SXSW 2021 review: ‘JAKOB’S WIFE’ gives us everything to sink our teeth into.

JAKOB’S WIFE

Anne, married to a small-town Minister, feels her life has been shrinking over the past 30 years. Encountering “The Master” brings her a new sense of power and an appetite to live bolder. However, the change comes with a heavy body count.

Casting two of the biggest horror legends in Larry Fessenden and Barbara Crampton was pure genius. Fessenden gets his comeuppance as a misogynist minister and clueless husband when he stumbles upon the reason his wife is so different as of late. Witnessing him bungling around is extremely satisfying. His chemistry with Crampton is perfection. Barbara plays Anne; a woman who is not allowed to have a point of view, let alone shine. She is the dutiful wife who puts her dreams aside for stability. Her initial sadness is palpable. Once circumstances change, Crampton gets to play a new completely new role. She is fierce as hell. I loved every second of this character’s second chance at life. Her performance is borderline camp and I could not get enough of her. Crampton never seems to stop working.  After this role, I can imagine she’ll be even more overwhelmed with offers.

Travis Stevens does an incredible job of highlighting the mundane and oftentimes loathsome trappings of marriage. The result of 30 years of oppression that Anne tolerates is infuriating but creates the perfect backdrop for her arc. This script is about the restructuring of power. Even the title is genius, subconsciously telling you that Anne isn’t in charge of her own identity. I laughed out loud and cheered audibly when Anne begins to stand up for herself. The pure, unadulterated sass is magic. After Girl On The Third Floor, I expected a lot from Stevens. Boy, does he deliver the goods. (Keep an eye out for CM Punk to make a quick appearance, btw.) Jakob’s Wife has kick-ass music from Tara Busch. Yvonne Reddy‘s costumes are carefully curated to reflect the vibrance of Anne’s newfound confidence. Based on Girl On The Third Floor, where bodily fluids were aplenty, I assumed the gore factor would be high. In fact, the amount of blood is glorious and over-the-top to the point of giggle fits. Stevens’ dialogue maintains its wit and unfiltered outbursts. Perhaps my favorite bit comes in the form of Crampton telling a little girl to, “Fuck Off.” But his would not be the only time I guffawed during Jakob’s Wife. A scene that has Anne rearranging her living room furniture is anything but ordinary. It’s revelatory. There’s a Death Becomes Her wackiness to it all. As one of the all-time great genre films, this is a huge compliment. Visually, the Master is clearly inspired by Salem’s Lot and the classic Nosferatu. This film is not just a vampire movie, it’s a complex look at relationships. It’s a feminist awakening. There is much to love about Jakob’s Wife. It’s one of the best films from this year’s SXSW virtual fest. It’s destined to be a massive hit, breaking the genre molds to make Crampton, Fessenden, and Travis Stevens household names.

SXSW21: What we’re excited to dive into at this year’s virtual fest.

SXSW21 is virtual, allowing it to reach a wider audience. Screenings begin Tuesday and we’re already salivating at the lineup. Here are just a few films we’re excited to watch.


NARRATIVE:

RECOVERY

Directors: Mallory Everton, Stephen Meek, Screenwriters: Whitney Call, Mallory Everton, Producers: Scott Christopherson, Stephen Meek, Abi Nielson Hunsaker
Two directionless sisters brave a cross-country road trip to rescue their grandmother from a COVID outbreak at her nursing home. Cast List: Whitney Call, Mallory Everton, Anne Sward Hansen, Julia Jolley, Baylee Thornock, Jessica Drolet, Stephen Meek, Tyler Andrew Jones, Noah Kershisnik, Justin Call (World Premiere)

It’s officially been a year since we locked ourselves in our homes. If anyone can make pandemic humor relatable, it’s Whitney Call and Mallory Everton with their improv and sketch comedy background. Also, the fact that they’ve known each other forever, I’m guessing that will only help make this the most believable chemistry between co-stars. 

WITCH HUNT

Director/Screenwriter: Elle Callahan, Producers: Eric B. Fleischman, Maurice Fadida
In a modern America where witches are real and witchcraft is illegal, a sheltered teenager must face her own demons and prejudices as she helps two young witches avoid law enforcement and cross the southern border to asylum in Mexico. Cast List: Gideon Adlon, Elizabeth Mitchell, Abigail Cowen, Nicholas and Cameron Crovetti, Christian Camargo (World Premiere)

I know women who practice witchcraft. To think their wellbeing could ever be put in jeopardy is a terrifying thought. Originally slated to screen at SXSW2020, it’s time to share this film with the masses. The synopsis alone gets the gears turning on possible political parallels from the past few years.

PAUL DOOD’s DEADLY LUNCH BREAK

Director: Nick Gillespie, Screenwriters: Brook Driver, Matt White, Nick Gillespie, Producer: Finn Bruce
When Paul’s chances of winning a national talent contest are ruined and his dreams of fame are slashed, he plans a deathly revenge rampage!! 1 lunch break, 5 spectacular murders! Each wrongdoer dispatched in a fitting manner by the sparkly suited Paul! Cast List: Tom Meeten, Katherine Parkinson, Kris Marshall, Alice Lowe, Mandeep Dhillon, Johnny Vegas, Steve Oram, Craig Parkinson, Kevin Bishop, Pippa Haywood (World Premiere)

Here is another cast list that grabbed my attention right away. Plus sequins and murder aren’t usually synonymous. British humor gets me every single time.

JAKOB’S WIFE

Director: Travis Stevens, Screenwriters: Travis Stevens, Kathy Charles, Mark Steensland, Producers: Barbara Crampton, Bob Portal, Travis Stevens, Inderpal Singh
The disappearance of a young woman threatens to change the beige and banal lives of Anne Fedder (Barbara Crampton) and her pastor husband Jakob Fedder (Larry Fessenden) forever. Cast List: Barbara Crampton, Larry Fessenden, Bonnie Aarons, Mark Kelly, Sarah Lind, Robert Rusler, Nyisha Bell, Phil Brooks (World Premiere)

Travis Stevens gave me one of the most gagworthy practical FX-filled films in 2019 with GIRL ON THE THIRD FLOOR. Starring genre queen (and Timelord in my own mind) Barbara Crampton and the legendary Larry Fessenden, the buzz around this newest work is electric. Crampton’s uncanny ability to own the screen with a glance will undoubtedly captivate audiences, yet again. Also, knowing that Stevens is a huge horror fan himself (his producer credits give him away as does his totally down-to-earth Twitter feed) gives me the warm and fuzzies knowing that he’ll take care of audiences in all the ways we need.


DOCUMENTARY:

LILY TOPPLES THE WORLD

Director: Jeremy Workman, Producers: Jeremy Workman, Robert J. Lyons
Lily Topples The World follows 20-year-old Lily Hevesh — the world’s most acclaimed domino toppler and the only woman in her field — in a coming-of-age story of artistry, passion, and unlikely triumph. Executive produced by Kelly Marie Tran. (World Premiere)

My kids (and I) have become obsessed with toppling videos on YouTube. Once you go down that rabbit hole, you’re not coming out. The sheer patience it must take to build these feats is something I cannot even fathom. Knowing that this entire doc centers on a young woman at the top of her game encourages me to watch with my kids. I have a feeling SXSW audiences may do the same.

THE LOST SONS

Director: Ursula Macfarlane, Producer: Gagan Rehill
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. (World Premiere)

This is a story I was slightly familiar with from its 20/20 broadcast. Since we’re all true crime junkies now, The Lost Sons should garner a sold-out audience.


SHORT FILMS:

THE THING THAT ATE THE BIRDS

Directors/Screenwriters: Sophie Mair, Dan Gitsham
On the North Yorkshire Moors, Abel, Head Gamekeeper, discovers the thing that is eating his grouse. (North American Premiere)

Gunpowder & Sky’s horror brand, ALTER will be premiering the horror short film by writer and director duo Sophie Mair (Ella, And the Baby Screamed) and Dan Gitsham (Ella, And the Baby Screamed), The Thing That  Ate The Birds. They had me at the title. Since horror is my jam, and the name alone instills a sense of fear and anxiety, I have to know what “The Thing” is!

NUEVO RICO

Director: Kristian Mercado, Screenwriters: Kristian Mercado, Juan Arroyo
A brother and sister stumble upon a celestial secret that changes their lives forever and propels them into Reggaetón stardom, but they soon discover that their newfound fame comes at a deep price. (World Premiere)

Animation with edgy social commentary will catch my attention every time. Filmmaker Kristian Mercado Figueroa is known for this skill. With the voice talents of Orange Is The New Black alum Jackie Cruz, this one caught my eye from its press still alone.

STUFFED

Director: Theo Rhys, Screenwriters: Theo Rhys, Joss Holden-Rea
Stuffed is a short musical about a taxidermist who dreams of stuffing a human and the man she meets online, so afraid of aging he volunteers to be her specimen. An unexpected romantic spark between them complicates their plans. (North American Premiere)

You had me at the categories Horror and Musical. Since Sweeney Todd, Repo: The Genetic Opera, and Anna and the Apocalypse, I’ve been dying for more genre musical goodness. STUFFED may just fill that void even in short form.

MARVIN’S NEVER HAD COFFEE BEFORE

Director: Andrew Carter, Screenwriters: Andrew Carter, Kahlil Maskati
Marvin Wexler tries coffee for the first time and desperately tries to talk about it with anyone who will listen.

I grew up a tea drinker. I loathed just the idea of coffee until I was in my 30’s. Now I have 10 bags in different flavors and roasts and an obnoxious coffee maker in my apartment. I remember the joy of discovering this drink that fuels my days and some of my nights as a writer and a Mom.


You can find the full lineup of events and grab yourself tickets at

SXSW

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fantasia International Film Festival 2019 review: “Culture Shock’ takes fake news to task with genre realness.

CULTURE SHOCK

The White House and their white nationalist propaganda make for great resistance in art these days. Hulu’s Blumhouse Into the Dark series is now streaming Culture Shock to its subscribers. Using real-life scenarios as a jumping-off point, this film takes illegal immigration beyond the hell we’re currently seeing at our border and brings it into true sci-fi territory. Our leading lady wakes up in a Valley Of the Dolls nightmare with its sweater vests and pastel coordinated everything and begins to lose time and all sense of rea Something about this “American Dream” is way off. Once she cracks the code, nothing can stop her from escaping.

Performances are eerie and amazing. Genre legend and timelord extraordinaire, Barbara Crampton plays a motherly figure looking after Marisol and her newborn baby. She sets the tone for the remainder of the film with her saccharine-sweet smile and creepy overbearing politeness. She is outstanding. Martha Higareda is the real wow factor. You are rooting for her the entire way and hope she gets everything she seeks. Her IDGAF survival attitude is pure magic. The script is edgy and brings a major creep factor that gets under your skin. The enhanced audio editing is a fantastic tool that heightens the inevitably squirming you’ll do while you watch. The story is one that will resonate with so many people living their own version of what is looking more and more like the American nightmare. This is a stunning debut feature for director Gigi Saul Guerrero and I know the industry, as well as Fantasia International Film Festival fans, can be excited for whatever comes next.

CULTURE SHOCK

Review: ‘ABATTOIR’ delivers a sensory labyrinth of mystery and murder.

The film was the 2016 official selection of the LA Film Festival, Fantasia, Sitges and numerous other festivals.  The film stars Jessica Lowndes, Joe Anderson, Lin Shaye, Dayton Callie and was directed by Darren Lynn Bousman.
SYNOPSIS: An investigative reporter works to solve the mystery behind a mysterious man who has been buying houses where tragedies have occurred. Set in a world where it always feels like night, even in daylight hours, real estate reporter Julia Talben’s life is turned upside down when her family is brutally murdered. It is believed to be an open and close case, but Julia quickly realizes there is much more to this story when she returns to the crime scene to find the murder room deconstructed and physically removed from her sister’s home. This ignites an investigative pursuit that eventually leads her and ex-lover Detective Declan Grady to the town of New English where they find the enigmatic Jebediah Crone and the Abattoir – a monstrous house stitched together with unending rooms of death and the damned.  Julia comes to realize that her sister’s soul is trapped inside, but the Abattoir isn’t just a house – it’s a door to something more evil than anyone could have ever imagined. Julia and Grady are ultimately faced with the question: How do you build a haunted house? One room at a time.
Darren Lynn Bousman, director of several of the Saw franchise sequels, and one of my all-time favorite films REPO! The Genetic Opera, brings to life a peculiar story and a visual maze. The look of Abbatoir is something to behold and one that evolves as the story rolls along. It’s a thriller, horror, and first person video game all wrapped into one lovely and bizarre package. The costumes are intentional throw backs that give further validity to a tale that criss crosses generations. Lin Shaye, who has what I like the call the “Timelord effect” (similar to another horror legend Barbara Crampton,) a timeless quality to her presence and ability to inhabit any character she tackles effoertlessly. Jessica Lowndes is reteaming with Bousman after appearing in The Devil’s Carnival. Her classic movie star looks only enhance her believeable performance as a headstrong and heartfelt woman determined to uncover the mystery behind who or what is buying homes where violent tragedy occurs and rips out the murder room. The answers are extraordinarily twisted. The films runs about 1hr40mins but feels very much likethe graphic novel it was based upon. This could have easily been made into a mini series. Abattoir is intriguing from the very first shot and will keep your brain engaged with plot and stunning sets throughout. Momentum Pictures is releasing Abattoir today in Theaters, VOD and Digital HD, December 9th

TITLE: ABATTOIR
IN THEATERS, VOD AND DIGITAL HD:  December 9, 2016
DIRECTOR: Darren Lynn Bousman
WRITER: Christopher Monfette
CAST: Jessica Lowndes, Joe Anderson, Lin Shaye, Dayton Callie

DISTRIBUTOR: Momentum Pictures

Review: ‘SUN CHOKE’, is a mind melding thriller. In Theaters and on VOD.

SC-Poster-04Nothing makes me happier while watching a film than thinking I’m watching one story and then getting hit with a proverbial 2×4 in plot. It’s a ballsy move that either pays off or loses the audience. In Ben Cresciman‘s sophomore feature as both writer and director, a young woman’s health and sanity are in serious question. With the watchful eye from her lifelong caretaker, can she conquer what lies deep down. Welcome to the oddity that is SUN CHOKE.

Sarah Hagan as Janie in the thriller film SUN CHOKE an XLrator Media release. Photo courtesy of XLrator Media.

Sarah Hagan as Janie in the thriller film SUN CHOKE an XLrator Media release. Photo courtesy of XLrator Media.

This is was truly unexpected and shocking thriller. As the story unravels, we are privy to piecemeal information. Margo has a past, but what it entails is shrouded in mystery. It is PTSD? Why is she under house arrest? Irma is her 24hr watcher, mental health guidance, using extreme tactics to cleanse her body and soul of whatever is haunting Margo. When she is allowed to exit the house after a year, things get weird as Margo attaches herself to  a stranger. Will this woman be Margo’s saving grace or is there something else driving the fascination?

(L-R) Sarah Hagan as Janie and Barbara Crampton as Irma in the thriller film SUN CHOKE an XLrator Media release. Photo courtesy of XLrator Media.

(L-R) Sarah Hagan as Janie and Barbara Crampton as Irma in the thriller film SUN CHOKE an XLrator Media release. Photo courtesy of XLrator Media.

This script takes a sharp left turn and to Crescimun’s credit as a writer, it is pretty out there. While the film has left me with more questions than answers, that is precisely why I enjoyed it so immensely. It bares zero resemblance to anything I’ve seen before. With a crisp, almost sterile, and yet angelic look from Mathew Rudenberg’s cinematography, combined with the chilling original score from Boom Bip, to the  off kilter sound design by Michael Solano, SUN CHOKE will make your skin crawl.

Barbara Crampton as Irma in the thriller film SUN CHOKE an XLrator Media release. Photo courtesy of XLrator Media.

Barbara Crampton as Irma in the thriller film SUN CHOKE an XLrator Media release. Photo courtesy of XLrator Media.

Sarah Hagan, you I know best from her time of Freaks and Geeks, and the final season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, is a beautiful mixture of helpless and frightening.  With a pretty face and a soft demeanor, her actions throughout the film throw your head into a tailspin. And let’s talk about horror goddess, Barbara Crampton, as Irma. Similar to the character of Margo, the audience is unsure of her intentions. Her timeless elegance and style make her a scene-stealer with what seems like very little effort. I cannot express how wonderful she is in this role. If you want to see the pure acting ability and witness her chops as an actor and chameleon, check her out in one of my favorite films from last year, We Are Still Here, from our friend Ted Geoghegan. I am convinced she is a Time Lord or something akin to a magical creature.

 SUN CHOKE
IN THEATERS: August 5, 2016
AVAILABLE ON VOD and iTUNES: August 2, 2016
DIRECTOR: Ben Cresciman
WRITER:  Ben Cresciman
CAST: Sarah Hagan, Sara Malakul Lane and Barbara Crampton
SYNOPSIS: As Janie recovers from a violent psychotic break, she’s subjected each day to a bizarre holistic health and wellness regimen designed, and enforced, by her lifelong nanny and caretaker. But when she develops an obsession with a stranger, Janie’s buried demons begin to surface.

 

XLrator Media has released the first trailer for ‘Sun Choke’

SC-Poster-04

XLrator Media has released the first trailer for Sun Choke and we have it for you below!

As Janie recovers from a violent psychotic break, she’s subjected each day to a bizarre holistic health and wellness regimen designed, and enforced, by her lifelong nanny and caretaker. But when she develops an obsession with a stranger, Janie’s buried demons begin to surface.

The film stars Sarah Hagan, Sara Malakul Lane and Barbara Crampton and is written and directed by Ben Cresciman.

Sun Choke hits VOD and On Demand on August 2nd and  theaters on August 5th

Review: A ghost story that won’t let the past die in ‘We Are Still Here’

We Are Still Here posterIn the new haunted house horror We Are Still Here, Anne and Paul Sacchetti move to a small New England town to make a fresh start following the death of son Bobby.  Anne believes that Bobby’s spirit is in the house reassuring her that everything is hunky dory. After she and Paul enlist their new age friends Jacob and May to visit and ease their minds, they realize something much older is lurking and poised to rear it’s ugly head. The past does not want to stay in the past.We Are Still Here house stillRight off the bat, the camera work displays an “I’m not alone” feeling with handheld, over the shoulder and around the corner shots that set the tone for the entirety of the film. Establishing shots of each room and the snow covered acres surrounding the property itself, give you a definitely isolated sense. 10 minutes in, our first real set up moment, an object from the past and a blink-and-you-miss-it jump scare of classic proportion. Not bad, not bad at all. Writer/Director Ted Geoghegan, clearly with a crush on the classics good and bad, knows his stuff. The story moves along at lightening pace, laying out a small town’s history mired with sadness, rumors, and evil. We Are Still Here pays homage to films like Amityville and Poltergeist. Films with an unshakable past that seem to be well known by the locals and end up terrorizing the newbies. The practical effects are gold and vomit inducing for sure, but the use of the seamless CG takes the film to another level. We Are Still Here still Lisa and LarryFlawlessly held together with a stellar cast of genre greats, We Are Still Here is an instant classic. Barbara Crampton‘s Anne is grounded, loving, and searching for comfort. Andrew Sensenig‘s portrayal of Paul is as masculine and protective as you can get, without losing that caring husband edge. Larry Fessenden as Jacob is funny and vivacious. Lisa Marie plays May with an airy realness of someone who is actually a sensitive. The four leads work so well with one another, I cannot imagine a different cast. Fun Fact: Both Barbara and Larry recently appeared in the 2011 horror/thriller You’re Next (Another film I would recommend). The music is quiet and looming like that of a small wind chime, and truly adds the the eerie factor. The color scheme of the surrounding dank New England winter (one I grew up with myself) makes the eventual appearance of bright red blood all the more visually impactful. The set dressing is top notch. The house appears untouched since the film’s set 1979 date. Old houses creek, we all know this to be true, but the timing of the sound editing ramps up the natural inclination that maybe you shouldn’t hang out long in a dusty old basement. We Are Still Here Barbara CramptonA few obvious takeaways from this movie: 1. Don’t trust your creepy neighbors, 2. Shit starts flying off the walls you should just assume the worst, and 3. Don’t ever, ever mess with the dead. There are 1000 more things I could praise about this film, thing is, I really  just want you to go see it for yourselves! We Are Still Here arrives in theaters and on VOD today, June 5th. Go get your spooky on.