime syndicate. After forging an uneasy alliance with an amnesiac stranger (Jonathan Rhys Meyers, History Channel’s The Vikings) who believes an ancient sword binds their two fates, Akemi unleashes war against the other half of the syndicate who wants her dead.


Part girl power, part crime drama, all revenge thriller, Vicente Amorim‘s Yakuza Princess has something for everyone. Action-packed with spectacular fight choreography, the pacing is super satisfying. Yakuza Princess is just cool. This ensemble cast is phenomenal. I want to see more of every actor, but I’ll focus on our two primary leads. MASUMI as Akemi is a spitfire. Her nonchalant power is striking. Then there is Jonathan Rhys Meyers (who never seems to age) playing the mysterious Shiro. He is such a brilliant foil for MASUMI. His ability to own the screen with but a glance is always magic. Together, their chemistry is ripe for a franchise.

Visually speaking, it’s a neon-soaked feast for the eyes. The use of light in this film is hypnotizing. It’s insanely thoughtful. Films like this are the reason we go to the movies. A LOT is going on in Yakuza Princess. This story is an epic journey. A complex family dynamic, murder, amnesia, kidnapping, a mysterious ancient sword all come into play in major ways. I would also have been delighted to watch this as a limited series. The drama! The plot twists! I was there for it all! It makes me want to run out and buy the graphic novel that is its source material. I demand its sequel, immediately. Pretty, please?


YAKUZA PRINCESS opens in U.S. theatres and virtual cinemas on Friday, September 3rd.

Fantasia International Film Festival 2021 reviews: ‘Baby, Don’t Cry’ & ‘Wonderful Paradise’


BABY, DON’T CRY

Baby, a withdrawn and sensitive 17-year-old Chinese immigrant from a troubled home, is living in the outskirts of Seattle. One day, she meets a 20-year-old delinquent named Fox. Together they embark on a twisted journey to escape their hopeless fate.


A story of cyclical abuse with a touch of magical realism, Baby, Don’t Cry was a completely unexpected journey. Fair warning for survivors of abuse, this film may be a trigger watching for you. The deeper you go into the story the more complex our leads are revealed to be. Two young people in hopes of escaping their sad circumstances, latch onto one another. It’s evidently unhealthy to the audience but entirely understandable. Lack of father figures is a running theme, as are racism and mental illness. The emotional burdens that Baby and Fox carry are unrelenting. Zita Bai, our leading lady, and creator of Baby, has given us a thoroughly nuanced character. Some moments will make you infuriated with her, while others provoke sympathy It’s an extraordinary culmination of emotions. Baby, Don’t Cry will make you cringe, shake your head, and fill you with a bit of wonder.


DIRECTOR

Jesse Dvorak

WRITER

Zita Bai

CAST

Zita Bai, Boni Mata, Vas Provatakis, Helen Sun


WONDERFUL PARADISE

The Sasayas are moving out, but not without a party! A demented spin on the unwanted-guest scenario from punk iconoclast Masashi Yamamoto.


Thanks to Twitter, an estranged and dysfunctional family throws an accidental party on their move-out day. A barrage of quirky characters show up to explore and wreak their own brand of havoc. Wonderful Paradise is an absurdist sideshow. I would genuinely recommend watching this high. The number of times I exclaimed, “Huh?”, “What?”, or, “Sure, why not?! ” I lost count quite frankly. I must applaud the cast for their absolute commitment to their craft. The cast grows exponentially as the film rolls on and every single performer gives it 110%. The slow and district progression of the set is wild. The practical FX combined with the wackiest of screenplays make Wonderful Paradise perfect for Fantasia audiences. It is unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. Do I understand the final result? Absolutely not. Would I watch it again? Don’t threaten me with a good time.


DIRECTOR

Masashi Yamamoto

WRITER

Suzuyuki Kaneko, Masashi Yamamoto

CAST

Akira Emoto, Seiko Ito, Kaho Minami, Miyu Ogawa, Soran Tamoto


 

 

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

MARTYRS LANE

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


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


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

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


Fantasia International Film Festival 2021 review: ‘COMING HOME IN THE DARK’ will disturb you to no end.

COMING HOME IN THE DARK

Director/co-writer James Ashcroft introduced Fantasia 2021 audiences to a gutwrenching neo-noir. As a family attempts to enjoy a road trip, they are suddenly accosted by two men with an evil agenda. The complexities of COMING HOME IN THE DARK go far beyond a random encounter. This film was created to make you shudder. Redemption, revenge, cruelty, and shock all play huge parts in this journey. This is a film that will have you on the edge of your seat. Ashcroft’s feature debut deals directly with NZ ineptitude in their state-run facilities. This particular aspect of the script could be applied to any country. The abuse of children becomes an ironic twist that comes to haunt the viewer in more ways than one. The intensity that builds in this screenplay is unrelenting. The brutality is unforgiving. With a large amount of dialogue and action occurring under duress, and inside a car, the claustrophobia is palpable. The ability to build fully fleshed-out characters under the circumstances is truly astounding. Performances from this small cast will captivate you. The cinematography is incredibly thoughtful. It isn’t too often that I stop taking notes while watching a film. I didn’t write a single thing down during my viewing experience. I could not take my eyes off the screen. I cannot fully express how my entire body was shaking as I watched this film. I do feel compelled to warn viewers of the level of violence. Coming Home In The Dark is a traumatizing experience.



CAST:

  • Daniel Gillies
  • Erik Thomson
  • Miriama McDowell
  • Matthias Luafutu

Fantasia International Film Festival 2021 review: ‘When I Consume You’ is a haunting allegory.

WHEN I CONSUME YOU

A woman and her brother seek revenge against a mysterious stalker.


When I Consume You is a unique horror film that pulls you into the lives of Daphne and Wilson Shaw. Their past will not let them go. For better or for worse, we’re on their twisted journey for justice. The darkness of this story is palpable from the very beginning. Quite frankly, it never lets up. MacLeod Andrews, who most recently blew me away in A Ghost Waits, does it again. His energy swings from manic to terrifying. Libby Ewing, as Daphne, is both lead and narrator. Her voiceovers are soothing through the chaos. The chemistry with Dumouchel feels tangible. Evan Dumouchel playing Wilson is the real soul of this film. His emotional journey spills off the screen in a way that hypnotizes the viewer. I was captivated by every single one of his scenes, which are the majority of When I Consume You. This cast was perfect.

Perry Blackshear is the man with all the hats taking on directing, writing, cinematography, and producing. One of the best goosebumps-inducing moments occurs in the form of actress Libby Ewing’s hand appearing from nowhere. There is something so startling about this simple action. Its impact speaks volumes. There is a nice connection between the physical and metaphorical. The fight training scenes are a great representation of emotional preparedness. And without spoiling anything, the devil you know is sometimes a safer bet than the devil you don’t.  When I Consume You is an addiction allegory. Whether that is drugs or depression, the weight of trauma never quite leaves you. While the pacing of the film had some static moments, overall this is a fresh take on a haunting premise.


 

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

HELLBENDER

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


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

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

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

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

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


 

Fantasia International Film Festival 2021 review: ‘BEYOND THE INFINITE TWO MINUTES’ is a mind-blowing cinematic feat.

BEYOND THE INFINITE TWO MINUTES

Born out of an acting workshop and shot on an iPhone, BEYOND THE INFINITE TWO MINUTES is a high-concept time-loop movie that transcends expectations with its inventive concept. Kato (Kazunori Tosa) is at a bit of a dead-end in life. He lives above the cafe he owns and feels that his life isn’t moving forward when, one day, his computer screen starts to talk to him. The twist? It’s Kato from two minutes in the future; the sullen cafe owner has somehow stumbled on a very limited time loop. As he draws in his friends and coworkers, they all try to make sense of the weird phenomenon while also inventing creative ways to profit from their two-minute insight into the future.


If you had the inexplicable power to travel into the future two minutes, what would you do? There are innumerable answers to this query. Director Junta Yamaguchi takes that very concept and runs with it, quite literally at times. With an enchanting soundtrack and carefully crafted editing, the action starts immediately. When Kato realizes he can communicate with himself from two minutes in the future, chaos, and hilarity ensue. Unable to keep it to himself makes for a sticky situation. Once others know, things get even more complicated. With great power comes great responsibility.

Performances across the board are stellar. The commitment to the absurd is magic. The chemistry within this cast is outstanding. They are charming and energetic. It’s like watching a group of bright-eyed kids play. The camera work is a real marvel considering the impressively long takes. This film is all about timing, no pun intended. The cuts, if any, are tricky to spot. You’d think that reliving scenes would get old, but they manage to feel fresh each play based on location. Makoto Ueda’s script is that phenomenal. The camera also allows the viewer to feel like they’re part of the action. BEYOND THE INFINITE TWO MINUTES will be a huge hit with Fantasia audiences of all ages. It’s a nonstop, joyous experience.


 


Fantasia International Film Festival 2021 review: ‘KRATT’ brings life to lore and plenty of gore.

KRATT

Ah, children. The source of much joy, hope and innocence for many, but truth be told the little monsters are out to kill us all. Let’s be honest, they’re all selfish wretches who do nothing but drive you crazy and suck up your will to live. And now, in a small Estonian village, two narcissistic little brats (Nora and Harri Merivoo, the director’s kids!), dropped off at their Grandmother’s (Mari Lili) farm for a few weeks while their parents attend a self-help retreat, may bring about the end of human existence as we know it. Complaining about the actual work they’re expected to do, these little snot-nosed pests bring the local legend of the Kratt – a Terminator-like demonic spirit that must always be fed work, or else – to life just so they can take it easy, but in doing so they may have set in motion the destruction of Grandma, her village and perhaps the world with it. And all because they couldn’t get internet access.


A delicious mix of absurdity and folklore, Kratt is everything Fantasia International Film Festival 2021 audiences want in a single film. There’s a plethora of practical FX and gore, but the best moments come from actress Mari Lill as Grandma. Her commitment to the slapstick and over-the-top character changes makes Kratt one of the best films from this year’s fest.

You cannot miss the mockery of government, technology, religion, extremist politics, and everything in between. The score is wonderful and the cinematography is sharp. The script has one of the most brilliant and whip-smart final moments, cranking up the social commentary to 11. Kratt will have Fantasia Fest 2021 audiences doubled over. Whether that’s from gross-out moments or the laughs us up to the individual.



Fantasia International Film Festival 2021 review: ‘Sweetie, You Won’t Believe It’ is the only title that fits this chaotic hilarity.

SWEETIE, YOU WON’T BELIEVE IT


Three friends are in the wrong place at the wrong time. Sweetie, You Won’t Believe It is an unexpected buddy comedy that will entertain the hell out of Fantasia International Film Festival 2021 audiences. Our leading men accidentally witness a murder and now they must elude not only a vicious gang but a mysterious and vengeful stranger. The harder they try to survive, the weirder and more dangerous their situation becomes. So much for an enjoyable getaway weekend.

The film has some super fun camera work, taking advantage of go-pro technology, warping depth perception, and speed dynamics. Genuine laugh-out-loud dialogue pairs excellently with the ultra-violence. The choreography that went into some of these takes should be applauded. Performances are riotous. The line between villain and hero is blurred, making for an increasingly fun watch. I could easily see the rights for the script being snatched up for Western audiences. Could Fantasia Fest 2021 audiences be seeing the first film in a potential franchise? Sweetie, You Won’t Believe It… until you see it for yourself.



Fantasia International Film Festival 2021 review: ‘GLASSHOUSE’ is a twisted and beautifully macabre fairy tale.

GLASSHOUSE

Confined to their glasshouse, a family survives The Shred, a toxin that erases memory. Until the sisters are seduced by a Stranger who shatters their peace and stirs a past best left buried.


Entrancing and morbid, an airborne Victorian-era plague slowly diminishes the memory and faculties of all who dare to breathe it in. A woman, her three daughters, and an afflicted son survive inside the pristine remains of a botanical conservatory, giving us the title, Glasshouse. They protect themselves from outsiders, and the air itself, by adhering to rituals of daily life and recording their oral history to never forget. This film touches on natural selection, loyalty, family, and so much more. It is much more sinister than at first glance.

The set is enthralling. Painted windows, lace curtains, antique furniture, and gardens as far as the eye can see within the boundaries they protect. But this carefully curated surrounding is also a prison for this family. The moment this existence is challenged, their sacred way of life begins to crumble. Performances, across the board, are phenomenal. The script grows more intriguing by the minute. With learned skepticism and real fear of losing the ones they cherish, Glasshouse reveals itself like a meticulously structured novel. The twists are dark and plenty. The finale will shock you. Glasshouse is undoubtedly one of my favorite films at the Fantasia International Film Festival 2021.



Fantasia International Film Festival 2021 review: ‘THE SADNESS’ is ultra-violent, bloody mayhem.

Perhaps more aptly named The Madness, The Sadness is a tongue-in-cheek take on the insanity that the pandemic has reigned upon the globe. Rather than a variant that makes you sicker more quickly, this is a rage variant. The infected want to inflict as much pain as possible. The sexual violence is particularly egregious and repetitive… and that’s the point. If you are easily offended, this is not a film for your eyeballs. The simple premise of two lovers attempting to reunite among the chaos plays like a dream. Unlike similar films, say 28 Weeks, The Sadness is not a zombie movie. The infected are fully cognoscente of their behavior. It’s a psychotic switch that gets flipped, and what ensues is mind-blowing.

Performances are filled with greatness. What might only be a highlighted extra role in any other genre film turn into a slew of memorable ones. It’s that well written and performed. Seeped in genuine incel energy, social commentary, and over-the-top gore and violence create a shocking watch. The amount of movie blood that must have been involved in this production is unfathomable. I’ve watched a lot of horror, (like, a lot a lot) and The Sadness is not fucking around. One hour in, there is a moment so offensive, even I gagged. Fantasia International Film Festival 2021 audiences were treated to one of the most insanely disturbing films in the festival’s 25-year run. If you can watch and hold in your lunch, bravo. Director Rob Jabbaz, much respect to you, sir.



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

IFC Midnight review: ‘COME TRUE’

COME TRUE

High school student Sarah (Stone) is at her lowest point yet when she runs away from home and finds herself with no one to rely on and struggling with recurring nightmares. She chances upon a university sleep study that offers the promise of safety and money and brings her an unexpected friend and confidant in the overseeing scientist Jeremy (Liboiron). But there’s something curious about proceedings and being under observation seems to make Sarah’s disturbing dreams even worse. As the darkness begins to close in, it’s soon clear that Sarah has unknowingly become the conduit to a horrifying, new discovery…

Come True is best described as visceral nightmares. The wearer of all the hats, writer-director-DP-editor Anthony Scott Burns has given audiences a sci-fi head trip so stunningly beautiful it will overwhelm you. The film has a dark “Through the Looking Glass” feel. Visually akin to The Cell or What Dreams May Come, specifically the purgatory scenes. There’s a frightening beauty to Sarah’s dreams. This cast is amazing. The vulnerability of every single actor should be recognized. Our leading lady, Julia Sarah Stone is astonishing. Her physicality creates a false sense that her character is fragile. Stone owns each frame, sometimes with nothing but her eyes.

The visual progression of horrifying imagery is stunning. The sleep experiment costumes have a Tron meets Captain EO vibe and I really dig them. The script is solidly disturbing. In all honesty, I was locked in until the very final scene which for me stepped into “Huh?” territory. I’ve now watched this film twice. The second viewing was a lot more telling. I have new theories. That being said, the rest of the film is so powerful, Come True is completely worth your attention. Thoroughly engrossing original visuals and storytelling are ramped up by Electric Youth and Pilotpriest’s synth score. It manages to wrap itself around you and immerse you in fear. Each of these elements creates an experience making Come True its own entity. It may give you your own new set of nightmares.

COME TRUE will open in select theaters, digital platforms, and cable VOD on March 12, 2021.

Final Girls Berlin 2021 review: ‘Time Of Moulting’ (Fellwechselzeit) will take patience.

TIME OF MOULTING

In a small town in 1970s West Germany, Stephanie is an intelligent and lively child living an insular life with her parents. She senses that something is wrong in her family, something that cannot be put into words, and she pushes against it where she can. Unspoken maladies lurk beneath the surface of everyday life and insidiously seeps into who she is. Neither she nor her parents have contact with others, and she falls into a symbiotic relationship with her mentally unstable mother Sybille. Sybille has never really left her own childhood behind and lives a life amidst objects and shadows of the past. Stephanie’s father offers neither support, love, nor normalcy. Stephanie withdraws more and more into herself and the passing years bring only ageing, but no future with them. Stephanie flees early from her life’s narrowness and hopelessness into an inner world of dark fantasies, which are nourished by traces of the past. Fellwechselzeit is a heavily atmospheric and harrowing portrait of the ways in which oppressive and repressed family dynamics can influence and infect the lives of younger generations– not tangible, not namable, but inexorable. Inner abysses form the only escape route for an undernourished soul.

You have to stick with filmmaker Sabrina Mertens‘ style choice here. TIME OF MOULTING is one of the most intentional slow-burn films establishing the cyclical nature of mental illness I’ve ever seen outside of a documentary. As the camera sits and watches these drawn-out, often silent scenes, we get a small peek inside the world of a family that has chosen isolation. The film does a 10-year time jump only to find our young protagonist worse off than before. She has been simmering in the childhood of her mother and is acting out with self-harm and increasingly violent drawings and fantasies. This film is not for everyone. You have to have the patience to make it to the end. The visual impact of Time of Moulting is massive. We hear over and over that the family cat has urinated on the furniture. We see each room accumulate more garbage/objects. Stephanie’s fascination with her grandfather’s slaughterhouse tools will make you so uncomfortable you will feel it on your bones. Performances are outstanding. This film challenges the audience to its breaking point.

DIRECTED BY SABRINA MERTENS, GERMANY, 2020

Starring Zelda Espenschied and Miriam Schiweck

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 Funeral Home’ is a creepy place to live.

THE FUNERAL HOME

Bernardo is an undertaker. He and his dysfunctional family lives amongst coffins, wreaths and mischievous supernatural entities that visit daily. They attribute the paranormal manifestations to the dead bodies from their mortuary work. Finding the real source of all this madness will be their quest, but they might find a terrifying truth. Luis Machín, Celeste Gerez, Camila Vaccarini, Susana Varela, and Hugo Arana star.

 

The nonchalance of this tattered family living in a severely haunted funeral home is astounding. The audience goes in blind as we see a boundary of scorched earth not only in their yard but eventually, we discover it’s inside the house itself. The cinematography of The Funeral Home is eye-catching. The set dressing is filled with clues while the spectral lighting is just downright cool. The mood is heavy and frightening from the very first shot. That’s an uneasy feeling that never lets up. Performances from everyone are outstanding. There is a sadness and anger that hangs about each of the characters. The script is about betrayal and pure anguish. It has a Sinister-esque feel about it. The visual scares are jarring as hell. It’s clear that someone has made a deal with the devil, so to speak. I do mean that for more than one person. I have so many questions remaining, the revelations that do come our way are shocking and terrifying in a human way. There is so much potential in this film, I would love to see it developed into an entire series. There is a lot to unpack inside The Funeral Home and I desperately want to know more.

 

Mauro Iván Ojeda’s chilling supernatural thriller The Funeral Home comes to select virtual theaters on January 29 and digital on Feb 2.

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).

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

HUNTED

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

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

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

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

‘Super Dark Times’ now available on Shudder!

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

SUPER DARK TIMES

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

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

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

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

Anything For Jackson

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

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

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

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

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

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