Cute Little Buggers (Review)




Firstly, I’d just like to thank the team at Uncork’d Entertainment for allowing me early access to an online screener of the new independent Horror/Comedy feature “Cute Little Buggers”, Written by Garry Charles and Directed by Tony Jopia. Cute Little Buggers is set in the English countryside during the lead up to the local village’s summer ball (weird right?). When a couple of aliens crash-land on earth looking to harvest women to help  repopulate their race, the villagers, led by Melchoir (played by Kristofer Dayne), must band together to stop them. A task made all the more difficult when the beings start filtering through the town’s rabbit population. The film also stars Honey Holmes, John R. Walker, Sara Dee, Caroline Munro, Gary Martin and Stu Jopia. I like to go into certain films knowing next to nothing about them, but particularly with low-budget features. I’m not usually one to read reviews prior to watching them, because I want to keep an open mind and they can often be painted in a poor light, sometimes justifiably so and other times not.

I won’t beat around the bush, my interest levels started wavering fairly early on in Cute Little Buggers so I thought I’d do a little bit of IMDB browsing (while trying my best to keep one eye on the screen). What I did briefly read, was a mixed bag to say the least. One reviewer appeared to discredit the film in almost every way, giving it 1 star out of 5, but eventually went on to say he kind of enjoyed it (I suppose there’s that so bad it’s good kind of thing). At opposite ends of the spectrum you’ve got “Search My Trash”, where the review isn’t exactly glowing but Mike still manages to recommend it, suggesting a viewing goes hand in hand with a beer (or 10), I don’t know what to make of the review because I don’t think he’s ever given a non-favorable one, which indicates to me that he doesn’t like to scrutinize, and that’s unfortunately a part of a reviewers job if you’re doing it properly (albeit hopefully in a constructive manner). On the other hand, you’ve got Sue Finn of “The Movie Waffler” who says; quote “This is sexist, misogynistic, childish rubbish with porn level acting/screenwriting and direction that’s painful to sit through”. Fair enough, but porn’s not so bad, is it? Look, she’s entitled to her opinion, though something tells me that Cute Little Buggers wasn’t intended for her. There’s nothing wrong with being conservative, each to their own, but perhaps it’s the timing of the Weinstein claims prompting her concerns in regard to something that most people would consider in our nature (both men and women). She raises concerns with the objectification of the women in the movie, yet these lovely women/actresses chose to be a part of the film and obviously didn’t see it the same. If there were shots of shirtless men or their appendages on display would that have sufficed? Or would that then be the very same treatment toward us men? She does, however, make some good points about certain nonsensical specifics within the film, even if it is amidst telling us about her computer effects experience having outweighed anyone else’s whose attached to the film. I realized that the best thing I could do was get back to the film and hopefully be constructive with my critique.

Anyways, on with the review…


Despite the sizeable chunks of obvious ADR (additional dialogue recording) scattered throughout the course of the film, most of the natural audio is pretty clear. The score is serviceable and the cheesy “porn” theme that plays during a couple of the raunchier scenes was fun. Shane Almeida’s cinematography starts out somewhat bland and the framing quite conflicting, but it does get better as the film rolls on, and is in fact probably the best technical aspect of the film. I wasn’t able to find many positives in the CG but I think the opening shots of the spacecrafts in the fog laced woods, looked surprisingly good. There’s a lot of characters in Cute Little Buggers, most of whom I could take or leave, but the extremely cute, Eva (Rebecca Silverstein) who appears only all too briefly during the festivities, makes for a nice watch. So to, the hunter/ “old scholar” (don’t remember the character’s name or the actor) but his line delivery was a good bit of fun. Props to Tony and Co for giving the viewer a couple of early kills (within the first 10-15 minutes) and they do look okay. The highlight is certainly the gory aftermath of an unlucky tourist whose been disemboweled during an encounter with one of the rabbits. On the downside, the guys fake accent was laid on thicker than the blood itself (thankfully he didn’t last long). That said, I remain envious of him, if for no other reason than the fact that he had some form of human contact (as a character and an actor) with the best thing in this film, the jaw droppingly sexy, Dani Thompson who plays “Becca”. The characters got a bit of sass and attitude, so in turn does Dani. Thompson’s screen time is scarce but memorable to say the least. She’s in wonderful physical shape and there’s some brief nudity on display. Apologies to Sue Finn for those of us who enjoyed that aspect of the film….


An effects heavy, “Hot Fuzz” by way of SyFy channel inspired creature feature made on 25,000 pounds is always going to have its issues, both from a technical standpoint and in quality. The screener I was sent had a rather large copyright waterprint mark in the centre of the screen and it remained there for the entire 105 minute running time. I understand more than anyone, that in this day and age, the need to keep your work secure from piracy and other illegal activity is of the utmost importance, but it could have been a smaller less distracting mark for those of us trying to critique everything in the frame. I already mentioned the countless patches of ADR, though I’m not sure why a lot of the natural audio wasn’t used, after all, the location seemed relatively contained. Another audio issues was with the static radio used between Hitchins (Dee) and the Chief Inspector (David G. Robinson), which became rather pitchy and annoying. Some of the framing was uncomfortably close at times, especially in the first act, as well as their being plenty of inconsistencies in the lighting. With something like Cute Little Buggers, you can forgive a lot of the rough around the edges stuff (well a lot of us can) but the writing has got to be good, particularly in this specific sub-genre. The big issues here is the comedy element of Cute Little Buggers, or lack there of. It’s simply just not very funny. I lot of the dialogue is poor to begin with, the one liners fall flat and there are mistakes in it too. One character makes reference to “The American Outback”…. not sure what that is? That would be the “Australian Outback” or the “American Wild”. Then there’s the fact that the two aliens (or more accurately, guys in costume) understand certain lesser known words of the English language but don’t know what the common words mean. They’re aliens, aren’t they meant to be a superior race? I’m not sure if either the young girl or guy engaging in adult activity in the barn realized at any point that the guy’s pants weren’t actually down.. seriously guys c’mon. This is what Sue from the Movie Waffler is on about (haha). When you’ve got Dani topless, you’ve gotta at least remove the guy’s pants and make it look somewhat real, either that or don’t frame him at all and just imply it.

Is anyone going to talk about the casting? I’m not talking about the acting (which is sub-par yes), I’m talking about the reliability of these characters and their relationships. Cute Little Buggers is quintessentially English, or at least it supposed to be, yet there’s a smorgasbord of varying accents and ethnicities in this little village, what are the odds? The casting of a very European, Kristofer (who has his own thick accent) to play Melchoir, the son of an English farmer, is a head scratcher for sure. The guy’s name is Melchoir for god sake, and his love interest, despite having lived in the town her whole life, doesn’t exactly sound English either. Nearly all the secondary characters are instantly forgettable, mostly because they’ve either amped their performances up to eleven and it feels ridiculously over the top (even for a film of this nature) or it’s too scripted. Sue referred to certain members of the cast as “appallingly bad”, and while a majority of the performances were far from good, I try to distance myself from personal attacks because they don’t really serve any purpose. Constructive criticism is often the best method to helping people improve their craft and they’re usually much more receptive to it. Even with the vague as hell plot details and all its bad blunders (and there’s plenty of them), some of this still could have been salvaged if not for the horrendous CG in the climax of the film. Jopia gets it half right by delivering a pretty hectic bloodbath of an action sequence during the final act. The carnage is great, but the problem is that the effects aren’t. They’re not even close. The digital rabbits and their tentacles look as if they were created in paint. Now, I’m not sure how you go about blending practical and computer generated effects, or if it’s even really possible to do so successfully on a budget of this nature, but it’s got to be better than this. Audiences would rather see puppets than the endless cheap onslaught of what Cute Little Buggers dishes up. What’s more frustrating is that these guys had some practical effects at other points throughout the film, so what the hell happened after that? If you’ve shown that you’re capable of practical blood spray and gore you can’t stray from that and not expect to be criticized.

Cute Little Buggers is one of those films aimed at a very specific fan base of people who enjoy low-budget cheesy films, and I’m usually one of them (for the most part). This tries to draw on the small town vibes of “Shaun Of The Dead” and “Hot Fuzz”, with the alien sub-plot feeling a little like “The Simpsons” episodes where the two aliens come to Springfield. Only in this case imagine they were after just the women. The cinematography isn’t too bad, the effects are okay in patches and even the blood and gore serviceable when it’s conceived practically (which is rare). A couple of the performances were alright too, though it’s mostly that I liked Eva and the old bloke. Most of the technical stuff won’t bother the masses, but the poor writing, the skewed casting choices and a good number of the performances will. It’s the extensive reliance on incredibly poor digital blood and effects work that’s going to be the biggest downfall for Cute Little Buggers. Jopia could have improved the film substantially by cutting it down to around 75 minutes, because 105 feels like an eternity. Done away with half the characters and the worst of the worst effects, and it’d have made it far more watchable. As it stands, Dani Thompson is the best thing about the film and unfortunately the November 7th VOD release date appears too soon to be able to rectify what is. Still, if you like cheesy creature features you may find something in here that a lot of us couldn’t.

My rating for “Cute Little Buggers” is 2.5/10


Lunch Ladies (Review)




I’d just like to start off by saying thank you to first time Writer, Clarissa Jacobson for allowing me access to an online screener of her 19 minute Horror/Comedy short “Lunch Ladies”, Directed by J.M Logan. Lunch Ladies centers around two passionate Johnny Depp fans who are burnt out on their lunch gig at the local high school. When hyperactive, Seretta and cool, calm and collected, LouAnne (played by Donna Pieroni and Mary Manofsky respectively) win a contest to cook for Depp himself, they must find a way to deal with the demands of the school principal (Chris Fickley) and Alexis, the head cheerleader, (Daisy Kershaw) all the while trying to come up with the money for the plane ticket to Johnny. I try to avoid reading detailed reviews where I can, but I had heard some good things about Lunch Ladies and was happy to bemet with a warm reception by Clarissa. Lunch is served!


Right from the opening car ride shared by Seretta and LouAnne, I had similar feelings toward their pairing and that of the Morgan brothers duo in the underrated Horror/Comedy gem, “100 Bloody Acres” (filmed in my home state) *see review* The dynamic between the characters comparable, as well as the representation of the contrasting personalities. The audio track is clear and Chris Ekstein’s cinematography looks great. Everything is nicely framed and pretty well-edited. The shot choices are fairly simplistic but everything works, particularly the external placement of the camera for the shots during the opening car ride. The fx team on Lunch Ladies did a wonderful job of the continuity and the practical effects and prosthetics. The most graphic scene sees a lot of blood spray as the duo run body parts through the grinder (once again, much in the same fashion as the Morgan brothers do). The one on-screen kill looks fairly tame but those aforementioned after effects are impressive. There can be no doubting that Antoni March’s grand score (and just his second time composing at that) is not only the best thing about Lunch Ladies but it’s perhaps the best thing about any film this year. Taking cues from the iconic, John Williams (Home Alone and Indiana Jones) and Tim Burton’s masterful composer, Danny Elfman (Beetlejuice and Edward Scissorhands), March fuses a multitude of quirky tones to convey a really off-beat brand of “homedy” (see what I did there). I hear plenty of my childhood in David Newman esq sounds (The Sandlot and The Flintstones), as well as the modern flare of something like “La La Land” *see review* I absolutely love this score encase you couldn’t tell!


Both Pieroni and Manofsky handle their roles quite well but I’d be lying if I said that I liked both of the characters. Lunch Ladies being what it is, maybe you’re not necessarily supposed to like either of these women all that much. LouAnne is a little more relatable because she’s trying her best to figure out how the plan will come together, she’s quick on her feet and level-headed (sort of). Seretta is unbelievably and dramatically over the top, I’m not sure someone like LouAnne would ever be friends with her in the real world, but opposites attract I suppose. Seretta’s only got one gear, so in turn Donna’s correlating performance does wear a little thin mid way through proceedings. My only other complaints were that the film was fairly light on both the horror and comedy aspects. I would have liked to have seen a couple more kills and a better, wittier back and forth between the two women (though I did like them referring to Johnny as “The Depper”).

Lunch Ladies is a very “American” Horror/Comedy short that serves its purpose productively and ended up reminding me a lot of our home-grown talent, “100 Bloody Acres” (just in the short format). The audio, camera work and special effects are all really well conceived. Donna and Mary do a solid job of their respective roles, and the Johnny Depp aspect within the comedy is quite amusing. Antoni’s score is absolutely outstanding and reason enough alone for me to revisit the film again in the not to distant future. Despite being surprisingly light on kills and laugh out loud moments, it entertains for the full run time. The only downside is that Seretta becomes a little grinding as the film rolls on. Even with its issues, Lunch Ladies is thoroughly enjoyable and deserves much of the praise its receiving across the film festival circuit. Keep an eye out for this one soon!

My rating for “Lunch Ladies” is 7.5/10

String! (Review)



Firstly, I’d just like to say thank you to Writer, Tyler Schwartz and Director, Stellan Kendrick (Goodnight, Gracie) *see review* for allowing me access to an online screener of their 10 minute Crime/Thriller short, “String!”. String is a short film inspired by classic radio dramas and film/noir of the 40’s and 50’s. Hollywood. A struggling young actress. Isabelle Storseth (played by first timer, the lovely Kelly Baker) has turned to thievery to get by, fleecing men with her charm and beauty. She finds herself caught in a dangerous and potentially fatal game of life and death with her latest mark, Benjamin Carney (Brad Goodman) aka “The Mulholland Strangler”. The film also stars Stellan Kendrick, Chantalle Williams and Chen Chen Julian. (Excuse the poor resolution poster it was the only one I could find).


There’s seriously nothing better than a modern dose of stylish film/noir, though it’s all too rare these days. Once the most aesthetically appealing foundation for the crime genre, film noir has since fallen by the wayside in recent years, with Hollywood choosing to market busier looking features and main stream cinema. So it should come as no surprise that even a short film like String comes from a first time writer (whose probably a die-hard fan of the genre) and will most likely remain under valued. Interesting to see that DP, Mimi Cindy Phan made her film debut on String! as well. The promise of elegant cinematography has often been the main selling point of film noir and that’s quite the torch to bear for one whose new to the business. That said, Phan’s framing is lovely and there’s a series of really sharp close-ups. My favourite shot is in the beginning where she employs gentle zooming on a murder taking place inside a vintage car. The lighting and music are two other key facets of the genre, both of which I was incredibly pleased with here. There was some nice colorful back-lighting during the bar scenes and Del Engen’s wonderfully composed blues/jazz score oozes of Hitchcockian-like atmosphere. Engen adopts french horn, strings and flute all of which are prevalent in the genre. The performances are of a high standard and Goodman brings the heat. As a raw actress, not only does Baker’s beauty and character attire look the part of the femme fatale, she delivers an even performance to boot.


Now I’ll admit, I don’t think it’s stated anywhere when String! is set (though if I recall correctly I think Isabelle uses a semi modern phone), but for a film of this nature I expected some of that corresponding noir dialogue and we never really got it. A couple of the effects were a little weak, namely the CG with the light bulb exploding and Goodman’s eye makeup toward the end of the film, which doesn’t quite look right. The script plays pretty straight though that’s usually to be expected, but Isabelle makes it a little too obvious that she’s hiding a weapon to use on Carney and I thought it was unlikely that she wouldn’t have checked the envelope before agreeing to the terms.

Being a cinephile and someone that’s interested in the entire film making process, I’m a sucker for films like “String!”. Reminiscent of a number of film noir gems and Hitchcock’s work, crossed with something like “The Hillside Strangler”, String! is an aesthetically pleasing and entertaining short. I love the cinematography, the lighting is effective and Del Engen’s score is reason enough alone to give this one a look. Goodman gauges Benjamin’s seedy nature really well and I was really surprised with Kelly Baker, she’s gorgeous and delivers a nice consistent performance. There’s a couple of minor inconsistencies and one or two script specifics that I thought could have been handled differently but this is Schwartz’s first writing credit, so with that in mind, he’s done quite the job. String! is a blast and is a must-see for fans of film noir (I just wish there were more of us out there). I’ve seen two of Kendrick’s shorts now and been impressed with both so I can’t wait to see what he does next.

My rating for “String!” is 8/10



The Quiet Zone (Review)




Firstly, I’d just like to say thank you to Writer/Director, Andrew Ionides for allowing me access to an online screener of his 8 minute Horror/Thriller short, “The Quiet Zone”. The Quiet Zone is a self-contained short about Ella (played by Jessica Bayly), a late night commuter who encounters a disruptive passenger on her train carriage. After initially fleeing the ever-growing exasperation, Ella finds herself fighting for her life while trapped in the station with someone or something. The film also stars Kasey Iliana Sfetsios.


Films set on-board trains have long made for interesting viewing, at least the ones I’ve seen. There’s been classic stories like Agatha Christie’s, “Murder On The Orient Express” and Hitchcock’s, “Strangers On A Train”, all the way through to indie entries like, “Night Train” and “The Midnight Meat Train”. The Quiet Zone is a snappy and isolated tale, far removed from the usual murder mystery stories but equally as enjoyable. The audio track is surprisingly clean considering the location and its probability for unpredictable reverb. Richard Keyworth’s score works a treat, as he uses subtly an eerie sounds to create a sense of unease. In the beginning, he works plenty of bass into the mix to correlate with Ella’s growing annoyance with the passengers relentless noise. The lighting is decent but it’s the faintly back-lit scene mid way through that really stands out, in which Ella stands in the belly of the station in the shadows trying to decipher whose following her. The attention to detail in Bayly’s makeup, and in turn, Ella’s was something that really stood out. We’re introduced to her while she’s in a scramble marking what appears to be work documents and such. She looks over worked and run down, heavy under the eyes and you certainly wouldn’t have a hard time believing that she might have a skewed perception of things, I liked that touch. There’s a nice looking prosthetic piece and some blood and gore on display too.


There’s a couple of focus lapses in the early part of the film and I personally wasn’t a huge fan of the handheld guerilla style approach to the cinematography (but each to his own). Jarring movements if they’re not representing something that supposed to jar you, come off as amateurish. In the case of The Quiet Zone, several shots look good and others are a little so-so. The film’s premise is rather odd, particularly the idea of having a “quiet zone” on a train. I’m not sure if that’s a real thing or not? I find it hard to believe that it would be, given that you couldn’t possibly monitor that. I liked the plot development revealed half way in but I’m not sure how Kasey played two different characters, maybe I missed something. That aspect may have been part of Ella’s deceptive mind and I just didn’t see it like that.

“The Quiet Zone” is Andrew Ionides fourth short film but my first venture into his work and I was surprised with the end result. I’m partial to the train station locale and Andrew impressed with his ability to pull something like this off on minimal funds. The audio is clean, the score builds tension, and the lighting is moody, especially in the second half. The acting was good and the viewer has a clear read on Ella’s state of mind on this most unfortunate of nights. Some of the specifics weren’t completely clear and I’d have preferred to see a more cinematic approach to the cinematography. The Quiet Zone is an entertaining and effective little chiller that you should definitely board when it hits the station!

My rating for “The Quiet Zone” is 7.5/10


Retribution (Review)




Firstly, I’d just like to say thank you to Writer/Director, Paddy Murphy for allowing me access to an online screener of his 12 minute Exploitation/Crime short, “Retribution”. Retribution is set in Ireland amidst the ongoing criminal underbelly of the catholic church. A vigilante biker (played by Adam Moylan) sets out on the streets at night to rid the city of its most vile sinners. Top of his list, a priest named Argyle (Nicholas Vince from Nightbreed). The film also stars Nigel Mercier and Paddy Murphy. I recently saw Murphy’s debut feature-length film “The Three Don’ts”, which was another Crime/Drama film set in Ireland. Whilst it wasn’t really for me, I’ve been keen to check out some of his shorts. He’s impressively chalked up a number of film credits in a short space of time (under 4 years to be exact).


Retribution plays like a love letter to the Exploitation flicks of the 70’s and 80’s. A revenge fueled biker tale entrenched in the world of organized religion and aimed at those who pray on other people’s weaknesses (or naivety to be more accurate). I’m selective when it comes to these particular films, you often have to be in the right mood for them. I’m digging the artwork which is reminiscent of films like “The Punisher” and “Drive”. Retribution opens with a passage of “Boondock Saints” like narration, introducing the viewer to the world that the mysterious biker is at war with. Barry Fahy’s camera work and framing are generally quite good, the best shots coming while the biker is in transit. Considering the estimated 2,000 pound budget, I was impressed with Murphy’s ability to procure empty streets and shoot those riding scenes professionally. The neon blue and purple lighting that’s applied in the bar scene looks great and the pulse pounding synth score by David Malcolm is perhaps the best component in the film. He uses a series of low-end piano notes in threes to build the suspense but the synth is ever-present in the mix. All in all the performances are decent, particularly from Moylan and Vince, who share the most amount of screen time. Being a revenge orientated short, there are some on-screen kills, some of which are better than others. The most memorable involves a toaster and some solid practical blood and gore.


I noticed a few minor issues in several technical aspects of the film but that’s to be expected in low-budget independent film making. There’s a few moments where the camera loses focus briefly and the audio seems a little low in places. Most of the edit works well but I wasn’t a fan of the rapid cuts toward the end of the film during the representation of the biker’s life. It hazily depicts abuse he endured as it all flashes before his eyes. My only complaint with the acting was the complete lack of reaction from the girl (played by Courtney McKeon) who witnesses the biker killing a man. I’m not sure if she was supposed to have been drugged or something but there’s no way you wouldn’t react in that situation (the writing could be to blame as well).

Paddy Murphy’s, Retribution makes no apologies for its formulaic revenge soaked exploitation framework. Clearly inspired by the likes of the aforementioned, “The Punisher” and even films like “Mad Max” and “Torque”, Retribution is a welcomed addition to the sub-genre. Being an atheist I do get a kick out of this attack on the church (albeit in a fictional sense haha), I like the narration, the presentation and the heavy synth pumping soundtrack. There’s effective lighting, a couple of good kills and the performances are mostly solid. The film isn’t without its lapses in technical professionalism and I didn’t love the editing during the climax. If you’re a fan of these particular vigilante films and exploitation of the 70’s and 80’s but maybe you don’t want a full 90 minutes of it, Retribution is your best bet. I enjoyed the hell out of this one and I’d love to see Murphy come back to it again.

My rating for “Retribution” is 7.5/10

Bear With Us (Review)




Firstly, I’d just like to say thank you to Funky Pretty Pictures and Co-Writer/Director, William J. Stribling for allowing me early access to his Comedy/Creature Feature “Bear With Us”. Bear With Us centers around Colin Dense (and no the irony is not lost on me), a hapless, love struck guy (played by Mark Jude Sullivan) who orchestrates an elaborate proposal via a trip to a cabin in the woods with love of his life, Quincy Adams (Christy Carlson Romano from The Girl In The Photographs). Joining the young couple are their respective best friends, Harry (played by Collin Smith) and Tammy (Alex McKenna). Colin’s somewhat secretive plan starts to fall apart when the foursome receive a warning on the radio about a bear loose in the area. This is just the first of a series of unfortunate events that place the group in a life or death situation. The film also stars Cheyenne Jackson (American Horror Story), Kevin Carolan, Curtiss Cook and Alice Ripley. The following review will be based upon my one viewing of the film (which was a few weeks ago mind you). Ideally I’d liked to have re-visited it before this write-up, but with limited time and an infinite amount of content to sort through, this will have to suffice.


The aspect of Bear With Us that stands out most and perhaps separates Stribling’s “creature feature” from most others, at least aesthetically speaking, is Alex Gallitano’s black and white cinematography. Said foundation was initially what caught my eye, and from there I did some inquiring to learn a little bit more about the film. At the crux of Bear With Us lies an offbeat comedy amidst a creature feature. That said, the meta approach to the cabin in the woods formula mixed with the situational dark comedy, makes for an interesting, albeit, somewhat uneven blend. On Gallitano’s cinematography, it’s simple but smart and drives most of the films seemingly high production value. I love the handful of tracking shots, particularly the opening one that closes in on Colin and Quincy as they enter a restaurant for their anniversary dinner. All of the framing is neat and there’s intelligent editing where Raymond Fraser (the credited editor) utilizes some slick transitions, particularly in the first act. For the most part, the audio is natural and consistently clear in the mix. While I don’t feel that all Dylan Glatthorn’s score worked, I commend him on his ability to use bass to evoke similar tones to that of a Coen Brothers picture (some of their more light-hearted works). I found several of the quirky pieces of music extremely effective for matching the films desired atmosphere.

Each of the on-screen performances are more than serviceable. As a whole, the cast certainly have a mixed bag of experience, but everyone, at the very least ,has reasonable comedic timing. The two most consistently funny characters here are Harry (Smith) and Hudson (Jackson). Harry is Colin’s harmless and significantly less mature buddy. He’s the guy Colin bounces his ideas off of, and more importantly, he’s the only one who knows about the proposal, offering up his Aunt’s cabin for the big day. Collin Smith has got the feel of a Fran Kranz (from Cabin In The Woods) meets Tom Green (Freddy Got Fingered), and it works for him. The back and forth that develops between him and Sullivan makes for some good dead pan gags throughout the film. In a film called “Bear With Us, you’d expect plenty of bear puns but there’s also some funny situations that arise over the course of the film. Example being, Col will question Harry and he’ll reply with “I’ll spare you the details” (to then proceed to go straight into the details). The “This is a test, this is not a test” line got a good laugh, in addition to the repetition of “When did you have time for this?”. Most of the comedic highlights center around Smith in one way or another. I like that Writers, Russ Nickel and William Stribling seemingly take inspiration from a more dry sense of humor that comes out of the UK and Australia (rather than some of America’s in your face content and toilet humor). Christy and Alex get time to showcase their comic sensibilities in an awkward but funny intervention for Tammy. Cheyenne Jackson’s, “Hud”, whose a local hunter/tracker, comes in all guns a blazing, and in turn, Jackson runs with some of that sporadic delivery. The film is nicely set up and built around the differences between men and women in relationships. We get both sides of the conversation and I enjoyed the way it played out in tandem.


During the introductory credits there’s some random imagery of schools of fish swimming in a river (and some not so good-looking CG ones jumping out of the water), I’m not sure what relevance that had as a lead in. Maybe it was just a visual representation of the classic saying “There’s plenty of fish in the sea”, in regard to relationships and the Colin/Quincy dynamic. The film is not without its patches of ADR (additional dialogue recording), though that’s natural on independent films (even though I’m never going to be a fan of it). Some of the science fiction themed sound design threw me for a loop, given that all the events taking place in Bear With Us are grounded in reality. Once again, maybe it’s just a nod to the creature feature era and 50’s b movies, I’m not too sure. Speaking of creatures, I’m usually all for practical effects even if their incredibly cheesy (which they are here). In this case I’ve got to warn you that the bear is literally just a guy in a suit, and not a very convincing suit at that (which is fairly quickly revealed haha). If there was an inconsistency in the acting department it was the forced nature of Chief Ranger Stewart (voice over). I know the part was supposed to be played for laughs but I thought the dialogue was weak and translated poorly. A couple of semi insignificant points bothered me as well, such as the name Quincy, which sucked. Was it intentionally a horrible name to perhaps give the audience a little insight as to what type of girl she might have been? (e.g a ball buster) Each time Colin called her name out (or somebody else for that matter) it grated on my nerves…. I know that’s silly, but still.

There were a handful of other script specifics that I didn’t care for either. I can’t remember which character was involved, but at one stage someone bellowed out at the top of their lungs for what felt like forever. There’s an overly long, rather self-indulgent scene in which Hud boasts to the group about a tale of his heroics. Once again, I understand that the intention was to play it for laughs, but I personally just didn’t find it all that funny. There’s also a poorly staged, impromptu sex scene in the latter part of the film, it leads to a revelation between Harry and Tammy though it wasn’t really necessary and just feels perverse. Sullivan handles the lead role really well and looks quite comfortable in front of the camera but I found it difficult to have much sympathy for the guy. Most of the time he just comes across as a sap who wreaks of desperation, and therefore it’s hard to engage. Sure, his heart is in the right place and I suppose that’s somewhat relatable. It’s just that deep down you can see through the charade and she clearly isn’t in the same place as he is emotionally speaking, and that makes for more awkwardness than you’d care to witness. The film suffers from some average pacing in the middle act and by the time it’s drawing to a close you’ve lost track of where everyone’s loyalties lie.

Bear With Us is a quirky Comedy/Creature Feature presented in glorious black and white photography, seemingly for no other reason than its specific aesthetic appeal (but I dug it!). Nickel and Stribling’s script blends something like “Cottage Country” *see review* with the more recent “Better Watch Out” (to a lesser extent). I dug the camera work, the audio and a sizeable amount of the score. The performances are of a high standard, Harry and Hudson provide most of the films comedy and there’s enough funny puns and good one liners to keep you entertained. The first half of the film is tightly cut together but unfortunately it eventually loses its way. However, I do like the dynamic between the two pairs of friends, as well as the depiction of the differences between men and women in relationships. The opening credits were a little obscure, not all the music fits and the bear costume looks average to say the least (probably intentionally). Quincy annoyed me, sadly even the name did and the character on occasion too. Certain scenes wear out their welcome and some weren’t really required at all, on top of that, Colin is a difficult character to engage with and that can work against a film of this nature. Bear With Us certainly isn’t perfect, it stumbles here and there, and while it’s probably not the first of its kind that I’d go in for, I do think it’s a pretty well made product and certainly worth a look. Check out the trailer below!

My rating for “Bear With Us” is 5.5/10

Used Body Parts (Review)




I happened to stumble upon Venita Ozols-Graham’s debut 7 minute Horror short, titled “Used Body Parts” on (streaming platform). Used Body Parts focuses on friends, Jenny and Scarlet (played by Brigitte Graham and Jordan Elizabeth respectively) who after stopping for gas in the middle of nowhere, end up in a fight for their lives when the owner (Tim DeZarn of “Fight Club” and “The Barber”) of the station reveals his disturbing operation. The film also stars Michael Villar (Carnage Park) *see review* Venita’s been working as an AD for well over 30 years, with her name attached to shows like “Star Trek”, “The X-Files”, “The Shield” and “Veronica Mars”. She’s now beginning to venture into writing and directing and it’s great to see someone from her TV background tackling Horror.


Anyone who knows me knows I’m big on the dark horror content. Graham’s screenplay is built on the most basic of setups but it wears that familiar badge with pride. Those of you who enjoy a good gas station scene, and there’s been countless numbers of them (The Hills Have Eyes, Urban Legend, Cabin In The Woods or even Wild At Heart), will surely enjoy Used Body Parts. There’s a nifty introduction with the title credits appearing in the form of neon lights. Everything is nicely shot, well framed and smoothly edited and the audio track is loud and clear. Alexander Arntzen’s approach to the score is interesting as well, opting for high frequency sounds which are bound to jangle ones nerves, similar to that of the aforementioned “Hills Have Eyes” (06 version). The four performances are solid and the girls themselves are lovely. Fun fact, DeZarn (who reminds me of Lance Henriksen) also appeared in “Cabin In The Woods” in a very similar role (his agenda not far off as well). When the action hits it takes place in the blurred background of the shot, which I thought was a welcome change that worked extremely well. Fans of blood and gore will not be disappointed either. Graham utilizes practical effects and only some brief CG, also employing a great backdrop with which to showcase them.


My only minor complaint was the creative decision to have Jenny convey her text messaging through self-dialogue, rather than just showing the viewer the conversation on the phone. People only tend to voice what they are writing if they’re telling someone about it but not if they’re on their own.

Used Body Parts is now the third short film I’ve watched in quick succession and ended up being thoroughly impressed with. It’s also another one to come from a first time writer/director. I love the premise, the production value and the direction it takes with its conservative approach to the action. Practical blood and gore effects are always a positive and fans of the gas station setup are bound to dig it. I ask myself the question, How on earth am I going to rank some of these short films come the end of the year? Especially when they’re all so damn good! You can purchase Used Body Parts (though I wouldn’t recommend it, because well it’s just not sanitary is it?), I can, however, recommend this fun little horror short and you can rent/purchase it at the link here:

My rating for “Used Body Parts” is 9/10