Review: ‘THE HUMANS’ is a living, breathing tableau of the American family.

THE HUMANS

Erik Blake gathers three generations of his Pennsylvania family to celebrate Thanksgiving at his daughter’s apartment in lower Manhattan. As darkness falls and eerie things go bump in the night, the group’s deepest fears are laid bare.


I wish I had seen Stephen Karam‘s stage version of The Humans. As a theatre major/lover, I could immediately feel the weight of the dialogue; subjects that feel mundane, long pauses fill the air, then the delicious, sharp back and forth. Karam developed his Tony-award-winning script for the screen and every single second of it is authentic. The most magical part of The Humans for a kid that grew up in the Connecticut burbs and then attended a theatre conservatory on the Upper West Side is the specificity to every detail of the sets and sound editing. Now 41, owning a co-op a block away from school, I realize how immune I’ve become to the sounds of a clanking and hissing radiator or the banging footsteps of the neighbors overhead. It is only when I visit home for the holidays that I notice the birds chirping or the silence of a neighborhood with picket fences. And yet, The Humans taps into a universality of the American family. There is something so familiar about the generational divides that appear around a dinner table; the brazen backtalk of the youngest adult, the words of wisdom, often misconstrued, from the parental units. Relationships are rubbed raw by alcohol or exhaustion. It’s a visceral discomfort that is highlighted brilliantly in this film. 

Karam’s use of sound, in particular, makes The Humans a genre-bending ride. Don’t be confused when your heart sounds and you think you’ve mistakenly turned on a horror film. The deliberate panic-inducing score and sound editing exacerbate buried secrets in The Humans. Karam’s carefully curated script is a masterclass in storytelling. He clearly understands the natural rhythm of familial banter. Each character experiences an arc over a few hours. The Humans plays in real-time. The blocking is coordinated chaos, and I mean that in the highest regard. The camera sits quietly, like an observer in an adjacent part of the apartment. Speaking of, in seeing photos of the two-story unit set from the Broadway run, I am even more impressed at the similarities in the film. With the cramped spaces down to the water stains on the walls, the production team deserves all the awards. 

The cast is superb. Amy Schumer stuns in the role of eldest daughter Aimee. The quiet anguish in her eyes and understanding tones of an adult kid attempting to maintain peace resonates immediately. Her performance has an authenticity that will make you take notice. Steven Yeun is a gentle pleaser as youngest daughter Brigid’s (Beanie Feldstein) boyfriend. He is attentive and honest, with perfectly played outsider energy. It should be no surprise to anyone paying attention to Yeun’s roles since leaving The Walking Dead. His talents are limitless. Dementia takes hold of matriarch Momo, played by the legendary June Squibb. While she technically has little dialogue, each syllable has weight. You’re fully aware of her importance. 

Beanie Feldstein as a musician and wide-eyed optimist, Brigid gives us the know-it-all baby of the family, please treat me as an adult vibe we need. You know her character. Feldstein’s delivery is chef’s kiss. Reprising her Tony Award-winning role as Deirdre is Jayne Houdyshell. The underlying pain is precisely masked by good humor and sass. This behavior comes with a breaking point. I could have sworn I was listening to my mother tell stories about her day. Houdyshell doesn’t take any shit. She’s loving but refuses to be a doormat.

Richard Jenkins‘s performance is immaculate. Karam tapped into the plight of the middle-class white man. From working the same job for decades, sending his kids to college, and entering the next phase of life feeling like the rug has been pulled from underneath him. What you aren’t expecting is the PTSD aspect to loom so large. As someone who experienced 9/11 in college and was downtown two days prior, that day hits differently, more so if you lived through it here in Manhattan. That trauma is key to who Erik has become. It is part of his very essence. Jenkins’s physicality is a story unto itself. He is outstanding. 

The Humans is the perfect film to watch with your family. Its nuance will bowl you over. The Humans is timeless and completely relatable. It’s a snapshot of what kitchen tables have looked like for years. Do not overlook this one. 


RELEASE DATE: In Theaters November 24 and on Showtime


From writer/director Stephen Karam and starring Richard Jenkins, Jayne Houdyshell, Amy Schumer, Beanie Feldstein, Steven Yeun, and June Squibb.


Blood In The Snow (2021) review: ‘Woodland Grey’ is a mesmerising tale.

WOODLAND GREY

A man living alone in the deep woods finds Emily, a hiker, unconscious and laying on the forest floor. He brings her back to his home and helps her get back to health so she can leave the forest and get home. After a few tense days coexisting, Emily makes a discovery. She finds a crudely built shed behind the man’s home. When she opens it, she unleashes something truly haunting. As Emily and the man come to terms with what has been released, they also attempt to find a way out of the forest which isn’t exactly what it seems.


Writer-director Adam Reider establishes isolation beautifully in the opening of Woodland Grey. With the sensory engulfing rustling of fall-colored trees, we watch William empty his trapped food and cook it over a campfire in front of his trailer. What appears to be a solitary existence is interrupted when he discovers Emily unconscious in his woods. His attempts to keep a dark secret and his controlled environment are about to go to hell.

The tension between actors Jenny Raven and Ryan Blakely is palpable. Reider, alongside writer Jesse Toufexis, gives these actors opposite personalities to the extreme. But this device keeps things interesting. Each brings a fire and nuanced perspective to the story. When you see it, you’ll understand how meaningful that becomes. They are truly spectacular.

The score helps to build a simmering unease from the very beginning. The structure of the script does not let you get comfortable. You cannot miss the references, directly and indirectly, to “Hansel and Gretel”. It’s all a bit maddening in the most brilliant ways. Could this film be a metaphor for purgatory? Completely possible. Could it be about the emotional stronghold of regret? Easily. I have so many questions and I don’t even care about the answers. I was too mesmerized to care. Woodland Grey is one of the most unique horror films of the year.


For more info on Blood In The Snow 2021 click here!


Blood In The Snow (2021) review: ‘The Chamber of Terror’ is half torture and half terrific.

THE CHAMBER OF TERROR

Nash Caruthers is on a deadly collision course with the people that tore his world apart…along with something unexpected. Something far more sinister.


If you’re going to call a film The Chamber of Terror, then you better be prepared to scare the hell out of people with insane torture devices. Instead, this Blood In The Snow film festival feature initially comes off as a half-baked schlocky mess. The room itself looks like a local haunted house, with red uplighting and blood spatter that could have been made by a giant spin art machine. The Chamber of Terror is not short on blood flow. Here’s a breakdown of the plot, sort of: Purposely getting captured by the crime family who killed his wife and daughter, Nash Caruthers has revenge on his mind. Things get weird. Time jumping, zombies, and a witch whose got her own agenda becomes a bit WTF. 

The acting, for the most part, is pretty cheesy. Although, the Giallo monologue is a genre treat. Two specific cast members understood the assignment. First, Robert Nolan, as the crime family patriarch, is batshit fantastic. I wanted to see more of his shenanigans. And finally, our machete-wielding, mustachioed antihero is the best part of this movie. Timothy Paul McCarthy, as Nash, is some brand of wild. He is the reason to watch The Chamber of Terror

Fifty minutes in, and we’re rolling into what the entire film should be; a tongue-in-cheek, laugh-out-loud gorefest. Now the film shines. Ultimately, if you can stick around until that point, you’ll enjoy the wackiness that is coming your way. Now, two final words on Nash Caruthers; Franchise potential.


For more info on Blood In The Snow 2021 click here!


Blood In The Snow (2021) review: ‘FLEE THE LIGHT’ understands the power of the past.

FLEE THE LIGHT

A mystical horror-thriller where reincarnation, demons and sorceresses intertwine to tell the story of a spiritual search gone wrong. A psychology student (Annie Tuma) delves into her sister’s (Ariana Marquis) psychosis, exposing herself to an ancient predator who hunts souls. Also stars Jane Siberry.


Blood in the Snow 2021 screened Flee The Light last night, a classicly structured folk horror where two sisters with a witchy lineage choose between good and evil. Delphi and Andra become consumed by visions that turn more sinister by the hour. Can they save one another from pure darkness? Flee The Light has an evolution that you won’t see coming. The Wicca research is clear, beautifully shot, and carefully intertwined. I would watch a prequel in a hot minute. Props to the set dressers and location scouts for doing their homework. There is an ethereal quality in certain scenes that grab your attention. 

Screenwriter Jennifer Mancini uses childhood flashbacks to establish the sisterly bond. These are precisely what the audience needed to feel emotionally invested in their relationship. Annie Tuma and Ariana Marquis give fully committed performances. You believe their chemistry. The final scene genuinely brings everything together. I would be remiss if I did not mention actress Jane Siberry for her beautiful turn. With glorious cadence changes, she knocks it out of the park. Flee The Light has a final shot that is a whole lot of Yes. Alexandra Senza gives us a solid B-movie. But the potential for Senza and Mancini to develop an entire franchise is magical.



For more info on Blood In The Snow 2021 click here!


Review: ‘Black Friday’ a hilarious and gross entry into the holiday season.

On Thanksgiving night, a group of disgruntled toy store employees begrudgingly arrive for work to open the store at midnight for the busiest shopping day of the year. Meanwhile, an alien parasite crashes to Earth in a meteor. This group of misfits led by store manager Jonathan (Bruce Campbell) and longtime employee Ken (Devon Sawa) soon find themselves battling against hordes of holiday shoppers who have been turned into monstrous creatures hellbent on a murderous rampage on Black Friday.


Is there a more perfect analogy for Black Friday shoppers than crazed zombie-like beings looking to consume? If you’ve never worked retail for the holidays, you have no idea what it’s like to deal with monsters. It honestly prepares you for any weird or crazy behavior from people the other 11 months of the year. Black Friday writer Andy Greskoviak must know a little something about the experience. His script is hilarious, tongue-in-cheek, and wholeheartedly captures the love-hate relationship between co-workers. Director Casey Tebo has given audiences a gory yuletide gift.

Bruce Motherf*cking Campbell, ladies, and gentlemen. Like Sawa, you tell me Campbell is to appear in a film, give it to me, you don’t have to ask. This guy is the poster boy for horror-comedy. He is a legend. As store manager Jonathan, he nails every beat. Stephen Peck gives life to Floor Manager Brian. He is the embodiment of second-tier management and the power that comes with that role. His shitty attitude makes the dynamic between the workers laugh out loud funny.  Ivana Baquero is a nice foil for all the masculine energy. She’s sweet and caring and unafraid to keep up with the boys club. Her presence is a necessary grounding. Michael Jai White is the hero we all want him to be. If you’re not rooting for this man, shame on you. I wanted much more of him.

Ryan Lee, as Chris, is just as impeccable as Sawa and the rest. A germaphobe whose anxiety looms large, Lee gets the opportunity to shine here. I did not realize this is the same kid from Super 8 and Goosebumps! More of him, please, and thank you. Devon Sawa is a bonafide horror icon. Seeing him alongside Bruce Campbell feels right. Sawa never fails to bring the comedy. He’s so damn natural. I am so stoked to see him working nonstop in genre films over the past few years. Black Friday is yet another role for him to kick some ass. In truth, Black Friday is an ensemble piece. The chemistry is incredible.

If I’m being picky, there are minute pacing issues as some innocuous shots felt long. On the upside, the use of the swipe transition is a throwback I wasn’t expecting. The practical FX are cool as hell. The special fx makeup progresses with the plot, and the intricate creature design becomes creepier and more visceral. Slow clap for SFX master Robert Kurtzman and his entire team. Black Friday is a little Color Out of Space meets Dawn of the Dead. Am I obsessed with the ending? You know it. Do yourself a favor, sit back, relax, and enjoy this film until the real-life stress of the holiday season eats you alive. 


Available In Theaters November 19th
& On Demand November 23rd


Directed by Casey Tebo
Written by Andy Greskoviak
Music by Patrick Stump (Fall Out Boy)
Starring Devon Sawa, Ivana Baquero, Ryan Lee, Stephen Peck, Michael Jai White, and Bruce Campbell


 

Review: Terrifying tots take aim at Mommy’s new boyfriend in ‘Ankle Biters’.

ANKLE BITERS

Sean, a pro hockey enforcer, has fallen in love with Laura, a widowed mother of four young daughters. When Laura’s children mistake an act of lovemaking as an attack, they plot to protect their mother at all costs and with horrific results.


Poor Sean and Laura just wanted a little bit of rough sex, but his soon-to-be stepkids are seriously killing the vibe. Thinking the bruises on their mother’s body are from abuse, four menacing little monsters take matters into their own hands.  Ankle Biters, a new Canadian horror-comedy, lands somewhere between The Bad Seed (1956) and The Crush (1993). “What are little girls made of? Sugar and spice, and everything nice; That’s what little girls are made of.” Maybe, not so much. 

Sean was an extremely violent hockey player, so perhaps this is merely a case of karma by kids? Zion Forrest Lee plays Sean with an overly friendly stepdad vibe. It falls somewhere between sweet and super creepy. The appearance from Colin Mochrie, as Detective Morton, made me laugh out loud. It makes the last third of the film brilliant.

Genre fans, let me introduce Rosalee, Violet, Lily Gail, and Dahlia Reid. These sinister sisters are bonafide stars. Their genetically boosted chemistry is the stuff of movie magic. They are downright frightening, giving us four fearless performances. They scared me, and I’m a mom and former teacher! Sheer perfection. 

The camera work often hovers on the girls’ level. Panning closeups in slow motion add to the eerie feeling you get from this gruesome foursome. It’s a carefully thought-out choice. While the pacing drags a touch, overall, it’s a dark and wild ride. The climax boasts some of the most gagworthy FX. I even screamed out loud at the same time as Sean. The final scenes completely caught me off guard. Well played, Ankle Biters. Well played. 


ON DEMAND/DVD NOVEMBER 16


Director: Bennet De Brabandere

Cast: Zion Forrest Lee, Marianthi Evans, Lily Gail Reid, Violet Reid, Rosalee Reid, Dahlia Reid


 

Blood In The Snow (2021) capsule review: ‘Tin Can’ is unlike anything you’ve ever seen before.

TIN CAN (Dir. Seth A Smith) (99 mins)
As the world enters quarantine, a front-line parasitologist is imprisoned in a life-suspension chamber. To escape she must destroy the last of her kind.


Tin Can immediately throws you off-kilter. The camera work can be disorienting at times. Mostly, it is claustrophobic as hell. We are in the dark just as much as the characters, quite literally. Our view becomes quietly less obstructed as the film progresses. Do not confuse that with plot clarity. The strangeness continually grows, no pun intended. This sci-fi body horror film will be a hit with Doctor Who fans for a multitude of visual reasons. The special fx makeup has a visceral impact. You’ll be so engrossed in the mystery of it all, as breadcrumbs drop, you’re hungry for more. Fair warning, do yourself a favor and do not eat while you watch. Tin Can’s complexity is endless. There’s an interesting argument about the god complex in science. I can guarantee you’ve never seen anything like Tin Can. Leave your expectations at the door and sit in this experience.



Round 2 of BITS 2021 is coming in November. You can purchase tickets now!


Review: ‘Isolation’ horror anthology is pulse-pounding genre goodness.

ISOLATION

As a narrative framework, Director and Producer, Nathan Crooker created a fictional world many months into the future that is based around the current global pandemic. All eleven filmmakers used the same unifying framework in creating their stories. The filmmakers were tasked with how to stay creative using only what was available to them at the time. They were not allowed to use Zoom or any other video conferencing services and were only allowed to use the equipment and resources they had with them when they entered into lockdown, including cast and crew, adhering to their respective COVID-19 protocols.


As Fil Eisler‘s opening credits crawl across the screen, and you hear his eerie score, you already feel you’re in for something unsettling. Nathan Crooker is behind the concept of Isolation. His instructions to fellow filmmakers? Solely use what you have at your disposal in lockdown. Each sequence transition utilizes Eisler’s animation to highlight a new city and story. It’s sheer perfection.

Larry Fessenden‘s piece “Fever” is precisely that; a wildly dark, creatively shot, fever dream. It nailed the undying spirit of New York and hit me square in the chest. Andrew Kasch‘s film “5G” takes a conspiracy theory angle. It’s that online alt-right anger we know all too well. But how they communicate with our man Chad is altogether something new. Cody Goodfellow‘s script is clever. Paranoia takes hold in Dennie Gordon‘s “The Dread” as a husband and wife hole up in their Los Angeles hillside home. Are their fears so unfounded after all? 

Bobby Roe‘s “Pacific Northwest” broke my heart into a million pieces. What would happen if my kids had to survive on their own? It destroys me to let my mind go to that place. Co-written by Zack Andrews, this one kept my pulse pounding. Written and directed by Adam Brown and Kyle I. Kelley, “Meat Hands” was unexpected. Loneliness is a killer, but so is interacting with people in a pandemic. Physical intimacy is vital to survival. Cleverly connecting back to “5G,” Alix Austin and Keith Siewert‘s “It’s Inside” takes place in London. Pushing 5G and chemtrail theories, YouTuber Paige believes someone is inside her flat. Bravo for the practical FX and sound editing because it all makes you cringe. 

The palpable sadness of Zach Passero‘s film “Gust” is unavoidable. Outside of the pandemic, it touches the monotony of motherhood and its emotional isolation day in and day out. “Homebodies” by Alexandra Neary sees an investigative journalist come upon a horror he did not expect. The film taps into the sensationalism that’s crept into the media. If you weren’t waiting for Cuomo’s daily updates last year, you were seeing the same images of empty streets and not much else. I was not expecting this more traditional turn. It was awesome. Finally, we find ourselves in Berlin with Christian Pasquariello‘s “Comfort Zone.” If this doesn’t scream governmental and scientific transparency to viewers, I don’t know what will. It’s a super slick cherry on top of Isolation‘s overall storytelling. 

Isolation taps into authentic fears. For anyone unfamiliar, what a fantastic introduction to the work of these filmmakers. The length and uniqueness of styles keep you hovering on the edge of your seat. You don’t have a moment to get settled.


*Available on VOD Tomorrow, November 2nd, 2021*


Produced by Nathan Crooker
Directed by:
Dennie Gordon (Jack Ryan, Legion, Hunters, Waco)
Larry Fessenden (“The Last Winter,” “Habit,” “Depraved”),
Bobby Roe, (“The Houses October Built 1&2”)
Andrew Kasch, (“Tales Of Halloween”),
Zach Passero (“Wicked Lake”)
Christian Pasquariello (“Alien Invasion: S.U.M. 1”)
Alexandra Neary (“The Innocent”)
Alix Austin & Keir Siewert (“Retch”)
Kyle I. Kelley & Adam Brown (“The Music Lesson”)


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!


Blood In the Snow (2021) Shorts reviews from Super Channel weekend.

Here are some of the short films showing on Super Channel this weekend at  BITS 2021…


Giant Bear (*shown alongside Don’t Say Its Name)
Gorgeous animation of the desolate and snowy tundra. One man comes face to face with a legend. The Inuit vocal track will consume you. This one left me with a lot of emotions.


The Death Doula
A man’s past interferes with his ability to usher a client into the afterlife. This nuanced story presents questions of morality and anguish. Beautiful and costumes sets help ease the viewer into a lulled sense of safety. It is incredibly unique.


Watershed
The world’s water supply is poison. A soul survivor stumbles across a young Mandarin girl who may have figured out how to create clean water. Danger lurks off of every overhanging eve. With powerful visuals, Watershed is an awesome treatment for a feature or series. I need to know what happens next.


Part of A Series of Web Bites:

Creepy Bits- Chapter 1- “Baby Face”
Is a young Mom seeing things on the baby monitor? This is still a fear for me. Are those dust particles or spirits gliding across my screen?! This one goes much further. It’s unsettling.


Narcoleap: S2
Thanks to a “previously on Narcoleap” recap, we get the concept of the show, immediately. And it’s cool. Director Kate Green, who also created the series, gives us drama, complexity, and a ton of great characters. As you keep watching, the show gives you a genuine Quantum Leap feel, but you also catch a Dollhouse vibe through its humor and sci-fi aspects. This is a full-on production. How has this not been picked up by Syfy or CW already? This is my formal push. It deserves a wider audience.


GHOST- A Primitive Evolution
Radio signals connect two post-apocalyptic survivors. This is both a short film and a music video. I have to say, this song rocks. Loved the bridge. I would watch this in longer form. There are solid concepts here and a very cool final shot.


Midnight Lunch Break
Becka is a mouthy shock jock radio host who gets an in-studio visit from a masked listener on Halloween. This one is laugh-out-loud hilarious. At 5 minutes, it’s such a tease, I wanted to see more!


The Revenge of the Snowflakes
A woman’s success is spoiled by online trolls. She takes her boyfriend along in a tongue-in-cheek revenge moment turned violet. This short was great but it was clear there is so much more to the story that we don’t get to see. I wanted a feature to back up the 5 minutes… Which is a great thing.


We All Dream (*being shown with Motherly at 9 pm this evening)
A young girl’s apparent sleepwalking poses a constant danger to her family. All is not what it seems. This is wildly fun and creepy. It produced a slow grin I couldn’t wipe off. Give me more of this story ASAP.


Disquietude (screening with Tin Can Sunday night at 11:30 pm.)
Grab your headphones or crank up the audio for this one featuring a musician. It’s vital to the plot. Trapped inside an anechoic chamber with only her music and thoughts, each infinitesimal sound becomes exacerbated to the nth degree. This would drive anyone mad. It’s perfectly panic-inducing.


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 Film Festival (2021) capsule review: ‘Don’t Say Its Name’- Females leads, folklore, and fear. Oh, My!

DON’T SAY ITS NAME

The quiet of a snowy Indigenous community is upended by the arrival of the mining company WEC who have signed an agreement to drill the land. But before drilling starts, WEC employees begin to turn up dead, attacked by a mysterious force. As a local peace officer and a park ranger investigate, they come face to face with the vengeful spirits that have haunted the land for generations.


BITS 2021 audiences got an eyeful this weekend with indigenous tradition and terror. This complex story of activism and horror hits on more levels than you expect. Don’t Say Its Name utilizes local talent to cement its authenticity. Violet spirits collide with capitalism on a reservation attempting to maintain its soul. A mining company is corrupting the land. Both nature and the community will not have it. 

Two kickass female leads in one film? Thank you. The cast generally consists of more women, and I am not complaining. It’s inspiring to watch these actresses communicate with each other. Leads, Sera-Lys McArthur and Madison Walsh will make you stand up and yell, “F@ck Yeah!” Of course, we cannot forget the horror element that provides genuine jump scares and grounded storytelling. For gore fans, there is plenty of blood from the very beginning. The practical FX are classic. The terror factor alongside cultural erasure makes Don’t Say Its Name a fascinating watch. Add it to the growing list of great Canadian horror. 

Don’t Say Its Name is opening on VOD/Digital on November 16

Blood in the Snow Film Festival 2021 is taking place on Super Channel Oct 29 to 31st and at the Royal Cinema Nov 18 to 23rd, 2021


Shudder original review: New anthology ‘Horror Noire’ features 6 thought-provoking black horror stories.

HORROR NOIRE

Six stories, one film. Experience the next chapter of Black horror. Starring Lesley-Ann Brandt (Lucifer, Spartacus), Luke James (The Chi, Thoughts of a Colored Man), Erica Ash (Survivor’s Remorse, A Black Lady Sketch Show), Brandon Mychal Smith (Four Weddings and a Funeral, You’re the Worst), Sean Patrick Thomas (Macbeth, The Curse of La Llorona), Peter Stormare (American Gods, Fargo,) Malcolm Barrett (Genius: Aretha Franklin, Timeless) and Rachel True (The Craft, Half & Half), among others. With new and adapted stories by Tananarive Due, Steven Barnes, Victor LaValle, Shernold Edwards, Al Letson and Ezra C. Daniels.


‘Brand Of Evil’

I love a good anthology, and Shudder has them in spades. From The Mortuary Collection to Creepshow, Horror Noire is another original notch in subscribers’ belts. Written and directed by black filmmakers featuring black horror stories, this is an expanded follow-up to the 2019 Shudder original documentary Horror Noire: A History of Black Horror. Horror Noire (2021) features 6 strikingly different shorts. Each reaches into a different facet of terror. 


The Lake

A woman’s fresh start turns sour when she moves into a lake house that has a checkered past. This script slowly evolves, no pun intended. I did not see this coming. The storytelling is whipsmart, with juxtapositions between past transgressions and present transformation. It’s brilliant. 

Brand of Evil

This selection is an exceptional commentary on black labor, art, and capitalism. Brand of Evil is cultural appropriation in the most literal sense. How much does your soul cost? 

Bride Before You

A newly married woman seeks help conceiving by way of magic. The generational trauma of black women receives a retelling against a Reconstruction-era backdrop. Beautiful sets and costumes help create an eerie environment for a story that’s visually and metaphorically engrossing.

‘Sundown’

Fugue State

The fine line between religion and cult mixed with rogue attacks by individuals with their faces painted red. A prolific writer and his reporter wife bring the story a little too close to home. Is this a MAGA/anti-vaxxer allegory? I don’t think that’s overreaching. 

Daddy

Parenting is terrifying. Your child is your entire world, and at the same time, you can miss the old version of yourself. It will change you, no matter how hard you try. I must mention Miles Mcnicoll as James. He is a natural. So sweet, you’ll want to eat him up. He’s got a bright future in this industry. 

Sundown

This selection is laugh-out-loud and sharp as hell, taking its title, quite literally, into darkness. The “Whites Only” signs are the first (and most brilliant) clue in this short. This cast is perfect. Every single actor knocks it out of the park. The tongue-in-cheek way Sundown overkills tropes is *chef’s kiss. Genre fans are going to love this one. I would watch this one in expanded feature form in a hot minute. It’s delicious.


Premieres October 28 only on Shudder


Starring Lesley-Ann Brandt (Lucifer, Spartacus), Luke James (The Chi, Thoughts of a Colored Man), Erica Ash (Survivor’s Remorse, A Black Lady Sketch Show), Brandon Mychal Smith (Four Weddings and a Funeral, You’re the Worst), Sean Patrick Thomas (Macbeth, The Curse of La Llorona), Peter Stormare (American Gods, Fargo,) Malcolm Barrett (Genius: Aretha Franklin, Timeless) and Rachel True (The Craft, Half & Half), among others. With new and adapted stories by Tananarive Due, Steven Barnes, Victor LaValle, Shernold Edwards, Al Letson, and Ezra C. Daniels.


Brooklyn Horror Film Festival (2021) review: ‘Nelly Rapp – Monster Agent’ is a family-friend monster mash.

NELLY RAPP- MONSTER AGENT

Director Amanda Adolfsson takes on the feature film adaptation of the Swedish children’s book series Nelly Rapp – Monster Agent. Nelly is a middle school outcast due to her love of monsters and mayhem. She spends her autumn break with her eccentric uncle Hannibal only to discover a family history filled with spooky surprises. Brooklyn Horror Film Festival 2021 audiences were treated to this sweet horror- comedy’s North American Premiere. 

This cast is a delight. Matilda Gross plays Nelly with joyful innocence. Her curiosity and enthusiasm leap off the screen. She’s a wonderfully unique heroine joining the likes of Pippi Longstocking and Coraline. I could easily see Nelly Rapp costumes popping up for Halloween. 

The cinematography is gorgeous. The setting, the costumes, everything pops. The main set is magical. The walls adorned with landscape paintings, the massive rooms filled with antique furnishings, and the ceilings boast curious murals. The score is perfectly whimsical. The stunning fx makeup is never too terrifying for its intended audience. 

Nelly Rapp is a family-friendly monster mash. The script is bursting with charm and genuine giggles. A kid-friendly homage to the classic movie monsters Nelly Rapp introduces youngsters to the horror genre in a thoughtful and adventurous way. 

I wish I had this movie when I was younger. I was always fascinated by all things spooky, sometimes that made me feel like an outcast. Nelly Rapp addresses bullying, family tradition, and prejudice in a way that is digestible for children. It teaches them they don’t need to change themselves to fit it. It is their quirkiness that makes them special. Nelly Rapp – Monster Agent is now available to rent or buy on Amazon Prime Video. It’s the perfect combination of trick and treat. 


Nelly Rapp: Monster Agent (Official English Trailer) from Janson Media on Vimeo.


Stream on Amazon: amazon.com/Nelly-Rapp-Monster-Matilda-Gross/dp/B09HPM87N6/


Brooklyn Horror Film Festival (2021) review: ‘What Josiah Saw’ is a familial collision course.

 

WHAT JOSIAH SAW


What Josiah Saw the new indie feature from Vincent Grashaw, is one twisted picture. In some ways, I wish the feature had been split up into a 3 episode limited series to slowly spoon-feed the viewer its multiple moments of trauma and dread. Instead, it hits you in a 1 hour 56-minute wallop –  I left the film feeling dispirited and numb, my emotions frayed. This reaction is also a testament to many of the film’s characters, and my desire to spend more time learning about them before they are plunged into terrifying and tragic circumstances.

The film is roughly divided into 3 parts, each following one of the Graham children. The troubled youngest child, Thomas (Scott Haze) still lives on the family farm with his father, Josiah (a sickly-looking but still magnificently creepy Robert Patrick). Part 2 follows older brother Eli (Nick Stahl) is an addict who has been forced into a criminal style. In the final chapter, we meet sister Mary (Kelli Garner), who has married and moved away but still bears obvious trauma and scars from her childhood. When a group of developers tries to buy the farm, the film inevitably sets these 3 siblings and their father on a dramatic collision course.

Each segment of the film has a very different tone. The early scenes on the farm (where, years earlier, Josiah’s wife mysteriously committed suicide) are filled with eerie unease. Josiah and Thomas’ relationship is tense and cold. It feels very much like a haunted house film. I feel like Robert Patrick has been playing supremely creepy characters for my whole lifetime – he slips into these roles without even trying. There’s a scene where Josiah gives Thomas some fatherly advice that is some of Patrick’s most squirm-inducing work to date.

This tone drastically shifts in the second segment, which focuses on Eli trying to steal a trunk of gold from a traveling group of Romani. You read that right. This section works even though it represents a drastic tonal departure from the early plot. It’s the lightest section of the narrative and the only part of the film where the audience gets to have a little fun. Stahl gives an incredibly versatile performance in this film, imbuing Eli with equal parts charisma and self-doubt. They could have made a whole movie focusing on this segment alone.

Mary’s introduction is rushed, and the film’s final chapter is mostly concerned with reuniting the siblings on the family farm. And that’s when things really get weird. The film’s finale is powerful and brutal. It left my head spinning. I can’t say I want to watch this film again, but I know I’ll be thinking about its implications for a long time.


You can read Liz’s #BHFF2021 review of What Josiah Saw here


Indie Memphis Film Festival (2021) review: ‘KILLER’ is a fresh, fun horror from A.D. Smith.

KILLER

KILLER (Dir. A.D. Smith, 90 min) 
After a pandemic strikes the nation, ten friends decide to quarantine under the same roof. Unfortunately, one of them is a killer.
2021, Horror, Theater/Virtual


Neon tubes give the room a slanted, eerie glow. 10 figures, all wearing hoodies and masks are seated in a circle. There are instructions on a whiteboard giving instructions for a game. The game is Killer, a party game where one player tries to stealthily eliminate their enemies without being discovered. Each round, the rest of the players vote to nominate their prime suspect. Only in this game, these 10 figures are tied to their chairs. And when they nominate a suspect each round, someone really dies.

A.D. Smith‘s new independent feature, Killer plays like a COVID-era, black-box theater mash-up of the “Big Chill” and “Saw” In the face of the pandemic, 10 friends have gathered in one house to quarantine together. As what was supposed to be a simple 2-week quarantine (I remember those days…) stretches on, tempers flare, friendships are tested, and relationships are revealed. Oh, and one of them is a serial killer. Finally, a film that asks the hard question: can you really trust the people in your pandemic pod?

The hook is irresistible, and the image of the killer’s surgical mask smeared with a bloody smile will stick with me for a few nights. Unfortunately, the overall plot can’t quite keep up. The narrative dances back and forth between quarantine flashbacks and the harsh reality facing the players trapped in the deadly game. I love a tight 90-minute feature, but this is one film where I wished we had a little bit more exposition.

The player introductions in particular are rushed  – you remember them more as archetypes than people. There’s Brandon, the host. Sam, the loveable idiot. Cindy, the girlfriend. Tiara, the troublemaker. Kelly, the sad girl who just lost her mother. Will, the standard asshole boyfriend, and so on.  I wish more time had been spent fleshing out these quarantine flashbacks, to complicate some of these initial presentations. This cast is diverse, fresh, and worth lingering on individually for a few more minutes. The film subverts some of these core character tropes by the end of the film, but others are dispatched so quickly you almost don’t realize they’re gone.

Despite these character flaws, the game sections of the film have a propulsive quality that just won’t be denied. I loved the retro video-game feel of the kill sequences, and the neon lighting scheme proves that sometimes the simplest choice is the scariest. Killer brings horror into the pandemic in a way that is fresh, fun, and leaves you asking some complicated questions. Don’t wait until the next pandemic to check it out.



Watch now online…

Brooklyn Horror Film Festival (2021) review: ‘What Josiah Saw’ reigns holy terror on your nerves.

WHAT JOSIAH SAW

After two decades, a damaged family reunite at their remote farmhouse, where they confront long-buried secrets and sins of the past.


As a child forced to attend Catholic school for eight years, I know a little something about the trauma religion imprints on a young mind. Irrational guilt dwells in my brain to this day. Director Vincent Grashaw’s staggering third feature, What Josiah Saw, delves into how zealous behavior and extreme dysfunction go hand in hand. A portrait of a family’s unspeakable darkness and how it haunts them forever. It is a film that will consume your soul.

Kelli Garner‘s vulnerability as Mary is a stunning turn. With a palpable fear, Garner leaves it all on-screen in an unapologetic performance. Her arc is astonishing. Nick Stahl scared the Jesus out of me most recently in Hunter Hunter. As Eli, Stahl maneuvers past sins with an anxious undercurrent. Like Garner, the emotional journey of Eli will leave you blindsided.

Robert Patrick plays Graham family patriarch, Josiah. His monstrous behavior appears superficially enabled by newfound holy retribution that looks a whole hell of a lot like dogmatic abuse. Patrick’s innate ability to intimidate with as little as a whisper is terrifying. This performance drips with brutal vitriol.

Scott Haze hit the ground running in James Franco‘s Child of God. That part was a brilliant warm-up to playing the role of a traumatized, devoted son. Haze’s character is the final human whipping post on that farm. He breathes life into the part of Thomas, as every beat is a complete journey. The chemistry between Patrick and Haze is electric. 

Carlos Ritter‘s cinematography reflects an ominous mood. He takes advantage of shadows and natural light to create a visual eerieness. Robert Pycior‘s score makes your skin crawl. Writer Robert Alan Dilts‘ screenplay unfolds in chapters. What Josiah Saw could have been developed into a series. Dilts created fully fleshed-out characters. There is that much life in this story. The script’s structure also allows the audience to focus on each Graham family member and their demons. Everyone teetering on the edge of a potential psychotic break. The repeated visual of each character gazing out the farmhouse window is striking. Its cyclical pattern is sheer brilliance.

Each of these elements creates a visceral disquiet that is unshakable for the nearly two-hour run. What Josiah Saw was relentlessly unnerving. The stakes get higher and higher. I had to remind myself to breathe. It is impossible to think Brooklyn Horror Film Festival 2021 audiences saw this story coming. The final act is so twisted it will blow your mind, again and again. What Josiah Saw is an unexpected, complex, and shocking watch. It is hands down, the best horror film of the year.


Director:
Vincent Grashaw
Screenwriter:
Robert Alan Dilts
Producer:
Ran Namerode, Vincent Grashaw, Bernie Stern, Angelia Adzic
Cast:
Robert Patrick, Nick Stahl, Scott Haze, Kelli Garner, Tony Hale, Jake Weber


Brooklyn Horror Film Festival (2021) capsule review: ‘The Feast’ is deliciously gory folklore.

SYNOPSIS

IFC Midnight’s THE FEAST follows a young woman serving privileged guests at a dinner party in a remote house in rural Wales. The assembled guests do not realize they are about to eat their last supper.


Brooklyn Horror Film Festival 2021 audiences were in for some magic with The Feast. Meticulous sound editing and sharp cinematography create a tense and frightening environment right off the bat. Strikingly framed shots envelop the audience as this house filled with extremely flawed residents prepares for an important dinner. Cadi’s assistance is requested. Her awe and anxiety resonate immediately. But as the day progresses, Cadi has a mysterious connection to the land this family is mining. Superstition, tradition, greed, and revenge clash in The Feast, making for a jarring watch. Performances across the board are outstanding from overtly creepy, pathetic, nouveau riche, prideful, eccentric, gluttonous, and entitled. The Feast is a delicious mix of excellent storytelling and sharp visual composition. It should not be missed.


Nationwide audiences can experience the film when IFCMidnight brings it to theaters on November 19th


DIRECTED BY
Lee Haven Jones
WRITTEN AND PRODUCED BY
Roger Williams

CAST Annes Elwy, Lisa Palfrey, and Caroline Berry


#thefeast #ifcmidnight

Brooklyn Horror Film Festival (2021) shorts program review: ‘HEAD TRIP’- 9 drastically different shorts #BHFF21

HEAD TRIP shorts program

Head Trip” is a series of 9 ingenious shorts featured at this week’s Brooklyn Horror Film Festival. They range from deeply dark to laugh-out-loud funny.


Lips, dir. Nicole Tegelaar (Netherlands, Belgium)

Talk about body horror. This short is laser-focused on a particular body part. A young woman awakens in a mysterious clinic. She’s been injured and requires surgery. This one kept me guessing as to who was the bigger danger: the staff or the other patients.


The Departure, dir. Nico van den Brink (Netherlands)

A melancholy, beautiful piece from the Netherlands. The principal characters create immediate rapport despite the short run time, and the cinematography was top-notch. A tragic and thoughtful journey into loss and longing that had me wishing for more.


A Tale Best Forgotten, dir. Tomas Stark (Sweden)

Adapted from a Helen Adam ballade, this is one killer tune.


Sudden Light, dir. Sophie Littman (UK)

My favorite short of the group is a dreamlike countryside odyssey into doubt and fear. Mia (Esme Creed-Miles) and Squeeze (Millie) are walking their dog home, and take a fateful shortcut through a field. I loved the way this short fully harnesses its countryside setting – mud, branches, and smoke all combine into an overwhelming rush. The caliber of talent involved makes you wish for a feature-length narrative.


Tropaion, dir. Kjersti Helen Rasmussen (Norway)

A testament to the power of the wilderness, this short contains barely any dialogue. Stark images are the sole driver of the narrative. The child performers, in particular, are excellent.


The Faraway Man, dir. Megan Gilbert, Jill Hogan (USA)

A powerful narrative on the way evil can manifest itself. A young woman is haunted by the figure of a man, dressed in black, watching from distance. A great example of how blurred the line can be between horror and tragedy. Another short that could easily be stretched to a feature.


Man or Tree, dir. Varun Raman, Tom Hancock (UK)

A breath of fresh air. Imagine you partied too hard and woke up transformed into a tree. I guess you could say this is the rare short that focuses on the trees instead of the whole forest.


Playing With Spiders, dir. Rylan Rafferty (USA)

A disturbing glance behind the curtain of a small cult that worships, you guessed it, spiders. The night before a fateful ritual, Lydia (Kelly Curran) begins to ask some big questions of her peers and leaders. Is she a skeptic, or the only true believer? Even though this had a comedic tone at times, it got the biggest jump scare of the night.


A Puff Before Dying, dir. Mike Pinkney, Michael Reich (USA)

An absolute gut-buster of a short. Like “Team America: World Police” on acid. When 3 teen girls (who are also marionettes) hit the road for a night out, the devil’s lettuce quickly rears its tempestuous head. Will they have the willpower to resist, or will the night end in tragedy?


Today is the final day of BHFF 2021. You can still get tickets to the CLOSING NIGHT film

THE SADNESS

by clicking this LINK.

Fair warning, it is not for the faint of heart.


Review: ‘Smoke And Mirrors: The Story of Tom Savini’ is an ode to a living legend.

SMOKE AND MIRRORS: The Story of Tom Savini

Special Makeup Effects legend, Actor, Director, Stuntman. Tom Savini has redefined the horror genre with his arsenal of talents. But who is the man behind the “King of Splatter?” From his childhood in Pittsburgh, PA; to his tour of duty during Vietnam, to his beginnings with George A. Romero and beyond. SMOKE AND MIRRORS is the defining documentary on the life and career of horror icon Tom Savini.

Featuring Tom Savini, Danny McBride, Robert Rodriguez, Danny Trejo, Alice Cooper, Greg Nicotero, Tom Atkins, Corey Feldman, Doug Bradley, Bill Moseley, and more!


The first time I noticed Tom Savini on-screen was when I saw From Dusk Till Dawn in theaters. Little did I know, my love of horror was in large part due to his legendary work in all aspects of the industry. In Jason Baker‘s new documentary, Smoke and Mirrors: The Story of Tom Savini, huge household names sit down and chat about Savini’s artistry. But mostly, we hear directly from Tom. His early influences came from each of his five older siblings. As we tag along with Savini, he shows us his old neighborhood, pictures from his childhood, and tells us stories about growing up with classic horror. That’s only the beginning of the mountains of information in this film. Savini’s time in Vietnam changed him. He talks about seeing human atrocities through his camera lens. Coming home from the war, he rediscovered his love of live theatre. After teaming up with George Romero, the two changed the face, in some ways quite literally, of horror. The entire genre suddenly became elevated and respected.
The doc stitches together interviews from across the years. While at times, this feels a bit chaotic, it gives us a plethora of tales. For example, Night of the Living Dead was a completely different experience for Tom than it was for fans. We get the chance to see all the things that he shot that were cut. He walks us through his original ending with side-by-side storyboards. We also get access to cut footage of his character Sex Machine, in From Dusk Till Dawn. The man was great at so many things! Watching his theatre work and the magic he instilled into his productions is astonishing.  Every talking head in Smoke and Mirrors explains that Tom is a genuine and gentle person. Hearing him talk about his work and family you get the sense that these aren’t just opinions.
Tom Savini‘s ingenuity and craftsmanship rightfully made him a household name. On a personal note, prior to this film, I didn’t have the faintest idea that it was Tom Savini who was responsible for traumatizing me in my youth. Creepshow changed my life. I cannot recall how many times I rented that video. Through my nightmares, some that remain to this day, I have come to adore the horror genre. It’s abundantly clear, Smoke and Mirrors: The Story of Tom Savini is special effects makeup and practical FX porn. It’s movie magic at its finest. Savini is a real-life magician.


From Wild Eye Releasing, director Jason Baker‘s SMOKE AND MIRRORS on Digital October 19.