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I am also the author of Depressions Of The Soul and Demon In The Mist. Depressions is a collection of thoughts and poetry from a place of nightmare and chaos. Demon In The Mist is my first horror fiction novel set in SE KY .
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The 11th Patient (2018)
My Review Of "The 11th Patient"
Cole's story is a fascinating one. The theoretical exploration of "state of mind" during various periods of one's life with the same ease as VR exploration is something science has been trying to achieve for decades. It is also a concept dying to be exploited in science fiction.
"The 11th Patient" is the latest film to tackle the notion of reaching into the mind of others, this time it is done through a psuedo-scientific method much like "The Cell". It is highly conceptualized visually, while the story stays pretty simple. Most of the real attention seems focused on creating atmospheric nightmare tableauxs.
Cole takes a big risk choosing to let almost all of the story be told absent dialog. For over two-thirds of "The 11th Patient" not one word is uttered, requiring the audience to fully invest and allow the main character's journey and interactions with his nightmares tell the story. It is creative and there is a lot visually to hold your attention. Still a few scenes of exposition dialog as "invitation to the experience" would have been nice.
Viscerally, the film is like horror candy. Each scene and every element is pure creepy, atmospheric fantasy. It does become a bit dull and often looses cohesion when trying to move the story forward. It all plays out like a super long music art film with actual character drama and connect becoming muddled. It really hangs tightly on the belief that the audience is really into the story's basic concept.
Dialog does eventually enter during the last act. It tends to fit with the suggested logic already playing out in the movie, and only seeks to reaffirm the simple understanding that the story is about a boy in a coma and "psuedo science" to the rescue. The horror is front and center but never crosses the line beyond high production horror attraction fodder. There is some obvious signs of talent here and overall "The 11th Patient" is no worse than "The Cell".
My Review Of "Replace"
The story is an emotional confrontation of body image, self identity conflict and cultural expectations wrapped in a slow-burn psychological thriller. It is completely realized and development meticulously. The emotion almost feels aching and takes center stage- almost too much. It seems to overwhelm any suspense or thriller edge, that at first glance seems to be a potent element of "Replace".
The characters are compelling and the cast show some real talent. Throughout the film the level of quality as far as character development and story structure, maintains a true indie quality that shows the director and writers maturity. My only complaint is the pace moves too slowly and the melancholy overpowers the excitement of events.
That being said, "Replace" has some pretty cool body horror moments. A few that show a small influence of graphic visceral gore reminiscent of Italian horror. The special effects are mild but quality moments. Moments that should have been helped along by more outward, sensationalized suspense. Beyond what the great music score and soundtrack is telling us to feel in those scenes.
Overall "Replace is a strong indie scifi drama with some thriller edge. It offers a strong dreamlike level of surrealism that accentuates the subject matter and emotional conflict of the main characters. I found the pro-lgbtq aspect mindful and positive as far as the relationship is concerned. I just think the horror elements could have been more present considering the acts committed in"Replace". Plus Barbara Crampton should have been utilized better.
Killer Sofa (2019)
My Review Of "Killer Sofa"
Let's get the ridiculousness of the principal concept of the movie out of the way before I move on. It is a movie about a possessed recliner. Now let it digest, and settle. Still give the film a chance. This is so much more than the obvious set-up suggests and despite the clear desire to pass this film off as silly there is a real, straight forward horror story taking place. One closer to "Evil Dead" than "Evil Bong".
First, the story standard horror affair. Elements of the occult, evil spirits, Jewish mysticism, and unfortunate victims of happenstance. My only outlying irritation is with the one of cultural differences, the film says "killer Sofa" when clearly it is a recliner. Now, for the most part "Killer Sofa" is fun, entertaining, and atmospherically rich with classic horror imagery.
The acting is quality. The cast, being very clear on the story's material and the director's intent, fully commit to these characters. The dialog and general writing is hit-and-miss. Some moments lose momentum but mostly the film offers entertaining, nostalgic horror movie moments that make you forget that, for the most part, this is a movie about a killer "couch".
The cinematography and lighting choices are cotton candy horror magic. Very riminescent of "Tales From The Crypt" and Italian giallo. The scene structure and atmosphere really elevate "Killer Sofa" to a level that steps beyond the usual material similar to this, mostly Charles Band and Full Moon Horror stuff. Plus this film at its core is a serious dybbuk possession film with only the slightest bit of satire.
Overall I enjoyed "Killer Sofa" far more than I expected to, and on a level that went deeper than the superficial. Yes, you have to settle any reservations about taking a film about a killer sofa. Once you allow yourself to get into it, the movie becomes fun, quality horror that celebrates the classic horror fantastical notions that somehow struggle to find a home in today's "love of realism" home invasion, torture porn world. I think this film is worth checking out.
The Baylock Residence (2019)
My Review Of "The Baylock Residence"
The story is the classic gothic ghost story with an almost longing reminisce of the past and lost bygones. "The Baylock Residence" stays within a refined, romantic style of storytelling where showing a past history, even one that is dark, means more than the shock value of modern paranormal horror. It is a neat, subdued thriller with more melodrama and theatric characters with tone-down horror elements.
The acting is pretty decent, it never reaches the fully developed attributes that make you truly feel these characters, but the actors know there lines and understand the material. I did feel the film lacked the atmospheric authenticity to make me really feel like I was lost in the time period. However, structurally, everything seemed to represent the time period "The Baylock Residence" is set.
The cinematography is done nicely. It is straightforward, unexaggerated third person point-of-view. It stays pretty traditional. Honestly I felt this movie plays well in a Masterpiece Theatre, made-for-TV market. The horror is very mild, "The Baylock Residence" features the expected gimmicks and CGI tricks one would expect from stuff like 'The Ghost Whisperer'. Overall the movie won't appeal to the "Insidious" crowd but if you like period melodrama with a spooky edge then check it out.
My Review Of "A Man With High Potential"
The story is a slow burn, straight forward psychological drama that, much like the title character, spirals into darkness and horror. The thriller elements are subtle at first and the build up never really climaxes beyond the initial pace. But you know something bad is going to happen, you feel it in the small, nuanced mannerisms of Rowheder's character. There is a foreboding atmosphere that lingers through nearly every scene.
The casting choices here are brilliant choices. Especially Adam Ild Rohweder as Piet. He seems a little too comfortable and at ease in this character. A chilling, somewhat antisocial, seemingly harmless guy with a dark shadow nesting in his mind. It is a great performance. The rest of the acting feels just as natural. These are developed personas that breathe organically.
The horror comes. It takes a moment to manifest, but it hits hard. It isn't sensationalized, or glorified violence. There is no real embrace of exploitation. Everything is done carefully and almost authentically. More to the point of showing a bit more realism. That said, you can almost sense that this guy could have gone completely torture porn in his deprevity had it not been for the internal conflict taking place.
Overall "A Young Man With High Potential" is a wonderfully done, chilling psychological drama. The horror only exists pleonastically so don't think this is exploitation cinema. It is more reserved than one expects, but it is still a fully conceptualized downward spiral into a horrific event. The film is shot nicely and the practical effects and dark atmosphere, combined with a strong, timeless story make this movie worth watching.
Incredible Violence (2018)
My Review Of "Incredible Violence"
Condon has created a truly inventive story, taking common tropes from killer thrillers and exploitation cinema and putting a fresh spin on the standards. There is the classic psycho killer persona and a nice collection of young women. The story brings in elements of serial psychology and aspects of POV/CCTV that really grabs onto the whole guerilla filmmaking ideology. All blended in a storied span of comfortable and captivating cinematography.
"Incredible Violence" gets meta with all it's layered psychotica. At first I didn't think I would like the film. I expected it to fall apart and become a hot mess. Don't make that mistake when you set out to watch this movie. Condon does great at keeping the structure and continuity flowing. The acting varies from decent to great from scene to scene depending on the cast. Mostly I just became swept up in the story. That being said, there are a few moments that actions and dialog becomes clunky and muddled, but things rebound quickly.
The horror and violence is full frontal for most of the film's edgy, thriller scenes. It is brutal, exploitative and celebratory. However the cruelty and coldness has purpose. It isn't just for the sake of showing some blood stained flesh. It is shown in contrast to the antagonist's motivation. We are watching a movie of a movie in the making. One in which budget concerns and ingenuity are always an issue. Even flaws are arguably intentional, artistic elements. And superficially the kill sequences look good and at times intense.
Overall I enjoyed "Incredible Violence". It is creative and entertaining. The story is complex and complete. I found the characters to be fully developed, relatable characters instead of explotational fluff. The quality of the cinematography is nicely done considering the low-budget nature. The horror elements have purpose and maintain a gritty, affective quality. There are a few flaws but for the most part this is a indie horror worth checking out.
She's Just a Shadow (2019)
My Review Of "She's Just A Shadow"
The story is a blend of traditional underground crime thriller exploration of sub-culture and more experimental risque imagery circling tropes such as sexploitation and torture porn. There is heavy influences that permeate the film, most notably Tarantino and Stahelski. The synopsis and my initial description make "She's Just A Shadow" seem like a very exciting film. And given the cinematography and set design for a lot of the scenes, this movie has some cool moments. But...there are several flaws here.
First off, the story moves so freely that there is a feeling of "lack of cohesion" that makes it hard for any of the major plot points to sink in. The foundation starts to feel weak. It is a gritty and interesting story, and the setting and subject matter are pulp fiction candy tropes. Unfortunately there seemed to be more focus creating moments of extreme sensationalized tableauxs, than creating solid story continuity. Again, there is some really cool stuff happening in "She's Just A Shadow", unfortunately it all seems disjointed and more fitting to music videos and short film, arthouse pieces.
The acting is tight, the cast do a good job bring life to these characters, there just isn't enough written here for them to go on. Most of the characters are two-dimensional, weakly written "shadows". So much so that inorder to give them substance you really need to grab on to the film's title, and near hallucinatory asthetics and hold on for dear life. Something that helps equally with watching this one is the celebratory over-the-top display of violence and gore. There is plenty of blood flowing in "She's Just A Shadow". I just don't know if there's enough going on here to satisfy most film fans.
My Review Of "Artik"
"Artik" is a tragically emotive and cruel opus. It is dark, heavy, and often beautiful. I mean, as beautiful as a film about serial killer, his damaged wife, damaged life and psychologically chained children can be. The characters are emotionally scarred, painstakingly built persons that are heartbreaking, anxiety bait.
The characters are rich, often disconnected creatures that seem at a crossroads, filled with conflict. And yet they feel real, almost organic, in a distopic view of their own lives. Even the antagonist is almost torn eternally between his art and his "dark passenger". But only to a degree. As impressive a creation he may be, his is by no means likeable.
The acting in "Artik" is stellar. There is no distance between their talent and these characters. They bring this chilling and compelling nightmare to life vividly. Tom Botchii creates a strong story here, one that permeates a sense of unease which is only enhanced by a beautiful shot visual story. Seriously, the cinematography is a horror element in and of itself.
Speaking of the horror, "Artik" starts out strong. The kill sequences are blunt, cruel moments of shock and unapologetic graphic gory scenes. And they show as realistic as any in the industry- save the "snuff film" stuff. Honestly the only thing I didn't like about the film was that there wasn't more gore. Not that this film is really lacking. It is it!
Overall "Artik" is a solid movie. It has a fully formed and well written story with strong, emotive characters. It stays dark and foreboding. The horror is visceral splatter film elements done brilliantly. I was captivated, disturbed, excited and stunned from the first scenes till the bitter end. I highly recommend "Artik" to all horror fans.
Candy Corn (2019)
My Review Of "Candy Corn"
The story is a pretty straight forward supernatural slasher tale. It makes no denial of fully drawing from its classic horror inspirations. The writing is a little weaker than it needed to be given the strong, visceral, and celebratorial way it presents it's self. Not so much the overall concept and structure, more the dialog and explanatory/justification material meant to make the actions believable.
The cast do good to create these, 'unappealing' characters. There isn't too many people in this film that you find yourself cheering on. They are grimey, flawed, and unsavory delinquents that make the objective more about anticipation for the moment they meet their demise. Still, the actors give their all and feel comfortable in these parts. There is a hint of over coached, and choreographed sequences that feel more like a momentary statement.
The real flavor with "Candy Corn" comes in some really cool, effective cinematography and one heck of a music score. It sells everything that Josh Hasty is delivering in the movie. The horror influences really show a love by the crew attached to this project. The next really good aspect is the killer design of Jacob Atkins' costuming. Plus most of the death scenes are practical effect.
Overall "Candy Corn" is a fun indie slasher, the fact that it happens on Halloween is just a tasty treat. Yeah there is a couple of issues with writing, it could have been tweaked. Still there is plenty to enjoy, even if it takes nearly forty minutes to get going. Definitely check this one out and appreciate the horror references and celebration of Holiday horror.
Investigation 13 (2019)
My Review Of "Investigation 13"
"Investigation 13" takes very familiar tropes and somehow presents them with a fresh, entertaining newness. There isn't anything new or out-of-the-box in the story, you have a Haunt with a horrific past, a paranormal research group and the subsequent nightmare outcome. It has all been done. What de Lara has done is offer concise, smart technical awareness and a creativity in presentation. All that is old is new again.
Not to say "Investigation 13" is without fault. It's just that the things done right are so stark and compelling you somehow become uneffected by the flaws. The film starts out strong with a nice slice of horror that leaves a lingering question mark, and instant since of intrigue. The cast are great together and totally committed to these characters. It does feel a bit over rehearsed during the all important character introductory scenes meant to set the stage. Not that that is such a bad thing.
The acting is quality work and show some real talent. Not to mention the iconic presence of Meg Foster. A perfect choice of casting that automatically elevates "Investigation 13". Plus the story is as entertaining today as it is synonymous with paranormal activity horror stories. Like I stated earlier, it isn't untouched territory but it is a smart, thoughtful approach to story telling.
The film moves at a quick pace, and the horror is tight. There is suspense, energy and plenty of chilling atmosphere. And the death sequences are quality moments that remind me of films like "Saturday Morning Massacre" and "Grave Encounters". The real star points of the movie are the supernatural killer persona, the cinematography, and one hell of a music score. Overall I was thoroughly engaged in this move and completely entertained. Definitely watch this if you wanna see some quality indie horror.
Dragon Kingdom (2018)
My Review Of "Dragon Kingdom"
The story isn't anything new, a fantasy adventure in a world where strange creature, warrior races and dragons battle for the balance of good and evil. If there would have been spacecraft, and romance it could have been a Anne McCaffrey novel. "Dragon Kingdom' does tend to mirror storylines similar to "Eragon and Lord of the Rings".
The quality of acting is a coin toss. A lot of the characters are grandiose beings that naturally stand out as iconic personalities similar to ones in gaming scenarios. They require actors who can strattle the nuances of grandeur and finesse. A few cast members in "Dragon Kingdom" manage well enough but more times than not the characters are overdrawn and without substance. The inconsistency henders scene development.
The area that most attention seemed to be focused on was creature concept and development. There are a lot of highly conceptualized characters in "Dragon Kingdom". Almost as if there was a preproduction run through of D&D and WOW types. Most here are developed nicely, offering a bright side to the overall quality of the movie. One or two seemed subpar, still I liked the diversity.
The special effects were hit and miss. The biggest miss for me was the weird concept for dragon design and the cheap quality of the CGI. Beyond that everything looked as decent as the quality used on ABC's 'Once Upon A Time' and Syfy channel stuff. I think my biggest like goes to the female warrior cast in the story. They are reminiscent of the ancient Greek stories of theAmazonian race. Overall "Dragon Kingdom" was more of a miss for me. Still there is a indie fantasy audience for the movie. Check it out if you want but relinquish all expectations.
Empathy, Inc. (2018)
My Review Of "Empathy Inc"
The story is a creative, intimate play on relationships, opportunity and the risk of the unknown. It is highly conceptual, with elements of noir and surrealism. Yet somehow the complexity of the hunan experience and the almost mad science components blend smoothly. It allows for a comfortable, recognizable story that doesn't tax the viewer with confusion. "Empathy Inc" plays out more like a character drama with elements of body jumping fantasy.
The cast seem at ease with these characters, allowing for believable, and relatable personas. I mean they act as if these characters are who they are. If that makes sense. The in-laws especially, the only character that could have been tweaked would have been the antagonist. He came off more slacker hacker than mad scientist/ tech genius. But given the final act he makes sense after the fact.
The only downside with "Empathy Inc", for me personally was the lack of intensity when the thriller elements kick in. Especially those last several seems. Everything just happens because it happens. There is no real heightened suspense or tension that builds to real amp up the thriller edge. Still this is a clever, mature sci-fi movie that is worth checking out.
Doll Factory (2014)
My Review Of "Doll Factory"
"Doll Factory" is a simple, traditional story that has been a big part of indie horror since the early days of the subgenre's resurgence with the rise of film companies like Full Moon, and cult horror movies like Child's Play and "Dolls". They are fun, campy and easy to watch. This film is no exception. From the retro-inspired beginning right to the very end "Doll Factory" is just an entertaining ride into madness.
The characters are developed just enough to be interesting. The parts are played to the limit of camp theatre. The cast are fully committed and the fun they are having in this movie shows on screen. I easily felt, based on characters and story structure, "Doll Factory" could have been a Full Moon Horror production. At the least it has to be a love letter to Charles Band.
The puppetry is creative and the Dolls are demonic. There are elements of occultism that reminds me of the voodoo ritual in "Child's Play" and the black magic rite performed in "Dracula A.D. 1972. Then the whole killer doll rampage is total "Demonic Toys" B roll. The CGI is reasonably done and the practical effects are fun. Most of the horror elements are cool low-budget tricks that you expected in this type of movie.
Overall I really had fun watching "Doll Factory". It is cheesy and full of madness, all on a low-budget scale. The film will not please fans looking for high production levels or blockbuster effects. But if you are a indie horror fan that enjoys Full Moon horror movies and Charles Band then you will like this film too.
The Curse of Lilith Ratchet (2018)
My Review Of "American Poltergeist The Curse Of Lilith Ratchet"
The story may not be completely original but it is classic evil spirit, cursed object storytelling, and a strong, straightforward foundation always the story telling immediate plausibility. It also anchor the acceptance of paranormal events where concepts may play out creatively. In "American Poltergeist: The Curse Of Lilith Ratchet" is old-world folk magic, a cursed object and a really bad idea.
The film starts out how I like, dropping us right in the middle of horrific events unfolding as the monster, in this case a vengeful ghost, is on a killing spree. It makes it easier to tolerate the coming exposition and character grounding drama and heavy dialog to come. And this film is no exception. There is a lot of melodrama, banter and mundane "living life" moments in APTCOLR. Some could have been cut or shortened in post because it actually drags the movie's pace after such a gut-punch beginning.
That being said I liked the quality of the performances by this indie cast. Most are recognizable in indie film circles. I have seen most of the horror and sci-fi stuff from this midwestern community, or is it Mid-Atlantic? Anyway I recognize the growth and skill development from this cast, and it shows in this movie. There are moments when dialog and suspense suffers due to scenes that don't seem to move as smoothly as others though.
When the horror finally gets back in play and the paranormal activity starts, APTCOLR picks up. The creature design for Lilith Ratchet is some of the coolest ghost work I've seen. Kind of like one of the gentleman (Hush so. Buffy) in drag. Love the character and horror sustainability for future development. The tricks imployed to create the horror is the standard paranormal effects, but they work.
Overall I found a lot that I liked with "American Poltergeist: The Curse Of Lilith Ratchet". The story premise is classic ghost story fodder, with a memorable character. The cinematography is great and keeps a creepy atmosphere going through the movie. I did find the over stretched dramatic stuff boring at times. Still this is a cool indie paranormal horror with some entertaining stuff happening.
My Review Of "Hoax"
"Hoax" is part slasher, part creature feature and all backwoods horror. The story starts of strong, with slasher heavy events that are very reminiscent of the beginning of 2009's "Friday The 13th". The overall arc is paced a little slow after that strong opening, it is filled with unnecessary exposition and character building. The focus becomes more about attitudes and drama.
The story does pick up just after the hour- fifteen mark with a return to strong creature inspired horror to finish things off, and a cool twist that leaves things open to be explored later. The acting is pretty decent, several cast members are recognizable genre actors, the development of the characters is pretty decent. Some of the dialog is passe, and empty, creating a bit of a drag on the gravitas.
Now the horror elements are a blend of CGI and tight practical effects that offer up a bit of indie grindhouse. A lot does happen off screen before letting us in on the results. So the film never dives full-length into splatter territory. Still, I liked more about the horror in this movie than I didn't. At to that the cool cinematography and atmosphere created by the locations and Hoax is a fun flick for creature feature fans.
Now there is a twist that comes in the end that pulls in backwoods horror ground that was a great surprise. I didn't see it coming but I loved it. "Hoax" does have some flaws, a few characters are weak and lack substance. At times the dialog that seems to dominate the breadth of the film's story at times seems to do more to stretch film length than to add to the movie's plot. Overall though it is a fun indie horror some quality moments.
My Review Of "Scooter"
"Scooter" left me feeling conflicted. One, you should always suspend disbelief. Horror is fantasy, and by its nature "not grounded in reality". Two, never go into any film with some preconceived bias. I found myself constantly putting my belief in those rules in check while watching "Scooter".
First off, the story is legitimately fresh. It is completely generation Z relatable material, which automatically makes this scenario an acceptable premise. I bought the set-up. I even started out actually liking the movie. Thought it could have gotten to the horror portion sooner, but given how things fall apart once it does begin, maybe not.
This is the conflict with myself watching "Scooter" , within a minute of the gut-wrenching, powerful "bad thing" is witnessed I through many flags on the play. Plausibility, a need for realism, and a problem that plagues all found footage hits hard against this movie's action thriller momentum. Would you keep filming, and during the horror- is this really how one would respond.
"Scooter" begins to display its main flaw. The character logic, and respnse to the danger becomes more about getting good scenes on film as opposed to making sure that it looks as if the cameras just captured these doomed characters fatal road trip. Which sucked for me as a reviewer because there is some quality stuff here and "Scooter" could have been a break out film.
Overall "Scooter" started strong but fell apart hard. The premise is a good story to tell, the horror elements are harsh and cold moments of found footage candy. Unfortunately though those pesky issues of plausibility and a need to convince me this real- which ultimately is the objective and validity of the found footage genre- just wreck the ability to easily and honestly enjoy the film.
My Review Of "Clownado"
Todd Sheets may be mental, he is slightly blood thirsty and he definitely has a sense of wonder. Even if that wonder is generated in Hell. His films always shows, above all else, that the guy loves making horror movies. "Clownado" puts that love affair on full display. And in the most cheesy, gory, indie way.
The film starts with a film noir, comic book asthetic with characters as theatrical as "The Shadow" and "The Devil's Carnival". There is an almost dreamlike atmosphere that along with the lighting legitimizes the absurdity of "Clownado". And yeah for many horror fans out there, this movie will be a waste of time, but for most indie horror fans, myself included, this film is a fun time.
The cast is a recognizable group of actors familiar to horror fans and especially Todd Sheets fans, he has a few peeps he likes to use in his movies. There are moments where dialog and acting falls short. At times it is clear that the lines ate the actor, but with any other film it would cripple the value to movie goers trying to enjoy the movie. However with films like "Clownado", were everything is over played and overstated, it doesn't matter as much.
The real money is with the movie's horror. The serial killer clown make-up, the supernatural catalyst and the sheer amount of blood splatter is enough to make any horror fan smile. And Sheets knows how to work the heck out of a special effects budget. Even the CGI is done in a cheeky graphic novel style that works almost better than "Sharknado" effects. Overall "Clownado" was entertaining to watch. It could slide easily in either Full Moon or The Asylum's catalog.
What Death Leaves Behind (2018)
My Review Of "What Death Leaves Behind"
Hamilton's story, told in a non-linear style - mostly just standard flashbacks, has a lot of emotion and melodrama written into what is otherwise a stereotypical "paranormal transplant thriller". Not that it isn't a cool horror trope, and WDLB has some good moments in it, it is just a concept that never seems fully exploited to the movie's benefit.
The story moves to slow and there is way too much use of psuedo exlressionist visual techniques that - together- cause quality sceens to expand beyond necessary, creating loss of momentum. It exposes flaws in acting and dialog that with proper post attention could have spared "What Death Leaves Behind" a loss in suspense. The pace, focus on emotionality and over-tapped scenes keep this one from being as thrilling as it needed to be.
That being said, the film has some quality moments. For most of the film everything rides on newcomer Khalil McMillan's performance, and he does a good job. Actually the cast on a whole give stellar perfances during a lot of the film. Unfortunately though there is a lack of consistency and a few times the dialog is a mess. But again, there is some quality talent at work in front of and behind the scenes in WDLB.
As far as horror goes, this film never really reaches that level necessary to create the chilling nature of the story. It tries hard but suspense gets bogged down by emotional theatrics to often, and the surrealism is just too much at times. More attention should have been spent on action and stronger, edgy psychological elements. Film like "The Eye" and "Body Parts" did this premise better. Overall "What Death Leaves Behind" is one worth checking out, just go in without expectations.
My Review Of "Groupers"
The movie is almost as cool as the synopsis reads. Almost. The first forty minutes set the stage, going right into the film's, dark, almost underground nature. And it is a good start. The characters feel familiar and the dialogue flows naturally from the characters. The immediate situation is edgy enough to hook you in. It all is a bit of theatrics that set on the edge of what is plausible, much in the way of films like "Pecker", "The Chumscrubber" and "Hard Candy".
The cast do a great job, for the most part, giving life to these "fringe" characters. However the energy and substance begins to lack at the midway point. Dialogue starts to feel redundant and the story arc sort of stalls out. There's still enough taking place to keep your attention, with just the scope of the situation, the introduction of the bullied brother that is most likely insane, and the continued tight performance by several of the cast.
Unfortunately things hit a wall with the last act. "Groupers" introduces a twist to the movie that does more to disrupt the overall flow of the story than it does to muck up Meg's agenda. It adds a distraction to the plot that doesn't make sense and does nothing to enhance the story. Still this is a cool, fresh, generation Z film that brings light and levity to an otherwise dark subject of homophobia and bullying. Just go in knowing that it gives half of what it sets out to achieve, and enjoy the downward, comedic spiral.
Debunkers, Inc. (2019)
My Review Of "Debunkers, Inc"
"Debunkers, Inc" is very family friendly. The thought that kept coming to mind was that - this film reminds me of the Saturday series 'The Inspectors' about college kids interning for the Inspector General's office of the Postal Service- or something like that. Only in style, campiness and very soft drama. Only with "Debunkers, Inc" there is a direct link to the Scooby Doo concept.
The story and overall intend is a cute, simple adventure mystery with an element of paranormal activity which sets up this group of high schoolers for a chance to show their skills. It's murder mystery in a very benign way, There is no violence and the film never gets anywhere close to thriller territory. It is all mid-morning weekend i/e approved.
The acting is disjointed and a bit too theatrical, which if the whole concept would have been to go camp, would have been okay. But the supporting cast and a lot of the situational stuff stays bland and straight which creates a clunky, disenchantment air that causes the entertainment value to struggle to take off. Overall "Debunkers, Inc" is only going to appeal to a small, select audience. Like I said, that weekend mid-morning kiddie crowd. Unfortunately though, the movie never reaches it's inspired target as Scooby approved.
My Review Of "Power Of Grayskull"
"Power Of Grayskull" is impressive. The sheer volume of material, interviews, exposition and archive footage fills this extensive exploration of the He-man franchise completely. So much so you would think it would overwhelm any attention to tell a cohesive story, but it doesn't. Randall Lobb and Robert McCallum in such away that the segments create a complete story from He-man's beginning, right into it's recent incarnation.
This is just a really entertaining slice of nostalgia. Also it is told through first person accounts of the creator, toy designers, artists, the film He-man (Dolph Lundgren), and the fandom with such ease, you feel like you are just hanging out while these really cool people reminisce. I did find issue with the abrupt ending garnering none of the gravitas it deserved. Still that is minor given all the awesomeness in "Power Of Grayskull". If you were a child of the 80's and a fan of He-man then this is definitely a must watch.
My Review Of "D-Railed"
"D-Railed" is an impressive indie film, blending elements of mystery and monster in a unique spin on the ghost story. The concept creates a comfortable exposition by having the story take place on Halloween. Fabrigar is able to avoid most pitfalls that period-esque movies tend to get tripped up on, as his film is set up as a murder mystery experience happening on the Holiday night. Instantly you are able to accept what few quirks in costuming and speach may be present.
The cast give convincible performances and are able to pull you into the story. The first half offers up moments of "Murder On The Orient Express" before things go full time into darker horror tropes echoing bits of "Humanoids From The Deep". It isnt until the last act that the story's true nature is revealed. The cool thing is how tight Dan Fabrigar is able to keep things as to not give anything away and keeping things thrilling.
If I had to complain about anything it would be the CGI effects. Not so much the style but more the quality. The movie really is worth more than what was done. The rest of the horror aspects are quality. The kills and practical effects looked good, and the creature design shined on screen. Overall "D-Railed" is a fun, entertaining, thriller with a couple of twists and turns that elevate the film's quality. Plus it takes place on Halloween so that is always a plus. Definitely check this one out.
My Review Of "Scrawl"
The story is a very complex mashup of supernatural adventurism, contemporary horror, and modern folktale. Keep the official synopsis handy for reference because the complexity is elusive on screen. For most of the first half it is hard to decipher what the film is about, too many cut-aways and overlapping plot points really muddy things.
There is some bare bones of creativity and intrigue in Hearns concept. Outcast kids trying to find their place in a social clique, a supernatural book that can bring imagination to life and a coming-of-age battle against evil. All things done to death, but "Scrawl" mashes these tropes in a truly millennial fashion. A troubled kid obsessed with comics unwittingly unleashes evil in his community.
Beyond that very basic understanding of the plot, not much is comprehensive with this film. The structure is broken and jumbled. There is no real cohesion to the story arc. And things happen in a slow, aimless pace that is slightly boring. There are plenty of moments with decent horror and blood splatter. Unfortunately it happens with the same non-existent affection as the bland dialog and snarkiness. Check the movie out if you want to see how Ridley got her start in a bad-and soon to be cult-student film.
My Review Of "HELLmington"
The story distorts perspective by forcing elements of near psychotica inducing moments that cause you to question the protagonist's mental state. "HELLmington's" main plot is a suspensful mystery involving a cold case that once revealed is disturbing, and relevant. It plays out like a dark web nightmare version of a ID channel episode.
At the start, the film is both confusing, distorted and emotionless. A stylistic trick that is as visually creative as it is questioning. Much like the actually story line- what happened in 1999?, Who is messing with Samantha Woodhouse?, and how much of the story is even real? I can't tell if this warping of the film's beginning is intentional artistry or accidental. I did find it intriguing.
The cast create some stoic, gothic characters reminiscent of Fargo' or 'Twin Peaks'. There are moments when the story trips on it's own weightiness. It is a dark, slumbering plot. Still, "HELLmington" begins to show it's true depth of darkness around 50 minutes in and the suspense and chilling nature becomes elevated.
The horror never really gets there fully, but atmospherically it is creepy- in a sleepwalking down an alleyway after midnight- kinda way. There is visual elements that play on occult horror thems, much in the way 'Riverdale' did it with the Gargoyle King. The cinematography moves from unimaginative stationary shots to some truly stunning horror fueled thriller moments. Overall "HELLmington" is a nice, chilling nightmare with a twist ending.
My Review Of "Seeds"
"Seeds" isn't unique in its style or concept when telling stories like this, surreal melodrama and psychological horror meant to serve as a metaphor for something else. It is creative, and even with such dark, uncomfortable material, the film is often poetic. Right off, I got impressions of classic horror dramas like "Suspiria" and "Possession". Two films that hardly made sense at times, flowed in a dreamscape of confusion and melanchalia, but managed to be captivating and hypnotic.
"Seeds" is filmed beautifully, the characters hang between detached mimics and relatable, tragic beings. I have to admit though that a lot of the film is muddled in aimless grandeur, and it took far too long for a clear story line to emerge. There is also a very real moment when you understand the metaphorical significance, it all becomes predictable, and I wished for the confusion and mesmer to return.
The horror rests mostly on the psychological elements, more so than the monster aspect. The conflict between ones own morality and propensity for depravity is universal and always relavent. The creature, set aside it's own existence within the film, is menacing when on screen . Strikingly so! Still what I personally wanted was a representation a bit more Lovecraftian, than what I got.
Overall I left the film being a little split on my feelings. There is so much in this film that is told disturbing, beautiful. The acting is superb, and the creativity can't be denied. But I also wanted a bit more actualized, traditional horror. Still "Seeds" is film worth checking out, and a project worthy of recognition.