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

Shudder Original review: ‘Anything for Jackson,’ the devil is in the details.

Anything For Jackson

After losing their only grandson in a car accident, grief-stricken Audrey and Henry, a doctor, kidnap his pregnant patient with the intentions of performing a “Reverse Exorcism”, putting Jackson inside her unborn child.

The energy that this film has from the get-go is outstanding. It’s dark and disturbing and throws your understanding of morality out of whack. But it’s the nonchalance of it all that will keep you watching. Unlike creepy couples like Mommy and Daddy from The People Under The Stairs or Mickey and Mallory in Natural Born Killers, Henry and Audrey are simply so casual about everything they are about to do it’s all the more bizarre. After they perform what they believe to be a soul transference, things really go off the rails. Something has gone awry. Their grandson is not the only thing to come into their home. The arrival of a gaggle of seriously disturbing ghosts throws all their confidence out the window. Things do not go well for Audrey and Henry going forward. The devil does not care to be used. The things that appear to everyone in the house are more and more terrifying as the fallout continues. It is ceaselessly upsetting.

Performances from our three leads are outstanding. Konstantina Mantelos as young mother Shannon is the final girl we need to balance out the insanity. Her ingenuity and believable vulnerability is sheer perfection. The terror she experiences is visceral. Helped along by the ghastly practical fx and brilliant performances by the actors playing these tortured souls. The contortionist stylings of one, in particular, gave me full-body chills. The chemistry between Sheila McCarthy and Julian Richings is simply magic. You believe they’ve been married for decades without a thought. They are charming in their sincerity even if their acts are atrocious.

The structure of the story roots you deep into the drama. You’re genuinely invested in everyone. Upon a second viewing, and as a Mom myself, I understand the lengths each character is going to protect their loved one. It makes the stakes so much higher. The writing and editing are top-notch. The complexity is unreal. This was a carefully crafted piece of work. If you can get me with a jump scare after 40 years of watching horror films, well done. Anything For Jackson got me… and held me down.

You will never see what’s coming from one beat to the next. Anything For Jackson will undoubtedly entertain the hell out of Shudder subscribers. They continue to kill it with their content. Anything For Jackson takes your heart and your head and mangles them both. It’s one of the year’s best genre films.

ANYTHING FOR JACKSON premieres on Shudder December 3rd in the U.S., U.K., Australia, and New Zealand

Review: ‘Thirst’ sinks its teeth into cult status.


The addict Hulda is arrested and accused of murdering her brother. After she is let go because of insufficient evidence, she meets Hjörtur, a thousand-year-old gay vampire. Together they fight a cult while being investigated by a rogue detective.

Gloriously gory and unapologetically in your face, vampire horror-comedy Thirst is a movie about a girl and her unlikely gay best friend. Poor Hulda just wants to stop being blamed for a bunch of murders and find someone to care about her for the right reasons. Poor Hjörtur just wants to play with his food, and as The Prince of Darkness, he can damn well do what he pleases. The performances are wildly funny and the chemistry between Hjörtur Sævar Steinason and Hulda Lind Kristinsdóttir is simply electric. The visual gags, quite literally, are unforgettable. The overt sexualization of the men is genius. If you know nothing going in, you know everything soon enough.

It could have been made by the same filmmakers as genre film fest favorite Fried Barry. The colors, the camera work, the visual mindfuckery. They are cut from the same weird and wonderful cloth. In Thirst, the amount of practical fx and blood are equal parts laughable and joyous. Genre fans will literally cheer. The relationship between Hulda and Hjörtur is what stays with me 12 hours after viewing. You could write an entire television series on their dynamic and I would be there to watch it. The climax of the film is nothing short of a spectacular splatterfest. Combined with the over the top power ballads(which I’m pretty sure is my favorite aspect), this is sure to reach cult status. Stick around once the credits start to roll. Your ears and eyes won’t be sorry.

Direct from a well-received festival run, where it played such fests as ScreamFest 2020, London FrightFest, and Out On Film, Thirst comes to DVD and Digital 12/1 from Uncork’d Entertainment.

From directors Steinþór Hróar Steinþórsson, Gaukur Úlfars comes a high-energy thrill fest with some of the most creative films to grace a screen in years. Hjörtur Sævar Steinason, Jens Jensson, Hulda Lind Kristinsdóttir, Ester Sveinbjarnardóttir, Birgitta Sigursteinsdóttir, and Birna Halldórsdóttir star.

Direct from a well-received festival run, where it played such fests as ScreamFest 2020, London FrightFest, and Out On Film, Thirst comes to DVD and Digital 12/1 from Uncork’d Entertainment.

Shudder exclusive: ‘Blood Vessel’ is a genre mashup with bite.

Blood Vessel

A life-raft lost at sea encounters an abandoned Nazi vessel. Boarding the ship, they find a far more daunting enemy.

Totally insane and gleefully brutal, Blood Vessel, a new Shudder exclusive, is the genre mashup that we’ve been waiting for. Nazis and vampires? Yes, please. What is it with Nazi’s and their penchant for screwing with the occult? It will never end well. This ragtag crew of survivors is rife with big personalities, different accents, and abilities. While a few have a shorter shelf life (pun intended) it gives us a ton to focus on as the plot reveals itself. The camera work is awesome, from drone shots of the ocean to maneuvering inside the tight confines of a ship. The costumes are cool and period-accurate. The set design, too, puts you back in time and makes you feel the claustrophobia of the space. Kudos to the makeup team for innumerable reasons.

Performances are badass. Nathan Phillips gives a really grounded portrayal of Sinclair. As much as one can be discovering that a family of vamps are trying to kill you. Alyssa Sutherland, as a nurse who lost her daughter and husband in the war, is the sensible, even-keeled figure and voice of reason. She is fearless and kind and a nice foil for the boat’s majority of overly masculine residents. Ruby Isobel Hall is phenomenal in her timing and perceived innocence. It’s some truly nuanced work. For me, the star of this film is Alex Cooke. Frankly, I could have watched an entirely separate film of the history of his character (nudge, nudge, wink, wink, writer-director Justin Dix and writer Jordan Prosser!) His totally nonchalant epicness deserves more screen time. Cooke kills it in this role.

The most unusual aspect of Dix‘s and Prosser‘s screenplay is that I found myself questioning who the real villains are? A family is kidnapped for profit. Then said family is punished for defending itself. Our crew is merely intervening after a tragedy and gets caught in the middle. I found myself relating to the vampires as a mother, which is both weird and wonderful. While there are definitely a few telegraphed plot points, the majority of the script is super original and wild as hell. Blood Vessel could easily become a franchise based on a very satisfying ending. You’ll undoubtedly hunger for more.

 Starring Nathan Phillips (Wolf Creek), Alyssa Sutherland (Vikings), Robert Taylor (Longmire), directed by Justin Dix (Crawlspace). A SHUDDER EXCLUSIVE. (Also available on Shudder Canada and Shudder UK)

NightStream 2020 capsule review: ‘Lucky’ is biting social commentary in horror form.

A suburban woman fights to be believed as she finds herself stalked by a threatening figure who returns to her house night after night. When she can’t get help from those around her, she is forced to take matters into her own hands.

Nightstream 2020 audiences have undoubtedly heard about Lucky by now. Absolutely killing to on the festival circuit under the keen direction from Natasha Kermani it is not to be missed. Screenwriter/star Brea Grant has crafted a whip-smart script that is both a clever takedown of patriarchal bullshit and a scary as hell genre film. She is outstanding, essentially playing every woman ever. It’s perfectly timed in a week when “I’m Speaking” is being emblazoned onto merch thanks to Kamala Harris. The terror comes from the fact that it is more a woman’s reality than it is fiction. With great fight choreography and engrossing editing, Lucky is the feminist horror anthem we need right now. You’ll want to go back and watch it over and over to catch all the nuance. It’s simply fantastic and that has nothing to do with luck.

U.S. Premiere
United States | 2020 | 81 Min.
Dir. Natasha Kermani

A Shudder Original Film

Nightstream 2020 review: ‘Bloody Hell’ is delicious horror you can sink your teeth into.

In this relentlessly energetic, pitch-black horror-comedy, an ex-bank robber fleeing the country after a video of him goes viral, heads to Helsinki only to find there’s something in store for him there that is much more difficult to escape.

After 8 years in prison, and in an attempt to escape his newfound public notoriety, Rex flees to Finland. But the locals have something else in mind for him. Kidnapped from the airport, he is strung up in a basement like a piece of meat. Why is he there? What the hell is coming next? Is now the best time to start a relationship? What’s for dinner?

The action is relentless. The editing is pure awesome. The bizarre clues left along the way like breadcrumbs are genius. Ben O’Toole as Rex is outstanding. He gets to play multiple roles in this fast-paced, post heist thrill ride. We get a peek of what’s inside his head as his inner thoughts manifest as an entirely different side of his personality. It’s a brilliant, award-worthy performance.

The script is hilarious and ridiculously intriguing. It will be impossible to get bored as the plot goes barreling along. The crazy just keeps coming and it’s highlighted by a great score and absolutely nuts practical fx. Fee-Fi-Fo-Fum, I smell the beginnings of some franchise fun. Bloody Hell is a genre-bending descent into weird and wonderful. For Nightstream 2020 audiences, it’s a perfect fit.

North American Premiere
Australia, USA | 2020 | 95 Min.
Dir. Alister Grierson

Review: All hell breaks loose in Shudder Original, ‘The Cleansing Hour’

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I’m not even going to lie, if The Cleansing Hour actually existed I would watch it. Shudder is a genius platform for this film, especially now. Religion is always a solid platform to skewer but add in a social media angle and you’ve got yourself one entirely engrossing genre flick. The exploitation gets flipped by a demon in a terrifying (sometimes comical) way. It’s divine justice for a con man. But there is much more to it than first meets the eye. The writing is sharp and twisted.

The performances are outstanding. Truly scary shit. Kyle Gallner as Drew is the good guy, the brains behind the operation. His dedication to Max and Lane may be his ultimate downfall. Gallner is deep in this role, which is no surprise. I am a huge fan of his eclectic body of work. This is no exception. Ryan Guzman as Max is the perfect self-obsessed asshole. Guzman plays the victim very well but walks a phenomenal line between the need for attention and contrition. But it is the performance from Alix Angelis that is fully immersed in terror and sheer brilliance. The entirety of the film’s success is driven by her insane work, and I do mean work. She must have been exhausted after every take.

The practical fx missed with the sound editing made me almost vomit. It took me way too long to catch my breath. The look of the film is spot on. The camera work is cool as hell. But it is the storyline that will suck you in. The entire plot is centered around confession. This demon is looking for something very specific and until then, it will torture and kill until it is satisfied. I could not tear my eyes away from the screen even when I wanted to. Writer/director Damien LeVeck and co-writer Aaron Horwitz know exactly what they’re doing. The social commentary is unmistakable. The Cleansing Hour is full tilt, batshit crazy. The ending… you’ll never see it coming. Stay. Through. The. Credits.

Directed by: Damien LeVeck | Written by: Damien LeVeck and Aaron Horwitz

Starring: Ryan Guzman, Kyle Gallner, Alix Angelis

Review: Shut up, sit down, and watch ‘The Antenna’

In a dystopian Turkey, the Government installs new networks throughout the country to monitor information. The installation goes wrong in a crumbling apartment complex and Mehmet (Ihsan Önal), the building intendant, will have to confront the evil entity behind the inexplicable transmissions that threaten the residents.

Unsettling, oftentimes ear-piercing sound editing mixed with a 1984-esque storyline makes The Antenna an eerie watch. Set in an unnamed city in Turkey, this film is clearly an allegory for the current (yet timeless) right-wing propaganda spreading like a disease throughout today’s politics. Oppression is the name of the game. The government is installing new tv antennas so that hourly bulletins can more easily be broadcast to citizens. Accompanied by an evil black sludge coming from the new installation that seeps into the pores of high-rise tenants. Once they come in contact with it, their indoctrination is viscerally permanent. The Antenna represents the death of free speech.

The attention to detail in editing (both audio and visual), close-up shots, are all carefully crafted to induce madness in the residents and the viewer. The inspiration writer/director Orçun Behram has taken from Cronenberg and Ben Wheatley is unmistakable. I don’t know how this film was made on a $200, 000 budget. I am genuinely impressed. The Antenna is a highly stylized dystopian horror that will excite genre fans. Its smart script and dark as hell visuals are a real meal unto themselves. I will be waiting with bated breath for whatever comes next from Orçun Behram. You can watch the film in Virtual Cinemas this Friday, October 2nd, and On-Demand/VOD October 20th. Check out the trailer for some more insight.

THE ANTENNA

OPENING IN VIRTUAL THEATERS FRIDAY, OCTOBER 2  WITH A NORTH AMERICAN VOD RELEASE TO FOLLOW ON OCTOBER 20  ON ALL MAJOR PLATFORMS.

 VIRTUAL THEATERS (October 2)-Including: Los Angeles (Laemmle), New York and major cities (Alamo On Demand) and Philadelphia (Film Society).

VOD (US & Canada) (October 20): Including: iTunes, Amazon, Google Play, Xbox, Vudu, Dish Network and all major cable providers.

DIRECTED & WRITTEN BY: Orçun Behram

CAST:  Ihsan Önal, Gül Arici, Levent Ünsal, Isil Zeynep, Murat Saglam, Elif Çakman, Mert Toprak Yadigar and Eda Öze .

RT: 115 minutes; Color; Language: Turkish with English subtitles; Rating: Not Rated (Horror)

 Distributed in North America by: Dark Star Pictures

Review: There is ‘No Escape’ from your own demons.

SYNOPSIS: A social media star travels with his friends to Moscow to capture new content for his successful VLOG. Always pushing the limits and catering to a growing audience, he and his friends enter a cold world of mystery, excess, and danger. As the line between real life and social media is blurred, the group must fight to escape and survive.

NO ESCAPE puts a modern, social media-driven twist on the ultimate adventure seeker. Think Hostel (2005) meets The Game (1997) as Youtube influencer Cole (Keegan Allen) and his friends fly to Moscow to experience what they think is a one-of-a-kind escape room. Once they arrive, they’re wined and dined by a local rich kid before being led to their final destination. But not all is what it seems. As an avid watcher of all things horror, the setup rightfully lulls you into a false sense of fun with its club scene music, lighting, and awesome camera work. Then the other shoe drops, calling out Cole’s obsession with his stats over his own reality. His cocky persona is knocked down several pegs when he realizes his friends’ lives are in actual danger.

The film is written and directed by Will Wernick (Escape Room, which was fantastic), will easily tap into the younger generation who has literally grown up with social media. At 40, I was around for the birth of chat rooms in 8th grade. As someone who is at the mercy of social media in my work now, I understand the importance and the danger of such platforms. The internet is a weird place. One of the most effective pieces of the script is the ever-rolling comment section of Cole’s videos. It’s a fantastic insight into an audience “in real-time.” While the entire cast does a great job and has believable chemistry, Keegan Allen’s performance leads this film to success. Having been a fan since Pretty Little Liars, then watching his award-worthy skills in King Cobra, No Escape highlights his ability to change from beat to beat. The over-the-top influencer voice throughout much of the film falls away when fear takes hold. The ending of this film relies completely on his reaction, and it is warranted. No Escape, while hitting some familiar notes, is still a solidly acted, practical fx gorefest for genre fans. The emotional trauma goes both ways and it’s one hell of social commentary. Hot Tip: Keep watching once the credits start to roll.

Vertical Entertainment will release the horror/thriller film NO ESCAPE on Digital and On Demand on September 18, 2020. 

NO ESCAPE stars the ensemble cast of Keegan Allen (“Pretty Little Liars,” Palo Alto), Holland Roden (“Teen Wolf”, “Channel Zero”), Denzel Whitaker (“The Purge”, Black Panther), Ronen Rubinstein (“911: Lone Star” Some Kind of Hate)Pasha Lychnikoff (“Deadwood”,”Shameless”, A Good Day to Die Hard), George Janko (“NCIS: Los Angeles,” Millennial Mafia) and Siya (The First Purge). The film is written and directed by Will Wernick (Escape Room).