Jasmine (Review)




Firstly, I’d just like to say thank you to Writer/Director, Dax Phelan for allowing me early access to an online screener of his debut feature film, “Jasmine” from 2015. Jasmine is a Mystery/Thriller set in Hong Kong, about once-successful business man, Leonard To (played by Jason Tobin of “The Fast and Furious:Tokyo Drift”) who is still dealing with the stresses of an ongoing investigation into his wife’s murder. After seeing a mysterious stranger (Byron Mann of TV’S “Hell On Wheels”) at her grave, Leonard becomes obsessed with proving that the man is guilty of the crime. The film also stars Sarah Lian, Eugenia Yuan and Grace Huang. I didn’t know a lot about Jasmine prior to contacting Dax, I’d only seen a brief part of the trailer but it looked interesting. I was surprised to find that it was made back in 2015, but due to personal reasons the release was delayed. The post production phase saw it go through several transformations to end up with what you see here in 2017.


Let’s get straight into it. Phelan himself, said that he constructed Jasmine with two sets of ideals in mind and that multiple viewings were paramount in order for one to fully appreciate this world he created. I’m a huge fan of bold films and confident film makers with a willingness to openly disclose their intent. At the end of the day it’s all subjective, but as a critic who looks at all facets of the film before critiquing it, I feel like your average movie-goer doesn’t really comprehend intent. Jasmine is almost entirely shot handheld and that makes the high production value cinematography all the more impressive. The framing is consistent and Phelan employs an effective close shooting style for the full duration. Constant shots looking over Leonard’s shoulder and through his eyes and face help to put the audience in his shoes as he deals with the frustrations of being stifled at every turn. Shie Rozow’s dramatic and ambient score feels perfect for the films mostly somber tone, but there’s definite echoes of Polanski (A Knife In The Water) and Hitchcock (Vertigo) in there too. Jasmine is the type of independent film that’s all too rare and sneaks up on you in a wonderful way.

The key to the film rests on Jason Tobin’s performance, and he handles it very well. Leonard is present in basically every frame of the film and there’s not that much dialogue in the 75 minute run time considering, therefore Tobin has to constantly toe the line of perception and reality through mostly his facial expressions as he wanders the streets of Hong Kong. Both actresses, in Lian and Yuan, do a nice job of grounding the film given they have limited screen time. In regards to the script, Phelan has layered Jasmine with such subtle nuances you won’t even realize the proverbial wool being pulled over your eyes until it’s far too late, and much like me, you’ll be left wondering how the hell it happened (in the best possible way). Leonard’s depression and frustrations mount as the film progresses. Old wrist wounds illustrate past self harm, his wife’s fading voice often creeping into his thoughts, though his affinity for cocaine may just play a part in that. He shows no signs of making headway with the authorities who won’t even return his calls, and even when he tries to join in on a random conversation at a bar, he’s barely acknowledged. What does it all mean? If anything.


I don’t like to complain about copyright watermarks that come imprinted on screeners because I understand they won’t be there when the film is officially released, but it’s a nuisance particularly if they don’t disappear for at least a period of time. The audio levels were a little low in places but I was watching the film through standard Logitech speakers that aren’t that great (so I’m sure the hard copy will be fine). I enjoyed nearly all the music but there’s a section of drum orientated score toward the end that becomes somewhat repetitive after a short time. The inconsistency of the accents was the biggest thing that threw me off in the film. Leonard often sounded Australian but I don’t think he was supposed to be. On occasion he comes across more American than anything else, and on that note, at one point Anna (Sarah Lian) actually says to Leonard that she’s not from the states but it’s evident her accent is as American as they come, so I’m not sure about all of that. I’m looking forward to watching the film again with the hopes of getting a little more clarity on Leonard’s contact, Grace (Yuan). Now, I say contact because their connection was never really clear. I don’t know if that’s pertinent but I’m still curious if she was she an old friend/flame? Co-worker? Sister-in-law? I’m not sure.

A cross between Bong Joon Ho’s, “Mother” and Nolan’s masterpiece “Memento”, Dax Phelan’s debut feature film is a modern masterclass in slow burn, tension based film making. Jasmine is guaranteed to sneak up on viewers, it’s a film that seemingly just rolls along and then out of nowhere, stuns you with the one two before you even know what’s hit you. With shades of Denis Villeneuve’s “Enemy” about it, Phelan wraps you up in Leonard’s web of fixation and forces you to follow him down the darkest of rabbit holes. The production value is impressive, the score fittingly moody and the performances are as even as I’ve seen in a low-budget film. The screener audio was a little low, some of that music in the final act gets a bit tedious and the accents are slightly uneven in places. The gripes I have with it are very minor and I can only see this getting better upon multiple viewings. I love that clues aren’t clues until you know there’s a puzzle, and the fact that Dax could pull the rug out from under my feet without me knowing it, given all that I’ve seen, surely makes this the best independent film of the year so far. Brilliant Stuff! The film hits VOD and DVD in July.

My rating for “Jasmine” is 8/10

Karate Kill (Review)



Firstly, I’d just like to say thank you to Judrina Kymantas and Petri Entertainment for allowing me early access to an online screener of the Japanese Action/Exploitation film “Karate Kill”, Written and Directed by Kurando Mitsutake (Gun Woman). Karate Kill is about loner and kung fu master, Kenji (played by Hayate) who after discovering that his little sister Mayumi (Mana Sakura) has disappeared in the US, heads to Los Angeles where he’s confronted with a corrupt restaurant owner (Gun Woman’s, Noriaki Kamata) and a mysterious cult called Capital Messiah, led by Vendenski (played by Kirk Geiger). The film also stars former adult star, Asami (Rape Zombie Series and Dead Sushi),  Katarina Leigh Waters (of the WWE), Tomm Voss and Toshiya Agata.


I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve never really been all that interested in the martial arts sub-genre of Action films. It’s not that I can’t appreciate the stunt work or the careful construction of the choreography, it’s just that in what I have seen, the story telling aspect has been well off the mark. Some would argue that’s trivial because the selling point is purely the fighting and perhaps those writers aren’t necessarily out to tell a great story. Call me old-fashioned but I need the narrative, hence why the closest thing to a successful kung fu movie in my opinion is Brett Ratner’s, “Rush Hour” (I know, I know, not a kung fu movie). I’ll assume we’re not counting the cheesy but fun, “3 Ninjas” franchise that I used to watch when I was a kid or even the classic “Karate Kid” films. With all that said, I’m fairly open-minded and with Mitsutake behind it, I was happy to give this one a go. The cinematography is surprisingly good for a film of this nature (given I didn’t know what to expect). There’s plenty of establishing shots that help transition scenes, along with tight framing and an unusual rotating camera shot during one of the fight sequences in the restaurant, that was cool. The soundtrack was another aspect that caught me off guard. There’s a neat keyboard theme at the start that reminded me of some of the music from 2008’s, “Never Back Down”. All of the synth music gives off that intentional mid 80s vibe and there’s even a unique homage to the Western genre, in particular Takashi Miike’s “Sukiyaki Western Django”. The performances from the key cast are mostly pretty good. I liked Asami and Sakura but most notably, Hayate, the lead. This is his first time behind the camera and you wouldn’t know it, so kudos to him.

Kurando’s script has sufficient back story for each of its characters and that’s something you don’t see a lot of in Kung fu films (at least the ones I’ve seen). The bond shared between Kenji and Mayumi, like any brother and sister, is a special one. The film was definitely aided by the inclusion of a few flashback shots to when the siblings were younger, allowing the audience to feel that natural protection from Kenji and chemistry with his sister. The villain of the piece, Vendenski is one of the few Americans in the film (speaking in English) along with his henchmen/women. He, too, is fairly fleshed out in terms of showcasing a supreme mindset over the Capital Messiah and its hapless victims. I wasn’t sure if he was supposed to be an ex-Vietnam vet or not, but there was enough there to see where he was at mentally. He certainly looked the part with the whole DeNiro “Deer Hunter” wardrobe, but the timeline doesn’t add up for any war to come into play. I don’t have much of a body of work to make comparisons but the fight choreography and stunt work in Karate Kill was impressive. What boosts the enjoyment of those action sequences further is the well-timed foley effects, every sound matches the corresponding hit and that’s a rare feat. Karate Kill’s revenge aspect could be akin to what you’d see in the Exploitation genre. Fans of said genre will be pleased to know that there’s adequate nudity in here and some good practical blood and gore. The film has a few darkly comedic moments that are fun but the highlights are a couple of gruesome gags involving a hand smash and an ear rip. There’s also a couple of sword deaths that utilize practical effects too.


Karate Kill contains English subtitles as the primary language spoken is Japanese. The subtitles aren’t always perfect, and in turn, the phrasing can appear a little disjointed. The language barrier sees certain chunks of dialogue feeling as though they’ve been too Westernized. Mitsutake implements the use of some POV cameras (point of view), and surveillance like shots during Capital Messiah’s advance on the restaurant and its employees. The technique is fine and adds another element to the film, but the placement of a number of shots from the staff point of view don’t actually make any sense because they aren’t shown to be wearing cameras. Some of the secondary cast members aren’t quite as consistent in their performances as the leads are, at times even Geiger (as Vendenski) becomes rather cartoonish. The film only runs about 85 minutes (minus credits) but the second half does lose a bit of steam and that’s underlined in the disappointing final showdown between Kenji and Vendenski. The effects quickly turn cheap, due to the excessive amounts of on-screen CG blood spray. On the upside, the body count is plentiful (mostly via gun) and some of the after effect prosthetic work was a welcomed addition, but sadly it doesn’t quite revive that final act. Ever since the likes of extreme filmmakers in Yoshihiro Nishimura (Tokyo Gore Police) and Takashi Miike (Audition and Ichi The Killer) among others, Asian cinema has become somewhat of a benchmark for ambitious practical effects, so it’s a little disappointing to see Karate Kill not live up to its full potential in that area.

Karate Kill isn’t the type of film I’d actively seek out but Mitsutake’s exploitative throwback to kung fu films of the early to mid 80’s turned out to be an entertaining experience. This could be likened to 1983’s “Revenge Of The Ninja”, with a trace of Kurando’s last film “Gun Woman” about it as well. The camera work is pretty solid, the foley crisp and the soundtrack quintessentially 80’s with its driving synth and bass. There’s the odd tip of the hat to the Western genre and its revenge facet, and each of the key characters have enough of an arc to get by. Most of the performances are good, the fight choreography surpassed my expectations and when the practical effects are present, they look pretty impressive. Some of the dialogue is a little clunky and several of the secondary players go in an out of character in places. I think the climax of the film ends on a down note, it’s just too CG heavy given what comes before it. Historically, Asian cinema has set the bar high when it comes to blood flow and this gore hound wasn’t fully satisfied with the result here. All that said, Karate Kill is more than serviceable and fans of the sub-genre will surely enjoy it, especially those fight sequences. I look forward to more extreme film making from our friends in Asia! Keep an eye out for the July, Blu ray release of Karate Kill and feel free to check out the trailer below!

My rating for “Karate Kill” is 6/10


Pickup (Review)



Firstly, I’d just like to say thank you to Director, Jeremiah Kipp for allowing me early access to an online screener of his 15 minute, Drama short “Pickup”, Written by Jessica Blank. Pickup shows a day in the life of bored mother and housewife, Megan (played by Mandy Evans). Her constant desire for some form of tangibility has led her astray on more than one occasion in her marriage to husband, Ben (played by “The Wire’s” Jim True-Frost), a driven business man. With young son Liam to take care of (Griffin Robert Faulkner) and a need to feel something, anything at all, her carefully constructed web might just come unstuck. The film also stars Elena McGhee and Christopher Piccione. I initially reviewed a few of Kipp’s short films back in 2014, but haven’t heard about much from him since. “Painkiller”, “The Minions” and “Berenice” aka “Creepers” were the three that I was sent *see reviews* https://adamthemoviegod.com/painkiller-the-minions-berenice-review/. As a whole, I thought each were pretty well made and now that Jeremiah’s had plenty more experience (something like 35 credits), I was interested to see what his latest had to offer.


At its core, Blank’s script is a psychological drama about a mother and wife whose grown tired of the daily grind. Megan lives quite a comfortable life financially speaking, but it’s anything but comfortable when it comes to her emotional state. I really like that Blank is willing to stop dead in its tracks that whole misconception of money equates to happiness. How many times do we hear about personal struggles with actors, musicians, athletes? The list goes on and it’s far too frequent to be passed of as just an anomaly. Megan resorts to adultery in an attempt to fill the void in her life but I don’t think it’s out of spite, it comes from a place of loneliness and that will be relatable for some. Blank ties it all in with Megan’s ever-growing but spontaneous addiction, as well as delicately shining a light on the ease with which we can satisfy our urges thanks to technological advancements like social media. I’ll be the first to admit that those developments aren’t all good. Technology is often a distraction from one being present and in the moment, and we’re all guilty of failing that at least to some degree. Kipp’s DP (director of photography), Eric Giovon does a good job with the cinematography. There’s some gentle zooming in certain shots and everything is nicely framed. The highlight for me is where the camera moves with the shopping cart, that was effective. The audio levels are consistent and the score is made up of some smooth piano and bass. For a drama short there’s not a great deal of dialogue but the performances are all still quite good.


On the technical front there was only the one minor complaint I had. In one scene with Megan and Ben in the bedroom, there’s a couple of blurred lights that hit the frame momentarily and it’s a little distracting (probably happened due to the lighting position). In hindsight, the brief sequence in the local bar was somewhat inconsequential, given Megan’s waiting for someone and her addictive personality has already been made quite clear from the outset. I know that it probably acts as a lead in to the final scene of the film but I think it slows the pacing down just a fraction. Ben annoyed me simply because he was so oblivious toward picking up on any of Megan’s signs. Men as a whole are not very good at the attention to detail part, but he in particular failed to read any of her body language, so is often the way, but that was frustrating as a viewer (though not technically a flaw with the film).

Pickup sees Jeremiah foray into something completely drama based, which I haven’t seen him do before. Jessica Blank’s script has shades of Steve McQueen’s “Shame” about it, with its neat handling of addiction and depression. I particularly enjoyed the inclusion of the technology theme and how that figures into modern-day life. It’s a well shot, well acted film with a nice moody score. I think perhaps one or two moments could have been cut to shorten the run time (the bar scene comes to mind) and Ben made for a frustrating character, though one true to life. I’m not sure if there’s value to be gained in multiple viewings but this is an important one watch for a multitude of people, especially those detached from their own lives and those around them as well as anyone that’s having a hard time coping.

My rating for “Pickup” is 7.5/10

Rubber (Review)



This is a review of the 2010 made, Horror/Comedy film “Rubber”, Written and Directed by Quentin Dupieux. Rubber tells the story of Robert, a tire that wakes in the desert and discovers he has telekinetic powers. From there, film spectators on location watch as the inanimate object goes on a homicidal killing spree somehow linked to a local cop, Lieutenant Chad (played by Stephen Spinella). The film also stars Roxane Mesquida, Wings Hauser, Jack Plotnick and Devin Brochu.


Well…. just when you think you’ve seen it all, and trust me I have (well there abouts), a film like Rubber comes along to once more reinforce that we haven’t quite seen it all just yet. I’ve seen flying sharks, greasy stranglers, wereskunks (yes that is a thing), killer donuts, killer backpacks, killer tomatoes…. well you get the point, things that kill. However, deadly rubber is a new thing altogether so I give credit where credits due (haha). Rubber was shot in the Californian desert and it makes for a great setting. The vast landscape is established through some really nice still shots. The approach to the cinematography is really clever, because while it’s completely nonsensical and implausible to cast a tire in the lead role of your film (did I really just write that), in the end it’s still a slasher film and so it’s shot accordingly and really professionally. Anytime the tire is on the move the shot setups are often almost POV (point of view), and or shot from a slight angle which helps to give off a voyeuristic look. I’m sure Quentin purposely replicated that look because it’s what you often see when you watch conventional killers in horror films. The score is another interesting facet of Rubber. It’s fun and different, utilizing flute and recorder, as well as a couple of conventional songs to highlight the irony of it all.

I love the concept behind Quentin’s film and although it looks completely preposterous on the surface, make no mistake about it, there’s more here than meets the eye. Dupieux never once deceives the audience, instead opts to tell them exactly what they’re in for from the get go. Doing so through an entertaining breaking of the fourth wall by Lieutenant Chad in the opening minutes of the film (seen in the picture above). The opening monologue is perfectly delivered by Spinella as he greets the audience. It shows that Dupieux, like most of us, is first and foremost a film fan. Referencing the likes of “E.T”, “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” and “The Piano” and expressing the lack of reasoning behind the things we see in any given film. There’s a ridiculous self-aware nature to the films “no reason” mantra, and somehow it works (for the most part). In fact, it’s so mindful of its own absurdity that Sheila (Mesquida) even says at one point “Who wrote this garbage”, in reference to some of the lines of dialogue she’s given to read by the Lieutenant. Amidst everything, there’s a sort of movie within a movie playing out as an audience of strangers look on from a distance as the tire wreaks havoc on the small town. The infusion of this performance art (for lack of a better term) only further highlights the oddness of it all.

I think all the actors in Rubber know the intended tone of the film and how they’re supposed to play their respective characters, and in turn, everyone gives a solid performance. The films running time is a brisk 73 minutes and most of the focus is on Roberts journey and those unfortunate souls who rub him the wrong way (pun intended). Robert spends his time doing the same things we all do, eating, drinking, watching TV and he even takes a dip at one point (yes you heard me, swimming)…. well okay, it’s not so much swimming as it is sinking to the bottom of the pool, but still. We all know an object can’t do any of those things, but that doesn’t mean it’s not well conveyed and funny as hell. Clever compression and decompression of the tire, with the help of some light sounds, represent his eating and drinking. In another instance, he’s interestingly propped up on the motel bed, watching Nascar of all things (yet some more irony for you). The big thing here is that he has telekinetic abilities and is able to make those around him rupture at any moment, and he does. There’s more than a handful of effective kills in here and they’re all conceived using practical blood and gore effects.


Most of the footage is well shot but on occasion the camera gets a little close and you can lose some perspective. With that said, I’d love to know how the tire movements were done. I’m assuming it was with CG, but if that’s the case you definitely can’t tell because the tire looks like a real one. Even though Rubber is quite short, a few of the scenes feel a touch long and perhaps it may have been slightly better if ten or twelve minutes were trimmed off. There’s a plot point half way into the film that involves a series of deaths that didn’t make a lot of sense to me. It may have been Quentin displaying his abstract thoughts on our reaction to horror films in general, I’m not too sure. If not, what was the motive behind those deaths? That and the one character (played by Plotnick) really exaggerated his acting when his character’s time came, though that may have been intentional. I didn’t fully comprehend the point of the audience portion of the film either, although maybe that was the point.

Rubber ey? Do I dare say that I’ve seen it all now? Surely? One reviewer aptly named this “The best killer tire movie you’re likely to see” and I too would wager that it’d be the only one you’ll see, I just wish I had of thought of that! Rubber is like a cross between “Attack Of The Killer Backpacks” and Cronenberg’s “Scanners”, with a touch of “The Truman Show” thrown in for good measure. I had no idea what to expect going into it and I’d seen a lot of horrible reviews, but after now having watched it, I’d say a few people missed the point. It’s a well shot, professionally handled film with familiar tropes and a completely original villain… or is he/it, the protagonist? You chose. I liked the score and the performances but it’s Quentin’s fresh, bat shit crazy plot, with its self-aware nature, that separates this from just about everything else resembling a B movie. The comedy is there, the blood and gore delivers and there’s even a bit of nudity thrown in. The only downsides were a couple of creative decisions that weren’t necessarily to my liking and the seemingly pointless deaths that occurred half way in. I do feel that if multiple viewings were taken into account, perhaps the short format may have been a better way to go. As it stands, Rubber is a must see for fans of original Horror/Comedies and B movies alike. One of those films you have to see just to say you’ve seen it!

My rating for “Rubber” is 7/10

Besetment (review)



Firstly, I’d just like to say thank you to Uncork’d Entertainment for sending me a press release screener of the new Horror/Thriller film “Besetment”, Written and Directed by Brad Douglas. Besetment follows unemployed and down on her luck, Amanda Millard (played by Abby Wathen). Struggling with home life and her detached, alcoholic mother (Lindsae Klein), Amanda jumps at an offer of a hotel job in a small town in Oregon. The soft, kind owner, Mildred Colvin (played by Marlyn Mason) welcomes her with open arms, but all is not quite as it seems in the town of Mitchell. The film also stars Michael Meyer, Max Gutfreund, Douglas Rowe, Greg James, Hannah Barefoot and Sonya Davis. It’s always a nice surprise when I open my email to find a screener link that’s been sent to me for review, most of the time I’m doing the chasing so this was a nice change of pace. I hadn’t heard of Douglas prior to this film, or for that matter anything about Besetment (despite him having made a couple of other things). I’ve got a lot of Uncork’d film content, some of which has been quite impressive, So where does Besetment fit in that mix?


The first thing that stuck out to me was the quaint little town that Brad chose to be the primary location of the film. I’ve never been to Oregon but ever since Twin Peak’s (and more accurately), David Lynch’s humorous citing of Bend, I’ve had an interest in the place. Now I’ll assume “Mitchell” is a fictional name, but any who, the timber exteriors of the towns various establishments, the old signage and the dirt roads are just a few things that help illustrate the place being somewhat frozen in time. There were shades of Andy Palmer’s “Badlands of Kain” about Besetment and it’s town of Mitchell and I enjoyed that *see review* https://adamthemoviegod.com/badlands-of-kain-review/. Presented in a stylized neon light format, the films credits and understated forewarning of events is something rarely seen in a low-budget independent horror feature and I dug it. There’s a sentimental, 80’s inspired synth theme that complements the introduction and reminded me of several pieces of music in Adam Wingard’s “The Guest”. Although the film is quite synth heavy, there’s a couple of raw acoustic guitar pieces to accompany the more dramatic moments. Brad’s DP (director of photography), Chuck Greenwood handles the cinematography nicely. Everything is framed neatly and he opts for simple establishing shots to set the tone early, from there, gentle panning and wide shots are among the highlights. A couple of slick aerial shots of the town and its surroundings, along with Amanda driving in her car, help raise the overall production value. The audio levels are smooth and the soft lighting a clear contrast to an ever-growing instability. At just 76 minutes, Besetment never has a chance to wear out its welcome and that’s a wonderful thing. I can only hope that if nothing else, Douglas’s film becomes a cornerstone for fellow film makers to gauge their run time and pacing from because it often suffers in their work. You want to keep the viewer interested and if you try to stall, the more likely they’ll be to look for imperfections, lapses in continuity and other similar things to take issue with.

Brad’s cast were certainly a breath of fresh air and I quickly realized that none of the names were familiar to me (an indie horror aficionado), so I’m always interested to watch new actors/actresses. Abby’s a big part of the reason the film works. Amanda is a likeable young woman, but more importantly than that she’s a relatable one (we all know what it’s like to lack direction in life). Her performance was even and she delivered what was emotionally required for the role. The surprise packet here is definitely Marlyn Mason though. Dare I say it, but it’s rare to find an older actress in the genre these days who actually has the ability to sell you on a character. A big part of why Mason steals the show  is due to Douglas’s clever writing and if I’m honest she puts Betsy Palmer (of Friday The 13th) to absolute shame. Outwardly, Mildred is the nice old lady next door. She brings you cool lemonade when you’re playing in the street, feeds you if you’re hungry, hell, she probably even attends bingo night (although I’m not sure that exists in this town). There’s nothing off kilter about her and that usually makes for a tricky balancing act for a writer, how much to give up and when to give it up. Ti West’s “The House Of The Devil” *see review* https://adamthemoviegod.com/the-house-of-the-devil-review/ is as superb as it is because of how well he handled the family and their emergence. Same goes for Douglas with the Colvins. Meyer plays Billy, Mildred’s adult son who still lives with her. I think Meyer plays it fairly safe, though the character is a little cliché and he probably didn’t want to risk over doing it. The police (James and Barefoot) and fellow townspeople (Gutfreund and Rowe) are mostly secondary characters with limited screen time but each are believable enough in their respective roles. Besetment has some brief action sequences with practical effects but the bulk of it plays as more of a thriller than a slasher. With that said, there’s some nice plot twists thrown in for good measure.


From a technical point of view Besetment is extremely well presented. Aside from a couple of minor lapses in camera focus and a rather visible prosthetic piece that can be seen during the climax, there’s not too much to complain about. Most of the dialogue and interactions feel authentic but there’s a couple of bungled lines where the phrasing isn’t quite right. Mildred says to Amanda at one point, “Come and sign the paper forms” which just doesn’t sound right, obviously it should be “paperwork” instead. In the same vein, Amanda’s friend Brittany (Davis) says to her, “That will go down like a shit balloon” (or something to that effect). I’ve heard the saying “go down like a lead balloon” but the phrasing here just sounds wrong. The premise sets itself in motion pretty organically but I couldn’t help thinking surely Amanda would ask about some of the specifics of the job before just accepting it. In the beginning it’s revealed that she’s not really qualified for much, so I suppose there’s that argument. Though when you’re in a small town a ways from home, you’d think you’d want to know what’s really involved, so I found that a little convenient. There’s a few other details in the writing that I didn’t really care for, such as the structure of Amanda’s communication with Brad, the local cafe chef. Following the twosome’s first stiff encounter, which sees Amanda less than impressed with his advances, they’ve all of a sudden got a little thing developing. It felt as if no time had passed and a scene was missing in order to segue into that connection in a smoother way. The inner workings of the relationship between Mildred and Billy went further than I’d expected as well and it was perhaps a little heavy-handed (one scene comes to mind, no pun intended haha). I predicted some of Billy’s decision-making early on in regard to the situation and the final sequence of the film just felt shoehorned in to satisfy slasher fans, particularly those of sequels.

I went into Besetment knowing very little about it and in the end was pleasantly surprised with the result. It feels like a combination of Stephen King’s film adaption of “Misery” and Jim Lane’s independent film “Betrothed” with a touch of “Psycho” about it. I love the small town vibe and the pacing in regard to its character development and reveals. It’s well shot, sounds great and the score is a good mix of synth and acoustic ballads. The performances are solid and Douglas keeps his footing in a number of different genres as the film plays out. There’s a couple of minor technical issues, some patchy dialogue and a number of specifics I could take or leave, most notably the ending. Those things aside, Besetment is a thoroughly enjoyable and fast paced film that I can definitely recommend to fans of a good quick Horror/Thriller. It’s due to be released on VOD on June 6th and DVD in September. Check out the trailer below!

My rating for “Besetment” is 6.5/10

Zombie Pirates (Review)



This is a review of the Region 1 (U.S Import) DVD of “Zombie Pirates”, Written and Directed by Steve Sessions (Dead Clowns and Shriek Of The Sasquatch!). Zombie Pirates is a micro-budget horror film about Linda (played by the lovely Sarah French), a dangerous young woman whose got herself in hot water over a crime. Soon after, a mysterious older gentleman named Grant (J.C Pennylegion) arrives at her doorstep to inform her he has proof of her wrong doing. The two strike a deal regarding ancient fortunes of a once infamous local buccaneer, Captain Lassard (Eric Spudic). Linda must deliver five human sacrifices to a neighboring ghost ship in order to gain the coveted treasure or face the wrath of the zombie pirates. The film also stars Denman Powers, Dawn DuVurger and Lucien Eisenach. Zombie Pirates isn’t my first foray into the works of DIY (do it yourself) micro-budget film maker, Steve Sessions. I remember seeing his film “Sinister” four or five years ago and I’ll be honest, it was a downright mess. It didn’t help that I had little interest in its witchcraft themes, but even still, from a film making point of view it was a tough watch. A few years have gone by since then, so let’s see how far Sessions has come in that time.


Let’s throw it out there straight away save any confusion, Zombie Pirates is certainly a micro-budget film (if you didn’t already know that). In fact, I don’t think funding has increased at all over the years for “This Is Not A Dream Productions” (Steve’s company), as is often the case in the world of independent film making. Still, you’re either one of those types that makes it happen with what you’ve got or you forego it altogether with fears of delivering an inferior product. I don’t know who was responsible for the artwork on Zombie Pirates but it looks great, the hand drawn design of lead actress Sarah French is representational. One of the strongest aspects here is Steve’s script, and probably because it deviates from the familiar trend of a cliché zombie outbreak. This particular setup injects a welcomed element of crime, something that’s never really been explored in any of the zombie content that’s out there. Most of the technical positions don’t have crew members credited on the official IMDB page, so I’ll assume Sessions did most of it himself. The camera work is okay considering the equipment probably wasn’t of the highest quality, but the framing needed a bit of work. There’s plenty of decent establishing shots that help sell the seaside locale and some solid POV shots (point of view) that lead into a death sequence. The audio levels were surprisingly good and that’s a tricky thing to get right on such a low-budget. Sessions scores all his own films and did a nice job of this one. The opening theme utilizes sounds of a whaling synth, and later there’s a unique piece of flute music which brings to mind a similar tune in 1997’s, “Anaconda”. Extra bass is applied in the mix when the ghost ship appears, that was a nice touch.

Steve’s script definitely isn’t lacking exposition regarding the origins of Captain Lassard. Early in the film Grant gives Linda what can only be described as a sermon, going into all sorts of specifics about how and why the ancient treasure exists etc. I think with a title such as this one, more people than not aren’t going to place much importance on how and why the films scenario came to be. I’m usually a stickler for details and looking to see if things are explained properly, but even I found it difficult to care much about the semantics and was much more about the conflict. The performances are about what you’d expect in a micro-budget film, some passable, and some not as much. J.C’s historian like approach fits his mysterious character, not to mention he looks the part as well. Powers as the Detective, gets his fair share of dialogue but his interactions with French often feel rigid. French is left to carry the film and although she’s serviceable, I’ve seen her do better work. On the effects front, there’s a few cuts to shots of a practical pirate ship and I’m stumped as to how they were done. One would have to assume it was with miniatures, either way it’s a real highlight. Say what you want about cheap costumes, but in the case of Zombie Pirates they actually look alright with a careful course of lighting. On a down note, it’s almost a 35 minute wait before we get to see them. I have to commend Sessions for getting a limb or two made for the film, as well as a practically fashioned head. He even threw a few maggots in with the blood, it’s not much in the way of gore but it counts for something (or should).


I’ll start with the biggest issue and it’s the 91 minute running time. An hour and a half is your average film length, which is fine, but your average film is made with some actual funding behind it. Unfortunately when you make a low-budget film, that’s rarely the case and it’s where you can get yourself into trouble. The counter can often be the enemy, and in the case of Zombie Pirates this is true. There’s so much excessive fat that could’ve been trimmed off or tightened up to make this a far better film than it is. Several dialogue free scenes are simply repeated for the sake of it, with a few new shots thrown in but nothing to drive the plot forward. The ideal running time for a film of this nature should be 60 to 65 minutes, no more. Like any micro budget film, there’s plenty of issues with this one. The worst attribute is probably the harsh lighting in a number of the internal shots at Linda’s house. Sessions needed to pull back the brightness levels, there’s glaring white light in both shots of Linda in the bathroom and lounge, even the scene in Grant’s motel room looks rather rough. Several transitions aren’t that smooth and some shots are just unnecessary. For some reason blurry water and the ocean are continually shown, so to is a repetitive sequence of Linda driving the boat out to the ghost ship. The sound clips on occasion and the foley isn’t the best, most notably during Karen’s (DuVurger) second phone conversation with Linda. It sounds like she’s talking through a two-way radio (haha). Other sounds of impact hits and body thuds don’t match, and in one scene sounds cuts off prematurely with three or four seconds of footage still remaining. During the last act there’s a constant droning sound in the background, one that I’m guessing represents a ship coming into port, either way it’s grating. Steve’s score is almost continuous from start to finish and it does get a little tedious, but on the other hand, the rare times the score is absent, it’s all too bland. I enjoyed the brief practical effects shown but the handful of CG blood spurts look amateur.

So many of the continuity related issues in Zombie Pirates were avoidable with a little more time and attention to detail spent in the edit. Most of the time it’s as simple as a tweak here or there, the aftermath of the first death is confirmation of that. One of Linda’s unlucky male victims is supposed to have been beaten to death, only problem is that we see a close up of him and there’s no visible marks to help sell that to the audience. It’ll be hard enough for the viewer to buy that he was killed from just a few hits, so at least get some makeup out and bruise the face up a little, throw in some blood and just make an effort. Don’t have your characters reference things with physical means if you can’t or don’t intend on showing them. I understand that budgetary constraints can come into play, but there’s a scene where the Detective shows Linda photos proving he knows more about her case than first thought. That writing choice doesn’t hold any weight because the image is only fleetingly shown and it’s so fuzzy you can’t make out what it is anyway. In another scene there’s a death via knife. Now it’s clearly a plastic knife, no real qualms with that. I figure there was no money for molds and prosthetics and such, but give the fans more blood, blood is cheap and it raises the overall production value. Toward the end of the film there’s a piece of dialogue that makes next to no sense, but made me laugh all the same. The Detective says to Linda “There might be a back way out”. I’d say that considering the house is Linda’s she would know that. I’d be lying if I said that Powers performance didn’t bug me, it was more that there was just no sense of urgency about the situation. Even when he becomes aware of the true motive behind Linda’s killings, see’s it up close and personal (yes the pirates), he still doesn’t have that human reaction, that moment of bemusement.

I think I’ve had Zombie Pirates sitting in my collection since 2014, so it was nice to finally get around to watching it. Sessions hadn’t set the bar real high for me but I was pleasantly surprised with what I saw, though the result could’ve easily been a lot better. It feels like a cross between “Zombie Lake” and “The Blind Dead”, only made on even less of a budget than those B movies. I dug the artwork, along with Steve’s script that welcomes a new setup I haven’t seen in the zombie sub-genre thus far. Some of the camera work is alright, the audio surprisingly clean and the score much better than you’d think. There’s plenty of dialogue laying out the origin of the pirates (if that floats your boat) and Sarah French does a decent job of carrying the film. The best aspects are those gorgeous shots of the ghost ship and the zombie pirates themselves. There’s a couple of prosthetics and a bit of the red stuff, but don’t expect much considering this was probably only made for $2,000- $3,000 (at a guess). The biggest hindrance to the re-watch ability factor of Zombie Pirates is the overly long running time. This thing needed to be cut by 25 to 30 minutes in order to tidy the dispensable up. There’s sub-par lighting, editing and foley at different points throughout the film and sometimes they all converge in the one spot. A few things were required to make this more professional. A once over the script to fix some of the dialogue, attention to detail in giving the most in regard to makeup, and just more blood in general. My advice here would be for Steve to do a re-cut, trim the fat and add some more Zombie action and you’d have a very watchable product. As it stands, Zombie Pirates is probably one for the hardcore fans but most others are going to struggle to see it through.

My rating of “Zombie Pirates” is 3.5/10

The Twisted Doll (Review)



Firstly, I’d just like to say thank you to Writer/Director, Andrew de Burgh for allowing me early access to an online screener of his 8 minute, Horror/Mystery short “The Twisted Doll”. Through a mutual friend, Pooja (played by lovely Bollywood actress, Elisha Kriis) and Jack (Isaac Anderson) are paired, but all is not as convenient as it seems when hidden agendas come to the surface. The film also stars Raksha Colaco. It wasn’t all that long ago that I inquired about Burgh’s previous short film “Just One Drink”, but I wasn’t able to watch it at the time as it was busy doing the festival rounds. So with that in mind, I was surprised to get an email from Andrew about his self-described, Christopher Nolan (The Prestige) meets George Melies (A Trip To The Moon) inspired short, The Twisted Doll.


I believe The Twisted Doll is Burgh’s fourth short film, but this is of course my first venture into his work. I was intrigued when he mentioned Nolan and Melies as influences for the film. I can only imagine he was talking about Nolan’s early Mystery/Thriller, “Following”. Which if memory serves me correct, he shot back in his days of university. The obviously matching black and white presentation is only part of it, I can see an air about the aforementioned film in terms of the way Pooja develops that relationship with her mark. George Melies was perhaps the first notable film maker of the 20th century, with some of his early silent films recognized as where the birth of cinema truly began. In a round about way Bluebeard came to mind while watching this one, though it may have just been the fact that both are silent films, I’m not sure. Being a silent film, the music and score are usually paramount. I was pleased to hear some heavy synth pumping through those opening minutes, very 70’s/80’s in style. I’ll be the first to admit that I’m a sucker for the black and white format (when it’s done right and justified) and combining that with the element of silence is daring to say the least, especially in this day and age. Elisha has that seductive appeal about her, she’s an incredibly beautiful women. I like the subtleties in her facial expressions which timely suggest the things to come.


Initially the black and white production was enough to get me in but I wasn’t a huge fan of the cinematography style. There’s a number of shots that weren’t framed as well as they could have been (just a personal preference) and a more cinematic approach probably would have raised the production value. I noticed a line of dialogue between Pooja and Jack that didn’t make a lot of sense. She mentions something about a form of yoga and a Hindi god (I think it was?), to which he’s confused on the meaning of and replies with “I was up really early for work” or something along those lines, it was clunky. The climax of the short isn’t all that unexpected, and due to the absent dialogue audio (intended) I’m not sure it carries the desired weight.

The Twisted Doll definitely has an experimental appeal about it and that makes for a solid introduction to Andrew de Burgh as another up and coming filmmaker. I respect his boldness to name those artists that inspired the film (too many are worried about public perception) and I do like the additions of the black and white and silence. The music drove it and Pooja makes for a captivating protagonist. From a technical stand point I can’t fault the way the film was shot, but I’d have preferred some more diverse shot choices and omitting those odd angles. Andrew’s script is fairly straight forward, so without an audio track I don’t think it quite hits home as hard come the resolution. All that said, cinephiles will find plenty to like here and if you enjoy your mystery’s short and snappy, keep an eye out for this one soon! Check out the trailer below!

My rating for “The Twisted Doll” is 6.5/10