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

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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

Gangster Land (Review)

GANGSTER LAND

 

THE SETUP

Firstly, I’d just like to say thank you to Status Media And Entertainment as well as Producer, James Cullen Bressack for allowing me early access to an online screener of their new Crime/Drama “Gangster Land”, Written by Ian Patrick Williams and Directed by Timothy Woodward Jr. (American Violence). Gangster Land is a story of America’s most infamous gangsters and how they rose to power. Key crime figure, Al Capone (played by Milo Gibson son of Mel) and his right hand man, former boxer Jack McGurn (played by Sean Faris from TVs Pretty Little Liars) are at the forefront of a war with the Irish in Chicago in 1922. With tensions between families on the rise, and personal tragedy striking Jack, all will come to a head in what became known as the St Valentine’s Day Massacre. The film also stars Jamie-Lynn Sigler (HBO’s “The Soprano’s”), Peter Facinelli (The Twilight Franchise), Mark Rolston (The Shawshank Redemption), Jason Patric (Sleepers) and Michael Pare (Streets Of Fire).

THE GOOD

So who else is a bit of a sucker for a good period piece of the crime variety? A sizeable chunk of my favourite films just so happen to fall in either the crime or drama genre, so I was pleased to open my email and discover Gangster Land (not to be confused with 2013’s Gangster Squad). So, Gangster Land is a mostly 1920’s set film about Capone, made on an extremely modest budget and with a few familiar faces attached to it. My earliest film memory of Capone was Robert De Niro’s depiction of him in the 1987 film, “The Untouchables”. If you go back a ways you’ll find that the infamous mobster has been portrayed on-screen ever since the mid 50’s, with Tom Hardy believed to be the most recent actor gearing up to take on the role. Anyways… to the film. I love the era, and with what’s projected on the screen Woodward really makes the most of his limited budget. The audio is good and almost all the foley matches accordingly. From Jack’s opening boxing scene and the sound of gloves on flesh, through to Thompson machine gun fire on the streets outside the families shop, I was impressed with the sound bed overall. Timothy’s regular DP, Pablo Diez does a solid job with his framing and shot choices, nothing fancy just consistent. One of my favourite shots is the establishing one of the city of Chicago, it looks great (but surely had to be a miniature).

Costume designers don’t usually get much love in the form of written reviews, but I like to think of myself as a bit of a trendsetter so I’m highlighting Erica Schwartz’s design work. With credits on multiple feature films like Martyrs (2015), All Cheerleaders Die and Officer Downe, as well as TV shows like, Agents Of Shield and Awkward, Erica clearly knows her stuff. The suits and ties look good, the hats authentic and Sigler’s multiple hair styles for the role of Lulu are stunningly done. The music was composed by Samuel Smythe whose done extensive work in short film. The score grew on me and though there were parts of the film where I felt it lacking, I dug the deep violin and the jazz when it was present. The best piece of music is a mix of french horn, cello and bass but unfortunately there wasn’t quite enough of it for mine. So many people I recognized were popping up all over the place in Gangster Land. Facinelli as “Bugs” Moran, Capone’s rival and it was great seeing him do something a little different. Al Sapienza (another of the Soprano’s alumni) appears as Johnny Torrio, Al’s boss. Even Sean Kanan, who you’ll all remember as the cocky, Mike Barnes (from the Karate Kid franchise) makes an appearance as a corrupt detective. The strongest emotional performances come from Faris and Sigler (playing a married couple), though the surprise packet for me was Milo Gibson. Not only is he incredibly well cast as Capone, he deals best with the specific accent and timing. The amount of on-screen action is serviceable taking into account the budge,t and the practical blood effects look really good.

THE BAD

The choreography for the opening boxing fight looked natural enough, probably due to Faris having had previous fighting experience (we all remember Never Back Down), but upon the second and third fights I noticed neither fighter had their gloves up. Granted I haven’t done boxing, but I know a few people who have and the consensus is that the first and most important rule is keeping those gloves up. Gangster Land is a rather darkly lit film, which can sometimes work in a particular style, but in this case none of the lighting techniques or shot choices are a contrast to anything in the frame. I’ve already touched on the score, the jazz is good but there’s no central theme which is usually required to match it with the best crime films. During the closing stages there’s a time shift from 1922 to 1936. I understand the need for it story wise, but those years elapsed need to be obvious, they need to have aged the characters, something that’s almost impossible to do without the latest technology or the best makeup artists. There’s some fairly average dialogue here and there which does manifest itself in one or two uneventful scenes. U.S born, Mark Rolston tackles an Irish accent by playing Dion O’Banion, no doubt one of the most difficult accents to master. For the most part he’s alright, but there’s that tendency to fall in an out on certain words. Even Faris has to portray his character with a fleck of Italian, albeit American born Italian and just as Rolston does, he wades here and there. I was confused by the name McGurn as well, which sounds far more Irish than it does Italian (though I do recall him using a fake name to stay clear of being condemned). I found it hard to believe that Jack wouldn’t have checked in on his mother at least once or twice given everything that was going on at that time. She’s more or less written out of the film without warning, so to Jack’s little brother.

Gangster Land is unfortunately a bit guilty of being same same. It’s yet another crime film that treads familiar waters but just doesn’t do it as well as some. Think “Gangster Squad” meets the underrated “Live By Night”, only an independent addition to the genre. I love the setting and I think Woodward gets a fair bit right here. The audio is clean, the camera work solid and the music, period appropriate. I think the two best aspects are the costume design and the smart casting of these faces you’ll surely recognize. The acting is mostly reliable and the gun play is a good bit of fun too. I didn’t love the lighting design and some of the attention to detail clearly lacks, most notably with the makeup and the fluctuating accents. Some of the dialogue left a bit to be desired and a couple of scenes could’ve been cut without the film losing anything. As it stands, if you enjoy lesser known films like “Kill The Irishman” and “10th And Wolf” or you love the genre I think you’ll probably enjoy this one. Gangster Land is available on VOD from December 1st. You can check out the trailer below.

My rating for “Gangster Land” is 5.5/10

Bango (Review)

BANGO

 

THE SETUP

Firstly, I’d just like to say thank you to Writer, Comika Hartford for allowing me access to an online screener of her 13 minute Horror/Drama short “Bango”, Directed by Eric Shapiro. Bango centers around suburban housewife, Sam (played by Hartford herself) who brings home another woman (Rhoda Jordan) to join her and husband, Aaron (played by Richard Caines) in a threesome. The uncertainty of the pending situation becomes overwhelming for all three and things take an interesting turn during the night.

THE GOOD

Bango is Hartford’s first screenplay, and tonally speaking one can see that it elicits the kind of conflict ever-present in the works of De Palma and Polanski (especially with films like Passion and Death And The Maiden). It’s an engaging thriller right from the outset, commencing with wonderful narration from Hartford’s, Sam about her thought process regarding the events for the evening. I enjoy films that aim to give you insight into a character early in the piece (obviously this is a short film but still). Emmy award-winning DP, Ian McGlocklin sets the high production value in motion. There’s a series of nice establishing shots in the beginning, followed by an effective slowed frame rate sequence as the trio raise their wine glasses to toast the night away. Everything is nicely framed and the use of several two shots help build the setting well. The mood lighting is perfect too. A series of shots during a conversation between Sam and Chris (Jordan) are depicted with nice yellow lighting that hits the drapes in the foreground in a splendid way. The audio level is neat and clear, and the music (though stock compositions from Frederic Chopin) complements the sense of what the night supposed to be about. All three performances are really good but it’s Hartford that burns the brightest, playing a more complex character than perhaps first thought. Comika plays uneasy and nervousness so freely and the interactions between all three (but mostly occurring between Hartford and Jordan) are much more natural than you’re used to seeing in independent film.

THE BAD

It’s a nit picky thing but Sam’s laugh annoyed me, it was so flaky and odd. I know most inexperienced people might be nervous preparing for a situation like that, but I don’t think you’d laugh in that manner or be so painfully awkward (none the less its great acting from Hartford). I understand the reason behind the hand-held camera approach during the bedroom scene between Sam and Chris was to depict a hazy psyche, but it was a little hap hazard for my liking. I would’ve preferred to have seen some focus lapses, fade ins and fade outs or anything else instead, just because everything was so well shot up until then. I was also hoping for a more definitive ending, though I suppose that keeps events open for Hartford to explore in greater depth.

It was only a week or so ago that I all but completed my best short’s list of 2017, in hindsight, Bango should have been on it (might have to make amendments). Comika’s script is of the highest quality, it’s ultimately about control and taking your life back, so to speak. Shapiro’s directing flows strong, McGlocklin proves his weight in gold with ambient lighting and a lot of nice shot types, and the piano score fits appropriately. All three actors are extremely instinctive, but it’s Hartford with her impactful narration and natural flow that fittingly makes Bango as good as it is. While there were a couple of minor things that could have been altered, I think Bango is the best work I’ve seen from a combined Writer/Actor and I highly recommend everyone give this one a look when it becomes available.

My rating for “Bango” is 8.5/10

Murder Made Easy (Review)

MURDER MADE EASY

 

THE SETUP

Firstly, I’d just like to say thank you to Lock and Key Films and Director, Dave Palamaro for allowing me early access to an online screener of the Mystery/Thriller film “Murder Made Easy”, Written by Tim Davis. Murder Made Easy is an Agatha Christie meets Hitchcockian style, murder mystery about two friends, Michael and Joan (played by Christopher Soren Kelly and Jessica Graham) who have chosen the anniversary of Joan’s late husband, Neil to invite dinner guests over. One by one different agendas begin to surface, and with this many people murder is sure to ensue. The film also stars Edmund Lupinski, Emilia Richeson, Daniel Ahearn, Sheila Cutchlow and Paul Rose Jr.

THE GOOD

Murder Made Easy is Palamaro’s directorial debut. He was kind enough to reach out via the website and request that I check the film out, stamping it as Hitchcock’s, “Rope” meets Christie’s, “Murder On The Orient Express” (which I recently saw the remake of). So naturally, having enjoyed both of those films I was intrigued. The murder mystery sub-genre made famous of course by Alfred Hitchcock, is not so common these days, probably because one is almost always measured against the master of suspense. Murder Made Easy runs just a speedy 75 minutes, but for a one location setting and a small cast, its ample long enough. I’ve seen an abundance of these types of films now, so it’s hard not to notice similarities in individual scenes, tones and the direction. I felt there was a little film noir like freshness about Tim Davis’s screenplay. Davis and Palamaro aren’t shy about openly referencing the struggles independent film makers go through, as well as the trivial nature of things like wealth and popularity. There’s shades of 2002’s “Taboo” (an underrated hidden gem despite two poor performances) about Murder Made Easy, and even a hint of the independent film “Treachery” with Michael Biehn and Sarah Butler. To delve too much into Murder Made Easy would be doing a disservice to the filmmakers and my readers. Needless to say, the film heads in an interesting and unforeseen direction and you’ll want to check it out.

The title credits to Murder Made Easy are in wide print writing in blue font, also presented in Hitchcock esq fashion. Sherri Kauk’s cinematography is quite basic, though nicely exhibited. Opting for plenty of handheld shots and limited movement rather than the conventional cinematic approach. All of the framing is solid and I particularly like the sequence of shots during the time-lapse sequence where Michael and Joan eat their first course of the night. The audio track is great and everything is sufficiently lit too. Sean Spillane’s score is another aspect of Murder Made Easy I thoroughly enjoyed. Spillane previously composed solid themes for “Jug Face” and “The Woman”, both of which were films deeply seated in the Horror genre, so it was interesting to hear his work in this particular style of film. There’s an absorbing bass and xylophone theme that got me hooked in the beginning, later, Spillane introduces smooth jazz (something suited to a nice anniversary dinner) and a suspenseful three note cello and violin motif. A lot of Davis’s script is surprisingly witty and funny, each of the actors having a good sense of timing and delivering consistent performances. Backhanded comments and compliments are where the wit of the piece lie, it’s the special of the day if you will. Without divulging too much, across the course of the night four of the twosome’s mutual friends arrive for dinner (each seemingly connected to Joan’s late husband). College professor and part-time actor, Marcus (played by Lupinski), Vegan and self-proclaimed medium, Cricket (Richeson), Broke Indie film maker, Damien (Ahearn) and self-absorbed best-selling author, Angela (Sheila Cutchlow). Each have their own unique story to tell and do so in varying manners, some more entertaining than others.

THE BAD

A handful of things could’ve been tightened up to make Murder Made Easy an even better film than it is. There’s a seemingly inconsequential intermission that runs for a couple of minutes two-thirds of the way through the film. Other than perhaps hinting at a sign of things to come (if you can make it out), it wasn’t required considering how the film actually wraps. A couple of character interactions run slightly longer than needed as well, most notably with Cricket (mostly because she’s the type of character you can only deal with in small doses). In my attempt to avoid spoiler territory, I’ll just say that I found the final action sequence lacked clear continuity in relation to the angle it was shot from and the culmination of said action. I touched on it earlier but my personal preference for presentation is via a more cinematic approach, regardless of the genre and setting. I’d loved to have seen Kauk employ a few dolly shots, maybe even some macros to highlight a few of the items in question throughout the course of the film (just a thought). While each of the performances were fine, the characters of Marcus and Cricket were neither here nor there for mine. Lupinski’s well to do dialogue delivery is clearly supposed to be an extension of Marcus’s theatrical nature, that’s fine, I just personally wasn’t a fan of it. With Cricket, it didn’t help that Emilia’s tone and performance style reminded me a lot of fellow actress, Leslie Mann (who in my opinion is one of the least funny women in Hollywood). The saving grace here is that Richeson actually has comedic timing, and shows it in spades. The “No, I’m a Sagittarius line” was a lot funnier than it probably had the right to be. The séance scene was where things went too far though and the performance got a little silly and somewhat annoying. The storyteller in me understands the need to depict her as being off in her own little world, but you don’t want to test your audience. In the end it’s simply down to personal preference I suppose.

David Palamaro couldn’t have chosen a better first screenplay to direct and Tim Davis (also with his first attempt) virtually couldn’t have written a better one. After watching Murder Made Easy come full circle, I feel like it should be drawing comparisons to films like Sidney Lumet’s “Deathtrap” and in a big way the aforementioned, “Taboo”, more so than “Clue” or the works of Hitchcock. One can’t deny the similarities to those past genre films, but what I do like is the infusion of some interesting themes. Even in its farfetched nature, Davis highlights struggles that we can all relate to when it comes to interacting with people who are very different to us. How human characteristics factor into the equation. Murder Made Easy has a quick run time, plenty of twists and turns and indie film fans will love Davis’s self-deprecating humor when it comes to the actual film making process. Cleverly highlighting such material through the character of Damien. There’s plenty of humor, the performances are consistent and most of the technical aspects are really well conceived. I think Palamaro could have omitted the intermission and cut a couple of overly long dealings down without the film actually losing anything. There were one or two minor continuity issues as well. Unfortunately, both the Marcus and Cricket characters got on my nerves (despite the good performances) and some of the ending reminded me a lot of a particular murder mystery I’ve seen before. Overall though, Murder Made Easy completely took me by surprise and I think genre fans are really going to enjoy this one. Keep an eye out for the official release, you can check out the official trailer below!

My rating for “Murder Made Easy” is 7.5/10