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

THE LOST SONS

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

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


UNITED STATES Vs. REALITY WINNER

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

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

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

Nuevo Rico

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

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


The Thing That Ate The Birds

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

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

ABOUT ALTER

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

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

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

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

ABOUT GUNPOWDER & SKY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

STUFFED

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

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


DON’T PEAK

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

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


THE MOOGAI

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

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

 

SXSW 2021 reviews: Two of our favorite comedies from this year’s virtual SXSW fest ‘Paul Dood’s Deadly Lunch Break’ & ‘Recovery’ bring the belly laughs.

PAUL DOOD’S DEADLY LUNCH BREAK

A weedy charity-shop worker is set on winning the big national talent show. But when the actions of 5 selfish people cause him to miss his audition, he sets out to seek deathly revenge. It’s 1 lunch break, 5 spectacular murders.

Paul and his enthusiastic Mum have stars in their eyes as they audition for their most famous talent show. The audience can feel Paul’s frustration as he deals with imbecilic behavior from every person that crosses his path. You’ll be screaming with laughter while you seethe on his behalf. Poor Paul is the victim of hilarious and slow-moving circumstances. People are wrecked but Paul is a saint until he reaches his limit. This film is hilariously what we’d all love to do to horrible people. Tom Meeten as Paul is brilliant. He’s vulnerable, funny, sweet, and pushed completely past his breaking point. The performance becomes so nuanced. The script allows Meeten to not only establish his character acting ability but to dive headfirst into madness. It’s relentlessly weird and wonderful. Paul Dood’s Deadly Lunch Break is a genre-bending ride for SXSW21 audiences. You will go through the wringer of emotional turbulence while watching this film. You get everything in this film. Every single ancillary performance is a knockout. The editing is thoroughly engaging and the practical FX are gruesome. The soundtrack is triumphant. Reminiscent of last year’s Spree, in that it utilizes live social media to motivate the protagonist. But it’s not that simple. Paul Dood succeeds in its lovable lead. You’re just rooting for him to have anything go right. It’s irreverent, clever, and endlessly fun. Stay for the credits.


RECOVERY

Two directionless sisters brave a cross-country road trip to rescue their grandmother from a COVID outbreak at her nursing home.

Crisp cinematography and genuinely laugh-out-loud situational comedy make RECOVERY a real gem at this year’s virtual SXSW. It’s an appropriate way to watch a film that directly deals with the pandemic with completely relatable hilarity. If you’re not doubled over watching this movie, I will be shocked. The soundtrack is kickass eclectic. The writing and performances are most likely so hilarious based on the fact that writers/stars Whitney Call and Mallory Everton have been best friends forever. It would be impossible to determine what is scripted and what is improvised. I thought a film directly dealing with COVID would drive me bonkers. In this instance, it was just the opposite. Whitney Call and Mallory Everton manage to find levity in the ways (albeit necessary) we have been forced to adapt. Dealing with those who are, shall we say, less than committed to other’s safety, finding ways to keep ourselves motivated, coming to the rescue of our loved ones. This is a classic road movie on crack. It is everything you need it to be and a million tiny things more. I could have easily watched an entire series based on this script. As it stands, RECOVERY will more than satisfy my funnybone. I formally request to be their third best friend when this thing is over.

 

SXSW 2021 reviews: ‘I’m Fine (Thanks For Asking)’ & ‘Sound Of Violence’

I’M FINE (THANKS FOR ASKING)

When a recently widowed mother becomes houseless, she convinces her 8-year-old daughter that they are only camping for fun while working to get them off of the streets.

Women have been trained to be pleasers. Asking for help has not been hardwired into our DNA. It takes a lot for most of us to ask for help. In I’m Fine (Thanks For Asking) we follow Danny over the course of one very long day. She is desperately trying to earn the last $200 she needs to secure a new apartment for her and her daughter Wes. It is not going well. As she pounds the pavement to get them out of this tragic position, the reality of her situation slowly takes hold. I’m Fine (Thanks For Asking) boasts a genuine screenplay about grief and struggle. Kelley Kali‘s performance, direction, and writing are feminist-driven and incredibly honest. From comical to heartfelt, it was refreshing to hear the juxtaposition in dialogue. There are scenes where Kali allows herself the express exasperation. Others in which she pleads for leniency. Each encounter is equally important. This character is a fully fleshed-out woman with flaws and determination. Kali shows us she’s got the “it” factor. In fact, her performance is so down-to-earth to earth you might think this was a documentary. It’s raw and revelatory. So much about this film feels like the representation we need to see more of. 


SOUND OF VIOLENCE

Alexis recovered her hearing during the brutal murder of her family when she was ten. The visceral experience awakened synesthetic abilities in her and started her on an orphaned path of self-discovery through the healing music of brutal violence. She goes on to pursue a career teaching and experimenting to find new sounds. She is supported and loved by her roommate Marie who is unaware of the dark secrets behind Alexis’ unique music and the part she unknowingly plays. Faced with the likelihood of losing her hearing again, Alexis escalates her pursuit of her masterpiece through gruesome sound experiments and devastating designs. She won’t let anything stop her not even love.

This film is definitely about trauma. That’s undeniable. Alexis is dealing with synaesthesia (the ability to see sound) and intermittent bouts of losing the hearing she has regained. Yes, it’s a lot. Her PTSD coping strategy goes off the rails faster than anticipated. The sound editing in this film is key to its success. Color is another factor that helps the audience immerse themselves into Alexis’ mindset. To auditorily and visually understand her euphoria is important here. This is the film’s most successful aspect. It is truly glorious. But something stalls the overall flow of the film. What I think is off is the order in which we see her unusual “Experiments” occur. The nonchalance is of it all needed to be explored more. I would have loved to see some scenes with a psychotherapist juxtaposed with the behavior. Is it fair to assess this film as one woman’s perfect form of torture porn? Maybe not. It’s certainly more complex. The beginning had so much potential but it really jumps the shark about 30 minutes in. Jasmin Savoy Brown as Alexis is as committed as they come, but I think the material fails her. Detective Fuentes’s dialogue is so over the top it reads farcical.  There is a lot to work with but Sound of Violence ultimately becomes silly. Alexis’s journey begins as extreme commitment and mutates into complete disassociation.

SXSW 2021 review: ‘HOW IT ENDS’ tackles reconciliation with laughter and tears.

HOW IT ENDS

On the last day on Earth, one woman goes on a journey through LA to make it to her last party before the world ends, running into an eclectic cast of characters along the way.

After watching How It Ends, I feel a physical yearning to create a list of people that I would talk to if I had one day left to live. The entire structure of How It Ends revolves around Liza making peace with or confronting people in her life. Every encounter is unique. Some crazy, some touching, some heartbreaking, but all accompanied by the physical manifestation of her younger self. Who wouldn’t love to be forced to deal with your past… or not. What would you want/need to do on your last day?

Cailee Spaeny as younger Liza is fantastic. She’s grounded, relatable, and a total natural. Her character is crafted in the spirit of the unspoiled young mind but carries the weight of adult curated anxieties, fear, and regret. She’s a star. Zoe Lister-Jones is one of my favorite people, generally speaking. After Band Aid, I started following her on social media. I vibe with her humor, aesthetic, writing, singing, and overall attitude of goodness. Her comic timing is everything. There’s just something about her that puts you at ease and yet continually keeps you on your toes. She can do no wrong.

Written and directed by Lister-Jones and her husband Daryl Wein, this script is phenomenal. The conversations with her younger self go from fun to revelatory. Oh, the things I would tell my younger self if given the opportunity! We’re all just hurt kids deep down. I also adored the fact that Liza walks everywhere. It gives the day an actual sense of time. Alongside Lister-Jones and Spaeny, the ancillary cast is packed with household names like Whitney Cummings, Bradley Whitford, Helen Hunt, Colin Hanks, Olivia Wilde, and Fred Armisen. Ultimately, How It Ends is about self-acceptance, resilience, and forgiveness. You will laugh and cry. It’s as fun as it is important.

SXSW 2021 reviews: ‘Language Lessons’ translates universally, and ‘Violet’ silences the voices that haunt us.

LANGUAGE LESSONS

A Spanish teacher and her student develop an unexpected friendship.

Unique, shocking, insightful, complex, beautiful, these are a few words that describe one of the best films from this year’s SXSW virtual festival. Two strangers become connected through chance and a gift of Spanish lessons. Cariño and Adam communicate through zoom, voicemail, genuine human connection. Mark Duplass plays Adam. Unsurprising that he is completely natural and down to earth. You’re instantly enamored with his performance. Natalie Morales is charming and honest. She’s funny and relatable. Their chemistry is the stuff of movie magic.  I would love to see them paired up again and again. They completely work around the entire subject of Covid. This could be happening at any point in time and that’s nice to feel right now. Ultimately, this screenplay is about the human spirit without a filter. Written by Morales and Duplass, and directed by Morales, Language Lessons is profound and revealing. It will touch you in ways you won’t expect.

 

VIOLET

A film development executive realizes that “guiding voice” inside her head has been lying to her about everything.

I don’t know if a film could be any more relatable to everyone. My husband used to point out how negatively I spoke about myself. Once I noticed the self-deprecating behavior, I started noticing my mother doing the same thing. It’s a learned behavior. One we permit to exist. Olivia Munn, who wowed me back in The Newsroom, represents so many of us. This issue is ageless, ingrained, suffocating. Her vulnerability and honesty shine and we’re better for it. Justin Theroux‘s voice acting is the dickheaded tone we all know too well. What a fantastic choice. The internal battle of never feeling like we’re enough is universal. In Violet, the visual juxtaposition of handwritten thoughts, like a right-brain/left-brain battle, and Theroux as “The Voice” is perfection. When you finally catch onto the overall picture, it’s really quite genius. It’s telegraphed without our knowledge early on. Writer-director Justine Bateman nails her feature debut. What a complex and carefully curated script. Women, in particular, are going to be locked into this film.

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

JAKOB’S WIFE

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

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

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

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

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


NARRATIVE:

RECOVERY

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

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

WITCH HUNT

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

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

PAUL DOOD’s DEADLY LUNCH BREAK

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

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

JAKOB’S WIFE

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

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


DOCUMENTARY:

LILY TOPPLES THE WORLD

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

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

THE LOST SONS

Director: Ursula Macfarlane, Producer: Gagan Rehill
1960s Chicago, a baby is kidnapped from a hospital. Fifteen months later, a toddler is abandoned. Could he be the same baby? In a tale of breathtaking twists and turns, two mysteries begin to unravel and dark family secrets are revealed. (World Premiere)

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


SHORT FILMS:

THE THING THAT ATE THE BIRDS

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

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

NUEVO RICO

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

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

STUFFED

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

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

MARVIN’S NEVER HAD COFFEE BEFORE

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

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


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

SXSW

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SXSW 2020 review: ‘I Used To Go Here’ is an emotional second chance.

I Used To Go Here

Synopsis:

Following the launch of her new novel, 35-year-old writer Kate Conklin (Gillian Jacobs) is invited to speak at her alma mater by her mentor and former professor (Jemaine Clement). After accepting the invitation, Kate finds herself deeply enmeshed in the lives of an eccentric group of college students.

Gillian Jacobs is charming as ever as a woman whose life isn’t quite stacking up with the fiction she has spun. She comes face to face, literally, with everything from her college experience; her house, her coursework, her professor, and fellow students. After a reading from her debut novel, she is confronted by her own shortcomings as she becomes entangled in the drama of current students. The script allows her to let her guard down and accept the dark. Failure allows her to grow.

While certain plot points feel like a cliche rom-com, there is nothing wrong with that. I Used To Go Here is a comfort film for people who feel stalled. Finger wagging Gen Xer’s (like myself) will instantly connect with Jacobs. Ironically longing to be in her shoes for a few days. It will remind us all of the hope and fearlessness of our youth. It’s a motivating, genuinely funny look as adulthood. Besides Jacobs continuing to be a lovely and heartfelt actor, her castmates also offer a plethora of laughs and light. Jemaine Clement is always hilarious and this is no exception. Sometimes, the more sincere he tries to be the funnier I fond him. This is a total compliment. I find him easy to watch and connect with.

Josh Wiggins as Hugo is a breath of fresh air. His nonchalance and enthusiasm are a joy to watch. Hannah Marks is everything we need her to be; ambitious, moody, and ultimately vulnerable. Brandon Daley is one of the most hilarious characters in this film as Tall Brandon. His confidence and comic timing are pure magic. Lastly, Zoe Chao plays Laura, Kate’s best friend that is living vicariously through sporadic phone calls. She is both a voice of reason and a reliable one-liner spouter. I’m going to need way more of her in the future, please and thank you.

While we’re not breaking any ground with I Used To Go Here, I still really loved it. I lived in it. Sometimes you just need a well written, well-acted film that universally gets you. Congratulations to writer/director Kris Rey and cast for leaving us with a feel-good gem.

I USED TO GO HERE— Directed and Written by Kris Rey

SXSW 2020 Official Selection – Narrative SpotlightWorld Premiere — Acquisition

Starring Gillian Jacobs, Jemaine Clement, Josh Wiggins, Hannah Marks, Zoe Chao, Jorma Taccone, Forrest Goodluck

Review: ‘Run This Town’ is a successful look at who does the dirty work in truth telling and true suppressing.

A young journalist and a young political aide become entangled in a larger-than-life political scandal as they struggle to navigate adult life. Like all their friends, Bram and Kamal are struggling to climb the ladders at their respective workplaces: Bram at a newspaper, Kamal at City Hall. When Bram learns of a scandal involving Kamal’s larger-than-life boss, he seizes the moment to advance his career. Meanwhile, Kamal grapples with containing the story while maintaining his integrity.

Ben Platt is swiftly becoming a household name for anyone outside of the Broadway, music industry, and Netflix world. Frankly, shame on you if you haven’t heard of him at this point. In Run This Town, Platt plays a budding journalist, Bram, who has Toronto’s biggest political scandal fall into his lap.

This entire cast has fresh and energetic chemistry. They ooze the ambition that each of these characters needs. Platt, Speedman, Dobrev, Ehle, and Massoud make things more than interesting. If I had to nitpick, the makeup on Damian Lewis as Ford is a bit over the top. It feels a bit cartoonish and is slightly distracting. That being said, the performance is so good I actually didn’t know it was Lewis under the makeup. The scene where Ford goes on a drunken rant with his employees is so cringey and intense, it will make your skin crawl. Replace Ford with any current slime ball “politician”, it’s an easy swap. Lewis’ performance is unhinged in the best way possible. Ben Platt is solid as ever. The specificity that he brings to Bram both physically and emotionally is top-notch.  His casting was a perfect choice. Massoud and Dobrev are equally vulnerable. Their performances are nothing short of captivating.

The editing in this film alone is so sharp that it forces you to sit up and pay attention. You have to keep up with the dialogue and quick cuts from the get-go. This script is timely as hell. It may revolve around Toronto’s Rob Ford but the rest of the world has its own garbage politician. This film is about the down and dirty and real work journalists have to do to battle to bullshit. But it’s also about the political spin; the young and hungry aides that twist the truth to put a party base at ease.

The score, along with the title and credit sequences are simply brilliant. Sort of a visual metaphor for finding the truth. The script takes a look at where On the whole, Run This Town is a super intriguing look at scandal, those who try to expose it, and those who suppress it. It highlights the work you don’t see and who is really responsible for moving the needle behind the scenes. It’s a great commentary on power, greed, ambition, xenophobia, and #MeToo. Run This Town is a fantastic feature debut for writer/director Ricky Tollman. The dialogue, in pacing and quippiness, is very reminiscent of Aaron Sorkin, particularly in the opening scene. That is precisely how you get an audience’s attention. Well done.

 

RUN THIS TOWN will be in U.S. theaters through Oscilloscope and On Demand and Digital through Quiver Distribution on March 6th, 2020.

Review: Scary Movies XII’s Opening Night Film ‘VILLAINS’ is terrifyingly good.

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Scary Movies XII’s Opening Film

VILLAINS

Opening In Theaters Nationwide This Fall

Two hilariously small-time millennial robbers break into the wrong house. Something is clearly amiss when Jules and Mickey are confronted by the owners. In an attempt to do the right thing, they are faced with challenges no one will see coming. Evil comes in many forms.

The film has fantastic framing and awesome camera work. Beautifully sprinkled horror homages keep genre fans in a state of pure delight. This is already a crowd-pleaser less than 15 minutes into its 89 minute run-time. The animation under the final credits is like a drug induced plot recap. I am obsessed. The script is quirky is wonderful. With stylistic elements that reminded me of The People Under The Stairs, it’s a film you’ll have to go back and watch to catch all the little details.
Bill Skarsgård and Maika Monroe are young balls of energy. Both quickly becoming genre icons in their own right, these two make a stunning pair. Their chemistry feels super organic and appropriately playful. By the end you will be genuinely invested in their survival. Homeowners Kyra Sedgwick and Jeffrey Donovan are total creeps. Sedgwick, in particular, will blow you away with a complex performance. They are a perfect foil for Jules and Mickey. It’s scary what we’ll do for love.

You’ll be totally enamored with Villains from start to finish. It’s funny and bizarre as hell. It has a classic feel but somehow completely fresh all at once. From the acting to the cinematography to the smart script, directors Dan Berk & Robert Olsen have a real winner on their hands.

Written & Directed by | Dan Berk & Robert Olsen

Starring | Bill Skarsgård, Maika Monroe, Jeffrey Donovan & Kyra Sedgwick

Co-Produced by | BRON Studios, Star Thrower Entertainment, Creative Wealth Media Finance & The Realm Films

Review: ‘GALVESTON’ impresses with its story and star, Ben Foster.

SYNOPSIS: Roy (Foster) is a heavy-drinking criminal enforcer and mob hit man whose boss set him up in a double-cross scheme. After killing his would-be assassins before they could kill him, Roy discovers Rocky (Fanning), a young woman being held captive, and reluctantly takes her with him on his escape. Determined to find safety and sanctuary in Galveston, Roy must find a way to stop his boss from pursuing them while trying to outrun the demons from his and Rocky’s pasts.

Just when I think Ben Foster can’t get better, well, I should know better by now. His fearless choices in roles continue in the new film Galveston. A man double-crossed and doing a good deed for a captive young girl (played spectacularly by Elle Tanning), Foster once again transforms voice, physicality, and persona to become a hero. His powerful on-screen presence is undeniable and one day, sooner rather than later, we will see him with a much deserved Oscar in his hands. His chemistry with Fanning is delicate and honest as the reality of their dilemma unfolds. The film is a tour de force of intensity from the get-go. It only becomes darker as the story rolls on. Galveston is as heartbreaking as it is triumphant.

RLJE Films will release the thriller / drama GALVESTON in theaters and On Demand / Digital HD on October 19, 2018.

Based on the novel by the creator of “True Detective,” GALVESTON stars Ben Foster (Hell or High Water), Elle Fanning (The Beguiled), Beau Bridges (The Mountain Between Us), Lili Reinhart (“Riverdale”), and Robert Aramayo (Nocturnal Animals). The film made its world premiere at the 2018 SXSW Film Festival and was directed by Mélanie Laurent (Inglourious Basterds) from a script by Jim Hammett.

 

Review: ‘BLOOD FEST’ is a fun homage to genre filmmakers and fans alike.

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BLOOD FEST

Fans flock to a festival celebrating the most iconic horror movies, only to discover that the charismatic showman behind the event has a diabolical agenda. As attendees start dying off, three teenagers with more horror-film wits than real-world knowledge must band together and battle through every madman, monstrosity and terrifying scenario if they have any hope of surviving.

Blood Fest takes a page out of the Scream franchise playbook by breaking down the scary movie rules and tropes. It’s a horror fan’s playground, literally. “Bloodfest” is horror’s Comic-Con or Disneyland. The film doesn’t take itself too seriously, the dialogue is snappy as hell, and the sets are incredible. I know people, myself included, that would pay good money to enter such a gore-infused playland. Blood Fest is unapologetically silly and wonderful. Once on location at Bloodfest, we get right into the slashing, enhanced by a nice practical FX and some CG shots. It’s like being trapped in a horror video game you’re watching someone else play for you. Every nightmare someone might have is explored even if only for a moment.Think Cabin In The Woods level humor and (frankly, plot, as well) but with some new twists. To top it off, the entire cast is phenomenally talented. Also, ladies and gentlemen, Zachery Levi cameo. Blood Fest is wildly entertaining and undeniably fun. If you love the horror genre you’ll be thoroughly amused by the tongue-in-cheek way the plot rolls out, despite a few corny moments. Simply sit back and enjoy the bloody ride. Oh, and back to the franchise mention, there is no reason why this couldn’t turn into one itself. A sequel, at the very least, is completely plausible and welcome.

In Theaters & On Demand on August 31, 2018
Written and Directed by: Owen Egerton

Starring: Tate Donovan (The Untouchables, The Only Boy Living in New York,”The O.C.”), Robbie Kay (“Once Upon a Time”), Seychelle Gabriel (The Last Airbender, “Falling Skies”, “Sleepy Hollow”), Jacob Batalon (Spider-Man: Homecoming and Avengers: Infinity War, Every Day, and The True Don Quixote), and Barbara Dunkelman (RWBY), Nick Rutherford, Chris Doubek, Rebecca Wagner and Zachary Levi

Executive Producers: Matt Hullum, Burnie Burns, and Ryan P. Hall

Producers: Seth Caplan, Will Hyde, and Ezra Venetos

Fantasia International Film Festival Review: ‘Relaxer’ pulls you in with its beautifully weird premise.

Y2K is right around the corner, and Cam just gave his younger brother Abbie ( Joshua Burge) the dopest, most ultimate challenge, um, ever: to beat Billy Mitchell’s infamous Pac-Man high score (by going beyond level 256’s glitch, of course) without ever getting off the couch.

Emotionally abused Abbie has accepted this challenge to finally prove a point to his older brother. He is not a quitter. With the very real threat of Y2K looming on the horizon, Abbie is hell-bent on defeating his brother’s perception of him and earning a massive cash prize all at once. But literally not getting up has consequences for our leading man. Eventually, food and drink run out. The lengths to which he will go to survive on this couch are beyond ludicrous, some downright disgusting. But this is about principal dammit. Joshua Burge, once again, proves to be a master at tackling the oddball guy with an ease that is frightening. A longtime collaborator with writer/director/editor Joel Potrykus, the two have brought some of the boldest characters and stories to life over the past 6 years. Buzzard is still one of my top recommended films of all time. Potrykus pulls inspiration from his real-life experiences. Relaxer is set at a very specific moment in time and anyone who is of a certain age will feel bombarded (in a great way) with 90’s nostalgia. Fantasia International Film Festival is the perfect platform for this film to shine. The film has a genius undertone of supernatural and the final sequence is so satisfying, I cheered out loud.

Relaxer Director Joel Potrykus

The Fantasia International Film Festival runs from July 12th- August 2nd. You can find out more about the full lineup and tickets at Fantasia.com 

Review: ‘Wildling’ is dark, coming of age tale.

WILDLING

 **WORLD PREMIERE – 2018 SXSW FILM FESTIVAL**

The feature debut from Fritz Böhm, WILDLING is a spellbinding take on the werewolf legend starring Independent Spirit Award Nominee Bel Powley (The Diary of a Teenage Girl), SAG Award® Winner Liv Tyler (Lord of the Rings, Armageddon) and Academy Award® Nominee Brad Dourif (One Flew Over Cuckoo’s Nest, Child’s Play).

 WILDLING is a unique dark fantasy tale centered on young Anna (Powley) who has been raised in isolation by a man she knows only as Daddy (Dourif) who has done everything possible to conceal the truth about the girl’s origins from her. But when the teenage Anna is suddenly thrust into the real world under the protection of no-nonsense police officer Ellen Cooper (Tyler), it soon becomes clear that the young woman is far from ordinary. Unable to adjust to a normal life, Anna finds herself drawn instead to the wild freedom of the forest while struggling to resist the growing bloodlust that has awakened inside her. This moodily atmospheric thriller combines supernatural scares with a myth-like tale of self-discovery.

There are many elements of Wildling that excited me. The cast is beyond excellent. Bel Powley is undeniably a star. As she never seems to age, she can continue to portray exceedingly young characters. Her onscreen presence is captivating. And while she actually speaks relatively few lines in the film, she owns each scene she appears in. Liv Tyler is as elegant as ever. Never doubt her ability to completely inhabit any role. Brad Dourif is scary as hell. He makes your skin crawl in the best way possible. The lighting is truly something to behold. Extra attention to the sound mixing plays perfectly on the audience’s sense of dread or wonder, depending on the moment to moment needs of the plot.

After all of the positives, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the rushed feel of the story. Much of the plot seems to be missing as if there is an entire section of canon that was left out for runtime. I have so many questions pertaining to missing elements (I won’t be too specific because of spoilers) and I was a genuinely baffled by their absence. Some serious plot holes. The emotional transition of all the major players was swifter than feel natural under the circumstances. Finally, if I hadn’t seen Netflix’s original series Big Mouth, perhaps I wouldn’t be so bothered by the final creature FX.

Wilding has a graphic novel turned feature film feeling to it. It’s most definitely entertaining and worth the watch. You can watch the trailer below.

IFC Midnight will release the upcoming thriller WILDLING in theaters in NYC and LA as well as on VOD and Digital HD on April 13.

Review: ‘MAYHEM’ is contagious fun.

Have you ever dreamed of punching Karen from Human Resources in her stupid face? Sure you have, who hasn’t?! In a new unapologetically violent and incredibly awesome film, you can live vicariously through others in kicking Karen’s ass.

MAYHEM stars Steven Yeun (“The Walking Dead,” Okja), Samara Weaving (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, Showtime’s “SMILF”), and Steven Brand (“Teen Wolf,” “Secrets and Lies”) is directed by Joe Lynch (Everly, Knights of Badassdom) and marks the feature film debut from writer Matias Caruso.

SYNOPSIS:  Derek Cho (Steven Yeun) is having a really bad day. After being unjustly fired from his job, he discovers that the law firm’s building is under quarantine for a mysterious and dangerous virus. Chaos erupts throughout the office as the victims of the disease begin acting out their wildest impulses. Joining forces with a former client (Samara Weaving) who has a grudge of her own, Derek savagely fights tooth and nail to get to the executives on the top floor and settle the score once and for all.

We all know Steven Yeun as our beloved (may he rest in peace) Glen, but in Mayhem, he does such a fantastic job that you completely forget about his Walking Dead persona. Mayhem is literally laugh out loud funny all while having some of the coolest fight choreography and blood gushing effects. Screenwriter Matias Caruso might have hit the jackpot with the plotline because this is the most imaginative way to utilize “The F-word” in a script possible. I would go back and watch to count the number of times it’s used and not a single time is it superfluous, it’s genius. Yeun’s training with zombies made him the perfect pick for this role. He is the embodiment of everyone who has ever felt oppressed by the BS hierarchy of corporate. Samara Weaving gives a borderline Harley Quinn inspired performance as a woman who was wronged by Yeun’s character. Her effortless delivery and comic timing, down to specific idiosyncracies she displays are spot on brilliant. In reality, this is an ensemble piece of pitch-perfect character work. You cannot help but get revved up watching Mayhem. It has to be one of my favorites of 2017. You can catch MAYHEM in theaters and available On Demand / Digital HD November 10, 2017(PS- that’s today.)

RLJE Films will release the upcoming horror, action film MAYHEM in theaters and available On Demand / Digital HD November 10, 2017.

 **World Premiere – SXSW Film Festival 2017**

**International Premiere – Fantasia Film Festival 2017**

**West Coast Premiere – Beyond Fest 2017**

TITLE:  MAYHEM
IN THEATERS AND AVAILABLE ON VOD AND DIGITAL HD:  November 10, 2017
CAST:  Steven Yeun, Samara Weaving, Steven Brand
DIRECTOR:  Joe Lynch
WRITER: Matias Caruso
GENRE:  Horror/Action
DISTRIBUTOR:  RLJE Films

Review: ‘KILL ME PLEASE’ will bend your mind and throw you back in time.

Bia (Valentina Herszage), Michele (Júlia Roliz), Mariana (Mariana Oliveira) and Renata (Dora Freind) are a clique of affluent high school girls. They waste away their days wandering the fields between the vertigo-inducing high rises in Barra da Tijuca, an affluent new neighborhood in Rio de Janeiro. Both privileged and abandoned by busy parents, the girls spend most of their time together.

When a wave of murders begins to terrorize the neighborhood, the girls develop a morbid curiosity with the victims – and lines separating life, desire and death begins to break down.

If you were a fan of IT FOLLOWS, then KILL ME PLEASE will strike a chord with you. With oversaturated moments in its cinematography to its perhaps allegorical message of teenage lust, this film is filled to the brim with bizarre but very real moments. Ghost stories are woven into the narrative as warnings or maybe even as excuses for avoiding sexual contact, all while an actual serial killer takes out young girls that bare a striking resemblance to our ingenue. As the viewer goes deeper into the mind of Bia, you begin to realize that this film is all of us growing up. Blissful ignorance, metaphors of self-doubt and self-sabotage bring back too many dark memories. Boasting an eclectic and truly kickass soundtrack, KILL ME PLEASE is a one of kind blend of horror and coming of age film that will throw you for a loop. The cast has a brilliant chemistry and director Anita Rocha da Silveira has quite a masterpiece on her hands. If you’re lucky enough to be in NYC today and LA in October, you can catch the film on the big screen. If not, you’ll have to wait until May to catch it on VOD and DVD. Until then, check out the trailer below, though truth be told, the film is on a whole other level than what you’ll see here.

 

September 1, 2017 – Alamo Drafthouse Brooklyn in New York, NY
October 13, 2017 – Arena Cinelounge in Los Angeles, CA

A VOD and physical media release are expected by May 2018.

Fantasia International Film Festival 2017 Review: ‘The Honor Farm’ leaves an empty feeling.

THE HONOR FARM

INTERNATIONAL PREMIERE
  • USA
  • 2017
  • 75 mins
  • English

On prom night, a group of kids wander deep into the woods and come back changed forever.

I had very high hopes based upon the set up of The Honor Farm. It took the typical 30ish minutes to get to what seemed like the ramping up of a really great plot. Everyone is tripping on shrooms and walks into an abandoned prison farm, super cool, right? Rumor has it, two girls died there! Also intriguing, yes, yes, give me more. It’s dark, spooky, and covered in weird suggestive graffiti, this is looking like a blast. Unfortunately, this was not meant to be. While the shrooms do provide for some magical visual moments, the follow through was a letdown. There were several plotlines writer/director Karen Skloss could have expounded upon; satanic ritual, haunted location, séance, but not one of these was ever fully realized. The cinematography is absolutely beautiful, there’s no arguing that point. Unfortunately, the fear factor left me feeling unsatisfied. Even our leading lady expresses in the film, “I was hoping something real was going to happen to me tonight.” Me too, girlfriend, me too.

We’re wondering what you thought of The Honor Farm at this year’s Fantasia Film Fest! If you caught the film over the weekend or this afternoon, we’d love to hear your thoughts. For those not at the fest, you can start with the trailer and decide for yourselves. Check it out below.

CREDITS

  • Directed by: Karen Skloss
  • Written by: Karen Skloss, Jasmine Skloss Harrison, Jay Tonne, Jr.
  • Cast: Olivia Applegate, Katie Folger, Dora Madison, Will Brittain, Louis Hunter, Jonny Mars, Liam Aiken, Mackenzie Astin, Josephine McAdam, Christina Parrish, Michael Eric Reid
  • Company: Gravitas Ventures

Review: ‘PREVENGE’ takes killer kids to the next level.

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PREVENGE
Written and Directed by Alice Lowe

**Official Selection: 2016 VENICE INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL**
**Official Selection: 2016 TORONTO INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL**
*
*Official Selection: SOUTH BY SOUTHWEST 2017**

Sometimes, when it’s 3 am and my unborn baby girl decided it’s an awesome time to do a dance instead of letting me sleep, I become, shall we say, a little grumpy. 3 weeks away from my second child, I’m freaking tired and sore and over being pregnant. Don’t get me wrong, I’m thrilled for this peanut. My soon to be two children will be less than 16 months apart. Yup, two under two. I shudder to think about the amount of rest I will not be getting for the next 18, nay, 19 years. All that being said, I’ll have my perfect little salt and pepper set, all we need is the dog. There will be days I will want to flee, I’m sure… but I cannot imagine a day where the acts of my kids will compel me to start, let’s say, murdering people. Though, it’s early and who am I to judge. In Alice Lowe‘s directorial debut, PREVENGE, Ruth’s unborn child is telling her to murder a very specific list of people and perhaps for a good reason.

Synopsis:

A pitch black, wryly British horror comedy from the mind of Alice Lowe (“Sightseers,” “Hot Fuzz,” “Paddington”) that’s as funny as it is vicious,  PREVENGE follows Ruth, a pregnant woman on a killing spree. It’s her misanthropic unborn baby dictating Ruth’s actions, holding society responsible for the absence of a father. The child speaks to Ruth from the womb, coaching her to lure and ultimately kill her unsuspecting victims. Struggling with her conscience, loneliness, and a strange strain of prepartum madness, Ruth must ultimately choose between redemption and destruction at the moment of motherhood.

Written, directed and starring Lowe while she was actually 7 1/2 months pregnant, Prevenge is savage and wickedly demented. Sharp British humor heightens this in-your-face rampage. As much as you attempt to figure out the actual reason for the string of murders, you won’t until very late into the film and thus a sign of great writing. Lowe’s portrayal of Ruth is frighteningly grounded and wonderful. The cast is filled with familiar faces and the chemistry between Lowe and her (mostly) victims is perfection. The colors are vibrant and the jarring jump cuts interspersed are incredibly effective. The film is weird and gruesome and unlike anything you’ve seen before. It’s just plain cool.

Check out a clip from the film below.

PREVENGE opens theatrically in New York and Los Angeles and will be available nationwide on Shudder, on March 24th

About SHUDDER:

Shudder is a premium streaming video service, super-serving fans of thrillers, suspense, and horror. Backed by AMC Networks, Shudder has a growing and dynamic selection of thrilling premieres, originals, and exclusives, which complement its impressive library of international and independent films, gripping TV series, and Hollywood blockbuster favorites.

TRT: 88 min
Director: Alice Lowe
Writer: Alice Lowe
Cast: Alice Lowe, Gemma Whelan, Kate Dickie, Jo Hartley
Distributor: Shudder