Review: Christina Ricci stars in ‘MONSTROUS,’ a visually spectacular story of unresolved trauma.

MONSTROUS

***Official Selection – 2022 Glasgow FrightFest***

A terrifying new horror awaits Laura (Christina Ricci) and her seven-year-old son Cody when they flee her abusive ex-husband and try to settle into a new life in an idyllic and remote lakeside farmhouse. Still traumatized, their physical and mental well-being are pushed to the limit as their fragile existence is threatened.


The pastel-soaked costumes from Morgan DeGroff contrast perfectly with the thoughtful set and production design from Mars Feehery and Taylor Jean. The house has an era-perfect look, simultaneously possessing an eerieness that is hard to describe. The entire film is a genre lover’s dream.

Santino Barnard plays Cody with maturity beyond his years. Ultimately, Monstrous belongs to Christina Ricci. She is glorious as Laura. Navigating sexism, motherhood, and abuse, Ricci rides the emotional nuances of deep-seated trauma and grief. As a mother, her performance had my heart in my throat.

Assisted by clever editing, the final twist makes the script’s build-up more powerful. Monstrous morphs genres instantly, jolting the audience alongside Laura. This device results in a creative spin on loss and acceptance. It speaks to our coping mechanisms and unresolved trauma we all try desperately to hide.


In Theaters and On Demand May 13, 2022

Directed by Chris Sivertson (I Know Who Killed Me, All Cheerleaders Die)

Written by Carol Chrest (The Prophet’s Game)


Starring

Christina Ricci (“Yellowjackets,” The Matrix Resurrections, Buffalo ’66, Casper)

Colleen Camp (SliverClueDie Hard With a Vengeance)

Santino Bernard (8-Bit ChristmasPenny Dreadful: City of Angels, “Bing”)

Don Baldaramos (Suburbicon, “Castle”)

Nick Vallelonga (Green BookThe Many Saints of Newark, The Birthday Cake)

RT: 89 minutes


Double Bill Review: Gonzalo Calzada’s ‘Nocturna: Side A – The Great Old Man’s Night’ & ‘Nocturna: Side B – Where the Elephants Go to Die’ are where the theatrical and experimental meet.

Nocturna: Side A – The Great Old Man’s Night

&

Nocturna: Side B – Where the Elephants Go to Die

“Nocturna: Side A – The Great Old Man’s Night” follows a nearly 100-year-old man who, on his final night on earth, fights for redemption from his life’s misdeeds. In “Nocturna: Side B – Where Elephants Go to Die,” Calzada embarks on an aesthetically opposite experimental twist of the same story.


Nocturna: Side A – The Great Old Man’s Night

 

Visual representations of grief, love, and regret make for a unique movie experience in the first of these two films. An extraordinarily haunting score adds to the emotional pull of the film. It’s a genre-defying film. There are brilliant clues along the way, but you have to stay sharp-eyed to notice them from the beginning. The added device of Alzheimer’s creates a perfect dance of deception and mystery. The cast is outstanding. Not a performance is out of place. Nocturna: Side A will break your heart as it inspires you to make peace with your shortcomings. Somewhere between memory and longing lies an enchanting storyline.


Nocturna: Side B – Where the Elephants Go to Die

 

This film has an entirely different approach and aesthetic. Audio and narration give it an almost accosting opening that prepares you for a drastically stylistic approach to more in-depth stories of the souls in the building. Nocturna: Side B is perhaps questionable as a stand-alone film. But it is undoubtedly a rich, nightmarish addition to the Nocturna: Side A.


Nocturna: Side A – The Great Old Man’s Night and Nocturna: Side B – Where the Elephants Go to Die will be released January 18 on iTunes/Apple TV, Amazon Prime Video, Google Play, Xbox, Vudu, Vimeo, DirecTv, local cable & satellite providers, and on DVD.


 

Shudder original review: ‘THE ADVENT CALENDAR’ is the holiday horror gift that keeps on giving.

THE ADVENT CALENDAR

Eva (Eugénie Derouand, Paris Police 1900), an ex-dancer, is now using a wheelchair, unable to walk. When her friend Sophie (Honorine Magnier, Tomorrow is Ours) gives her an old wooden antique advent calendar before Christmas, she realizes each window contains a surprise that triggers repercussions in real life. Some of them are good, but most of them are bad, really bad. Now Eva will have to choose between getting rid of the calendar or walking again – even if it causes death and destruction to everyone she holds dear around her.


Writer/Director Patrick Ridremont gives Shudder audiences enough horror to rude into the holidays with The Advent Calendar. Think of it as a Christmas-themed Pandora’s box. Eva’s life is pretty sad. Isolated by the insensitivity of people who only see her wheelchair, combined with the declining health of her beloved father, Eva trudges through day-to-day life. When given a unique birthday gift, each day brings the unexpected. For better, and most certainly, for worse.

There’s an immediate and visceral Wow factor that occurs when the box first appears. The design is intricate. It’s simultaneously inviting and terrifying. It also allows for a brilliant screenplay structure as we know there are more surprises to come counting down the days with Eva. The Advent Calendar could have been an entire series on Shudder. 

Eugénie Derouand, as Eva, is outstanding. You can see the gears turning as her moral compass disintegrates. It’s an emotional rollercoaster. Derouand makes it look easy, and you cannot help but root for her. 

The practical fx and makeup are unsettling and grotesque. I found myself unable to look away, quite frankly. The tropes are consuming, and they’ll send a shiver down your spine. They are relentless. Overall, The Advent Calendar is a gift that keeps on giving, whether you like it or not. Add this one to your annual holiday horror lists immediately. 


Shudder, AMC Networks’ streamer for horror, thrillers and the supernatural will premiere writer/director Patrick Ridremont’s ornate and elegant French horror fantasy The Advent Calendar exclusively on Tuesday, December 2nd. Combining Faustian themes and allusions with European folklore and tense, chilling terror, the Shudder Original film provides some highly original holiday season horror.

The Advent Calendar world premiered earlier this year at London’s Frightfest and was produced by Alain Benguigui, Virginie Ogouz, Jean-Yves Roubin, and Cassandre Warnauts.


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