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

MONSTROUS

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

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


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

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

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


In Theaters and On Demand May 13, 2022

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

Written by Carol Chrest (The Prophet’s Game)


Starring

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

Colleen Camp (SliverClueDie Hard With a Vengeance)

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

Don Baldaramos (Suburbicon, “Castle”)

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

RT: 89 minutes


Review: Inconsistencies aside, ‘ESCAPE THE FIELD’ is a solid horror maze of madness.

ESCAPE THE FIELD

The fear is inescapable in Emerson Moore’s horror-thriller about six strangers who suddenly awaken in a remote, endless cornfield. Stripped of their possessions, they are left with only six items: a gun with a single bullet, matches, a lantern, a knife, a compass, and a flask of water. As mysterious sirens blare in the distance and traps appear at every turn, the group realizes it’s been plunged into a cat-and-mouse game with an unseen evil, and survival depends upon solving a diabolical — and deadly — puzzle.


With reminiscent aspects of the cult favorite The CubeEscape the Field is an intriguing foray into the escape room genre. A cornfield is our game board, making for an entirely different dynamic in a scenario we’ve seen for years. An eclectic group of people comprises this cast. Writer-director  Emerson Moore, alongside screenwriter Joshua Dobkin and Sean Wathen, take a different approach, mixing ideas from past films to brand new and exciting elements. There’s a lot to chew on in Escape The Field. 

Shane West plays Ryan with intimidation and alpha male toxicity. West ups the anty with emotional unpredictability elevated by a clever script device. Theo Rossi plays Tyler. If you haven’t been paying attention to indie cinema or mainstream television series, Rossi has become a familiar face and a damn fine actor. Escape the Field is no exception. Rossi has this undeniably accessible aura about him. Jordan Claire Robbins plays Sam, a doctor whose skills are pertinent to the group’s survival. Robbins’ neighborly energy brings trustworthiness and ease to the viewers. You’re rooting for her. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Tahirah Sharif. Her presence drastically improves Escape The Field every second she’s onscreen. 

The solutions to the puzzles evolve from difficult to unchallenging and back again. This inconsistency is forgivable from someone who is an avid winner of ‘Escape The Room’ experiences. (*Nerd alert)  Escape The Field has all the raw elements of a spectacular franchise. I’d watch a prequel and a sequel, as long as the next film’s evolution takes notes from its incarnation. Make sure you stick around after the credits begin to roll. You don’t want to miss one final moment of goodness. 


U.S. Release Date: In Select Theaters, On Digital and On Demand on May 6, 2022.


Cities:                                    New York (Cinema Village), Los Angeles (Lumiere Cinema), and key cities nationwide.           

Cast:                                      Jordan Claire Robbins, Theo Rossi, Tahirah Sharif, Julian Feder, Elena Juatco, and Shane West

Directed by:                           Emerson Moore         

Written by:                             Emerson Moore and Joshua Dobkin & Sean Wathen

Produced by:                        Andrew Davies Gans, Michael Philip, Jason Moring and Emerson Moore

Genre:                                    Thriller            

Rating:                                   R

Running Time:                      88 minutes


Fantaspoa 2022 review: World premiere of Argentinian horror ‘LEGIONS’ is bound to delight Evil Dead fans.

LEGIONS


Antonio is a sorcerer from a powerful bloodline, trapped in an asylum against his will. After an omen informs him that his daughter will be sacrificed by an evil entity, he must use his magical skills to escape and save her.


Writer-director Fabián Forte brings the world premiere of his new film LEGIONS to Fantaspoa 2022. A family line of demon fighters is threatened by the one horror that got away. Institutionalized patriarch Antonio’s stories are written off as delusion. With the help of his fellow patients, he must escape, track down, and protect his estranged daughter, Elena, before it’s too late. 

The film’s structure creates its engrossing narrative with flashbacks. Folklore and mysticism pull you into the characters’ backgrounds. Performances are spectacular. Antonio’s hospital crew will make you grin from ear to ear. Their energy is enchanting. Bravo, to each of them. Lorena Vega as Elena is everything we need her to be. Dripping with trauma, it’s a brilliant turn. German De Silva plays present-day Antonio with ferocious tenacity and innocent charm. I will watch him in anything.

The thoughtful score from Pablo Fuu strikes a perfect balance between playful and dread. The SFX from Marcos Berta Studios and visual effects from Andres Borghi is super cool (voodoo doll, I’m looking at you, buddy.) The script has everything occult, from protection spells to full-blown possession. The dual device of a stage play makes everything more fun, adding levity to the more intense aspects of the story. The unapologetic bits of camp mixed with phenomenal practical FX is a damn delight. Legions will be pure entertainment for Fantaspoa 2022 audiences. 


LEGIONS screened as part of Fantaspoa 2022.

For more information on the festival, please visit www.fantaspoa.com.


Fantaspoa 2022 review: ‘OX-HEAD VILLAGE’ is a frightful folktale.

OX-HEAD VILLAGE

PLOT: Having launched a social media prank about a haunted building, three girls suddenly vanish. Rumors circulate that they were victims of The Ox-Head Village curse, triggering an investigation by two of their friends, desperate to find the truth about what has happened


Sick cinematography and a killer opening bring Fantaspoa 2022 audiences into the intensely scary world of Ox-Head Village. Finding out that this is director Takashi Shimizu‘s final film in his “Village Trilogy” makes me want to seek out Howling Village and Suicide Forest Village immediately. Japanese folklore surrounding a family curse brings this horror mystery to life. Kanon seeks answers as to why she resembles a missing girl from a failed prank video. As clues slowly come to light, Kanon must confront her family’s past mistakes to make way for her future. Loaded with haunting imagery, flashbacks, and macabre superstition, Ox-Head Village becomes the consequence of trying to outwit the curse. Performances across the board are solid. The colors are lush and the kills are brutal and disturbing. Elements akin to Ringu are unmissable. But, Ox-Head Village is undoubtedly unique. Make sure you don’t move once the credits begin to roll.


 OX-HEAD VILLAGE screened as part of Fantaspoa 2022.

For more information on the festival, please visit www.fantaspoa.com.

CAST: Kôki, Riku Hagiwara, Keiko Horiuchi, Haruka Imô, Akaji Maro, Satoru Matsuo, Riko, Fumiya Takahashi, Naoki Tanaka, Rinka Ôtani

DIRECTOR: Takashi Shimizu


21 eclectic films featuring a rabbit… ya know, for Easter.

Could we put together a cuddly list of family-friendly Easter films? Probably. But where’s the fun in that? Here is a list of films where a rabbit is featured in one way or another. Most are straightforward. A few, well, I guess you’ll have to watch them and figure out why they’re there. Happy Easter, and happy hunting for those pesky wabbits.


Space Jam

Swackhammer (Danny DeVito), an evil alien theme park owner, needs a new attraction at Moron Mountain. When his gang, the Nerdlucks, heads to Earth to kidnap Bugs Bunny (Billy West) and the Looney Tunes, Bugs challenges them to a basketball game to determine their fate. The aliens agree, but they steal the powers of NBA basketball players, including Larry Bird (Larry Bird) and Charles Barkley (Charles Barkley) — so Bugs gets some help from superstar Michael Jordan (Michael Jordan).


Fantastic Mr. Fox

After 12 years of bucolic bliss, Mr. Fox (George Clooney) breaks a promise to his wife (Meryl Streep) and raids the farms of their human neighbors, Boggis, Bunce and Bean. Giving in to his animal instincts endangers not only his marriage but also the lives of his family and their animal friends. When the farmers force Mr. Fox and company deep underground, he has to resort to his natural craftiness to rise above the opposition.


The Matrix

Neo (Keanu Reeves) believes that Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne), an elusive figure considered to be the most dangerous man alive, can answer his question — What is the Matrix? Neo is contacted by Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss), a beautiful stranger who leads him into an underworld where he meets Morpheus. They fight a brutal battle for their lives against a cadre of viciously intelligent secret agents. It is a truth that could cost Neo something more precious than his life.


Us

Accompanied by her husband, son and daughter, Adelaide Wilson returns to the beachfront home where she grew up as a child. Haunted by a traumatic experience from the past, Adelaide grows increasingly concerned that something bad is going to happen. Her worst fears soon become a reality when four masked strangers descend upon the house, forcing the Wilsons into a fight for survival. When the masks come off, the family is horrified to learn that each attacker takes the appearance of one of them.


Peter Rabbit

Peter Rabbit and his three sisters — Flopsy, Mopsy and Cotton-Tail — enjoy spending their days in Mr. McGregor’s vegetable garden. When one of McGregor’s relatives suddenly moves in, he’s less than thrilled to discover a family of rabbits in his new home. A battle of wills soon breaks out as the new owner hatches scheme after scheme to get rid of Peter — a resourceful rabbit who proves to be a worthy and wily opponent.


WATERSHIP DOWN

When a young rabbit named Fiver (Richard Briers) has a prophetic vision that the end of his warren is near, he persuades seven other rabbits to leave with him in search of a new home. Several obstacles impede their progress, including predators, a rat-filled cemetery, and a speeding river. Upon arriving at their final destination, a hill dubbed Watership Down, the rabbits find that their journey is still far from over. Realistically drawn, this British animated film carries an emotional weight.


Donnie Darko

During the presidential election of 1988, a teenager named Donnie Darko sleepwalks out of his house one night and sees a giant, demonic-looking rabbit named Frank, who tells him the world will end in 28 days. When Donnie returns home, he finds that a jet engine has crashed into his bedroom. Is Donnie living in a parallel universe, is he suffering from mental illness – or will the world really end?


Miss Potter

Based on the life of early 20th-century author Beatrix Potter, creator of Peter Rabbit. As a young woman Potter rails against her parents’ wishes for her to marry and settle down. Instead, she continues to write about and draw the animals she has adored since childhood. Her early attempts to find a publisher for her children’s stories are unsuccessful, but an offer from a small firm will turn her into a literary phenomenon.


Night of the Lepus (1972)

Arizona rancher Cole Hillman (Rory Calhoun), dealing with massive rabbit overpopulation on his land, calls on a local college president, Elgin Clark (DeForest Kelley), to help him. In order to humanely resolve the matter, Elgin brings in researchers Roy (Stuart Whitman) and Gerry Bennett (Janet Leigh), who inject the rabbits with chemicals. However, they fail to anticipate the consequences of their actions. A breed of giant mutant rabbits emerges and starts killing every human in sight.


Harvey

Elwood P. Dowd (James Stewart) is a wealthy drunk who starts having visions of a giant rabbit named Harvey. Elwood lives with his sister Veta (Josephine Hull) and her daughter (Victoria Horne), and Veta worries that Elwood has gone insane. In the process of trying to have him committed, Veta admits that she occasionally sees Harvey herself. The director of the mental home, Dr. Chumley (Cecil Kellaway), tries to reconcile his duty to help Elwood with his own growing experiences with Harvey.


Zootopia

From the largest elephant to the smallest shrew, the city of Zootopia is a mammal metropolis where various animals live and thrive. When Judy Hopps (Ginnifer Goodwin) becomes the first rabbit to join the police force, she quickly learns how tough it is to enforce the law. Determined to prove herself, Judy jumps at the opportunity to solve a mysterious case. Unfortunately, that means working with Nick Wilde (Jason Bateman), a wily fox who makes her job even harder.


Fatal Attraction

For Dan Gallagher (Michael Douglas), life is good. He is on the rise at his New York law firm, is happily married to his wife, Beth (Anne Archer), and has a loving daughter. But, after a casual fling with a sultry book editor named Alex (Glenn Close), everything changes. Jilted by Dan, Alex becomes unstable, her behavior escalating from aggressive pursuit to obsessive stalking. Dan realizes that his main problem is not hiding his affair, but rather saving himself and his family.


Who Framed Roger Rabbit

Down-on-his-luck private eye Eddie Valiant (Bob Hoskins) gets hired by cartoon producer R.K. Maroon (Alan Tilvern) to investigate an adultery scandal involving Jessica Rabbit (Kathleen Turner), the sultry wife of Maroon’s biggest star, Roger Rabbit (Charles Fleischer). But when Marvin Acme (Stubby Kaye), Jessica’s alleged paramour and the owner of Toontown, is found murdered, the villainous Judge Doom (Christopher Lloyd) vows to catch and destroy Roger.


Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit

The plucky characters from a series of animated shorts, Wallace (Peter Sallis) and his dog, Gromit, make their feature debut here. After starting a pest control business, the duo soon lands a job from the alluring Lady Tottington (Helena Bonham Carter) to stop a giant rabbit from destroying the town‘s crops. Both Wallace and the stuffy Victor (Ralph Fiennes) vie for the lady’s affections. If Wallace wants to please his pretty client, and best Victor, he needs to capture that pesky bunny.

The Favourite

In the early 18th century, England is at war with the French. Nevertheless, duck racing and pineapple eating are thriving. A frail Queen Anne occupies the throne, and her close friend, Lady Sarah, governs the country in her stead while tending to Anne’s ill health and mercurial temper. When a new servant, Abigail, arrives, her charm endears her to Sarah. Sarah takes Abigail under her wing, and Abigail sees a chance to return to her aristocratic roots.


Alice in Wonderland

Lewis Carroll’s beloved fantasy tale is brought to life in this Disney animated classic. When Alice (Kathryn Beaumont), a restless young British girl, falls down a rabbit hole, she enters a magical world. There she encounters an odd assortment of characters, including the grinning Cheshire Cat (Sterling Holloway) and the goofy Mad Hatter (Ed Wynn). When Alice ends up in the court of the tyrannical Queen of Hearts (Verna Felton), she must stay on the ruler’s good side — or risk losing her head.


Jojo Rabbit

Jojo is a lonely German boy who discovers that his single mother is hiding a Jewish girl in their attic. Aided only by his imaginary friend — Adolf Hitler — Jojo must confront his blind nationalism as World War II continues to rage on.


Caveat

A desperate drifter suffering from partial memory loss agrees to look after his landlord’s psychologically troubled niece in an isolated island mansion.


HOP

Beneath Easter Island, in a giant factory that manufactures the world’s Easter candy, the popular rabbit is preparing to pass the mantle to his son, E.B. (Russell Brand). But E.B. has no interest in the job and would rather be a drummer. He runs away to Los Angeles, where an unemployed slacker named Fred O’Hare (James Marsden) accidentally runs into him. Feigning injury, E.B. tricks Fred into giving him shelter, but an oversized chick is planning a coup back on Easter Island.


Monty Python and The Holy Grail

A comedic send-up of the grim circumstances of the Middle Ages as told through the story of King Arthur and framed by a modern-day murder investigation. When the mythical king of the Britons leads his knights on a quest for the Holy Grail, they face a wide array of horrors, including a persistent Black Knight, a three-headed giant, a cadre of shrubbery-challenged knights, the perilous Castle Anthrax, a killer rabbit, a house of virgins, and a handful of rude Frenchmen.


A Christmas A Story

(Don’t argue with me, this film 100% falls under this odd list. In fact, it’s the second film with a hideous bunny suit.)

Based on the humorous writings of author Jean Shepherd, this beloved holiday movie follows the wintry exploits of youngster Ralphie Parker (Peter Billingsley), who spends most of his time dodging a bully (Zack Ward) and dreaming of his ideal Christmas gift, a “Red Ryder air rifle.” Frequently at odds with his cranky dad (Darren McGavin) but comforted by his doting mother (Melinda Dillon), Ralphie struggles to make it to Christmas Day with his glasses and his hopes intact.


HOPPY EASTER


Review: ‘WYRMWOOD APOCALYPSE’ screams franchise potential.

WYRMWOOD: APOCALYPSE

Synopsis: Rhys lives in the zombie-infested wasteland. His job is to capture civilians and deliver them to what’s left of the military. When Rhys captures a half-zombie-half-human named Grace, he comes to believe she is the key to ending the apocalypse.


*Let me begin their review by stating that I have not seen the original Wyrmwood. I can only comment on Wyrmwood: Apocalypse as a stand-alone film.*

I was immediately drawn into the film hearing Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds‘ track “Red Right Hand,” alongside the quick-cut editing. Equal parts quirky and cool, I was committed. The costumes and sets are elaborate eye candy. The special effects makeup and practical FX are deliciously gruesome. The score, combined with the red lighting, makes for the perfect touch of camp. Wyrmwood: Apocalypse has legit legs for a franchise reboot. 

This cast is gold. The commitment to these characters is commendable. The fight sequences and choreography are damn entertaining. These actors go hard into the action. Bravo, to Luke McKensie, Shantae Barnes-Cowan, Jake Ryan, Bianca Brady, Tasia Zalar, Jay Gallagher, and Nick Boshier for their phenomenal chemistry.

The plot possesses a similar concept as Zydrate from one of my all-time favorite films, Repo! The Genetic Opera. There’s revenge, cognisant zombies, mind control, harvesting, and family dynamics. You name it, and it’s in Wyrmwood: Apocalypse. There’s enough meat in this storyline to justify a series development. I could easily see this doing well on the SyFy network. It has to be from writer-director Kiah Roache-Turner and co-writer Tristan Roache-Turner. Consistency is key to maintaining a fandom. The bottom line is Wyrmwood: Apocalypse is a new beginning.


Zombie Action-Horror WYRMWOOD: APOCALYPSE — OUT DIGITALLY IN THE U.S. APRIL 14!


Genre: Horror

Country: Australia

Runtime: 90 mins

Year: 2022

Language: English

Rated: NA


Shudder Original review: ‘Night’s End’ is a creepy and campy crowd-pleaser.

NIGHT’S END

An anxious shut-in moves into a haunted apartment, hiring a stranger to perform an exorcism which quickly takes a horrific turn.


Director Jennifer Reeder and screenwriter Brett Neveu bring us the Shudder Original Night’s End. Anxiety-ridden Ken is apartment-bound and attempting to get his life back on track. In doing so, he accidentally records a strange occurrence while filming his amateur YouTube videos. Things get weirder when he’s encouraged to pursue the building’s history and provoke whatever entity might be lurking in his domain. Night’s End is the perfect marriage of creepy and campy. Shudder audiences will love it. 

Every single performance adds to the overall arc of Night’s End. Dark Corners host Daniel Kyrie, and Lyden Knight, played by Theo Germaine, give that YouTube clout appearance. Their distinct personalities up the anty for the finale. The camp enters the arena officially with the introduction of author Colin Albertson, played by Lawrence Grimm, a famous paranormal expert guiding Ken on his journey. Grimm, whose name evokes perfect casting, represents every talking head in any SyFy channel show. He will make you smirk with familiarity. 

Comic relief comes in the form of Michael Shannon. Yes, Michael Shannon! He plays Isaac, Ken’s marital replacement. Donning Hawaiian shirts and giving us an honest-to-goodness stepdad goofiness, Shannon is effortlessly hilarious.

Felonious Munk is Ken’s best friend, Terry. He’s encouraging and genuinely interested in getting Ken well. Walker and Munk’s banter is essential to Jen’s backstory. Kate Arrington, as ex-wife Kelsey, is down-to-earth and loveable. The chemistry with Walker has a closeness that feels grounded. Keep in mind, every single interaction Ken experiences is through Zoom. Bravo to the editor Mike OlenikGeno Walker plays Ken with a super natural (two words) energy. His paranoia is palpable as frustration and confusion pour off the screen. Walker is a commanding lead. 

Night’s End uses horror tropes to tackle mental health uniquely. Fran Bittakis‘ set dressing, cleverly disguised in draped plastic, serves a dual purpose. The apartment appears amid repair, but it also allows for some ghostly apparition moments. Zoom works perfectly, considering Ken suffers from crippling anxiety and agoraphobia throughout the film. The significance hits home in the finale. The creepy factor will turn your knuckles white, even if the film’s climax begets an eye roll. Know what you’re going into with Night’s End, and you’ll undoubtedly have a good time. I still think there is sequel potential. That’s a character journey I want to explore. 


Premieres March 31 on Shudder


Review: Feminist horror ‘THE YELLOW WALLPAPER’ available today on Digital release.

THE YELLOW WALLPAPER

The debut film THE YELLOW WALLPAPER from creative duo—Alexandra Loreth and Kevin Pontuti—is a chilling and boldly original vision of madness. Jane, a writer and young mother, is prescribed a rest treatment by her physician husband John, who takes her to a remote country estate for the summer. She becomes obsessed with the peculiar yellow wallpaper in the bedroom he has chosen for her. In her isolation, she secretly writes about a woman trapped in the wallpaper—that she must free.


Opening with a disturbing turn, The Yellow Wallpaper is a slow burn horror about Postpartum Depression and gaslighting. New mother Jane and her physician husband rent a summer home in hopes of settling Jane’s nerves after giving birth. Jane becomes obsessed with the wallpaper in the couple’s bedroom. As her behavior becomes more and more erratic, she is less understood by all those around me. Perhaps, it is because they are not truly listening. 

The score from Robert Coburn haunts with heavy, ear-piercing strings, oboe, and maybe even bagpipe? I almost wish there were more music for me to contemplate. Era records, perhaps, to contrast such a purposeful and grating score. The slow, lingering closeups of the titular wallpaper are chilling. The costumes and set are outstanding. Bravo, to the hair and make-up team for their meticulous work. It did not go unnoticed. 

Alexandra Loreth evenly plays Jane with the nuance of PPD topped off with gaslighting. Postpartum depression was not yet a diagnosis in the Elizabethan era. Nor is it acknowledged as much as it should be today, quite frankly. Loreth’s voiceovers are a nice reprieve from the predominant silence. Her performance hits its peak as her isolation and writings increase. The faster editing and closeups help greatly. 

While the film opens with a bang, that same energy feels sapped in the one hour and forty minutes runtime. The Yellow Wallpaper would benefit from a 20 to 30-minute cut. I found myself glancing at the clock more than once. The final 20 minutes are, by far, the most intriguing. The variation and mounting intensity make The Yellow Wallpaper meaningfully upsetting. Loreth and director Kevin Pontuti penned the screenplay together. There’s a lot of depth and potential. You could easily make this a franchise with some tweaking. 


 

THE YELLOW WALLPAPER is a dark and disturbing contemporary adaptation of Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s well-known and controversial gothic feminist horror story about patriarchy and mental health. The film is a collaboration between partners Alexandra Loreth and Kevin Pontuti and stars Alexandra Loreth, Joe Mullins, Clara Hart, and Jeanne O’Connor. The film was written by Alexandra Loreth and Kevin Pontuti and directed by Pontuti. THE YELLOW WALLPAPER has a running time of 99 minutes and will not be rated by the MPAA. The film World Premiered at Cinequest followed by a successful festival run. Mutiny Pictures will release the film on March 29.

BUFF 2022 capsule review: Creature feature ‘HATCHING’ takes growing pains in a horrifying direction.

HATCHING


Tinja exists in a world where her mother expects perfection. Subconsciously, she seeks to replace her lack of affection. When she stumbles upon a strange abandoned egg, she decides she will nurture it. When things go awry, Mother has created a monster.

There’s no denying Hatching is a metaphor for puberty. Physical and emotional changes in Tinja are tied directly to the creature. As terror, anxiety, and jealousy intensify, so does Hatching’s horror. Our leading lady, Siiri Solalinna, is nothing short of extraordinary. She’s vulnerable, grounded, and fearless. It’s an astounding performance.

The creature design is reminiscent of something that might come out of the Wētā Workshop from Jim Henson‘s team. Its evolution is fascinating. It manages to be shockingly grotesque and yet adorable. If you’re a fan of Labyrinth or The Dark Crystal, you’ll especially appreciate the aesthetic. Hatching is a unique and terrifying journey. It’s one of the most emotionally brutal scripts of the year. BUFF 2022 fans are in for one hell of a film. 


IFC Midnight releases HATCHING in theaters April 29th and on VOD everywhere you rent movies May 17th.

Starring: Siiri Solalinna, Sophia Heikkilä, Jani Volanen, Reino Nordin

Directed By: Hanna Bergholm

Synopsis: 12-year-old Tinja is desperate to please her mother, a woman obsessed with presenting the image of a perfect family. One night, Tinja finds a strange egg. What hatches is beyond belief.


To find out more about BUFF22, click here!


BUFF 2022 capsule review: Playground dynamics get ramped up in ‘THE INNOCENTS.’ It’s pure good vs evil.

THE INNOCENTS

Synopsis: During the bright Nordic summer, a group of children reveal their dark and mysterious powers when the adults aren’t looking.


“With great power comes great responsibility.” A group of children in an apartment complex realizes they have a strange and often dangerous bond. They possess otherworldly powers. As the connection between the children grows, so too do their abilities. The Innocents plays like a mysterious superhero and villain origin story.

The complexity of The Innocents is endless. This young cast carries a heavy emotional weight. They delighted and terrified me. The evolution of this dark sci-fi narrative gave me full-body goosebumps. The volatility of young feelings is on an entirely uncharted plain. What these characters do with their power speaks to the purity of good and evil. Look for an extraordinary turn from Alva Brynsmo Ramstad as Anna. It’s pure wow. BUFF 22 audiences, get ready for one hell of a showdown. 


US Release Date: May 13, 2022

Starring: Rakel Lenora Fløttum, Alva Brynsmo Ramstad, Sam Ashraf

Directed By: Eskil Vogt


To learn more about BUFF 22, click here!


SXSW 2022 review: ‘JETHICA’ kills it with humor and uniqueness.

JETHICA

Hiding out in New Mexico after a freak accident, Elena runs into Jessica, an old friend from high school. When Jessica’s stalker suddenly shows up at their door, they must seek help from beyond the grave to get rid of him, for good.


JETHICA contains a unique screenplay structure. After the twist comes to light, we slowly realize certain aspects were in our faces from the very beginning. And while we’re dealing with the legit issue of stalking- viewers who’ve experienced any of this behavior will shudder- you’ll simultaneously find your moral compass in knots. This feeling is 100 percent due to the relentless energy of Will Madden. His longwinded, manic dialogue is like watching a tweaker come down from bath salts, sans the eating people’s faces. 

I love how badass Callie Hernandez and Ashley Denise Robinson are together. Their teamwork is all lady power. The relationship between Elena and Jessica is breezy and genuine. Not an ounce of judgy fuckery. As for Andy Faulkner, you’ll fall in love with him. The nonchalance from the entire cast made me guffaw. Writer-director Peter Ohs‘ decision to fully collaborate with his actors makes me love it even more, going so far as giving them writing credit. It speaks volumes to Ohs’ instincts. 

Jethica is difficult to describe in the sense that what I want to say is, “Just shut your stupid mouth and watch this brilliant piece of genre obliterating magic.” (*Insert Futurama Meme “Shut Up and Take My Money”) It’s a film that speaks for itself as it progresses. It’s weird and wonderful and has “cult classic” written all over it. So yeah, I liked it a lot.


Check out  a brand new clip from JETHICA:

A supernatural dark comedy like you’ve never seen, JETHICA was shot in New Mexico in January 2021, in the midst of the pandemic, and world premieres at SXSW in the Visions section. JETHICA boldly blends and bends genres, all at once shining as a sharp comedy and dire stalker thriller with an undead edge.

The third feature from Pete Ohs, one of Filmmaker Magazine’s 2013 ‘25 New Faces of Independent Film’ and co-director of the award-winning Julia Garner lead sci-fi fable Everything Beautiful Is Far Away, the film stars Austin-raised actress Callie Hernandez (The Flight Attendant, Blair Witch [2016]), Will Madden (Beast Beast, The Wolf Of Snow Hollow), Ashley Denise Robinson (Taking Stock), and Andy Faulkner (Youngstown).

Conceived and created through radical approaches to filmmaking, Pete Ohs continues to push the boundaries of indie film, collaborating with his four leads on the script and story of JETHICA, each of whom shares writing credits, and editing the feature live last year on Twitch.


To Learn More About SXSW22 click here!


SXSW 2022 review: ‘DEADSTREAM’ is a horror-comedy fan’s dream.

DEADSTREAM

After a public controversy left him disgraced and demonetized, a washed up internet personality tries to win back his followers by livestreaming himself spending one night alone in an abandoned haunted house. When he accidentally pisses off a vengeful spirit, his big comeback event becomes a real-time fight for his life (and social relevance) as he faces off with the sinister spirit of the house and her own powerful following.


Joseph Winter plays Shawn, a delightful douchebag. Or, as we regularly refer to this type of personality, a YouTube star. He promises his audience he’ll spend the night in an infamously haunted location. As the evening unfolds, Shawn’s backstory slowly comes to light. Is this stunt an act of redemption or a money grab? Whichever it is, we win with Deadstream.

Shawn interacts with the livestream comments ranging from rude to fangirl, skeptical to genuinely helpful. Some of those comments come with videos making the narrative feel immersive for the audience. The Host was a huge indie hit in 2020. The plot occurs over a Zoom seance, where the audience is also a participant on that call. Dreadstream benefits from this similar format because it will feel like you’re part of the action. It’s only the second film I would recommend watching on a laptop.

The cinematography is a collection of Go Pro and infrared cameras, giving Deadstream a first-person gamer experience. While Shawn performs promised acts of silliness, he also tells the history of each room and its associated ghost. The majority of the set is lit from Shawn’s headlamp, enhancing the scares. I constantly anticipated a jump scare. But, it’s the brilliantly written buildup of tension that kept me on the edge of my seat. 

Joseph Winter abandons every ounce of his dignity in Shawn. He’s fearless in his slapstick and could not care less how absurd he looks. The way he screams is comedy gold. Winter nails that manic energy and the over-the-top vocal nuance of any YouTube star or influencer. I cannot imagine anyone but Winters doing Shawn justice. 

Deadstream is an ode to horror fans. It is a film Sam Raimi would be proud of. As for us genre nerds, don’t act like you didn’t watch Paranormal State, Ghost Hunters, or Ghost Adventures whenever Evil Dead wasn’t available to rent, again. Deadstream takes all the elements of those staples and melds them together with modern-day social media and cancel culture. If you’re not laughing out loud, check your pulse. Writing and directing team Vanessa Winter & Joseph Winter let SXSW22 audiences in on the joke. Deadstream gets me to hit “Like & Subscribe.” These filmmakers just earned a new fan. 


To learn more about SXSW22 click here!


SXSW 2022 review: ‘THE CELLAR’ begins with great source material.

THE CELLAR

Filmed on location in Roscommon, Ireland, The Cellar tells the story of Keira Woods (Elisha Cuthbert), whose daughter mysteriously vanishes in the cellar of their new house in the country. Keira soon discovers there is an ancient and powerful entity controlling their home that she will have to face or risk losing her family’s souls forever.


Shudder original The Cellar made its debut at SXSW 2022 in the Midnighter’s section. Elisha Cuthbert helms this haunted house film alongside Eion Macken. As a husband and wife team working on a new Gen X influencer platform, their strangely inexpensive Irish mansion comes with more than some old furniture. With Mom and Dad busy pitching their ideas, kids Ellie and Steven are home alone when the power goes out. As Ellie descends the creepy stairs of the pitch-black basement in search of the fuse, she mysteriously disappears while on the phone with Kiera. 

Writer-director Brendan Muldowney made a short film in 2004 titled The Ten Steps (which you can find online.) The short film is horror perfection. The Cellar is a feature expanded from that story. The Ten Steps captured all the fear in 10 minutes. The Cellar takes a lot of cliches that genre fans will love, and frankly work well, and becomes an overlong and dimly lit film. As a mom, I felt Cuthbert’s sense of urgency was missing. These parents are the least panicked Mother and Father I’ve ever seen. Where are the missing posters? No tears of distress? 

As Kiera investigates the house’s history, we are introduced to everything from Jewish mysticism to quantum physics. I wasn’t expecting math to be a thing, yet here we are. I thought the record player that coaxed the family members into all sorts of trouble was clever. But, not so much the characters googling Latin quotations. It’s a lot. There are fleeting moments of greatness, such as an ancient abacus moving on its own, air blowing from underneath the cellar door as if a creature were heavily breathing. The classic scares worked best for me. The final 20 minutes is where the real action occurs, a clear nod to The Beyond. This is what I was waiting for, and it is genuinely satisfying. The visual change-up was an honest “Hell, Yes” moment, no pun intended. The Cellar is ultimately a film Shudder audiences will dig. So, simply sit back, don’t overthink it, and enjoy the devilish chaos.

 

*Perhaps ignore the fact that it will remind a few of you of Krampus.


Official Selection, SXSW 2022. If you miss its Shudder release, you can catch The Cellar in theaters on April 15 from RLJ Films.


To learn more about SXSW 22 click here!


SXSW 2022: ‘HYPOCHONDRIAC’ is a disturbing journey towards self-actualization.

HYPOCHONDRIAC

A young potter’s life devolves into chaos as he loses function of his body while being haunted by the physical manifestation of his childhood trauma.


Will has created a facade of mental wellness. As the past comes back to haunt him, can he keep himself together? Hypochondriac tells the story of a man unraveling and coming to terms with what hides inside. 

Marlene Forte as Mom is a thing of manic beauty. If you want to talk about personality? Forte has it in spades. Zach Villa is a star. His wildly nuanced, fully fleshed-out performance as Will leaps off the screen. He will not be ignored.

The camera work is an entire entity. Editing wise, reflection, double vision, echoing of dialogue all build as the story progresses. These devices slowly place us into the mindset of Will, forcing us to question reality. There are bizarre and jarring references to films like Donnie Darko and Ghost. If you enjoy squirming, Hypochondriac‘s sound editing is a bonus. 

Hypochondriac creatively addresses very real mental health issues. From stress to anxiety, unresolved trauma to potential schizophrenia, it is in this script. It also touches on gaslighting from both family members and medical professionals. Writer-director Addison Heimann brings SXSW22 audiences something unique and incredibly frightening. 


Director:

Addison Heimann

Executive Producer:

Martin Richards

Producer:

Bay Dariz, John Humber

Screenwriter:

Addison Heimann

Cinematographer:

Dustin Supencheck

Editor:

Mike Hugo

Production Designer:

Nicholas Faiella

Sound Designer:

Steven Avila

Music:

Robert Allaire

Principal Cast:

Zach Villa, Devon Graye, Madeline Zima, Yumarie Morales, Marlene Forte, Chris Doubek, Paget Brewster, Adam Busch, Michael Cassidy, Peter Mensah, Debra Wilson

Additional Credits:

Casting Director: Michelle Lewitt, Costume Designer: Jessyca Bluwal, Makeup Department Head: Angie Davis, VFX Supervisor: Zach Moore, Post Sound: Kyle Tilbury, First Assistant Director: Lizzy Walker, Stunt Coordinator: Laurence Todd Rosenthal, Intimacy Coordinator: Carly D. Weckstein


 

SXSW 2022 review: Teen angst and aliens in the Arctic tundra, ‘SLASH/BACK’ is a culturally cool coming-of-age film from director Nyla Innuksuk.

SLASH/BACK


We can all attest to being bored as teenagers. Even the Arctic tundra might seem uncool when you’re a certain age. SXSW22 feature film Slash/Back follows a group of Inuit girls who’ve had enough of being disregarded. Something is quite wrong in their town. When the adults won’t listen, they take matters into their own hands. Gather your pride, the girls from Pang are about to kick some ass.

The original music by The Halluci Nation and vocal performances by Tanya Tagaq are electrifying. It vibrates off the screen. During the opening credits, I stood up and danced in my kitchen because it was so infectious. The special FX makeup and CGI are startling. But it is the performances from this fresh young cast that pulls you into the narrative. These kids are stars. The emotional upheaval is all too familiar as they struggle with hormones, racism, and, in this instance, aliens. While most of us don’t have the alien experience in our back pocket, we can all agree that pre-teen to teenage years was complicated. The dialogue from writers Nyla Innuksuk (who also directs) and Ryan Cavan almost feels improvised. They have nailed the jargon of youth. The cinematography is breathtaking. Even if the characters aren’t impressed with the landscape, the audience unmistakably experiences the natural grandeur of Pangnirtung.

Pay close attention to the very intentional opening and closing credits as they change from Inuktitut to English. It’s a subtle but powerful statement. Slash/Back is a quirky coming-of-age tale with horror as a catalyst. With elements of The Thing and the energy of Stranger Things, the genre audience will adore this film.



Slash/Back at Online Screening
Mar 14, 9:00am CDT – Mar 16, 9:00am CDT
9:00am10:26am
Availability: United States
Slash/Back at Violet Crown Cinema 1
Mar 14, 2022
3:45pm5:11pm
Slash/Back at Violet Crown Cinema 3
Mar 14, 2022
4:15pm5:41pm
Slash/Back at Stateside Theatre
Mar 17, 2022
6:15pm7:41pm


Director:

Nyla Innuksuk

Executive Producer:

Hussain Amarshi, Neil Mathieson

Producer:

Dan Bekerman, Christopher Yurkovich, Alex Ordanis, Nyla Innuksuk, Stacey Aglok McDonald, Alethea Arnaquq-Baril, Ethan Lazar

Screenwriter:

Nyla Innuksuk, Ryan Cavan

Cinematographer:

Guy Godfree

Editor:

Simone Smith, Todd E. Miller

Production Designer:

Zosia Mackenzie

Sound Designer:

John Loranger

Music:

The Halluci Nation and Michael Brook

Principal Cast:

Tasiana Shirley, Alexis Wolfe, Chelsea Prusky, Frankie Vincent-Wolfe, Nalajoss Ellsworth


 

SXSW 2022 review: ‘SOFT & QUIET’ and infuriating and terrifying and brilliant.

SOFT & QUIET

Playing out in real time, SOFT & QUIET is a runaway train that follows a single afternoon in the life of Emily, an elementary school teacher. Emily organizes the inaugural club mixer of like-minded women, and she indoctrinates them into her sisterhood. When they all decide to move the meeting to Emily’s house, they stop at the local store to pick up refreshments, where an altercation breaks out between two sisters and the club that spirals into a volatile chain of events.


Having a film run in real-time is already bold. In Soft & Quiet, that is the tip of the iceberg. Essentially, a group of Karens sharing their super racist views embrace each other at their first official group meeting. The dialogue takes every offensive, cliché, and horrifying thing spewed over the internet, heard on cell phone footage, and in national rallies, especially since Obama was running for office. Government suspicion, recruiting, homeschooling, The Constitution, traditional family, you name it, the subject appears in this script. It’s like reading through the comments section on Facebook or 8chan. It’s terrifying. 

Handheld camerawork immerses the viewer inside the film, moving from speaker to speaker, moving with the action. The amount of rehearsal this must have required is mind-boggling. The subtle digs are clever. Leslie’s jacket reads “Lieben Zu Hassen” which translates from German to English as “Love To Hate.” I have to hand it to this cast. It is the nonchalance that kills you. To say vitriolic things and act in such a vile manner, you have to trust your director and your fellow cast members. The hidden humor of these women traveling in a minivan is unmissable.

As you awkwardly cringe at the horror of it all, your level of anticipation simmers wildly. It’s so uncomfortable your palms will sweat. The film is sliced right down the middle. The first half respects the title, and the second half goes off the rails. As the terror increases, your heart will be in your throat. Soft & Quiet is a powder keg. It is pure rage-fueled, technically coordinated, chaos. This film deserves a hard and loud standing ovation for writer-director Beth de Araújo. This is a thrilling masterpiece. 


Director:

Beth de Araújo

Executive Producer:

Robina Riccitiello

Producer:

Josh Peters, Saba Zerehi, Joshua Beirne-Golden, Beth de Araújo

Screenwriter:

Beth de Araújo

Cinematographer:

Greta Zozula

Editor:

Lindsay Armstrong

Production Designer:

Tom Castronovo

Sound Designer:

William Tabanou

Music:

Miles Ross

Principal Cast:

Stefanie Estes, Olivia Luccardi, Eleanore Pienta, Dana Millican, Melissa Paulo, Jon Beavers, Cissy Ly

Additional Credits:

Jon Cooper: First Assistant Camera, Matt Hadley: Gaffer, Elodie Ichter: Colorist, Bridget Bruce: Costume Designer, Jillian Johns: Costume Designer, Music Supervisor: Ella Sahlman


To learn more about SXSW22 click here!


SXSW 2022 review: Living your best life is triggering in ‘SISSY.’

SISSY

Synopsis: Cecilia and Emma were tween-age BFFs who were going to grow old together and never let anything come between them until Alex arrived on the scene. Twelve years later, Cecilia is a successful social media influencer living the dream of an independent, modern millennial woman… until she runs into Emma for the first time in over a decade. Emma invites Cecilia away on her bachelorette weekend at a remote cabin in the mountains, where Alex proceeds to make Cecilia’s weekend a living hell. #triggered


Catty, protective, territorial; girls can be the worst. Mean girls made my life a living hell for years. Everyone I know has a story involving them. SXSW22 Midnighters world premiere SISSY addresses them head-on. 

Slow clap for the editing in SISSY. It is clever and engaging from the beginning. The tension in the script is a deliberate build, sort of like ascending a rollercoaster, knowing that that first drop is coming and will be one many. But there are moments of silliness that cut through the anticipation. Overall a slick structure that never lets up. Trust me when I say you will not see where this leads. The practical FX are so tight I exclaimed, “Oh, F*ck,” at one point. There is no better an endorsement than that. 

The chemistry between Aisha Dee and Hannah Barlow (who co-writes and directs with Kane Senes) is magic. You believe they were best friends when they were twelve. Fast forward 15 years or so, and things look very different in their relationship. But, best friends never really lose their groove. That is until someone comes between them. Aisha Dee is our true leading lady, and she friggin kills it. SISSY obliterates your moral compass. 

SISSY tackles unresolved childhood trauma most darkly. Combined with the influencer angle is pure genius. SXSW22 audiences are going to love this. You root for all the wrong things, and therein lies the brilliance.


SISSY – Midnighters (**World Premiere**)
Writers/Directors: Hannah Barlow, Kane Senes
Cast: Aisha Dee, Hannah Barlow, Emily De Margheriti, Daniel Monks, Yerin Ha, Lucy Barrett


To find out more about SXSW22 click here!


Review: Mickey Keating’s ‘OFFSEASON’ is selling scary from start to finish.

OFFSEASON

Upon receiving a mysterious letter that her mother’s gravesite has been vandalized, Marie quickly returns to the isolated offshore island where her late mother is buried. When she arrives, she discovers that the island is closing for the offseason with the bridges raised until Spring, leaving her stranded. One strange interaction with the local townspeople after another, Marie soon realizes that something is not quite right in this small town. She must unveil the mystery behind her mother’s troubled past in order to make it out alive.


What makes this film so unsettling is a brilliant mix of Shawn Duffy‘s heightened sound editing, Shayfer James‘ music selection, and isolated locations. If you’re a genre fan, particularly gaming-wise, OffSeason is like watching Marie walk through a new live-action version of Silent Hill, down to the radio, the flashlight, and the fog. As short bursts of information are leaked to us through flashbacks, Marie is trapped in a nightmare.

Melora Walters as Ava is powerful in her manic behavior. She’s such a presence in any role. This casting was perfect. Richard Brake is brilliant. He’s so nonchalantly terrifying you’re just mesmerized by his performance. Jeremy Gardner is one of the best parts of this film. He’s a savior figure cloaked in mystery. His delivery of dialogue drives the greater mystery forward. He is an integral piece to this gothic puzzle. Jocelin Donahue has anxiety written all over her face. She has this throwback horror look from the hair, to the wardrobe, giving the entire film a timeless feel.

Mac Fisken‘s cinematography is amazing. The long lingering shots, the close-ups, and the static camera work are stunning. Watching the actors run into view and away again is such an effective stylistic choice. Writer-director Mickey Keating‘s creation lives and breathes in the audience’s ability to take the ride. I actually went back and watched the beginning again and there is one very Ari Aster moment. Keating smartly gives you a visual reference but it’s tricky to decipher right off the bat. OffSeason is worth multiple viewings. Make sure to have your volume turned up when you do.


In Select Theaters, On Demand and Digital:
 March 11, 2022


Starring: 
Jocelin Donahue, Joe Swanberg, Richard Brake, Melora Walters, Jeremy Gardner
Directed and Written By:
Mickey Keating
Run Time: 83 minutes | Rating: Not Rated


SXSW 2022 is coming. Here are some films to add to your watch list in this year’s hybrid festival.

It’s here and boy is it happening. This year’s hybrid edition of SXSW 2022 has it all. Here are a handful of films we’re excited about this year.


Linoleum

When a satellite falls from orbit and crashes into the home of a dysfunctional family in suburban Ohio, the father seizes the opportunity to fulfill his childhood dream of becoming an astronaut by re-creating the machine as his own rocket ship. While his wife and daughter believe he is experiencing a midlife crisis, surreal events begin to unfold around him, forcing him to reconsider how interconnected their lives truly are…

We’ve been living through hell these past few years and could all use a bit of whimsy. Linoleum provides us the opportunity to reconnect with our inner child while simultaneously dissecting the family dynamics. Plus, I think a lot of people forget how incredibly talented Jim Gaffigan is as an actor. Look out for this one.


The Cellar

A woman must confront an ancient and powerful entity after her daughter mysteriously vanishes in the cellar of their new home.

Shudder has already picked this title up before its SXSW22 premiere. Becoming the best streaming platform for all things genre-related, when they see potential in a film they snap it up ASAP. An old mansion, a new family, a disappearance, The Cellar has my attention.


DIAMOND HANDS: THE LEGEND OF WALLSTREETBETS

It was the perfect storm. A global pandemic. An app aspiring to democratize trading. A group of Reddit users stuck at home with stimulus dollars to burn. And a video game company on its last legs. DIAMOND HANDS is the incredible true story of how an army of retail traders rallied around GameStop to rock our financial system. This is the legend of r/WallStreetBets.

Everyone watched in awe and confusion as GameStop stock began to skyrocket. The fallout was disastrous, but the idea that a bunch of dudes on Reddit were able to completely disrupt the market is pretty much my favorite (anti)capitalist giggle from 2020.

MSNBC Films and NBC News Studios will premiere “Diamond Hands: The Legend of WallStreetBets,” on MSNBC Sunday, April 10 at 10:00 p.m. ET, following the global premiere at SXSW on March 13. “Diamond Hands” is produced by NBC News Studios and ZCDC Films. The film is set to stream later this Spring on Peacock. 


Hypochondriac

A young potter’s life devolves into chaos as he loses function of his body while being haunted by the physical manifestation of his childhood trauma.

If you’re looking for some kick-ass casting, look no further than Zach Villa in Hypochondriac. Unrecognizable from his American Horror Story seasons, Villa plays the writer-director Addison Heimann‘s words with care. The film is based on Heiman’s own experience with mental health.


The Cow

Synopsis: Upon arriving at a remote cabin in the redwoods, Kath and her boyfriend find a mysterious younger couple already there — the rental has apparently been double-booked. With nowhere else to go, they decide to share the cabin with these strangers until the next morning. When her boyfriend disappears with the young woman, Kath becomes obsessed with finding an explanation for their sudden breakup— but the truth is far stranger than she could have imagined.

If you go to IMDB the plot for the film is still under wraps, so SXSW22 fans are in for a treat. I’ve always been a Winona Ryder fan and with Stranger Things revamping her genre status, I cannot wait to see what is in store in this mysterious-sounding plot.


Mickey: The Story of a Mouse

Mickey Mouse is one of the most enduring symbols in our history. Those three simple circles take on meaning for virtually everyone on the planet. So ubiquitous in our lives that he can seem invisible, Mickey is something we all share, with unique memories and feelings. Over the course of his nearly century-long history, Mickey functions like a mirror, reflecting our personal and cultural values back at us. “Mickey: The Story of a Mouse” explores Mickey’s significance, getting to the core of what Mickey’s cultural impact says about each of us and about our world.

When I was 19 years old, I moved to California on a whim in hopes of working at Disneyland. During my amazing time performing there (those details are top secret via the stack of NDA’s you sign as a cast member), I had the extraordinary pleasure of meeting a special individual. When Walt Disney opened Disneyland he presented the world with Mickey Mouse, live and in person. I met that man backstage and had my photo taken with him. The impact Mickey Mouse has had on generations of children and adults is unfathomable. Mickey: The Story of a Mouse will undoubtedly touch a massive audience. As I share Mickey with my own small children now, I can still picture my first meeting with a character so magical I was overwhelmed with joy and excitement. He never gets old, pun most definitely intended.


The Prank

Synopsis: Ben is your typical high-school overachiever. He’s organized, careful, goal-oriented and extremely dedicated to school. His best friend, Tanner, couldn’t be more opposite. She is a lackadaisical, messy, slacker, who lives in the moment. They aren’t popular, but they don’t seem to care that much because they have each other. Ben has a stern, mean and cruel physics teacher, Mrs. Wheeler. She has been teaching at the school for decades and has a reputation for being the hardest, coldest, strictest faculty member. She fails Ben’s entire class unless a student who cheated comes forward. When no one does, Tanner and Ben hatch a plan to ruin he life and frame her for murder on social media.

Social media is such a catalyst for action, terror, and weirdness these days that anything is possible when it is involved. But, it’s this cast that caught my eye. Rita Moreno, Connor Kalopsis, Ramona Young, Keith David, Kate Flannery, and Meredith Salenger will get my butt in a seat. Also, who didn’t have a teacher in high school everyone loathed?


The Unknown Country

An unexpected invitation launches a grieving young woman on a solitary road trip through the American Midwest as she struggles to reconcile the losses of her past with the dreams of her future.

I was first introduced to Lily Gladstone in Certain Women. Her ability to captivate with but a glance is something that is rare. The Unknown Country tackles a beautiful mix of anxiety, grief, and identity, all in a unique road trip movie. It’s a film we’ll be talking about all year.


Sissy

**WORLD PREMIERE**

WRITERS/DIRECTORS: Hannah Barlow, Kane Senes
STARRING: Aisha Dee, Hannah Barlow, Emily De Margheriti, Daniel Monks, Yerin Ha, Lucy Barrett, Shaun Martindale, Amelia Lule, April Blasdall, Camille Cumpston

Synopsis: Cecilia and Emma were tween-age BFFs who were going to grow old together and never let anything come between them, until Alex arrived on the scene. Twelve years later, Cecilia is a successful social media influencer living the dream of an independent, modern millennial woman… until she runs into Emma for the first time in over a decade. Emma invites Cecilia away on her bachelorette weekend at a remote cabin in the mountains, where Alex proceeds to make Cecilia’s weekend a living hell. #triggered

Listen, girls are mean. We hold grudges and we play dirty, those are just the facts. When friendships are disrupted, those scars last a lifetime. With social media affecting the way we lead our daily lives, SISSY sounds like a perfect storm for great horror.


SOFT & QUIET

Playing out in real time, Soft and Quiet is a runaway train that follows a single afternoon in the life of a female white supremacist as she indoctrinates a group of alt-right women, and together they set out to harass two mixed-raced sisters.

Any film that has the audacity to play out in real time has my attention. I am hardwired to loathe these main characters so I am hoping that some horrible fate befalls them. The plot is socially relevant even if I wish it weren’t. I’ll be paying close attention to how writer-director Beth de Araújo brings her first feature-length film to life.


Radical Honesty

At the tail end of a great date, Jack and Rachel bond over a shared interest in deconstructing traditional relationship structures. When Jack reveals the reality of his “radical” open relationship, things take a turn for the absurd in this short film about the co-option of the language of liberation for means of manipulation and control.

At 41, I cannot imagine navigating a new relationship at this precise moment in time. I remember when Match.com first became a thing and how weird I thought it sounded. Then I recall attending four weddings in the years that followed, each couple had met through Match. RADICAL HONESTY, a 7-minute short film, tackles the complexities that Gen Z and Millenials face day-to-day. I’ll be watching with popcorn in hand knowing that it’s one hell I don’t have to keep in check these days. (*knock on wood) Check out the teaser trailer for the film’s aesthetic.

Radical Honesty Teaser from Bianca Poletti on Vimeo.


Slash/Back

Synopsis: Pangnirtung, Nunavut: A sleepy hamlet nestled in the majestic mountains of Baffin Island in the Arctic Ocean, wakes up to a typical summer day. No School, no cool boys (well… except one), and 24-hour sunlight. But for Maika and her ragtag friends, the usual summer is suddenly not in the cards when they discover an alien invasion threatening Pang. But these teenagers have been underestimated their whole lives, and using makeshift weapons and their horror movie knowledge, they show the aliens you don’t fuck with the girls from Pang.

Slash/Back is an unexpected coming-of-age film. With some Stranger Things vibes, it tackles tradition, boredom, boys, and aliens. Wait until you see this young cast kicking ass and taking names.


Pirates

New Year’s Eve 1999. Three life long friends drive through London in their tiny Peugeot 205, pumping a UK Garage set from the stereo and arguing about their Avirex jackets and Naf Naf imports. As the eighteen-year olds step into adulthood, they know their lives and friendships are on the brink of change. Determined to end the century on a bang, they drive from place to place in a desperate search for tickets for the best millennium party EVER. In their efforts to end up somewhere, they end up closer together.

I know I’m aging myself but I was 19 on New Year’s Eve 1999. I lived this chaos and hopefulness. Anything was possible during the course of one evening. I’m here for the nostalgia and some solid shenanigans.


Jethica

Hiding out in New Mexico after a freak accident, Elena runs into Jessica, an old friend from high school. When Jessica’s stalker suddenly shows up at their door, they must seek help from beyond the grave to get rid of him, for good.

Wild and collaborative filmmaker, Pete Ohs brings an exciting edge to the indie scene with Jethica. Shot during the pandemic in 2021 and edited live on Twitch, SXSW22 audiences are surely in for some unexpected twists and turns.


The Voice Actress

Kingyo, a veteran voice actress working in Tokyo, possesses a unique ability to see the soul in all things, living and inanimate. The voice acting world is changing and she must find a way to reconcile her way of living with the modern industry. As Kingyo prepares for an upcoming audition, she seeks inspiration from the world around her and from her pet goldfish, Asatte. In the face of professional and personal adversity, Kingyo looks decidedly inward for strength through empathy and kindness.

A peek inside the recording booth and inside the mind of a working voice actress. Urara Takano puts a face to the performers we don’t talk enough about. Written, directed, and edited by Anna J. Takayama, we are invited into the world of a veteran voice actress and how she copes with forces beyond her control.


For more information on this year’s SXSW Film Festival click here!

Stayed tuned for Reel News Daily coverage as well as guest posts from Steve Kopian at Unseen Films. We’re making our schedules and doing all we can to bring you everything we’ve got. Stayed tuned!


Review: ‘THE LONG WALK’ is an ever-evolving entity of grief.

THE LONG WALK

The Long Walk is Laotian director Mattie Do’s third feature, and centres around an old man, who discovers that he can travel back in time and speak with the dead. The film stars Yannawoutthi Chanthalungsy, Noutnapha Soydara, Vilouna Phetmany, Chansamone Inoudom and Por Silatsa.


Do not take your eyes off the screen for a second.m The Long Walk has an enigmatic script that obliterates genre norms. When a colleague and trusted friend Steve Kopian, at Unseen Films, told me that I had to make sure to watch without distraction, he was not exaggerating. Blink, and you might miss pertinent information. Part sci-fi and a lot of ambient horror, The Long Walk is unlike anything you’ve seen before. Spirits and time manipulation are the tips of the iceberg.

Performances are mesmerizing. As the plot evolves, each actor runs the emotional gambit. The lush Laos countryside becomes a haunting backdrop for a story you won’t see coming. The trickiest part about writing a review is not wanting to spoil the experience for the audience. There are rare occasions where going into a film blind is in your best interest. The Long Walk is one of those films. This film will take your breath away as you move from fear to heartbreak, confusion to awe. The Long Walk is one of the year’s most intriguing films. It bears repeating, do not look away. 

The Entrancing Time-Travel Ghost Story — Out Now In Select Theaters + On VOD March 1

The first Lao film to screen theatrically in the US, from Laos’ first and only women director:

ABOUT MATTIE DO:

Mattie Do is Laos’ first, and only, female filmmaker. Born in California to recent refugees of Laos’ Communist Revolution, Mattie was raised in Los Angeles, but returned to Laos a decade ago after her father retired in Vientiane.

In 2012, Mattie directed her first feature film, Chanthaly. The film was the ninth feature film produced in the country of Laos since the 1975 revolution, the first feature film to feature a female protagonist, and the first Lao feature film to be directed by a woman. Chanthaly also challenged Laos’ strict censorship which at the time mandated that Lao women only be depicted in traditional dress speaking formal Lao, and restricted any depiction of supernatural or superstitious beliefs. The film premiered at Fantastic Fest in Austin, Texas becoming the first Lao film to screen outside of SE Asia. Chanthaly’s success at festivals led to Mattie’s selection for the Cannes’ Fabrique des Cinemas du Monde, TIFF’s Directors Talent Lab, Berlinale Talents, and BIFAN’s Fantastic Film School. Afterward, Mattie worked with the Ministry of Culture to create the infrastructure necessary to introduce foreign co-production to Laos, including a framework for managing the country’s rigid censorship. In 2015, Mattie produced Laos’ first American and Japanese co-productions, which later respectively premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival and Locarno Film Festival.

Mattie Do’s second feature, Dearest Sister, premiered at Fantastic Fest before screening at BFI’s London Film Festival, Singapore International Film Festival and nearly two dozen other film festivals. The film received Special Jury Mentions at the Sitges International Fantastic Film Festival, Lund’s Fantastisk Filmfestival, and Fantasporto Film Festival. The film was later selected as Laos first official submission to the 90th Academy Awards.