Tribeca Film Festival 21 review: ‘POSER’

Lennon exists timidly on the sidelines of the thriving Columbus, Ohio indie music scene, yearning for a personal connection that might shepherd her into the inner sanctum of warehouse concerts, exclusive backstage, house parties and the cutting-edge art scene. As she fuels her desire for entrée into a podcast featuring live music and conversations with the artists she so fervently admires, Lennon finds inspiration for her own musical ambitions…and a growing sense of misdirected identity. Enter Bobbi Kitten, an enigmatic, striking and talented half of a popular, indie pop duo, who takes Lennon under her confident wing—unwittingly entangling herself in a dark obsession. 

**2021 Tribeca Film Festival: U.S. Narrative Competition**

Poser is a volatile and sensual unraveling. Lennon is attracted to the confidence of indie rock singers. In an attempt to jumpstart her new podcast, she follows acts through their underground performances, picking their brains and then some. When she meets Bobbi Kitten, the lead singer of Damn The Witch Siren, she is enamored. This close-knit community of creators allows Lennon to peek behind the curtain and gives her permission to step outside of her box, perhaps to their own detriment.

Directors Ori Segev and Noah Dixon have managed to create a film that possesses a timeless quality about self-actualization. I actually thought Dixon was a fellow Gen Xer based on a slew of very specific choices but as it turns out that’s not the case. This only proves the universality of Poser’s themes of self-doubt and the irrational decisions we make to fit in.

The chemistry between Bobbi Kitten and Sylvie Mix is magnetic. Kitten’s effortless awareness and cool girl demeanor draw the audience in immediately. She is a phenomenal foil for Mix’s portrayal of Lennon, whose guiding narration hits every beat. The vulnerability and ultimate indifference are consuming. This is the culmination of smart writing, superb casting, and kick-ass direction.

The editing and soundtrack are fly as hell. A mix of featured indie bands and a killer original score, it’s an entire character in the film. The third act should not have knocked me as hard as it did, the clues were all there. It’s a poetic injustice. That’s great writing. The wolf in sheep’s clothing metaphor is *chef’s kiss. Noah Dixon’s script is a chilling commentary on art and originality. Poser is a profoundly unique example of fighting your own perceived mediocrity. It’s creative as hell and a perfect fit for Tribeca audiences.

Tribeca Film Festival Screenings
 
World Premiere: Thursday, June 10th at 8 pm ET
Hudson Yards Public Square and Gardens
 

Tribeca Film Festival 2021 is back with a vengeance. Here’s what we’re stoked to see.

Tribeca Film Festival is back and it’s the 20th anniversary, baby. This year’s lineup not only features a slew of incredible new films but will also include titles that didn’t get the chance to screen at the 2020 festival due to Covid. Audiences can experience Tribeca in a multitude of ways. You can enjoy outdoor screenings or watch from the comfort of your couch with Tribeca At Home. There are podcasts, live talks, immersive programs, and so much more. This festival is reliable for churning out crowdpleasers and this year is no exception. Here is a mere handful of films we are excited to share with our readers.

Werewolves Within

SYNOPSIS:
After a proposed gas pipeline creates divisions within the small town of Beaverfield, and a snowstorm traps its residents together inside the local inn, newly arrived forest ranger FINN (Sam Richardson) and postal worker CECILY (Milana Vayntrub) must try to keep the peace and uncover the truth behind a mysterious creature that has begun terrorizing the community.
When everyone is talking about a film before it even premieres you know you have to check it out. The pairing of Milana Vayntrub and Sam Richardson is pure comic genius. The screenplay from Mishna Wolff gives this duo a chance to shine and the audience nonstop belly laughs. In fact, this ensemble cast will blow you away. The hidden social commentary inside a werewolf mystery heightens everything. You do not want to miss this one.
Virtual Screening
Available Starting

Thu June 17 – 6:00 PM

At Home

$15

Streaming Tribeca at Home is not available outside the USA. Purchased films remain available to stream on demand from the above date through June 23


Poser

Lennon exists timidly on the sidelines of the thriving Columbus, Ohio indie music scene, yearning for a personal connection that might shepherd her into the inner sanctum of warehouse concerts, exclusive backstage, house parties and the cutting-edge art scene. As she fuels her desire for entrée into a podcast featuring live music and conversations with the artists she so fervently admires, Lennon finds inspiration for her own musical ambitions…and a growing sense of misdirected identity. Enter Bobbi Kitten, an enigmatic, striking and talented half of a popular, indie pop duo, who takes Lennon under her confident wing—unwittingly entangling herself in a dark obsession.
This is a film that will connect with multiple generations. It’s a story about finding your niche but that’s a really glossy explanation. The script is nuanced in a way that you will not see coming.
Available Starting

Fri June 11 – 6:00 PM

At Home

$15

Streaming Tribeca at Home is not available outside the USA. Purchased films remain available to stream on demand from the above date through June 23.


Settlers

Remmy and her parents, refugees from Earth, have found peace on the Martian outskirts—until strangers appear in the hills beyond their farm. Told as a triptych, the film follows Remmy as she struggles to survive in an uneasy landscape.

An unexpected feminist tale, Settlers script makes the heart beat faster, ceaselessly begging the question, “What would you do to survive?”

Available Starting

Fri June 18 – 8:00 PM

At Home

$15

Streaming Tribeca at Home is not available outside the USA. Purchased films remain available to stream on demand from the above date through June 23


How It Ends

In this feel-good apocalyptic comedy, Liza (Zoe Lister-Jones) embarks on a hilarious journey through LA in hopes of making it to her last party before it all ends, running into an eclectic cast of characters along the way.

Having a massively successful run on the festival circuit, Zoe Lister-Jones stars in a cameo-filled, riotous, and thoughtful film about coming to terms with the traumas of our childhood. You will laugh (a lot) and cry. This one will undoubtedly hit all the right notes.

Available Starting

Mon June 21 – 6:00 PM

At Home

$15

Streaming Tribeca at Home is not available outside the USA. Purchased films remain available to stream on demand from the above date through June 23


We Need To Do Something

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

This is one of the first titles to get picked up before its premiere. That always makes a film extra buzzy. The idea of being trapped in a bathroom with my family already gives me anxiety. Add on the horror element and you’d push anyone’s nerves beyond their breaking point.

Available Starting

Wed June 16 – 6:00 PM

At Home

$15

Streaming Tribeca at Home is not available outside the USA. Purchased films remain available to stream on demand from the above date through June 23


Ultrasound

**World Premiere** – Midnight

Driving home late at night during a heavy rainstorm, Glen experiences car trouble. Near where his car gets stuck, he spots a house, knocks on the door and is greeted by an oddly friendly middle-aged man, Arthur, and his younger wife, Cyndi. The strange couple pours him a drink, and then more drinks, followed by an unexpected offer that Glen can’t refuse. Elsewhere, a young woman, Katie, is feeling emotionally weighed down by a secret romantic arrangement that feels like a textbook case of gaslighting. And at the same time, in a nondescript research facility, medical professional Shannon begins questioning her role in a bizarre experiment, fearing that she’s doing more harm than good.

When I tell you that you aren’t ready for Ultrasound, I mean that as the highest compliment. This is a film best viewed totally unaware of the plot. Frankly, that’s not too difficult as the script provides dizzying twists over and over again. This is a film that people will be talking about. It’s one you’ll want to watch again and again.

Available Starting

Wed June 16 – 6:00 PM

At Home

$15

Streaming Tribeca at Home is not available outside the USA. Purchased films remain available to stream on demand from the above date through June 23


Claydream

A modern day Walt Disney, Will Vinton picked up a ball of clay and saw a world of potential.  Known as the “Father of Claymation,” Vinton revolutionized the animation business during the 1970s, ’80s, and ’90s.  But after 30 years of being the unheralded king of clay, Will Vinton’s carefully sculpted American dream came crumbling down at the hands of an outside investor, Nike’s Phil Knight.

The poster alone screams nostalgia for a generation brought up on Saturday morning cartoons. With sitdown interviews and behind-the-scenes clips, fall in love with Will Vinton and his creations all over again.

Available Starting

Sun June 13 – 7:00 PM

At Home

$15

Streaming Tribeca at Home is not available outside the USA. Purchased films remain available to stream on demand from the above date through June 23


No Man Of God

In 1980, Ted Bundy was sentenced to death by electrocution. In the years that followed, he agreed to disclose the details of his crimes, but only to one man.  NO MAN OF GOD is based on the true story of the strange and complicated relationship that developed between FBI agent Bill Hagmaier and an incarcerated Ted Bundy in the years leading to Bundy’s execution.

We often hear about how charming Ted Bundy was. Director Amber Sealey‘s No Man Of God puts the audience in the room with him as writer Kit Lesser used actual transcripts from Bundy and Hagmaier’s conversations. Brimming with complexity and boasting amazing performances from Luke Kirby and Elijah Wood, leave your expectations at the door. 
Available Starting

Sat June 12 – 6:00 PM

At Home

$15

Streaming Tribeca at Home is not available outside the USA. This purchased film will remain available to stream on demand from the above date through 6/14 at 6 PM EST


Creation Stories

 Creation Stories charts the true story of the rise and fall of Creation Records and its infamous founder, Alan McGee; the man responsible for supplying the “Brit Pop” soundtrack to the 90s, a decade of cultural renaissance known as Cool Britannia.  From humble beginnings to Downing Street soirées, from dodging bailiffs to releasing multi-platinum albums, Creation had it all. Breakdowns, bankruptcy, fights and friendships… and not forgetting the music. Featuring some of the greatest records you have ever heard, we follow Alan through a drug-fueled haze of music and mayhem, as his rock’n’roll dream brings the world Oasis, Primal Scream, and other generation-defining bands.

Drugs, music, risk, and passion drove Allen McGee to change the face of music in the 90s. Creation Stories comes at you like a freight train with a visceral energy that makes you wanna get up and dance. If you are a fan of Trainspotting, also penned by Irvine Welsh, this is right up your alley. Be on the lookout for our upcoming interview with director Nick Moran!

Available Starting

Wed June 16 – 8:00 PM

At Home

$15

Streaming Tribeca at Home is not available outside the USA. Purchased films remain available to stream on demand from the above date through June 23


My Heart Can’t Beat Unless You Tell It To

Two mysterious siblings find themselves at odds over care for their frail and sickly younger brother.

This is another film that is best experienced without prior knowledge of the plot. My Heart Can’t Beat Unless You Tell It To comes out of left field in a genre-bending tale of morality. The emotional gut-punch that the film becomes will consume you.


TRIBECA FILM FESTIVAL 21 runs from June 9th to the 20th. For more information visit https://tribecafilm.com/festival and stayed tuned to Reel News Daily for reviews and updates.

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.

Harlem International Film Festival 2021 review: ‘My Fiona’

MY FIONA

 New York State Premiere
Director: Kelly Walker
Country: US, Running Time: 86 min
Following the suicide of her best friend, Jane finds purpose in helping her friend’s wife with their child. In doing so, she becomes inadvertently drawn into an intimate relationship bound by grief that’s potentially catastrophic to the healing for all those involved.

Jeanette Maus‘s final feature role is impactful beyond words. She plays Jane, a woman whose best friend commits suicide and must address her own grief within the complexity of her newfound family dynamic. How close is too close when all are have left are the ones left behind? The cast’s chemistry is immaculate. Maus leaves it all on screen. Every moment is an emotional gut-punch. Suicide is a loaded subject. The script tackles its all-consuming confusion with a carefully crafted hand. In an attempt to discover Fiona’s “Why” and to find her place without Fiona, Jane must come to grips with the messy aftermath of loss. MY FIONA is an intimate look at grief from the perspective of a best friend. It’s a fresh take on something that is so relatable. It’s okay to not be okay. Writer-director Kelly Walker has given Harlem International Film Festival audiences a true gem. MY FIONA is a different kind of love story. Do not miss this film.

Audiences in New York can access the film now!

16th Edition
May 6-16, 2021 Extended Dates!

Review: Glenn Close and Mila Kunis breathe life in ‘Four Good Days’

Four Good Days

Four Good Days

In an emotional journey based on a true story by Pulitzer Prize-winning Washington Post writer Eli Saslow, 31-year-old Molly begs her estranged mother Deb for help fighting a fierce battle against the demons that have derailed her life. Despite all she has learned over a decade of disappointment, grief, and rage, Deb throws herself into one last attempt to save her beloved daughter from the deadly and merciless grip of heroin addiction. Powerhouse performances from Glenn Close and Mila Kunis anchor director Rodrigo García’s poignant and unpredictable chronicle of mother and daughter fighting to regain the love and trust that once held them together.

Four Good Days takes on the devastating ripple effects of addiction. The script is inspired by a Washington Post article by Eli Saslow about a real mother-daughter relationship. This film, outside of addiction, is about the bond between a mother and her child. You can feel the anxiety and anguish from Deb. The small but specific details of a life ruined by a cycle that repeats itself. Behaviors that have become routine; hiding her wallet and keys under her pillow, alarming every door in the house, cell phone monitoring, all habits of defeat and inevitability. So many lives have been destroyed by unchecked prescriptions that easily went awry. As a parent, the line between caretaker and individual is completely blurred. Four Good Days is an honest and raw look at the complexities of it all.

Saslow and director Rodrigo Garcia‘s screenplay doesn’t give Deb a pass. She’s as flawed as the next person. Her backstory reveals a potential trigger for Molly’s addiction woes. The enabling we oftentimes see, the paranoia, and guarded behavior are all on display for Glenn Close to masterfully explore. She gives us a mirror image of her daughter in more ways than you might think. The nuance is captivating.

Mila Kunis is almost unrecognizable as Molly, down the oral prosthetic. She gives a spectacular performance. While the audience settles into the frenzy of Close’s role, Kunis creeps in and snatches the rug from under you. There is never a dull moment behind her eyes and once you finally see the entire picture you realize just how incredible she truly is. It’s something that deserves a repeat viewing. Casting directors, take note when grittier roles come across your desk. Kunis should be on your list.

 Four Good Days brilliantly surpasses cliche to show us humanity in a crisis we’ve come to know all too well. Check out the trailer below for a taste of the film.

Vertical Entertainment will release “Four Good Days” theatrically beginning April 30 and then release it on demand starting May 21.

 

Review: Political allegory ‘The County’ milks it for all it’s worth.

presents

The County

After the global success of his Un Certain Regard winner RAMS, director Grímur Hákonarson returns to his native Iceland with another humanist farmland fable. Bitterly funny and deeply affecting, THE COUNTY plays out a timely political allegory against a jaw-dropping natural landscape, aided by a brainy, tenacious anti-heroine and Hákonarson’s dry Nordic humor.

Inja is left in the lurch with a nearly bankrupt dairy farm after the sudden and suspicious death of her husband. Under the thumb of the local Co-op, she discovers the shady dealings of those in charge and the effects on her fellow farmers. As she pushes back on social media, life gets more complicated. Inja becomes the Co-op’s target. Once our leading lady has had enough of patriarchal monopoly, her response is so satisfying you’ll be unable to repress a smirk. She must convince her neighbors there’s a better way than living in fear. The County is cinematically stunning. The script is brimming with unexpected moments. It’s one we can cheer for.

What I loved about this film was watching the tenacity of a woman pushed past the breaking point. Using wit and pure gumption, Inga helps a community that’s being taken advantage of. Arndís Hrönn Egilsdóttir‘s performance is out of this world. She is funny, powerful, gutsy, and yet completely vulnerable and grounded. The film doesn’t simply rely on the natural cinematic landscape but smartly uses its scope to tell this story. The script has a beautiful flow to it.  The ending is celebratory in a refreshing way. The County perfectly portrays the passion of a woman in her pursuit of doing what’s right.

THE COUNTY is written and directed by Grímur Hákonarson, and stars Arndís Hrönn Egilsdóttir, Sigurður Sigurjónsson, and Sveinn Ólafur Gunnarsson.

THE COUNTY opens in theatres and virtual cinemas nationwide Friday, April 30th, 2021.

BAM Kino Polska 2021 review: ‘SUPERNOVA’ makes your heart race and your head spin.

SUPERNOVA

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.

Up close, hand-held camera work intensifies the manic energy that radiates from this cast. This tragic and explosive story stems from a hit-and-run. With the world in upheaval over police action, this film focuses on the reactions of a small town department. When the mysterious driver flees on foot, chaos reigns when the incident becomes personal. The performances are astonishing. The screenplay is genius. You’re getting multiple narrative stories by watching the reactions of family, coworkers, and onlookers all at once. A naive rookie, a Chief close to retirement, hooligans in the crowd, a female officer’s first day, those connected to the victims, and a villain so loathsome your head will spin. These characters simultaneously clash in Supernova as events play out in real-time. There is not a moment to breathe. The quietest moment is the opening shot. Once the actors enter the frame the energy ramps up and become increasingly intense. Writer-director Bartosz Kruhlik plays with empathy and power dynamics in such an intelligent way. The complexity of the story just keeps growing. Your heart will race, you’ll seethe with anger, Supernova is that good.

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

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 .

BAM Kino Polska 2021 review: ‘NEVER GONNA SNOW AGAIN’ wows with mystery and misery.

NEVER GONNA SNOW AGAIN 

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.

Simply beautiful cinematography and one hell of a leading performance consume the audience in BAM’s Kino Polska’s New York premiere of NEVER GONNA SNOW AGAIN. Alec Utgoff as Zhenia gives an intoxicating performance. There’s something about his gaze that puts you at ease. You’re fully aware there’s a complexity tied to his childhood in Chernobyl. The dialogue from his clients never lets you forget. The nuance of this role is enthralling. The darker mystery slowly makes its way to light as he does his massage and, unbeknownst to them, hypnosis on his clients. They reside in a wealthy, gated estate outside the city. From the outside, each house essentially a replica of the next. Inside, the residents gossip and confess their trauma and innermost thoughts. Sinister undertones always linger. Zhenia’s unique ability to connect with people is merely the beginning of his capabilities. That talent isn’t something that can be hidden indefinitely. The score is haunting and meaningful, heightening this carefully crafted film. Trust me when I say, this movie is special. You’ll be as hypnotized as Zhenia’s clients. NEVER GONNA SNOW AGAIN is bursting with endless intrigue. It’s a journey that you will never see coming.

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

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 .

Review: Teachable moments and family friendly vibes in ‘DOLPHIN ISLAND’. Available now!

DOLPHIN ISLAND

DOLPHIN ISLAND invites us to experience an island paradise, where 14-year-old Annabel lives with her fisherman grandfather. She is surrounded by an extended family of loving but quirky neighbors and her best friend – a dolphin named Mitzy. Everything changes when her maternal grandparents arrive with a shifty lawyer to bring her back to New York. It’s up to Annabel and her friends to figure out how to save the day and prove that love conquers all!

If you’re looking for something wholesome to watch with the family, look no further than DOLPHIN ISLAND. Filmed in The Bahamas after the devastation of Hurricane Dorian, the cast and crew are local and lovely. The film’s score is perfect for the story and the characters. It’s light and friendly and matches like a dream with mother nature’s gorgeous scenery. Mitzy the dolphin provides laughs and heart alongside the family drama. I watched this with my four-year-old daughter who is obsessed with sea creatures. She absolutely adored the scenes with Mitzy and the rest of the beautiful creatures on the island conservatory where our leads Jonah and Annabel live and work. The performances are charming. You’ll recognize a few faces and be introduced to some great new talent, as well. Tyler Jade Nixon is grounded and genuine as we need her to be. You know this young lady. Bob Bledsoe uses his comedy chops to be a slimy lawyer you’ll love to hate. Peter Woodward is the grandfather we all wish we could enjoy. His sense of responsibility, gumption, and adoration for Nixon‘s Annabel is captivating. The script tackles complex family dynamics, friendship, class warfare, grief, and climate change. It’s never preachy. DOLPHIN ISLAND is a film you’d find on the UP network or even Hallmark. It’s quaint with well-thought-out messaging. Family films are few and far between. Rest assured you can sit down with your entire family and enjoy.

 

https://dolphinislandmovie.com/watch-now/

What started as a mission to help victims of hurricane Dorian, ended up with an award-winning family movie. DOLPHIN ISLAND was filmed in the Grand Bahama island between hurricane Dorian and COVID. The goal was to stimulate their devastated economy and highlight their beautiful sites and culture. A portion of the profits goes to the local cast and crew in The Bahamas.

Directed by Mike Disa (SPACE DOGS, HOODWINKED TOO!)

Starring Peter Woodward (THE PATRIOT), Dionne Lea (NO BAD DAYS), Tyler Jade Nixon (DOLPHIN KICK), Bob Bledsoe (Parks & Recreation), David Raizor (YOU CAN’T TAKE MY DAUGHTER), and introducing Annette Duncan and Aaron Borrow.

 

 

Review: “BLOODTHIRSTY’ overflows with music and metaphor.

BLOODTHIRSTY

Grey, an indie singer, whose first album was a smash hit, gets an invitation to work with notorious music producer Vaughn Daniels at his remote studio in the woods. Together with her girlfriend/lover Charlie, they arrive at his mansion, and the work begins. But Grey is having visions that she is a wolf, and as her work with the emotionally demanding Vaughn deepens, the vegan singer begins to hunger for meat and the hunt. As Grey starts to transform into a werewolf, she begins to find out who she really is, and begins to discover the family she never knew. What will it take to become a great artist and at what cost to her humanity?

The music is not only a major plot point but a character of its own. Lauren Beatty brings Lowell’s songs to life with an honest folk/pop vibe. They are haunting. Combined with the string-heavy score, the soundtrack enters bone-chilling territory. Wow. Now that most of us have watched Framing Britney Spears we understand the mental health pressure of pop stardom. To see that explored in Bloodthirsty on a more literal level was incredibly intriguing. A controlling father figure, isolation, and a strict diet all enhanced by horror make this story ceaselessly engrossing. Separately, there is a family and loyalty dynamic. It’s a brilliant combination of genres.

Greg Bryk as Vaughn is scary. His manipulation skills are daunting. He’s very punchable and I do mean that as a compliment. He infuriated me and made me so uncomfortable. I guess that means he’s done his job well.  Lauren Beatty, who was phenomenal in Bleed With Me (also directed by Amelia Moses), gives us a vulnerability that is consuming, pun fully intended. She’s got genre darling potential in spades. Here, she is allowed to challenge the audience’s perception of reality. What would you sacrifice for your art? Bloodthirsty will have you questioning the creative process long after the credits roll. 

 

 

Website: http://www.brainmedia.com/films/bloodthirsty

Directed by Amelia Moses (Bleed With Me), conceived and written by mother-daughter duo Wendy Hill-Tout and singer-songwriter Lowell, and featuring the original music of Lowell, BLOODTHIRSTY stars Lauren Beatty (Bleed With Me) and Greg Bryk (The Handmaid’s Tale). The film premiered at Fantastic Fest 2020 and opens In Select Theaters and On-Demand on April 23.

 

Review: ‘At Night Comes Wolves’ but not much sense.

AT NIGHT COMES WOLVES

A sheltered housewife abandons her marriage and her misogynistic husband, only to learn that he used to be the leader of a doomsday cult that she is about to join. In this unnerving tale about misogyny, fate, and sexism comes a story about a woman who is about to change the world forever. After Leah Shaffer finally leaves her emotionally manipulative husband, she finds a friend in a drifter with whom she quickly feels a deep connection. The drifter introduces Leah to a prodigal chemist, and Leah learns her new friends are all that is left of a doomsday cult that disbanded years earlier. Together, the new trio is about to change the world, but before they can reveal their secrets, they have to tie up loose ends with Leah’s husband– and their ex-leader.

The moment I realized At Night Comes Wolves was more than a woman escaping her trash marriage, I was genuinely intrigued! Time jumps must be executed with precision and clarity. If this were a big-budget film, I probably wouldn’t be second-guessing the structure. Unfortunately, everything that followed let me down. The acting leaves much to be desired. I must give credit where credit is due. Vladimir Noel as Davey is amazing. His commitment to this dialogue should be applauded. He’s your star.  Perhaps this story would benefit from expanding his character’s adventures into a miniseries? Perhaps not. His is a story unto itself.

The pacing lags in places, which is odd considering there’s a whole bunch of WTF going on. Leah’s character is way too nonchalant with literally everything that is being introduced to her. I began to shake my head, wondering if I was being inducted into a weird cult. There were far too many concepts in this script. It was a bit maddening, sometimes laughable. It’s never a positive sign when you’re constantly checking the runtime on a screener. The final reveal actually made me angry. I will not spoil it, but let’s just say there were a million different ways to rid the population of misogyny! These storylines need to be ripped apart because the “Future scenes” are on another level! Find a different way to use those cast members, Noel included, to get from point A to point B. That’s a film I would enjoy.

AVAILABLE ON DIGITAL PLATFORMS ON APRIL 20

Review: ‘The Knot’ is a battle between karma and pride.

THE KNOT

Shirish and Geeta, a middle-class couple, have a car accident one night. Their differing reactions to the fallout from the accident open up fissures in their relationship and puts to test their values and beliefs.

Before we were married, my husband and I lived in India for a year. We pretended to be married to avoid the social scrutiny. We purchased a scooter to get places on the weekends and took rickshaw rides as infrequently as possible because of Westerner price gouging. The streets were always overflowing with vehicles and people. Before I continue, I feel I must preface this review with the fact that my husband and I are white. We were born and raised on the east coast of the United States. Once we arrived in India, we dove headfirst into the culture, food, and local customs. It was all so new to us. We would be forever changed by our time there. The social structure in India is a caste system. The disparity between the upper class and the lower class is astounding. In the US, it’s easier to hide. There is a bit more visual nuance. In India, it’s much more black and white. In Ashish Pant‘s The Knot, a young, affluent couple is forced to confront that very social construct after a sudden accident. The foundation of their marriage begins to crack as the lies they tell one another and themselves will have dire consequences.

The Knot is a morality tale and a relationship movie. Geeta and Shirish are forced to confront their own flaws and the power dynamics in their marriage. Shirish’s obsession with status comes to a head with Geeta’s attempts to dissolve her guilt. Performances across the board are wonderful and the look of the film is lush. The Knot makes a point to show the realities of the country. This authenticity is key to the film’s success. The traffic is a chaotic free-for-all. We lived in Hyderabad. Drivers didn’t use their turn signals, instead, they would honk their horns. From the audio in the film, it sounds as if little has changed since 2009. It’s indescribably dangerous. We often wondered how many hit-and-run deaths were hidden due to the normalized practice of bribery. The film slyly grapples with the hierarchy at its worst. Pant uses subtle shifts in language, music, and dialect to illustrate caste. It’s such an intelligent and daring screenplay. The Knot boasts an explosive finale. The very last pan of the camera and the breaking of the fourth wall is chilling. Bravo to Ashish Pant for making such a fearless debut film.

THE KNOT WORLD PREMIERED ON MARCH 31, 2021 AT THE SANTA BARBARA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL

Shudder Original review: ‘The Banishing’ is overwhelming.

THE BANISHING

From acclaimed director Chris Smith comes THE BANISHING, which tells the true story of the most haunted house in England. A young reverend and his wife and daughter move into a manor with a horrifying secret. When a vengeful spirit haunts the little girl and threatens to tear the family apart, the reverend and his wife are forced to confront their beliefs. They must turn to black magic by seeking the help of a famous Occultist…or risk losing their daughter.

Portal mirror, dimensions, time loops of residual energy, religious mob, eccentric occultist, spirits with unfinished business… and Nazis? A doomed location and a church’s secret creates a perfect storm for a young family with skeletons of its own. Creepy dolls and things that go bump in the night fracture a fragile family dynamic. While British horror is a strong genre, The Banishing takes a familiar premise and cranks it beyond viability. You’ll be scratching your head as imagery rolls out… and rolls out, again.

The performances are brilliant. John Heffernan as Linus gives a fascinating and nuanced performance. Sexually repressed by choice and the church he is in denial of what is right in front of his eyes. Jealousy leads to rage and Heffernan is downright startling when it rears its ugly head. Sean Harris is a magical creature. Strawberry-dyed hair and a familiar eccentricity make Harris the only guiding light in making sense of this screenplay. I’d watch an entire series of his character’s adventures. That’s the franchise. Jessica Brown Findlay as Marianne is powerful. A palpable fear that only a mother knows seeps from her pores. Her feminist declarations will make you want to stand up and cheer.

The film’s final scene is so abrupt it’s actually irritating. This is clearly a massive plot point that is given but a moment, and that moment is the end of the film? That’s a ballsy way to, perhaps, set up a sequel. You must already have the audience on your side for that to succeed. The film is like taking every season of Ryan Murphy‘s American Horror Story and mashing them together with zero explanation. There is no consistency in the screenplay other than Marianne’s “take no shit”, anti-slut-shaming, mom-boss attitude, and Linus’ vile weakness. When you finally get to the supposed outcome with daughter Adelaide, it screams The Haunting of Bly Manor. The overall look of the film is undeniably gorgeous. Some scenes contain viscerally jarring imagery. Ultimately, Shudder subscribers can decide for themselves whether it’s overstuffed or if we’re more in a 13 Ghosts territory. You could give it a pass being that it’s based on the true story of the most haunted house in England. In my opinion, The Banishing deserves to be fleshed out as a series. Show up for the performances, the set, and the cinematography, and let me know what you think once the screen goes black for good.

THE BANISHING will stream exclusively to Shudder on April 15th in the US, Canada, UK, Ireland, Australia, and New Zealand, as well as via the Shudder offering within the AMC+ bundle where available.

THE BANISHING

Genre: Horror

Country: United Kingdom

Runtime: 97 min

Year: 2021

Rated: NA

Starring Jessica Brown Findlay (Downton Abbey), Sean Harris (Mission: Impossible franchise), John Lynch (The Secret Garden, Black Death), and John Heffernan (Eye in the Sky) and directed by Christopher Smith (Creep, Severance, Triangle).

THE BANISHING is a WestEnd Films production.

ABOUT SHUDDER:

AMC Networks’ Shudder is a premium streaming video service, super-serving members with the best selection in genre entertainment, covering horror, thrillers, and the supernatural. Shudder’s expanding library of film, TV series, and originals is available on most streaming devices in the US, Canada, the UK, Ireland, Germany, Australia, and New Zealand. For a 7-day, risk-free trial, visit www.shudder.com.

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: ‘VOYAGERS’

Set in the near future, the film chronicles the odyssey of 30 young men and women who are sent deep into space on a multi-generational mission in search of a new home. The mission descends into madness, as the crew reverts to its most primal state, not knowing if the real threat they face is what’s outside the ship or who they’re becoming inside it.

What could go wrong with attempting to play God? Only everything. Instincts suppressed lead to one dangerous boiling pot of hormonal and phenomenally intelligent young people. It’s all one big morality question. Putting these unsuspecting kids in this position to save the entirety of the human race is a lot to ask. Then to lie to them, control them, use them without allowing them to be fully human themselves is cruel. And yet it’s not that simple. Limited resources forced this scenario. The likelihood of its success already feels like an uphill battle. All hell breaks loose when something attacks Richard, the only adult on board. Will these 30 young people fight their instincts or one another?

Colin Farrell as Richard is remarkable. He is the father figure. Loving, protective, and genuinely wanting these kids to succeed. Lily-Rose Depp as Sela is astonishing. She walks the perfect line of innocence and strength. Her journey, like Sheridan’s, is fascinating to watch evolve. Fionn Whitehead plays Zac with terrifying aggression. His portrayal of unhinged, pure testosterone-driven rage is all too familiar in the best way possible. Tye Sheridan plays Christopher with a curiosity and a growing intensity that makes him the perfect protagonist. He is levelheaded, kind, and determined to survive. Sheridan easily owns his leading man status.

Voyagers becomes a near-future version of Lord Of The Flies. It’s chaos created and chaos inevitable. The set is cool as hell. It feels immense and claustrophobic all at once. Trevor Gureckis‘ score is gorgeous. Writer-director Neil Burger has given audiences a heart-pounding and brilliant film. This one will stick with you long after the credits roll.

U.S. Release Date:          April 9, 2021, in theatres
Running Time:               108min    

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

SXSW 2021 reviews: ‘The Lost Sons’ & ‘United States Vs. Reality Winner’ are two mind blowing docs from this year’s virtual fest.

THE LOST SONS

1960s Chicago, a baby is kidnapped from a hospital. Fifteen months later, a toddler is abandoned. Could he be the same baby? In a tale of breathtaking twists and turns, two mysteries begin to unravel and dark family secrets are revealed.

When my son was born in 2016, I remember the extreme level of security on the floor we were staying on. We all had bracelets on with his name, while he also had an electronic ankle bracelet which would beep if he were taken past a certain threshold. The idea of some stranger coming in and taking my child terrified me. I hoped to God that I never heard that alarm go off while we stayed in the hospital. Reenactments, newspaper clips, photographs, archival footage, home video, and sit-down interviews with witnesses all make up the massively intriguing and mystery-laden doc. Who is Paul Fronczak? This is a loaded question. The Lost Sons attempts to answer this question and so many others. The editing is mesmerizing. You don’t have a moment to catch your breath as this story unfolds. The twists and turns will shock you. They are relentless. I found myself shouting at the television more often than usual in one true crime sitting. It unravels like a James Patterson novel. If you are a homegrown detective, The Lost Sons at SXSW21 will be a true highlight for you.


UNITED STATES Vs. REALITY WINNER

A state of secrets and a ruthless hunt for whistleblowers – this is the story of 25-year-old NSA contractor Reality Winner.

Reality Leigh Winner saw something that she thought the entire country should know. She decided the public had a right to evidence the government was keeping secret. For this act, she was severely punished. The line between right and wrong can be blurry, but in this instance, it feels clear as day that Reality Winner was right. The film follows Reality’s mother, Billie J. Winner-Davis, as she tracks the public and the court’s response to Reality’s case. We learn about the kind of person Reality is through diary entries and jailhouse phone calls. She’s funny, talented, with a sharp wit. With the full understanding that most documentaries have an agenda, I cannot imagine someone walking away from the film without a ferocious sense of injustice. Including never-before-heard audio from Reality’s FBI  initial interview, sitdowns with her attorneys, family members, and fellow whistleblower Edward Snowden, you will finally learn what was in the document in question. Understanding the content is key to grasping the fact that Michael Flynn was pardoned and Reality Winner was given the harshest sentence in history for any whistleblower. I cannot stress this enough. I am thankful that United States Vs. Reality Winner is being shown to audiences when Joe Biden is now President. I join in the urgent call for justice. #FreeRealityWinner

SXSW 2021 reviews: ‘Nuevo Rico’ & ‘The Thing That Ate The Birds’

Nuevo Rico

A brother and sister stumble upon a celestial secret that propels them into Reggaetón stardom, but at what price?

This mixed media animation is a literal bright spot in the shorts program. It’s a little Adult Swim, a dash of video game, part music video, all drenched in neon-colored deliciousness. Twins Barbie and Vico find out about the trappings of fame and dismissing their culture the hard way. In 16 minutes it manages to touch on socio-economics, politics, and identity, just to name a few relevant issues. Writer-director Kristian Mercado uses voice-over, songs, and dialogue to communicate this unique short.  Angélica Agélviz‘s character designs are striking. I could easily watch an expanded series about these characters. There’s enough content to warrant more in-depth episodes. Plus, you won’t be able to get enough of the distinctive look of Nuevo Rico. It’s just plain cool.”


The Thing That Ate The Birds

Set on the North Yorkshire Moors, the film follows Abel, the Head Gamekeeper as he discovers the thing that is eating his grouse. His blunt and violent response brings the menace back home shattering his already crumbling relationship with his wife.

The short has its SXSW premiere from Gunpowder & Sky’s horror brand, ALTER – The Thing That Ate The Birds by writer and director duo Sophie Mair (Ella, And the Baby Screamed) and Dan Gitsham (Ella, And the Baby Screamed). If this is meant to be a treatment for a feature, I want to see that feature. The score is classic Hitchcock strings. The cinematography is gorgeous and that last shot is pure Ari Aster, unapologetic horror. It’s one hell of an introduction to those who are unfamiliar with Mair and Gitsham. Someone, please give them a huge budget and the freedom to scare the crap out of us in a longer form.

ABOUT ALTER

ALTER is a horror brand for novel and grounded stories exploring the human condition through warped perspectives.

Giving voice to emerging, diverse, and established filmmakers, ALTER’s owned and operated channel is distributed across YouTube and Facebook, with more than 15M monthly uniques,  where three short films or series are released each week. In addition to curating and distributing award-winning content, ALTER develops unique stories with some of the most innovative minds in the genre through its ALTER Studio projects – which are not bound to a particular platform or format.

In October, ALTER, along with Executive Producer Sam Raimi (Evil DeadSpider-Man), premiered Part 2 of the horror series “50 States of Fright”, starring Rachel Brosnahan (“The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel”), Travis Fimmel (“Vikings”, Warcraft: The Beginning) and Christina Ricci (“Monster,” “Z: The Beginning of Everything”). In 2019, the BAFTA-nominated horror short, The Blue Door starring (Gemma Whelan – Game of ThronesThe End of the F***ing World) premiered on ALTER, and earlier this year it was also announced that “Moreau”, a sci-fi TV series that puts a modern spin on the classic novel, “The Island of Dr. Moreau” by H.G. Wells has gone into development and will be written by Zack Stentz (X-Men: First Class, Thor, Rim Of The World). In addition, the psychological thriller “Horror Accidental”, based on the Japanese TV drama series, ‘Horror Accidental 1&2’, will be brought to life by writer and director Evan Daugherty (‘Divergent,’ ‘Tomb Raider’).

Additional releases include the brand’s first unscripted podcast series, “ALTER Weekly”, which gives its audience a deep dive into the past, present, and future of the horror genre; short film La Noria, directed by Carlos Beana, that won best-animated film at The Webby Awards; CAM, winner of Best Screenplay at 2018’s Fantasia Festival and was acquired by Netflix; the official 2018 Sundance Film Festival selection, Summer of 84, the thriller directed by RKSS (Turbo Kid); and the  SXSW selection, Villains, starring Bill Skarsgard (It) and Maika Monroe (It Follows).

ABOUT GUNPOWDER & SKY

Gunpowder & Sky is an independent studio that creates and distributes feature films, series, short-form content, podcasts, and channels, bridging digital and traditional entertainment.

Since its inception in 2016, Gunpowder & Sky has released more than 30 feature films and series, more than 750 short films in theatres, on TVOD, and leading platforms such as HBO, Netflix, MTV, Hulu, Sky, Showtime, Spotify, Amazon, YouTube, Quibi, Audible and Discovery.

Notable films and series include 69: The Saga Of Danny Hernandez, Her Smell, Everybody’s Everything, Prospect, Sea Fever, The Little Hours, Cam, Hearts Beat Loud, Lords of Chaos, Tragedy Girls, Betting on Zero, Summer of 84, Villains, Survive, 50 States of Fright and Drawn & Recorded.

With a collective audience of more than 65M monthly unique viewers, Gunpowder & Sky also owns and operates content brands that include DUST, the number one free sci-fi channel; ALTER, a leading horror brand, and CUT, an unscripted & comedy brand that is home to the successful formats “Truth or Drink” and “Fear Pong”. DUST, ALTER, and CUT are distributed on all major streaming platforms including Apple, Amazon, Comcast, Facebook, Peacock, Roku, Samsung, Sinclair, Sling, Vizio, Xumo, and YouTube.

Gunpowder & Sky also recently launched its premium audio studio, and in less than one year has established a leading position in music and sci-fi, claiming #1 fiction podcast on Apple and the #1 podcast on Audible.

With offices in Los Angeles and New York, Gunpowder & Sky was founded by Van Toffler and Floris Bauer, in partnership with The Chernin Group and AT&T.

SXSW 2021 reviews: ‘Stuffed’, ‘Don’t Peek’, ‘The Moogai’ are all chilling and unique shorts.

STUFFED

A musical film about a taxidermist who dreams of stuffing a human and a man she meets online so afraid of ageing he volunteers to be her specimen. An unexpected romantic spark between them complicates their plans.

Honestly, you had me at the categories “Musical, Horror”. This is the perfect short for genre fans who are clamoring to get back into theatres of all kinds. The score is wonderfully quirky. It will strike a chord with Sondheim fans. It’s is very Sweeney Todd inspired in sound and darkness. Written by Joss Holden-Rea and Theo Rhys, directed by Rhys, and music and lyrics by Holden-Rea, these two make one hell of a creative team. (I’m begging for a feature-length version of this story) Actors Anthony Young and Alison Fitzjohn have gorgeous voices. Their ability to connect with one another and the audience is a thing of beauty. The cinematography is carefully curated. The practical FX are outstanding. STUFFED is a unique experience you do not want to miss out on. This is the magic that audiences of SXSW salivate over.


DON’T PEAK

A young woman discovers a frightening video game character intent on crossing into the real world.

It’s rare that I jump and feel the need to cover my eyes these days while watching horror. I’ve consumed so much I can usually predict what’s eventually going to happen. In this hair-raising short, a game of Animal Crossing becomes a nightmare when an invited entity crosses from gameplay to real life. I found my heart in my throat. To be that successful in terrifying me in under 7 minutes, I say, “Bravo, writer-director Julian Terry. You got me.”


THE MOOGAI

An Aboriginal psychological horror, THE MOOGAI is the story of a family terrorized by a child-stealing spirit.

Whether a literal interpretation of an actual demon or not, so many theories swirled in my mind as I sweat through my t-shirt watching this short film. This feels like an intense form of gaslighting. Or maybe it’s a product of sleep deprivation. Perhaps it’s Postpartum? The terror is seen and unseen and in this short, the performances take you to the darkest parts of your mind. As a parent, it’s beyond unsettling.