Home Education (Review)

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HOME EDUCATION

THE SETUP

Firstly, I’d just like to say thank you to Writer/Director, Andrea Niada for allowing me early access to an online screener of his 24 minute, Horror/Drama short, “Home Education”. Home Education centers around a family living in an isolated home in the English countryside. Carol, the domineering mother (played by Jemma Churchill) and her curious daughter, Rachel (Kate Reed) have been keeping their husband/father’s corpse (Richard Ginn) in the upstairs attic. The two firmly believe that if they show how much they care for him, he’ll no doubt come back to life. I was fortunate enough to be contacted by Andrea and asked if I wanted to watch and review the film and me being me, said yes (I’ll watch anything). A while back I’d heard a couple of things about a short he’d made called “Wasteworld” but I never actually saw it, so this is officially my introduction to his work.

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THE GOOD

The film opens with the reading of a poem from daughter to father, only problem being, the man of the house is clearly deceased. It’s not until the dynamics of the relationship between the mother and daughter surface, that you actually get some insight into why these two have hope for their loved ones return. I knew very little about Home Education heading in but it didn’t take long for me to get a sense of the tone of Niada’s film, reminiscent of “Der Bunker” *see review* https://adamthemoviegod.com/der-bunker-review/. It’s an interesting story with specifics you’re not entirely sure what to make of, which both hinders it somewhat but intrigues the viewer on some level. From the outset, the dialogue audio is crisp and clear and the top-notch cinematography drives the high production value. To an outsider, the cottage seems warm and quaint, when in actual fact it’s anything but. There’s an array of lovely shot choices on display and all the framing is expertly handled. The highlight is a smooth but brief tracking shot as Rachel moves toward her father’s bedside. I also really enjoyed the external scenes in the woods near the house, they looked excellent. Andrea’s got an eye for sharp editing. All the still frames and establishing shots run the perfect duration, allowing you to relish in the uniqueness of this families situation and the oddities of the house.

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Andrea and his music department managed to create quite an eerie score to accompany the strange narrative. The score is mostly made up of bass and violin drives, but as the mystery escalates, the bass notes are used to effectively accent that enigma. The performances from both Churchill and Reed are very solid and not really what I expected from an indie film, particularly from someone as raw and young as Kate Reed. Her reaction time was natural, and when required, the intense communication between her and Churchill was dominant. Richard Ginn is as important to Home Education as our two female leads. Now while he doesn’t have any dialogue, he’s able to stay perfectly still in each of his scenes (which isn’t easy). There’s a lot of peculiar behavior going on in the household, what to make of it all is left up to the viewers interpretation. Carol is an intense figure whose trying her best to educate Rachel the only way she knows how, through fear tactics and paranoid perceptions. There’s a clear obsession with dead animals, they’re on display throughout the house and she’s constantly concerned with dust particles and fleas and how they operate and how one counters them to prevent a spate.

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THE BAD

There were a couple of finer points that I didn’t quite follow but that’s common in films with heavy symbolism. There were a handful of small details that didn’t quite add up. For instance, Carol appears to be using a hammer at one point to prepare some meat, I’m not sure if that was intended or if it was just another bizarre occurrence. The scenes involving Rachel throwing a bone didn’t seem to have any real relevance either, well none that I could find. Was it her way of attracting food in the forest? I didn’t get it. Even when she does find what can only be described as “remains”, she picks them up, puts them to her ear and tries to listen to them. I couldn’t work out what she was listening for or how it would determine what she would take home for her father to try to resurrect/please him.

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Home Education made for an interesting introduction to Andrea Niada’s work, it reminded me somewhat of films like Robert Eggers, “The Witch” and Philip Ridley’s, “The Reflecting Skin”, at least in terms of its unsettling atmosphere. All the technical aspects are well conceived but it’s the striking cinematography and suspenseful score that eventually won me over. The editing is smooth and the run time ideal for something like this (take note Mr Eggers). The performances are the best part of Home Education and I can definitely see a bright future on the cards for young Kate Reed. Not everything here translated as clearly as I would’ve liked and some of the particulars seemed redundant but even with that, Home Education is very much a breath of fresh air and for those that like the obscure works of David Cronenberg (as well as the aforementioned films), best keep an eye out for this one soon!

My rating for “Home Education” is 8/10

In A Valley Of Violence (Review)

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                                               IN A VALLEY OF VIOLENCE

THE SETUP

This is a review for the brand new Drama/Western, “In A Valley Of Violence”, Written and Directed by Ti West (The Sacrament and House Of The Devil) *see review* https://adamthemoviegod.com/the-house-of-the-devil-review/. In A Valley Of Violence follows the journey of a mysterious stranger (played by Ethan Hawke) and his dog as they make their way to Mexico. A random act of violence in the small-town of Denton, sees Paul’s (Hawke) fate cross paths with a town of misfits, headed by Gilly (James Ransone) and the Marshal (John Travolta). The film also stars, Taissa Farmiga (of American Horror Story), Larry Fessenden (Carnage Park and We Are Still Here), Karen Gillan (Dr Who) and Burn Gorman (Game Of Thrones). It’s quite rare that Jason Blum and Blumhouse Productions back a film in a genre that isn’t Horror. I’d heard a few things about this one over the last couple of months but it hasn’t had the same publicity as its counterparts in “Jane Got A Gun” and “The Duel”, among some others. I thoroughly enjoyed West’s, House Of The Devil, an homage to old school 80’s Horror, and can always respect film makers that attempt to add further strings to their bow.

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THE GOOD

I love a good Western, although being born in the 80’s, I never experienced the genre at its absolute peak. The times when Sergio Leone (The Good The Bad and The Ugly), John Ford (The Man Who Shot Liberty Vance) and Clint Eastwood (High Plains Drifter), along with many other greats, were making some of the classics that fans still know and love today. Over the last few years I’ve managed to get my hands on a selection of old Westerns and quite enjoyed them but the one thing I will say, is that they always feel overly long, given their simplistic stories. Where as if you take a look at modern films like Quentin Tarantino’s, “Django Unchained” or “The Hateful Eight”, you’ve got several more layers that warrant more content. Other westerns in recent years have fallen well short of the desired mark. “Jane Got A Gun” felt extremely muddled and “The Duel”, despite good performances (particularly from Woody Harrelson), was unnecessarily drawn out and I’m really glad that wasn’t the case with West’s latest film. The clever opening title credits, accompanied by a really good musical theme by Jeff Grace, get In A Valley Of Violence off to a catchy start. The shooting style and genre of film lends itself perfectly to great shot choices and stylish cinematography. The color grading is accurate for the time period and that’s an important aspect when making a western. There’s great establishing shots that showcase the barren lands and a nice series of shots that stood out during the bathroom scene in the Denton hotel. Synth and Bass aren’t something you’d associate with westerns but they work surprisingly well here. Ti opts for big orchestral based themes while depicting the drama but his clear love of old school Horror can’t help but peak its way through the mix.

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Ti West has built a film career through a low-budget, DIY (do it yourself) style of production and to this day, continues to do so. In A Valley Of Violence is much more like an independent film than a studio one, in terms of the amount of money behind it (in comparison to other westerns), yet somehow West was able to bring this well established group of actors/actresses together for his film. I think that’s a true testament to the type of film maker he is and how people see the high quality work he puts out. The cast is led by a wonderful character actor in, Ethan Hawke. I’ve been a fan of Hawke’s for a long time and before I saw the trailer for “The Magnificent Seven” remake (which he also appears in), I never thought he’d do a western and now somehow he’s done two in a year. His portrayal of a man trying to find himself is admirable and although he doesn’t actually find his own voice or walk/strut, something that we’re used to seeing from our heroes of the west, he still grounds himself nicely. All the scenes Paul shares with his dog, Abby, are thoroughly enjoyable and further highlight why we love our four-legged friends so much. In the beginning, Paul crosses paths with a priest (played by Gorman) and as often is the case, things take a turn for the worse. This introduction really helps set the scene and tone of the film and gives you an idea of what sort of individual Paul is. Taissa (the younger sister of Vera Farmiga), gives an energetic and likeable performance as Mary-Anne, co-owner of the hotel in Denton with her sister, Ellen (Karen Gillan).

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The real surprise here though is the inclusion of John Travolta. Here’s a guy that’s done work in almost every genre, some of it successful, some not but it’s something about this older, more disheveled looking Travolta (which I know is probably mostly makeup), that really suited the role of the “Marshal” perfectly. His lengthy mustache looked authentic and his voice and dialogue delivery was as good as anything he did in his heyday. There’s a lot of great content in West’s script and though the film is a bit of a slow burn at times, the second half of the film churns out plenty of fun sequences that contain a bit of everything. Larry Fessenden’s, Roy, makes an impression with his limited screen time and James Ransone, who I’ve been a fan of ever since Larry Clark’s art house film, “Ken Park”, turns in a slightly uneven performance but his good is quite good. A lot of work clearly went into the costume design and recreating the period authentically. Not only that, but even the set dressings, which may be scarce in volume (mostly due to budget I imagine) but not quality, help to create the world for this tale of revenge to take place in. Most of the action gets underway toward the end of the second and third acts but the gun slinging is a good bit of fun. There’s some brief practical blood on display as well.

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THE BAD

As with each of Ti’s films (maybe minus Cabin Fever 2), the technical aspects are all very polished, so no complaints on that front. I loved ninety percent of the music but the film is occasionally a touch to melodramatic as far as the score goes. Especially when you consider there’s a connotation that this isn’t as serious of a film as you might think, so those over dramatic cues don’t always work. As I previously stated, I enjoyed parts of Ransone’s performance but the character overall was just a pest and someone who Paul wouldn’t have any trouble dealing with in real life. I understand that Gilly was written that way but it’s far more impactful if you’ve got that callous, larger than life leader and he was anything but that. There’s a slight lack of attention to detail in Hawke’s makeup as the film wears on. One sequence essentially sees him take a fall and be left for dead, yet when he surfaces again, he barely appears to have a scratch on him. It’s quite a common problem, especially in Action films where the hero takes a brutal beating but never seems to exhibit the full after effects of that beating. A couple of scenes throughout the film weren’t that important to the direction of the story either, namely a discussion of pregnancy between Gilly and Ellen at an inopportune time. That scene just felt like unnecessary comedic relief. Another night scene features a brief flashback to Paul’s army days but it doesn’t highlight any real significance to him and his dog, or the root of the battle with his conscience. The only letdown with In A Valley Of Violence is some of its predictable revelations but most films have certain events you can see coming in advance.

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In A Valley Of Violence is Ti West stepping out of his comfort zone and delving deep into the world of the wild west and doing a damn fine job of it I must say. I’d heard whispers about the film and most of them were positive but it far surpassed my expectations. The cinematography is impressive and the film is color graded appropriately for the genre and its period. I dug the interesting opening credits and a majority of the films score, particularly the memorable theme. The costume design and set decoration looks good and the inclusion of John Travolta and Ethan Hawke, only raise the films stocks. I liked that Travolta not only played and entirely different character from anything he’s ever done before but also that Ti strayed from the path most often taken, in giving Travolta something different to work with altogether. There’s a lot of great dialogue driven scenes and the bond between Paul and his dog will be something most viewers can connect with. I didn’t fully feel Ransone’s character and some of the attention to detail wasn’t perfect. A couple of sequences could have been cut but as it stands, the film runs the perfect length at just over 100 minutes. In A Valley Of Violence is somewhat predictable but it doesn’t take much away from the overall enjoyment. In my opinion it outshone last years “Bone Tomahawk” ) and is one of the best modern westerns I’ve seen since, “310 to Yuma”. West with another winner!

My rating for “In A Valley Of Violence” is 7.5/10

Don’t Fuck In The Woods (Review)

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                                                        DON’T FUCK IN THE WOODS

THE SETUP

Firstly, I’d just like to say thanks to Concept Media films and Writer/Director, Shawn Burkett (Bludgeon) for allowing me access to an online screener of the Horror/Creature Feature, “Don’t Fuck In The Woods”. Don’t Fuck In The Woods is equal parts slasher film and monster, b movie. A group of friends decide to take a camping trip to celebrate graduating college. While some are looking to party and get laid, Alex (Ayse Howard) hopes to find her friend Meg (Brandy Mason) and Meg’s boyfriend, Luke (played by Scott Gillespie) who haven’t been seen since they ventured into the same woods. The group quickly realizes they’re not alone and must band together to survive an unknown evil. The film also stars Brittany Blanton, Roman Jossart, Nadia White, Hannah Herdt and Brian Cornell. I first heard about Burkett’s film over a year ago and thought it sounded like something worth getting behind. I ended up donating some funds toward the IndieGoGo campaign that made this film happen. I’ve seen a couple of Shawn’s previous films and although I wasn’t a big fan of them, I could see plenty of potential in him. There were issues at play out of Shawn’s control when he first attempted to bring this film to life, yet here we are twelve months on and it’s finally complete.

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Mac (Jossart) and Parker (Herdt) argue over Horror movies at the video store.

THE GOOD

The first thing is quite obviously that crude yet catchy title. Clearly a round about reference to the fact that when people have sex in horror films, they usually die. Back in 1996, Randy Meeks (of Scream) warned us of the rules one must abide by in order to survive a horror movie and let’s face it we’ve never forgotten them. The pretty simple rule of DFITW, is if you have sex you’re probably going to die. Burkett’s written a speedy little film (62 minutes minus the credits) that mixes our love of the slasher sub-genre, with the creature feature element that maestro, Roger Corman made famous back in the 50’s and 60’s. The key location in Burkett’s film is a plush, heavily wooded forest which he showcases using some pleasant establishing shots to transition between his scenes. The inclusion of a sequence in a video store (or more accurately DVD) was great to see and brings back the days when that was pertinent. Given this was a low-budget, independent film there’s some impressive aerial shots used during the time lapses. Shawn employs a nice tracking shot during an apartment scene and there’s also some good over the shoulder shots scattered throughout the film as well. The audio track is fairly decent and all the lighting is consistent, a key factor when you take into account the amount of night shots. There’s some solid 80’s style, bass orientated synth that plays regularly throughout the course of the film, usually to try to build the suspense. Burkett also exercises orchestral cues during the chase/action sequences, a technique often used in 80’s slasher films right before a kill. As far as the music goes, it’s pretty diverse. We get a Hardcore/Metal song over the opening and closing credits, Rock in the middle of the film and even a Ballad thrown in for good measure.

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Lacey (White) getting something she didn’t see coming.

If stereotypical young adults getting naked and having sex is what you desire, Don’t Fuck In The Woods has it in spades. The group of 6 is made up of lesbian couple, Alex and Jane (played by Howard and Blanton respectively), straight couple, Lacey and Conor (White and Cornell), stoner and self-proclaimed ladies man, Mac (Jossart) and outcast horror movie buff, Parker (Herdt). Each of our ladies are attractive in their own right but my favorites were the sassy, Jane and promiscuous, Lacey, both of whom look sexy. Like most guys, I’m a boob man and there’s plenty of all shapes and sizes on display in Don’t Fuck In The Woods, the best being Nadia Whites. Mac supplies us with the comedy, some good, some not so good and then there’s Parker, whose dialogue I liked because it was mostly horror related, perhaps Burkett’s personal commentary on his clear love for horror. The performances vary in quality and not everyone gets their moment to shine but I enjoyed watching Nadia, Brittany and Roman the most. There’s some early blood and gore around the ten minute mark but unfortunately it takes place off-screen. You’ll have to wait until the last twenty minutes to get to the good stuff. I dug that all the effects were practical and there’s one or two impressive and nasty deaths during the last act. Taking into consideration the budget of $10,000 (or somewhere thereabouts), the creature design looked solid and the sharp teeth give it a slightly different look to your classic monster. At the same time, it tips the hat to classic b movies like, “Creature From The Black Lagoon” and even more modern adaptions like Fred Andrews film, “Creature”.

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Jane (Blanton) and Mac (Jossart) coming to terms with their situation.

THE BAD

Most of the issues I had with Don’t Fuck In The Woods were technical aspects, which you can often but not always chalk up to budgetary constraints. Some of the framing in the opening scenes involving Meg and Luke is a little off centre. You get mostly him and little of her and given that she looks so damn fine, the emphasis should have been on her. While I think of it, kudos to Brandy Mason for baring all in this one, she looked great. Often shots inside the tent (which occur on multiple occasions) feel claustrophobic, simply because it’s just to tight of a space for shooting (unless your camera is out the back of it) and it’s a little difficult to get your bearings as a viewer during those scenes. Fortunately as the film progresses, the distance and positioning of the camera gets better and keeps the production value looking pretty solid. Although there’s also a handful of lapses with the focus when the camera is on the move. The only poorly executed effects in this film are a series of green screen shots. They’re spotty, with an odd filter spread over the screen during a sequence that sees the group travel in the car. Even though the score is quite good, there’s a continuous and dreary bass note that lingers over scenes on a couple of occasions, it gets a bit old. Some of the dialogue is rather immature too and the cast a bit stiff with their delivery at times. The conversations between Howard and Blanton don’t always flow smoothly and some of the secondary campers aren’t all that strong. The one thing I wanted more of in Don’t Fuck In The Woods was the blood and gore. With such a short running time, things take a little too long to heat up. Viewers expecting copious amounts of carnage within the first thirty minutes will be sorely disappointed. Very few horror movies actually satisfy my appetite for action, so this issue is nothing new and I try my best to keep in mind, this is a low-budget film so you should too.

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Going in, I had pretty high hopes for “Don’t Fuck In The Woods” and in the end had a reasonable amount of fun with it. I really like the original title and poster art, along with it being a mashup of slasher movie and creature feature. The location makes for decent cinematography and some of the shot choices were nicely detailed and in my opinion, a step above any of Burkett’s previous work. The audio and soundtrack were both reliable and the lighting was another well conceived aspect. You’ve got the cliché archetypes we all know and love, chunks of horror orientated dialogue, a few laughs and plenty of the nudity and sex you expect from a good horror film. The eye candy is definitely a plus and the blood and gore, when it does hit, is more than serviceable for the size of the budget. Some of the technical features could have used some work, most notably the poor green screen stuff and the focus issues. The approach to the framing in the beginning could have also been a bit sharper. I wasn’t a fan of parts of the writing and the killing doesn’t strike soon enough in a film this short and I think that might tease the audience more than they’d expect. Issues aside, horror fans should be entertained and this is by far in a way Shawn’s best work, I look forward to seeing what he does next!

My rating for “Don’t Fuck In The Woods” is 6/10

Presidents Day (Review)

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                                                PRESIDENTS DAY

 

THE SETUP

Firstly, I’d just like to say thank you to Co-Writer/Actor/Director, David Zuckerman for allowing me early access to an online screener of his feature-length, Horror/Comedy “President’s Day” (not to be confused with Chris LaMartina’s slasher of the same name). President’s Day sees a group of ill-fated teens, take a trip to a cabin in the woods to celebrate the annual holiday. Shortly after arriving, outcast, Max (played by Chelsea Taylor Leech), accidentally reads from an old journal, in turn conjuring zombified leaders in the form of past presidents. The groups only chance of survival is to call upon the demonic spirit of John Wilkes Booth (Michael Minto). The film also stars Monica Ricketts, David Zuckerman, Brittany Rosoff, Jud Zumwalt, Benjamin Goodwin, Dax Hill and Mike Ostroski. Zuckerman (a dead ringer for fellow actor, Ben Feldman) has been involved in the film making biz for around five years but this one is my introduction to his work. In horror right now zombies are all the rage. Even as I write this review, I’m sure everyone is still coming to terms with the conclusion of that latest episode of The Walking Dead (a show that I myself do not watch but I hear all about). Zombies are just as frequently the subject matter in the Horror/Comedy sub-genre as they are on TV. I’m not the most hardcore of fans when it comes to zombie related content but I’ll still give most of it a go.

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The group arrive at the cabin in the woods.

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE GOOD

The script for President’s Day was penned by a trio of Actors from the film, Goodwin, Zuckerman and Zumwalt. They definitely take a couple of cues from Sam Raimi’s, iconic “Evil Dead”, through the plot device that brings about the apocalypse (for lack of a better word) being an old journal, close enough to a book. I’m sure Raimi’s film probably wasn’t the first of its kind to be set in a secluded cabin in the woods either, though we can’t help but draw that comparison when we see a horror film with a cabin in it. I really enjoyed the opening credits, they’re interesting and well-edited, utilizing character motion in black against a backdrop of the U.S flag. The cabin itself makes for a wonderful location, particularly because the seasons look mid change during the shoot (hence the sections of snow still about). The framing is really nice, considering most of the internal shots take place in what I can only imagine were small rooms. Most of the shot choices are pretty diverse and the brief scene inside the car looked slick, not to mention the pleasant and easy on the eyes, color grading. Nearly all the dialogue audio is consistent (even with some of the ADR) and I enjoyed the piano ballad during a sensitive scene between Lilly (Ricketts) and Jake (Zuckerman).

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Jake (Zuckerman) and Lilly (Ricketts) discuss their options as they try to outwit the zombies.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our group of high-schoolers are made up of your assorted Horror movie, stereotypes. There’s straight A student and tutor, Lilly and her maybe boyfriend, Clarence (Dax Hill), a film geek of sorts. Now I say “maybe” boyfriend because it’s never really completely clear and she’s not overly affectionate with him at any stage. Then there’s the blockhead jock, Brett (played by funny man, Jud Zumwalt) and his cheerleader, bimbo girlfriend, Ashley (Brittany Rosoff) as well as tag-along, loner sister, Max (Leech). Rounding out the group are motorcycle riding, cool guy, Jake (Zuckerman) and king of the nerds Ruttigger (played by Benjamin Goodwin), whose Brett’s key to passing high school. The performances are mostly decent given the whole film has that campy vibe about it. Both Monica and Brittany look lovely and in this case, more true to life than what you normally see in the film industry. I think everyone does their bit here but no one can doubt that Jud Zumwalt is the best thing about President’s Day. This is a guy that was born to do Comedy and it doesn’t surprise me at all that he was a Co-Writer on this film. His portrayal of Brett is hilarious. With dialogue delivery that sounds like a cross between South Park’s, “Cartman” and Ted Logan (of Bill and Ted), combined with his ridiculously over the top antics, channeling something seen in Adam McKay’s “Step Brothers”, it’s a genuine blast. So much so that in one scene where he runs naked, David himself can be seen almost laughing and breaking character (a fun easter egg).

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A couple of kitted out zombies prepare to attack.

 

 

 

 

 

 

There’s some genuinely good comedic word play on display in Zuckerman’s film. Right from the outset, Brett’s tomfoolery has you shaking your head and asking yourself, Why am I laughing at this? It doesn’t matter, the important thing is that you are (haha). His line, “She’s got an oral exam but I promise she’s coming” is just one of many humdingers throughout the film. Brett’s banter with Ruttigger, who sports a dreadful hairstyle that looks a bit like a dead skunk cross with Molly Ringwald’s do from “Sixteen Candles”, is where the humor is its strongest. Toward the end of the film there’s also some amusing dialogue about the logic of horror movies when it comes to running away. Two characters are trying to escape zombie, Abraham Lincoln (Jordan Leach) and they’re like “Why did we keep going towards the edge when we could have just turned” (haha). There’s a handful of decent practical effects in President’s Day but the film is much more comedic than violent. The highlight was in impressive axe kill with a bloody aftermath. The only thing countering it was a horrible body replica and a painfully obvious wig, neither of which matched the actor at all. During another sequence where someone is shot at close range, there’s visible squibs being used but I still applaud the effort given this is a low-budget film. Both that and the terrible props add a certain amount of charm to this little indie flick, at least in my mind.

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Ricketts, Zuckerman and Minto looking like they’re in a play together.

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE BAD

The opening scene sees a young man hurriedly writing in a journal, the same journal you can assume appears later in the film. The background noise in the beginning is a bit loud in comparison to the narration. Certain musical cues are used to surprise the viewer and elevate suspense, even those are quite loud as well considering this isn’t supposed to be a suspenseful movie. I thought a majority of the score was quite bland and most of it only seems to play as background noise in order to avoid to many scenes being solitary dialogue. The most disappointing aspect of President’s Day is its heavy reliance on sub-par CG, blood and gore and the lack of impactful deaths. I understand this is an independent film, so not everything I expect to see will make it to the screen but when you’re dealing with zombies, it’s got to be better than the competition. A good number of kills in this film take place off-screen and even the aftermath is seldom presented. Splashes of computer generated blood always look the worst, especially when most things can be done practically. There’s a tendency to want to blend separate vfx (like gunshots) with CG blood so it all fits the shot (continuity wise) but trust me when I say the bulk of fans want to see practical blood. If we get that, we can ignore second-rate effects. I managed to pick one minor slip up in dialogue delivery from Actor, Dax Hill, no big deal though because that’s quite common from actors with little to no experience.

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Brett’s (Zumwalt) exaggerated response to the fate of his study buddy, Ruttigger (Goodwin).

 

 

 

 

 

 

Parts of the acting aren’t always great and some of it’s a little to hammy for my liking but each to his own. The intonation in Goodwin’s voice got on my nerves after a while, notably when the proverbial shit hits the fan and Ruttigger’s frantic manner goes up a notch. Rosoff has an impromptu duel with one of the group near the end of the film and some of the delivery there feels a little heavy-handed as well. The Tollbooth operator only appears in the one scene but he fails to hit the mark on his exaggerated send up of characters played by the likes of Tom Bower and Tracey Walter. The only reason the entire scene isn’t a complete bust is due to Zumwalt’s ability to rescue it with more of Brett’s preposterous backchat. In fact, the only scene involving Jud that wore out its welcome, was an elongated proclamation to his sister for a beer. Aside from a couple of funny gags involving James K. Polk (Ostroski), surrounding his frustration with those that don’t know who he is, all the president stuff lacked appeal. Big chunks of the second half of the film contain scenes with the various zombie presidents joking among each other and it feels like filler because it’s just not that funny. Once again, there’s even more downtime when Booth (Minto) enters the picture, trying his best to bring the film back around but by then it’s a little too late. Nothing against the remainder of the cast playing the presidents because they gave it their all but unfortunately the enjoyment just evaporated by then.

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Clarence (Hill) and Ashley (Rosoff) share an intimate moment together.

David Zuckerman’s, “President’s Day” was an interesting but uneven entry into the zombie themed, Horror/Comedy genre. On the technical front, David has a really good grasp of what it takes to present something with a high production value. The intro credits are really inventive and the cabin and its neighboring location looks gorgeous. The camera work and shot choices are professional and most of the audio sounds good. The cliché’ and one-dimensional characters are a deliberate ruse, with dickhead, Brett being the most watchable of the bunch. The self-aware performances work more often than not and there’s a decent amount of genuinely funny chitchat, at least in the first half of the film (which I’ll assume Jud helped write). I applaud the practical effects that were presented but I just wished there were more of them. The film could have used a more distinct score and there’s a couple of volume issues with sound and cues (easily adjustable). The acting takes an occasional dip but even still, the first 50 minutes is a lot of fun but then unfortunately from there, things go kind of south. The scenes with all the presidents become a bit of a grind and the lack of on-screen carnage (at least for this viewer) leaves the last 20 minutes feeling overly long. There’s no doubting this trio of writers have talent and I’m interested to see if they venture into these horror and comedic woods again. In fact, I would have loved to have seen Zumwalt put his two cents into Jim Hosking’s “The Greasy Strangler” script, I think he could have ironed that out.. any who. As it stands, I think I prefer LaMartina’s take on “President’s Day” but if you enjoy the holiday and you’re that way inclined, keep an eye out for this one in the future because Zombie enthusiasts may enjoy it more than I did.

My rating for “President’s Day” is 5/10

 

 

The Greasy Strangler (Review)

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                                            THE GREASY STRANGLER

THE SETUP

This is a review for a brand new Horror/Comedy film called “The Greasy Strangler”, Co-Written by Toby Harvard and Jim Hosking (and directed by Hosking). The Greasy Strangler is about the ongoing shenanigans of Ronny (played by Michael St. Michaels) and his son Brayden (Sky Elobar), who both run a disco walking tour in Los Angeles. They share an unhealthily close relationship that threatens to fracture apart upon meeting Janet (Elizabeth De Razzo), whom they both develop feelings for. This drawback marks the arrival of an oily strangler who stalks the streets at night looking for his next victim. The film also stars Gil Gex, Joe David Walters, Holland MacFallister and Sam Dissanayake. The Greasy Strangler had a handful of producers backing it, including the likes of Ben Wheatley (Kill List and High-Rise) and Elijah Wood (Maniac and TV’s, Wilfred). I initially heard about this film over twelve months ago and it peaked my curiosity, mainly because of the bonkers plot outline and the fact that Wheatley and Wood produced it.

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THE GOOD

Let’s dig in to Harvard and Hosking’s script for a minute because it really is something to behold. I saw a snippet of a review from one of the festivals it was playing at earlier in the year and it said something like, “This movie happens to you” (haha) and I think that’s quite an accurate quote. No if’s but’s or maybe’s, the script is balls to the wall, bat shit crazy and these writers leave no taboo uncharted. Its characters awkward and mundane interactions are akin to something like “Napoleon Dynamite”, even down to some of the line delivery (particularly from Elobar). The vulgar situations and lowbrow humor rival Tom Green’s “best bad” film, “Freddy Got Fingered” and even “Anchorman”, to a lesser extent. When it comes to the eccentricity of the whole thing, Hosking takes plenty of inspiration from the films of John Waters (Pink Flamingos and Polyester) and even more so with his approach to casting unusual leads, much like Waters did with Divine (originally born Harris Milstead). The camera work and shot choices look sharp and the audio track is loud and clear. I dug the light keys throughout the film and the obtrusive 80’s style synth with its repetitiveness, which in this case works. After you see the film I guarantee you could hear Andrew Hung’s, “Fizzy Barf” again and you’d remember exactly where you heard it.

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The Greasy Strangler is a simple 90 minute journey that takes a look at the lives of Big Ronnie and his son Brayden, whom I’m almost sure are both legally retarded (haha). This on-screen relationship will have to go down as one of the most, if not the most, uncomfortable ever to be committed to film. By day, Ronnie and Brayden stroll the streets, leading small tourist groups who are looking to learn more about the disco era in Los Angeles. The mornings usually consist of Brayden cooking his dad breakfast, which never seems greasy enough for the old boy, so he proceeds to chew him out… rip him a new one about it.. etc. The duo’s nights don’t get interesting until Janet comes into the picture, from there, it’s a feeble battle between the two for her affections. I don’t always get personal in reviews but I want to say kudos to everyone involved in this film, particularly the colorful cast who clearly have no shame, agreeing to do a film like this (haha). I can’t fault the performances here, given how awkward everything is made to feel. I’ll be honest by saying I’ve never seen two more out of shape and unappealing guys than Michaels and Elobar. In this case it plays to the tone of the film and is funny in of itself. Nearly all of Sky’s delivery sounds like a cross between Napoleon Dynamite and Ron Burgundy and it’s hilarious. Michael is given a bit more of a range to work with and sounds distinctly like actor, Elliot Gould. De Razzo carries Janet with line delivery like one half of an embarrassingly, childish and lovey dovey couple.

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For some unbeknown reason, Ronnie and Braydon spend all their time at home sitting around in their underwear. They’re clearly comfortable having no barriers or filter between them but that’s clearly not how most of our relationships with our family members are (or at least I should hope not haha). If Big Ronnie isn’t in his underwear, he’s naked, sporting a rather large and novelty prosthetic penis, running himself through the car wash to clean off grease he’s previously covered himself in. Why has he covered himself in grease you ask? Your guess is as good as mine, I don’t know why he does anything (haha). Even when these guys finally decide to get dressed, it’s always into the most hideous, non-gender specific attire. During disco tours they wear pink turtle necks and matching pink chord shorts (which can be seen in the above images). Ronnie likes to wear velvet when he goes out for a night on the town and Brayden usually dresses up in his 70’s, brown colored coat and disco pants for dates with Janet. My favourite gags in the film are so utterly stupid that I couldn’t help but laugh. In the beginning, a group of tourists ask about free drinks with the tour, it’s a silly gag that’s taken to a ridiculous extent (as are most of the gags) but it’s damn funny. Another sequence has an Indian man with a lisp (played by Dissanayake) trying to say “potato” and failing over and over and over again (it has me laughing just thinking about it). Ronnie refers to “cutting cheese” as he tries to catch Brayden out with his flatulence (yes it’s as stupid as it sounds) and their constant “I call bullshit”, “I call bullshit on that” continues to remain funny for most of its duration.

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THE BAD

With this many inane scenes and interactions rolled into one, not everything is going to hit the mark. I think the several harsh uses of the C bomb were out-of-place when you take into account the infantile repetition and behavior of our father and son. Aside from those words there’s not a great deal of profanity in the film which is good. The Greasy Strangler contains a few action scenes and some practical effects, though neither of them are particularly memorable. There’s several eyeball gags but most of the other kills take place off-screen, leaving this one feeling more like part drama and a screwball comedy than horror. I wanted to see some crazy gore effects to go along with on this outrageous ride but alas. At least half of the films scenes stretch to an uncomfortably awkward length and another chunk of them consist of bizarre interactions that don’t drive the plot forward and really weren’t necessary. Gex’s character “Big Paul”, is a blind black man who works at the car wash and he’s a sort of dancing buddy of Ronnie’s, so he fits into the story. Walters plays “Oinker”, Brayden’s supposed best friend. Apart from one pointless and dull sequence between him and the duo, he’s just there to be killed off and never actually spends any screen time with Brayden. Ronnie and Brayden forever trying to out bullshit each other plays as the films running gag. It’s funny up until the end where Ronnie starts naming animals and placing “shit” at the end of them.

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There’s endless sequences throughout The Greasy Strangler that aim to violate you in some way and they more than accomplish it. There’s plenty of stuff I could have done without seeing but I suppose that’s par for the course with a film this left of field. I didn’t need to hear about feces from all three of the main characters, or watch Janet (and in turn Razzo) peeing, as Ronnie brushes his teeth looking like a pervert. Ronnie’s detailed Michael Jackson/ejaculation story to Janet seemed futile and only served as word porn (for lack of a better word). The phone sex scene between Janet and Brayden missed the mark completely and only served to showcase more male genitalia. Let me tell you this, the feminists out there couldn’t complain about a lack of male nudity in film if they saw something like The Greasy Strangler (haha). The oil covered, grapefruit scene only serves to gross you out and makes damn sure you won’t finish that chocolate thick shake you started (just my experience). Ronnie’s addiction to grease is never actually explained and given it’s kind of a key plot point… I don’t know why it wasn’t, I mean it’s even in the title of the film. The consumption of eyeballs is another plot point that comes out of nowhere… maybe in a movie this nonsensical I shouldn’t ask for explanations, I don’t know. Another scene sees Ronnie doing his best impersonation of Gene Kelly from “Singin’ In The Rain”. Only in this rendition, he’s wearing what looks like a figure skating outfit with the crutch all cut out so you can see that fake genitalia yet again.

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In a puerile attempt to aggravate Brayden, Ronnie cuts in on the relationship with Janet and showboats with a continuous chanting of “Hootie, Tootie, Disco Cutie”. The line initially got a chuckle from me but it wasn’t that funny to begin with and the longer it goes on the more annoying it becomes. So after a solid two minutes it had more than irritated me (maybe that was the point) and to make matters worse, it’s briefly repeated again ten or fifteen minutes later. A couple of scenes in particular took me right out of film, the first involving an investigator who Brayden and Janet contact in regard to the ongoing killings. What’s so dense about the whole thing is that the character is clearly just Ronnie playing dress up and trying to disguise himself to his son (awfully by the way). Brayden thinks his dad might be responsible for the murders and wants some help looking into it, yet can’t figure out that this mystery man is his dad. Those couple of scenes were the dumbest part of the whole movie and I understand that was probably the point but it just wasn’t funny. Then there’s the poorly written ending that includes a complete jolt in character motivation and logic, as well as an out-of-body experience of sorts that we see the father and son having while in a forest. The last ten minutes made no sense and strayed so far from its original path but I guess Hosking had the right to take the movie wherever he wanted and I have the right to say I didn’t like where it went.

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The Greasy Strangler was pretty much what I expected it would be, unconventional, eccentric and totally offbeat, in every sense of the word. At the same time, I had no idea what I was really in for because you can never truly know until you see it for yourself (which I suggest you do). I love the retro poster art but the film has been somewhat mis-marketed. Drama is far more dominant in Hosking’s film than Horror is and in the end that stumped me. The script goes places not many others dare to and you have to respect it for that. The camera work and technical aspects are all sound and the obtrusive synth score is one of my favourite aspects of the film. I enjoyed all the performances, as much as one can with a movie like this but Elobar’s,”Brayden” was the highlight, probably because he reminds me of Napoleon Dynamite (who I’ve got a soft spot for). Many props to all the cast for putting themselves completely out there. I laughed at fair portions of the film but the lack of blood and gore left me feeling disappointed. A lot of the scenes are longer than they probably should be and most of the filthy descriptive stuff comes across as cringe worthy. There’s way more dick here than I cared to see (ideally none being that number) and the end of the film lost its way. I can’t really recommend The Greasy Strangler but what I will say, is that it’s truly an original experience and if you like the films of John Waters, I think it’s worth your time. People often ask me why I watch films like this and I say the same thing, if you’re going to do stupid go the whole nine yards. Do yourself a favor and skip whatever Hollywood’s version of funny is these days, fraternity movies with Actors/Actresses who are too old to be doing drugs, binge drinking and all that partying. Instead, If you’re going to watch something that’ll kill brain cells watch something that makes an impact whether that be good or bad.

My rating for “The Greasy Strangler” is 5/10

Candy Skin (Review)

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                                                              CANDY SKIN 

THE SETUP

Firstly I’d just like to say thank you to Writer/Director, Kyle Martellacci for allowing me early access to an online screener of his 18 minute, Body Horror/Mystery short, “Candy Skin”. David Yersin (played by Renny Jachowicz) has recently taken a trip to the doctor’s office, with the hopes of finding out the cause of his sudden ill-health. He’s given relief and told to go home and rest. Shortly after falling asleep, he wakes to realize his seemingly normal existence with partner, Lynne (Stephanie Moran) isn’t what it seems. The film also stars Charles Alexander and Clayton Millette. With the independent film community being a fairly tight-knit one, Kyle knew of me and was kind enough to reach out with his latest short film. After doing a little digging, I realized he was in a scene from a short that Fatal Pictures released called, “Worm” *see review* https://adamthemoviegod.com/worm-review/, as well as also appearing in Brett Kelly’s horrible creature feature “Jurassic Shark” (not to hold anything against him haha). This is Kyle’s fourth short and my first introduction to his work.

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THE GOOD

Candy Skin feels like an idea inspired by the likes of David Cronenberg, particularly films like “The Fly” and “Crimes Of The Future”. It’s a somewhat uneven but intriguing blend of Mystery and Drama with a hint of science fiction about it. This is a Canadian made short and the production value looks really good. Most of the scenes are well shot, the camera work feels personal and everything is framed accordingly. During the opening section of the film there’s a lovely “Twin Peaks” style, synth theme, it doesn’t last long but it sounds great. From there, some clever bass drops help build the suspense. The remainder of the score is a mix of 80’s, Giallo inspired synth and intense vibrato sounds, which accelerate as the narrative does. The sound is the best part of the film and reminded me of some early Polanski films and more recently Mickey Keating’s *see reviews* https://adamthemoviegod.com/carnage-park-review/ and https://adamthemoviegod.com/darling-review/. Kudos go to Martellacci for being able to clear the streets and surrounding locations in order to make this environment feel uninhabited. I’m not sure how you go about doing that in small town Canada but somehow he did. The practical effects and makeup work is of a high standard and took the short in a direction I didn’t think it was heading.

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THE BAD

On the technical front, the dialogue audio could have been a little higher, that said, it’s only being played through standard computer speakers. Like “Pigskin” (another recent short I reviewed), I wasn’t a fan of the rotating camera work conveying David’s sudden isolation in the streets. I understand it serves a purpose in magnifying the gravity of the characters situation, it just makes for a difficult watch is all and my personal preference was to see it established in another manner. There’s also a brief slow motion sequence as David comes under potential threat outside his house, it didn’t really add anything to the film and only confused me. Some of Martellacci’s dialogue feels a little stiff and the delivery from both Jachowicz and Alexander during their interaction, seems a bit forced. Not all the details of the story were entirely clear to me either (could be because I take notes), so it’s probably the type of short I’ll have to go back and watch again at some point.

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Candy Skin is my first foray into the work of Kyle Martellacci and I’m pretty impressed with what I saw. I like the Cronenberg style narrative and the consistent framework and shot choices. The highlights though are definitely the 80’s synth based score and the detailed practical effects and makeup. A couple of decisions down to creative license weren’t necessarily to my liking and the audio could have been a little louder. I’m not entirely clear on all the stories specifics but I was more than entertained and I can see the potential to expand on this story. Candy Skin is currently doing the festival rounds but you can check out the trailer below!

My rating for “Candy Skin” is 7.5/10

Death Metal (Review)

death_metal                                               DEATH METAL    

THE SETUP

Firstly I’d just like to say thanks to Writer/Director, Chris McInroy for allowing me access to an online screener of his 5 minute, Horror/Comedy short “Death Metal”. Death Metal is about Lars (played by Kirk Johnson), a metal head whose lacking in the talent department. One day his father (Michael Dalmon) passes down a satanic guitar said to help one shred gnarly riffs…. but it comes at a cost if you don’t follow the rules, something Lars finds out the hard way. McInroy and Johnson teamed up previously a couple of years back on Chris’s short “Bad Guy #2” which was an absolute blast *see review* https://adamthemoviegod.com/bad-guy-2-review/. I’ve been eagerly anticipating something else from these guys and it comes in the form of a Peter Jackson esq (Bad Taste and Braindead) gore fest.

THE GOOD

It doesn’t take much to peak my interest when it comes to the Horror/Comedy sub-genre. Occasionally you’ll get something that tries a little too hard or doesn’t quite get the balance right but when it’s done well, there’s nothing better than watching a gory humorous romp. Much like in Bad Guy #2, the production value in this one is impressive. The camera work is steady and the framing consistent. There’s also some gentle zooming, aimed to highlight Lars being caught off guard with the events that unfold. The tight and snappy editing works well in such a short run time and the couple of well-timed comedic moments are fun. The design of the satanic guitar was impressive, it looked very black metal and came up nice on-screen. Much like Chris’s last short, Death Metal is all about the carnage and showcasing plenty of those practical effects we all love. Bad Guy #2 was twice the length of this quickie, so there was room to pack in a bit more but the kills here are just as glorious. A healthy (or unhealthy as it would seem) variety of deaths make this a very fun watch.

THE BAD

It’s kind of ironic but the only disappointing part about Death Metal is the death metal itself. I’m a metal fan and the lack of skillful riffing in this one is the same complaint I had with last years New Zealand, Horror/Comedy “Deathgasm”.

Chris McInroy delivers yet again on both fronts in his latest short, Death Metal. He belongs in this genre and if all is right in the world he’ll continue to be able to make these sorts of films. All the technical aspects are well executed, the body count is high and the practical effects are impressive, given the modest budget. This is easily recommended for repeat viewings, the shorter running time the only thing stopping it from being as impressive as Chris’s previous film. Make sure you check this one out when it becomes available, it will riff you to shreds!

My rating for “Death Metal” is 8.5/10