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

DACHRA

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

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

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

Dachra | Dekanalog US Trailer from Dekanalog on Vimeo.

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

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

Color
Arabic Language with English Subtitles
114 minutes
Not Rated

Review: Jill Sixx Gevargizian’s ‘THE STYLIST’ has a look to die for.

THE STYLIST

Everyone dreams of being someone else, but for Claire, that dream goes from an obsession to a living nightmare. Her job as a hairstylist allows her to move in and out of other people’s worlds and is about to seamlessly pursue her disturbing predilection. Her lonely life, gruesome hobby, and shocking secrets are suddenly thrown into turmoil when her regular client, Olivia, asks her to style her hair for her wedding. Could she have made a true friend?

Back in 2016, I saw a disturbing and memorable short called The Stylist. Some of those images are still burnt into my brain. It’s not often I say that about a short. Now, writer/director/ producer Jill Sixx Gevargizian has developed that very short into a feature. That’s the funny thing about hairstylists. We totally end up telling them all about ourselves. It’s this unspoken, universal rule. We trust them with our hair and our secrets. Returning in the titular role is Najarra Townsend. She has this timeless look, with her gorgeous red hair and her vintage wardrobe. Signature colors people. Bravo to the costume department here. She has incredibly low self-esteem and social anxiety. Also, she’s a serial killer. This woman hates herself and craves connection. Gevargizian’s expertise as a real-life hairstylist shines through the opening scenes. She clearly guided Townsend’s hands to perfect the realism.

Brea Grant, who can do no wrong in my book, shines as Olivia, magazine exec, bride-to-be, and the unique object of Claire’s affection. She’s a firecracker. Her energy is the perfect foil for Najarra’s (mostly) quiet demeanor. Townsend has an amazing presence. Even when the focus is supposed to be on Olivia, her silhouette looms like a ghost in the background. She lives in the complexity of Gevargizian ‘s screenplay. She is both unsettling and mesmerizing.

We have to talk about the audio. The sound editing will make you cringe. The original score will throw your brain off-kilter and feels like an ode to 70’s horror classics. The editing is smart with side by side frames showing us Claire and Olivia as they navigate what seems mundane. The more we see them together, the more we realize how different these two women are. This script is built on the need for acceptance. There was a bit of a Single White Female (1992) meets May (2002) thing happening and I was all in. The Stylist is visually striking. You are enveloped in the lighting and overall color choices. The cinematic elements combined with stellar performances and an intense script creates a wildly successful atmospheric film dripping in nuance. Your heart is in your throat, constantly waiting for the other shoe to drop. It’s a very uncomfortable and bone-chilling watch. That. Final. Shot. And Cut.

See THE STYLIST first, on March 1st 2021, exclusively on ARROW.

Distributor: Arrow Video
Release date: 1st March, 2020
Running time: 1 hour 45 minutes

Screamfest 2020 review: ‘A Ghost Waits’ conjures real emotion.

NORTH AMERICAN PREMIERE

A GHOST WAITS

Jack’s job is to fix up the house. Spectral agent Muriel’s eternal task is to haunt it. They should be enemies, but they become fascinated by one another and eventually smitten, leading them to question everything about their work, lives, and decisions. But as pressure mounts for them to fulfill their duties, something’s got to give for the time together they both so desperately want.
A Ghost Waits made its North American premiere at Screamfest 2020 last night and was not at all what I was expecting. This is a total compliment. Jack is just trying to do his job… and Muriel is trying to do hers. When two lonely souls connect, not even death can keep them apart. In A Ghost Waits, it is quite the contrary. A “morbidly romantic” story might be an appropriate description. This film is pure indie magic with dialogue that is equal parts hilarious and emotional. Not to mention the effect of using what appears to be a simple flashlight to create a ghostly glow for our spectral agent, Muriel. The usual tropes of self-opening doors and cabinets, mysterious crying babies, and things disappearing are all very effective tools unutilized in the script, but it’s the genuine relationship between Jack and Muriel that makes this film stand out.
The song “Yellow Cotton Dress” as performed by lead actor MacLeod Andrews is something I would listen to on loop. I was blown away by his comic timing as well as his ability to make me weep. A great deal of the film is just Andrews doing his thing. You will be enamored with him.  After the film ended, I actually watched a 12-minute video of him recording a chapter from an audiobook. It was outstanding. It was a completely different side to the loveable and vulnerable character of Jack we get in this film. I’m suggesting you cast him in all the things, pronto. Natalie Walker clearly has a handle on comedy as well, taking a seemingly serious angle to Muriel. Her commitment to tone is spot on. MacLeod and Walker as a team are spectacular. Their chemistry just works.
The ending swings from genuinely devastating and to simply beautiful. It speaks volumes about the things we don’t talk enough about to one another. Sometimes all we need is for someone to listen. Sometimes we just need some help. This is one of the most unique scripts of the year. Director Adam Stovall co-wrote the script with Andrews and they’ve given us an entirely different perspective on horror and mental health. A Ghost Waits will undoubtedly surprise Screamfest audiences long after the credits roll. It’s a bit of a genre-bending wonder.
Black and White
English Language
79 minutes
Not Rated
🏆 WINNER, FRIGHTFEST 2020 🏆
BEST ACTOR
BEST DIRECTOR
BEST PICTURE