Review: ‘APARTMENT 413’ is a horror-filled heartbreaker.

APARTMENT 413


Marco spends his days applying for jobs online and waiting for Dana, his pregnant girlfriend, to get home. Strange post-it notes mysteriously appear around the apartment with cryptic warnings. A mechanic texts and calls him with menacing messages from an old non-functioning cell phone. The walls close in and tensions build between Marco and Dana’s relationship until all sense of safety dwindles as the lines between imagined and reality blur for both Marco and the audience. When Marco discovers the root of it all, his real problems begin.


Right as the screen faded to black, I realized how smart this script is. Apartment 413 starts with a bang. Slowly, we are introduced to the dynamic between the apartment’s newest tenants, Dana and Marco. With a baby on the way, Marco is desperately trying to find a job. Dana is gone all day, at work herself, but comes home with loving arms and encouragement for the future. As Marco continually fails to get interviews, strange notes begin to show up on their front door. A mysterious cellphone rings incessantly, sending Marco vile texts. No matter what he does, he cannot seem to escape the things he’s seeing or feeling. Can he keep his family and sanity intact?

One of my favorite scream queen-writer-directors, Brea Grant, plays Dana. Because of the ever-evolving nature of Marco’s predicament, Grant is allowed to play the entire emotional spectrum. Her nonchalant chemistry with Saenz is astounding. Nicholas Saenz is impeccably engaging. The film’s success hinges on his likability. Much like the script, his performance has more of an impact once the credits roll. The film takes place almost exclusively inside the small apartment. This set is a tight squeeze that the audience feels just as much as Marco. Saenz gives us his all. It’s a dizzying and heartbreaking performance. Screenwriter Ron Meade gives us all the breadcrumbs along the way. They’re so slyly distributed. Along with anxiety of job searching, feelings of inadequacy, and isolation, Apartment 413 is a slow burn psychological horror that punches you in the gut. As that final puzzle piece falls into place, it turns out this is one of the most disturbing films I’ve seen in a while.


Trailer
Terror Films presents APARTMENT 413 on Digital Download September 17

Nicholas Saenz (“American Crime”), Brea Grant (“Beyond the Gates”), and Dave Buckner star in Matt Patterson’s unnerving APARTMENT 413, premiering On Digital this September from Terror Films.


TIFF 2021 review: ‘ALL MY PUNY SORROWS’ is a soulful navigation of familial darkness.

ALL MY PUNY SORROWS

Based on the international best-selling novel by Miriam Toews, All My Puny Sorrows is the poignant story of two sisters-one a concert pianist obsessed with ending her life, the other, a writer, who in wrestling with this decision, makes profound discoveries about her herself.


Depression, religion, and feminism uniquely intersect in All My Puny Sorrows. Flooded with grief and emotion, two sisters are forced to confront their devastating past and come to terms with the inevitable future. Yoli is a writer steeped in her own perceived mediocrity and exists in the shadow of her renowned concert pianist sister. Elf has money, a supportive husband, and fame. Not yet recovered from their father’s suicide, she is determined to take her own life, with or without Yoli’s assistance. Two different paths emerge from the same childhood experiences. Is it too late to save each other?

Director Michael McGowan‘s screenplay pays full tribute to novelist Miriam Toews‘ original text by keeping these characters unapologetically demonstrative and smart. The film swiftly takes an ax to the patriarchal religious structure. That’s really the smallest part of deconstructing preconceived notions in this story. All My Puny Sorrows is about the reclamation of power and what that looks and feels like for each of the Von Riesen family members: dad included. Well-read audiences may connect on a different level. Ironically, the heavy literary aspect might also be the film’s downfall, with some viewers unable to discern between quotes and original dialogue. It will either win or lose audiences in its verbosity. I’m hoping that’s not the case, as those moments are akin to poetry.

Amybeth McNulty, who I adored as the titular character in Netflix’s Anna With an E, shows us a completely different side of her nature. She plays Yoli’s unfiltered teen daughter. She’s an exceptional scene partner for Alison Pill. Mare Winningham, as matriarch Lottie, is a spark plug. The no-nonsense, tongue-in-cheek way of communicating is refreshing and funny. Sarah Gadon, as Elf, is determined to convince Yoli to assist in her suicide. Gadon is soft, resolute, and somehow totally powerful. Alison Pill plays Yoli with the fierceness she deserves. She’s a writer with grand notions of rescue, and yet also a pragmatic understanding of the familial darkness. Her sporadic narration gives us insight into their Mennonite upbringing. Pill’s vulnerability and volatility make All My Puny Sorrows a massive success. The nuance of this performance is captivating. Gadon and Pill’s scenes are electric. There is a palpable sense of sadness and honesty in this film that will surely be a gut-punch for many. People will be talking about this one.


You can find out more about TIFF 2021 at

https://www.tiff.net/

‘The Matrix Resurrections’ Official Trailer 1 is here, and we have chills!

The Matrix Resurrections – Official Trailer 1

This epic journey began in 1999. It’s been 18 years since the last installment. After watching the trailer, we’ve got A LOT of questions. The plot is currently unknown.

The Matrix Resurrections will be released on December 22nd, 2021. This is going to be one hell of a holiday surprise.

Which pill will you choose?


From visionary filmmaker Lana Wachowski comes “The Matrix Resurrections,” the long-awaited fourth film in the groundbreaking franchise that redefined a genre. The new film reunites original stars Keanu Reeves and Carrie-Anne Moss in the iconic roles they made famous, Neo and Trinity.

The film also stars Yahya Abdul-Mateen II (the “Aquaman” franchise) Jessica Henwick (TV’s “Iron Fist,” “Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens”), Jonathan Groff (“Hamilton,” TV’s “Mindhunter”), Neil Patrick Harris (“Gone Girl”), Priyanka Chopra Jonas (TV’s “Quantico,”), Christina Ricci (TV’s “Escaping the Madhouse: The Nellie Bly Story,” “The Lizzie Borden Chronicles”), Telma Hopkins (TV’s “Dead to Me,”), Eréndira Ibarra (series “Sense8,” “Ingobernable”), Toby Onwumere (TV’s “Empire”), Max Riemelt (series “Sense8”), Brian J. Smith (series “Sense8,” “Treadstone”), and Jada Pinkett Smith (“Angel Has Fallen,” TV’s “Gotham”).

Lana Wachowski directed from a screenplay by Wachowski & David Mitchell & Aleksander Hemon, based on characters created by The Wachowskis. The film was produced by Grant Hill, James McTeigue and Lana Wachowski. The executive producers were Garrett Grant, Terry Needham, Michael Salven, Jesse Ehrman and Bruce Berman.

Wachowski’s creative team behind the scenes included “Sense8” collaborators: directors of photography Daniele Massaccesi and John Toll, production designers Hugh Bateup and Peter Walpole, editor Joseph Jett Sally, costume designer Lindsay Pugh, visual effects supervisor Dan Glass, and composers Johnny Klimek and Tom Tykwer.

Warner Bros. Pictures Presents, In Association with Village Roadshow Pictures, In Association with Venus Castina Productions, “The Matrix Resurrections.” The film will be distributed by worldwide by Warner Bros. Pictures. It will be in theaters nationwide and on HBO Max via the Ad-Free plan on December 22, 2021; it will be available on HBO Max for 31 days from theatrical release.


 

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.

Review: ‘Small Engine Repair’ Explores Toxic Masculinity with Thrilling Effect.

Featured

SMALL ENGINE REPAIR

Frankie (John Pollono), Swaino (Jon Bernthal), and Packie (Shea Wigham) are lifelong friends who share a love of the Red Sox, rowdy bars, and Frankie’s teenaged daughter Crystal (Ciara Bravo). But when Frankie invites his pals to a whiskey-fueled evening and asks them to do a favor on behalf of the brash young woman they all adore, events spin wildly out of control. Based on Pollono’s award-winning play, Small Engine Repair is a pitch-black comedic drama with a wicked twist and a powerful exploration of brotherhood, class struggle, and toxic masculinity.


Frankie (John Pollono), Swaino (Jon Bernthal), and Packie (Shea Whigham) are working-class men that share a friendship bond going back to childhood. That bond is strengthened further by their co-parenting of Frankie’s beloved daughter Crystal, who has spent a lifetime being raised by a loving– if raucous– male collective. This sets the scene for a fascinating character study of a group of men raised in a culture steeped in toxic masculinity who struggle to push back against it but often fall incredibly short. 

At first, Small Engine Repair seems like a dark family drama with a comedic edge. However, it is not until the second act that the viewer realizes that they are in the midst of a thriller. Complex performances by the entire cast gradually build tension through sharp looks, quick words, and complicated histories until the atmosphere on screen is so thick with menace that suddenly, every word and movement is a threat. It is hard to say more without giving away the shocking twists that a seemingly ordinary whiskey-fueled night in a garage would unleash. So instead, I will say that the tightly directed and brilliantly acted Small Engine Repair had me holding my breath through the finale.


In Theaters September 10, 2021


Written and Directed by

John Pollono

Starring: Jon Bernthal, Shea Whigham, Jordana Spiro, John Pollono, Ciara Bravo, Spencer House


Dances With Films LA short film review: ‘CLASS’ deserves a standing ovation.

CLASS

SYNOPSIS: New student Max attends his first ever acting class. He soon discovers that the lines between class and cult begin to blur as he and his fellow students are subjected to the bizarre but brilliant methods of their eccentric teacher, Adam (David Krumholtz).


Is it possible writing and directing team Enzo Cellucci and Ash McNair videotaped my college years and then made a short film from the footage? From the looks of CLASS, the answer has to be a firm Yes. If you’ve never experienced an acting class, this short film might seem completely absurd. If you paid a ton of money to earn a degree at a conservatory, as I did, CLASS is also completely absurd. This is the highest compliment I can pay this guffaw-inducing short. It is a literal blueprint for acting class. Cellucci and McNair nail the aha moments that arise from notorious acting games. They capture the frustration and joy of workshopping a monologue.


While the success of this film hinges on the commitment of the spectacular ensemble, I must specifically salute Enzo Cellucci and David Krumholtz. The majority of the film revolves around Max remaining an observer. It is not until he is forced to participate that we are fully consumed by the heat of embarrassment only actors know in their souls. Cellucci’s emotional and physical beatdown creates greatness. As Adam, David Krumholtz is a goddamn character study in CLASS. It is everything, from the slicked-back hair, the robe over silk pajamas, and the pièce de résistance, the accent. The impeccably precise bastardization of a British accent is a thing of glory. If your ear is sharp enough, you’ll notice how it changes from scene to scene. It is, as they say, the chef’s kiss. CLASS is easily one of the most honest and cringeworthy shorts I’ve ever watched. I lived inside every second, and I loved it just as much. I’m still laughing. I am dying to see this developed into something bigger. It certainly deserves the audience. To everyone involved, Bravo!


CLASS had its WEST COAST PREMIERE AT
THE DANCES WITH FILMS FESTIVAL
IN LOS ANGELES WAS AT TCL CHINESE THEATRES ON FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 3, 2021 AT 4:30 PM PT

CAST: David Krumholtz, Alina Carson, Enzo Cellucci, Amanda Centeno, Brendan Dalton, Kristin Friedlander, Carson Higgins, Joseph Huffman, and Ash McNair


DIRECTED & WRITTEN BY: Enzo Cellucci, Ash McNair


PRODUCED BY: Hank Azaria, Enzo Cellucci, Clea DeCrane, Karen Eisenbud, Srinivas Gopalan, Joseph Huffman, David Krumholtz, Jonny Marlow, Rob McGillivray, Ash McNair, Phillip Nguyen, Gayathri Segar, Ben Stranahan, Michel Tyabji

Telluride 2021 review: ‘JULIA’ is a mouthwatering doc about the cultural icon, Julia Child.

JULIA

At the 48th annual Telluride Film Festival, audiences were treated to a delicious documentary Friday with JULIA. Julia Child is one of the most well-known people on the planet when it comes to food. Who didn’t grow up with a copy of Mastering The Art Of French Cooking? It was on every kitchen shelf. In the new documentary, directed and produced by Julie Cohen and Betsy West, interviews with modern-day household names in the culinary world are interspersed with archival footage, personal photos, and clips from Julia’s cooking programs. Her distinctive voice is heard over glorious footage of cooking. If watching this doc does not make you salivate, I don’t know what will. We learn about Julia’s upbringing. After college, she breaks with conservative familial expectations to explore different paths. This would come to include WWII military service. She even confessed a desire to be a spy. During her travels, she meets the future love of her life, Paul. The film shares letters from Julia and Paul, as well as journal entries throughout the years. Paul captured her heart but it was food that sparked Julia’s lust for life. After moving to Paris, her very first meal would change the course of history.

Photo by Fairchild Archive/Penske Media/Shutterstock (6906383b)
Julia Child on the set of her cooking show, ‘The French Chef
Julia Child, Boston

JULIA exposes the toxic masculinity inside the culinary industry. She was a giant among men, often quite literally. Her physical stature would not be overshadowed by her boisterous personality. Julia Child was a feminist, even a board member of Planned Parenthood. She didn’t let anyone tell her she couldn’t do something. Julia made sure she stayed relevant. She was flirtatious, fearless, and ever-evolving as a human being. Some of the most beautiful aspects of the film come in friends and family doting on Julia and Pauls’s marriage. Their relationship is reminiscent of Ina and Jeffrey Garten‘s. Paul was her right-hand man, her biggest cheerleader, and he worshipped her. It’s a simple fact that Child paved the way for female chefs today.  She essentially gave them instructions as intricately written as her first cookbook. JULIA isn’t simply a documentary about a culinary icon. It’s a lesson in passion. It’s a love story. It’s a legacy on film.



Telluride Film Festival runs from September 2nd -6th, 2021


Review: IFCMidnight’s ‘WE NEED TO DO SOMETHING’ lets your imagination do a lot of the terrorizing.

WE NEED TO DO SOMETHING

After Melissa and her family seek shelter from a storm, they become trapped. With no sign of rescue, hours turn to days and Melissa comes to realize that she and her girlfriend Amy might have something to do with the horrors that threaten to tear her family – and the entire world, apart.


This is perhaps, one of the most batshit premises for a horror film I’ve seen in a very long time. That is one hell of a compliment. Innuendo sneaks in from the beginning, and while you can grasp Melissa’s guilt, never in a million years will you expect We Need To Do Something to unfold in the manner it does. That is the absolute genius of this script. Except for a handful of flashbacks, the entire film takes place inside the family bathroom. Terror arrives in many forms throughout this film. One of the most shocking is the progressive violence from Pat Healy‘s character, Robert. If you want to see a character study of epic proportions, Healy has got you covered. He begins as a disgruntled husband and selfish father, eventually succumbing to forces both inside and out. It’s a maniacal performance.
Sierra McCormick, who I believe was the best part of American Horror Stories, nails it again. Her anxiety is palpable, and she is unafraid to leave it all onscreen. If she isn’t the next genre darling, I’ll be shocked. The script does a great job of highlighting the awkwardness, the lack of privacy, and the growing tension under duress. Who wants to use the toilet in front of your family? Screenwriter Max Booth III provides us with a sharp left turn a third of the way in. The gasp and look of horror on my face must have been hideous. No matter how I assumed this story would play out, that one moment is so mind-blowing it will send chills down your spine. The film’s most impactful aspect is the sound. Man does this cast sell it. Your own imagination is your worst enemy while watching. The ambiguity lets every viewer come away with a different and twisted result. Director Sean King O’Grady has an undeniable hit with We Need To Do Something. Here’s hoping he and Booth team up again and again.

IN THEATERS, DIGITAL and VOD on FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 3RD

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.

Review: ‘A WAKE’ is a powerful conversation starter for many families.

A WAKE

The children in a religious family clash with their parents as they prepare for the wake of their brother, Mitchel.


Growing up Catholic didn’t honestly impact me until 8th-grade. I should say that attending Catholic School didn’t make me feel any different until one specific religion class. It was a moment that changed my entire life. It was explained to me, that telling my mother I was gay would be the equivalent of telling her I had committed murder. That was a defining moment. Today, my mother lovingly refers to one of my younger sisters and me as her “heathen children.” I begrudgingly attended Christmas and Easter Mass with my family throughout my college years. Then I put my foot down. I would no longer perpetuate the charade. To put this all in extra context, I am a straight woman. I grew up in the arts, surrounded by some of the most extraordinary humans on this planet. I continue to defend equal rights and acceptance, despite pushback from too many. Films like Scott Boswell’s A WAKE are important for families who may not even know they are in crisis. This story offers acceptance and unconditional love as lifesaving tools.

Noah Urrea plays twin brothers Mason and the recently deceased Mitchel. The youngest sibling Molly is planning a memorial wake for Mitchel. Invitations are sent to older sister Megan, their grandmother, their Baptist pastor, and Mitchel’s boyfriend, Jameson. The boys’ father and stepmother are typical religious conservatives, touting blasphemy, a stiff upper lip, and an extremely toxic, “man up” tone. The majority of the family is in the dark about Mitchel’s life, and Mason is left to deal with the guilt and trauma of losing his brother. Secrets and sadness have a poisoning effect on a family. A Wake addresses them in an accessible way.

The cast is amazing. Each actor brings the energy necessary to tell this story with truth and realism. Some moments are awkward, while others are rage-inducing. Megan Trout, as older sister Megan, is great. She’s the voice of reason in all of the chaos, whether the other family members are ready or not. Kolton Stewart, as Jameson, is lovely. His quiet strength brings a calm to the sadness. Bettina Devin as Grandmother is a gem. She’s elegant and understanding. Sofia Rosinsky‘s neurotic mentality is a story unto itself. Through flashbacks, we can see a clear progression of her personality, her growing manic tendencies, and genuine curiosity. She’s a spitfire.

Noah Urrea gives life to two equally intriguing characters, Mason and Mitchel. He has star quality. His narration, and the accompanying camerawork and score, push A Wake to the next level. If I had to nitpick, because that score is so good, you notice when it doesn’t appear. The film would have benefitted from more music. At times, that silence consumed whatever dialogue was occurring, landing it into a hokey category. When everything came together, the culmination of A Wake does exactly what it’s meant to do. It tells a story of a family coping with the loss of their brother, their son, and their grandson. There are honest moments where chills happen. It’s wonderful storytelling and impactful LGBTQ representation.


Available on DVD & VOD: August 31, 2021

Cast: Noah Urrea, Kolton Stewart, Sofia Rosinsky, Megan Trout, Bettina Devin

Directed by: Scott Boswell

Written by: Scott Boswell


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.