Shudder review: Jeremiah Kipp’s ‘SLAPFACE’ is a genre film with unfathomable complexity.

SLAPFACE

“A boy deals with the loss of his mother by creating a dangerous relationship with a monster rumored to live in the woods.”


Brimming with trauma, Slapface is a unique horror. Bullying, neglect, and violence swirl to create a horrifying tale of a child reaching out for love. Writer-Director Jeremiah Kipp forces us to ride a rollercoaster of emotions that just keeps going around and around. If you’ve been searching for something unlike anything you’ve seen before, Slapface should be top of your list.

Some especially intriguing aspects of Kipp’s script are the mixture of family dynamics and folklore. Cleverly written in a way that combines Lukcs’ past behavior with small details that would make the other characters or even the viewer question whether the witch exists at all. The terror occurs in unexpected moments, the handling of firearms, brotherly confrontation, cyclical trauma, and normalized violence.

Lucas is played by August Maturo with an emotional depth beyond his years. His sadness and innocence have a visceral impact on the audience. You cannot help but feel for this kid. Slapface would be a solid double feature watch with The Shed. Each was created by the same questionable moral fabric. The line between protection and mayhem is so thin, it ups the tension tenfold. Slapface is a manifestation of grief, abuse, and shame. This is a story you won’t ever be able to predict. That doesn’t happen too often these days. The looming question that remains as the film fades to black is who really created the monster? Slapface‘s complexity is unfathomable.


Blood In The Snow (2021) review: Mark O’Brien’s ‘THE RIGHTEOUS’ brings an unpredictable darkness.

THE RIGHTEOUS (Dir. Mark O’Brien) (96 mins)
A burdened man feels the wrath of a vengeful God after he and his wife are visited by a mysterious stranger.


Former man of the cloth Frederic has a crisis of faith triggered by the death of his young daughter. When a mysterious injured young man named Aaron appears in their yard late one night, questions swirl as to his true identity. The young man’s intentions and intensity grow with each passing hour. Aaron slowly ingratiates himself with Frederic’s wife, Ethel, turning her sullen and suspicious mind into a gracious one overnight. His relationship with Frederic proves the most complicated.

Is The Righteous a parable? You’re constantly second-guessing any theory that pops into your head. The screenplay leans on its cast with brilliant storytelling. Stunning black and white cinematography compound a visceral sadness from the very opening shots. You cannot help but be swept away by the camera work. It’s so intentional, creating a timeless and unsettling hum from start to finish. The score is yet another brilliant element. It gave me goosebumps.

Mimi Kuzyk as Ethel is grounded and loving. You’ll hang on every word. Henry Czerny as Frederic is as skeptical as we need him to be. His pensive moments reel you in. You’re right along with him at every turn. Writer-director-star Mark O’Brien, as Aaron, is nothing short of captivating, as each beat is an entire journey. You will be mesmerized by both this performance and the script. You’ll want to watch it again and again.

Religion, redemption, and revenge all take center stage. As one forced into eight years of Catholic school attendance, this one got under my skin on another level. Nothing will prepare you for the reveals in this story. The escalation of terror is much like a rollercoaster that never seems to want to descend. It will make your heart race. Do not get comfortable. The Righteous is one hell of a feature debut. How can O’Brien possibly top such an epic introduction? I’ll be damned if I’m not here for whatever that may be.


You can check out the second half of BLOOD IN THE SNOW (2021) in person

November 18-23 at The Royale Theatre

Tickets are on sale now!


Blood In The Snow (2021) review: ‘MOTHERLY’ shows the dark side of unconditional love.

MOTHERLY (Dir. Craig David Wallace) (81 mins)
Single mom Kate will do anything to protect her daughter Beth from a dark and disturbing past that haunts them both. They have started a new life in an isolated farmhouse in the middle of the woods, far from the prying eyes of other people. Over the course of one day, Kate begins to suspect that something sinister is happening around them. As the danger becomes clear, Kate’s motherly instincts are put to the test. How far will she go to protect her daughter?


Kate is reliving an unthinkable nightmare after her neighbor’s daughter was killed inside her house on her watch. Now in witness protection, something is stalking Kate and her child, Beth. What follows is the unraveling of truth, and it’s far scarier than fiction. 

Performances across the board are phenomenal. Tessa Kozma plays Beth with the energy of a spoiled 9-year-old. She’s ungrateful, rude, and perfect in this role. Lora Burke as Kate hits it out of the ballpark. She reached every emotional high and low, proving a mother’s love is boundless. Bravo, to Kristen MacCulloch and Nick Smyth as grief-stricken parents at the end of their rope. They give very different but nuanced performances. 

Motherly is a visceral form of physical and psychological torture. It chills you to the bone. The script’s structure is in a manner that constantly keeps us guessing. The facts roll out slowly. The score is eerie, with breathy and repetitive voices overlapping the genre-familiar strings. Director Craig David Wallace, who co-wrote the script with Ian Malone, gives us a twisted home invasion teeming with mystery. Motherly is a tale of revenge, lies, grief, and obsession. 



You can check out the second half of BLOOD IN THE SNOW (2021) in person

November 18-23 at The Royale Theatre

Tickets are on sale now!


Grimmfest (2021) review: ‘The Guest Room’ (AKA La Stanza) checks in with trauma.

THE GUEST ROOM

The morning Stella decides to take her own life, a stranger knocks at her door claiming he has booked the guest room for the night. Surprised but charmed by this man who seems to know her very well, Stella decides to let him in. But when Sandro, the man who broke Stella’s heart, joins them at home, this odd situation turns immediately into chaos.


From the very first frame, the audience is consumed by whatever darkness resides in these walls. The colors and set scream haunted house. The score is a thrilling combination of beauty and ear-piercing madness. The camera work adds an extra layer of eeriness. This unexpected guest knows too much. What could he want? Who is he? Pay close attention.

Stella is played by Camilla Filippi with a pang of sadness and desperation that engulfs the viewer. Something is amiss. As details slowly emerge, her energy shifts with every beat. She’s simply captivating. Guido Caprino, as Guilio, the mysterious guest, walks a fine line between suave and scary. His agenda is unclear, and his entire aura is intrusive. Caprino’s intensity grows exponentially as the story progresses. It’s one hell of a performance.

The Guest Room is emotional torture porn and a terrifying, genre-bending story of redemption. I’ve never seen anything like this film before. As a mother, it affected me on another level. It’s surprisingly profound. Stefano Lodovichi has given GRIMMFEST audiences something truly breathtaking and unique.




  • Director:
    Stefano Lodovichi
  • Screenwriter:
    Stefano Lodovichi, Francesco Agostini, Filippo Gili
  • Producer:
    Andrea Occhipinti
  • Cast:
    Guido Caprino, Camilla Filippi, Edoardo Pesce
  • Cinematographer:
    Timoty Aliprandi
  • Editor:
    Roberto Di Tanna


Grimmfest (2021) capsule review: ‘The Spore’ floats by with gag-worthy gore.

THE SPORE

The lives of ten strangers intersect through a terrifying chain of events as a mutating fungus begins to spread through a small town wiping out everyone that comes into contact with it.


With undeniable Cabin Fever vibes meeting the reality of this very real global pandemic, THE SPORE is B horror moving making at its finest. Minutes in, I registered my elevated pulse and the first jump scare was a classic. THE SPORE gets everything right. Dreaming In Neon‘s new wave heavy score is ominous and spine-tingling. A great deal of the early terror comes in the form of radio broadcasts, allowing the audience to create their own fear response. Writer-director-editor D.M. Cunningham created a celebratory schlockfest for GRIMMFEST 21 audiences. If I’m being nitpicky, the voice actress who plays the radio reporter at the beginning of the film sounds less like an actual reporter and more like an audiobook actress. That familiar cadence of someone in the field is missing. To be frank, a majority of the acting is B horror quality. In no way does this lessen the overall entertainment value of The Spore. I was constantly yelling at the screen, “Aww, come on! Don’t do that!” The cinematography is fantastic. The makeup and practical FX are gag-worthy. This is one of the best aspects of the film. Huge high fives to the team for giving me plenty of gross goodies to look at.



  • Director:
    D.M Cunningham
  • Screenwriter:
    D.M Cunningham
  • Producer:
    D.M Cunningham, Tara Cunningham, Brian Hillard, Keith Golinksi
  • Cast:
    Haley Heslip, Peter Tell, Jackson Ezinga, Jeannie Jefferies
  • Cinematographer:
    Keith Golinksi
  • Editor:
    D.M Cunningham


Grimmfest (2021) review: ‘Alone With You’ is a startling debut for Emily Bennett and Justin Brooks.

ALONE WITH YOU

While waiting for her girlfriend to return home for their anniversary, Charlie Crane discovers she’s trapped inside her apartment and begins a frantic fight for survival as nightmarish visions descend and a voice in the wall guides her towards a way out.


Emily Bennett understands how to accentuate a feeling of claustrophobia. Stuck in a wildly angled apartment, brimming with eccentric kitsch, Charlie awaits the arrival of her girlfriend behind a front door that won’t open. As time passes, confusion arises. Simone should be home by now. Charlie hears voices, doesn’t know what time it is, and things seem to move on their own. Reality shifts under her, and things get worse by the minute.

The success of Alone With You lies within the minute details. Keep a sharp eye on every frame. The script is dizzying. The longer Charlie is trapped, the more overwhelming the story becomes as memories flood in. There is a jump scare so fantastically timed that I stumbled backward and gasped. And the transition that follows makes things all the more intriguing. Barbara Crampton plays Charlie’s mother. She’s a conservative woman who doesn’t want to accept her daughter. Although Crampton only appears in two scenes, she owns them. She’s a legend. She never fails to amaze.

Dora Madison, as Thea, is fantastic. She’s got this crunchy, stoner vibe. The way she holds the phone during her video calls with Charlie is incredible. It adds to the realism of her party friend vibe. Madison’s laid-back attitude counters Bennett perfectly. Emma Myles, who you’ll recognize from Orange Is The New Black, plays Simone. She’s the photographer girlfriend of Charlie. The script allows her to play both soft and hard moments, and she kills it.

Emily Bennett and Justin Brooks have written one hell of an arch for Charlie. You can see the sanity slowly drain from her eyes. It takes a lot of energy to be in every single scene. She knocks it out of the park. Alone With You keeps you on your toes, constantly second-guessing what might be happening. So much of the terror relies on sound. This only makes Bennett’s performance more impressive. The mystery and horror thrill you until the very last frame. It’s one hell of a debut.



  • Director:
    Emily Bennett, Justin Brooks
  • Screenwriter:
    Emily Bennett, Justin Brooks
  • Producer:
    Andrew Corkin
  • Cast:
    Emily Bennett, Barbara Crampton, Dora Madison, Emma Myles, Meghan Lane


Grimmfest (2021) capsule review: ‘Seagull’ captivates with deep trauma.

SEAGULL

After 8 years survival on a beach, Rose returns to her home town to settle unfinished business.


A portrait of mental health, gaslighting, and abuse, Seagull exposes one family’s dark secrets. The script is a slow-burn mystery with a creative, physical manifestation of grief and betrayal. Rose has exiled herself for eight years; her family disowned her. As the plot reveals itself, this dysfunctional family unit must confront its part. While I predicted the overall arc, this does not lessen the emotional impact of writer-director Peter Blach‘s choices. The best performances come from Gabrielle Sheppard as Rose and Adam Radcliffe as Geoff. Sheppard gives power to Rose. Her vulnerability and strength shine off the screen. With James Abbott and Blach’s script, Radcliffe is allowed to play the entire spectrum of emotions. He is terrifying. The cinematography by Rami Bartholdy is breathtaking. The film gets under your skin and lingers there. Seagull has an ending so satisfying, Grimmfest audiences will get their catharsis, and in true genre fashion.




Grimmfest (2021) review: ‘Night Drive’ shifts into an entirely new gear.

NIGHT DRIVE

A ride share driver’s life is turned upside down after an unexpected series of misfortunes.


Russel drives for Jaunt, an Uber-like app, shuttling people of all types all over L.A. After a young female passenger named Charlotte requests an added stop, Russel becomes caught up in a plot no one would see coming. This seemingly mundane premise spirals into shocking chaos that never ends. It’s an awesome commentary on how power changes the human soul. The chemistry between Sophie Dalah and AJ Bowen is electric. Their witty repartee and Charlotte’s penchant for danger keep the stakes and excitement high. With films like The Toll, Spree, and The Stranger, rideshare horror is an ever-expanding subgenre. Meghan Leon and Bradford Baruh share directing and producing credits. Baruh also plays the role of DP. Leon adds editor to her resume in addition to screenwriter. This script takes us on one wild ride. What feels like a set-up we’re getting used to becomes a (SPOILER ALERT) neo-noir sci-fi! It’s such an incredible payoff for an already tight 80 minutes. When are we going to normalize shorter runtimes with outstanding storytelling? Night Drive sets a strong precedent. Do I smell franchise potential? I could get revved up for that.



[Available October 16, 2021, 1:30 – 11:30 PM] Watch now online…


Grimmfest (2021) review: ‘The Free Fall’ lands a win with unexpected storytelling.

THE FREE FALL

Sara wakes from a coma to a life she doesn’t remember; a fragile, slippery reality that spirals into a nightmare where nothing is as it seems.


Boasting a bloody good opening, Adam Stillwell‘s The Free Fall is brimming with sinister intent. The set is a genre fan’s funhouse. During the title sequence, the camera explores the rooms with sweeping POV shots, placing the viewer on a haunting tour of the space. The house is vast, dark wood from ceiling to floor, art, and jewel-toned furnishings create both a warm and eerie feel. You know this house, and you anticipate evil in its halls.

Shawn Ashmore and Andrea Londo have a chemistry that remains at arm’s length. Londo plays Sarah with an overwhelming sense of anxiety shared openly with the audience. She commands with her innocence. Shawn Ashmore, as Nick, is cocksure and manipulative. There’s something off about his behavior. Ashmore makes you just as uncomfortable as Sarah. His commitment to the arc of Nick’s character is awesome.

Screenwriter Kent Harper‘s use of gaslighting and genre tropes keeps the audience guessing. You’ll need to understand what the hell is happening. There is a dinner party scene that has a cultish overtone. The transitions in this scene, score in particular, change the dynamic of the entire film. From that moment on, theories will wrack your brain. You will not see where this is going. When all is said and done, The Free Fall is a twisty mindfuck.



[Available October 16, 2021, 1:30 – 11:30 PM] Watch now online…


GRIMMFEST turns lucky 13 for this year’s hybrid addition. Here are some of the films we’re screaming about.

GRIMMFEST 2021

It’s no secret that the most buzz-worthy films come through only a handful of genre festivals. GRIMMFEST is on that shortlist. The festival turns a lucky 13 this year and it’s ready to rock audiences’ socks with a plethora of titles for every single viewer. After being completely virtual last year, a hybrid platform is back in action with a mix of in-person screenings from October 7th to 10th and online from October 14th to 17th. I can say that this year’s lineup is filled with everything from gore to absurdity, thrills to purest moments of wow. These are the films that will be on everyone’s lips. You can find out about tickets and schedules at https://grimmfest.com/

Do yourself a favor and mark your calendars now. There’s a lot to see.


THE BETA TEST

A Hollywood agent, engaged to be married in a few weeks, receives a mysterious letter inviting him for an anonymous sexual encounter and thus becomes ensnared in a sinister world of lying, infidelity, and digital data.

This genre-shattering film takes aim at Hollywood, toxic masculinity, horror, satire, all with co-writer-director Jim Cummings playing a sharp lead. His last film, The Wolf Of Snow Hollow, has a legit cult following now. Cummings has a distinct voice and I cannot wait to see if The Beta Test becomes another calling card on his resume.


THE RIGHTEOUS

A burdened man feels the wrath of a vengeful God after he and his wife are visited by a mysterious stranger…

There is something so striking about modern black & white cinematography. in The Righteous, writer-director Mark O’Brien also stars as the mysterious stranger in question. This horror film is filled with symbolism and will give any god-fearing viewer the vapers.


WHEN THE SCREAMING STARTS

When the Screaming Starts is a comedy-horror mockumentary about an inept, aspiring serial killer at the beginning of his “career” and a fledgling filmmaker willing to do anything to achieve his ambition.

A little bit of Vicious Fun meets Satanic Panic, I cannot wait to laugh and gag. Horror and comedy pair so well together and since everyone is a true-crime connoisseur who thinks they could commit the perfect murder, I am delighted to consume this one.


THE SPORE

The lives of ten strangers intersect through a terrifying chain of events as a mutating fungus begins to spread through a small town wiping out everyone that comes into contact with it.

Will this film be a little too close to home considering we’re still experiencing a global pandemic? I guess we’ll find out when we’re forced to look through the lens of writer-director D.M Cunningham.


HOTEL POSEIDON

Dave inherited the dingy and dilapidated Hotel Poseidon from his late father. He lives there and works as manager, and rarely seems to leave the place. The days and nights all bleed together. His existence is a hopeless one. When a young woman knocks at the hotel’s doors one night looking for a room, and his best friend shows up wanting to throw a party in the backroom, Dave’s world starts to spiral out of control, and his sense of reality starts to be shaken by recurring nightmares.

I have seen the title sequence for this film and it is hands down one of the coolest in all of cinematic history. I said what I said. If the rest of the film lives up to the initial visual, Hotel Poseidon will wow Grimmfest audiences.


ALONE WITH YOU

As a young woman painstakingly prepares a romantic homecoming for her girlfriend, their apartment begins to feel more like a tomb when voices, shadows, and hallucinations reveal a truth she has been unwilling to face.

Listen, you tell me Barbara Crampton is in a film and I’m watching it. Add on Emily Bennett who was fantastic in King Of Knives last year and I’m sold. Not only does she star, but she co-wrote and co-directed the film. Give me an all-female horror film every day of the year.



FULL VIRTUAL FESTIVAL LINE UP:

● FOR ROGER (Aaron Bartuska, USA)

● FATHER OF FLIES (Ben Charles-Edwards UK / USA)

● SLAPFACE (Jeremiah Kipp, USA)

● THE NIGHTS BELONG TO THE MONSTERS (Sebastian Perillo, Argentina)

● HAPPY TIMES (Michael Mayer, Israel / USA)

● NIGHT AT THE EAGLE INN (Erik Bloomquist, USA)

● VAL (Aaron Fradkin, USA, 77 min)

● THE SPORE (D.M. Cunningham, USA)

● THE PIZZAGATE MASSACRE (John Valley, USA)

● MOTHERLY (Craig David Wallace, Canada)

● SHOT IN THE DARK (Keene McRae, USA)

● NIGHT DRIVE (Brad Baruh, USA)

● MIDNIGHT (Oh-seung Kwon, South Korea)

● FACELESS (Marcel Sarmiento, USA)

● WE’RE ALL GOING TO THE WORLD’S FAIR (Jane Schoenbrun, USA)

● THE FREE FALL (Adam Stillwell, USA)

● ON THE THIRD DAY (Daniel de la Vega, Argentina)

● THE GUEST ROOM (Stefano Lodovichi, Italy)

● HOTEL POSEIDON (Stefan Lernous, Belgium)

● FORGIVENESS (Alex Kahuam, Mexico)

● TWO WITCHES (Pierre Tsigaridis, USA)

● KING KNIGHT (Richard Bates Jnr, USA)

● TARUMAMA / LLANTO MALDITO (Andres Beltran, Colombia)

● THE RIGHTEOUS (Mark O’Brien, Canada)


 

Passes and tickets can be purchased from www.grimmfest.com.