Grimmfest (2021) review: ‘We’re All Going To The World’s Fair’ showcases the terror of living online.

WE’RE ALL GOING TO THE WORLD’S FAIR

I want to go to the World’s Fair. I want to go to the World’s Fair. I want to go to the World’s Fair.” Say it three times into your computer camera. Prick your finger, draw some blood and smear it on the screen. Now press play on the video. They say that once you’ve seen it, the changes begin… In a small town, a shy and isolated teenage girl becomes immersed in an online role-playing game.


Voyeuristic intimacy meets horror internet challenge We’re All Going To The World’s Fair speaks directly to the danger of the YouTube generation. Casey is a loner who seeks refuge online. When she takes an internet challenge, something that has had real-life, deadly consequences in recent years, her small world gets vastly stranger. We’re All Going To The World’s Fair tackles many weighty subjects; loneliness, depression, mental illness, identity, and gullibility. There’s the parent/child dynamic that, when present, is filled with fear and emotional abuse. 

Michael J Rogers plays JLB with majorly creepy vibes. From his voice to his subtle physicality, Rogers embodies a chilling persona. The viewer is left to interpret his intentions. It is a disturbing performance. Anna Cobb‘s feature debut is a powerhouse. What a fearless and natural performance. She exudes innocent charm. She’s a loner, clearly not by choice. Once the challenge creeps into her psyche, this becomes something altogether different. Wow does not even begin to describe the arc, both physically and emotionally. It’s a stunning turn.

Writer-director-editor Jane Schoenbrun paints a bleak picture of Casey’s hometown. Long takes, some through Casey’s laptop and others handheld give the film a gritty feel. The lengthy scenes put so much of the film’s success directly onto Anna Cobb’s shoulders. She has a massive responsibility to fill the screen, and she pulls it off like gangbusters. A bonus, the soundtrack is cool as hell. The ending is ambiguous. Something about it is perfectly unsettling. 


[Available October 16, 2021, 1:30 – 11:30 PM] Watch now online…


Review: ‘APARTMENT 413’ is a horror-filled heartbreaker.

APARTMENT 413


Marco spends his days applying for jobs online and waiting for Dana, his pregnant girlfriend, to get home. Strange post-it notes mysteriously appear around the apartment with cryptic warnings. A mechanic texts and calls him with menacing messages from an old non-functioning cell phone. The walls close in and tensions build between Marco and Dana’s relationship until all sense of safety dwindles as the lines between imagined and reality blur for both Marco and the audience. When Marco discovers the root of it all, his real problems begin.


Right as the screen faded to black, I realized how smart this script is. Apartment 413 starts with a bang. Slowly, we are introduced to the dynamic between the apartment’s newest tenants, Dana and Marco. With a baby on the way, Marco is desperately trying to find a job. Dana is gone all day, at work herself, but comes home with loving arms and encouragement for the future. As Marco continually fails to get interviews, strange notes begin to show up on their front door. A mysterious cellphone rings incessantly, sending Marco vile texts. No matter what he does, he cannot seem to escape the things he’s seeing or feeling. Can he keep his family and sanity intact?

One of my favorite scream queen-writer-directors, Brea Grant, plays Dana. Because of the ever-evolving nature of Marco’s predicament, Grant is allowed to play the entire emotional spectrum. Her nonchalant chemistry with Saenz is astounding. Nicholas Saenz is impeccably engaging. The film’s success hinges on his likability. Much like the script, his performance has more of an impact once the credits roll. The film takes place almost exclusively inside the small apartment. This set is a tight squeeze that the audience feels just as much as Marco. Saenz gives us his all. It’s a dizzying and heartbreaking performance. Screenwriter Ron Meade gives us all the breadcrumbs along the way. They’re so slyly distributed. Along with anxiety of job searching, feelings of inadequacy, and isolation, Apartment 413 is a slow burn psychological horror that punches you in the gut. As that final puzzle piece falls into place, it turns out this is one of the most disturbing films I’ve seen in a while.


Trailer
Terror Films presents APARTMENT 413 on Digital Download September 17

Nicholas Saenz (“American Crime”), Brea Grant (“Beyond the Gates”), and Dave Buckner star in Matt Patterson’s unnerving APARTMENT 413, premiering On Digital this September from Terror Films.


GRIMMFEST turns lucky 13 for this year’s hybrid addition. Here are some of the films we’re screaming about.

GRIMMFEST 2021

It’s no secret that the most buzz-worthy films come through only a handful of genre festivals. GRIMMFEST is on that shortlist. The festival turns a lucky 13 this year and it’s ready to rock audiences’ socks with a plethora of titles for every single viewer. After being completely virtual last year, a hybrid platform is back in action with a mix of in-person screenings from October 7th to 10th and online from October 14th to 17th. I can say that this year’s lineup is filled with everything from gore to absurdity, thrills to purest moments of wow. These are the films that will be on everyone’s lips. You can find out about tickets and schedules at https://grimmfest.com/

Do yourself a favor and mark your calendars now. There’s a lot to see.


THE BETA TEST

A Hollywood agent, engaged to be married in a few weeks, receives a mysterious letter inviting him for an anonymous sexual encounter and thus becomes ensnared in a sinister world of lying, infidelity, and digital data.

This genre-shattering film takes aim at Hollywood, toxic masculinity, horror, satire, all with co-writer-director Jim Cummings playing a sharp lead. His last film, The Wolf Of Snow Hollow, has a legit cult following now. Cummings has a distinct voice and I cannot wait to see if The Beta Test becomes another calling card on his resume.


THE RIGHTEOUS

A burdened man feels the wrath of a vengeful God after he and his wife are visited by a mysterious stranger…

There is something so striking about modern black & white cinematography. in The Righteous, writer-director Mark O’Brien also stars as the mysterious stranger in question. This horror film is filled with symbolism and will give any god-fearing viewer the vapers.


WHEN THE SCREAMING STARTS

When the Screaming Starts is a comedy-horror mockumentary about an inept, aspiring serial killer at the beginning of his “career” and a fledgling filmmaker willing to do anything to achieve his ambition.

A little bit of Vicious Fun meets Satanic Panic, I cannot wait to laugh and gag. Horror and comedy pair so well together and since everyone is a true-crime connoisseur who thinks they could commit the perfect murder, I am delighted to consume this one.


THE SPORE

The lives of ten strangers intersect through a terrifying chain of events as a mutating fungus begins to spread through a small town wiping out everyone that comes into contact with it.

Will this film be a little too close to home considering we’re still experiencing a global pandemic? I guess we’ll find out when we’re forced to look through the lens of writer-director D.M Cunningham.


HOTEL POSEIDON

Dave inherited the dingy and dilapidated Hotel Poseidon from his late father. He lives there and works as manager, and rarely seems to leave the place. The days and nights all bleed together. His existence is a hopeless one. When a young woman knocks at the hotel’s doors one night looking for a room, and his best friend shows up wanting to throw a party in the backroom, Dave’s world starts to spiral out of control, and his sense of reality starts to be shaken by recurring nightmares.

I have seen the title sequence for this film and it is hands down one of the coolest in all of cinematic history. I said what I said. If the rest of the film lives up to the initial visual, Hotel Poseidon will wow Grimmfest audiences.


ALONE WITH YOU

As a young woman painstakingly prepares a romantic homecoming for her girlfriend, their apartment begins to feel more like a tomb when voices, shadows, and hallucinations reveal a truth she has been unwilling to face.

Listen, you tell me Barbara Crampton is in a film and I’m watching it. Add on Emily Bennett who was fantastic in King Of Knives last year and I’m sold. Not only does she star, but she co-wrote and co-directed the film. Give me an all-female horror film every day of the year.



FULL VIRTUAL FESTIVAL LINE UP:

● FOR ROGER (Aaron Bartuska, USA)

● FATHER OF FLIES (Ben Charles-Edwards UK / USA)

● SLAPFACE (Jeremiah Kipp, USA)

● THE NIGHTS BELONG TO THE MONSTERS (Sebastian Perillo, Argentina)

● HAPPY TIMES (Michael Mayer, Israel / USA)

● NIGHT AT THE EAGLE INN (Erik Bloomquist, USA)

● VAL (Aaron Fradkin, USA, 77 min)

● THE SPORE (D.M. Cunningham, USA)

● THE PIZZAGATE MASSACRE (John Valley, USA)

● MOTHERLY (Craig David Wallace, Canada)

● SHOT IN THE DARK (Keene McRae, USA)

● NIGHT DRIVE (Brad Baruh, USA)

● MIDNIGHT (Oh-seung Kwon, South Korea)

● FACELESS (Marcel Sarmiento, USA)

● WE’RE ALL GOING TO THE WORLD’S FAIR (Jane Schoenbrun, USA)

● THE FREE FALL (Adam Stillwell, USA)

● ON THE THIRD DAY (Daniel de la Vega, Argentina)

● THE GUEST ROOM (Stefano Lodovichi, Italy)

● HOTEL POSEIDON (Stefan Lernous, Belgium)

● FORGIVENESS (Alex Kahuam, Mexico)

● TWO WITCHES (Pierre Tsigaridis, USA)

● KING KNIGHT (Richard Bates Jnr, USA)

● TARUMAMA / LLANTO MALDITO (Andres Beltran, Colombia)

● THE RIGHTEOUS (Mark O’Brien, Canada)


 

Passes and tickets can be purchased from www.grimmfest.com.

Fantasia International Film Festival 2021 review: ‘COMING HOME IN THE DARK’ will disturb you to no end.

COMING HOME IN THE DARK

Director/co-writer James Ashcroft introduced Fantasia 2021 audiences to a gutwrenching neo-noir. As a family attempts to enjoy a road trip, they are suddenly accosted by two men with an evil agenda. The complexities of COMING HOME IN THE DARK go far beyond a random encounter. This film was created to make you shudder. Redemption, revenge, cruelty, and shock all play huge parts in this journey. This is a film that will have you on the edge of your seat. Ashcroft’s feature debut deals directly with NZ ineptitude in their state-run facilities. This particular aspect of the script could be applied to any country. The abuse of children becomes an ironic twist that comes to haunt the viewer in more ways than one. The intensity that builds in this screenplay is unrelenting. The brutality is unforgiving. With a large amount of dialogue and action occurring under duress, and inside a car, the claustrophobia is palpable. The ability to build fully fleshed-out characters under the circumstances is truly astounding. Performances from this small cast will captivate you. The cinematography is incredibly thoughtful. It isn’t too often that I stop taking notes while watching a film. I didn’t write a single thing down during my viewing experience. I could not take my eyes off the screen. I cannot fully express how my entire body was shaking as I watched this film. I do feel compelled to warn viewers of the level of violence. Coming Home In The Dark is a traumatizing experience.



CAST:

  • Daniel Gillies
  • Erik Thomson
  • Miriama McDowell
  • Matthias Luafutu

Fantasia International Film Festival 2021 review: ‘When I Consume You’ is a haunting allegory.

WHEN I CONSUME YOU

A woman and her brother seek revenge against a mysterious stalker.


When I Consume You is a unique horror film that pulls you into the lives of Daphne and Wilson Shaw. Their past will not let them go. For better or for worse, we’re on their twisted journey for justice. The darkness of this story is palpable from the very beginning. Quite frankly, it never lets up. MacLeod Andrews, who most recently blew me away in A Ghost Waits, does it again. His energy swings from manic to terrifying. Libby Ewing, as Daphne, is both lead and narrator. Her voiceovers are soothing through the chaos. The chemistry with Dumouchel feels tangible. Evan Dumouchel playing Wilson is the real soul of this film. His emotional journey spills off the screen in a way that hypnotizes the viewer. I was captivated by every single one of his scenes, which are the majority of When I Consume You. This cast was perfect.

Perry Blackshear is the man with all the hats taking on directing, writing, cinematography, and producing. One of the best goosebumps-inducing moments occurs in the form of actress Libby Ewing’s hand appearing from nowhere. There is something so startling about this simple action. Its impact speaks volumes. There is a nice connection between the physical and metaphorical. The fight training scenes are a great representation of emotional preparedness. And without spoiling anything, the devil you know is sometimes a safer bet than the devil you don’t.  When I Consume You is an addiction allegory. Whether that is drugs or depression, the weight of trauma never quite leaves you. While the pacing of the film had some static moments, overall this is a fresh take on a haunting premise.


 

Fantasia International Film Festival 2021 review: ‘THE SADNESS’ is ultra-violent, bloody mayhem.

Perhaps more aptly named The Madness, The Sadness is a tongue-in-cheek take on the insanity that the pandemic has reigned upon the globe. Rather than a variant that makes you sicker more quickly, this is a rage variant. The infected want to inflict as much pain as possible. The sexual violence is particularly egregious and repetitive… and that’s the point. If you are easily offended, this is not a film for your eyeballs. The simple premise of two lovers attempting to reunite among the chaos plays like a dream. Unlike similar films, say 28 Weeks, The Sadness is not a zombie movie. The infected are fully cognoscente of their behavior. It’s a psychotic switch that gets flipped, and what ensues is mind-blowing.

Performances are filled with greatness. What might only be a highlighted extra role in any other genre film turn into a slew of memorable ones. It’s that well written and performed. Seeped in genuine incel energy, social commentary, and over-the-top gore and violence create a shocking watch. The amount of movie blood that must have been involved in this production is unfathomable. I’ve watched a lot of horror, (like, a lot a lot) and The Sadness is not fucking around. One hour in, there is a moment so offensive, even I gagged. Fantasia International Film Festival 2021 audiences were treated to one of the most insanely disturbing films in the festival’s 25-year run. If you can watch and hold in your lunch, bravo. Director Rob Jabbaz, much respect to you, sir.



Review: ‘The Last Matinee’ is a bloodsoaked love letter to genre fans

The Last Matinee

SYNOPSIS: The audience attending the last showing of a horror film in a small downtown cinema are terrorized by a murderer who begins to pick them off, one by one. The only person to notice that something strange is going on is the projectionist’s daughter.


I had to Google the film while watching to make sure it wasn’t a restoration. Every single aspect, from the costumes to the sets, to the audio editing screams a genuine 80s slasher. The Last Matinee is created as the perfect piece of genre nostalgia. Horror fans should keep their eyes peeled for Easter eggs and cinematic homages. The kills get progressively more gruesome. I’m particularly fond of #2. Undoubtedly Giallo inspired from the black gloves, the faceless killer, to the candy-red lighting and gore, The Last Matinee is a goddamn bloody treat. Don’t get too attached to anyone. No one is safe. The practical FX are so good, I almost lost my lunch. That rarely happens to me. I’ve watched so much horror that I’ve become a bit numb. This got me looking away wondering if I need to press pause just in case. The synopsis pretty much tells you everything you need to know, so do yourself a solid with this one. Turn off your brain and turn on your love of horror. Make some popcorn and settle in for the night. I hope you survive.


The Uruguay-Argentinian horror film THE LAST MATINEE is available TODAY on VOD, Digital, and DVD courtesy of Dark Star Pictures and Bloody Disgusting.


Directed by Maxi Contenti (Muñeco viviente VNeptunia) from a script by Manuel Facal (High Five, Fiesta Nibiru) and Contenti, the film stars Luciana Grasso (El Secreto de Julia), Ricardo Islas (El Que No Corre VuelaBailiwick), Julieta SpinelliFranco Duran and Pedro Duarte.


Review: ‘BEHEMOTH’ is a visual stunner that would make Faust proud.

BEHEMOTH

In Peter Sefchik‘s directorial debut, BEHEMOTH, we find Josh in dire straights. A whistleblower for his former chemical company, he is convinced the corporation has made his daughter critically ill. In a last-ditch effort to make them come clean, he kidnaps his former boss in hopes that he’ll admit to wrongdoing. The plan quickly spirals out of control when Josh gets shot and begins to see things that may or may not be drug-induced. What happens when you sell your soul to the highest bidder? Josh is about to find out.

Sefchik’s visual work is nothing short of stunning. This should come as no surprise given his extensive career as a digital artist with the likes of George Lucas and James Cameron. The details are immaculate. While the performances from our dedicated cast veer into the amateur lane at times, their brightest moments come when interacting with what isn’t actually there. That’s more impressive than it sounds. Sefchik also co-wrote the script with producer Derrick Ligas. Social commentary is smartly placed inside a horror film. Themes of environmental destruction, media, and capitalism soak this story in realism. Using personal fears to goad our players into darkness is a brilliant touch. When greed rules, evil prevails. The fact that this entire film was made for $65,000 is mindblowing. Any indie filmmaker can attest to that. BEHEMOTH is a win in its script and most certainly in Sefchik’s mesmerizing VFX. If this is his first foray into feature storytelling, I cannot wait to see, quite literally, what comes next.


BEHEMOTH opens on digital platforms next Friday, August 27th.


BEHEMOTH is the stunning, VFX-heavy directorial debut of digital artist Peter Sefchik, whose lengthy career began at George Lucas‘ legendary Skywalker Ranch. His most notable past projects include AVATAR and the HARRY POTTER, SHREK, and STAR WARS franchises. He also serves as BEHEMOTH‘s Co-writer, Producer, and VFX Supervisor. The film’s cast includes Josh Eisenberg, Paul Statman, Jennifer Churchich, Richard Wagner, and Whitney Nielsen.

Color
English Language
88 minutes
Not Rated


Review: ‘Dachra’ takes a familiar formula and annihilates it.

DACHRA

An investigation into witchcraft leads a trio of journalism students to a mysterious town marked by sinister rituals. Inspired by true events.

Dachra‘s initial formula is similar to The Blair Witch Project. Soon going off the rails into something we’d never imagined experiencing. What sets this film apart is remarkable cinematography and ghastly twists and turns. The runtime is lengthy but necessary to place you inside the shoes and minds of our three protagonists. Being thrown into a new culture is oftentimes shocking and uncomfortable. Dachra takes discomfort to the next level. The script forces the viewer to endure a deranged and prolonged experience of hospitality. As the mystery grows, so too does the terror. So many questions swirl as the film progresses. This isn’t just one story. Dachra has franchise potential, with sequels and prequels possible.

Sometimes a film has the ability to sear an image into your brain. It’s rare when one film does it over and over.  Hatem Nechi‘s camerawork is both dizzying and hypnotic. The long takes are impressive and eerily effective. There is real movie magic in Dachra. I am scarred by some of the things I saw. Performances are nuanced and skin-crawling. The practical fx are gag-inducing. The fact that this is writer-director Abdelhamid Bouchnak‘s first film is mindblowing. This story is very carefully curated to scare the hell out of the audience.  It’s the perfect storm of horror and history.

Dachra | Dekanalog US Trailer from Dekanalog on Vimeo.

DACHRA opens in theatres and virtual cinemas nationwide on Friday, July 9th.

DACHRA is written and directed by Abdelhamid Bouchnak and stars Yasmine Dimassi, Aziz Jbali, Bilel Slatnia, Hela Ayed, Hedi Majri, Rahri Rahali.

Color
Arabic Language with English Subtitles
114 minutes
Not Rated

Review: Streaming exclusively on Shudder, ‘SON’ is a mother’s worst nightmare.

SON

In SONafter a mysterious group breaks into Laura’s home and attempts to abduct her eight-year-old son, David, the two of them flee town in search of safety. But soon after the failed kidnapping, David becomes extremely ill, suffering from increasing psychosis and convulsions. Following her maternal instincts, Laura commits unspeakable acts to keep him alive, but soon she must decide how far she is willing to go to save her son.

The script does an incredible job of ramping up the tension, mystery, and danger. There are solid moments in which the audience experiences Laura’s unique brand of gaslighting. This device makes the viewer question everything being thrown their way. Emile Hirsch’s detective Paul also represents our rollercoaster of uncertainty. His sympathetic approach to Laura and David’s plight is necessary. Writer-director Ivan Kavanagh gives us more gore than I expected. The special effects makeup is outstanding. As a mother, I felt ill watching SON for more reasons than I can explain. It’s a film that Shudder subscribers (especially parents) will eat up.

Luke David Blumm gives one hell of a performance as David. He strikes the perfect balance of innocence and progressively sinister. Emile Hirsch is the grounded point man needed for a story like this to be successful. I enjoy him as a cop and as an indie horror staple. SON hinges entirely on the energy of Andi Matichak as Laura. Her vulnerability and determination drive everything. Matichak never overplays the PTSD card but uses it skillfully. 

SON is an unsettling watch, so to say the least. It is yet another notch in Shudder‘s belt.

“SON” TO PREMIERE EXCLUSIVELY ON SHUDDER 
ON JULY 8, 2021 
 
Written and directed by  Ivan Kavanagh (The Canal, Never Grow Old), SON stars Andi Matichak (Halloween franchise, Assimilate), Emile Hirsch (The Autopsy of Jane Doe), and Luke David Blumm (The King of Staten Island). 
 

 

Shudder, AMC Networks’ premium streaming service for horror, thriller, and the supernatural, announced that SON will be available exclusively to stream on the platform starting on July 8, 2021. As a Shudder exclusive, the platform will be the only subscription service that will carry the film in the U.S., Canada, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Australia, and New Zealand.
 
 

Review: ‘Too Late’ takes the appetite for success to the next level.

TOO LATE

This cozy horror comedy set in the Los Angeles indie comedy scene features Violet Fields who works a thankless job as the assistant to Bob Devore, famed comedian and host of the live variety show, Too Late. But what only Violet knows is that Bob is a monster both literally and figuratively. Resigned to her fate, Violet is caught by surprise when she meets aspiring comedian Jimmy Rhodes and sparks fly. But as her feelings for Jimmy grow and Bob starts to doubt her loyalty, she and Jimmy could end up as Bob’s next meal.
Violet toils away curating her smaller comedy show all while taking the abuse of her boss, Bob. Taking back control is the name of the game, but things get a bit messy along the way. Bob Devore, whose name (I’m assuming) is intentionally close to the word “devour,” is the accomplished late-night figurehead on the comedy scene in L.A. He’s a real monster of a boss. No, like, he’s an actual monster. Under his thumb and in the shadow of his longstanding career, Violet longs to cut ties and make her own way. When love unexpectedly arrives, she must navigate everyone’s appetite for success and take matters into her own hands.
Too Late really digs into the idea that Hollywood is an all-consuming industry. Alyssa Limperis as Violet has that “seasoned pilot actress just waiting to hit it big” kind of energy. She’s a damn natural and I want to see much more of her in the future. Her chemistry with Ron Lynch is sheer perfection. His smarmy, oftentimes flat-out gross, glad-handing demeanor catapults this entire narrative. One of the funniest things about Too Late is the fact that it could be a franchise based on Devore’s origin story. He cannot be the only monster lurking. You could do an entire riff on agents and vampires. That’s comedy gold. The possibilities are endless. On the condition that you bring Limperis back into the fray, of course. With stand-up not only as a major plot point but using actual sets to keep the laughs going, Too Late is a breezy, sometimes gross, definitely unique film. Also, anything with Fred Armisen gets my eyes on it.

 

OPENING IN SELECT THEATERS & ON DIGITAL PLATFORMS ON JUNE 25
STARRING ALYSSA LIMPERIS, RON LYNCH, WILL WELDON, MARY LYNN RAJSKUB, & FRED ARMISEN
TOO LATE is the debut feature film from director D.W. Thomas and writer Tom Becker. It stars Alyssa Limperis (Aunty Donna’s Big Ol’ House of Fun), Ron Lynch (Bob’s Burgers, Adventure Time), Will Weldon (Comedy Central’s This Isn’t Happening), Mary Lynn Rajskub (24, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia), Fred Armisen (SNL, Portlandia), Jenny Zigrino (Bad Santa 2, 50 Shades of Black), Jack De Sena (Avatar: The Last Airbender), and Brooks Wheelan (SNL).
TOO LATE has a running time of 80 minutes and will not be rated by the MPAA. Gravitas Ventures will release TOO LATE in select theaters and on digital platforms including iTunes, Google Play, Fandango Now, and all major cable/satellite platforms on June 25.

Tribeca Festival 2021 review: ‘My Heart Can’t Beat Unless You Tell It To’ proves blood is thicker than water.

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.

Isolation, survival, depression, organized chaos. These are heavy-hitting words to describe a film with a blunt force trauma of an opening. My Heart Can’t Beat Unless You Tell It To is a film that’s been on everyone’s lips for a year now. It’s been killing it on the festival circuit, and rightly so. This slow-burn horror puts three siblings at odds due to one’s unique affliction. Jesse has become the taskmaster Mamabird, driving the survival of her family. Dwight is stuck between resentment and loyalty as his patience is running out. Youngest brother Thomas just wants to break free of his physical and emotional prison. Stunted in every way possible, what would life look like without his elder siblings? Is blood thicker than water? My Heart Can’t Beat Unless You Tell It To begs that very question, quite literally.

Patrick Fugit as Dwight is heartbreaking. The cracks are evident from the very beginning. His conscience weighs on him as his desire for normalcy and peace are all-consuming. Ingrid Sophie Schram as Jesse is everything we need her to be. Focused and utterly exhausted. The survival of this family unit is driven by her sense of duty and not necessarily by love this many years in. She and Fugit are brilliant scene partners. Owen Campbell as Thomas is a nuanced mix of childlike and monster. You simultaneously sympathize and loathe him. These are striking performances.

My Heart Can’t Beat Unless You Tell It To has a finale that will first crush you then slowly, you’ll start to breathe again. It’s the perfect catharsis. Writer-director Jonathan Cuartas gives us every single emotion in this script. It’s meticulously thought out. To think that this is a feature debut sends shivers down my spine in anticipation of what’s next. How this story manages to walk the line between horror and morality tale is simply genius. You never really know what’s going on behind closed doors. Some are better left closed.

Tribeca Festival 2021 review: ‘False Positive’ is horrifyingly twisted and now available on HULU.

FALSE POSITIVE

Lucy and Adrian find their dream fertility doctor in the illustrious Dr. Hindle. But after becoming pregnant, Lucy begins to notice something sinister behind Hindle’s charm, and she sets out to uncover the unsettling truth about him.

It took 8 months to get pregnant with my son. In the grand scheme for a lot of women, that isn’t long at all. Since I turned 35 in the first month of my pregnancy, it was deemed a “geriatric pregnancy.” That felt about as awesome as you might imagine. Growing a human being is stressful enough without the constant barrage of opinions. People telling you what you can and cannot eat, how you should parent, and what you should be feeling. It’s super fun. And by that, I mean it sucks, just in case you didn’t catch the heavy-handed sarcasm. Tribeca Festival 21 film FALSE POSITIVE takes all of that anxiety and cranks it to 11. Ilana Glazer and Justin Theroux play Lucy and Adrian, a couple that has a personal connection with a famed fertility doctor. From the moment Lucy gets a glimpse of her baby on the sonogram, she knows something is very, very wrong.

The script does a solid job setting the stage with the misogyny and gaslighting thrust upon pregnant women. While the internet can be their worst enemy (for the love of God, stay away from WebMD) a mother has instincts that she should never ignore. False Positive smartly plays upon those anxieties and adds highly macabre stakes. You’re not quite sure what is real. It’s intensely dark. Ilana Glazer is pitch-perfect at every turn. Cast her in every genre, right now. Justin Theroux is a fantastic foil. You feel the skin-crawling vibe he unleashes once the audience is placed in Lucy’s shoes. His straight man act makes him all the more unsettling. Dr. Hindle is played brilliantly by Pierce Brosnan. His charm and calmness are grossly offputting even through his perfect smile.

False Positive will hit differently for women with or without fertility issues. It will also have a unique reaction from genre fans. It’s a multifaceted feature from director John Lee, who also wrote the script with Ilana Glazer. While the finale is so batshit crazy it may make your head spin, I can attest that you will not be able to get the images out of your head. They are seared into my brain. I’m still shuddering a week later.

Hulu & A24 will release

FALSE POSITIVE

as a Hulu Original Film on

June 25, 2021

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: ‘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

IFC Midnight review: ‘COME TRUE’

COME TRUE

High school student Sarah (Stone) is at her lowest point yet when she runs away from home and finds herself with no one to rely on and struggling with recurring nightmares. She chances upon a university sleep study that offers the promise of safety and money and brings her an unexpected friend and confidant in the overseeing scientist Jeremy (Liboiron). But there’s something curious about proceedings and being under observation seems to make Sarah’s disturbing dreams even worse. As the darkness begins to close in, it’s soon clear that Sarah has unknowingly become the conduit to a horrifying, new discovery…

Come True is best described as visceral nightmares. The wearer of all the hats, writer-director-DP-editor Anthony Scott Burns has given audiences a sci-fi head trip so stunningly beautiful it will overwhelm you. The film has a dark “Through the Looking Glass” feel. Visually akin to The Cell or What Dreams May Come, specifically the purgatory scenes. There’s a frightening beauty to Sarah’s dreams. This cast is amazing. The vulnerability of every single actor should be recognized. Our leading lady, Julia Sarah Stone is astonishing. Her physicality creates a false sense that her character is fragile. Stone owns each frame, sometimes with nothing but her eyes.

The visual progression of horrifying imagery is stunning. The sleep experiment costumes have a Tron meets Captain EO vibe and I really dig them. The script is solidly disturbing. In all honesty, I was locked in until the very final scene which for me stepped into “Huh?” territory. I’ve now watched this film twice. The second viewing was a lot more telling. I have new theories. That being said, the rest of the film is so powerful, Come True is completely worth your attention. Thoroughly engrossing original visuals and storytelling are ramped up by Electric Youth and Pilotpriest’s synth score. It manages to wrap itself around you and immerse you in fear. Each of these elements creates an experience making Come True its own entity. It may give you your own new set of nightmares.

COME TRUE will open in select theaters, digital platforms, and cable VOD on March 12, 2021.

Review: IFC Midnight ‘THE VIGIL’ is a look at the disturbing effects of trauma.

THE VIGIL

Steeped in ancient Jewish lore and demonology, THE VIGIL is a supernatural horror film set over the course of a single evening in Brooklyn’s Hasidic Borough Park neighborhood. Low on funds and having recently left his insular religious community, Yakov reluctantly accepts an offer from his former rabbi and confidante to take on the responsibility of an overnight “shomer,” fulfilling the Jewish practice of watching over the body of a deceased community member. Shortly after arriving at the recently departed’s dilapidated house to sit the vigil, Yakov begins to realize that something is very, very wrong.

With a very similar tone as Relic, down to the infamous front door frame, The Vigil plays upon tradition, lore, and trauma. The trappings of religion are always complex. As a former Catholic, I can attest to the creepiness of essentially being told that it was a blessing to consume the metaphorical body parts of the son of God. I had to kneel at the feet of a crucified Jesus… at an altar. The more I say I say it out loud the weirder and more awful these rituals sound to my 40-year-old self. In The Vigil, Vakov is hired to sit with the body of a deceased member of the Jewish community he has just left. Already haunted by the death of someone close to him, he is consumed by hideous visions and physical manifestations of terror.

Mrs. Litvak, played by the late great Lynn Cohen, is a beautiful go-between for lore and reality. Never is the Alzheimer’s diagnosis exploited, just the mere mention is enough to ignite theories in the viewer’s mind. Cohen is simply a joy to watch. She strikes a phenomenal balance between darling and intense. Dave Davis as Yakov is outstanding. His grief anchors you in place. His vulnerability is absolutely key to this screenplay working as well as it does. His emotional transformation is astounding.

The look of the film is dark. The concept of juxtaposing old-world tradition against the modern is clever. The framing is smart. Wide panning angles force your eyes to scan the room constantly. The audio of The Vigil is a character into itself. Scraping, pounding, creaking are only the beginning of the trail of fear. 30 minutes in and the viewer is in full panic mode alongside Yakov. The idea that victims of deep trauma are the target of this entity is unbelievably cruel. The number of successful jump scares in The Vigil is unreal. Whether driven by guilt or an actual demon, this film will get under your skin. It’s a chilling experience. You’ll hopefully feel as free in the final moments as Yakov does. Writer/director Keith Thomas genuinely manages to provide equal parts fright and catharsis. It’s quite literally breathtaking.

AN IFC MIDNIGHT RELEASE | UNITED STATES | FEB 26TH, 2021 | 90 MINS | NR

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

Shudder original review: ‘SHOOK’ is a satisfying comeuppance.

SHOOK

When Mia, a social media star, becomes the target of an online terror campaign, she has to solve a series of tests to prevent people she cares about from getting murdered. But is it real? Or is it just a game at her expense?

Shudder continues to kill it with its original content. SHOOK pokes fun at the people we love to hate but cannot get enough of; Influencers. In a world where every minute detail is curated for an audience, i.e. for-profit, losing control is the biggest fear.

The colors in the film are striking and very on-brand for influencers. Bright pink and blue hues establish a cohesive theme. The editing is incredibly creative, mixing screen views, live streams, projections, and most thought-provokingly Mia’s anxiety manifested imagery. The backstory is an emotional stronghold and the introduction of a local serial dog killer is sort of the most ridiculous but perfect setup. By now we all know killing animals is a sign of a sociopath so we have an idea that even outside the influencer angle Shook has crazy potential, very much pun intended. The terror factor comes in the form of psychological trauma to the nth degree.

Daisye Tutor as Mia strikes a fantastic balance between self-absorbed and vulnerable. You’re rooting for her despite her hideous tendencies. Fans of Scream, Saw, CAM, and most recently Eugene Kotlyareno‘s Spree will love SHOOK. Writer/director Jennifer Harrington‘s screenplay is driven by fear, guilt, denial, and revenge. There’s an unexpected complexity tied to the plot. If you think you know how this ultimately plays out, you’re dead wrong.

Shook will premiere and debut exclusively to Shudder on February 18th in the US, Canada, UK, Ireland, Australia, and New Zealand, as well as via the Shudder offering within the AMC+ bundle where available.

Written and directed by Jennifer Harrington and starring Daisye Tutor (Guest House), Emily Goss (Snapshots), Nicola Posener (The Bold and the Beautiful), Octavius J. Johnson (Sleepless), Stephanie Simbari (Here and Now), Grant Rosenmeyer (Crazy Ex-Girlfriend) and real-life make-up and social media influencer Genelle Seldon.

SHOOK

Genre: Horror

Country: USA

Runtime: 89 min

Year: 2021

Rated: NA