Family Portraits: A Trilogy of America
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14 out of 21 people found the following review useful:

Superb shorts

Author: Darren O'Shaughnessy (darren shan) from Limerick, Ireland
20 July 2005

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

An excellent trio of short movies, which can be viewed individually or together as one complete piece -- on the DVD, the choice is yours. The first, "Cutting Moments", is the most graphically brutal of the three. It explores a relationship where a woman no longer feels that her husband has any interest in her. To feel some sort of a connection with him again, she horribly mutilates herself. This is a hard one to watch. It may repulse some viewers, but it's shocking for a valid reason, but just for the sake of it.

The second short, "Home", is similar to the first, only with less visual horrors on display. It's about a man who wants desperately to be normal, but whose upbringing leaves him with little hope of achieving the quiet middle ground he so craves.

The third, "Prologue", is the longest, subtlest and most assured of the three pieces. It follows the recovery of a young woman who has lost her hands in a recent accident, and slowly, artfully fills in the gaps, explaining what has actually happened.

These films deserve a much wider audience than they've currently enjoyed. Buck is one of the most interesting directors to emerge in recent years, and hopefully he'll get the chance to work on a larger canvas soon. In the meantime, do whatever it takes to track these works down -- I'd class them as essential modern viewing.

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8 out of 11 people found the following review useful:

A masterpiece of dark family drama

Author: LovinMoviesMakinGames from United States
4 September 2006

I rate a movie according to what it is trying to be, not what genre or theme I personally enjoy. This trilogy is not for mainstream audiences. It is extreme drama that borders on horror, but without feeling exploitative. Extreme, but true to itself. This film takes you on an "anything but subtle!" no holds barred emotional journey through some tragic families. I was amazed that looking through the credits here on IMDb the actor/actresses had so little previous credits. An incredible level of polish, in an indie film. The last piece "prologue" nicely rounds out the other two with a feeling not of redemption, but of hope for positive human traits, love and caring, to exist even after violent life changing tragedy. I am extremely impressed.

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2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

The things we think but do not do.

Author: zaknaud from United States
23 June 2012

I find it both refreshing and horrifying that a director has chosen as the subject of his horrific discussion with the audience to be the American family. Few directors really play with three elements that are plainly displayed here in detail and used so effectively. One, he uses pauses and silence to emphasize tension. Very little music at all was played and it was soft and gentle, almost non existent, the director wanted us to pay attention more on the action and less on the score. Two, the characters he has written are drab and lonely, and we see their plight like we might see any neighbor who argues in the night, or wears makeup to cover a bruise, but here we see into their home and we see how they deal with their loneliness and anger. What was at first hidden from us is now plainly in front of our faces, and what at first seems perfectly logical then turns into a bloodbath of terrible fantasies turned real. Three, that with each successive film the emotional quotient goes up, and we are left more exhausted by what we have seen then horrified. This kind of horror is in my opinion is the greatest exercise in the genre. Horror is just that, horror. To be horrified by something is simply to have a natural reaction of fear or disgust, and most horror films today never want to push the limit, never want to look at what really scares people in their daily lives. We have settled for the man in the mask for so long we have forgotten that there are far more frightening things that lurk behind the doors of the neighborhoods we live in, and behind the eyes of the people we know.

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5 out of 8 people found the following review useful:

Three Dark And Bleak Short Films From Douglas Buck...

Author: EVOL666 from St. John's Abortion Clinic
15 May 2006

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

FAMILY PORTRAITS is a collection of three short films from director Douglas Buck that includes CUTTING MOMENTS, HOME, and PROLOGUE. Overall, the films make for a pretty dark and depressing viewing experience, but that's not necessarily a bad thing...

CUTTING MOMENTS is the most "graphic" of the bunch and seems to be a favorite among gore-heads with it's strong depictions of self-mutilation. The story is about a wife whose husband pays her absolutely no attention, and is sexually molesting their son. After trying to make him "feel" something for her again to no avail, the wife takes drastic measures that are sure to open his eyes...

HOME is similar to CUTTING MOMENTS theme-wise, minus the ultra-graphic violence. A man who grows up watching his father abuse his mother tries to keep from becoming like his father, but unfortunately the emotional scars are too deep...

PROLOGUE is the longest and most in-depth of the bunch, and focuses around a girl who lost her hands in a car accident, and the story slowly unfolds as to the circumstances of what happened...

FAMILY PORTRAITS is a pretty "heavy" viewing experience and is recommended to those that dig "dark" films. CUTTING MOMENTS, as stated before, will be of interest to the gore-lovers because it has a couple "rough" moments, but as short as it is, I was actually hoping for a little more - but it does do the trick. The other shorts are solid as well, and are more emotionally "strong" than graphically harsh - but all three are quite good. Recommended..8.5/10

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2 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

A sad and depressing experience.

Author: HumanoidOfFlesh from Chyby, Poland
28 September 2010

The first short "Cutting Moments"(1997)simply blew me away.It's an incredibly depressing and cold journey into into family alienation,murder and masochistic self-mutilation.A young wife Sarah played convincingly by Nica Ray desperately wants to be loved,but her husband Gary Bettsworth has no remaining feelings for the woman,so he turns his jaded sexuality onto his son,whom he abuses.She dresses up in red to become more appealing to her husband(unsuccessfully)and after that Sarah horribly mutilates herself.She scrubs her lips bloody before cutting them off,the final act of utter desperation that encourages her husband to indulge into obscene act of feeling.A truly masterful short filled with despair and horrific gore.The second film "Home"(1998)plays almost like a remake of "Cutting Moments" and has similarly disturbing tone without relaying on excessive gore.We see another dysfunctional family living in their own private hell and that makes the climax more bleak and depressing."Home" is not as good as "Cutting Moments",but it surely left me emotionally drained.The last film "Prologue"(2003)tells the story of a young teenage girl,who was brutally attacked and raped one year earlier.She emerges from the hospital in a wheelchair and arrives back home with her parents.Soon the emotional horror begins as a young woman decides to confront her attacker,a local artist called Benjamin Miller,who draws obscene sexual pictures of a young girls.Still "Prologue" seems to be the most optimistic film of the trilogy and I really recommend it.Douglas Buck is certainly one of the bravest directors around and I can easily say that I liked "Family Portraits".9 out of 10.

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6 out of 13 people found the following review useful:

I Need Counseling After Seeing This

Author: JohnA-10 from United States
5 February 2008

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

If David Lynch and Quentin Tarantino had a child and that child was locked in a dark, airless, suffocating basement and abused regularly, both physically and sexually, and then released at the age of 20 and given a film crew and some actors, "Cutting Moments", the first of this trilogy, is the movie that child would produce. It should also be noted that the child should be provided with absolutely no film training at all and have the mistaken belief that silence and drama are synonymous. Serouisly, In a 20 minute short film, there are no more than 10 lines of dialog spoken. There are, however, numerous shots of people CUTTING OFF PARTS OF THEIR BODIES! OR cutting off parts of other people's bodies. In the space of 20 minutes, I saw a woman scrub her mouth with a Brillo pad until she bled, cut her lips off with a pair of scissors and then have her husband cut off her breasts with a pair of pruning sheers and then he proceeds to CUT OFF HIS OWN PENIS! Wow, what amazing insight into the American family! I mean, really, who hasn't done that at least once? I cannot overstress how this film is simultaneously horrifying and terribly made. It was bad in absolutely every way that a film can be bad. It didn't even have the redeeming camp quality of a gratuitous horror flick because it's perfectly obvious that Mr. Buck thinks he's making a hard-edged art piece. I am damn near 35 years old and have not shielded my eyes from a movie in over 25 years but I turned away from this short no less than half a dozen times. I am fairly certain I am in need of counseling and will never be able to handle gardening equipment again. The other two are not nearly as disturbing but they don't exactly warm the heart. Of the three, only the last, "Prologue" is in any way directed in a competent manner. It's the most redemptive of the three, about a girl who is crippled and has her hands cut off after being kidnapped and raped. And that's the REDEMPTIVE one.

Now, the thing that has me the most baffled is that Mr. Buck obviously thinks he's found some amazing truth by revealing things that HAVE NEVER HAPPENED IN THE HISTORY OF MANKIND! There has never, EVER been one single family as screwed up as the three depicted here. Seriously, these stories have all the subtlety of a brick to the face. And yet they still try to market this as an art film about the 'American Family'. I defy you to search the headlines and show me ONE story about a husband and wife who mutilated themselves in their bedroom to the obvious point of death while their son played Power Rangers in the front yard. And yet one of the promotional quotes on the back reads, "The atmosphere, the performances, the brutal torn bodies...are thought-provoking metaphors for life in suburban America." It should be noted that this was written in German Nationwide Quarterly which is known for it's amazing understanding of American suburban life. Another blurb simply reads, "...a truly disturbing cinematic experience..." THAT I can agree with.

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3 out of 9 people found the following review useful:

Slow-moving film but also pretty good.

Author: ElijahCSkuggs from Happy Land, who lives in a Gumdrop House on Lolly Pop Lane
28 January 2009

Family Portaits shows us the horror of dysfunctional families......but in a oh-so skewed, unbelievable look. The flick contains three shorts which all revolve around family life and the super dark side that sometimes is apart of it.

The first one Cutting Moments revolved around a insane wife who's been hardcore ignored by her hubby, and a secret side-plot of molestation. With some funny over-acting and some nice direction, plus some nice bloody scenes, it was easily my favorite of the three.

The second, Home, is again close-knit in the same way Cutting Moments was with a messed up family, but it instead deals with how a past family life can affect future ones. This one was entertaining enough and again delivered some dark humor, but also made me realize how the rest of Family Portraits will play out. Slowly.

The third one, I just didn't care for that much. Prologue, surrounds a sad-tale of a young girl who had some seriously bad luck, and ends up confronting her demons. It's a cool idea, but the short felt way too long, and probably was compared to the previous two. It was just very tedious in it's delivery and made this guy bored and ultimately not care for what would transpire later on.

Overall though, Family Portraits was a very cool indie horror/serious drama flick that should appeal to many horror fans who dig low-budget, slow-burn flicks.

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