Alone We Fight (Review) Hold the line at all costs…

awf

ALONE WE FIGHT

 

THE SETUP

This is a review of the Region A (US) Blu Ray of the Drama/War film “Alone We Fight”, Written and Directed by Justin Lee (Any Bullet Will Do). Alone We Fight is an independent war film set in 1944 and based on true events. On the border of Germany and Belgium, two US Army Rangers, in Sergeant Gregory Falcone (played by Aidan Bristow) and Private Michael “Boston” O’Reilly (Matthew James McCarthy), manage to escape the clutches of an enemy patrol unit but are soon given orders to take ground held by the Germans who are slowly approaching the allied lines. The film also stars Corbin Bernsen (TV’s Psych), Kate Conway, Lara Thomas Ducey, and Johnny Messner (Tears Of The Sun). This is the fourth feature-length film from Lee, all of which have been released this year! (a truly impressive feat in an of itself). Justin has proven thus far to have a great eye for detail in more than just one type of film. I’ve both thoroughly enjoyed and respected each of his prior films, two of which were westerns – the most impressive being the aforementioned “Any Bullet Will Do” *see review* https://adamthemoviegod.com/any-bullet-will-do-review-you-reap-what-you-sow/.

awf1

I figured a war picture courtesy of Papa Octopus Productions wouldn’t be too far away – I was right. Alone We Fight is an ambitious and surprisingly detailed film given the obvious budget constraints. I’ve always said good drama is the hardest thing to come by when you’re working with little to no money (but even more so in this genre). Lee joins forces once again with the talented duo of DP, Justin Janowitz (A Reckoning) and Composer, Jared Forman (Any Bullet Will Do). Part of what I like about POP is that there’s a uniformity about what they’re doing and the consistency shows in their brief but memorable body of work. Alone We Fight opens with one of Lee’s mainstays, an obligatory slow-motion sequence (via 5K) that sees a small group of allied soldiers being led by a German patrol unit. Those particular frames look great and all of Janowitz’s shot choices are simple yet effective. The highlight is a series of gorgeous low angle shots of Falcone and O’Reilly creeping through the leafy greens of the forest. The audio track is quite sharp (with some ADR included) and Jared’s original score is another noteworthy aspect. He opts for some big orchestral themes during establishing content, followed by the sounds of percussive style drumming to coincide with the battle scenes. In addition, there’s a nice piano ballad in the third act.

awf5

When it comes to Justin and films from Papa Octopus, it’s been all about the pairing of actors, Kevin Makely and Todd Robinson. Much like his characters here, this is the first time I’ve seen Lee venture into unfamiliar territory in order to find his talent – the result is somewhat of a mixed bag. On a positive note, I was excited to see Bristow cast in the lead role, as he was super impressive in this years “Strawberry Flavored Plastic”, Written and Directed by Colin Bemis. Aidan’s performance is by far and away the most consistent of the bunch and he brings likable qualities to squad leader Falcone. Conway and Ducey play medics, they’re a little uneven but they do their best with the material they’re given. The experience comes in the form of Bernsen, playing a colonel, though he’s only present for the one scene, and Messner as a captain in a sort of blink and you’ll miss it kind of deal. The set design is intelligently displayed and you can tell that Lee attempted to go the whole nine yards to make this environment seem credible (at least with as far as the budget would take him). The inclusion of a big 50 Cal machine gun makes for a pretty entertaining shootout that takes place around the midway point of the film. Service vehicles are used in the background of shots and even a couple of replica tanks/armored vehicles make an appearance during the climax. Unfortunately, the paint jobs and overall pristine condition of them makes it’s quite obvious that they weren’t able to actually be used (probably for fear of damage). Still, you have to commend the effort.

awf3

Sadly, Alone We Fight is proof yet again that you just can’t make a great war film on a budget. It’s nobodies fault, it’s just the way it is. Lee does his best to hide the two big and pertinent absentees from his film (being that of characters and action) by establishing a more intimate setting with the hopes that you’ll invest deeply in the characters. The problem with that is that the gravitas is never fully felt due to the lack of scale that the whole thing is conceived on. Michael Tang’s edit doesn’t contain much slack but the overall pacing still feels a touch sluggish – even at just 90 minutes. The film is supposedly based on true events (how much is true I don’t know) but the bulk of it centers on just Falcone and Boston (the latter of whom I didn’t take to). We’re only introduced to one or two other rangers because the narrative ends up calling for it – ultimately questioning the believability of it all. Consequently, sizeable chunks of the runtime turn conversation heavy, talk that consists mostly of banter and things back home, mothers, sports etc. The first sign of action comes in the form of a slow-motion sequence that sees Falcone and Boston overpower and escape the enemy. Lee does have a tendency to take that same avenue with his actions scenes, probably to avoid too much choreography – The drawback is that it loses its punch. McCarthy’s Mikey wasn’t a character I ever warmed to – that and Matthew’s performance lacked conviction. It’s an issue that can be problematic when your film only really has a couple of characters. There are some indisputable continuity issues and conveniences with Alone We Fight as well. Those of you who’ve seen any of Lee’s prior films will be sure to recognize more of the heavily wooded forest from parts of the US (likely to be the same ones he’s used in Montana or Oregon if I recall). The problem is that Justin establishes the film as taking place in December in Europe, despite there being no snow to speak of. I’m not sure how that happened but it’s an issue easily rectifiable simply by changing the time of the year the film takes place at. Either that or you have to shoot in the states in Winter so the weather patterns correlate.

awf2

It would have been a welcomed addition to have the German soldiers interact with each other a little more (I know it means learning parts of the language but still), and an opportunity was missed for the inclusion of a scene where perhaps one of the rangers suddenly wakes the other up because the enemy is fast approaching – therefore create a little more suspense to proceedings. I could have gone for a little more diversity with some of the shot choices, and everyone’s costumes needed to look a little more worn and rundown than they do. On a number of occasions, things just happen to be right where they need to be. For example, the boys escape their captors and just so happen to stumble into their camp and medic station almost immediately. They would’ve likely been miles away from that location and there’s no depiction of a transition or time-lapse. During the climax, Boston just so happens to come across a Panzerfaust (anti-tank weapon) sitting well outside the parameters of the sandbagged enemy area… what are the odds the Germans would leave that unattended? That’s another prime example of missed suspense and taking the time to flesh out the scene a little better in relation to how Mikey gets the weapon in his possession. These rangers aren’t the brightest either. Anyone who’s been trained would know never to run without cover, yet these guys continue to do it. They’re told by the sergeant to stay low but they never do, hell, even he himself gets popped in the shoulder from failing to heed his own advice. Needless to say, they were a little frustrating.

awf4

Alone We Fight doesn’t quite reach the same heights as some of Justin’s previous work but it’s still a controlled and serviceable attempt at a memorable war film. It’s an ambitious project that sees solid cinematography and some lovely music from Lee’s regulars in Janowitz and Forman respectively. It’s nice to see Bristow in another lead role and he delivers a modest performance. I’d be lying if I said the absence of both Makely and Robinson (at least in some capacity) wasn’t noticeable, though the secondary players are still decent they just don’t offer up anything special. The most impressive facet of the film is certainly the detailed production design, which is usually almost always lacking with these types of low-budget entries. Lee missed the opportunity to write a couple more suspenseful scenes to break up some of the daily grind content and there are a few too many convenient plot points throughout. Characters actions don’t always help to sell their credibility as soldiers and the film just doesn’t carry that emotional punch it wants you to think it does. Alone We Fight is extremely light in the headcount department and the action takes place on a very small-scale (mostly due to the budget), so what you’re left with is a dialogue-heavy film that just isn’t as engaging as you’d like it to be. All that said, if you’re a die-hard war fan I think you’ll still enjoy this one. I look forward to seeing what Lee and his company do next year. You can check out the official trailer below and the film is now available for purchase on Amazon!

My rating for “Alone We Fight” is 5/10

Advertisements

Top 10 Shorts (2018)

 

10. MYSTERY BOX (Co-Written and Directed by Sonny Laguna)

Sonny Laguna’s “Mystery Box” is a 10-minute Lovecraftian inspired Horror film that centers around just that – a mystery box. After a day of fishing, all Moa (Lisa Henni) has to show for it is a mysterious metal box – which she places inside the shed and thinks nothing more of. She quickly discovers that getting rid of the box won’t be so easy, though opening it could prove to be much worse. Laguna shows improvement here in just about every facet. Utilizing cool aerial shots, nice panning, and a series of quick cuts. The music is atmospheric and the contents of the box serve as a great way for Sonny to show off the quality fx work produced by his production company Stockholm Syndrome Films.

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt8611502/?ref_=fn_al_tt_1

 

9. POST MORTEM MARY (Written and Directed by Joshua Long)

“Post Mortem Mary” is a homegrown 10-minute Horror/Drama short by Joshua Long. It’s an 1840’s period piece that follows a mother and daughter (played by Melanie Zanetti and Stella Charrington) in their post-mortem photography business. The latest job sees them called to a rural farmhouse where the torch changes hands (so to speak) and a heedful Mary is left with the task of making the dead look alive. This is such a unique concept based around real businesses that did this kind of work all through the 19th century. The film boasts stunning cinematography from Ben Notts (Predestination and Daybreakers), sharp foley, and a score reminiscent of “The Witch”, compliments of Jesse Thomas. It’s great to see Zanetti back after her work on last years “Creeper”. Special mention goes to Kathryn Marquet for her emotional display in the opening of the short.

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt7633674/?ref_=fn_al_tt_1

 

8. GOTAS (Written by Santiago Taboada and Directed by Sergio Morcillo)

“Gotas” is a 15 minute Spanish made Horror/Thriller, Directed by Sergio Morcillo. It’s “Suspiria” meets “Black Swan” when teenage ballet student Marta (Marina Romero),  reeling from the loss of her parents, begins experiencing bouts of internal pain. By the end of the night, the cause behind it is ultimately revealed. Daniel Borbujo’s stylish cinematography is heavy on the reds, Jesus Calderon’s score builds to frenetic bass and strings, and the makeup fx are impressive. It’s ultimately a deconstruction of the human psyche and it’s very well done.

(https://www.imdb.com/title/tt7583810/?ref_=fn_al_tt_1)

 

7. HANG UP! (Written and Directed by Richard Powell)

“Hang Up!” is the latest from the boys at Fatal Pictures – A production company consisting of Powell and longtime partner, Zach Green. These guys have become synonymous with thought-provoking genre filmmaking – namely of the horror persuasion. Hang Up is Powell’s 14-minute venture into more Drama/Thriller terrain, combining with underrated character actor Robert Nolan (in a more reactive based performance) for a really dark and unfiltered conversation. This one is all about the script and Powell’s writing, as an accidental butt dial leads to a husband finding out all the deep and dark secrets his wife has been keeping from him. Astrida Auza is left to carry the bulk of this one, doing so impressively with all of her delivery taking place off-screen. It’s simple but effectively shot, subtly scored, and a real eye-opener around the notion of truly knowing someone.

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt8630348/?ref_=nm_flmg_prd_1

 

6. THE SERMON (Written and Directed by Dean Puckett)

“The Sermon” is a 12 minute English-made Drama/Thriller shot on 35mm, Written/Directed by Dean Puckett. It’s set in an isolated church community where a young woman named Ella (Molly Casey) is dealing with an identity crisis and a tragic set of circumstances. The problem is that her tyrannical priest father (Grant Gillespie), and her brother John (played by Oliver Monaghan) have their own set agenda which puts the tight-knit family on a collision course. The presentation is what I loved most about The Sermon. It looks and sounds fantastic, with a very 70’s aesthetic despite seemingly taking place at some point in the 1800s. The orchestral musicianship is superb, the acting is top-notch, and the externalized representation of having the “devil inside you” makes for a great climax.

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt7906240/?ref_=fn_al_tt_1

 

5. SOCKMONSTER (Written and Directed by Wesley Alley)

Wesley Alley’s ridiculously entertaining Horror short “SockMonster” is by far and away the most micro of the films on this year’s Top 10 list – clocking in at just 4 minutes. Technically the film came in at the very back-end of 2017 but I didn’t watch and review it until the beginning of this year, so it’s making the list. Anne (played by Step Up alumni Briana Evigan) is dealing with her grief by sitting on the floor of her laundry sipping away on a bottle and contemplating her own life. The cycle of washing concludes but she has no idea what awaits her on the other side of the door. The camera work is interesting, Briana plays it perfectly, Rob Reider’s mostly somber piano score is fitting, and the closing moments are truly shocking and fantastic. You’ll never look at your washing quite the same again!

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt6963860/?ref_=fn_al_tt_1

 

4. WE SUMMONED A DEMON (Written and Directed by Chris McInroy)

“We Summoned A Demon” is a 6-minute Horror/Comedy short that comes courtesy of Chris McInroy. In similar over the top fashion to that of McInroy’s previous outings in “Death Metal” and “Bad Guy #2”, WSAD ensures that chaos ensues when two friends (played by Kirk C. Johnson and Carlos Larotta) summon a demon with the hopes of bartering for “cool points”. It’s well shot, the score is quirky, and the performances are a lot of fun. It all rests on the physical comedy which resonates firmly, and the special fx work is impressive for both the demon design and the copious amounts of blood splatter.

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt7285002/?ref_=fn_al_tt_1

 

3. CATCALLS (Written and Directed by Kate Donlan) 

“Catcalls” is an 8-minute Horror/Thriller short from Ireland, Written and Directed by Kate Donlan. A man (played by Martin O’Sullivan) trolls the streets late one night looking to get a cheap thrill and decides to flash a couple of young women. It turns out to be a huge mistake, as he finds himself being hunted by someone or something. Piers McGrail’s gorgeous cinematography had me on board from the outset, with plenty of diverse techniques on display in the short run time. There’s nerve-jangling tension generated through Steve Lynch’s rising score, and the combination of practical and digital fx work makes for a wonderful conclusion.

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt7921128/?ref_=fn_al_tt_1

 

2. ROUND TRIP (Written and Directed by Ren Thackham)

“Round Trip” is yet another homegrown short that truly impressed this year. It’s a 6-minute Action/Crime/Comedy set in the rural outback. The story revolves around a young Constable (played by Danny Bolt) and his unpredictable prisoner, Ned (Lee Priest). The pair gets lost on a lonely stretch of dirt road and they begin to experience something quite mysterious. Thackham’s narrative is superb and it’s begging to be further explored. Each of the performances is impressive, the cinematography is fantastic, and the edit is tight. One highlight is a wonderfully conceived car stunt, add to that the unpredictable direction Round Trip takes and you’ve got a truly memorable journey that you’ll want to take again and again.

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt7862806/?ref_=fn_al_tt_2

 

1. HERE THERE BE MONSTERS (Written and Directed by Drew Macdonald)

Drew Macdonald backs up winning last years best short film (for Creeper) this time with the 14-minute Horror/Thriller short, “Here There Be Monsters”. Here There Be Monsters is another extraordinary Australian film about a tormented school girl named, Elki (played by Savannah Foran McDaniel), who falls asleep on a bus ride home and awakens to find herself fighting for survival against something that lurks in the shadows. Every aspect of Macdonald’s films is exceptionally polished. The shot choices help build the tension, the score and sound design are intense, and Steve Boyle’s creature design is as good as anything you’ll see in Hollywood. Topping it all off is young Savannah McDaniel’s performance. Here There Be Monsters is a thrill ride from start to finish and although any number of these shorts could challenge for number one, Drew’s remains the best film I saw in 2018.

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt8192236/?ref_=fn_al_tt_1

 

AWARDS

Best Actor- Kirk C. Johnson (We Summoned A Demon)

Best Actress- Savannah McDaniel (Here There Be Monsters)

Best Supporting Actor- Lee Priest (Round Trip)

Best Supporting Actress- Kathryn Marquet (Post Mortem Mary)

Cinematography- Susan Lumsdon (Round Trip)

Sound Design- Erin McKimm (Here There Be Monsters)

Original Score- Benjamin Hudson (The Sermon)

Special FX-  Steve Boyle (Here There Be Monsters)

Monster Party (Review) It’s important to celebrate the milestones…

45093883_222087718719348_5927431494162186240_n

MONSTER PARTY

 

THE SETUP

RLJE Films bring us the latest slice of home invasion horror with “Monster Party”, a film Written and Directed by Chris von Hoffmann (Drifter). Monster Party centers around three teenage burglars, Casper (played by Sam Strike), and couple Iris and Dodge (played respectively by Virginia Gardner and Brandon Michael Hall), who get more than they bargained for when they infiltrate the home of a wealthy aristocratic family who is hosting an exclusive dinner party. The film also stars Erin Moriarty (Blood Father), Kian Lawley (Before I Fall), Robin Tunney (The Craft), Julian McMahon (TV’s Charmed), Chester Rushing (Netflix’s Stranger Things), and Lance Reddick (John Wick). Monster Party is just Hoffmann’s second feature-length film and it boasts quite an impressive cast. He previously wrote and directed “Drifter”, a post-apocalyptic film about two brothers who seek refuge in a small abandoned town where they encounter a group of cannibals *see review* https://adamthemoviegod.com/drifter-review-3/.

m4

I’ve been following Chris’s latest film for a while now so I was quite excited to finally be able to check it out. Despite the home invasion sub-genre running rampant in film of late, I love it when one is done right. Monster Party is sure to draw comparisons to both Fede Alvarez’s superb “Don’t Breathe”, as well as Karyn Kusama’s unnerving “The Invitation” irrespective of it never reaching the same heights. In terms of quality and budget, I’d liken it to the lesser known 2010 film, “The Perfect Host” – a perfectly serviceable entry. The poster art is rather eye-catching and there are more than a few familiar faces attached to this one. DP, Tobias Deml (who also shot Drifter) approaches Monster Party’s outlandish material with a different approach than to that of the aforementioned. A majority of the film is conceived with Steadicam but there are a couple of really nice drone shots that do add some value. Highlights include a series of effective close-up shots and a few stylish edits to help particular events snap into gear. The audio track is clean and there doesn’t appear to be any obvious ADR (additional dialogue recording). The standout creatively speaking has to be Felix Erskine’s score. Most of the suspenseful moments are complemented by unnerving high-frequency strings, but there’s also the inclusion of a 90’s sounding synth track that kick things off nicely. Much of the development in Hoffmann’s film is pretty standard. That said, he does mislead you with a couple of pieces of dialogue regarding what might be in the basement of the house. A component of that comes into play at the start of the third act and that does give the film a little more edge (even if there’s seemingly no explanation for it).

m2

The bulk of the performances in Monster Party are more than competent, but certain actors are somewhat underutilized. Whilst I didn’t really buy Iris and Dodge as a couple, they delivered their action content quite well. The Dawson family (whose house it is) consist of strong but silent, Patrick (McMahon), his wife Roxanne (Tunney), and their two teenage kids Alexis and Elliot (played by Moriarty and Lawley respectively). It’s clear that both Patrick and Elliot have an appetite for the pursuit and you just know that something is slowly stirring beneath the surface. As for mother and daughter, Roxanne remains a bit of a mystery, though Alexis becomes a key player throughout the momentous festivities. Reddick’s, Milo appears to be the only one of the guests with a level head and Diego Boneta’s character Ollie proves to be one of the most interesting. Unfortunately, aside from one heated interaction with Cameron (Rushing) his screen time is limited to just a couple of reactionary shots. Instead, we get stuck with the overt asshole yuppie pairing of Cam and Jeremy (Jamie Ward) while tensions mount in the house. Their performances are okay but the characters maintain the one-dimensional status quo regarding the wider publics pre-conceived notions of the rich and famous. I’m sure in reality there’s more than meets the eye with the people living that lifestyle. The practical fx work on display in Monster Party is of a high standard. The first kill is the most sudden and it’s extremely violent – showcasing plenty of blood spray and setting the tone for the remainder of the film. Other kills involve a graphic death via samurai sword, a swift gunshot, and one characters sporadic use of a chainsaw.

m3

On occasion some of the lighting methods in Monster Party clash (or have no reason to be), but it’s really the overall presentation that I found lacking. Cinematography style is purely a personal preference issue (so no doubt some will like it more than I did), but after witnessing Hoffmann formulate a much more cinematic approach to his debut feature, I can’t help but feel like this particular delivery was a step backward. I thought some of the focus timing was a little odd, the slow-motion feels overused, and as much as the dizzying camera work coincides with the manic action, it doesn’t make for easier viewing. Deml’s guilty of a lot of mid-shot zooming and it does become distracting, particularly during scenes in the hidden room (seen in the image above). The writing is another aspect that felt superior in Chris’s previous film. Sections of the dramatic dialogue are lazy and either just rely on profanity and pointless insults, or the mandatory “Come out so we can kill you” threats – the latter of which I’ve never really understood. Doesn’t it seem like a moot point? Has there ever been a time where the killer has said to the victim come out so I can kill you and the victim actually has? There has to be a more effective way to build suspense than that. Sadly, Monster Party lacks almost all surprise because it tells you everything you need to know in the synopsis and trailer (and like me, most will have looked at it). What’s worse is that an introductory scene to the Dawson family (of which could have been cut) further foreshadows the central plot twist. I think Hoffmann missed an opportunity to create another layer of infighting had Ollie put his guitar to good use on loudmouth, Cameron – I was waiting for it. Casper and Iris each have moments where their reactions/actions (or lack thereof) don’t fit the scene. Strike really doesn’t offer up much emotion, nor is the character overly sympathetic. He never has that breakdown moment required to complete his arc and to make sense of the resulting transformation. With the group witnessing some pretty gruesome stuff along the way, the “trophy” room shouldn’t come as a surprise, right? Well, that’s exactly what it takes for Iris to finally realize the severity of the situation. The non-sensical ending sees random strippers being slaughtered in an attempt at some dark comedy akin to something like the closing scenes of “Cheap Thrills”, but in this case, it just doesn’t work.

m1

After impressing with the post-apocalyptic grittiness that was Drifter, I had high hopes for Chris von Hoffmann’s take on the home invasion trope with Monster Party.  Unfortunately, it just didn’t reach the lofty heights I’d hoped for. The premise is familiar but fun just the same, the edit is snappy, and the synth-driven score is impressive. On the plus side, A majority of the performances are decent, the script contains one or two interesting pieces of the puzzle, and all of the on-screen violence and practical fx work looks top notch. Too much is too obvious right off the bat though – a direct result of foreshadowing and the overly descriptive synopsis. The cinematography style wasn’t for me, some of the lighting looked patchy, and there appeared to be a lack of cohesion between those technical elements. The writing could have used some work and characters reactions don’t always make a whole lot of sense. Casper isn’t the strongest of protagonists, made worse by the fact that Sam just doesn’t present a whole lot in his demeanor. Horror fans and those of the home invasion persuasion are likely to still enjoy this one and maybe find a little more in it than I could. It’s certainly worth a look for the kills and practical fx which are a lot of fun, I just wish there was a bit more to it. You can check out the official trailer below and Monster Party is now available on DVD, Blu Ray, and various streaming platforms!

My rating for “Monster Party” is 5.5/10

Cannibals And Carpet Fitters (Review) They’ll work you to the bone…

c

CANNIBALS AND CARPET FITTERS

 

THE SETUP

Firstly, I’d just like to say thank you to Pretty Dead Pictures and Director, James Bushe for allowing me early access to an online screener of his Horror/Comedy film “Cannibals And Carpet Fitters”, Written by Richard O’Donnell. Cannibals And Carpet Fitters sees two groups of carpet layers assigned an install job at an old lavish countryside home. Chris and Tasha (Christopher Whitlow and Zara Phythian) are the first to arrive, and shortly thereafter, the trusty two-man team of Colin and Dean (played respectively by Darren Enright and O’Donnell himself) show up. However, they quickly discover that something is amiss with Mrs. Hanning (played by Jenny Stokes) and her four boys, and the pair are thrust into a fight for survival on the isolated family property. The film also stars Dominic Holmes, Tony Nyland, Laura Jean Marsh, and Mingus Johnston.

c3

THE GOOD

Cannibals And Carpet Fitters was initially conceived as an 18-minute short film back in 2014. I didn’t review the film but I remembered it being quite entertaining, and I’ve followed Bushe’s development of the feature-length film since. It doesn’t hurt that I myself am a carpet layer (not that the trade has a whole lot to do with the film), so despite the far-fetched particulars, I can certainly find relatable aspects in the situational comedy of O’Donnell’s script. The cinematography is generally quite good. A majority of the shots are well conceived and the framing is consistent. I commend James on his ability to successfully navigate the edit of a number of jump cuts appearing at the beginning of the film. Usually, it’s a technique that’s poorly executed, such is not the case here. The Hanning house makes for a lovely location (If memory serves me correct it’s the same place used in the short film) and Bushe is able to engineer those tunnels from the short into the feature as well. The audio track is nice and clear and Juan Iglesias’s score utilizes plenty of high-frequency synth with additional musical cues during suspenseful moments. James and Juan previously teamed up on a short called “Predator Dark Ages” so it should come as no surprise that there are some Predator Esq themes to the score in Cannibals And Carpet Fitters.

c1

It’s fresh to find a writer with a good clean comedic approach to this material. Often they feel the need to be crass by littering their scripts with profanity or penning an abundance of low-brow toilet humor gags. Here, O’Donnell opts for simple jokes and lines of miscommunication, some front and center and others slightly understated. Youngster, Malcolm (Holmes) has a humorous back and forth with Colin and Dean regarding the whereabouts of his car, but other funnies such as the notion that a cup of tea can fix anything, and Dean’s response to Hanning’s line “I would have thought it’d be obvious what we want” with “Does she still want her carpet fitted?” are just good-natured one-liners – fun stuff. The performances are all pretty solid and everyone appears to be having plenty of fun, but it’s Darren and Richard (who appeared together in the short) who keep the entertainment value high. There are a few genuinely surprising moments of action in Cannibals And Carpet Fitters. The most notable being a realistic crash involving a car and one of the cannibals. The make-up fx are quite good and there’s ample practical blood spray over the course of the 80-minute runtime. Highlights are a cool aftermath shot from the first kill, an arrow in someone’s face, and a sudden and gory split with an ax.

THE BAD

On the technical front, the only thing that looks somewhat amateur is the early handheld camera work during the first ten minutes. Both Jack and Jill (Alex Zane and Jessica Stafford) have a tendency to zoom in an out constantly as they film and it doesn’t make for great viewing. There are a couple of continuity issues, or more appropriately, a lack of attention to detail in the carpet fitting aspect. For one, where’s the carpet? The two teams arrive in vans but the backs are clearly not long enough to actually store the carpet and there’s nothing on top of them either. Chris and Tasha also only bring one toolbox and I’m pretty sure it doubles as Colin and Dean’s toolbox later (haha). Little things like that aren’t a big deal in the greater scheme of it but they do help set the scene better. Johnston’s character Edward wields a crossbow and likes to shoot it with one hand. Bushe is stretching the credibility a bit with that, especially if we’re led to believe he can aim and fire accurately from that distance. Given the weight of one of those weapons, it seems unlikely. There were a couple of non-sensical decisions made by Colin and Dean that resulted in missed opportunities to fight back. The pair chooses to exit the van rather than attempt to run over Edward, even after they’ve just witnessed him kill one of the others. Later, Dean has a risk free shot at doing something about Mrs. Hanning while she stands above a hole in the floor, yet he chooses not to despite the fact she’s oblivious to him being there. I feel like we’re supposed to care about the plight of the Cupid Carpet members but the film doesn’t really hold any emotional weight, probably due to the mish-mashing of genres (which can be difficult to balance at the best of times). If you combine that with the fact that most of the cannibals are dopey rather than scary, what you’re left with isn’t quite as memorable as one would hope.

c2

In the end, it was well worth O’Donnell and Bushe turning Cannibals And Carpet Fitters into a feature-length film. Tonally it feels like a mix of its English counterparts, “Cockney’s vs Zombies” and Alex Chandon’s “Inbred”. The title is fun and pacing is pretty good. The camera work is sharp, the audio crisp, and sections of the score work really well.  The performances are generally good and the clever writing makes for a nice change of pace for the sub-genre. Horror fans are likely to come hoping for plenty of chaos, and they’ll be glad to know that the blood and gore do flow quite nicely throughout. There are two fairly graphic kills, though a few more wouldn’t have gone astray. I wasn’t a fan of the early zooming, the premise lacks a few particulars, and O’Donnell missed a couple of opportunities for his characters to make decisions that were more feasible than the ones they opted for. It lacks that heavier punch due to its selective tone, but overall genre founds are bound to have plenty of fun with this one and I look forward to seeing what Pretty Dead Pictures do next. Go ahead and check out the official trailer because the film is now available for pre-order on Amazon!

My rating for “Cannibals And Carpet Fitters” is 6.5/10

The Bloody Ballad Of Squirt Reynolds (Review) He wants his revenge…

blood ballad

THE BLOODY BALLAD OF SQUIRT REYNOLDS

 

THE SETUP

Firstly, I’d just like to say thank you to Shock Treatment Productions and Co-Writer/Director, Anthony Cousins for allowing me early access to a screener of his 7-minute Horror/Comedy short, “The Bloody Ballad Of Squirt Reynolds”. The film opens with a group of young adults sitting around the campfire at Camp Nawgonamakit (get it). Whilst busting out a keyboard number, one of the guys opts to tell the tragic tale of a camper by the name of Squirt Reynolds and the night takes an interesting turn. The film stars Nathan Hoffman, Daniel Hoffstrom, Justen Jones, Lana Mattson, Briana Patnode, and Tim Herkenhoff.

I can honestly say, if nothing else, The Bloody Ballad Of Squirt Reynolds is hands down the most bizarre film title of 2018. As soon as I heard about it I had to get onto Cousins so I could check it out. Anthony has made a few shorts over the last couple of years but initially began his journey as a cinematographer – now having over twenty credits to his name. It’s obvious that Cousins is an old-school slasher fan and he clearly had no qualms about serving this up as a self-aware parody to one particularly common genre movie trope – the obligatory campfire scene. Fog lacing the air, the musician leading the storytelling (a clear nod to Madman), and whispers of a bullied and now disfigured killer roaming the area, all the aspects we know and love are on display in this speedy 7-minutes. It’s nicely framed, the audio is good, and the acting is intentionally campy but it works. I really like how Tim Holly’s score plays like a real-time soundtrack, performed by the lead actor (I can’t recall his name). There is an acoustic guitar song and some sporadic synth notes intended to highlight the endless musical cues, which can be heard in most films from the genre. The film has a memorable and entertaining sequence of closing shots utilizing some sweet practical effects.

Unfortunately, Josh Mruz’s edit leaves a little something to be desired. To be fair, it’s probably the combination of Anthony’s uneven Steadicam method and a number of quick cuts that end up making certain moments feel a bit cheap. No one appears to be credited for special fx (at least not according to IMDb), leading me to believe that these were perhaps done by other members of the crew. If so, it would explain the unevenness. Whilst the final kill is distinguished and aids to the film finishing on a high, the other deaths are dull and the remainder of the fx appear to be lacking in quality and detail (it might have been due to budgetary constraints).

The Bloody Ballad Of Squirt Reynolds is a stupidly memorable title and a helluva a lot of fun. It calls to mind details likened to those in both “Madman” and “The Burning”. The setup is one most of us know and love, the framing is good, the performances are fun, and Holly’s entertaining play as you go approach to the score is a fresh inclusion. I enjoyed the ending but the kills and special fx leading up to that aren’t anything to write home about. I would’ve preferred a slightly more cinematic feel to the presentation and a tighter edit as well. That said, slasher fans and horror/comedy fans alike best check this one out because there’s plenty of fun to be had. Check out the teaser trailer below!

My rating for “The Bloody Ballad Of Squirt Reynolds” is 7.5/10

The Whistler (Review) If you hear him coming you’re already dead…

the whistler

THE WHISTLER

 

THE SETUP

Firstly, I’d just like to say thank you to Round Table Pictures and Writer/Director, Jennifer Nicole Stang for allowing me early access to an online screener of her 10-minute Horror/Thriller short, “The Whistler”. The Whistler is a folklore short horror tale that sees teenager Lindsey (played by the beautiful Karis Cameron) forced to babysit her sister Becky (Baya Ipatowicz). Shortly after storytime, Lindsey falls asleep to a TV movie and wakes to find her little sister missing. A venture into the woods reveals a far more sinister danger than she could have imagined.

I’m always intrigued in a premise with an origin to unveil, and Stang’s latest venture has just that. Believe it or not, The Whistler is Jennifer’s eighteenth short film in just six years. With multiple credits in just about every aspect of filmmaking, she’s clearly a talented and versatile individual. Though it’s experienced DP, Naim Sutherland (Feed The Gods) behind the presentation here, and a majority of the shot choices are creative and nicely framed. The audio track is clean and the piano theme that supports Lindsey’s folklore story fits the desired atmosphere perfectly. Karis and Baya are quite well cast as sisters and both turn in serviceable performances.

There’s a particular method using blue filtering which lights the bulk of these scenes but results in a tinged look that I found rather distracting. A series of jump cuts in the middle section also only serves to highlight some of Sutherland’s average handheld techniques. Whilst there are a couple of tension-filled moments, The Whistler ends on an unusually flat note. It’s an entertaining enough short but I’m hoping that Stang harnesses her full potential regarding the titular character because I have no doubt that it could become something quite iconic if given the proper attention. Despite the need for some improved visuals and further fleshing out of the core character, The Whistler serves as a nice proof of concept for the feature that Jennifer is trying to get off the ground. You can check out the teaser trailer below and keep an eye out for this one soon!

My rating for “The Whistler” is 6/10

Instinct (Review) Gives new meaning to bleeding for your art…

instinct

INSTINCT

 

THE SETUP

Firstly, I’d just like to say thank you to Writer/Director, Maria Alice Arida for allowing me early access to an online screener of her 18 minute psychosexual Drama/Thriller short, “Instinct”. Instinct follows Isabelle (played by Christine Kellogg-Darrin), a lonely gallery owner who is rather apprehensive about her latest performance artist, the young and seductive Camila (Jordan Monaghan). Despite their differences, a late night encounter sees the pair hit it off in an unexpected way, leading to an interesting development.

Instinct is the sixth short film from Arida and it calls to mind a more succinct telling of something like Brian De Palma’s “Passion” or even “Windows” from 1980. At its core, it’s about loneliness and that feeling of being disconnected from the world and those around you. Hannah Getz’s lovely cinematography sets things off on the right foot. She utilizes simple shot setups and all the framing looks incredibly slick. The film’s backdrop being that of the art world lends itself perfectly to some unique visuals that you don’t ordinarily see. The audio is really sharp and Erick Aguila’s musical choices are built nicely around classical themes. He opens the film with some low bass rumblings and transitions into a series of broad back and forth strokes on strings. Synth enters the fold shortly thereafter too. Christine and Jordan share a natural chemistry and both performances are quite raw and powerful.

On the technical front, my only issue is that the lighting looked a little dim during the office scene. The other thing is that I’ve never been one of those people that believes just anything can be labeled “art” (I think that’s a personal preference though). Personally, I think there’s a facade of sophistication to this kind of work when in reality a lot of what it encompasses is rather hollow. Camila’s “performance” doesn’t actually involve or require a particular set of skills, nor really anything for that matter. It’s a self-inflicted exhibition of ill-treatment or neglect if you will, and I can’t fathom why she’d subject herself to that, or how one would find any artistic merit in such a showing. On an unrelated note, I was able to foresee the specifics of what was taking place in Isabelle’s own private workspace too.

With Instinct, Marie continues the trend of impressive short films for 2018. Isabelle is a lonely soul looking for a connection and that’s something we can all relate to on some level. The cinematography is gorgeous, the audio is clear, and the score is suitably eerie. Both performances are strong and Arida’s foundations and style ooze of De Palma in the best possible way. I’m certainly wary of buying into the glamour and status at the forefront of the world of art. I know there are so many different periods and styles but some things just can’t possibly be classified as art (e.g Camila’s performance) – at least not in my mind. Even with the somewhat predictable climax, Instinct was a memorable film and I look forward to seeing what The American Film Institue and the talented Maria Arida do next! You can check out the teaser trailer below.

My rating for “Instinct” is 8/10