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

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

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

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

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

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

ABOUT SHUDDER:

AMC Networks’ Shudder is a premium streaming video service, super-serving members with the best selection in genre entertainment, covering horror, thrillers and the supernatural. Shudder’s expanding library of film, TV series, and originals is available on most streaming devices in the US, Canada, the UK, Ireland, Germany, Australia and New Zealand. To experience Shudder commitment-free for 7 days, visit ​www.shudder.com​.

 

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

The Dark And The Wicked

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Shudder Original Film

Review: ‘Alone’ plays on inherent fears.

Jules Willcox (Netflix’s Bloodline) stars in ALONE as Jessica, a grief-stricken widow who flees the city in an attempt to cope with the loss of her husband.  When Jessica is kidnapped by a mysterious man and locked in a cabin in the Pacific Northwest, she escapes into the wilderness and is pursued by her captor. The key cast includes Marc Menchaca (Ozark, The Outsider) and Anthony Heald (The Silence Of The Lambs).

In college, I used to drive 8 hrs, regularly, in my car to visit a boyfriend. I was alone. I drove straight through pausing only briefly if I saw families at a busy rest stop. But, I was alone.  John Hyam’s new film is everything I was afraid of happening to me on those long rides.  ALONE is a bonafide nightmare. The genius of this script is its simplicity. The relatively mundane encounters build in the most honest and horrifying way. Jessica does everything right. But, once a serial killer has you in his sites, there is no escape, or so you might think. The pacing is absolutely perfect. The sound editing highlights the isolation that is evident in the natural setting. The soundtrack beating it all into you. All combined you feel like you’re in Jessica’s shoes. ALONE is a stripped-down genre winner.

Jules Willcox is a powerhouse as Jessica. Her vulnerability is so relatable making it easy to root for her survival. This is a power dynamic that shouldn’t exist but women, in particular, are used to dealing with it constantly. With an evergrowing population of “incel’ culture, walking with your keys between your fingers, pretending to be on the phone, parking under a streetlight, are all small steps we take to protect ourselves. Women are often deemed too emotional until we are tested by the unimaginable. ALONE exploits all that ingrained fear and mixes it with grief. Willcox nails this role from every angle. Marc Menchaca does a brilliant job with physicality. He comes off as visually harmless but he is downright scary. Perfectly balancing emotional manipulation with the brute strength of a psychopath, you’ll believe he’s done this before.

This film put me in such an agitated state, I had fingernail marks in my palms. My heart was pounding and I would forget to breathe. The final scene is phenomenally satisfying for innumerable reasons. The final shot is stunning. ALONE is a visceral watch. It is the only accurate way to describe this chilling film.

Magnet Releasing will release ALONE in theaters and on-demand September 18th, 2020.

Directed by John Hyams

Written by Mattias Olsson

Starring Jules Willcox, Marc Menchaca, and Anthony Heald

Fantasia 2020 review: ‘The Paper Tigers’ is a funny, action packed crowd-pleaser.

Synopsis

Action/Dramedy
Three childhood Kung Fu prodigies have grown into washed-up, middle-aged men – now one kick away from pulling their hamstrings. But when their master is murdered, they must juggle their dead-end jobs, dad duties, and overcome old grudges to avenge his death.

Making its world premiere at Fantasia 2020, The Paper Tigers is endlessly funny with amazing fight choreography. Any time a moment gets serious, a hilarious joke is cracked. It keeps the pace alive and well. Writer-director Writer-director Bao Tran has given audiences a real treat. When I told my husband about the plot, he lovingly jested “I liked it better when it was called Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.” And yes, it has a fantastic nostalgia that the series also possessed, and you cannot avoid comparisons to The Karate Kid. These are all genuine compliments. This film is sheer perfection for my generation because it feels like a love letter to martial arts films but has that extra something unique. As someone who is also currently binging Cobra Kai, The Paper Tigers arrives at the right moment.

The plot is unexpected. We get to delve into friendship, loyalty, parenting, and the reality of aging all through a mystery. There is nothing I didn’t enjoy about the film. The fight sequences are super engrossing and again, any moment that veers into the weighty territory is carefully cut with humor. The editing reveals more backstory information little by little with flashbacks all caught on camcorder footage. It’s a great touch. The Paper Tigers is an awesome introduction to anyone who hasn’t seen a martial arts film before. It will ease you into the genre all while capturing your heart… and make you laugh out loud. What more can you ask for?

Fantasia 2020 review: ‘The Mortuary Collection’ is dark, twisted, and fun as hell.

On the cusp of retirement, an eccentric mortician recounts several of the strangest stories he’s encountered in his long career, but things take a turn for the phantasmagorical when he learns that the final story – is his own.

With a gorgeous opening sequence reminiscent of Creepshow and Spielberg‘s Amazing Stories, ( plus a blink and you’ll miss it homage to director Ryan Spindell as an easter egg) The Mortuary Collection was already going to be one of my favorites at this year’s Fantasia International Film Festival 2020. Honestly, you had me at Clancy Brown, a man who haunted my youth in Pet Semetary 2. The visual textures are nothing short of delicious. This film oozes eerie but in a strangely friendly way. Brown’s overall aesthetic lies somewhere between Lurch and Phantasm‘s Tall Man. It’s beautiful for a genre fan.

This horror anthology is told in chronological era order. Each one stylized to high heaven in all it’s glory. The specificity and care in which the sequences are dressed, the minute details like a nautical wallpaper, or the name of a frat house is not to be ignored. But the homages did not end with the titles. Evil Dead, Corpse Bride, Beetlejuice, The Shining, are only a few films that feel referenced. The performances are outstanding from every single cast member. But I’ll focus on Clancy Brown and Caitlin Custer, specifically. Brown in all his towering presence and booming voice glory is a mere half of this spectacular. His wise, seen it all manner of spookiness is nothing short of perfection. Custer’s smart-alecky persona is an excellent foil here. Her nonchalance both puts you at ease and tips you off to something darker. They are both undeniably incredible.

The Mortuary Collection presents us with morality tales wrapped in scary, unexpected delight. In no way whatsoever does it appear to have been made on an indie budget. It’s simply stunning to behold from every single angle. The practical fx are gross and gorgeous. The storytelling is both tongue-in-cheek and terror-filled. I don’t think I could have asked for anything more from Spindell except perhaps an entire franchise.

 

Fantasia 2020 review: ‘Bleed With Me’ slowly drains your sanity.

During a winter getaway at an isolated cabin, a self-destructive young woman becomes convinced that her best friend is stealing her blood.

Written and directed by Amelia Moses, BLEED WITH ME is an intoxicating look at social anxiety and self-harm.  Rowan is the third wheel on a weekend getaway with her work friend Emily and her boyfriend Brendan. After passing out night one from too much alcohol, she awakes to find a cut on her arm. With traces of previously inflicted self-harm scars, Rowan seems hesitant to explain how and why it got there. As fresh cuts continue to appear and as Emily continually suggests that Rowan is ill, the three inhabitants are at odds with the dynamics developing in the small cabin. Is Rowan losing her mind? Is there a more sinister plot? Rowan’s supposed sleepwalking might be to blame.

The performances from all three are incredibly satisfying in creating honest discomfort. Aris Tyros as Brendan is a fantastic foil for both Marshall and Beatty. He is genuine and down to earth. His character’s progression is sincere and grounded. I’d love to see more of him. Beatty owns the frame with s simple gaze. Her chemistry with her castmates lies somewhere between type A, seductress, and demure when necessary. It is Marshall’s performance as Rowan that leads us down the rabbit hole. Sometimes, guided only with her heaving breath we are left to interpret what terror she (ultimately us) is in the middle of.  She is the physical manifestation, along with Moses’ script, of a panic attack.

With what feels like a psychosexual undertone, the relationship between Emily, Brendan, and Rowan has a power dynamic that feels skewed towards Emily’s liking. You can see the shift in power as Emily feels like Brendan is connecting with Rowan. While I initially setup would lead you to believe Brendan is a quiet instigator, but that quickly proves false. When untold secrets are revealed, you begin to feel more unsettled. The film’s look, essentially natural light and fireside chats make for an immediate sense of claustrophobia and foreboding. When you’re left with only your own thoughts, and perhaps the idea that someone is drugging and violating you, it can do a number on your perception of reality. I’m still pondering the ending of the film, and that’s most likely the point. I am left just as dazed as Rowan in the end. Moses has given us a frightening and panic-filled story ripe for the Fantasia 2020 audience. I would love to know what other viewers come away with. Whose side are you on? Bleed With Me is a slow-burn into madness.

Find out more about Fantasia 2020 and how to watch Bleed With Me

Fantasia 2020 review: ‘Fried Barry’ is twisted commentary of the dark side of humanity.

FRIED BARRY

Fried Barry is about an abusive drug addict who gets abducted by aliens. An alien then takes his form on a jaunt through Cape Town. Spectacularly edited from the opening to the end credits, Fried Barry is a drugged induced terror trip. The imagery is stunning, using color like a character of its own. The score and sound design by Haezer is menacing and intense. This is genre madness at its finest. This is why Fantasia 2020 audiences show up.

Do not watch this film while high. It’s fucked up enough as it is. Writer/director/producer Ryan Kruger does not need you to tell him you had a complete and total mental breakdown while watching. Or perhaps that would be a compliment. Our leading, Gary Green is unreal as a man clearly effed up by aliens. His physical performance is so bizarre it’s perfection. The film is a study in human behavior from an outside perspective. It’s an actor’s dream. Green’s work is award-worthy. With very little dialogue on his end, Kruger’s screenplay allows for him to be totally weird but somehow completely believable in experiencing the complexities of the human race. Sex, drugs, people talking at one another rather than listening pretty much sums it up.

Halfway through it goes from strange to utterly dark, but you’re so far down the rabbit hole it only makes sense. There is a childlike innocence to Green at this point that will freak you out. A sick turn in the plot will throw you for yet another loop. Fried Barry‘s unpredictability is what makes it so arresting. It’s not the alien that’s frightening, it’s people.

To find out more about Fantasia 2020 and how to watch Fried Barry

Fantasia 2020 review: ‘Yummy’ is a gory treat.

The young woman wants a breast reduction. … Wandering through an abandoned ward the boyfriend stumbles upon a young woman, gagged and strapped to an operating table; she is the result of an experimental rejuvenation treatment.

All guts, all glory in this splatterfest zombie comedy. Fantasia 2020’s audiences will know what kind of film they’re in for by the tagline alone: “Facelifts, Boobjobs… and Zombies”. Yummy is a hilarious look at vanity through the zombie lense. I especially liked the when the female doctor traverses across a plank in what might be referred to as “f*ck me” heels. I’d love to know how many gallons of fake blood they had on set. I’m a sucker for great practical FX, so the added element of blood hitting the camera clutch. If 3D was still a popular fad, Yummy would be a perfect choice. The rest of the gag-inducing makeup will not be missed. My best guess would be Kensington Gore recipe… because, not poisonous and all. There are scenes that will make you wince because they are that gross. But that’s what we show up for.

Performances are all incredible. Everyone has the perfect balance of whatever personality trait needs to be pushed just a touch too far. While it does feel about 15 minutes too long, the kills keep coming and they’re entertaining as hell. Writers Lars Damoiseaux (who also directs) and Eveline Hagenbeek give us a ton to hold onto. Like many zombie films, it highlights ingenuity. But there is a lot more going on. Yummy dives into misogyny and the patriarchy, by both men and women. But I will say that when the worst offending characters get what’s coming to them your smirk will widen. Not only do we have that aspect, but we also have a genuine love story. On that note, major props for choices made in ending this film. Perhaps the ultimate moral of the story, you’re beautiful just the way you are? But it’s a zombie movie so who needs a moral, anyhow.

Find out more about Fantasia 2020 and how you can watch Yummy

Fantasia 2020 review: ‘SLEEP’ is a waking nightmare.

Marlene, a woman plagued by horrific dreams, suffers a breakdown in a remote village. As her daughter Mona follows, she comes upon a well-kept family secret and an old curse that ultimately threatens her life – a never-ending nightmare.

I can finally relax my entire body after watching Fantasia 2020’s Sleep. The mystery that unfolds has such a tight grip that I was tense from head to toe with anxiety, much in the same physical manner as our matriarch Marlene. Two brilliant women inhabit the roles of mother-daughter team, Marlene and Mona. Sandra Hüller, from what should have been 2017 Oscar winner for Best Foreign Language Film, TONI ERDMANN) and Gro Swantje Kohlhof, ( Nothing Bad Can Happen –  one of the most unsettling films I’ve ever seen and written about) make for an intriguing balance on screen. For what little interaction they actually have from scene to scene, you genuinely believe they are connected.

The scares are intensely scored and intriguingly edited. The script by Thomas Friedrich is weird from the beginning. The performances have this unnerving, larger than life essence to them. You can feel something is very off about everything and everyone. Overly excited, excessively nice and informative, to unusually angry for no apparent reason. Sleep is like a living, breathing panic attack. The cinematic dynamics are stunning. The plot feels a little like a twisted hereditary version of Nightmare on Elm Street. But then you have a bloodline double entendre thrown in. It’s quite complex but extremely entertaining. As someone who has had reoccurring dreams her entire life, Michael Venus ‘ direction of SLEEP disturbed me to no end. And if you’re anything like me, you will continue to question what is real long after the credits roll.

To find out more about Fantasia 2020 and how to watch SLEEP click here

Fantasia 2020: Everyone’s a critic in feminist horror ‘The Columnist’

Columnist and author Femke is flooded with anonymous nasty messages and death threats on social media. One day she has enough and decides to take revenge.

When praise is what fills your void in a world where trolls thrive, The Columnist is perfect genre therapy. Fantasia’s own pool of critics and filmmakers alike will go mad for this film for innumerable reasons. Femke is exhausted by vile comments on social media. She obsessed over them. When she decides to do something about it, her newfound violent tendencies unlock her writer’s block. But, it only lasts one article at a time. Under pressure to write a book, this becomes a real problem for Femke. It’s the performance from Katja Herbers that makes this already brilliant script from Daan Windhorst even cooler. Its dark humor could not be more satisfying. Herbers’ delivery is so casual and effortless. Truly award-worthy stuff. I think my favorite thing might be what she decides to take as a trophy. It’s the most appropriate choice that may as well be phallic. Perfection. The Columnist is the definition of feminist horror.

I have to point out a key piece to the script. The tweets and comments are heavily right-wing conspiratorial. They read like they’ve been created by a bot or as if they’re right out of the Qanon playbook; crazy and completely horrible. As a female writer, this film was far more enjoyable than perhaps my male colleagues might have found it. Is this secretly my fantasy? I’ll never tell. Words hurt. Criticism of any kind can be brutal. (And I also get the irony of that statement considering what I write.) But, the best unsolicited advice I can offer after watching The Columnist: Maybe don’t track down ppl hiding behind a small screen and murder them? Although it does make for one compelling film. “Write what you know.” So to speak.

 

NETHERLANDS  /  2020  /  84 MINS  /  OV DUTCH  /  SUBTITLES : ENGLISH
GENRE: Horror

 

Find out more about Fantasia 2020 and purchase tickets for The Columnist

Fantasia 2020 review: Short film’ You Wouldn’t Understand’ is aptly named.

YOU WOULDN’T UNDERSTAND

An idyllic picnic of one is upended after the arrival of a stranger.

9 minutes of sci-fi absurdity is what I Iive for during Fantasia International Film Festival. You Wouldn’t Understand no matter how hard you try. Impeccably shot and hilariously acted, the only thing wrong with it is that it ends! And that is entirely the point. This is one of the best treatments for an entire series I’ve ever seen, even if that was never the intention. I would watch the hundreds of other iterations of the same story with absolute giddiness. I knew it owned me when I exclaimed, “What the hell?” halfway through. I was as completely weirded out as I was confused… but also had a stupid grin on my face that wasn’t going anywhere even after the credits rolled. Then I watched it again. I cannot stop talking about this film which is also ironic seeing as how I don’t want to give too much away to an audience. Because YOU WOULDN’T UNDERSTAND.

The film is a true collaboration. Director Trish Harnetiaux, also co-wrote the script with actor Jacob A. Ware, while co-star Anthony Arkin edited the short. No surprise the three formed the production company Steel Drum In Space. Which is a hilarious moniker of its own… for obvious scientific reasons. If Monty Python gets your goat, if great writing is your jam, if superb cinematography gets your engine revved, then You Wouldn’t Understand will make complete sense as a viewing experience.

WORLD PREMIERES AT
FantasiaYellow_Transparent.png

YOU WOULDN’T UNDERSTAND

Color
English Language
9 minutes
Not Rated

For more information on the film and to find out about Fantasia 2020 click HERE