Creeper (Review)

CREEPER

 

THE SETUP

Firstly, I’d just like to say thank you to Writer/Director, Drew Macdonald for allowing me early access to an online screener of Wanderer Films, 12 minute Horror/Thriller short “Creeper”. Creeper is an Australian made short film about a young woman (played by the beautiful Melanie Zanetti) who is unknowingly followed home by her “Uber” driver (Harry Piaggio) after a night on the town. The cat and mouse game that ensues explores the lengths people will go to for some form of human contact.

THE GOOD

Creeper has been garnering a lot of attention on the festival circuit in 2017, and being a home-grown production, I thought I best try to seek out those behind it. It turns out that between the cast and crew, less than a dozen people were involved in the film. I found the tone of Macdonald’s film reminiscent of one of Travis Zariwny’s more recent films, “Intruder”. Truth be told, Joe Tiernan’s production design and Jesse Lane’s cinematography on Creeper also give it a hint of the Giallo (70’s Italian Horror) feel. Drew’s script (which happens to be devoid of almost all dialogue barring the opening minute) sets an unnerving chain of events in motion, and the scariest part is that this premise isn’t too much of a stretch. In the world of modern technology and an ever evolving city lifestyle, the disconnect among us is present and that’s a little bit of what Macdonald touches on in Creeper. All the technical facets are unbelievably well constructed. The audio and foley are crisp and the lighting extremely moody, particularly the shots in Demi’s lounge room. The opening aerial shot establishes the city lights and helps to set the city scene, it’s a great addition for an independent film. Lane exerts gentle zooming and a couple of really effective looking focus pulls throughout the short. The approach to the camera placement and shot choices is almost always intentionally voyeuristic, giving off that slow and meticulous stalking vibe. Zanetti doesn’t feature a whole lot, but she looks stunning and is more than up to the task of playing the innocent victim. Shortly into Creeper it becomes evident it’s Piaggio’s show. I mean no disrespect at all, but this guy (and in turn character) is as creepy as they come, think Rutger Hauer in Blade Runner. The intensity of the performance is conveyed mostly through his piercing eyes and that constantly restrained smirk. There’s a bit of a montage of shots showcasing his creepy actions, it plays to music as well which makes him all the more worrying. Although there’s no real on-screen violence there’s a scene involving a razor and it’s sure to make you cringe, it’s a great scene and a superb performance!

I haven’t reviewed a lot of Australian short films but Creeper is certainly the best one I’ve seen thus far, I couldn’t pick a flaw and that’s extremely rare. With all the instances and allegations of violence and harassment against women floating around in the media right now, Drew’s film couldn’t be a more relevant cautionary tale. The cinematography is fantastic, the audio clear and the lighting atmospheric. Zanetti’s character is immediately sympathetic and Piaggio’s is anything but. This mystery driver is stone faced and as cold as ice, and for 12 minutes you’re never quite sure what he’s really after. It’s a dialogue free performance and I’m calling it the best of the year, so to Creeper itself. Do yourself a favor, as soon as this one hits the world-wide web check it out! You can watch the trailer below.

My rating for “Creeper” is 9.5//10

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Holiday Fear (Review)

HOLIDAY FEAR

 

THE SETUP

Firstly, I’d just like to say thank you to Writer/Director, Nicholas Santos for allowing me early access to an online screener of his 4 minute, Horror/Comedy short “Holiday Fear”. Holiday Fear is a Christmas themed short that picks up with young adult couple, Emily and Bruce (played by Rebeca Robles and Eric Whitten) just after an attempt has been made on their lives by a madman in a Santa costume. Now it’s up to Bruce to impress the girl and finish off the killer. The film also stars Ben Elder.

THE GOOD

Holiday Fear opens with Emily and Bruce standing atop the broken balcony of their snow-covered domicile, a bloody Santa lay seemingly lifeless below them. From there, the couple must decide the fate of this holiday intruder. Santos’s screenplay isn’t so obviously funny, but the subtle humor is evident through the dynamic between Emily and Bruce and how the conventional “horror movie” clichés are somewhat reversed. Both Robles and Whitten know the intended tone and their performances reflect that. The audio is crisp and clean and the cinematography is simple but effective. Kyle Kelley’s use of the wide shot and gentle zooming both help make for a great looking short. The score is made up of some nice synth orientated music with plenty of bass in the mix.

Holiday Fear is one of those blink and you’ll miss it type of deals, and trust me you don’t want to miss it. Nicholas has worked in short films for nearly a decade and it shows in the quality of this latest holiday themed entry. The concept takes the road less traveled in regard to the point where it picks up at, the cinematography is great and the score fits. Both actors are very watchable and there wasn’t anything I could fault in the speedy 4 minutes (if I’m nitpicking, I’d have loved to have seen some gore). Down the track perhaps we will see the events that led to Emily and Bruce’s final act conundrum. Holiday Fear will surely go down as one of the best shorts of 2017! It will be available for viewing online come Black Friday.

My rating for “Holiday Fear”s is 9/10

A Time Of Vultures (Review)

A TIME OF VULTURES

 

THE SETUP

Firstly, I’d just like to say thank you to Producer, Eric Sonnenburg for sending me the link to the 8 minute, Action/Western short “A Time Of Vultures”, Co-Written by William James and Adolfo J. Kolmerer (who also directs). A Time Of Vultures sees a mysterious drifter (played by Eskindir Tesfay) enter a saloon to settle an old score. The film also stars Erkan Acar, David Masterson, Bernhard Bulling, Ronny Wagner and Stephen M. Gilbert.

THE GOOD

A Time Of Vultures was made back in 2012 and is bought to you by a number of the team involved with “Snowflake” *see review* https://adamthemoviegod.com/snowflake-review/. There are a handful of really professionally made and entertaining western shorts floating around on YouTube, and after having enjoyed Snowflake so much, I wanted to check out more of Kolmerer’s body of work. The film opens with a few really nice shots, followed by a focus pull to reveal a Mexican (Acar) amidst an animated poker game. As a whole, the cinematography is really impressive, possibly even better than in Snowflake. Consistently good framing and plenty of intriguing shot choices drive the higher than expected production value. Adolfo goes all out with a couple of motion whip pans and an abundance of shots with slowed frame rates, which are used to great effect. Some of the lighting is gorgeous, particularly the back-lit sequence where the drifter engages with the Mexican from across the bar. The audio is clear and the foley nicely matching. I heard some momentary flute in the score that was reminiscent of any number of the scores in Sergio Leone’s films. The action choreography was solid and the way the drifter used his whip was thoroughly entertaining.

THE BAD

I was a little disappointed that the score didn’t figure quite at the front and centre like it usually does in the Western genre, but I can also acknowledge that the short format has its limits. The only aspect that took me out of the film was the fact that the two main character’s enter into hand to hand combat during the climax. Was that response ever used in the wild west? Usually it’s more of a showdown at sunset type of deal. What occurred in A Time Of Vultures was more akin to that of a martial arts film.

For the most part A Time Of Vultures was exactly what I expected it to be, a polished and entertaining little Western short. The cinematography and shot choices are expertly crafted, the audio and foley sharp and the lighting sublime. Some of the score is quintessentially geared to the genre but there’s not quite enough of it, that and I would’ve preferred to have seen the action carried out a little differently. Those issues aside, this is another impressive short from a German filmmaker on the rise. You can watch the film below and see for yourself, Enjoy!

My rating for “A Time Of Vultures” is 8.5/10

3 (Review)

3

 

THE SETUP

Firstly, I just want to say thank you to White Lotus Productions and the team at Chicart Public Relations for sending me an online screener of Lou Simon’s latest feature film titled, “3”. Lou has been all over the indie horror scene ever since the release of her film “HazMat” back in 2013 *see review* https://adamthemoviegod.com/hazmat-review/. She’s since directed two more feature lengths, “Agoraphobia” with Cassie Scerbo and Tony Todd and more recently, “All Girls Weekend” which was made up of an all female cast. While I wasn’t a fan of the latter, I thoroughly enjoyed HazMat and have been keen to see this latest project of hers. 3 is a confined and revenge fueled, suspense/thriller that centers on a man and a woman (played by Todd Bruno and Aniela McGuinness) who kidnap her rapist (Mike Stanley) with the hopes of eliciting a confession from him. The film also stars Katie Carpenter (Maid To Order) and Jim Adams.

THE GOOD

A forewarning, this review will likely be a bit shorter than usual, as 3 can be described as one of those films that’s difficult to canvass without ruining the desired element of surprise, something I don’t want to do, especially considering this is a thriller. Make no mistake though, it’s not a reflection of the quality of Simon’s latest venture. From a technical standpoint most of Lou’s work has been well presented and 3 is no exception. The audio track appears to be all natural and consistently clear, which comes as a surprise because the basement in which three-quarters of the film is set in, must have created some headaches for the crew (reverberation wise). The cinematography isn’t overly dynamic but it’s smart. A lot of simple shot choices and setups make for speed and efficiency, two of the most important things on a self-funded independent film. Michael Damon (whose scored all of Simon’s previous films) composed a nice synth piece for the opening of the film, and the remainder of the score is made up of keys and bass but it persuasively builds the required tension.

When you think of films contained entirely within one or two locations or sets (some of which are my favourite films), they’re actually few and far between, mostly because they pose quite a challenge. How do you keep people interested or engaged? My experience tells me if you’re film isn’t built on aesthetic appeal it usually rests on good dialogue and talented actors. 3’s running time is only 80 minutes, but there’s a fair amount going on in this controlled little scenario. Simon sets up an early reveal in the opening act, something that’s often a key to drawing audiences in. Each of the three leads deliver really consistent performances, by far the best I’ve seen in any of Lou’s films thus far. McGuinness highlights her characters trepidation of the situation the two-some have decided to act on. As for Bruno, he’s forced to raise his game emotionally speaking because of the weight being carried on his characters shoulders. Then there’s Mike Stanley, who has to combine believable dialogue delivery with the physical performance of his character, clearly the most challenging of the three roles and he does it very well. 3 is also surprisingly violent for a film that forms through dialogue and not action. There’s a great scene involving a foot and the corresponding effects are more than serviceable. Lou’s script is likely to catch a few people off guard when it heads in quite an unexpected direction, that said, there are some clues along the way, but nothing that sets things in stone.

THE BAD

I noticed one or two minor issues with the sound, most notably the bass. It seemed quite loud in the mix, though that may have just been due to my set of particular computer speakers. The lighting was a little dark during the first character interaction in the kitchen too. Continuity wise the film is pretty spot on. There aren’t any real obvious lapses (at least none that I could find), although at one point Stanley’s character says to Bruno’s that he heard him talking to a woman. Those of you’ve who’ve seen the film will understand why that doesn’t necessarily compute. I continue to gone back and forth on my opinion of the climax and its eventual conclusion, I’m still not sure how I feel about it. Perhaps a flashback or two may have given more of an inclination as to something going awry later.

3 is anything but a straight up suspense/thriller or revenge flick, it’s cleverly written and manages to weave its intended web of deception. The audio, camera work and score are all well executed and the pacing ensures that the film doesn’t lose too much steam. Lou sets the scene early with immediate introductions, followed by an important reveal. There’s a few nice clues scattered throughout about the potential deeper source, that and our central trio of actors turn in really solid performances. The violence is rather brief but the intensity is evident and the practical effects look good. There’s a couple of slight technical inconsistencies and one continuity blip, I’m also still undecided on whether I like the big finish or not. If I’m honest, it’s hard to deny the comparison to a film like David Slade’s expertly crafted, “Hard Candy” or even the lesser known indie film, “The Tortured” but I’m not overly concerned, because I can respect that 3 tries on something a little different in its final act. My two cents. I think Simon’s, HazMat has more of a fun rewatchability factor, but 3 is certainly her best and most professional film. Fans of contained thrillers (like the aforementioned) best check this out when it becomes available. Check out the trailer below!

My rating for “3” is 7.5/10

 

Born Again (Review)

BORN AGAIN

 

THE SETUP

Born Again is a new 7 minute, Horror/Comedy short Co-Written by Randall Greenland and Jason Tostevin (who also directs). Born Again places you right in the thick of a clumsy trio’s devil summoning ceremony. A vessel (played by the lovely Ellie Church) lay on the table, legs spread, ready to give herself over when the fourth party arrives shortly thereafter. Seemingly the most dense of them all, Greg (also played by Randall Greenland) realizes the ritual is going pear-shaped and it might just be too late to do anything about it! The film also stars Brian Spangler, Tiffany Arnold and Jaysen P. Buterin.

THE GOOD

Right off the bat I noticed Tostevin gauged a perfect sense of tone for his and Greenland’s cult themed premise, doing so through great lighting and Mike McNeese’s simple but diverse shot choices. The audio track is surprisingly clear given the film takes place inside a shed. There’s two things one can learn from watching Born Again. One, comedic timing is everything, and secondly, silence is golden. Both are examples of simple rules so often attainable but rarely applied, especially when mixed with the horror genre. You can tell just by watching this, that both Randall and Jason are no doubt funny guys in real life because it bleeds into the script. All of the cast more than do their bit and they clearly understand what is likely to generate natural chemistry. From the moment Greg shows up, it’s all about the humor in his interjections during the sacred ceremony. He can’t make heads or tails of the cloak, his mask looks like Kung-Fu Panda and he’s genuinely out of his depth in the best possible way. At one point there’s a lengthy as hell pause between all the characters, and that is in fact the best and funniest moment (in a number of funny moments) but it takes the right personalities to get it done. The finale is just a wonderful culmination of something that was one way or the other, doomed from the beginning. Credit to the practical fx team for the quality of blood and gore too.

THE BAD

My only minor complaint in this speedy 7 minutes was the look of the expanding belly of Ellie’s character. It appears as if Jason and Co opted for the practical route in order to avoid hokey CG (I apologize if I’m wrong), and while I can respect that, unfortunately the hands on approach doesn’t end up looking a whole lot better, albeit, the imagery is brief.

I recently reviewed a similarly entertaining cult themed short called “Born Of Sin” *see review* https://adamthemoviegod.com/born-of-sin-review/ but I’ve been waiting for something a little more light-hearted like this for a long time. The technical aspects are fantastic, the premise is actually funny, and more importantly, the cast have great comedic sensibilities. Short films like this one are all too rare and aside from a misstep in regard to that tricky practical effect (it is at the best of times), Born Again is as good as they come. 2017 has been a great year for short film but this one might just be the best of the year. I can’t wait to get my hands on some more of Jason and Randall’s work and if you like other quirky shorts like Jason Kupfer’s “Invaders” *see review* https://adamthemoviegod.com/invaders-review/ and Chris McInroy’s “Bad Guy #2” *see review* https://adamthemoviegod.com/bad-guy-2-review/ I suggest you click on the link below and get watching!

My rating for “Born Again” is 9/10

 

 

 

Turn (Review)

THE SETUP

Turn is a brand new 6 minute Horror short, Written and Directed by Jerry J. White lll. Turn sees young traveler, Michael (Taylor Piedmonte from Jack Ketchum’s “Offspring”) get more than he bargained for when he rents a room from a woman (played by Becca Scott) while abroad.

THE GOOD

Turn begins with Michael at the apartment, meeting the owner and officially being welcomed in. They’re quick with the pleasantries and she informs him that she’ll be home late but will do her damnedest not to disturb his sleep. All seems to be going normal on his first night under her roof, that is, until something goes bump in the night. The brief audio track was quite clear and Kenny Keeler’s framing and camera work looks nice. There’s some gentle zooming and panning, which includes a rotation that starts by looking down and out of the window and finishes at the top of the stairs in the apartment. I thoroughly enjoyed the direction this little quickie took.

THE BAD

I felt as if through some of Taylor’s eye line focus toward the climax, White was trying to hint at something of importance in the photo frames hanging in the hall, though nothing ever came of it. Whilst I got a kick out of the eventual reveal, I was a little disappointed to not get some visual satisfaction (though that could simply be due to budget restrictions). Turn is also without a score which I found somewhat puzzling given the nature (but each to his own).

Turn was a memorable short film lucky enough to be featured as one of DreadCentral.com “Trick or Treat” videos for the Halloween period. It’s a technically polished product that manages to entertain and sustain some suspense even without a score. Despite it lacking a couple of personal preferences of mine, I thoroughly enjoyed this treat and I think you will too. You can watch the short by clicking on the link below, Enjoy!

My rating for “Turn” is 8/10

Snowflake (Review)

SNOWFLAKE

 

THE SETUP

Firstly, I’d just like to say thank you to Producer, Eric Sonnenburg for allowing me early access to the German, Action/Crime/Comedy film “Schneeflockchen” aka “Snowflake”, Written by Arend Remmers and Directed by Adolfo J. Kolmerer. Snowflake is a Tarantino/ Kaufman esq inspired crime film set in Berlin in the not too distant future. Self appointed brothers, Javid and Tan (played by Reza Brojerdi and Erkan Acar respectively) are on a mission to hunt down the man responsible for the destruction of their homes and the eventual death of their families. The two men stumble upon a screenplay written by a man named Arend (Alexander Schubert) and quickly realize the seemingly innocent dentist is now in fact in control of their destiny. Thus entangling them in a vicious circle of revenge that involves an orphan (played by the lovely Xenia Assenza) and her bodyguard (David Masterson), a couple of backwoods brothers in Bolek and Dariusz (Adrian Topol and Antonio Wannek), a superhero by the name of Hyper Electro Man (played by Mathis Landwehr) and Snowflake, an angelic singer (Judith Hoersch). The film also stars Gedeon Burkhard, David Gant, Eskindir Tesfay, Selam Tadese and Martin Goeres.

THE GOOD

Now I’m not sure how I initially came across Snowflake, but I recall seeing the trailer which evoked a number of similarities to some of Tarantino’s work, namely with its crime sub-plot and non-linear timeline. The thing that’s so nicely balanced with the nods in Remmers screenplay, and even more so with Kolmerer’s vision, is that while the inspiration behind it is clear, it’s still uniquely worked into the film and done so organically. There’s simply too much creativity on display here to divulge in one brief summary or review, and what’s so clever about this type of film is how challenging it is to get right. I’m not surprised this took three years to make, because Remmers is channeling two layers of a story within a story and had to get complete coverage for continuity sake. The action and revenge portion of the film takes its cues from underrated films like Joe Carnahan’s, “Smokin Aces” and even Troy Duffy’s, “The Boondock Saints” but the character interaction is often darkly humorous, much the same as in Tarantino’s writing, so all of that comes into play before the characters even start to tackle their own narrative. We’ve seen the struggle of the artistic process depicted in films like “Adaptation” and we’ve seen characters who don’t know that they’re characters, such as in “Stranger Than Fiction”, but it’s an entirely different complexity in the confines of a crime film. Remmers intention was clearly to highlight the struggles and frustrations of being a writer. Your desired tone, the back and forth on character arc, reaction based action, all of it. I’ve only just scratched the surface of script writing and I can already relate to those frustrations. Snowflake entertainingly presents both the comedy and the drama of those internal deliberations.

Despite Snowflake having been shot almost entirely on hacked DSLR cameras, Konstantin Freyer’s cinematography is unbelievably crisp and quite dynamic given the film’s budget and resources. Everything is nicely framed and there’s a series of great quick cuts during a sequence where Javid and Tan leave the kebab shop, throw their stuff in the car and drive away. There’s also a couple of wonderful aerial/overhead shots, the first, reveals the result of something that occurred earlier in the shop, and the second, a grand view of a long and wide staircase in Eliana’s apartment (the orphan girl). The audio levels are clear and the English subtitles interpreted correctly. Most of Snowflake is either set during the day or internal (so you don’t know it’s night) but all the lighting still looks good. The standout scene is with silhouetted light peaking through the blinds of Eliana’s apartment as she’s interacting with Carson (the bodyguard), that looked great. I have to commend Roman Fleischer on his score for the film as well. Sections of the dramatic score are effectively conveyed with percussion, but when the action hits, the desired vengeance is built with a low-fi electric guitar playing Morricone like western tones (Django Unchained and Once Upon A Time In The West). Snowflake isn’t as heavy on the action as you might think, but that’s not to say it isn’t without its havoc. There’s a well choreographed shootout in a bar during the second half of the film and there’s a fair share of practical blood spray too, though the best death involves the use of Javid’s chainsaw.

Snowflake’s ongoing film festival success can be chalked up to the quality of Arend’s script, as well as its colorful characters. This isn’t a film that relies solely on one plot detail or action set piece. Right off the bat we’re introduced to Javid and Tan, two young guys who are amidst an argument over the quality of food in the establishment they’re frequenting (a little Pulp Fiction about that). It’s clear these two have known each other a while, they’ve got a short hand resulting in plenty of good banter during their interactions over the course of the film. We come to learn that they’re looking for someone from their past. Then we pick up with the stunning, Eliana (Assenza) and her English bodyguard, Carson. After a short discussion on revenge regarding the deaths of Eliana’s parents, Carson decides to introduce Eliana to his father, Caleb (Gant), a self-proclaimed god who just so happens to know the right people (or wrong people if you’re that way inclined) to enact Eliana’s specific form of revenge. From there we’re introduced to a multitude of lively characters that include the previously mentioned Snowflake and a brother duo involved in cannibalism, as well as another couple of crazy killers and their robotic servant, and an oppressor from the past (Burkhard). There’s some fine casting in the film, particularly with Gant and Masterson as father and son, they really do look the part. There isn’t a weak link in the cast either, each of the performances are of a high standard regardless of previous experience. The characters are all equally as intriguing and you don’t quite know all there is to know about them until the mysterious dentist finishes the script.

THE BAD

Snowflake runs for almost two hours and unfortunately it does lag in a few places, even if only momentarily. I think it could have either carried a little more action (if the budget allowed for it) or perhaps should’ve been cut down by ten to fifteen minutes. The only specific plot point that annoyed me was that Dariusz was a mute, and therefore spent his screen time grunting like a pig, it was a little silly and I’d rather him not have said anything (thankfully it was minimal). Burkhard’s character “Winter” intermittently appears in an interview feed where he imparts his words of wisdom on the viewer. I was a little lost on that aspect of the film. Was it simply just a social commentary on highlighting the ways of modern society and that need for change, or was it all just another layer of the fictional story? I’m not too sure on that.

Snowflake is an ambitious German film, a labor of love built utilizing a miss-mash of genres presented in a non linear fashion. It eventually organically transforms itself into a meta representation of what it means to be a writer, all the while still keeping its firm hold on that Tarantino inspired flair. The cinematography is impressive, the audio clean and the lighting consistent across all scenes. Roman’s score is memorable and the practical effects and action are strong when they’re on show. I enjoyed watching each of the individual characters arcs and in turn the respective performances, particularly the Javid, Tan and Eliana characters. Caleb was rather theatrical and reminded me of Billy Connolly’s character from “The Boondock Saints”. Plenty of the others had their moment to shine as well. The film is a fraction long, causing it to lose a little momentum at times and I’m not entirely sure where the commentary fits. A few of the specifics were neither here nor there, but in the end Snowflake is intelligent and entertaining storytelling and I’m sure people are going to continue to lap up this style of film making. You can check the trailer out at the link below, be sure to keep an eye out for this one soon!

My rating for “Snowflake” is 7.5/10