Review: ‘MOTION DETECTED’ has a solid concept but a glitchy execution.

MOTION DETECTED

Eva narrowly escaped being murdered during a recent terrifying home invasion in Mexico City. She and her husband decide to relocate to Los Angeles where she can recuperate. But when her husband has to travel for business, she’s left alone in an unfamiliar place and suffering from paranoia. She’s consoled by the smart home security system, but the technology is difficult to master and she starts to wonder if it will actually keep her safe or take over her life.


MOTION DETECTED relies entirely on Natasha Esca‘s performance as Eva. Her descent into madness goes from 75 to 200 very quickly. A moment with wine is, perhaps, a touch over the top. Esca shines brightest when speaking Spanish. It’s her most natural delivery.

I understand the need for lighting, but the nighttime bedroom scenes appear overlit. That aside, the set is gorgeous. This LA mansion has all the architectural features to swoon over. Using what appear to be Ring video clips to create palpable fear is a slick device, and the subplot of trauma heightens the stakes.

The film struggles with picking a storytelling lane. Eva’s PTSD and (*spoiler alert*) the haunted alarm system conflict more than they mesh. The idea that Diablo might manifest your greatest fears to lure you in needs a better narrative anchor in the film’s opening scene. Overall, the notion of tech knowing too much about us at every moment is a solid starting point. We can all relate to using some version of an AI assistant. The meat is on the bone in MOTION DETECTED, but it is a tad undercooked, in my opinion.

Motion Detected world premiered at the 2022 Dances With Films Festival and debuted on Cable VOD and Digital HD, including iTunes, Amazon, Vudu, Comcast and Verizon, May 19, 2023.


Review: Joaquín del Paso’s vicious film ‘A HOLE IN THE FENCE’ is a tale of fearmongering and the stunning contagion of hate.

A HOLE IN THE FENCE

Synopsis: At a secluded exclusive summer camp in the Mexican countryside, under the watchful eyes of their adult guardians, boys from a prestigious private school receive physical, moral, and religious training to turn them into tomorrow’s elite. The discovery of a hole in the fence sets in motion a chain of disturbing events as the boys devolve into a Lord of the Flies-like mob mentality that creates and spreads hysteria in this profoundly disturbing coming-of-age drama that unravels like a horror movie while drawing on actual events. Features an original score by Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein (Stranger Things).


Save one or two, a group predominantly of elitist little shits wage war against the weaker for power. To no one’s surprise, these kids could not care less about following the religious aspects of the camp’s intentions, instead actively torturing the child with the darkest skin. Perhaps the saddest part is how the hatred spreads so quickly.

Outside the inner workings of the boys, there is a grander racism playing out beyond the chain link fence of the camp. A hole brings fear that an outsider has infiltrated the grounds. Slowly, we discover the nefarious intentions of the staff, the indoctrination of following orders, and never questioning authority.

The film plays out in two distinct acts. Once in the woods, the fractures widen, and smaller groups become exceedingly hostile. This Lord Of The Flies meets The Village script is exhilarating. My nerves almost could not take it. Performances are extraordinary. The film speaks to a growing global evil in Christofascism, sexual abuse in the church, and the destruction of otherness. A HOLE IN THE FENCE displays toxic masculinity at its core. It is a sick test and focuses on the myth of manhood. It is a microcosm, and we should all be afraid.

Joaquín del Paso’s Venice Film Festival Selection Opens May 26 at the Laemmle Theaters in L.A., More Dates To Come

 

Original title: El hoyo en la cerca
Starring: Valeria Lamm Williams, Yubah Ortega, Luciano Kurti, Eric Walker, Santiago Barajas, Enrique Lascurain, Jacek Poniedzialek, Raul Vasconcelos
Directed by: Joaquin del Paso
Written by: Joaquin del Paso, Lucy Pawlak
Produced by: Fernanda de la Peza, Joaquin del Paso
Specs: 2021 / 102 Minutes / In Spanish w/English Subtitles / DCP / 1.66:1

www.alteredinnocence.net/holeinthefence


 

Review: Still sly like a fox, Matt Angel and Suzanne Coote’s ‘THE WRATH OF BECKY’ is the “f*ck yeah” of sequels.

presents

THE WRATH OF BECKY

Lulu Wilson is back for more blood-soaked revenge in THE WRATH OF BECKY. Matt Angel and Suzanne Coote bring audiences a much-deserved sequel to BECKY where we find our titular leading lady four years later. Now 16 and an absolute Sarah Connor badass, Becky lives with an enigmatic caretaker while she makes money as a waitress. When three over-the-top nazi misogynists retraumatize her and steal her dog, Becky finds a new reason to wreak havoc. Think Tank Girl meets John Wick, and you’ll have some idea of the brilliance of THE WRATH OF BECKY.

The script is equally as brutal as the first film. You have to respect it. WRATH takes us a step further into the depths of Nazi incels. The timely nature of the plot is brilliant and terrifying. Having Becky break the fourth wall is beyond satisfying. The mystery from the original begs for an extended storyline and a larger franchise.

Sean William Scott takes a page from his performance in BLOODLINE to play Daryl, the leader of a militant rightwing group called The Noblemen. His quiet assertiveness is undeniably unsettling. It’s a frighteningly compelling turn.

Lulu Wilson is magnificent. You can not take your eyes off her. She is aware of every minute gesture and idiosyncrasy of Becky. Her iconic knit fox hat gets an upgrade, and I was not disappointed. Wilson’s sardonic delivery is chef’s kiss. The fact that she is strictly anti-gun makes for some spectacularly creative kills. Wilson handles them like a maniacal little pro.

Becky represents every woman who is sick of your shit. This feminist horror icon, because that is precisely what she is to me, lets me live out my daily fantasies of earned rage. THE WRATH OF BECKY is a “fuck yeah” of a film. I implore Matt Angel and Suzanne Coote to keep this franchise alive and kicking (ass).

Quiver Distribution will release the action/thriller/horror film 

THE WRATH OF BECKY exclusively in theaters on May 26, 2023.  

NEWS- FANTASIA ANNOUNCES A BLISTERING FIRST WAVE OF TITLES FOR ITS 27th EDITION

FIRST WAVE OF TITLES FOR ITS 27th EDITION


A spotlight on South Korean cinema, a Canadian trailblazer Award for underground legend Larry Kent and World Premieres of new works from Larry Fessenden, Xavier Gens, Jenn Wexler, Jared Moshe, The Adams Family, and Victor Ginzburg + International Premieres of Tsutomu Hanabusa’s blockbusters TOKYO REVENGERS 2 – PART 1 & 2 headline the first wave of titles announced for Fantasia’s 27th edition!

Thursday May 11, 2023 // Montreal, Quebec — The Fantasia International Film Festival will be celebrating its 27th edition with a whiplashing program of screenings, workshops, and launch events running from July 20 through August 9, 2023, taking place at the Concordia Hall Cinema, with additional screens at the Cinémathèque québécoise and Cinéma du Musée.

The festival’s full lineup will be announced in early July. In the meantime, Fantasia is excited to reveal a selected first wave of titles and happenings.


BRIGHT SPOTLIGHTS ON SOUTH KOREAN CINEMA ILLUMINATE FANTASIA’s 27th EDITION

Since the selection of Kang Je-gyu’s GINGKO BED at Fantasia’s 1998 edition, the festival has become one of the premiere destinations for South Korean cinema. Over the years, Fantasia’s audience has had the opportunity to discover several essential Korean auteurs: Bong Joon-ho (BARKING DOGS NEVER BITE), Park Chan-wook (SYMPATHY FOR MR. VENGEANCE), Kim Ji-woon (THE QUIET FAMILY), Hwang Dong-hyuk (MISS GRANNY), and Yeon Sang-ho (THE KING OF PIGS) among many others. These filmmakers are now mainstays of the international film scene, lighting up the big screen and streaming platforms alike.
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Celebrating 60 years of diplomatic relations between Canada and the Republic of Korea, the Fantasia International Film Festival –in collaboration with the Korean Cultural Center Canada and the Cinémathèque québécoise– is proud to showcase this unique national cinema. The festival will emphasize the vitality of current works and the versatility of South Korean creators, who work in a multitude of genres ranging from action to arthouse, breathtaking thrillers to outlandish musical comedies. The festival will also present a retrospective highlighting several significant works that led to the revival of Korean cinema in the 2000s, an effervescence that hasn’t stopped since.

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Fantasia will host the North American premiere of NEW NORMAL by Jung Bum-shik (GONJIAM: HAUNTED ASYLUM), a cynical and timely one-man horror anthology. The festival will also host the Canadian premieres of An Tae-jin’s period acupuncturist thriller THE NIGHT OWL; the violent and boisterous THE ROUNDUP: NO WAY OUT by Lee Sang-yong, featuring Don Lee once again; the 4K restoration of Jeong Jae-un’s coming-of-age TAKE CARE OF MY CAT (2001) and a screening of the unmissable THE PRESIDENT’S LAST BANG (2005) by master Im Sang-soo. More titles will be announced soon.

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In recognition of the spotlight, this year’s poster art was created by Montreal visual artist Donald Caron as an interpretation of the mythical nine-tailed fox, a fantastical creature that appears in the folktales of East Asia and legends of Korea. 

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FEAR RUNS LOVELY, DARK, AND DEEP

LOVELY, DARK AND DEEP is the hotly anticipated directorial debut of Teresa Sutherland, screenwriter of THE WIND and a writer on MIDNIGHT MASS. Laced with stunning visuals, this ominously beautiful, deeply frightening nightmare is anchored by a captivating lead performance from BARBARIAN’s Georgina Campbell. Campbell plays a park ranger in an isolated forest outpost, the site of multiple mysterious disappearances, and she is plagued by visions blending the past and present with something even more sinister. This transfixing film oozes an immersive, fever-dream atmosphere. Also starring Nick Blood, Wai Ching Ho, and Edgar Morais. World Premiere. 

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A SUPPRESSED AND SPECTACULAR REINVENTION OF VAMPIRE LORE: EMPIRE V

A disaffected student (Pavel Tabakov) follows an invitation to join “the elite” and finds himself forcibly transformed into a vampire, joining a supernatural ruling class who exercise an anonymous dictatorship over humans. Celebrated Russian-American director Victor Ginzburg (GENERATION P) demonstrates a striking visual imagination, perfectly complementing a story that reinvents nearly every aspect of vampire lore in clever and fantastical ways. This is the MATRIX of vampire cinema. Years in the making, EMPIRE V is both next-level blockbuster storytelling and megabudget anti-Oligarch satire, electrified with breathtaking visuals from the great Aleksei Rodionov (COME AND SEE). Co-starring Miron Fedorov, AKA rap star Oxxxymiron, whose anti-War benefit concerts led the Russian justice ministry to condemn him as a “foreign agent.” EMPIRE V itself has been banned by Russia’s Ministry of Culture, ensuring that the citizens of its home country may never see the film. World Premiere. 

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THE TOKYO REVENGERS SAGA REVEALS HIGHER STAKES AND LOADS OF EMOTIONS

Tekemichi gets another blast from the past when his beloved Mio perishes again before his eyes in a freak accident… Or was it? Tekemichi must go back in time to save her, and find out how his involvement with the Tokyo Maji Gang ruined his real life once more. Nothing can prepare you for the amount of action, suspense and emotion TOKYO REVENGERS 2 – PART 1 and TOKYO REVENGERS 2 – PART 2 bring to the big screen! Director Tsutomu Hanabusa surpasses himself with two riveting new chapters in this beloved saga, whose legions of fans break Japan’s box office at every occasion. Come see this acclaimed manga-turned-anime in its ultimate incarnation as a star-studded live-action juggernaut. International Premiere. 

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A HEARTBREAKING, TIME-BENDING MASTERPIECE OF SPECULATIVE SCIENCE-FICTION: APORIA

Since losing her husband Mal (Edi Gathegi, FOR ALL MANKIND) in a drunk-driving incident, Sophie (Judy Greer, HALLOWEEN) has struggled to manage crippling grief, a full-time job, and the demands of parenting her devastated teenage daughter (Faithe Herman, THIS IS US). When her husband’s best friend (Payman Maadi, A SEPARATION), a former physicist, reveals he and Mal had been building a time-bending machine that could restore her former life, Sophie will be faced with an impossible choice.This riveting character-driven sci-fi work from award-winning writer/director Jared Moshe (THE BALLAD OF LEFTY BROWN), imaginatively grapples with the ripple effects of morally fraught choices made in the name of love and raises timely questions about ethics in technological innovation.  World Premiere. 

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THE ADAMS FAMILY TAKE YOU WHERE THE DEVIL ROAMS

Darkest prayers will be answered, in sawdust and sacrilege, when Fantasia goes WHERE THE DEVIL ROAMS. This astonishing new feature from cult favourites The Adams Family (Toby Poster, John Adams, Zelda Adams), follows a family of traveling sideshow performers as they traverse Depression-era America on a bloody search for eternal life. As in THE DEEPER YOU DIG and HELLBENDER, both Fantasia World Premieres, the gifted filmmaking family’s latest creation continues their inspired explorations of familial power dynamics through the prism of horror. Haunting, poetic, sometimes funny, frequently freakish, and told with conviction through a deeply personal lens. World Premiere. 

 

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© Thanaporn Arkmanon

XAVIER GENS BRINGS SHATTERING FISTFULS OF MAYHEM!

Xavier Gens (FRONTIER(S), GANGS OF LONDON) is back! Sam, (Nassim Lyes) a professional boxer recently released from prison, breaks probation, flees to a faraway island in Thailand, and starts a family there. But when he’s blackmailed by a fierce local Godfather (Olivier Gourmet) into becoming a drug smuggler, things go straight to hell.. and then some! A blood-soaked revenge roller coaster, MAYHEM! starts slow and seething before exploding off the screen with tendon-snapping tension and unbelievably ferocious fight choreography of the sort that’s seldom seen in modern film. Also starring Loryn Nounay, Vithaya Pansringarm, Mehdi Hadim and Kenneth Won. World Premiere. 

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LET IT ALL OUT WITH PEOPLE WHO TALK TO PLUSHIES ARE KIND.

When sophomore student Nanamori joins the Plushies Club, he is encouraged to share his feelings with stuffed animals. You could call it an introvert’s paradise, or better yet, a safe space. And while for some it’s a natural fit, for others it’s an insular distraction. Adapted from a novella by rising literary star Ao Omae and directed by up-and-comer Yurina Kaneko (Fantasia 2019 selection 21ST CENTURY GIRL), PEOPLE WHO TALK TO PLUSHIES ARE KIND enchants with a gently provocative exploration of sexuality, gender, kindness and tolerance in Japanese society. A thought-provoking update on the youth film, for when the world feels like entirely too much. North American Premiere. Camera Lucida section.

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LYCANTHROPIAN CHILLS FROM FROM LARRY FESSENDEN: BLACKOUT

At last, acclaimed horror auteur Larry Fessenden has fulfilled his long-held desire to make a werewolf film, rounding out the triptych begun with his vampire drama HABIT (1997) and FRANKENSTEIN variation DEPRAVED (2019). Fessenden, as always, makes BLACKOUT a very human story as well as a gripping horror show while weaving in his traditional focus on socio-political themes, from his long-held ecological concerns to very modern issues of suspicion and paranoia. Starring Alex Hurt, Addison Timlin, Marshall Bell, James LeGros, Barbara Crampton and Joe Swanberg. World Premiere. 

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FROM SOUTH KOREA, COMES MOTHER LAND AN ARCTIC STOP-MOTION ADVENTURE

When the health of Krisha’s mother takes a turn for the worse, the village shaman offers her wisdom: follow the North Star to the Ancient Forest and find its guardian and master, the great red bear of legend. The first South Korean stop-motion feature film in almost half a century, director Park Jae-beom’s animated adventure MOTHER LAND is an exquisitely crafted snowbound fantasy with a potent emotional warmth at its core. It explores the lives and lore of the nomadic, indigenous reindeer herders of the sparse and unforgiving Siberian tundra. North American Premiere. Axis Section

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FASTEN YOUR SEATBELTS AND BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU WISH FOR

A chef with gambling problems (Nick Stahl) flees to the Latin American villa of an old friend who appears to be living an extraordinary life. Envy soon turns to greed and then to something more unsettling for the chef when he assumes his friend’s life. A Hitchockian, edge-of-your-seat descent into moral compromise with generous servings of dark humour, shock and surprise, WHAT YOU WISH FOR is the gripping sophomore feature of writer/director Nicholas Tomnay (THE PERFECT HOST). Grounded by a career best performance from Stahl, the film co-stars Tamsin Topolski, Randy Vasquez and Penelope Mitchell. From the producers of THE FLORIDA PROJECT. World Premiere. 

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A GUT-WRENCHING REFLECTION ON MODERN SLAVERY TAKES PLACE IN RICHELIEU

When Stéphane (Marc-André Grondin, RAVENOUS, C.R.A.Z.Y.) hires Ariane (Ariane Castellanos) to act as an interpreter for his Guatemalan workers, he expects nothing more than a messenger. But after witnessing the horrifying abuse the men are subjected to, Ariane will be pushed to choose between their lives and her own. A stunning debut feature from Québécois director Pier-Philippe Chevigny, RICHELIEU delivers a raw and emotional portrait of a system in which we are all  complicit unless we are willing to bear the cost of standing up for justice. Canadian Premiere. 

SUPERNATURAL POWERS AND SCHOOL GIRLS WITH SECRETS KICK OFF THE 2023 SEPTENTRION SHADOWS SECTION LINEUP! 

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A NOSTALGIC, SUPERNATURAL ROAD TRIP LEADS TO DAUGHTER OF THE SUN

Take a supernatural journey with Sonny, a man with Tourette Syndrome, and his daughter Hildie as they forge their path across the country. They hide a powerful secret but join a community of friendly nomadic strangers whose kindness conceals a darker intention. The World Premiere of DAUGHTER OF THE SUN is Sonny’s next chapter and a continuation of director/actor Ryan Ward’s award-winning SON OF THE SUNSHINE. This deeply personal journey reflects aspects of Ward’s life with cosmic imagery, stunning cinematography shot in Ward’s home province of Manitoba, and stellar performances from teens Nyah Perkin and Lennox Leacock. World Premiere

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JENN WEXLER DARES YOU TO BLEED FOR THE SACRIFICE GAME!

Jenn Wexler’s THE RANGER, a high-octane punk rock banger, exploded onto the genre landscape in 2018, and now she’s back with her sophomore feature THE SACRIFICE GAME. Filled with gore and lore, indie filmmaker Wexler penned this gripping and stylish ‘70s-set chiller involving school girls, power-mad killers and occult prophecy with partner Sean Redlitz. Shot in Quebec, this breakneck horror film stars Mena Massoud (EVOLVING VEGAN and ALADDIN), Olivia Scott Welch (LUCKY HANK, FEAR STREET Trilogy), Gus Kenworthy (AMERICAN HORROR STORY), Georgia Acken, Madison Baines and features the return of THE RANGERS’ Chloë Levine. You won’t want to miss a second of THE SACRIFICE GAME! World Premiere co-presented with Les Fantastique Week-ends.

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A CANADIAN TRAILBLAZER AWARD FOR LARRY KENT

Fantasia is proud to be giving our 2023 Canadian Trailblazer Award to our country’s legendary first underground filmmaker, Larry Kent, with World Premieres of Canadian International Pictures’’s new 4K restorations of his landmark Vancouver Trilogy and additional screenings and events. 

Cited by David Cronenberg as “a heroic figure,” Larry Kent made films “so ahead of their time” (to quote Atom Egoyan) that they eventually fell out of official circulation. 

Situated somewhere between the vivid indie dramas of John Cassavetes and the lurid melodramas of Doris Wishman, Kent’s films brought new vitality to Canadian cinema — and time has only added to their potency. 

Even as his 90th birthday approaches, he continues to make singular and gutsy independent features: his most recent works, EXLEY (2011) and SHE WHO MUST BURN (2015)  both World-Premiered at Fantasia, the latter winning Spectacular Optical’s 2015 Barry Convex Award for Best Canadian Feature at the festival. 

Whether audiences have caught up with Kent’s boldly uncompromising vision or not, CIP  is working on an ambitious restoration initiative that aims to resurrect his most seminal films, starting with The Vancouver Trilogy: THE BITTER ASH (1963), SWEET SUBSTITUTE (1964), and WHEN TOMORROW DIES (1965), each of which will be unveiled at Fantasia this summer.

The original camera negatives for all three films have been newly scanned in 4K and restored by CIP, giving these enduring works of underground Canadian cinema a chance to be discovered (and re-discovered) by adventurous cinephiles. 

In addition, Fantasia will also be presenting a rare 35mm print of YESTERDAY (1981) and a special screening of SHE WHO MUST BURN (2015). 

Join us in celebrating the career of one of Canadian Film’s most courageous originals!

Presented in association with Canadian International Pictures and the Cinémathèque québécoise.


The Overlook Film Festival 2023 review: ‘ACCUSED’ is a socially relevant heart-stopper.

ACCUSED

Online trolls, xenophobia, and misinformation, Philip Barantini‘s ACCUSED at Overlook Film Festival could not be more relevant and terrifying. Thanks to the internet, Harri finds himself wrongly identified as a terrorist. After two men track him down, Harri must fight for his life and reputation. This intense thriller is a bone-chilling must-see.

Chaneil Kular plays Harri with palpable anxiety and exceptional nuance. He carries the entire plot like a star. The script gives Kular less dialogue than an average feature, and because of that, his performance relies on meticulous physicality and facial expressions. Kular’s chemistry with co-star Flynn, Harri’s dog, is glorious.

The film raises global questions about privacy, citizen detectives, and hateful rhetoric. We live our lives online these days. It is easy to find out where someone works, thanks to Linkedin. You can find their home address if they own property. That information is in the public record. But we provide all that with photos and comments we leave on social media, even tagging our location in real-time. We make ourselves targets every day. It also speaks to police response. The film skillfully addresses the lack of urgency we’ve all seen displayed in numerous documentaries and news stories.

ACCUSED simultaneously becomes an invasion thriller. The cinematography is sharp, taking full advantage of blue light from laptops and smartphone screens and moonlight peering through sheer curtains as Harri moves silently about his parents’ estate home. The sparse score works to intensify the plot. We fear the silence as much as Harri. The use of technology becomes a double-edged sword in the film. Harri utilizes security cameras and blue tooth to evade the men in his house.

Screenwriters Barnaby Boulton and  James Cummings have given audiences a masterfully written film that transcends genre. Packed with twists and turns and a mesmerizing performance from Chaneil Kular, it is a heart-pounding viewing experience. It is a wow.


Director: Philip Barantini
Writers: Barnaby Boulton, James Cummings
Starring: Chaneil Kular, Lauryn Ajufo
Producers: Edward Caffrey, Samantha Beddoe, Rupert Preston, Sara Sehdev
Runtime: 88 Minutes
Synopsis: Alone at a remote country house, a young man (Chaneil Kular, Sex Education) watches helplessly as a social media frenzy wrongly identifies him as a wanted terrorist. When online threats lead to an IRL home invasion, he must fight for his life in this tense thriller of virtual witch-hunts and false accusations.

Overlook 2023 Film Festival Screening Info:
– Friday, March 31st at 7:45 PM @ Canal Place Theater 2
– Sunday, April 2nd at 2:30 PM @ Canal Place Theater 9


 

Review: Agnieszka Smoczyńska’s complex film ‘FUGUE’ comes to U.S. cinemas.

FUGUE

Agnieszka Smoczyńska‘s sophomore feature, FUGUE, centers around memory loss and gender expectations. The film opens with a disheveled woman emerging from the subway tracks, clearly traumatized and unaware of her surroundings. In a quick jump forward two years, the same woman, now sporting short dark hair and just as confused, surrounded by medical experts. Her memory comprised only the past two years in Warsaw, and calling herself Alicja, doctors parade her on a talk show in a last-ditch effort to uncover her identity. A viewer calls in to claim the woman is his daughter. Reintroduced into a traditional household as a wife and mother of a young son, Alicja/Kinga struggles to integrate into a life she does not remember while being grilled about her disappearance.

Sporadic blue-tinged purgatory-like flashbacks of the woman in her heels, mussed blonde hair, and filthy trench coat give us little to go on. These sequences are undeniably unsettling. For most of the film, we draw our own conclusions based on the apparent hollowness of their marriage and a suggestion of an affair. Jakub Kijowski‘s bleak, but ravishing, cinematography sets the tone. Alicja stands apart from most of the action, furthering the feeling of isolation in an already stark environment.

Iwo Rajski plays Daniel with a natural fierceness that suggests he is starring in a documentary rather than a narrative. He is fantastic. Gabriela Muskala pens the screenplay and plays Alicja/Kinga. Her ability to reel you into her turmoil feels effortless. She is magnetic.

FUGUE is a far cry from The Lure and closer to the darkness and mystery of The Silent Twins. It begs the question of maternal instinct and gender roles. It touches on deep unresolved trauma and the unrealistic expectations of women to keep moving headlong. The heartbreaking finale sticks with you long after the credits roll.


Poland, Czech Republic, Sweden • 2018

Directed by: Agnieszka Smoczyńska

Written by: Gabriela Muskala
Starring: Gabriela Muskala, Lukasz Simlat, Iwo Rajski

 

Run time: 102 minutes

Language: Polish, English

Subtitles: English

Color: Color

Format: 2.35:1

Sound: 5.1


 

BUFF 2023 review: ‘THE UNHEARD’ takes sensory overload to the extreme.

THE UNHEARD

Jeffrey A Brown  (The Beach House) brings B7FF 2023 audiences THE UNHEARD. The film follows Chloe, a young deaf woman who undergoes an experimental treatment to restore her hearing. While recuperating at her family’s beach house, auditory hallucinations and family secrets haunt her. Writers Michael and Shawn Rasmussen explore the impact of sound in everyday life through a series of heartache and small-town mystery.

Disability recognition and accessibility weren’t something I gave too much energy to until my son was diagnosed with ASD. I’ve found myself an advocate these past seven years, bringing attention to neurodiversity and education. THE UNHEARD gives audiences a taste of living with a disability in a straightforward and equally creative way. The Rasmussens understood the assignment and heightened the issue with a supernatural thriller.

Brendan Meyer (The Friendship Game) plays Joshua with a gentle approach. He deserves more screen time. Lachlan Watson (Only The Good Survive) is sensational. They handle the physical and emotional weight like a pro, weaving in and out of pain, fear, and curiosity at any moment.

The Unheard has meticulous sound editing. The silence places us into the mindset of Chloe. It is jarring at first but draws your attention to everything minute detail. You find yourself more cognisant of every noise. THE UNHEARD boasts clever cinematography, subconsciously building a claustrophobic environment with tight shots and the alarmingly quiet Cape Cod off-season location. It’s a slow-burn mystery that puts you through the wringer. BUFF 2023 audiences got an all-sensory experience, and Shudder subscribers are in for something unnerving.

THE UNHEARD streams on SHUDDER on March 31st.


BOSTON UNDERGROUND FILM FESTIVAL 2023

SXSW 2023 short film reviews: ‘ENDLESS SEA’ & ‘FUNNY FACE’ are two stories of humanity and compassion.

ENDLESS SEA




 Follows Carol, an elderly woman on Medicare in New York City, as she struggles through the US healthcare system, a reality faced by millions of Americans who find themselves stuck between a rock and a hard place.


Carol navigates the healthcare system after finding that her heart medication has quadrupled in price. Doing all she can to pay for her pills, she hustles through Valentine’s Day, calling in favors, delivering flowers for tips, and waiting on hold with Medicare customer service. ENDLESS SEA culminates in a choice between life and death. Brenda Cullerton plays Carol brilliantly. She breaks your heart with unfiltered vulnerability and desperation.

Did you know we are the only country that advertises drugs? Profit over people, I guess. I lived in India in 2008 and had a health scare. I walked into a top hospital, saw the head of the ER, a specialist, got a biopsy, a mammogram, and results on a scanned card and printed in a folder I got to take from appointment to appointment, all for $73. The American healthcare system is broken. ENDLESS SEA illustrates the chaos of remaining healthy or merely staying alive in this country. In a short amount of time, this film packs a punch. It’s a must-see.


Film Screenings

 
Mar 15, 2023
6:30pm8:12pm
 

Credits

Director:

Sam Shainberg

Executive Producer:

Henry S., Alex O Eaton, Sam Shainberg, Catherine Shainberg

Producer:

Rachel Walden

Screenwriter:

Sam Shainberg

Cinematographer:

J. Daniel Zuniga

Editor:

Luca Balser

Production Designer:

Charlie Robinson

Sound Designer:

Eric Brown

Principal Cast:

Brenda Cullerton, Jacque Sebag , Iskandar Dridi, Johnny Zito, Vilma Ortiz Donovann, Nora Delighter, Alexandra Templar , Basil Constable, Anne Zuk , Muhammad Gueye

Additional Credits:

Casting Director: Eleonore Hendricks, 1st AC: Carlos Amador Wong, Gaffers: Adam Kim, Vuk Lungulovk, Wardrobe: Emily Costantino, Sound Mixer: Boris Krichevsky, Art Directors: Holly Mcclintock, Key Grips: Jordan Tetewsy, Eli Freireich


Live-action FUNNY FACE




An autobiographical dramedy that retells Harris’ experience directly following her facial feminization surgery with the support of her brother and girlfriend, played by their real-life counterparts.


From the filmmakers of GAY HAIRCUT, SXSW 2023 short film FUNNY FACE brings audiences a conversation starter. The plot revolves around the hours following Sophie’s ten-hour face feminization surgery. It’s a family affair with her girlfriend and her brother from out of town, who are also meeting for the first time. Both take on the in-home care nurse who’s too wrapped up in her drama to do her job or be a human being. Funny Face is about respect and sacrifice, identity and love. The script is grounded in emotional honesty. It allows space for discussion while remaining lighthearted. Writer-director Jude Hope Harris retells her very personal story with her real-life family in the starring roles. Amusing, thought-provoking, and brave. FUNNY FACE is one to see.


Film Screenings

Credits

Director:

Jude Hope Harris

Producer:

Genevieve Jones, Nick Vitale

Screenwriter:

Krista Fatka, Jude Hope Harris

Cinematographer:

Ingrid Sanchez

Editor:

Aviva Siegel

Music:

Charlie Harrison

Principal Cast:

Charlie Harrison, Krista Fatka, Sharon Zhang, Marieve Herington, Jude Hope Harris

Additional Credits:

Special Effects Makeup Artist: Kyrsta Morehouse

SXSW 2023 review: DEADLAND’ is a haunting portrait of power, politics, and unresolved trauma.

DEADLAND

This nail-biting thriller from writer-director Lance Larson starts with a bang and ratchets up the tension by the minute. Two seemingly unrelated mysteries plague border control agent Angel Waters. When a man attempts to cross the raging rivers onto US soil, he is swept downstream. Upon transporting his body, the man resurrects and requests, “El Paso, por favor.” Plans go awry, and Angel, his two coworkers, and the man become haunted by their choices. Meanwhile, Angel’s long-lost father appears in his home. His pregnant wife plays mediator in a volatile situation.

McCaul Lombardi plays Agent Hitchcock with the epitome of toxic masculinity, while Julieth Restrepo‘s humanity as Salomé proves to be her undoing. Their journey is akin to watching a car crash. Luis Chávez is chilling. Manuel Ariza and Kendal Rae leave their hearts on the screen. Roberto Urbina plays Angel with a masculine aura but anxious hesitancy and unresolved abandonment issues. He is magnetic. As a whole, this cast nails it.

Jas Shelton‘s gorgeously shot landscapes are juxtaposed with cold immigration offices. Angel experiences visions that are nothing short of mesmerizing. DEADLAND‘s final ten minutes made me gasp. Superb writing from Lasron and Shelton and fantastic performances are guaranteed to captivate SXSW 2023 audiences with questions of morality, guilt, and the things that haunt us.


Film Screenings

Mar 13, 2023
11:00am12:31pm
 
Mar 14, 2023
5:00pm6:31pm
 

Credits

Director:

Lance Larson

Executive Producer:

Fred Baker, Charles Larson, John Shoemaker

Producer:

Elizabeth Avellan, Bob Bastarache, Jas Shelton, Lance Larson, Tara Pirnia, Chris Wilks, Marsha Ann Larson, Norah Veloz

Screenwriter:

Lance Larson, Jas Shelton

Cinematographer:

Jas Shelton

Editor:

Lance Larson

Production Designer:

O’Shay Brooks

Sound Designer:

Rene Coronado

Music:

Christopher Dean White

Principal Cast:

Roberto Urbina, McCaul Lombardi, Julieth Restrepo, Kendal Rae, Luis Chavez, Julio Cesar Cedillo, Manuel Uriza, Chris Mulkey, Chris White, Dave Maldonado

Additional Credits:

Line Producer: Wendy Parker, Stunts / SpFX Coordinator: Chris A. Wilks, Art Director: Jennifer Herbal, Costume Designer: Summer Moore, Gaffer: Jake Basnett, Key Grips: Joe Guzman / Kurt Stevens, Set Decorator: Ashley Stewart, Head Make Up: Reanon Casillo, Head Hair Stylist: Erika O’Bar, Casting Director: Beth Lipari

SXSW 2023 Midnighters review: Ted Geoghegan’s ‘BROOKLYN 45’ is one of the year’s best films. Full stop.

Ted Geoghegan returns to SXSW 2023 with a story of war, trauma, and the ghosts we cannot leave behind. In BROOKLYN 45, a group of emotionally wartorn friends meets up to toast to a lost loved one. Politics, paranoia, and the realities of secrets complicate a seemingly mundane seance. Secrets could be the death of their friendship.

The production design by producer Sarah Sharp is enveloping. My eyes darted from left to right only to discover some new book, a photograph, or war memorabilia set against green silk wallpaper. Every color pops. Robert Patrick Stern‘s camerawork and long-take choreography are stunning. Once the seance begins, the regular parlor tricks commence, but they are so triumphant that I gasped. Brian Zurek’s special makeup effects are startling as hell. The score by BLITZ//BEIN is skillfully layered.

This cast has the chemistry of movie dreams. Ron E. Rains is Bob, Marla’s mild-mannered husband. He is jealous of this group’s closeness, overshadowed by their personalities and accomplishments, but he listens and calculates. Ron E. Rains has a startling arc. Kristina Klebe (Lucky) is Hildegarde. Her confidence and vulnerability are captivating. Her chemistry with Anne Ramsay stuck with me for hours after the credits rolled.

Ezra Buzzington is the hard-line skeptic as Paul. Clad in his Magor’s uniform bespangled with medals, his bristly approach to patriotism is all too familiar even now. His audibly growing disdain makes the audience squirm. Jeremy Holm is Archie. He has the perfect touch of panache from his slicked-back hair, mustache, and crimson jacket. His looming figure, combined with his humor, creates a dazzling performance.

Larry Fessenden ( Depraved, Jakob’s Wife) lives in the role of Hock. Hone in on his minute mannerisms because they are chef’s kiss. His monologue sets up the emotional stronghold of the film, and he nails it. Anne Ramsay plays Marla, a top interrogator. She is a charming, strong-willed, level-headed woman who leads with equal parts head and heart. Ramsey owns every frame.

I know Ted Geoghegan. He is genuine, funny, kind, and fiercely dedicated to his craft. That does not mean I have to like his work. Knowing a filmmaker often makes separating the artist from the friend challenging. I tend to be harsher because that is my job. I can say without hesitation BROOKLYN 45 is spectacular. Geoghegan’s dialogue is cheeky, heartfelt, and vitriolic. The film could easily be a Tony-winning play. It would seamlessly transition to the stage and be equally as glorious. I would pay so much money to see that production. The script is unpredictable. Twist after twist had my mouth on the floor. BROOKLYN 45 is a dazzling mix of trauma and terror, politics and poltergeists. SXSW 2023 audiences can boast they saw it first.


 
Mar 12, 2023
10:00pm11:32pm
 
Mar 14, 2023
12:00pm1:32pm
 
Mar 17, 2023
12:00pm1:32pm
 

Credits

Director:

Ted Geoghegan

Executive Producer:

Adam Hendricks, Greg Gilreath, Emily Gotto

Producer:

Seth Caplan, Michael Paszt, Pasha Patriki, Sarah Sharp

Screenwriter:

Ted Geoghegan

Cinematographer:

Robert Patrick Stern

Editor:

Lisa Hendricks

Production Designer:

Sarah Sharp

Music:

Blitz//Berlin

Principal Cast:

Anne Ramsay, Ron E. Rains, Jeremy Holm, Larry Fessenden, Ezra Buzzington, Kristina Klebe

SXSW 2023 review: ‘THE APPENDAGE’ is body horror with a moral.

THE APPENDAGE

In Anna Zlokovic‘s SXSW 2023 narrative horror APPENDAGE, Hannah’s anxiety physically manifests as a gnarly growth. One that gets stronger every day. While Hannah struggles to keep it together, as everything in her life begins to deteriorate, she discovers she isn’t the only one with this problem.

Kausar Mohammed is Hannah’s best friend, Esther. She knows Hannah better than anyone, eventually leading her to hero status. Mohammed gives us a fast-talking energetic performance that charms the audience while maintaining a grounded and caring nature. Emily Hampshire plays a fellow support group member Claudia. Starting with cool-girl energy, she flips the script and is undeniably hilarious. It is an epic performance. Hadley Robinson plays Hannah with palpable anxiety. Her physicality places the audience inside that mindset. Robinson shows her acting chops with more than just emotionally intense scenes.

The sound editing deserves a shout-out with their visceral introduction to Hannah’s intense physical pain. It made me twinge. With Hannah and Esther being young fashion designers, the costume choices by Naomi Wolff Lachter are eye-catching. The Appendage creature from Douggy Pledger is equal parts kooky and hideous. Imagine slimy misshapen Ghoulies. As the appendage grows, the special effects makeup from Matt Barrett is downright horrifying. Just wait until you find out who voices the puppets!

The biggest twist gives the audience what feels like Appendage 2.0. Zlokovic’s script allows for some wickedly fun acting choices. I won’t spoil the fun, but multiple roles are distinct and biting. APPENDAGE is body horror that tackles unresolved trauma, mental health, and pushing past fear. I found the final scene reminiscent of Jennifer Kent‘s The Babadook. It is one hell of a metaphor for living with depression. SXSW 2023 audiences understand what a compliment that is.


Film Screenings

Mar 11, 2023
11:15am12:49pm
 
Mar 14, 2023
9:45pm11:19pm
 
Mar 16, 2023
2:00pm3:34pm
 

Credits

Director:

Anna Zlokovic

Producer:

David Worthen Brooks, Arbi Pedrossian, Jenna Cavelle, Katrina Kudlick, Alex Familian, Hadley Robinson, Anna Zlokovic

Screenwriter:

Anna Zlokovic

Cinematographer:

Powell Robinson

Editor:

Alex Familian

Production Designer:

Michelle Olivia Patterson

Music:

Nick Chuba

Principal Cast:

Hadley Robinson, Emily Hampshire, Brandon Mychal Smith, Kausar Mohammed

Additional Credits:

Costume Designer: Naomi Wolff Lachter, Creature Designer: Douggy Pledger, Special Effects Department Head: Amber Mari, Key Effects Artist: Jim Ojala

SXSW 23 review: It’s my party and I’ll die if I want to, ‘My Drywall Cocoon’ is a twisted tale of society, secrets, and sadness.

MY DRYWALL COCOON

Writer-director Caroline Fioratti’s SXSW 2023 film MY DRYWALL COCOON launches headlong with time hopping in this 24-hour dig into the death of the birthday girl. A story tackling class, privilege, power, and secrets, this cloak-and-dagger film never lets up.

Maria Luisa Mendonca plays Patricia with gut-wrenching honesty, owning her grief and guilt. Michel Joelsas is Nicolas. His aggression covers his insecurities and sexuality. Joelsas slips into this role like a pro. You equally loathe and feel for him. Mari Oliveira is Virginia’s best friend Luana. She is manipulative and hides a dark coping mechanism. As she flaunts her sexuality for power, her guilt is on par with her disassociation. Daniel Botelho plays Gabriel with a morbid attitude. A bit of a conspiracy theorist, Gabriel’s teenage pushback comes with an underlying sentimentality. Bella Piero plays Virginia with genuine sweetness and surprising fearlessness. Quietly crying for help, but no one is listening. Piero navigates her emotional abandonment with masterful ease.

The score elicits classic thriller vibes. The lighting is magnificent. As we jump in time, neon-saturated party scenes get starkly contrasted by harsh natural light the morning after. Foiratti skillfully drops clues to keep your mind swirling, making everyone a suspect. One particularly disturbing visual remains a mystery until the very end of the film. It is one hell of a metaphor. A carefully crafted thriller, MY DRYWALL COCOON will have SXSW 23 audiences on the edge of their seats, second-guessing the entire way.


 
Caroline Fioratti

Film Screenings

Mar 11, 2023
3:30pm5:25pm
 
Mar 11, 2023
4:00pm5:55pm
 
Mar 13, 2023
12:45pm2:40pm
 
Mar 13, 2023
1:15pm3:10pm
 
Mar 17, 2023
5:30pm7:25pm
 

Credits

Director:

Caroline Fioratti

Producer:

Rui Pires, André Montenegro

Screenwriter:

Caroline Fioratti

Cinematographer:

Helcio Alemão Nagamine

Editor:

Leopoldo Joe Nakata

Production Designer:

Monica Palazzo

Sound Designer:

Ricardo Reis and Miriam Biderman

Music:

Flavia Tygel

Principal Cast:

Maria Luisa Mendonça, Bella Piero, Michel Joelsas, Mari Oliveira, Daniel Botelho, Caco Ciocler

SXSW 2023 review: ‘ONLY THE GOOD SURVIVE’ is a witty, dizzying delight.

ONLY THE GOOD SURVIVE

Dutch Southern gives SXSW 2023 audiences wacky whodunit in ONLY THE GOOD SURVIVE. Hauled into the local sheriff’s office, Brea finds herself at the center of wacky murder and mayhem. Can she talk her way out of the trouble she has placed herself in, all for the sake of love?

Lachlan Watson, who I loved in Sabrina, has a small but integral small part in the film and sings on the soundtrack. Watson silently enchants the audience with a glowing aura. It was a lovely surprise. Darius Fraser is Dev. He brings a genuine beatnik Elvis vibe to his performance. It is unforgettable. Will Ropp plays Erve with big ideas and a scheming slant to his physicality. There is no denying his likeness to Dave Franco, and audiences will not complain about his quirky charm. D’Pharaoh Woon-A-Tai is Ry. He has this dumb jock and lovable quality about him. He is a solid foil for his heist counterparts. Sidney Flanigan plays Brea. She is an unexpected heroine for many reasons. Flanigan hits every note with precision, and Southern’s script allows her to explore a variety of highs and lows.

Swirling theories from Cole Mack‘s Sheriff create alternative storylines, each with slight visual differences. Dax Norman‘s animation, a cross between a comic book and diary entries, is delicious eye candy. Dutch Southern forces the audience to sit up straight and pay attention every minute of the 93-minute run. The script is so twisty, amusing, and downright dizzying. It is like watching a real-life cartoon heist. In the same right, it is a challenge to discuss the film without spoiling the fun. ONLY THE GOOD SURVIVE is a film that should not work at all and yet works perfectly. It deserves a second, third, and fourth watch to catch the clues and minute changes along the way. It is the perfect match for SXSW audiences.


Mar 10, 2023
6:00pm7:32pm
 
Mar 10, 2023
6:30pm8:02pm
 
Mar 12, 2023
9:15pm10:47pm
 
Mar 14, 2023
12:30pm2:02pm
 

Director:

Dutch Southern

Executive Producer:

Maureen Taylor, Renn Vara, Brian Udovich

Producer:

Thomas Mahoney, Justin X Duprie

Screenwriter:

Dutch Southern

Cinematographer:

Lucia Zavarcikova

Editor:

Alexandrea Hank, Mengyao Mia Zhang

Sound Designer:

Kevin Senzaki

Music:

Russ Howard III

Principal Cast:

Sidney Flanigan, Frederick Weller, D’Pharaoh Woon-A-Tai, Will Ropp, Darius Fraser, Lachlan Watson, Jon Gries

Additional Credits:

Songs by: Petite League, Costume Designer: Michelle Lynette Bush, Animation by: Dax Norman, Cool Graphix by: Gimetzco, Co-Executive Producer: Sam Vara, Co-Producer: Alex Vara, Co-Producer: Glenn Abbott

Review: MGM+ and Blumhouse bring audiences Yoko Okumura’s ‘UNSEEN,’ a wild story of dual survival.

 

UNSEEN

SYNOPSIS: Two women form an unlikely connection when a depressed gas station clerk SAM (Purdy), receives a call from EMILY (Francis), a nearly blind woman who is running from her murderous ex in the woods. Emily must survive the ordeal with Sam being her eyes from afar using video call.


Emily wakes up disoriented and tied up in a remote cabin by her ex. After fleeing into the woods but breaking her much-needed glasses, she accidentally dials Sam, a meek gas station attendant. (*cue the My Girl fans) Emily cannot see without her glasses. Begging this anxious stranger to video call her to aid in her escape from the ever-looming Charlie. These unlikely partners team up in different locations, leading to freedom for both women.

Michael Patrick Lane is Emily’s captor and psycho ex, Charlie. Scary and somehow kooky, he is like the Michael Myers of ex-boyfriends. Missi Pyle plays Carole, and she’s a real asshole. Her performance is both caricature and authentically terrifying. Pyle gives us rich, tacky, gun-toting Karen energy. I mean, had station is in Tallahassee. Her character work is unreal.

Midori Francis is an absolute badass as Emily. Minutes in, I was yelling at the screen, cheering her on. Her shockingly calm demeanor is all the motivation Sam needs to help. Jolene Purdy plays Sam with zero self-esteem and a heart of hold. Her emotional arc in the film will leave you with a smirk. She and Francis have electric chemistry, especially considering they are never in the same space as one another. They are both stars.

Areal shots are stunning. The addition of out-of-focus camerawork puts you in Emily’s chaotic mindset. The splashy neon colors of the Gator Galore station contrast beautifully with Emily’s overcast forest landscape. Directed by Yoko Okumura and written by Salvatore Cardoni and Brian Rawlins, UNSEEN balances comic, over-the-top characters with nuanced ones and the plausible scenario of a woman’s abduction by her ex. The script is a commentary on class and one hell of a story of gender-based violence. It is undeniably entertaining. Some audiences might initially make comparisons with Shudder’s SEE FOR ME, but that would be a mistake. Unseen stands apart in its unexpected comedy, performances, and clever writing. The final reveal made me say, “Oh, shit.” Be sure to stick around for the credits.


Paramount Home Entertainment will release the horror thriller  film UNSEEN on Digital and On Demand on March 7, 2023 and on MGM+ on May 2023.

 UNSEEN stars an ensemble cast of Midori Francis (“Grey’s Anatomy”), Jolene Purdy (“Orange is the New Black”), Missi Pyle (Gone Girl) and Michael Patrick Lane (“Dynasty”). The film is directed by Yoko Okumura (“The Bold Type”) and written by Salvatore Cardoni (Gnomes & Trolls: The Secret Chamber) and Brian Rawlins. The film was executive produced by Alexander Kruener, Jeremy GoldChris McCumber and Jason Blum.

The film is part of the Blumhouse Television and MGM+ deal to produce eight original films together. MGM’s streaming service, EPIX, rebranded as MGM+ on January 15, 2023.

 Building on Blumhouse Television’s success with the Welcome to the Blumhouse movies slate for Amazon and Into the Dark anthology series for Hulu, the deal is the first-of-its-kind for MGM+, which is adding films to its growing slate of premium original content.


 

Review: Irish folk horror ‘UNWELCOME’ is a fairy tale for adults.

UNWELCOME

Directed by Jon Wright and co-written by Mark Stay, Irish folk horror UNWELCOME has you on edge from the beginning. A fresh start for Maya, Jaime, and their baby on the way, comes with a caveat; their newly inherited country house has a beautiful garden that backs up against the woods and a promised nightly offering to keep the Red Caps at bay. Not upholding tradition with the little people beyond the wall could be a huge mistake.

Colm Meaney is the abusive Daddy Whelan, heading up the unsavory local family fixing the cottage. Proud and fiery, he is just as volatile as his children. Jaime-Lee O’Donnell and Chris Walley make the aggressive audience relentlessly uncomfortable with their behavior and nationalist words. Kristian Nairn plays Eoin, the quiet, clearly complicated, deemed “simple” son of the Whelan crew. Nairn gives a brilliant performance, more complex than at first glance.

Douglas Booth wears his emotions on his sleeve as Jaime. He is charming and kind but channels his unresolved trauma into simmering anger and anxiety. Hannah John-Kamen is enchanting and vulnerable. She owns the screen in her self-assured presence. Her chemistry with Booth and the rest of the cast keeps you watching.

The script is a dark adult version of a Grimm’s fairytale. Costumes are as colorful as the scenery is lush. Gorgeous drone shots down windy roads are breathtaking. The score creeps up on you. The first appearance of the elusive creatures is reminiscent of 80s Jim Henson; think Hoggle and the goblins from Labyrinth. They are awesome in the truest sense of the word. As a person who has been pregnant twice, the violence in the film is visceral. The commitment from the cast is applause-worthy. As the impressive practical effects get more intense, so do their performances. You will find yourself wincing and giggling simultaneously. Yes, it is over the top. And yes, the ending is a real WTF. Just go with it and have fun because in UNWELCOME, keeping the tradition alive keeps you alive.


UNWELCOME is set to be out in theaters this FRIDAY, MARCH 10th

 as it’s part of the AMC Thrills & Chills lineup,

and on Digital Tuesday, March 14th!


 

SXSW 2023: Horror and Sci-fi and Docs, Oh My! A curtain raiser for the masses.

SWSX 2023 has something for everyone, from franchise horror expansion to the hotly anticipated premiere of Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves. But we’re here to share some of the films on our radar this year.

 

Click here for tickets and all things SXSW 2023


Pure O
Director/Screenwriter: Dillon Tucker, Producers: Ricky Fosheim, Dillon Tucker, Ray Lee
A young screenwriter/musician grapples with Pure O, a lesser-known form of OCD while juggling his recent engagement and his day job at a high-end Malibu drug rehab. Inspired by the filmmaker’s own personal true story.

Cast List: Daniel Dorr, Hope Lauren, Landry Bender, Jeff Baker, Candice Renee, Breon Gorman, Tim Landfield, Isaac Nippert, Devon Martinez, Clint James (World Premiere)

Speaking as someone existing in a neurodivergent family unit, this one will hit hard for anyone battling invisible disabilities.


Raging Grace (United Kingdom)
Director/Screenwriter: Paris Zarcilla, Producer: Chi Thai
A bold coming-of-rage story where Joy, a Filipino immigrant, and her daughter Grace encounter a darkness that threatens all they have worked for.

Cast List: Maxine Eigenman, Leanne Best, David Hayman (World Premiere)

Femme-centric horror from Paris Zarcilla explores assimilation, trauma, and horror.


Another Body
Directors: Sophie Compton, Reuben Hamlyn, Producers: Elizabeth Woodward, Sophie Compton, Reuben Hamlyn, Screenwriters: Sophie Compton, Reuben Hamlyn, Isabel Freeman
Another Body follows a college student after she discovers deepfakes of herself circulating online. (World Premiere)

As if women didn’t have enough to fear, AI porn enters the arena. This mind-bending and infuriating doc shocks over and over.


Geoff McFetridge: Drawing a Life – 2023 SXSW Film & TV Festival Official Selection

Geoff McFetridge: Drawing a Life
Director/Producer: Dan Covert, Screenwriters: Erik Auli, Dan Covert, Amy Dempsey, Tara Rose Stromberg
What defines a life? The iconic work of artist Geoff McFetridge is everywhere. But this film is more than a primer on his career—it’s about the choices we confront in trying to lead meaningful lives, and how we use our most precious resource: time. (World Premiere)

Hold on, I know that art! This charming and insightful doc will introduce you to Geoff McFetridge, an artist we all know, but don’t know we know. Ya know?


Deadland – 2023 SXSW Film & TV Festival Official Selection

Deadland
Director: Lance Larson, Producers: Elizabeth Avellan, Bob Bastarache, Jas Shelton, Lance Larson, Tara Pirnia, Chris Wilks, Screenwriters: Lance Larson, Jas Shelton
A U.S. Border Patrol Agent tries to apprehend the ghost of his father, a grave decision that will haunt him forever.

Cast List: Roberto Urbina, McCaul Lombardi, Julieth Restrepo, Kendal Rae, Luis Chavez, Julio Cesar Cedillo, Manuel Uriza, Chris Mulkey (World Premiere)

Get ready for chills and politics to collide. You’re not ready.


Hail Mary - 2023 SXSW Film & TV Festival Official Selection

Hail Mary
Director: Rosemary Rodriguez, Producer: Karina Miller, Screenwriter: Knate Lee
A young Belizean girl, Maria, finds herself mysteriously pregnant and trying to cross the US/MEX border while outrunning a deadly virus, the Cartels, Border Patrol, and the right-hand man of the Devil. This genre-bending retelling of the Mary and Joseph story begs the question – who are the real monsters? Cast: Natalia del Riego, Benny Emmanuel, and Jack Huston with Angela Sarafyan (World Premiere)

As a former Catholic school kid and a lover of genre-defying fare, Hail Mary is 100% on my list. The meer idea that this will work brings my eyeballs to the screen.


Only The Good Survive - 2023 SXSW Film & TV Festival Official Selection

Only The Good Survive
Director/Screenwriter: Dutch Southern, Producers: Thomas Mahoney, Justin X Duprie
While unwittingly doing crimes in Texas, Brea Dunlee stumbles upon a QAnon-like cabal that preys on the poor and the powerless. Through a series of interrogations led by a gaslighting sheriff named Cole Mack, we discover not everything is as it seems.

Cast: Sidney Flanigan, Frederick Weller, D’Pharaoh Woon-A-Tai, Will Ropp, Darius Fraser, Lachlan Watson, Jon Gries, Patrick Grover (World Premiere)

Quirky, colorful, and confusing, this ping-pong, time-hopping delight is pure delightful mayhem.


Peak Season - 2023 SXSW Film & TV Festival Official Selection

Peak Season
Directors: Henry Loevner, Steven Kanter, Producers: Lovell Holder, Patrick Ward, Henry Loevner, Steven Kanter, Screenwriter: Henry Loevner
An emotionally adrift young woman forges an unexpected friendship with a wilderness guide when she and her fiancé take a summer trip to Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

Cast: Claudia Restrepo, Derrick DeBlasis, Ben Coleman, Fred Melamed, Stephanie Courtney, Will Neff, Caroline Kwan, Ron Hanks, Gadiel Del Orbe, Natasha Dewhurst (World Premiere)

Look out for this authentic, easy breezy dramedy that is like an emotional warm hug.


Art For Everybody - 2023 SXSW Film & TV Festival Official Selection

Art for Everybody
Director: Miranda Yousef, Producers: Morgan Neville, Tim Rummel
Thomas Kinkade’s pastoral landscapes made him the most collected and despised painter of all time. After his shocking death, his family discovers a vault of unseen paintings that reveal a complex artist whose life and work embody our divided America. (World Premiere)

You could not escape his art in the late 90s. His “lit from the inside” painting of countryside cottages and mass marketable art held America captive. I almost bought one in a mall gallery at 20 years old. They were that enchanting. 


Satan Wants You - 2023 SXSW Film & TV Festival Official Selection

Satan Wants You
Directors/Screenwriters: Sean Horlor, Steve J. Adams, Producers: Michael Grand, Melissa James
The shocking story of how a young woman and her psychiatrist ignited the global Satanic Panic with their bestselling memoir Michelle Remembers. (World Premiere)

One book twisted the narrative of a nation. It would start an avalanche of conspiracy theories that continues to run rampant in crazy circles today.


Who I Am Not – 2023 SXSW Film & TV Festival Official Selection

Who I Am Not (Romania, Canada)
Director/Screenwriter: Tünde Skovrán, Producers: Andrei Zinca
There is male, there is female, and then there is i. Born male and female within one single body, a beauty queen and a male-presenting activist break the intersex taboo through a personal and intimate exploration of truth, faith, and belonging. (North American Premiere)

Timely and important. That’s all you need to know.


Brooklyn 45 – 2023 SXSW Film & TV Festival Official Selection

Brooklyn 45
Director/Screenwriter: Ted Geoghegan, Producers: Seth Caplan, Michael Paszt, Pasha Patriki, Sarah Sharp
In the months following World War II, five old military friends are talked into an impromptu séance, which brings to troubling light each of their haunted pasts.

Cast List: Anne Ramsay, Ron E. Rains, Jeremy Holm, Larry Fessenden, Ezra Buzzington, Kristina Klebe (World Premiere)

Just because I know Ted Geoghegan to be one of the kindest and coolest gents in the biz doesn’t mean I have to mention his newest and perhaps most personal project yet. His work and the company he keeps (he is also producing Molli and Max screening at the fest this year), speak for themselves. I mean, how cool does this still look?! Shudder was smart enough to snap this up ages ago. 


Monolith – 2023 SXSW Film & TV Festival Official Selection

Monolith (Australia)
Director: Matt Vesely, Producer: Bettina Hamilton, Screenwriter: Lucy Campbell
All you have to do is listen. A disgraced journalist turns to podcasting to try and rebuild her career – but her rush to generate headlines soon uncovers a strange artifact, an alien conspiracy, and the lies at the heart of her own story.

Cast List: Lily Sullivan (International Premiere)

The history of deceptive podcasting has changed the lives of suspects and the far right in recent years. This one deserves your full attention.


Talk To Me – 2023 SXSW Film & TV Festival Official Selection

Talk To Me (Australia)
Directors: Danny Philippou, Michael Philippou, Producers: Samantha Jennings, Kristina Ceyton, Screenwriters: Danny Philippou, Bill Hinzman
Lonely teenager Mia gets hooked on the thrills of conjuring spirits through a ceramic hand, but when she is confronted by a soul claiming to be her dead mother, she unleashes a plague of supernatural forces.

Cast List: Sophie Wilde, Miranda Otto, Alexandra Jensen, Joe Bird, Otis Dhanji, Zoe Terakes, Chris Alosio (Texas Premiere)

We caught this one at Sundance and can report that it is franchise worthy. Do not miss it. Talk To Me


The Wrath of Becky – 2023 SXSW Film & TV Festival Official Selection

The Wrath of Becky
Directors/Screenwriters: Matt Angel, Suzanne Coote, Producers: Raphael Margules, JD Lifshitz, Tracy Rosenblum, Russell Posternak, Chadd Harbold
After living off the grid for two years, Becky finds herself going toe to toe against Darryl, the leader of a fascist organization, on the eve of an organized attack.

Cast List: Lulu Wilson, Seann William Scott, Matt Angel, Courtney Gains, Aaron Dalla Villa, Michael Sirow, Denise Burse, Jill Larson, Kate Siegel (World Premiere)

Firstly, Lulu Wilson is a phenom in my book. A follow-up to the 2020 film BECKY, I cannot wait to see this girl kick ass and not give a shit about names. 


The Artifice Girl – 2023 SXSW Film & TV Festival Official SelectionThe Artifice Girl – 2023 SXSW Film & TV Festival Official Selection

The Artifice Girl
Director/Screenwriter: Franklin Ritch, Producers: Aaron B. Koontz, Ashleigh Snead
Three special agents develop a bold new computer program to catch online predators, but its rapid advancement poses unexpected challenges.

Cast: Tatum Matthews, Sinda Nichols, David Girard, Franklin Ritch, Lance Henriksen (U.S. Premiere)

We could not escape the buzz that this film has been generating on the festival scene. It’s about time we join the crowd.


Molli And Max In The Future - 2023 SXSW Film & TV Festival Official Selection

Molli And Max In The Future
Director/Screenwriter: Michael Lukk Litwak, Producers: Candice Kuwahara, Ben J. Murphy, Mallory Schwartz, Kate Geller, Michael Lukk Litwak
Molli and Max In The Future is a Sci-Fi Romantic Comedy about a man and woman whose orbits repeatedly collide over the course of 12 years, 4 planets, 3 dimensions, and one space-cult.

Cast: Zosia Mamet, Aristotle Athari, Danny Burstein, Arturo Castro, Okieriete Onaodowan, Erin Darke, Grace Kuhlenschmidt, Michael Chernus, Aparna Nancherla, Matteo Lane (World Premiere)

After following the cast and crew of this film along the way, Molli and Max feels like a festival darling from the start.


With Love and a Major Organ – 2023 SXSW Film & TV Festival Official Selection

With Love and a Major Organ
Director: Kim Albright, Producer: Madeleine Davis, Screenwriter: Julia Lederer
In an alternate world where hearts are made of objects and suppressing emotions is self-care, a lonely woman rips out her own heart for the man she loves, only to discover that he has run away with it.

Cast: Anna Maguire, Hamza Haq, Veena Sood, Donna Benedicto, Lynda Boyd, Arghavan Jenati, Enid-Raye Adams, Ryan Beil, Laara Sadiq (World Premiere)

The concept alone makes me want to run to the theater. 


My Drywall Cocoon – 2023 SXSW Film & TV Festival Official Selection

My Drywall Cocoon
Director/Screenwriter: Caroline Fioratti, Producers: Rui Pires, André Montenegro
Virginia’s death during her 17th birthday shakes up a luxurious building complex. For most residents, it’s a passing tragedy. For her mother and her friends, it is the beginning of a transformation: the crack in their drywall cocoon.

Cast: Maria Luisa Mendonça, Bella Piero, Michel Joelsas, Mari Oliveira, Daniel Botelho, Caco Ciocler (World Premiere)

The only Brazillian film in the fest this year, this intricately written film will surprise again and again.


Is There Anybody Out There? (United Kingdom) – 2023 SXSW Film & TV

Is There Anybody Out There?
Director: Ella Glendining, Producer: Janine Marmot
Inhabiting a bizarrely unusual body (the body I love), and navigating daily discrimination, I search the world for another like me. Is there anybody out there? (Texas Premiere)

Check out our previous coverage of Ella Glendining’s unfiltered look at self-acceptance and judgment. It will live in my family’s heart forever.


The Angry Black Girl and Her Monster - 2023 SXSW Film & TV Festival Official Selection

The Angry Black Girl and Her Monster
Director/Screenwriter: Bomani J. Story, Producers: Jack Davis, Darren Brandl, Bomani J. Story
Death is ever present in Vicaria’s world – violence, police brutality, substance abuse – and after watching her mother and brother succumb, she’s had enough. Vicaria is going to put an end to all this death… by bringing the dead back to life.

Cast: Laya DeLeon Hayes, Denzel Whitaker, Chad Coleman, Reilly Brooke Stith, Keith Sean Holliday, Amani Summer Boyles, Edem Atsu-Swanzy (World Premiere)

Writer-director Bomani J. Story takes on the complexities of survival and oppression with a femme-centric modern take on Frankenstein. Yes, please, and thank you.


SHORT FILMS

Fuck Me, Richard – 2023 SXSW Film & TV Festival Official Selection

Fuck Me, Richard (Australia, U.S.)
Directors: Lucy McKendrick, Charlie Polinger, Screenwriter: Lucy McKendrick, Producers: Jenna Grossano, Lucy McKendrick, Charlie Polinger
Recovering from a broken leg, a romance-obsessed loner finds herself swept up in a passionate long-distance love affair. Richard is perfect in every way, except that he may be a scammer. (World Premiere)

As someone who “survived” a 5+ year long distance relationship, this one is a yes.


Dead Enders – 2023 SXSW Film & TV Festival Official Selection

Dead Enders
Directors: Fidel Ruiz-Healy, Tyler Walker, Screenwriters: Fidel Ruiz-Healy, Tyler Walker, Jordan Michael Blake, Conor Murphy, Producers: Raven Jensen, Amanda Crown, Gregory Barnes, Conor Murphy, Nico Alvo, Jordan Michael Blake, Eduardo Ruiz-Healy
A disaffected gas station clerk finds out why they call it the “graveyard shift” after oil drillers set loose an ancient race of mind-controlling parasites. (World Premiere)

Horror shorts for the win, ladies, and germs. Give me a new badass final girl every day of the week.


To find out more about SXSW 2023’s full lineup click here!

Review: ‘American Cherry’ offers bold visual storytelling, but narration is less ripe.

AMERICAN CHERRY

American Cherry unfolds like a bold and hazy dream. There are moments of such quiet beauty in every corner of the film – patient shots of dust swirling in a sunbeam, a butterfly crawling across a screen door. The dusty, nondescript town at the center of the film manages to feel familiar and alien all at once.
The plot and narrative are an awkward fit for such an intriguing setting. Troubled young Finn (Hart Denton, toned down from his manic turn on Riverdale) drifts through the town. He’s obviously troubled. His relationship with his parents is strained, and we can tell there’s anger (or worse) bubbling under his quiet exterior. He connects with Eliza, a girl at his school. Eliza is troubled too, in her own quieter way: she lives with her alcoholic mother, the two of them living through a trial separation from her step-father and step-sister. As Finn and Eliza deepen their bond, it quickly becomes clear that he will bring great love or great danger into her life (perhaps both.)

I was impressed with both young leads. Denton appears in nearly every scene of the film and provides its narration. If the audience doesn’t connect with him, American Cherry has no chance. He is up to the task. Sarah May Sommers is particularly affecting as Eliza – I especially admired scenes where she has to navigate between her budding happiness with Finn and the thoughts and expectations of her high-school friends.

I found much to love about American Cherry, but left confused surrounding its tone and intention. From a genre perspective, it somehow sits right at the intersection of romance and psychological thriller, but that ambiguity was confusing in ways that felt unintentional. Is this trying to be Fear for the zoomer generation? Good Will Hunting with more bite? I felt it needed to commit a little bit more firmly. By seeking such balance, it risks underdelivering on both counts.

I found the script somewhat overwrought as well – the heavy-handedness of the dialogue is difficult to reconcile with the casual nuance of the cinematography. It is hard to watch young actors deliver lines like “there’s an umbilical cord connecting my belly with this town” with stone-faced seriousness.

All this being said, the visual power of the film is difficult to resist and does the heavy lifting of transporting the audience when the script can’t quite deliver. This is a confusing picture, but undeniably beautiful.


AVAILABLE MARCH 17
on Amazon, Vudu and Cable VOD (Comcast/Charter/Cox/Xfinity)


AMERICAN CHERRY is a psychological thriller-romance about a mysterious, troubled boy (Hart Denton, “Riverdale”) who meets an impressionable girl (Sarah May Sommers, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood) in their small town. Together they embark on a romance where his love turns into obsession as he tries to protect her from her dysfunctional family — he makes her a video diary that confesses an intricate story of love, mental illness and the tragic consequences if left untreated. 
 
Written and Directed by: Marcella Cytrynowicz
Producers: Geoffrey Goodman, Hanna Griffiths,
Dave Ross,Taryn Sims and Jeff Wald
Executive Producers: Jenny Alonzo, Louis Arriola,
Matthew Helderman, Michael L. Holland,
Grady Justice, Nikki Stier Justice and Luke Taylor
Cinematographer: Gus Bendinelli

 

CAST: Hart Denton (“Riverdale,” “13 Reasons Why”), Sarah May Sommers (Once Upon a Time in Hollywood), Audrey Holcomb, Larsen Thompson, Matty Cardarople (“Stranger Things), and Leonor Varela (Blade II)

 

Review: ‘Swallowed’ is any LGBTQ person’s nightmare… and then some.

SWALLOWED

Cooper Koch and Jose Colon play best friends, Benjamin and Dom. In order to send Benjamin off to L.A. with some extra cash, Dom coordinates a drug mule operation that complicates everything. When the packages turn out to be something far more sinister, things get much darker than anyone imagined.

Swallowed is a genre-obliterating film with fantastic performances. Jena Malone adds gritty believability. To no one’s surprise, she manages to bring charm and intensity. Koch and Colon have spectacular chemistry, and you 100 percent buy their relationship. Koch possesses an accessible vulnerability. Colon’s honesty feels grounded. Bravo for their openness to go full frontal nude. We all know how rare that is, and it makes complete sense given the plot. The film also features a solid villainous turn from Mark Patton, a genre legend from A Nightmare on Elm Street 2. One line, in particular, is slyly redemptive given his status in the horror canon.

The camera work has visceral intimacy. Writer-director Carter Smith (The Ruins) gives audiences a unique genre entry, with the leads being LGBTQ male characters in scenarios we usually see female characters tackle. Swallowed is part crime thriller, part coming-of-age, and body horror. This film is an LGBTQ scenario of nightmares. Get ready to squirm.

 
The horror / thriller / LGTBQIA+ film, SWALLLOWED, will be released on digital and on demand February 14, 2023.

It stars Jena Malone (The Hunger Games Film Series, Cold Mountain, Stepmom), Mark Patton (A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddys Revenge, Freddy vs. Jason), Cooper Koch  (Fracture) and Jose Colon (Feature Acting Debut)
 
It was written and directed by Carter Smith (The Ruins).


Review: ‘The Way Out’ is a twisted tale of manipulation and revenge.

The Way Out

Pizza delivery boy and recovering alcoholic Alex grieves the loss of his abusive father while navigating the inheritance of his childhood home and mortgage. To get by, he rents a room to Shane, a domineering trainer who takes over Alex’s life with intrusive advice.

Ashleigh Murray is Alex’s best friend, Grace. She gives us the perfect balance of sweet, supportive, and firey. She’s a foil for Beauchamp. Sherri Sheperd is outstanding as Alex’s AA sponsor Ronnie. This is a fantastic turn filled with grounded concern, loving energy, and wise words. Her calm demeanor balances the chaos beautifully. She is a thoughtfully curated character.

Jonny Beauchamp plays Alex. Writet-director Barry Jay‘s screenplay allows him to show his vast range as he assumes some of Shane’s personality traits as the story progresses. Beginning as a meek and mild, lost young man, Alex slowly becomes increasingly more aggressive. Mike C. Manning (Slapface) throws you off balance from the moment he appears onscreen. He oozes toxic masculinity, helped by his intense workout obsession and the score. Shane goes from subtle to overt manipulation quicker than I expected. He is downright scary. While Manning portrays the ultimate gaslighter, his character is more nuanced than at first glance.

Overall, the lighting is a bit dark for my taste, but the score is carefully crafted and smartly used. The script morphs into a sick and twisted revenge story I did not see coming. There is a complex moral ambiguity that is endlessly intriguing. The Way Out is an unexpected journey of self-discovery and one credible psychological thriller.


On-Demand Release/Worldwide – Feb 10, 2023

 

Review: Casper Van Dien runs a tight ship in Corey Deshon’s ‘DAUGHTER’

DAUGHTER

SYNOPSIS: A young woman is kidnapped and inducted into a bizarre family as their new surrogate daughter. As she navigates through this twisted dynamic, awful secrets about the past are revealed, leading to even darker implications about the future.


(L-R) Elyse Dinh as Mother, Casper Van Dien as Father, and Ian Alexander as Brother in the thriller film, DAUGHTER, a Dark Star Pictures release. Photo courtesy of Dark Star Pictures

Shot on 16mm film, DAUGHTER comes alive with a timeless 70s exploration horror look. Told in chapters, this slow-burn thriller raises questions about captivity, indoctrination, and freedom of thought. It will make you shiver.

Elyse Dinh tackles the role of “Mother.” She is the stabilizer in the family dynamic. Dinh’s chemistry with Vivien Ngô keeps you watching. Ian Alexander, whom I adored in The OA, plays “Son.” Alexander fully embodies whatever character they play, and this is no exception. There is solid potential for more of this character in the future.

Casper Van Dien is “Father.” He is unsettling from the beginning. A looming figure, he makes your skin crawl. Vivien Ngô plays “Daughter” with the complexity needed to sustain the pace. The audience is along for the ride on her shoulders. She had me constantly wondering what move might come next in the bizarre game of chess. It is a captivating turn.

The sixth chapter is a complete visual departure from the rest of the film. It’s explosive. With a beginning and ending that feels like an homage to Tobe Hooper‘s The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, the long-awaited finale of DAUGHTER feels spot on. Any other choice would have felt like a cop-out. DAUGHTER has the makings of a franchise if writer-director Corey Deshon can quicken the pace with this first film as canon.


Dark Star Pictures will release the thriller film DAUGHTER in select theaters, on Digital and On Demand on February 10, 2023

The thriller DAUGHTER stars an ensemble cast of Casper Van Dien (Starship Troopers), Elyse Dinh (Spider-Man 2), Vivien Ngô (“Queen Sugar”), and Ian Alexander (“Star Trek: Discovery”). The film is written and directed by Corey Deshon (“A Million Little Things”).


DIRECTOR’S STATEMENT

From the wars we fight over our conflicting worldviews, the insane mental gymnastics we conjure in order to justify them, and the insignificance of truth in the absence of freedom, comes DAUGHTER. Shot on 16mm film with a predominantly Vietnamese cast, DAUGHTER is a uniquely diverse and genre-bending tale in the vein of Dogtoothmeets 10 Cloverfield Lane.

Inspired by feminist existentialist philosopher Simone De Beauvoir’s “The Ethics of Ambiguity,” this film is a meditation on the morality and ethics of freedom and creative expression within an oppressed system. Through this surrealist psychodrama, we seek to explore the questions, “Can one truly be free if they do not will the freedom of others? “and, “If that freedom must come at a moral cost, who is going to pay?”


IN THEATERS: February 10, 2023
ON DIGITAL AND ON DEMAND: February 10, 2023
ON DVD: May 9, 2023
DIRECTOR: Corey Deshon
WRITER: Corey Deshon
CAST: Casper Van Dien, Elyse Dinh, Vivien Ngô, and Ian Alexander   
RATING: Not Rated
RUN TIME: 95 minutes
GENRE: Thriller
DISTRIBUTOR: Dark Star Pictures