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

GRIMMFEST 2021

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

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


THE BETA TEST

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

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


THE RIGHTEOUS

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

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


WHEN THE SCREAMING STARTS

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

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


THE SPORE

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

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


HOTEL POSEIDON

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

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


ALONE WITH YOU

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

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



FULL VIRTUAL FESTIVAL LINE UP:

● FOR ROGER (Aaron Bartuska, USA)

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

● SLAPFACE (Jeremiah Kipp, USA)

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

● HAPPY TIMES (Michael Mayer, Israel / USA)

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

● VAL (Aaron Fradkin, USA, 77 min)

● THE SPORE (D.M. Cunningham, USA)

● THE PIZZAGATE MASSACRE (John Valley, USA)

● MOTHERLY (Craig David Wallace, Canada)

● SHOT IN THE DARK (Keene McRae, USA)

● NIGHT DRIVE (Brad Baruh, USA)

● MIDNIGHT (Oh-seung Kwon, South Korea)

● FACELESS (Marcel Sarmiento, USA)

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

● THE FREE FALL (Adam Stillwell, USA)

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

● THE GUEST ROOM (Stefano Lodovichi, Italy)

● HOTEL POSEIDON (Stefan Lernous, Belgium)

● FORGIVENESS (Alex Kahuam, Mexico)

● TWO WITCHES (Pierre Tsigaridis, USA)

● KING KNIGHT (Richard Bates Jnr, USA)

● TARUMAMA / LLANTO MALDITO (Andres Beltran, Colombia)

● THE RIGHTEOUS (Mark O’Brien, Canada)


 

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

Review: ‘Small Engine Repair’ Explores Toxic Masculinity with Thrilling Effect.

Featured

SMALL ENGINE REPAIR

Frankie (John Pollono), Swaino (Jon Bernthal), and Packie (Shea Wigham) are lifelong friends who share a love of the Red Sox, rowdy bars, and Frankie’s teenaged daughter Crystal (Ciara Bravo). But when Frankie invites his pals to a whiskey-fueled evening and asks them to do a favor on behalf of the brash young woman they all adore, events spin wildly out of control. Based on Pollono’s award-winning play, Small Engine Repair is a pitch-black comedic drama with a wicked twist and a powerful exploration of brotherhood, class struggle, and toxic masculinity.


Frankie (John Pollono), Swaino (Jon Bernthal), and Packie (Shea Whigham) are working-class men that share a friendship bond going back to childhood. That bond is strengthened further by their co-parenting of Frankie’s beloved daughter Crystal, who has spent a lifetime being raised by a loving– if raucous– male collective. This sets the scene for a fascinating character study of a group of men raised in a culture steeped in toxic masculinity who struggle to push back against it but often fall incredibly short. 

At first, Small Engine Repair seems like a dark family drama with a comedic edge. However, it is not until the second act that the viewer realizes that they are in the midst of a thriller. Complex performances by the entire cast gradually build tension through sharp looks, quick words, and complicated histories until the atmosphere on screen is so thick with menace that suddenly, every word and movement is a threat. It is hard to say more without giving away the shocking twists that a seemingly ordinary whiskey-fueled night in a garage would unleash. So instead, I will say that the tightly directed and brilliantly acted Small Engine Repair had me holding my breath through the finale.


In Theaters September 10, 2021


Written and Directed by

John Pollono

Starring: Jon Bernthal, Shea Whigham, Jordana Spiro, John Pollono, Ciara Bravo, Spencer House


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

COMING HOME IN THE DARK

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



CAST:

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

Review: ‘Eye Without A Face’ is a twisted psychological thriller.

Eye Without A Face

Henry, an agoraphobic and anxious young man living in Los Angeles, hacks into the webcams of various selected young women who inhabit the city. He watches over them in their daily lives, seeing himself as their guardian angel. When his new charming roommate Eric, a Youtuber and struggling actor pushes him to get out into the real world, he unknowingly puts Henry in danger. And as Henry starts to suspect one of the women he watches, Laura, of being a killer, everything starts to spiral out of control.

 


Luke Cook as Erik is the perfect foil for Shapiro’s Henry. He’s narcissistic and raunchy but also genuinely a good friend. I could not take my eyes off of him. I found myself cringing and doubled over at his antics. Cook provides the much-needed lightness to the dark of this film. Dakota Shapiro as Henry is simply astounding. He lives in the skin of a trauma victim. His idiosyncracies are spot on. Shapiro’s vulnerability is the backbone of Eye Without A Face. The cinematography from Tara Violet Niami is striking. Thoughtful use of color and lighting make for some extraordinary close-ups, especially of Adam’s eyes.


It’s clear to see the Rear Window inspiration in writer-director Ramin Niami‘s screenplay. The tiny flashes of Henry’s backstory heighten the tension. So does Charlie Clouser‘s score. If you think you know where this is going, think again. There is a reason we’re told to put tape over our laptop cameras. We love online these days, much to our own detriment. The key to Eye Without A Face is Henry’s largely unaddressed trauma. It is the complexity of his nature that makes this film so killer.


ON-DEMAND AND DVD AUGUST 10


Featuring stunning cinematography by Tara Violet Niami, and a mesmerizing score by Charlie Clouser, Eye Without A Face is written and directed by Ramin Niami, director of the acclaimed films Somewhere in the City, Babe’s & Rickey’s Inn and Shirin in Love.

Starring hot young actors Dakota Shapiro (“The Affair”), Luke Cook (“Chilling Adventures of Sabrina”, “Katy Keene”), and Vlada Verevko (“Beauty and the Beast”), Eye Without A Face will be available On Demand and Digital August 10 from Gravitas Ventures.


Bentonville Film Festival 21 review: ‘The Novice’ pushes past obsession.

THE NOVICE

An obsessive novice rower climbs the ranks of her college’s rowing team.


For me, Isabelle Fuhrman is someone synonymous with a certain horror franchise. Seeing her in a solely dramatic role in The Novice was a new and glorious territory. Determined to be the best novice rower there’s ever been, Alex does everything to excess. Goal-oriented isn’t a strong enough word for this character. The film challenges self-worth, ideals, and pressure to succeed. The complexities hiding inside The Novice will astound you.

Quick take editing alongside exaggerated and repetitive audio gives the film urgency, all while a string-heavy score plays underneath. The culmination of all these elements lands The Novice somewhere between tense and inspiring. Then there is Furhman’s performance. Her obsessive behavior pushes The Novice past genre definitions. Furhman brings a ferocious passion to the role. Writer-director Lauren Hadaway‘s script is ultimately not about rowing. It is about mental health. It keenly delves into privilege, relationship dynamics, competition, and self-harm. The energy of this film is extraordinary. Bentonville Film Festival audiences will be hypnotized by its greatness. It is a must-see.


About Bentonville

BFFoundation is a non-profit organization focused on promoting underrepresented voices of diverse storytellers. We champion female, non-binary, LGBTQIA+, black, indigenous, people of color, and people with disabilities’ voices in entertainment and media. We do this through research, education, and supporting the production and distribution of inclusive content.

The foundation believes that by taking real action with content creators, talent, influencers, advertisers, and content distributors, we can accurately reflect the gender balance and diversity of our country. Our goal is to create a seismic change in how media inspires young minds to do great things.

Our primary research partner is the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media. Together, we seek to support research that proves these systemic changes are not only the right thing to do—they are also commercially beneficial. The Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media has also clearly shown that the media children consume has an overwhelming influence in shaping their view of the world and their place in it.

The foundation also partners with schools and community institutions, working with children to educate on the challenging effects of stereotyping, unconscious bias, and gender imbalance. We also utilize media-based tools and content to build positive association and equality-based learning models.

BFFoundation is focused on working with its partners to foster inclusivity in media and entertainment to produce a positive influence in the community at large.


SUPPORT

BFFoundation is an organization that provides year-round support for filmmakers who live the mission of highlighting underrepresented voices in media. If you are interested in getting involved with our foundation, please reach out to us at info@bentonvillefilmfestival.com.


Review: ‘John and The Hole’ is a dark look at adolescence and parenting.

In this enigmatic and unsettling meditation on adolescent angst, 13-year-old John (Charlie Shotwell) discovers an unfinished bunker while exploring the neighboring woods — a deep hole in the ground. Seemingly without provocation, he drugs his affluent parents (Michael C. Hall and Jennifer Ehle) and older sister (Taissa Farmiga), holding them captive within the bunker. As they anxiously wait for John to free them from the hole, the boy returns home, where he can finally enjoy and explore newfound independence.

As a former teacher and current parent, I am wondering if my reaction to John and The Hole is in any way different from my colleagues. This is a film I cannot shake. Brilliantly performed, tightly directed by Pascual Sisto, and with glorious cinematography, John and The Hole is not to be missed. Charlie Shotwell plays the psychopathic John. The performance falls somewhere between age-appropriate and terrifying. This role should make him a household name. Michael C. Hall plays John’s father. He’s doting in gifts and a touch too nonchalant in actual parenting. Jennifer Ehle is fantastic as Mom. The ability to reflect goes beyond motherly instinct. Taissa Farmiga‘s older sister role hits the nail on the head. Mostly minding her own business until John’s behavior annoys her is pretty synonymous with being an older sibling. She has some of the most profound moments in the film. The Children’s ISA helps parents to save money for their children so when they grow  they can use it for their studies or buying their first home.

Drugging his family and holding them captive in a bunker aside, toxic masculinity is smartly displayed throughout John’s journey. It appears in a spit fight, inappropriate conversations, and almost drowning a friend. The culmination of these moments keeps you tense and extremely uncomfortable. John and The Hole is unpredictable. I believe the most disturbing aspect of Nicolás Giacobone‘s screenplay is actually the final scene. Not wanting to spoil anything for the reader, I was horrified. The reasons are a complex mix of socioeconomics and Giacobone’s understanding our how the world functions. John and The Hole begs a larger conversation about aggression, pressure, and parenting. Do not miss this film.

IFC Films is pleased to present the psychological coming-of-age thriller JOHN AND THE HOLE, directed by visual artist Pascual Sisto — one of Variety’s “10 Directors to Watch” of 2021 — in his feature debut. A selection of the canceled 2020 Cannes Film Festival and featured in the 2021 Sundance Film Festival (in competition), JOHN AND THE HOLE will open on Friday, August 6 in select theaters and everywhere films are rented.

Review: ‘Till Death’ kills it with the ball and chain metaphor.


Presents

TILL DEATH

Emma (Megan Fox) is stuck in a stale marriage to Mark and is surprised when he whisks her away to their secluded lake house for a romantic evening on their 10th anniversary. But everything soon changes, and Emma finds herself trapped and isolated in the dead of winter, the target of a plan that gets more sinister at every turn.

Till Death is a creative story about abuse, control, and reclaiming your voice. The film stars Megan Fox as Emma. She has been held emotionally captive by her abusive and powerful husband for 11 years. Their marital turmoil reaches new heights when a weekend getaway develops into physical captivity, with a side of heist and murder. Fox is great. The small moments of both recoil and challenge establish their dynamic, making for an uncomfortable watch. The physicality of this role is only half the battle. You cannot help but watch and yell at the screen alongside her. I think, “Son of a bitch!” came out of my mouth a lot. If I can be picky for a moment, I don’t think Fox’s character is given enough time to transition from submissive to badass, but that doesn’t lessen how enjoyable Till Death ultimately is. She gives a visceral performance.

It’s a harrowing script. The tension is constantly being ratcheted up. I was not expecting such a cat and mouse game when it first began. It’s the ingenuity that grabs you. I was genuinely surprised by Jason Carvey‘s screenplay. It’s undeniably clever, gruesome, infuriating, and fun. Till Death is essentially the worst anniversary scavenger hunt ever. (Which is actually the best compliment.)

Available In Theaters And On Demand July 2

Starring Megan Fox (Jennifer’s Body)
Co-staring Callan Mulvey (Russo Brothers’ upcoming The Gray Man), Eoin Macken (George RR Martin’s Nightflyers), Aml Ameen (HBO’s “I May Destroy You”)
and Jack Roth (Medici)
Directed by S.K. Dale 
Screenplay by Jason Carvey 

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

THE KNOT

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

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

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

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

Review: ‘The Toll’ plays upon familiar fears.

 

THE TOLL

Synopsis: Supernatural terror and spine-tingling suspense highlight this gripping journey into fear. When Cami orders a taxi service to take her to her father’s country home, she’s hoping for a quiet and uneventful ride. But a wrong turn by Spencer, her chatty driver, results in the car stalling on a dark and remote road. After several threatening and inexplicable occurrences, Cami and Spencer realize they are being watched—by an unseen presence that sees them as trespassers, and is ready to exact a deadly toll.
Writer-director Michael Nader sets up The Toll in a marvelous way. It plays upon the very real fears of ride-sharing. My heart was already in my throat minutes in. The writing is sharp and relatable. A woman alone in a car with a male driver, perhaps a tad too chatty for the hour and length of the drive. The pitch-black atmosphere, barely illuminated by headlights and dashboard glow adds to the fear factor. Ramp up the terror with a backwoods legend and this film settles into one extremely unsettling watch. Do your eyes a favor and watch it in the dark.
The first half and the finale of The Toll are hugely successful. My misgivings arrive in the middle of the film with a sudden tonal shift. It feels like Nader took a handful of horror DVDs, tossed them into the air, and used the plots/visuals from whichever films landed inside a circle on the ground. The trauma and the gaslighting aspect are the most intriguing. Credit where credit is due, the final twist is brilliant. While The Toll has a lot to explore with solid performances and a genuinely scary emotional build-up, I’m not sure if it works as a whole.
Saban Films’ THE TOLL opens In Theaters, On Demand, and Digital on Friday, March 26.
Writer/Director: Michael Nader
Cast: Jordan Hayes, Max Topplin, James McGowan, Rosemary Dunsmore
Producers: Max Topplin, Jordan Hayes, William Day Frank
Genre: Horror, Thriller
Run Time: 80 mins
Rating: R for Language Throughout and Some Violence
Distributor: Saban Films

SXSW 2021 review: ‘Broadcast Signal Intrusion’ and ‘Alien On Stage’

BROADCAST SIGNAL INTRUSION

In the late 90s, a video archivist unearths a series of sinister pirate broadcasts and becomes obsessed with uncovering the dark conspiracy behind them.

Harry Shum Jr was one of the most underutilized actors on GLEE. With a true leading man role in Broadcast Signal Intrusion in the Midnighters section, he was up against genre fans’ huge expectations. I think he definitely delivered. He gave us brooding vulnerability and a badass attitude that played well against the jarring imagery of the tapes. They were truly skin crawling. The film’s score has a throwback feel. It’s pure noir thriller deliciousness. The cinematography is certainly noteworthy. There is no denying the inspiration from Brian De Palma‘s ‘Blow Out.’ Gentry’s finale leaves a lot of unanswered questions but Shum holds his own in an inspired by true events screenplay. I was fully invested as he went down the rabbit hole of mystery and obsession. Please cast him in more roles with the complexity of Broadcast Signal Intrusion. A few things that stuck out like a sore thumb; James’ newly acquired detective skills get him further than any FBI agent, and the mystery of his stalker breaks late then peters out to less of an impact. Aside from a few script tweaks, this is a solid entry from this year’s lineup and well worth being disturbed by.


ALIEN ON STAGE

Alien On Stage is a Documentary about a unique crew of Dorset Bus Drivers whose amateur dramatics group decides to ditch doing another pantomime and try something different. Having never done anything like it before, they spent a year creating a serious adaptation of the sci-fi, horror film, Alien; finding ingenious homemade solutions to pay homage to the original film. The show is a crushing flop but fate gives them a second chance to find their audience. Whilst still adjusting to the idea that their serious show is actually a comedy, the group finds out they’re suddenly being whisked from their village hall to a London West End theatre to perform this accidental masterpiece for one night only.

This charming doc is the perfect family watch. More specifically, it is theatre nerd deliciousness. It’s Waiting For Guffman in real life. The rehearsals are almost painful to watch. I felt director Dave’s anxiety as his cast muddled through forgotten lines, missed cues, and disastrous blocking. You’re just rooting for it all to come together in the end. Each actor has a genuine love for the show. Most of them are completely clueless about dialogue delivery, making it a laugh riot for a hyped-up, tuned-in, sold-out audience. The amount of work these bus drivers and their family and friends put into this stage production of Alien is astounding. Every set piece, prop, and costume is made by hand with more love than a Broadway play. You will absolutely fall in love with them all. You’ll be cheering along with their live audience. Bravo to directors Lucy Harvey and Danielle Kummer for having the foresight to nurture this local charity production and turn cameras on them. Everyone involved in Alien On Stage deserves a standing ovation.

Review: ‘#LIKE ‘ will shock you to your core.

Synopsis
Woodstock teen Rosie (Sarah Rich) is mourning the first anniversary of her younger sister Amelia’s death, when she discovers that the mysterious man (Marc Menchaca, ALONE, “The Outsider”) who sexploited and bullied her sister into committing suicide, is back online trolling for new victims. After the authorities refuse to get involved, Rosie discovers a darker side she never knew she had as she takes justice into her own hands.
Rosie is trying to figure out who is responsible for the death of her sister, Amelia. A year afterward, she is obsessed with watching her old YouTube diaries for any sort of clue. The darkest side of the internet comes to light in this unapologetically raw indie. We live in a world where a single tweet can incite violence. But since the beginning of the internet and chat rooms, pedophiles have stalked kids, acted like peers, and lured them into unsafe situations. People don’t seem to grasp the permanence of posting online. The consequences can be life-altering. #Like delves into all these things and in the #MeToo era. Writer/director Sarah Pirozek gives us a revenge thriller that will punch you in the gut.

Marc Menchaca stars in another unsettling role, post ALONE. Here, he is allowed to explore the nuances of his own fear. He is captivating to watch. Sarah Rich is outstanding. You are rooting for her every step of the way. You live in her anger and grief. She gives a fearless performance.

#Like a great companion piece for Promising Young Woman and Hard Candy. The writing is fantastic. The complexity of this screenplay will blow any expectations you have out of the water. The scenes with her closest friends allow them to discuss toxic masculinity in an approachable way. Rosie is balancing teenage life with a vigilante life. She does the police work that the adults have stopped doing. We follow along with her investigation and remain on pins and needles as she digs deeper. Her boldness steers the emotional journey of the viewer. You will not see the twists coming. And that spotlighted song choice? Let’s just say it perfection in its skin-crawling nature. #Like is shocking and brilliant. You’ll walk away slightly traumatized. People will be talking about this film for a long time.

#LIKE will be available on TVOD January 26, 2021 on iTunes,
Amazon Prime, Vudu, FandangoNow, and Microsoft Store
Running Time: 95 min
Country: USA
Language: English

Interview: Writer/director Dean Kapsalis and star Azura Skye for ‘THE SWERVE’ – now available on Digital and VOD!

Holly seems to have it all: two kids, a nice house, a good job as a teacher, and a husband with his career on the way up. But there are troubling signs that all is not right in her world. The insomnia. The medication for the insomnia. The dreams from the medication for the insomnia. The arrival of her estranged sister and a mouse invading her home doesn’t help either. Add the weight of a dark secret, and her already delicate balance collapses, sending her spiraling out of control.

Last year’s Brooklyn Horror Film Festival brought a movie into my world that still haunts me. The Swerve is a film that, in many ways, made me feel seen. You can read my review here. This week, The Swerve finally comes to audiences nationwide. I was lucky enough to chat with writer/director Dean Kapsalis and star Azura Skye this week. When I say this film will stick with you longer than it should, I am not exaggerating one bit. It is unpredictable, it gets under your skin, and Skye is remarkable. Pay attention to this carefully crafted script. There is foreshadowing everywhere, the classroom especially. These are deliberate choices made by Kapsalis. They are genius.

Here is my interview with Dean and Azura…

______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Firstly, congratulations to you both on an extraordinary film. There is so much amazing material to talk about in The Swerve, so let’s dive right in!

Dean, what or who inspired this script?

 

Dean – I was raised by and around strong women.  Over time, I witnessed the weight of living manifest in them as mental illnesses.  My experiences and observations became lodged somewhere deep in my psyche and coincided with (or perhaps fueled?) my appreciation for Gothic literature, Greek tragedies, Shakespeare, etc.  

 

Azura, what was the first thing in this script that made you think, “I have to tell this woman’s story.”

 

Azura – When I first read the script, I immediately recognized Holly as the role of a lifetime.  As an actor, you can only hope that you’re given something this juicy, and layered, to work with — but it’s rare. This is without a doubt the most challenging role I’ve ever tackled, but given the opportunity, how could I say no? I knew it was something I had to do, as daunting, and intimidating as it was.

 

Dean and Azura, Moms are so often pushed aside in narratives. This script highlights the weight of motherhood in such a real way. The isolation, the stress, the pressure to be everyone’s caretaker. What were you hoping the take away would be for an audience? I imagine it might be different, perhaps based on gender? 

 

Dean – My hope is that audiences feel something from it.  The reign of patriarchy over women is as powerful and relevant now as it was during the era of Shakespeare.  Different, modern pressures, surely, but it hasn’t changed much on an emotional level.  I think that’s why the characters and themes in Shakespeare are still so identifiable.

 

Azura – A big part of Holly is her silent suffering. She puts on a smile, and a brave face as she seems to adeptly juggle the various roles of wife, mother, sister, daughter, teacher — but inside she’s nearing a breaking point, as she struggles to keep it together. She’s right at that tenuous edge, where something as small as a mouse can be the tipping point that sends her spiraling downward. The straw that breaks the camel’s back, if you will.

One thing I hope audiences of all genders take from this movie is a reminder that you never know what’s going on with the person next to you at the grocery store. You have no idea what kind of day they’ve had. Maybe they’ve just lost a loved one, or are dealing with any number of possible traumas or tragedies.  Everyone’s having to cope with a lot, some more than others — especially now. I hope this film is a reminder not to assume that you know what’s going on in someone else’s life, or in someone else’s head. Often times, we don’t even know what’s really going on with our closest friends and family. Or even our partners, for that matter. Everyone suffers, in ways we often never know, so let’s try to be kind and careful with one another.

 

As a 40-year-old mom of two toddlers who used to teach high school, this obviously hit me in a personal way. The character of Paul is so impactful. Even with the inappropriate power dynamic, you understand why his presence is so consequential to Holly’s entire journey. Dean, can you talk about the decision to use him as a catalyst? And for Azura, what was your reaction to Holly’s choice to go along with such an affair? 

 

Dean – I never thought of it as an affair, but as a need for Holly to express and connect.  But there is no joy in it.  Paul has a kindness to him.  He sees Holly in a different way than the other male characters in the film, but it is absolutely an adolescent’s fantasy and is no less dangerous.  

 

Azura – Holly feels invisible most of the time. Especially at home, where she feels taken for granted, unappreciated; unseen. Paul is so pivotal because here’s someone who really sees her — and thinks she’s amazing. Thinks she’s beautiful. With Paul, Holly feels recognized, and appreciated, for the first time in far too long.

When I first read the script, this particular storyline was so interesting to me, because it was written in such a way that even though this woman is clearly behaving in an abhorrent, and inexcusably inappropriate way, I did not see her as a monster. It just made me really sad. This thread of the story is also one of my favorite parts of the film. Zack Rand, who plays Paul, was so brilliantly cast, and he gives a phenomenal performance.

 

Let’s talk about the score. It really makes the mundane feel important. The grocery shopping in the beginning, for example. It’s a melancholy that puts you into Holly’s state of mind. 

 

Dean – I noticed mothers, my own included, that seemed to take grocery shopping not as a chore, but as a respite from other activities.  However, the aura of the past and the outside world is inescapable.  It was important that the score reflect that.

 

Dean, Paul’s sketchbook is stunning. Who did the illustrations? 

 

Dean – The artist is Jocelyn Henry.  She was a recent fine arts graduate and I took a shine to her work.  Her initial sketches were a little too polished and I had her scale them back so that they were more reflective of the hand of a developing high school student.

 

Azura, had you seen the drawings prior to filming?

 

Dean – I showed them to Azura, but explained little or nothing.  I guided her to the reactions needed for the scene.

 

Azura – I don’t think I saw the illustrations until the day of filming. I definitely had a visceral reaction to the ones of myself. There’s something quite intimate and slightly jarring about it. There were a couple that I actually wanted to keep, but sadly I was denied. I was told they were done by an artist in New York, but I’ve always secretly suspected that perhaps Dean himself is the artist. I’m curious to see how he answers this question.

 

Holly’s very buttoned-up, very conservatively presented. Can you tell me how her wardrobe affected your physicality?


Azura – It affected me very much. As wardrobe always does. In some ways, I don’t really know who a character is until I put on their clothes, and it was no different with Holly. I didn’t meet the costume designer (Eric Hall) until a few days before we started filming, and as soon as I started putting on the wardrobe I started to get a really strong sense of who Holly was. She really started to make sense, and take shape, quite literally. I thought her clothes were a little sad, sometimes even a little silly. Someone who’s really making an effort, but doesn’t always get it quite right. There was a vulnerability and a self-conscious quality to the way she put herself together. I found the buttoned-up rigidity to be very informative, and it was helpful in that it was a constant reminder as to the way Holly held herself. It very much affected the way I moved. In her restrained, buttoned-up attire, she herself is contained, and restrained; even slightly holding her breath.

 

You’re really rooting for Holly when she stands up for herself but the emotional abuse from her family is endless. They are incredibly manipulative. But Dean’s script and your performance are so strong that I began to wonder if I was seeing things along with her. Azura, did you ever think that what Holly was seeing and experiencing wasn’t real? 

 

Azura – Of course I thought about it, and that was something I discussed with Dean. I like that certain parts of Holly’s experience are open to interpretation, but for me the actor, I had to play it as if it were all 100% real, because for the character it is.

 

Let’s talk about the mouse. Is the mouse Holly? 

 

Dean – It could be.  Or was it a warning?  A guardian?  Was it ever even there?  It’s more important how the viewer feels about it.  And I never discussed meaning with the cast or crew.

 

The final chapter of this film is nothing short of devastating. As a mother, as a human, it has stayed with me since I saw the film last year. It’s truly haunting. It’s a bold choice that is not only a beautiful recall to the story in the beginning but one hell of a gut-punch to the viewer. Did you both hope the audience would sympathize with Holly as the credits rolled? 

 

Dean – Yes.  Prior to the pandemic, abuse, mental illness, and suicide were on the rise across genders, and since it’s only increased.  My hope is that audiences feel something and can relate in some way to her plight.  We’re all human.  We’re all in this together.

 

Azura – It is a harrowing and haunting final act. One that in large part made me want to do the film. I think I was probably far too consumed with the task at hand to really think about how an audience might interpret it.

 

Mental illness is a hot button issue. Do you think people are now more comfortable talking about it openly? 

 

Dean – Social media is a two-edged sword, but people seem to be more open about sharing their experiences.  The world can be so overwhelming.  They want to connect.  They want to heal.  

Azura – It does seem like we’ve started to talk about it a lot more in recent years, which is so great. You have people like Michael Phelps doing commercials encouraging people to seek help, and so many other public figures speaking candidly about their struggles, which makes it so much more accessible, and perhaps even acceptable. It definitely seems like something we’re discussing more and discussing more openly.

______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Massive thanks to Dean and Azura for their very generous time with this interview. THE SWERVE is now available on Digital and VOD

 

THE SWERVE celebrated its world premiere at the 2019 Cinepocalypse Film Festival, and screened at the 2019 Panic Film Festival; winning both awards for Best Actress for Azura Skye. The film will be releasing on major VOD/Digital platforms beginning Tuesday, September 22, 2020.

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).

Review: ‘Rent-A-Pal’ fast forwards to frightening.

Synopsis:

Set in 1990, a lonely bachelor named David (Brian Landis Folkins) searches for an escape from the day-to-day drudgery of caring for his aging mother (Kathleen Brady). While seeking a partner through a video dating service, he discovers a strange VHS tape called ​Rent-A-Pal.​ Hosted by the charming and charismatic Andy (Wil Wheaton), the tape offers him much-needed company, compassion, and friendship. But, Andy’s friendship comes at a cost, and David desperately struggles to afford the price of admission.

The era of Blockbuster store glory also coincided with those weird interaction VHS boardgames. I had one called “Nightmare” where a Gatekeeper character would give you instructions and yell at you through the screen. It was equal parts hilarious and terrifying. Rent-A-Pal is a 90’s throwback filled with psychological terror that uses the same gimmick to the nth degree. Great stationary camera work and color choices really add the somber nature of our leading man’s state of loneliness at the beginning of the film. 15 minutes of brutally sad setup leads to a seemingly simple but chilling turn in the mood. Enter Wil Wheaton as Andy, David’s Rent-A-Pal. This bargain-bin VHS shows up when David seemingly loses out on the Video-Rendevous match of his dreams. His depression is palpable in Brian Landis Folkins’ performance. But, as someone who watched the degeneration of my own grandmother due to dementia, the heavy emotion is warranted. In an attempt to make himself feel better and out of sheer curiosity, David puts in this mysterious tape and “meets” Andy. A first glance, Andy is open and a really good listener. Lying just beneath the surface are clues of the more sinister. Perhaps it’s the language and mindset of the times, but some of his dialogue is almost like today’s incels. It is downright upsetting. Heightened by the editing, we get pieces of the video as David obsesses at learning its timing so his friendship becomes as real as it can be. To a lonely and socially awkward man, Rent-A-Pal is what the internet has now become to so many. Once he feels his luck changing, David is given the chance to take the girl of his dreams out on a date, but that instant connection is thwarted by Andy. The tension built up by the performances and clever structure creates an intensely ominous feeling. You’re constantly waiting for the other shoe to drop as David’s aggression ramps up and his sanity jumps over the edge. Wheaton brings a kind of brilliance to the film that is to be applauded. He has created a fully fleshed out villain without actually interacting with his co-star… as far as we can tell for sure. There were moments where I found myself staring at the screen longer than maybe I should have, wondering if my mind was playing tricks on me or not. Rent-A-Pal will disturb you. You will want to hit rewind again and again.

RENT-A-PAL

Written and directed by Jon Stevenson

Starring: Wil Wheaton (Stand By Me, “Star Trek: The Next Generation”), Brian Landis Folkins (Hoax), Kathleen Brady (“Breaking Bad”)
and Amy Rutledge (Neighbor)

In select theaters and on-demand September 11

Fantasia 2020 review: ‘Bleed With Me’ slowly drains your sanity.

During a winter getaway at an isolated cabin, a self-destructive young woman becomes convinced that her best friend is stealing her blood.

Written and directed by Amelia Moses, BLEED WITH ME is an intoxicating look at social anxiety and self-harm.  Rowan is the third wheel on a weekend getaway with her work friend Emily and her boyfriend Brendan. After passing out night one from too much alcohol, she awakes to find a cut on her arm. With traces of previously inflicted self-harm scars, Rowan seems hesitant to explain how and why it got there. As fresh cuts continue to appear and as Emily continually suggests that Rowan is ill, the three inhabitants are at odds with the dynamics developing in the small cabin. Is Rowan losing her mind? Is there a more sinister plot? Rowan’s supposed sleepwalking might be to blame.

The performances from all three are incredibly satisfying in creating honest discomfort. Aris Tyros as Brendan is a fantastic foil for both Marshall and Beatty. He is genuine and down to earth. His character’s progression is sincere and grounded. I’d love to see more of him. Beatty owns the frame with s simple gaze. Her chemistry with her castmates lies somewhere between type A, seductress, and demure when necessary. It is Marshall’s performance as Rowan that leads us down the rabbit hole. Sometimes, guided only with her heaving breath we are left to interpret what terror she (ultimately us) is in the middle of.  She is the physical manifestation, along with Moses’ script, of a panic attack.

With what feels like a psychosexual undertone, the relationship between Emily, Brendan, and Rowan has a power dynamic that feels skewed towards Emily’s liking. You can see the shift in power as Emily feels like Brendan is connecting with Rowan. While I initially setup would lead you to believe Brendan is a quiet instigator, but that quickly proves false. When untold secrets are revealed, you begin to feel more unsettled. The film’s look, essentially natural light and fireside chats make for an immediate sense of claustrophobia and foreboding. When you’re left with only your own thoughts, and perhaps the idea that someone is drugging and violating you, it can do a number on your perception of reality. I’m still pondering the ending of the film, and that’s most likely the point. I am left just as dazed as Rowan in the end. Moses has given us a frightening and panic-filled story ripe for the Fantasia 2020 audience. I would love to know what other viewers come away with. Whose side are you on? Bleed With Me is a slow-burn into madness.

Find out more about Fantasia 2020 and how to watch Bleed With Me

Fantasia 2020 review: ‘Fried Barry’ is twisted commentary of the dark side of humanity.

FRIED BARRY

Fried Barry is about an abusive drug addict who gets abducted by aliens. An alien then takes his form on a jaunt through Cape Town. Spectacularly edited from the opening to the end credits, Fried Barry is a drugged induced terror trip. The imagery is stunning, using color like a character of its own. The score and sound design by Haezer is menacing and intense. This is genre madness at its finest. This is why Fantasia 2020 audiences show up.

Do not watch this film while high. It’s fucked up enough as it is. Writer/director/producer Ryan Kruger does not need you to tell him you had a complete and total mental breakdown while watching. Or perhaps that would be a compliment. Our leading, Gary Green is unreal as a man clearly effed up by aliens. His physical performance is so bizarre it’s perfection. The film is a study in human behavior from an outside perspective. It’s an actor’s dream. Green’s work is award-worthy. With very little dialogue on his end, Kruger’s screenplay allows for him to be totally weird but somehow completely believable in experiencing the complexities of the human race. Sex, drugs, people talking at one another rather than listening pretty much sums it up.

Halfway through it goes from strange to utterly dark, but you’re so far down the rabbit hole it only makes sense. There is a childlike innocence to Green at this point that will freak you out. A sick turn in the plot will throw you for yet another loop. Fried Barry‘s unpredictability is what makes it so arresting. It’s not the alien that’s frightening, it’s people.

To find out more about Fantasia 2020 and how to watch Fried Barry

Fantasia 2020 review: ‘SLEEP’ is a waking nightmare.

Marlene, a woman plagued by horrific dreams, suffers a breakdown in a remote village. As her daughter Mona follows, she comes upon a well-kept family secret and an old curse that ultimately threatens her life – a never-ending nightmare.

I can finally relax my entire body after watching Fantasia 2020’s Sleep. The mystery that unfolds has such a tight grip that I was tense from head to toe with anxiety, much in the same physical manner as our matriarch Marlene. Two brilliant women inhabit the roles of mother-daughter team, Marlene and Mona. Sandra Hüller, from what should have been 2017 Oscar winner for Best Foreign Language Film, TONI ERDMANN) and Gro Swantje Kohlhof, ( Nothing Bad Can Happen –  one of the most unsettling films I’ve ever seen and written about) make for an intriguing balance on screen. For what little interaction they actually have from scene to scene, you genuinely believe they are connected.

The scares are intensely scored and intriguingly edited. The script by Thomas Friedrich is weird from the beginning. The performances have this unnerving, larger than life essence to them. You can feel something is very off about everything and everyone. Overly excited, excessively nice and informative, to unusually angry for no apparent reason. Sleep is like a living, breathing panic attack. The cinematic dynamics are stunning. The plot feels a little like a twisted hereditary version of Nightmare on Elm Street. But then you have a bloodline double entendre thrown in. It’s quite complex but extremely entertaining. As someone who has had reoccurring dreams her entire life, Michael Venus ‘ direction of SLEEP disturbed me to no end. And if you’re anything like me, you will continue to question what is real long after the credits roll.

To find out more about Fantasia 2020 and how to watch SLEEP click here

Review: Take the ride of your life with ‘SPREE’

SYNOPSIS: Meet Kurt (Joe Keery), a 23-year-old rideshare driver for Spree, who is so desperate for social media attention that he’ll stop at nothing to go viral. He comes up with a plan to livestream a rampage as a shortcut to infamy – coining his evil scheme “#thelesson”, he installs a set of cameras in his car and begins streaming his rides. Wildly miscalculating the popularity that would come from his lethal scheme, Kurt’s desperation grows as he tries to find a way to overcome the plan’s flaws. In the middle of all this madness, a stand-up comedian (Sasheer Zamata) with her own viral agenda crosses Kurt’s path and becomes the only hope to put a stop to his misguided carnage.

Our favorite Stranger Things ex-boyfriend, Joe Kerry, is taking social media to the extreme. Eugene Kotlyarenko’s new film is what would happen if CAM had a baby with American Psycho. Spree is a found footage post Livestream extravaganza of crazy. It hilariously holds an unfiltered phone screen up to our faces and chokes us with our own carefully curated reality. Approximately 26 minutes in my mouth literally dropped open. It would not be the last time. Spree has incredibly fun kills. The editing is head-spinning. Extra points for the double entendre title.

Joe Keery is amazing. He is in almost every shot of this film. This would not be as successful without him. Cast him in everything from here on out. The nonchalance he has with this level of violence ups the anty. Stockholm syndrome because Keery’s portrayal of Kurt is something I fully endorse. Sasheer Zamata is the audience, the antagonist, and the protagonist. This is only something that will make sense when the credits roll. She is fierce from every angle. The script is so well developed it will blow you away with its sardonic wit. The setup is pure genius. The cast is superb. It’s a nonstop adrenaline ride of gore and laughs. Spree will kick you in the teeth with its irony. And now, the only way to end this… #thelesson #KurtsWorld96 #Spree #FiveStarRating

RED BAND YOUTUBE TRAILER:

SPREE is available in select theaters, drive-ins, on-demand and digital August 14th.

IN THEATERS: August 14, 2020

AVAILABLE ON DEMAND AND DIGITAL: August 14, 2020

DIRECTOR: Eugene Kotlyarenko

WRITER: Gene McHugh, Eugene Kotlyarenko

CAST: Joe Keery, Sasheer Zamata, Mischa Barton, John DeLuca, Josh Ovalle, Lala Kent, Frankie Grande with Kyle Mooney and David Arquette

RUN TIME: 92 min

RATING: NR

GENRE: Thriller

DISTRIBUTOR: RLJE Films

Review: Dave Franco’ directorial debut ‘The Rental’ may make you choose a staycation.

Two couples on an oceanside getaway grow suspicious that the host of their seemingly perfect rental house may be spying on them. Before long, what should have been a celebratory weekend trip turns into something far more sinister, as well-kept secrets are exposed and the four old friends come to see each other in a whole new light. Alison Brie, Dan Stevens, Jeremy Allen White, and Sheila Vand star in this unnerving and sophisticated debut thriller from Dave Franco (NEIGHBORS, IF BEALE STREET COULD TALK, THE DISASTER ARTIST).

My husband happens to have an Airbnb listing. Dave Franco just made our lives a whole lot more difficult and I’m not even mad about it. With one hell of a cast at his behest, he dives headfirst into the feature-length game with The Rental. The script is juicy and unafraid. Dan Stevens, Alison Brie, Sheila Band, and Jeremy Allen White leave you enmeshed in their emotional baggage. From the very first scene, you feel a subconscious bait and switch in the blocking. As someone who has always had close colleagues of the opposite sex, boundaries are constantly an issue regardless of relationship status. Two couples silently pitted against one another but the dynamics are not what you’d expect. It’s the secrets and lies that drive this plot forward. Add in a more sinister element and you’ve got a storyline that you will not see coming. Alongside Franco in the screenwriting seat in Joe Swanberg, who you can always count on for some true to life complexities. This was a great pairing.

Dan Stevens, whose star has been steadily rising since his departure from Downton Abbey, is strong as ever. We know by now he’s a full-blown Hollywood star. Sheila Vand, who just so happens to be the star of one of my very favorite films of all time, (A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night) is having an excellent year with Snowpiercer the TV series and The Wave. Here, once again, she is a tour de force. She’s an empowered role model while certainly owning her own failures. Alison Brie feels like a quieter presence but in reality, we are her character for more of the film than we realize. Jeremy Allen White might actually be the most sympathetic of the four. The challenge to his past transgressions is huge. These are really only things that struck me in ful as I have been sitting on them since viewing. 

These characters and performances are ridiculously nuanced. You may find yourself not wanting to root for them at one moment but then screaming at the screen the next. It’s confusing and manipulative and I am here for it all. The idyllic setting and isolation add to both the tension and the endgame. Without spoiling anything, it was an incredibly smart choice. Heads up, there is a very brief false ending. You better sit still if you want some real answers. I can safely say I want more from Franco is this is any indication of what he can do. The Rental genuinely through me for a loop in the best way possible. 

IFC Films will release THE RENTAL in select Drive-Ins, Theaters and On Demand on Friday, July 24, 2020.

THE RENTAL is the directorial debut of Dave Franco (Neighbors, If Beale Street Could Talk, The Disaster Artist) from a script co-written by Franco and  Joe Swanberg (“Easy”, Drinking Buddies). The thriller/horror film stars Alison Brie (“GLOW,” Sleeping With Other People), Dan Stevens (“Downton Abbey,” Beauty and the Beast), Jeremy Allen White (“Shameless”, Movie 43) and Sheila Vand (“Snowpiercer,” A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night).

Review: ‘A Good Woman Is Hard To Find’ puts power back in the most deserving hands.

Forced into an emotionally and physically abusive relationship under unusual circumstances, Sarah must navigate her family’s safety and survive financially. Essentially being held hostage by the ripple effect of a drug dealer’s irrational behavior, she strives to regain control of the situation all while attempting to solve the murder of her husband. The intrusive nature of the plot will stifle the viewer. You will not even realize how long you’ve been holding your breath.

Sarah Bolger, who terrified me in Emelie, now plays the complete opposite. She’s a woman on a mission for good. You will root for her. You will be nervous for her. You will cheer her on as she finds her voice. What she must do in self-defense is gruesome. Each beat is so genuinely played, you will not soon forget this performance.

There is a beautiful dichotomy in the fact that she is being terrorized and is financially empowered by her captor. But the abuse is not limited to him. She is verbally assaulted and disrespected where she goes. The assumptions made by everyone in her path are insulting and cruel. As a woman, this film is excruciating to watch. This is a complete complement to the authenticity of the judgment and misogyny (not just from men) that we deal with on a daily basis.

The practical FX are gruesome but completely necessary to feel connected with Bolger’s crisis. The augmented sound editing combined with slow-motion dynamics in a particular scene is visceral. A Good Woman Is Hard To Find proves to be an amazingly insightful commentary on power dynamics and a pretty satisfying story of revenge.