Stirring (Review)

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STIRRING

 

THE SETUP

Firstly, I’d just like to say thank you to Writer/Director, Troy Escamilla (Party Night) *see review* https://adamthemoviegod.com/party-night-review-2/ for allowing me access to an early screener of his second feature film, “Stirring”. Stirring is a Christmas themed Horror/Slasher about a group of students who are celebrating the holidays by attending a party at a previously troubled sorority house, but they get more than they bargained for when a killer disguised as Mrs. Claus starts offing the guests. The film stars Hailey Strader, Billy Brannigan, Ryan Poole, Jantel Fontenot, Heather Bounds, Kaylee Williams and Brinke Stevens. Rewind twelve months and I was checking out self-proclaimed  horror fan, Troy Escamilla’s debut feature film “Party Night”. A “Prom Night” meets “The Mutilator” inspired independent slasher flick. It was a good time, an entertaining slice of genre filmmaking despite having some obvious budgetary hindrances and a few shortcomings. I’ve been following his latest film Stirring since that time and now here we are, so lets’ get to it!

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THE GOOD

Much like Troy’s sophomore venture, Stirring has some really cool 80’s inspired poster art and the premise of the film closely resembles a number of other popular genre films, something Escamilla has no qualms about. I recall Party Night having a clean audio track, and the same can be said here. Though ninety percent of the film takes place indoors, audio can still be challenging having to contend with outside noise. Troy’s previous DP, Derek Huey returns with a simple but effective shooting style and a relatively smooth edit. While there’s not a lot of variation in techniques and shot choices, everything is still nicely framed and Huey makes use of gentle focusing to enhance things in the background. The score was composed by Mark D’Errico, a guy with over 15 years experience and a number of credits to go with it. There’s some lovely ambient piano and haunting vocal melodies hummed throughout the course of the film. My favourite theme is an extremely off-kilter divergence of the infamous christmas carol “Jingle Bells”, it plays to suspenseful effect. Stirring is rather light on the adult activity (compared to some slashers) but makes up for it with some impressive practical effects. That being said, there’s some brief nudity in the form of Sophie (played by Daiane Azura), the latest plaything of douche jock, Grant (Poole).

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Members of the crew aren’t the only ones to have worked on Escamilla’s previous film. Stirring happens to be a Party Night reunion for all three male leads Ryan Poole, Billy Brannigan and Drew Shotwell. Their performances are a little more even this time around in spite of two of them playing unlikable characters. The interactions between Hailey and Jantel’s characters are some of the best acted scenes and I had a soft spot for Bounds’s character, “Kayla” because she was just all around pleasant and positive. The standout moment, at least emotionally speaking, comes in the first act where Mel Heflin’s, “Angela” , a new sorority sister whose being hazed, bullied and ridiculed has an emotional breakdown and it all just hits her at once. I thought Heflin’s crying felt natural and it set the bar for her peers in the remainder of the film. Troy’s script is fairly basic but he follows a few of the fundamentals of the genre, such as the inclusion of the first kill coming less than ten minutes into proceedings. It’s “Carrie” like in nature and showcases copious amounts of the red stuff, a memorable opening death to say the least. Stirring was made on a combination of crowd funding as well as Troy’s own financing, so while the kills aren’t always the most elaborate, they’re done with plenty of heart. There’s a cool neck piece prosthetic and a violent stabbing sequence, both of which are done with lots of blood and gore. To top it all off there’s a decapitation scene, and on this kind of budget that deserves props.

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THE BAD

Most of the issues I found in Stirring were of a similar nature to those I found in “Party Night”. There’s the odd continuity fault and a handful of small technical things (par for the course with independent film making). I thought some of Huey’s framing was a little thin in certain scenes, I’d love to have seen a few more wide shots and not so many medium close-ups (personal preference of course). A majority of the lighting looks good but there’s a few conversations, namely the one between Kayla and Monica in the kitchen, where shadows appear to be bouncing off the wall and creep into the background of the frame when I’m sure that wasn’t the intention. The first kill was quite well conceived but it’s missing some much-needed foley for the impact, it sounds a little exposed with that blank mix. The depiction of a suicide via hanging looked a little amateurish, so to the close-ups on the machete during one particular action sequence (unfortunately highlighting it as a prop). I much preferred Brannigan’s character in this film compared to his respective role in Party Night, but I couldn’t help noticing that he looked quite ill throughout the film and that was somewhat of a distraction (not sure why). There’s a couple of obvious continuity lapses, namely when Grant advises Sophie to pack her stuff and get moving because he claims it’s going to be dark soon. A problematic passage of dialogue, because the audience has just witnessed them waking up, both look tired and the sun is clearly shining through the window. The other things is the sorority house itself. One can’t ignore that it’s clearly just a regular suburban house, barely fit for even 3 or 4 girls let alone enough bodies to be classified as a sorority (it is just a movie though so let’s not get too carried away). In regards to the dialogue, there’s a bit of immaturity about it, or maybe I’m just getting older and the asinine comments and stoner talk just so happens to get old even faster now. A three-minute conversation about getting stoned had me completely tuning out, but hey, each to their own.

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Stirring is yet another holiday themed slasher film in the vein of “Silent Night Deadly Night” with the DIY approach of Todd Nunes indie slasher, “All Through The House” and even the more recent, “Lady Krampus”. I like the poster art, the audio is crisp and the cinematography is simple but smartly conceived. The score has some memorable themes and most of the performances are consistently good, the best work coming from Strader and Bounds with highlights from Heflin and Williams as well. The practical blood and gore is sure to satisfy genre fans, and although the deaths are rather generic, Escamilla makes up for it with a sizeable body count executed on a low-budget (see what I did there). There’s some technical inconsistencies and a couple of fairly noticeable continuity issues, that, and a few sizeable chunks of dialogue didn’t do much for me. I enjoy the cliché’s and stereotypes of the genre but the male characters in this one were almost exactly the same as they were in Party Night, just role reversals from Poole and Brannigan. In the end I think Stirring hits the same marks that Party Night did, and if you enjoy the specific sub-genre then you’ll have a lot of fun here. Take a look at the teaser trailer below and keep an eye out for this one soon!

My rating for “Stirring” is 6.5/10

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Playground (Review)

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PLAYGROUND

 

THE SETUP

Firstly, I’d just like to say thank you to October Coast and Uncork’d Entertainment for sending me an online screener of the Polish made, Drama/Thriller film “Playground”, Co-Written and Directed by Bartosz Kowalski. Playground is a film that centers around three young kids on the final day of primary school in a small polish town. 12-year-old, Gabrysia (Michalina Swistun) hopes to tell popular classmate, Szymek (played by Nicolas Przygoda) that she has fallen in love with him, but not all goes to plan with third wheeler and best friend of Szymek, Czarek (played by Przemyslaw Balinski) in tow. The film also stars Pawel Karolak, Malgorzata Olczyk and Patryk Swiderski. I’d like to preface this review of Playground by informing readers that this film is in fact a modern take, albeit a Polish one, on the infamous true crime story of the murder of 3-year-old James Bulger that occurred in the early 90’s in England. I, myself was unaware of the specifics before I sat down to watch the film (the poster art at the time was completely different), and given the disturbing content, I don’t want others to be caught off guard.

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THE GOOD

I think Playground might be the first Polish film I’ve seen, if not, it’s certainly the first I’ve reviewed. There’s an abundance of high quality films being produced in Europe so I was intrigued when this one popped up in my inbox. Playground’s DP, Mateusz Skalski comes from a Documentary film background, and that really is highlighted in the standard of cinematography in this film. Everything is so superbly framed and cleanly shot, even the establishing shots. The color grading is perfectly balanced. The transitions during shots in Gabrysia’s segment are seamless, in turn making the entire edit tight at just 73 minutes (pre credits). The audio is clear and the English subtitles are accurate. Kristian Andersen (Lars von Trier’s regular composer) built almost the entire score around classical orchestral pieces and ballad tempo piano. The score only turns darker once the script calls for it in the final deadly act. It’s highly unlikely you’ll see a film (foreign or not) with this many memorable performances from child actors, all the more impressive is that all three are newcomers. In fact even the adult actors have minimal or no previous experience, though you’d never be able to tell. It’s difficult to buy that natural ability, and without it, Playground simply wouldn’t function.

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In the opening thirty or forty minutes of the film, one by one we’re introduced to Gabrysia, Szymek and Czarek. Gabrysia seems to lack confidence, perhaps having been bought up in a conservative family. One can sense a hint of abuse in her past. As for Szymek, at first glance he looks like a polite young kid, all too willing to assist his wheelchair bound father with the mundane tasks of a day-to-day grind. It’s not until a spontaneous an unprovoked outburst at the end of the first act and several seemingly trivial things that make him tick, that one might suspect there’s more than meets the eye there. Then there’s Czarek. Lacking a father figure in his life, he’s forced to share a bedroom with his baby brother despite pleading with his mother over having the child removed because it’s preventing him from much-needed sleep. Czarek is also responsible for the food and the chores, yet older brother, Pawel (Bartlomiej Milczarek) gets off scot-free. The only real thing Czarek has is his friendship with Szymek and that proves to be toxic for both parties. I suppose a handful of things we witness could potentially point to some psychological abuse, and combined with the lack of parental guidance it’s probably feasible. I don’t think anyone could have seen the foreshadowing in what was to come though. There’s two scenes from Playground that will stay with me for the forseeable future. One, the look on the little boy’s face (Swiderski) and in his eyes as he’s so nonchalantly walked away from a mall ride, down an escalator and out of the shopping centre. Secondly, and more importantly, the final 8 minutes of the film. WARNING: This is NOT for the faint of heart, I assure you. The violence is certainly not glorified, Kowalski doesn’t showcase effects or set pieces to highlight destruction, it’s simply just horrifying to watch because it really happened. I want to commend Bartosz on paying the event respect by using a single wide shot structure from a long distance to convey the despicable content and what eventually befell the innocent boy.

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THE BAD

On the technical front the only thing I noticed was that the music was a little too loud in the mix (though it is just was screener copy). The film has quite a brief run time as it is, but when you take into account the heavy themes, I think that’s a good thing. It wasn’t crucial for the scene between Szymek and his father (Karolak) to be portrayed in real-time. It does feel a fraction long and perhaps time may have been better spent delving further into his school life. When it comes to Gabrysia, hindsight would suggest she’s rather irrelevant to the story or the fate of the boys, she’s just something in their way. Other than adding an extra layer of bullying and shaming to the story (which I understand is ever-present in today’s society), her arc just acts as padding. Now, while I felt that Kowalski portrayed enough of the boys actions from the true story (definitely as much as I wanted to see), he technically only scratched the surface regarding the multitude of atrocities acted out by the two on the young toddler. By no means am I saying I wanted to see anymore, I’m simply stating that Playground only tells the half of it (and thank god for that) which if you’re one for the details, is technically a shortcoming.

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Bartosz Kowalski’s, Playground reminds me of uneasy films like “The Great Ecstasy Of Robert Carmichael” or “Because Of The Cats”. It pulls few punches in depicting its own take on the true story murder of little James Bulger. Some may ask why the Polish felt the need to go there with a modern telling, and to be fair they’d have a point. Still, if you accept the film for what it is you’ll surely give it the credit it deserves. Skalski’s cinematography is amazing, Andersen’s musical composition is fitting for the desired mood and the entire cast give raw and believable performances. Both Przygoda and Balinski present a cold and calculated united front as the film slowly accelerates to a swift and harsh culmination. You never really get the chance to know if you feel anything for anyone until it’s too late and all you’re left with is a lifeless young boy. I have the utmost respect for how Kowalski handles the unfathomable, but that doesn’t make it an easier pill to swallow. There’s a couple of things that could’ve been tightened up, Gabrysia doesn’t fit how I thought she might and if you’re a stickler for authenticity the film isn’t as graphic as the real thing was. Playground’s callousness will leave you uncomfortable and with a sinking feeling in your stomach reminding you that you’ve just witnessed true evil. For that reason I find it hard to recommend, but it’s a wonderfully conceived film and you can check out the trailer below. Proceed at your own peril. Playground is now available on VOD (video on demand).

My rating for “Playground” is 8/10

Bucking Hell (Review)

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BUCKING HELL

 

THE SETUP

Firstly, I’d just like to say thank you to Actor turned Writer/Director, James Kermack for allowing me early access to an online screener of his 16 minute, Darkly Comedic/Thriller  “Bucking Hell”. Bucking Hell is an oceanic themed short that takes place on a slowly sinking ship, where three men from different walks of life are amidst an unconventional game of Buckaroo in order to decide who gets the remaining life jacket, and in turn, salvation. The film stars David Schaal (TV’s “The Inbetweeners”), Nicky Evans (TV’s “Shameless”), Geoff Breton and Warren Mahon.

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THE GOOD

I have to give Bucking Hell points for originality, because it’s not often you see independent films set on the high seas. A venture like that usually takes money and a lot of know-how, two things most low-budget films don’t have (even in the case of Bucking Hell where the ocean is only inferred). The initial credit sequence is really effective, with the listings appearing on different parts of the ship an in tandem with Kermack’s opening establishing shots. The audio levels are bright and consistent, and the sound department did a wonderful job of the foley. The creaking of the ship, the pounding of the rough seas and the sounds of the game are all well mixed. DP, Aaron Rogers draws on a lot of clever two-shots and atmospheric lighting, as well as a series of quick cuts that play nicely to Raul Sacristan’s edit. I read in the press kit that Bucking Hell was heavily inspired by Spielberg’s infamous 1975 film, “Jaws”, and it shows. In particular, Quint’s iconic shark story in comparison with Myers tale. The high production value of Bucking Hell is evident through a number of aspects, most notably the set design and the impressive performances. First time composer, Alexander Melkis created a wonderful “Black Sails” esq score, that consists of a lot of violin and what sounded like french horn, definitely gauging that buccaneer vibe. The three characters are very different from one another but each of them as interesting as the next. Self proclaimed host of the game an Ex military man, Myers (Schaal) sounds like the “cockney” of the bunch, providing some good comedic relief throughout. Nada (Evans) is an intriguing one. The middle man, the cautious type. Lastly, theres Burton (Breton), whose a sort of Hugh Jackman’s “Robert Angier” (The Prestige) cross with Johnny Depp’s iconic character, “Captain Jack Sparrow”. The guy’s a bit of a nervous wreck, void of a backbone but also quite funny. The dynamic of the three is certainly something to be seen and each of the performances are strong.

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THE BAD

From a technical point of view I only noticed one minor momentary lapse in focus. Another downside was that I couldn’t quite hear Evans last line, I had to backtrack a couple of times to catch it. The film could be described as more equal parts comedy and drama than it is an actual thriller, so that may mislead people somewhat. There’s plenty of humour on display in each of the performances but I think Kermack missed an opportunity for one of the characters to interject with a “god how long is this going to go on for” type of gag during Burton’s long-winded speech, especially considering where it ultimately led (haha). One may also question why there’s only one life jacket on the boat (I believe we’re told everybody else had abandoned ship) but surely from a safety point of view there’d have been a few more. In addition, how did these characters come to be on the same ship, given it looks like a fisherman’s hull and not commercial transport? None of them are dressed like commercial fisherman, so I’m not sure.

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Bucking Hell is a great little independent short film from a talented group of people. Other than Andrew Hamer’s, “Three Skeleton Key” *see review* https://adamthemoviegod.com/three-skeleton-key-review/ I don’t think I’ve seen anything remotely set in the  world of Kermack’s premise. I like the poster art, the cool credit sequence and the thought process behind James’s inspiration. The sound is lively and the cinematography drives the high production value, that and I was most impressed with Melkis’s score. The characters are interesting and engaging, so to the performances. There were only one or two small issues and I think a couple of the plot points could have been altered to underline a bit more comedy. Bucking Hell is definitely up there with some of the best shorts of 2017, so keep an eye out for this one soon! You can check out the teaser trailer at the link below!

My rating for “Bucking Hell” is 8/10

The Babyface Killer (Review)

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THE BABYFACE KILLER

 

 

THE SETUP

Firstly, I’d just like to say thank you to Co-Writer/Director, Matthew Forte for sending me the link to his latest online Horror short, “The Babyface Killer”. The Babyface Killer is a 13 minute, micro-budget short that follows young couple and soon to be parents, Mark and Katherine (played by Vic Varriale and Xiomara Forman) as they deal with the sudden loss of an unborn child. This tragedy sets Mark off on a dark path where a further series of events ultimately destroys the life he once had. The film also stars Juliet Picard, Margaret Scura and Matt Bruzio. It’s never a bad thing to stumble across new creative types currently working in the independent film industry. What’s better though are those rare individuals who can take criticism on board with the hopes of further developing their craft.

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THE GOOD

Being a slasher-type affair, albeit amidst a heavy psychological layer, The Babyface Killer does have some positive practical effects work (considering the pocket change with which this thing was made). The blood consistency looks alright, so to the killer’s mask, even if it was just a cheaply made prop from the local dollar store. The only real highlight of on-screen carnage sees a particularly nasty disembowelment with a greater purpose behind it. The stomach latex looks awfully fake but the kill itself is fun, so I give Forte credit for simply committing it to screen, especially when you take into account the budget constraints. On the flip side, the set piece is clearly fake and so that takes away from the harsh severity of the action. The only two positive scenes of acting I could find both involved female characters crying. Katherine has a scene in the opening five minutes where she’s quite good and Picard features in the film’s climax.

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THE BAD

I mostly have myself to blame for this one and as hard as I tried to get into The Babyface Killer, I just couldn’t. Putting aside the rather non-sensical basis for Mark’s killings (which I guess I can swallow in the context of a slasher film), I couldn’t look past the countless technical shortcomings involved in the film making process. Forte Films Entertainment have made a few shorts now, so I honestly expected a fair bit better execution despite the small budget (which I’d estimate at only $500 to $1,000). The audio takes the cake for the worst aspect. The dialogue levels aren’t too bad, but during the external scene with the neighbor there’s a lot of traffic noise in the background. That, and anytime the conversation or its delivery rises in intensity, the volume constantly peaks out. The multiple screams that can be heard may actually cause your ears to bleed. Having worked on a couple of shorts myself, I understand the difficulties of contending with background noise and other issues that might be out of your control, but if they opted to use an onboard mic from the camera that would explain why this happened. Forte’s cinematography and editing aren’t really up to standard. I can let the handheld style of camera work slide due to the budget, but the constant lapses in focus across almost the entire 13 minutes make it hard to watch. The natural light left seeping into the frame during scenes in the house with Mark and Katherine isn’t a good look either. The entire edit feels jarring, Forte could have omitted the silly dream sequence and the scene where Mark is rude to the neighbor (Scura) considering it had no real context. As it stands, the 13 minutes feel sluggish. Unfortunately, I didn’t think any of the performances were any good, though some of the writing didn’t help that.

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I wanted to like The Babyface Killer, I’d heard some good things about it and so I wanted to check it out. In hindsight, Forte was up against it right from the outset. Sadly it wasn’t what I was expecting from a technical point of view or a story telling facet. I think the DIY (do it yourself) effects have a certain charm about them and the mask is kind of cool. Both Forman and Picard have emotional scenes that they meet accordingly with above par performances. The pitchy sound killed it for me though, it was far too distracting. The camera work was amateurish especially with such poor focusing, and the lighting was harsh. I think the film could have been trimmed, and with better editing it wouldn’t have suffered quite so much. Even though this one wasn’t for me, I think with a bigger budget behind him and some more experienced heads, Matthew Forte and Co just might deliver on something a bit more professional next time around. If you do want to check the film out, you can do so at the link below!

My rating for “The Babyface Killer” is 2.5/10

Unbearing (Review)

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UNBEARING

 

THE SETUP

Firstly, I’d just like to say thank you to fellow independent filmmaker, Samantha Kolesnik for hooking me up with a link to a 9 minute, Horror/Thriller short called “Unbearing”, Written by Jennifer Trudrung and Directed by Aidan Weaver. Unbearing is about a young babysitter, Lindsay (played by Mary Katherine O’Donnell) whose given a job watching a middle-aged couple’s infant child for the night. They leave her with live bedroom video footage from a monitor via her phone and she oversees the sleeping baby. The film also stars Jennifer Trudrung, Reginald Heinish and Jenna Goforth.

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THE GOOD

So this eerie babysitter short was recommended to me by Samantha, writer of the recent horror short, “I Baked Him A Cake” which I recently reviewed *see review* https://adamthemoviegod.com/i-baked-him-a-cake-review/. I like the premise of Unbearing, it’s very matter of fact, and in its short run time Trudrung is able to create a sense of uneasiness, leaving me with a similar feeling I got from watching the bizarre German film, “Der Bunker”. The audio levels are good and the lighting is really warm for a film of this nature. I noticed that Unbearing is Samuel Zeilender’s first time behind the camera and I think he deserves some praise for his efforts. The framing is generally quite good, and the use of a steady tracking shot adds to the production value. I particularly liked the aerial shot slowly descending on Lindsay as she lay on the rug with her books and paperwork strewed about. The score has some nice ambience to it and the performances from all four actors are of a high standard.

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THE BAD

I give Zeilender credit for shooting his first film but there are downfalls with the cinematography, though he’ll surely benefit in the long run from the experience of Unbearing. For the first four or five minutes of the short the frame rate appears to lag a pace or two (maybe it was just the screener copy). It’s not out of synch, just delayed and quickly starts to become a distraction. He’s also guilty of accidental lapses in focus on a number of occasions, but these things come with growth. MINOR SPOILERS: I somewhat predicted the direction Trudrung’s story was headed in, but I still rather enjoyed it. The only aspect that didn’t fit was the heavy breathing, which clearly sounds very different to how it would if that was the real situation, you’d be trying to replicate the actual sound.

Unbearing is another solid short film to add to the list of impressive shorts for 2017. I’ve seen a lot of great content from different people all over the world, each with varying budgets and degrees of experience and it’s all been positive (well mostly). I liked the setting of Unbearing, the lighting, the score and the performances. I did see some of the developments coming and the breathing part didn’t quite make sense. Unfortunately the camera work is inconsistent, most notably the focus and the frame rate issues and I think that holds the film back a fraction. That said, it’s great to see people trying their hand at the craft and I look forward to seeing what Jennifer and Co. do next.

 

My rating for “Unbearing” is 7/10

Secretions (Review)

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SECRETIONS

 

THE SETUP

Firstly, I’d just like to say thank you to Writer/Director, Goran Spoljaric for allowing me access to an online screener of his 13 minute, Horror/Thriller short “Secretions”. Secretions centers around a mutant woman (played by Zia Electric) whose being held captive in a basement by a man (David Macrae) looking to profiteer from her rare genes. The mysterious woman sees an opportunity to escape during a client’s visit to the house. The film also stars Chris Savva and Mark Robert Walters.

THE GOOD

Secretions is Melbourne based film maker, Goran Spoljaric’s fourth short film, and an interesting slice of body horror/torture porn at that. The script is very much contained, but feels heavily influenced by something like Trent Haaga’s “Dead Girl” meets Eli Roth’s horror hit, “Hostel”. Adam Lynch’s cinematography and framing are impressive. Here’s a guy whose just recently started racking up credits left right and centre, but he’s doing it well. My favorite shots in the film are a couple of macro ones at the beginning that highlight the signs of wear and tear on the womans body. The audio levels are clear and the foley is crisp too. Paul Dawkins (who composed a great score on the Aussie film “The Tunnel”) utilizes lots of deep bass tones in Secretions and while it’s not overly memorable, it fits the intended tone nicely. The all too brief practical effects work is probably the finest aspect of the film.

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THE BAD

I think the performances were all solid but I didn’t personally like the style in which Macrae chose to deliver his lines, something was amiss for mine. I thought it was odd that towards the end the woman alternates between walking and crawling. Given her plight, I would’ve thought the latter was all she’d be able to muster up. As I touched on earlier, I think the action comes and goes all too soon and I would’ve liked to have seen it play out slightly differently. Secretions may be in need of further development (so here’s hoping there’s a feature in the works at some point), I couldn’t make heads or tails of the pink fluid. Was it blood? Did it give users a high? I pictured the woman as more of a meth addict than I did a mutant, and that perhaps her body had been able to generate something more potent that people wanted to bottle. Some more details about who she was and where she’d been wouldn’t have gone astray.

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Secretions is a different kind of entry to the body horror sub-genre and it makes for some intriguing viewing. The camera work is of a high standard, the audio is clean and practical effects are on display in one cringe inducing sequence. The performances are all decent, I just didn’t love Macrae’s intonation (personal preference). There’s a continuity blunder with the woman and I’d have liked to learn a bit more about her and the details of the situation. There’s definitely more here to explore but as it stands, Secretions is still an impressive short film from some homegrown talent. Check out a brief clip of the film below.

My rating for “Secretions” is 7/10

Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!

1966-Faster-Pussycat-Kill-Kill-smallFASTER, PUSSYCAT! KILL KILL!

 

THE SETUP

This is a review of Russ Meyer’s, 1965 Exploitation cult classic, “Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! Faster, Pussycat Kill Kill tells the story of Varla (Tura Satana), Rosie (Haji) and Billie (played by Lori Williams), a trio of wild go-go dancers who raise hell across the Mojave Desert after they kill a man and take his girlfriend Linda (Sue Bernard) hostage. Thus setting in motion a chain of events that involve the girls trying to con a crippled old man and his two sons out of their money. The film also stars Ray Barlow,  Stuart Lancaster, Dennis Busch and Paul Trinka.

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THE GOOD

The late Russ Meyer, who’s now seen as somewhat of a cult figure, at least due in part to some of his body of work, was notorious for making a handful of films in the 60’s that were seen as smutty. During that era, and well into the 70’s, the slightest mention of anything resembling pornography would deem one guilty of objectification. The early part of Meyer’s career saw him working in Comedy, with unknown films like “Eve And The Handyman” and “Heavenly Bodies”. Later in the piece he returned to comedy, as well as meddling in some Drama. It wasn’t until 65′ and his double exploitation release with “Motorpsycho!” and “Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!” (made on just a mere budget of $45,000 it would go on to become his most successful film), that he would mark his footprint in the world of B movies. By his own admission, Russ had a fetish for large-breasted women (I can relate haha), hence why they feature so prominently throughout his entire body of work. The man made no apologies for doing obscene things especially if they were intended to be in bad taste. I went into Faster, Pussycat Kill Kill having only seen one of Meyer’s previous films in, Motorpsycho! a couple of months prior. Other than the title, I didn’t care much for it. It certainly didn’t help that the transfer I watched was of an extremely poor quality, and although I like the Exploitation genre I’m particular about the content and standard of acting delivered in these type of affairs.

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So first off, you’ve got to acknowledge that great title. Whether you like the film or not, “Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!” is a great name. Don’t quote me on it, but this just might be one of the first films to feature all women in the four key roles (it was the 60’s after all). Let’s not pretend that mainstream Hollywood didn’t take issue with the equal representation that Meyer’s was attempting to bring about at the time, not to mention these particular femme-fatale’s were the antagonists of the piece, something rarely seen. The male characters in his films are almost always expendable. This distorted sense of sleaziness in film throughout the 60’s and 70’s would eventually pave the way for the likes of  Tobe Hooper, and more recently Quentin Tarantino, Gaspar Noe and Rob Zombie. Whether it be an individual scene like the infamous dinner table sequence from Hooper’s groundbreaking, “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” or entire chunks of muscle car stunt work, as seen in Tarantino’s, “Death Proof”. All were inspired by the works of Meyer either directly or indirectly.  More recently, independent films like “Bitch Slap” and a little known Aussie film called “El Monstro Del Mar (that sees three dangerous vixens run amok in a seaside coastal town), have taken quite a similar approach to their presentations.

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I thoroughly dug the black and white photography and there’s a cool narration at the start of the film, followed by a disclaimer promising violence to the viewers. The audio track was surprisingly clear given almost the entire film takes place outside, that and it’s the original recording from the 65′ print. The music department did a great job of the score, utilizing plenty of double bass and drum particularly in the early part of the film. Later, there’s some really cool saxophone. All three women, Haji, a regular in Russ’s films, Lori Williams and Tura Satana were each in wonderful shape and had no qualms about eluding to their assets. Their faces do tend to be on the harsh side though, whether that be due to poor lighting or just too much makeup, either way they look hardened (even for the time). Both the fight choreography and the car stunts are commendable, though the length of the drag scene could have been shortened without losing anything. While the shots of the girls in their cars are clearly depicted via the shaking of a gimbal of sorts, the wider shots are actually of cars racing (which is better than what you get nowadays in independent film making).

THE BAD

From a technical point of view and considering the film’s budget, most of the film making aspects are well conceived. There’s some pretty lame trash talking throughout, and plenty of puns, usually coming from Varla because she’s the one calling the shots. There’s a chunk of stale dialogue once things progress to the house setting portion of the film and that tends to drag the pacing down. It’s a sluggish film overall given it only runs for 83 minutes. The men chanting “go-go” at the girls during the opening shots of the film was cringeworthy, so to the laughing by the girls. I liked some of the score but the brass section through the middle act gets quite abrasive after a while as it continues to build in the mix. There’s also a bunch of music that sounds better suited to something like “Gulliver’s Travels” than it does the Action/Exploitation caper, not sure what they were thinking. Continuity wise there’s a couple of obvious blunders, most notably after Varla is done smacking Linda’s face in with her fist and there’s no visible blood in the aftermath. I understand that censorship was stricter than ever during that time period, but that’s something that should accompany that action, and here it doesn’t. Secondly, the positioning of Linda’s boyfriend in relation to where he gets approached from doesn’t make any sense, he’d see the response coming.

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None of the performances are anything to write home about, but hey, you don’t watch Faster, Pussycat Kill Kill for the acting, it is what it is. I do, however, want to touch on Sue Bernard’s acting because it was quite a ways off from the get go. Her over the top screaming is a lot to handle and the school girl delivery just comes across as poor staging. As far as I see it there are two glaring issues with Faster Pussycat Kill Kill, one is that the characters just simply aren’t likeable, and two, Meyer’s ultimately fails to deliver on his promise of mayhem and sex. Okay, if I’m straight shooting, there’s a brief sex scene between two characters but they’re fully clothed and it’s over before it begins. Sex isn’t everything, but it is a cornerstone of the exploitation genre so at the very least I expected some nudity but the absence of that further hurts the film. Satana does wash off at one point but it’s carefully framed so as to not show anything graphic (disappointingly so). On the violence front, there honestly isn’t much. There’s a couple of deaths but they’re quite tame to say the least. The attitudes of these girls will be sure to leave you scratching your head and asking why? Why any of it? They’re dancers, and probably well paid ones, yet for some reason they feel the need to treat everyone like dirt because they feel the world owes them something. It would perhaps be different if they were strong resilient women fighting back for the right reasons (exhibit A, Death Proof), but we never witness anything bad being done to these girls, there’s no arc, no resemblance of growth, and still, we’re supposed to get on board with them and their arbitrary antics.

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Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! is one of the first of its kind, a mixture of Exploitation/Action and Crime, all set against the backdrop of the Californian desert. I’ve been meaning to check it out for years, but it wasn’t until I recently heard rumors of a remake that I thought I best get moving. I love the title, the black and white presentation and the fact that Meyer’s defied the stereotypes. One can’t deny that he and the likes of John Waters paved the way for those working in the genre today. The audio levels are good on the DVD transfer and a sizeable amount of the score fits the intended tone of the film. The women are sporting sexy outfits and great figures and the choreography and stunt work are both pretty decent. The downside is that there’s some pretty poorly written dialogue, music that often sounds out-of-place and patchy acting from a number of the cast members. The pacing is surprisingly sluggish and there’s some lapses in continuity on occasion. The biggest issue is that the film just doesn’t deliver to the standard it  promises. The mayhem is virtually non-existent, the intended sleaze gets lost in translation and the three girls aren’t even remotely likeable, nor is the supposed protagonist, Linda. All of this equates to a pretty poor product and not something I can really recommend unless you’re a die-hard fan of old school exploitation. Here’s hoping for that remake… any day now Quentin.

My rating for “Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!” is 4/10