Review: ‘Eye Without A Face’ is a twisted psychological thriller.

Eye Without A Face

Henry, an agoraphobic and anxious young man living in Los Angeles, hacks into the webcams of various selected young women who inhabit the city. He watches over them in their daily lives, seeing himself as their guardian angel. When his new charming roommate Eric, a Youtuber and struggling actor pushes him to get out into the real world, he unknowingly puts Henry in danger. And as Henry starts to suspect one of the women he watches, Laura, of being a killer, everything starts to spiral out of control.

 


Luke Cook as Erik is the perfect foil for Shapiro’s Henry. He’s narcissistic and raunchy but also genuinely a good friend. I could not take my eyes off of him. I found myself cringing and doubled over at his antics. Cook provides the much-needed lightness to the dark of this film. Dakota Shapiro as Henry is simply astounding. He lives in the skin of a trauma victim. His idiosyncracies are spot on. Shapiro’s vulnerability is the backbone of Eye Without A Face. The cinematography from Tara Violet Niami is striking. Thoughtful use of color and lighting make for some extraordinary close-ups, especially of Adam’s eyes.


It’s clear to see the Rear Window inspiration in writer-director Ramin Niami‘s screenplay. The tiny flashes of Henry’s backstory heighten the tension. So does Charlie Clouser‘s score. If you think you know where this is going, think again. There is a reason we’re told to put tape over our laptop cameras. We love online these days, much to our own detriment. The key to Eye Without A Face is Henry’s largely unaddressed trauma. It is the complexity of his nature that makes this film so killer.


ON-DEMAND AND DVD AUGUST 10


Featuring stunning cinematography by Tara Violet Niami, and a mesmerizing score by Charlie Clouser, Eye Without A Face is written and directed by Ramin Niami, director of the acclaimed films Somewhere in the City, Babe’s & Rickey’s Inn and Shirin in Love.

Starring hot young actors Dakota Shapiro (“The Affair”), Luke Cook (“Chilling Adventures of Sabrina”, “Katy Keene”), and Vlada Verevko (“Beauty and the Beast”), Eye Without A Face will be available On Demand and Digital August 10 from Gravitas Ventures.


Review: ‘RIDE THE EAGLE’ is endlessly charming, authentic, and funny.

RIDE THE EAGLE

When Leif’s (Jake Johnson) estranged mother Honey (Susan Sarandon) dies she leaves him a ‘conditional inheritance’. Before he can move into her picturesque Yosemite cabin, he has to complete her elaborate, and sometimes dubious, to-do list. Leif and Nora, his canine BFF, step into Honey’s wild world as she tries to make amends from beyond the grave in this hilarious and heartfelt comedy.


Ride The Eagle is a one-of-a-kind film. The script is written by director Trent O’Donnell and star Jake Johnson. Tackling regret, forgiveness, and everything in between, there’s an honesty that stings and inspires. Mostly, Ride The Eagle makes you smile.

The script is filled with quirky characters. J.K. Simmons is fantastic in his manic energy. His delivery makes you involuntarily grin. Susan Sarandon, who we only see in her videotape to Leif, gives us warmth, and wisdom, and a boatload of snark. Her dialogue is yet another example of the care taken by O’Donnell and Johnson in their writing. There is a specificity that allows us to sit in Leif’s emotional shoes.

I want D’arcy Carden to be my new best friend. The scenes between her and Johnson are pure gold. Their chemistry is off the charts. Made even more impressive by the fact that they speak exclusively over the phone. It’s like watching a masterclass in scene partnering. Their report nudges the script into rom-com territory. But, in truth, Ride The Eagle is consistently genre-defying. Jake Johnson owns every frame he appears in. He has this innate ability to put you at ease while simultaneously making you giggle. He keeps you on your toes, always making you wonder what is scripted and what might be improvised. He’s just that talented.

The score is vibrant and incredibly thoughtful. Ride the Eagle shines with heart and charm. It has a palpable vulnerability that makes it undeniably relatable. Of the nearly 200 films I’ve seen in 2021, Ride The Eagle easily soars onto my top 10 list.

DECAL will release comedy RIDE THE EAGLE In Theaters, On Demand, and Digital on July 30, 2021. 

RIDE THE EAGLE is directed by Trent O’Donnell (“New Girl,” “No Activity”) with a screenplay by O’Donnell and Jake Johnson (“New Girl,” Spider-Man Into the Spider-Verse), who also stars alongside Susan Sarandon (Thelma & Louise, Dead Man Walking), J.K. Simmons (Whiplash, Juno) and D’Arcy Carden (“The Good Place,” “Barry”).


Review: ‘Enemies of the State’ takes the courtroom drama into the digital age.

ENEMIES OF THE STATE

ENEMIES OF THE STATE is a documentary thriller that investigates the strange case of Matt DeHart, an alleged hacker and whistleblower, and his former Cold War spy parents who believe they are at the center of a government conspiracy and are ready to do anything to save their son from prison. This stranger-than-fiction story takes audiences on a wild ride of unexpected plot twists and bizarre discoveries in an artistic and cinematic documentary that blurs the line between reality and paranoia. With extraordinary access to all lead characters and key sources, this film presents many contradicting viewpoints as it attempts to solve a mystery that has kept attorneys, activists and journalists occupied for over a decade.


If an innocent man was sitting in front of you, would you even know it? This is a question I asked myself several times throughout Enemies of the State, Sonia Kennebeck’s propulsive new documentary. Years ago, movies made these kinds of questions easy on us: there’s that old western stereotype of the gunslinging hero wearing the white hat, staring down a villain dressed in black. These days, our digital lives have complicated that confrontation. In a world where stories of hackers, deep fakes, and police corruption flood the headlines, who can truly be trusted?

Enemies of the State’s subject is Matt DeHart. Through one lens he is an online activist, presumed hacker, whistleblower, and WikiLeaks courier. Through another, he is a convicted felon, guilty of soliciting child pornography from multiple victims. We will meet Matt’s supporters – family, friends, and online activists who all suggest these charges amount to little more than a government cover-up. We also see the case from law enforcement and hear the testimonials of the alleged victims. Who to believe?  This is Law and Order meets Mr. Robot.

In a film where nothing is certain, Kennebeck’s balanced direction is welcomed. Pains are taken to give equal air time to protagonists on each side of the conflict, to keep the viewer in check. I naturally found myself empathizing with DeHart’s family early in the film. In the immediate next scene, the camera lingers on the variety of medals on Detective Brett Kniss’ walls – as if to say, “You don’t want to believe this guy? He’s an Eagle Scout!”

I found the re-enactment scenes, featuring actors supported by authentic audio clips, robotic and less compelling. While robotic may indeed have been Kennebeck’s intention, sections in which the audio played simply over a black background were more resonant and unsettling.

Ultimately, the question of DeHart’s guilt or innocence depends on trust. Do you trust Matt’s family, his friends, or the FBI? Enemies of the State doesn’t take it easy on you – that answer is probably going to change a few times over the course of 103 minutes. I won’t give away where I landed – I’ll just say the image of the empty chair at the end of this film stuck with me long after the screen faded to black. Don’t understand? Just trust me.


In Theaters and On-Demand
July 30, 2021

Directed by: Sonia Kennebeck (National BirdUnited States vs. Reality Winner)
Produced by: Ines Hofmann Kanna, Sonia Kennebeck
Executive Produced by: Errol Morris


*OFFICIAL SELECTION – 2020 TORONTO INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL*
*OFFICIAL SELECTION – 2020 DOC NYC*

*OFFICIAL SELECTION – 2021 TRIBECA FILM FESTIVAL*


Review: ‘Midnight in the Switchgrass’ squandered series potential.

Two FBI agents cross paths with Crawford, a Florida cop who’s investigating a string of murders that appear to be related. When an undercover sting goes horribly wrong, Crawford soon finds himself in a twisted game of cat and mouse with the killer.

This story might have fared better as a miniseries. In fact, I know it would have. With all the makings of a True Detective style, cliffhanger-filled crime-thriller, nothing quite pans out in a completely satisfying manner. Even at just shy of an hour and 40-minute runtime, there is a ton of missed opportunity and information that would have pushed Midnight in the Switchgrass into greatness territory. As it stands, it’s a bit of a rushed and disconnected mess.

The soundtrack does not help. It feels forced and somehow creates a hokey feel. The editing, particularly surrounding Emile Hirsch‘s flashes, creates a perception that you’re missing some greater storyline. It’s simply unnecessary. There are moments when the acting is so over the top it’s nonsensical. Each character needed more time to develop. We hear about their pasts only briefly. This is yet another example of where further serial development would benefit the entire narrative.

Bruce Willis is underutilized. He could have been any actor playing that role. Megan Fox wavers between totally believable and taken for granted. It’s her stunts that read fake, which is a tad baffling because we know she’s capable of action stardom. I’m not sure who to blame here. In her most recent film, Till Death, 50% of the performance is based on physicality and she owned that role. Emile Hirsch is genuinely fantastic. This is the second time this month he’s played a cop, the first being Son. That role suits him well. Lukas Haas is as terrifying as we need him to be. He, too, deserved more backstory. This is a character that’s so disturbing, but we merely get glimpses of how his mind works. He’s so strong, I would watch an entirely separate prequel going through his origin story. Midnight in the Switchgrass succeeds in Hirsch and Haas.

Lionsgate will release the thriller MIDNIGHT IN THE SWITCHGRASS in Theaters, On Demand, and Digital on July 23, 2021, and on Blu-ray and DVD on July 27, 2021.

MIDNIGHT IN THE SWITCHGRASS stars Megan Fox (Transformers franchise), Bruce Willis (Glass), Emile Hirsch (Once Upon A Time… In Hollywood), Lukas Haas (Inception), Colson Baker (aka Machine Gun Kelly) (The Dirt), Caitlin Carmichael (Life Itself) and Sistine Stallone (47 Meters Down: Uncaged). The film is the directorial debut of Randall Emmett (Producer of The Irishman) and the screenwriting debut of writer Alan Horsnail.

Review: ‘DOWNEAST’ is wicked authentic.

Downeast dives into the often-ignored seedy underbelly of Maine, following Emma Maddox as she returns to her hometown, haunted by the mysterious death of her brother Mikey years ago. As she reconnects with his best friend Tommy, the two rekindle their flame and Emma begins to uncover the web of lies the town has been keeping. Will Emma get the closure she so desperately seeks, or fall victim to the town’s turbulent ways?

As a New Englander born and bred, I know where my loyalty lies. New England is comprised of small coastal town charm and great regional food. More importantly, it has an unmistakable attitude that lies somewhere between territorially standoffish and genuinely friendly. Like every small town, secrets can easily keep the locals at arm’s length or connected for life. DOWNEAST is a fantastic example of that very idea. While I grew up in Connecticut and now reside in NYC, Maine is in my blood on my father’s side. I’ve seen things, and as an adult, I understand more than I care to. DOWNEAST‘s success lies within its authenticity and smart writing. You can thank director Joe Raffa and lead actor Greg Finely for that. This crime drama has everything you want; murder, revenge, and redemption. The slow introduction of the history of each character makes for a beautiful build-up of suspense.

Performances are top-notch. Greg Finley as Tommy manages to be both powerful and sympathetic all at once. There is a familiarity to his entire being that puts the audience at ease. Dylan Silver as Emma has an inspired tenacity that makes her a gorgeous foil for Finley. DOWNEAST could almost be considered an ensemble film. While the entire cast is incredibly solid, I feel compelled to mention one actor in particular. Kirk Fox‘s performance as Marty provides the much-needed levity to a heavy-handed storyline. He’s a star.

Gravitas Ventures and APS Films have announced the Digital HD and cable VOD release of Joe Raffa’s DOWNEAST will be available July 13th on a number of digital and cable platforms, including iTunes, Amazon Video, Vudu, Comcast, Spectrum, and Cox.

Downeast was produced by APS Films and directed by Joe Raffa, who wrote a script based on a story by Maine native Greg Finley. Finley produced alongside Cory Pyke.  Edwin Pendleton Stevens served as executive producer.

Downeast had its world premiere at the Garden State Film Festival in March, kicking off a screening tour across North America. The film has taken home a number of awards including Best Director and Best Actor at Worldfest Houston and Best Film, Best Director and Best Actor at the Montreal Independent Film Festival. Downeast screened at the Beverly Hills Film Festival, the Phoenix Film Festival, and the Show Low Film Festival.

Review: ‘Love Type D’ is charming and unexpected.

 

Bad news. Being unlucky in love is genetic.

 How can someone love you yesterday and not today? Shortly after her boyfriend sends his 12-year-old brother to break the news that she’s dumped, Frankie Browne discovers that she has a loser in love gene. Every man she goes out with will inevitably break up with her. Facing a lifetime of romantic failure, Frankie turns to the only genetics expert she knows: her former nemesis, Wilbur, a schoolboy science prodigy. Wilbur develops a maverick theory to reverse her romantic fortunes that sets into motion an unexpected and comic journey into Frankie’s past of questionable romantic choices.

Love Type D is a quirky and completely unexpected romcom. With a mixture of flashbacks and impressive ingenuity, Frankie figures she has nothing left to lose in love. Taking the advice of 12-year-old Wilbur throws her life into chaos. But it’s all in the name of finally understanding herself and the patterns of heartbreak. Wrangling in co-workers with similar relationship woes, Frankie becomes bolder than she ever thought possible. Love Type D is anything but the typical romcom. The script, by director Sasha Collington, is endlessly fun. Maeve Dermody skillfully plays upon Frankie’s eccentricities to make her genuinely loveable. This gives the film a solid Bridget Jone’s Diary vibe. But Love Type D easily stands on its own two left feet. Dermody is pure delight.  Even though Oliver Farnworth is on the poster with Dermody, it’s the performance from Rory Stroud as Wilbur that makes this film magic. His delivery of Collington’s dialogue is like watching a 45-year-old man inside a 12-year-old’s body. He is simply darling. If he’s not cast in every single upcoming British film, I’ll be flabbergasted. He’s a star.

OPENING ON-DEMAND EVERYWHERE

ON JULY 9, 2021

LOVE TYPE D stars Maeve Dermody, Rory Stroud, Oliver Farnworth, and Tovah Feldshuh.

It was written and directed by first-time filmmaker Sasha Collington.

The film has a running time of 94 minutes and will not be rated by the MPAA.  Vertical Entertainment will release LOVE TYPE D On Demand everywhere on July 9, 2021.

Review: ‘DEMENTIA PART II’ is gag-inducing awesomeness.

DEMENTIA II

SYNOPSIS: Wendell (Matt Mercer) receives a threatening phone call from his parole officer Reggie (Graham Skipper)… if he doesn’t find a job immediately, he will face serious legal repercussions.  Wendell wrangles some home maintenance work for a seemingly benign older woman, Suzanne (Suzanne Voss), who persists in giving him increasingly absurd tasks to complete around the house.  As the workday progresses, Wendell is thrown into an ever-escalating nightmare, and comes face to face with an unexpected evil.  Suzanne hides a dark secret.  And it’s up to Wendell and Suzanne’s daughter, Sheila (Najarra Townsend) to put an end to her madness.

Wendell is an ex-con whose parole officer enjoys berating him over the phone. When a new handyman job brings him to the door of Suzanne, a quirky woman with dementia, he’s in for more than unclogging her pipes. The set-up gets weirder and weirder. Secrets and lies live in this house, but not for long. Wendell’s path to freedom is dean on arrival. Do not get comfortable for a single minute of Dementia Part II.

Graham Skipper plays such an asshole. It’s incredible to watch. Najarra Townsend, who was phenomenal in The Stylist, plays a completely different role here as Suzanne’s “daughter” and a total badass. Matt Mercer holds his own in every scene with Voss. That’s saying A LOT. He is the audience. His reactions to his wacky predicament walk the line of humane and hustler. Suzanne Voss‘s ability to seamlessly switch beats, sometimes in the same is a thing to behold. From helpless to maniacal, enraptured to enraged, and everywhere in between is a masterclass in purposeful performance. Having watched a loved one deteriorate from dementia, it’s frightening and heartbreaking. At times it’s an out-of-body experience for all parties. Voss is fearless. I’m formally requesting a Part III with Voss.

Shout out to Matt Mercer and Mike Testin for normalizing a runtime of 1 hour and 5 minutes. Good storytelling doesn’t need to be overstuffed with unnecessary nonsense. The dark comedy of Dementia Part II mixed with the very serious underlying mental health issues makes this film ripe for midnight screenings. I can already hear the audience yelling out Wendell’s many alternative names, making lewd gestures with pipes, and throwing $100 bills at the screen. You cannot go wrong with its vomit-inducing practical fx and outstanding performances from the entire cast.

Dark Star Pictures and Bloody Disgusting will release the midnight horror film DEMENTIA PART II in theaters on May 21, 2021, and on VOD, Digital HD, and DVD on June 1, 2021.

Review: ‘DRUNK BUS’ challenges life’s direction in an unlikely and perfect buddy comedy.

DRUNK BUS

Michael (Charlie Tahan) is a recent graduate whose post-college plan is derailed when his girlfriend leaves him for a job in New York City. Stuck in Ohio without a new plan of his own, Michael finds himself caught in the endless loop of driving the “drunk bus,” the debaucherous late-night campus shuttle that ferries drunk college students from parties to the dorms and back. When the bus service hires a security guard to watch over the night shift, Michael comes face to tattooed face with Pineapple (Pineapple Tangaroa), a larger-than-life Samoan American who challenges him with a kick in the ass to break from the loop and start living or risk driving in circles forever.

Transitioning from your college bubble to adulthood is hard enough. Add a breakup and no sense of direction and you’ve got yourself a basic outline for a film. Based on a story by screenwriter Chris Molinaro and directors Brandon LaGanke and John Carlucci, DRUNK BUS gives us a coming-of-age buddy comedy that you won’t see coming. This film is unexpectedly guffaw-inducing. I was knocked off my feet watching the chemistry of this cast. This film is about overcoming fear, anxiety, latent rage, guilt, you name it. DRUNK BUS has it all without ever getting too heavy.

Will Forte’s voice can be heard over the bus’s PA system, both encouraging and agitating Michael. Your ear immediately perks ups as Forte’s familiar timbre gives Michael the hokiest advice but it’s clear he also genuinely cares for him. Even though he has the least amount of screentime, he seamlessly even more laughter to an already hilarious plot. Notable performances also come from Kara Hayward and Zach Cherry. Hayward grounds the film with her honesty. Cherry leaves a lasting impression in every single scene.

Pineapple Tangaroa is the perfect foil for Tahan. He’s is incredibly funny. You will not be able to control your smirk. He was born to do this. I hope writers create all the things for him because he’s a star. Charlie Tahan has been on my radar since Super Dark Times and Ozark. His ability to be both accessible and to possess a natural comic timing makes him so alluring on-screen. There’s something visceral about his energy. That’s a rare quality.

DRUNK BUS challenges our insecurities. It asks us to take a chance. If there was ever a time to gt to bat for an indie film, this is it. You will not be disappointed. You can watch DRUNK BUS today in select theaters and On Demand. Check out the trailer below.

Cast: Charlie Tahan, Kara Hayward, Pineapple Tangaroa, Tonatiuh, Will Forte, Zach Cherry, Sarah Mezzanotte, Dave Hill, Jay Devore, Martin Pfefferkorn
Directors: John Carlucci, Brandon LaGanke
Screenplay by: Chris Molinaro
Based on a Story by: Chris Molinaro, Brandon LaGanke, John Carlucci
Executive Produced by: Executive Producers Ian Tarbert, Edward Nash, Michael Carroll, and Tom Gordon
Produced by: Eric Hollenbeck, Grant Franklin Fitch, Steven Ilous
Co-Producer: Benjamin Bradford
TRT: 100 minutes

Review: Be careful what you wish for in ‘The Djinn’.

The Djinn

THE DJINN follows a mute twelve-year-old, Dylan Jacobs, as he discovers a mysterious book of spells inside his new apartment. Grieving the loss of his mother, and feeling isolated from everyone except for his father, Dylan performs a ritual that promises to deliver his heart’s desire: to have a voice. But he soon discovers that every gift has a toll when a sinister djinn arrives to collect his soul. Now trapped in his new home with nowhere to hide, Dylan must find a way to survive until the stroke of midnight or pay the ultimate price.

For as many times as children accidentally come upon The Book of Shadows (or any ancient text with a pentagram on the cover), I’m beginning to wonder if I should teach my 4 and 5-year-olds to stay away. Yet again, I don’t want to stifle their inevitable love of all things horror-centric. As a mother of a child on the spectrum, I understand the importance of communication. The frustration and longing to be heard are endless. If we could change our circumstances, wouldn’t we try? David Charbonier and Justin Powell‘s new film The Djinn combines the themes of grief, trauma, and a mysterious legend to create a story that will both terrify and tear your heart out.

The score immediately reminded me of The Goonies. It is a perfect mix of ominous and whimsical. Dylan’s reading voice is costar Rob Brownstein’s voice.  As a mute boy, Dylan’s internal vocal reference would most certainly be that of his father. This moment of specificity from Charbonier and Powell is magic. The entire film’s sound design is award-worthy. Dylan’s hearing is likely acutely sharp due to developmental adaptation. The audio is jarring in a way that places the viewer in his constant state of hyper-awareness. His panic is our panic and it is palpable.

It’s a fresh take on the legend and more shudder-inducing than you’d expect. The pacing is perfection. All the tropes are there but with a hell of a twist. The Djinn‘s main conflict plays out within an hour, making the stakes feel higher as we count down the minutes alongside Dylan. Speaking of our leading young man, Ezra Dewey is a star. His chemistry with Rob Brownstein is charming and genuine. Dewey’s ability to own this entire film sans dialogue is the stuff of dreams. Mark my words, he will be everywhere. The Djinn is a very scary bedtime story warning us all to be careful what we wish for.

THE DJINN will be in THEATERS, DIGITAL, and VOD NEXT FRIDAY, MAY 14TH

Polish Cinema comes to your living room courtesy of BAM’s film program ‘Kino Polska: New Polish Cinema’

From Friday, April 30th through Thursday, May 6th BAM presents the fourth edition of *Kino Polska: New Polish Cinema*, bringing together the best new works from Poland’s boundary-pushing filmmakers. The series is presented in partnership with the Polish Cultural Institute New York and co-programmed by Tomek Smolarski. Kino Polska features seven feature films, including the New York premiere of Poland’s Oscar submission *NEVER GONNA SNOW AGAIN* (2020). Director Malgorzata Szumowska (whose Berlinale prizewinner Mug screened in the 2018 iteration of *Kino Polska*) partners with longtime cinematographer and co-writer Michal Englert’s for this Venice Film Festival hit about an enigmatic healer (Alec Utgoff, “Stranger Things”) who casts a spell over a rich Polish community. This year’s series also includes Mariko Bobrik’s touching debut feature *THE TASTE OF PHO* (2019) about a Vietnamese father and
daughter dealing with grief and the immigrant experience in Warsaw; the bittersweet coming-of-age drama *I NEVER CRY* (2020) from Piotr Domalewski whose previous film SILENT NIGHT won major awards in Poland; Bartosz Kruhlik’s edge-of-your-seat thriller *SUPERNOVA* (2019); Piotr Adamski’s *EASTERN* (2019), a tale of revenge set in a dystopic Poland; Mariusz Wilczynski’s deeply personal, hand-drawn animated film *KILL IT AND LEAVE THIS TOWN* (2020)—winner of the Grand Prize for Feature Animation at the Ottawa International Animation Festival and a FIPRESCI Award at the 2020 Viennale; and Agnieszka Holland’s Soviet Union thriller *MR. JONES* (2019) starring James Norton, Vanessa Kirby, and Peter Sarsgaard.

*All films will screen April 30th – May 6th on BAM’s virtual streaming platform at BAM.org .

I NEVER CRY
Dir. Piotr Domalewski
2020, 98min
Language: In Polish with English subtitles
With Zofia Stafiej, Arkadiusz Jakubik, Kinga Preis

Seventeen-year-old Ola sets off to Ireland to bring her father’s body back to Poland after he dies in a building site accident. But never mind her dad, Ola wants to know if he had saved the money for a car he had promised her. Dealing with a foreign bureaucracy in her own streetwise way, Ola finally gets to know the father who had been largely absent in her life. A bittersweet coming-of-age drama that explores the perplexity of family bonds, illustrating the gloomy landscape of today’s Europe.


MR. JONES
Dir. Agnieszka Holland
2019, 119min
Language: In Polish with English subtitles
With James Norton, Vanessa Kirby, Peter Sarsgaard

Agnieszka Holland’s thriller, set on the eve of world WWII, sees Hitler’s rise to power and Stalin’s Soviet propaganda machine pushing their “utopia” to the Western world. Meanwhile an ambitious young journalist, Gareth Jones (Norton) travels to Moscow to uncover the truth behind the propaganda, but then gets a tip that could expose an international conspiracy, one that could cost him and his informant their lives. Jones goes on a life-or-death journey to uncover the truth behind the façade that would later inspire George Orwell’s seminal book Animal Farm.


NEVER GONNA SNOW AGAIN 
Dirs. Malgorzata Szumowska & Michal Englert
2020, 113min
Language: In Polish with English subtitles
With Alec Utgoff, Maja Ostaszewska, Agata Kulesza

On a gray, foggy morning outside a large Polish city, Zhenia (Alec Utgoff), a masseur from the East, enters the lives of the wealthy residents of a gated community. Using hypnotic, almost magical techniques to get a residence permit, he starts working. The well-to-do residents in their cookie-cutter homes seemingly have it all, but they all suffer from an inner sadness, some unexplained longing. The attractive and mysterious newcomer’s hands heal, and Zhenia’s eyes seem to penetrate their souls. To them, his Russian accent sounds like a song from the past, a memory of their seemingly safer childhoods. The latest from writer/director Malgorzata Szumowska (ELLES, IN THE NAME OF) and her longtime collaborator Michal Englert is an unclassifiable meditation on class, immigration, and global warming with touches of magical realism and moments of sober beauty and subtle humor.


SUPERNOVA
Dir. Bartosz Kruhlik
2019, 78min
Language: In Polish with English subtitles

Three men, one place and one event that will change the life of each one of them. A universal tale, kept in a realistic style, tells the story of a few hours in the life of a rural community. The film raises questions about the essence of chance and destiny. A bloody story, oscillating on the edge of drama, thriller and disaster cinema.


KILL IT AND LEAVE THIS TOWN
Dir. Mariusz Wilczynski
2020, 88min
Language: In Polish with English subtitles

Fleeing from despair after losing those dearest to him, the hero hides in a safe land of memories, where time stands still and all those dear to him are alive. Over the years, a city grows in his imagination. One day, literary heroes and cartoon childhood idols, who in the consciousness of the successive generations are forever young and wearing short pants, come to live there, uninvited. When our hero discovers they have all grown old and that eternal youth does not exist, he decides to return to real life. And the amazing characters living in his imagination lead him back to the real world.


EASTERN
Dir. Piotr Adamski
2019, 78min
Language: In Polish with English subtitles

In a dystopian world regulated by an inexorable, patriarchal code, the Nowak and Kowalski families have been embroiled in a vendetta for years. When the Nowaks’ son dies at the hand of Klara Kowalska, his sister, Ewa, is faced with a choice between carrying out revenge in the name of honour on the one hand and her own life and freedom on the other.


THE TASTE OF PHO
Dir. Mariko Bobrik
2019, 84min
Language: In Polish with English subtitles

A Warsaw-based Vietnamese cook struggles to fit into the European culture, which his ten-year-old daughter has already embraced as her own. A story about love, misunderstanding and food.

Review: ‘HONEYDEW’ is unsettling to say the least.

HONEYDEW

HONEYDEW tells the story of a young couple (played by Spielberg and Barr) who are forced to seek shelter in the home of an aging farmer (Kingsley) and her peculiar son when they suddenly begin having strange cravings and hallucinations taking them down a rabbit hole of the bizarre.

I first heard about Honeydew after its virtual premiere at Nightstream Film Festival. It is a miracle that I was able to avoid spoilers. I am delighted to report the intense buzz was spot on. Honeydew is that good. The sound editing and score consumed me. Combined with some split-screen deliciousness, Honeydew was dizzying madness. Writer-director Devereaux Milburn has taken the most successful aspects of classic and modern horror to create something insanely scary. It gets under your skin in a truly chilling way. The film also boasted one of the weirdest cameos ever. I did a literal double-take.

Malin Barr as Riley is amazing. Sawyer Spielberg as Sam is fantastic. The chemistry between the two actors is electric. Milburn’s dialogue allows them to convey the small cracks that exist in every relationship. These are keenly exacerbated by their bizarre circumstances. Barr and Spielberg are a hell of a pair but are also allowed to shine on their own. You’re constantly worried about them all while fascinated by their individual needs. Jaime Bradley knocks it out of the park as Gunni. What amounts to almost an entirely physical performance, he will disturb you to no end. Bradley owns every frame. Barbara Kingsley is a genius.  As Karen, she walks an extremely fine line between sweet and horrifying, leaning heavily towards the latter. The way these characters are written and the care with which they are performed culminates in one of the most uneasy watches in 2021.

There is a bit of an Ari Aster feel to the film in more than one way. Both the sound and score are keys to ramping up the fear factor. A combination of music, sound effects, and made-made noises like breath and clapping grate your nerves from start to finish. The plot is cleverly laid out for the audience from the very beginning. That does not lessen its impact as the explosive finale arrives. Once that happens, forget everything you know. I was so unsettled I didn’t know which way was up. All I can do now is cringe. Those images are burned into my brain. I’ll be eternally scarred by Honeydew‘s sights and sounds. 

Dark Star Pictures and Bloody Disgusting will release the rural horror film HONEYDEW on VOD, Digital HD, and DVD on April 13, 2021.

HONEYDEW is written and directed by Devereux Milburn (shorts “Stayed For” and “Wade”) and stars Sawyer Spielberg in his feature acting debut, Malin Barr  (Skyscraper, First Love, CBS’s “Bull”), and Barbara Kingsley (The Straight Story, “Jessica Jones”).

Review: ‘Like A House On Fire’

LIKE A HOUSE ON FIRE

Dara returns home to reconnect with her husband and her young daughter, whom she left two years earlier. When she arrives, she discovers that a woman who is seven months pregnant has taken her place and that her daughter no longer recognizes her. LIKE A HOUSE ON FIRE tells the story of a woman’s struggle to regain the life she left behind.

It’s impossible to verbally express the complexities of Motherhood. It is a battle of extreme highs and lows. It arrives with ceaseless bouts of irrational fear and unsolicited advice. It is completely unpredictable. The singular constant is an innate, unconditional love you feel for another human being. Like A House On Fire is a film that engulfs the viewer all those emotional states at once.

Sarah Sutherland gives a nuanced performance as Dara. She is lost in guilt and confusion.  She is delicate and vulnerable. You will live in her anxiety. It radiates effortlessly from her pores. Writer/director Jesse Noah Klein affords Sutherland a coming-of-age story. It’s a breathtaking watch.

Like A House On Fire dives headfirst into fear, redemption, and self-actualization. With a quiet score, and intimate cinematography, including thoughtful close-ups, this film will burrow a hole into your heart. The script tackles forgiveness and cyclical parenting in smart ways. Everyone’s trauma is explored which is merely one of the shining aspects of this film. It’s the flaws that make the performances resonate. Like A House On Fire is an important film. It is your duty as an audience member to listen to Dara. This script can be a teachable moment.

LIKE A HOUSE ON FIRE was written and directed by Jesse Noah Klein and was produced by Fanny Drew, Sarah Mannering, and William Woods.  The film stars Sarah Sutherland and Jared Abrahamson.  The film has a running time of 84 minutes and will not be rated by the MPAA.

Game Theory Films will release LIKE A HOUSE ON FIRE on March 30th on digital platforms including iTunes/Apple TV, Vimeo on Demand, and Amazon Direct.

For more information, go to: www.gametheoryfilms.com

Review: ‘The Toll’ plays upon familiar fears.

 

THE TOLL

Synopsis: Supernatural terror and spine-tingling suspense highlight this gripping journey into fear. When Cami orders a taxi service to take her to her father’s country home, she’s hoping for a quiet and uneventful ride. But a wrong turn by Spencer, her chatty driver, results in the car stalling on a dark and remote road. After several threatening and inexplicable occurrences, Cami and Spencer realize they are being watched—by an unseen presence that sees them as trespassers, and is ready to exact a deadly toll.
Writer-director Michael Nader sets up The Toll in a marvelous way. It plays upon the very real fears of ride-sharing. My heart was already in my throat minutes in. The writing is sharp and relatable. A woman alone in a car with a male driver, perhaps a tad too chatty for the hour and length of the drive. The pitch-black atmosphere, barely illuminated by headlights and dashboard glow adds to the fear factor. Ramp up the terror with a backwoods legend and this film settles into one extremely unsettling watch. Do your eyes a favor and watch it in the dark.
The first half and the finale of The Toll are hugely successful. My misgivings arrive in the middle of the film with a sudden tonal shift. It feels like Nader took a handful of horror DVDs, tossed them into the air, and used the plots/visuals from whichever films landed inside a circle on the ground. The trauma and the gaslighting aspect are the most intriguing. Credit where credit is due, the final twist is brilliant. While The Toll has a lot to explore with solid performances and a genuinely scary emotional build-up, I’m not sure if it works as a whole.
Saban Films’ THE TOLL opens In Theaters, On Demand, and Digital on Friday, March 26.
Writer/Director: Michael Nader
Cast: Jordan Hayes, Max Topplin, James McGowan, Rosemary Dunsmore
Producers: Max Topplin, Jordan Hayes, William Day Frank
Genre: Horror, Thriller
Run Time: 80 mins
Rating: R for Language Throughout and Some Violence
Distributor: Saban Films

Review: ‘HAPPILY’ is completely unexpected

 

HAPPILY

A happily married couple (Joel McHale and Kerry Bishé) discover their friends are resentful of their lustful relationship. When a visit from a mysterious stranger leads to a dead body, they begin to question the loyalty of their so-called friends.

As a 40-year-old woman who has always had her relationship categorized as Janet and Tom, this film spoke to me in a completely different way. I felt the animosity that they receive in a visceral way. The dialogue was genuinely funny in an adult way. The kind of dialogue that actually comes out of our mouths at a certain age and comfort level. The things we say when we just don’t GAF anymore, and honestly, I respect the hell out of it. The plot seems simple enough but the thriller aspect ramps up along with the funny. This cast is superb. They’re sexy, blunt, hilarious, weird, and the kind of eclectic personalities you need to pull this off. This set is cool as hell. I want to go to there. You think you know where this script is going but you really don’t. It’s much darker. It’s much twistier. Do. Not. Get. Comfortable. At the heart of it all, HAPPILY is about communication and trust. It’s about the facade of happiness we feel like we have to portray to the world. This interaction of that theme is told through terror and humor and a bit of WTF. Congrats to writer-director BenDavid Grabinski on a true standout film in 2021.

In Theaters, On Digital & On-Demand March 19th, 2021
BenDavid Grabinski’s Happily is a dark romantic comedy from producer Jack Black, with an all-star powerhouse cast including Joel McHaleKerry BishéStephen RootPaul Scheer, Breckin MeyerNatalie ZeaNatalie Morales, Jon Daly, Kirby Howell-Baptiste, and Charlyne Yi.

Review: ‘Black Holes: The Edge of All We Know’ is a mind-blowing doc.

BLACK HOLES:

THE EDGE OF ALL WE KNOW

What can black holes teach us about the boundaries of knowledge? These holes in spacetime are the darkest objects and the brightest—the simplest and the most complex. With unprecedented access, Black Hole | The Edge of All We Know follows two powerhouse collaborations. Stephen Hawking anchors one, striving to show that black holes do not annihilate the past. Another group, working in the world’s highest-altitude observatories, creates an earth-sized telescope to capture the first-ever image of a black hole. Interwoven with other dimensions of exploring black holes, these stories bring us to the pinnacle of humanity’s quest to understand the universe.

It sounds like the stuff of science fiction but the discoveries that have come from the study of Black Holes are actual science. Stephen Hawking has essentially told us that everything we know could be an illusion. Black Holes do not follow any laws of physics. That idea is mind-blowing. As humans, we year to understand the structure of the universe. The challenge continues to be that seeing is believing, even for scientists.

In Black Holes: The Edge of All We Know, a group of scientists called Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) are collaborating around the globe. They have set up stations around the world to communicate with one another to act as one massive Earth-sized telescope in an attempt to capture the first image of a black hole. The amount of data is larger than any other experiment, ever. As the information finally gets developed into images in 2018, they were deemed top secret. They didn’t even share the images among the 4 EHT teams until they were finally in person. The final picture shared with the public in 2019 is simply breathtaking. This is when theory becomes reality.

Before his passing, Stephen Hawking and colleagues thought that information was not actually eaten by black holes but that some information makes an imprint and comes back. How much? That’s just another mystery they’re trying to figure out. They work tirelessly through equations on chalkboards, step back and wonder if anything they’ve just done makes sense. Stephen would enter the conversation and flip the work on its head. Watching them work through possibilities is like watching a tennis match of genius. Witnessing how each mind contributes is incredible. Sasha Haco, Malcolm J. Perry, and Andrew Strominger continue what the four began together. The work continues.

If you are someone who watched the most recent rover land on Mars and cried, as I did, you will be captivated by this film. With an effective score, beautiful black and white animation, and real-time tracking of their project, your heart is in your throat as you root for their success. You’ll learn things you never knew were possible. Black Holes: The Edge of All We Know is a fascinating look at the minds and circumstances pushing the boundaries of the unknown. This is the stuff of dreams, science, the human spirit, and a little bit of magic.

*Available on VOD March 2nd, 2021*

Directed by Peter Galison (Co-Founder, Black Hole Initiative at Harvard)
With a score by  Zoë Keating

Featuring
Shep Doeleman, Founding Director, Event Horizon Telescope
physicist Andrew Strominger,
theoretical physicist Malcolm Perry,
Co-Founder/CEO Unitary Sasha Haco  (Black Hole Entropy from Soft Hair)
and Stephen Hawking

 

Review: ‘WRONG TURN’ is an incredibly smart reboot you won’t see coming.

WRONG TURN

SYNOPSIS: Backwoods terror and never-jangling suspense meet when Jen (Charlotte Vega) and a group of friends set out to hike the Appalachian Trail. Despite warnings to stick to the trail, the hikers stray off course—and cross into land inhabited by The Foundation, a hidden community of mountain dwellers who use deadly means to protect their way of life. Suddenly under siege, Jen and her friends seem headed to the point of no return— unless Jen’s father (Golden Globe® nominee Matthew Modine) can reach them in time.

The reboot (and the seventh installment of the franchise) of Wrong Turn starts with another group of successful 20 somethings hiking the Appalachian Trail. When the local Virginians get aggravated by their presence, and they veer from the trail, things get deadly but not for the reasons you think. This script is completely different than the original, which is the greatest bait and switch from the clever set-up in the beginning. That’s the difference between a remake and a reboot. This cast is diverse and cool. They get to take their initial instigators to task, at least verbally. All the tropes are there but they’re used smartly. The first kill is so brutal you’ll both gasp and respect the decision to go all-in so early. From that moment on, the violence and gore are used for shock value that is carefully intentional in forwarding the plot.

Matthew Modine plays Jennifer’s father who comes searching for her 6 weeks after she goes missing. He is great. He walks this fantastic balance between modern man and totally self-sufficient badass that just feels incredibly believable. This is the updated father figure that will resonate with a large genre audience. It’s yet another successful aspect of screenwriter Alan B. McElroy’s reboot of the franchise. Bill Sage is a nice familiar face. He always lives in whatever role he tackles. This is no exception. Even with a runtime of one hour and fifty minutes, I would have been pleased to see more of him on screen. Charlotte Vega as Jen is outstanding. She has a genuine presence that grows stronger with each scene. There is an unexplainable accessibility to her character. Hollywood should continue to take note of this talent. Also, audiences should keep an ear open for Modine’s daughter Ruby as she sings the film’s final song. Stunning performance.

The score is classic staccato string work. Combined with the handheld camerawork and quick-cut editing, the terror is firmly in high gear. This is a totally fresh take of new world versus the old. The complexity of the script will throw you off-kilter. It challenges the viewers’ sense of morality. Who are the true villains? It’s about intrusion and disrespect of cultural differences on a multitude of levels. It’s quite brilliant in a time a faux “wokeness”. The nuance will knock you off your feet. You will not know where this plot is going. It’s twist after twist. That. Ending. Pure perfection.

Saban Films will release the horror film On-Demand, Digital, Blu-ray, and DVD on February 23, 2021. 

THEATRICAL RELEASE: January 26, 2021

ON DEMAND, DIGITAL, DVD, and BLU-RAY: February 23, 2021

DIRECTOR: Mike P. Nelson

WRITER: Alan B. McElroy

CAST: Charlotte Vega, Adain Bradley, Bill Sage, Emma Dumont, Dylan McTee, Daisy Head, Tim DeZarn, and Matthew Modine.

RUN TIME: 109 minutes

RATING: R for strong bloody violence, grisly images, and pervasive language.

GENRE: Horror

DISTRIBUTOR:  Saban Films

Review: Watch with glee as Nicolas Cage battles evil animatronics in ‘Willy’s Wonderland’

WILLY’S WONDERLAND

When his car breaks down, a quiet loner agrees to clean an abandoned family fun center in exchange for repairs. He soon finds himself waging war against possessed animatronic mascots while trapped inside Willy’s Wonderland.

So we can all agree that Nicolas Cage is now firmly his own genre, right? I can’t believe this is the same guy from Raising Arizona and National Treasure. He is a force of nature. When you’ve reached this cool of a status you can pretty much pick whatever project you want. Bless Nic Cage for providing the masses with his particular set of skills on screen. WILLY’S WONDERLAND is the perfect place for us to experience this latest chapter of “Cage rage’ with some popcorn on our couches.  As “The Janitor”, Cage’s combination of nonchalance and violence is pure badass. This is a dude comprised of mystery and soda. But for a significant part of the film, we’re actually watching him clean this place. This Academy Award-winning actor clean urinals. It’s the weirdest bit of intrigue to witness but talk about commitment. Alongside a vat filled with horror tropes, all used masterfully, this film is sure to be a cult classic. Dare I say, even franchise potential for his character? With a ragtag group of teens, townspeople in on the rouse, evil possession a la Child’s Play, WILLY’S WONDERLAND is a damn good time. The cast is so committed to this story you just get to sit back and watch with giddy energy as the mayhem ensues. The final third of the film is relentless chaos, highlighted by a 3-minute interlude of Cage improvising at a pinball machine. It’s pure magic. This is why we watch movies.

G. O. Parsons‘ screenplay is so batshit it works. A possessed weasel, a fairy, a turtle, an alligator, a chameleon, a gorilla, a knight, and an Ostrich provide us with hilarious and gruesome kills and calamity. The Janitor’s mission of cleaning this damn place will not be deterred. There will undoubtedly be comparisons to the Five Nights at Freddy’s games and The Banana Splits movie but who cares. WILLY’S WONDERLAND has execution that is out of this world. The creature, set, and prop builds are wild. Attention to detail is award-worthy. My mother used to work at a Chuck E. Cheese. The atmosphere built for Cage and company to exist in is spot on. The handheld camerawork is dizzying and fantastic. The lighting is often enhanced with a black light hue that is simply delicious. It’s a funhouse of horrors. This is a genre fan’s dream watch. The practical FX are bloodsoaked and brutal. The soundtrack is epic. You will be singing Willy’s theme over and over because it balances on the edge of maniacal, weird, and wonderful. Where can I buy that and an official Willy’s Wonderland t-shirt? I’m as deadly serious as The Janitor.

WILLY’S WONDERLAND is now available on VOD platforms

Review: ‘I BLAME SOCIETY’ is weird, smart, and dark as hell. I’m obsessed.

I BLAME SOCIETY

Synopsis
Gillian (Gillian Wallace Horvat) is one of those many struggling filmmakers in L.A. who just can’tseem to get the money for their first feature. Feeling like her friends and her partner (Keith Poulson) are losing faith in her abilities, she decides to resurrect her abandoned documentary based on a pseudo-compliment she once received that she would make a good murderer. But while she documents what makes “the perfect murder” a hitherto unseen dark side of Gillian emerges and grows. Furthermore the problem with being a successful serial killer, she discovers, is keeping the whole thing stealth, denying her the recognition that she craves… and that unhinges her even more. After accidentally-ish killing her best friend (Chase Williamson), Gillian goes on a killing spree culminating with a final bloody act that nobody would dare deny her credit for.

There is no female equivalent for the phrase “Ballsy”. What would that even look like? Lippy? I BLAME SOCIETY is extra lippy. Starring as a version of herself, filmmaker Gillian Wallace Horvat says all the quiet parts out loud. Then she acts on them just to make a point. And goddamnit, virtual high five from me. This script is unapologetic, bold, and genuinely hilarious. It’s the “die for your art” meets “tell me I can’t and see what happens” mashup I didn’t know I wanted. Highlighting the ridiculously misogynistic side of the industry in the smartest ways. When the phrases, “This is a really big opportunity for you!” “You’re like the female him!” “We need an ally on your side!” I died laughing and I died inside. But the film also tackles social media, communication, and ambition all inside a twisted presentation of Dexter-esque mayhem.

The pace leading to murderous activities works so well to build up a tense WTF feeling. It’s just so imaginative and absolutely terrifying. You get to a point where you stop thinking it’s funny and start genuinely worrying about everyone she encounters. Wallace Horvat is awesome. I wanna hang out with her in real-life and make fun of everything that she makes fun of in this film. She knows exactly what she’s doing even as she leads you to believe otherwise. She has an overtly narcissistic sociopath nuance to “Gillian” and nothing short of that would have worked as well. When she references makeover sequences, I laughed out loud and then immediately gasped exclaiming, “Holy Shit! That’s her actual hair!” When you see it you’ll fully understand.

The DIY look of the camerawork makes it even more relatable, especially after last week’s Twitter battle claiming “you can’t make a film with just an iPhone.” I BLAME SOCIETY is a giant middle finger to still male-dominated and faux #MeToo accountability in Hollywood. And not just the film industry. I’ve been on the other end of these conversations, yes in writing rooms and screening rooms, but also retail jobs, teaching jobs, do I need to go on? Even outside that theme, I BLAME SOCIETY is for every single person obsessed with true crime yelling at the TV, “The Husband did it,” or “You know what I would have done…” We get to sit back, relax, and watch someone else live out our darkest fantasies and that’s satisfying and entertaining.

I BLAME SOCIETY Debuts February 12th on VOD
For More Info Visit HERE

Review: ‘The Mimic’ is like nothing else you’ve seen or heard.

THE MIMIC

mimic: noun mim∙ic <\‘mi-mik \>

: a person who copies the behavior or speech of other people

: a person who mirrors other people

: an animal that naturally looks like something else

Based on a true story, this clever, intriguing, and hyperbolic comedy follows the main character – ‘the Narrator’ (Thomas Sadoski) who is befriended by his young new neighbor ‘the Kid’ (Jake Robinson), after he joins the local newspaper team.

Obsessed with the idea that the Kid may be a sociopath, the Narrator goes to extreme lengths to uncover the truth about him and his wife, a woman he ultimately begins to fancy. Between long walks down the street, a twisted dinner date, and a car drive gone terribly wrong, the Narrator gets closer and closer to the truth about the Kid. But the truth, as he finds, is anything but what he expected.

With a genuine laugh out loud, “Who’s On First?” meets  Adaptation (2002) energy, THE MIMIC so damn quirky you’re sort of hypnotized by its rhythm. It hums like a David Sedaris story that he’s narrating himself. The back and forth, rapid-fire dialogue is a bit dizzying but it certainly leaves you perched on the edge of your seat trying to keep up with the antics of these two gentlemen. You are so invested in them and their dynamic, you get swept up in this completely unexpected and magnetic film. I’m not exactly sure why there’s essentially a Febreze commercial halfway through the script but at that point you sort of just shrug and say, “Sure, why not.” We also experience a very meta scene, not including the moment when The Narrator turns to look straight into the camera. I was obsessed with it. Writer/Director Thomas F. Mazziotti’s screenplay has a rich theatrical feel. There is no doubt this could be an award-winning stage production. I would buy tickets to watch this live over and over just to feel the electricity between two actors up close and personal.

The ancillary cast of The Mimic is truly unreal. But the main focus is on our two leads; Thomas Sadoski and Jake Robinson. Sadoski’s mix of morose and obsessive behavior barrels the plot forward. Robinson’s overtly sunny disposition is so cringe-worthy (especially to this New Yorker critic) that you’re immediately placed in The Narrator’s (and Sadoski’s) mindset that something is off with The Kid. I first fell in love with Thomas Sadoski on The Newsroom. He’s just so goddamn good at what he does. He lives in a character’s skin with what looks like such ease. In The Mimic, you can see it all in his pained facial expressions. The Kid must be a sociopath. Jake Robinson looks like an ad for toothpaste from the 1950s. He’s got this classically handsome, old Hollywood charm that’s infectious, which is exactly why he was the perfect choice for this role. His comic timing is magic. The chemistry between these two men at odds is like a ticking time bomb. I was mesmerized by their report.

There is just something about this film that makes it special. I think it will garner a bit of a cult following. I can hear it being quoted in the same way Swingers still gets quoted among a certain age group of cinephiles. It’s got that same buzz about it. The Mimic will not be replicated and that’s what makes it so fantastic.

THE MIMIC will be screening in select theaters, and available on VOD beginning Friday, February 5, 2021.

Review: ‘The Reckoning’ – The good, the bad, and the terrifying.

The Reckoning

SYNOPSIS: Set against the backdrop of the Great Plague and subsequent witch-hunts against women, Grace Haverstock (Charlotte Kirk) must grapple with the tragic untimely death of her husband Joseph (Joe Anderson) in a society completely consumed by fear and death. Because she rejects her landlord Squire Pendleton’s (Steven Waddington) advances, she is falsely accused of being a witch and thrown in jail for a crime she didn’t commit. Grace must endure physical persecution at the hands of England’s most ruthless witch-hunter Judge Moorcroft (Sean Pertwee) and face her own inner demons as the Devil himself starts to work his way into her mind.

The Reckoning shines brightest in its performances and the attention to historic details. Firstly, without a doubt, the best aspect of this entire film is Sean Pertwee. His commitment to righteousness and torture without apology is what makes The Reckoning worth your time. Every second he is onscreen, he owns it. Watching him work is a masterclass. Charlotte Kirk does all the right things. But now for the bad… The amount of makeup on a person of her character’s social standing is completely unrealistic. It’s an unnatural amount for anyone outside of a royal court. It was genuinely distracting. This detail is a letdown considering the overall look of the film. One thing that is very clear is the amount of research that Kirk and Neil Marshall did to make The Reckoning as fact-based as possible. Kirk is stunning enough without a full face, so I am a bit baffled at the choice.

Now, the scary. This is a double-edged sword for me. While the creature makeup of The Devil is one of the most successful parts of the film visually, the ways in which he is utilized felt cheap. For me, it was a reason to exploit Kirk. It makes zero sense to have her fornicate (probably the first time I’ve used that word in earnest) with The Devil, without that being a major plot point that comes to fruition. It takes away from the overall feminist narrative of the film. I absolutely loved being terrified by the appearance of The Devil. Those moments stick in my head for their fright factor but make me cringe when used tom over sexual a character who is already sexually harrassed over and over for her appearance. This film might fair better if those scenes are cut altogether. The climax is most certainly unexpected and incredibly satisfying. Although with a runtime of 1 hour and 51 minutes, The Reckoning could lose a good 30 mins. Neil Marshall and Charlotte Kirk set out to highlight the atrocities committed against women in a time of fear, sickness, and paranoia. They are able to tell this story through the experiences of Grace and even a few ancillary characters associated with her. The real-life horrors are enough.

WATCH THE TRAILER:

RLJE Films and Shudder will release the action / horror THE RECKONING In Theaters, On Demand and Digital February 5, 2021. 

THE RECKONING stars Charlotte Kirk (Ocean’s 8, How To Be Single), Joe Anderson (Across The Universe, The Crazies), Steven Waddington (The Imitation Game, “The Tudors”) and Sean Pertwee (Dog SoldiersEquilibrium). The film was directed by Neil Marshall (Dog Soldiers, The Descent), who co-wrote the film alongside Charlotte Kirk, making her feature screenwriting debut, and Edward Evers-Swindell (Dark Signal).