Here There Be Monsters (Review) It’s time to fight back…

htbm

HERE THERE BE MONSTERS

 

THE SETUP

Firstly, I’d just like to say thank you to Wanderer Films and Writer/Director, Drew Macdonald (Creeper) for allowing me early access to an online screener of his 14-minute Horror/Thriller short “Here There Be Monsters”. Here There Be Monsters is an Australian made film about a timid and tormented school girl named Elki (played sublimely by Savannah Foran McDaniel), who falls asleep during the bus ride home and awakens to find herself at the end of the line where something lurks in the shadows of the depot. The film also stars Jordan Small and Toby Barron as “The Monster”.

THE GOOD

Some of you die-hard MovieGod readers (if such a person exists haha) might remember me reviewing Macdonald’s previous short film “Creeper”, a genuinely disturbing slow-burn Mystery/Thriller, that was, in fact, the best short of 2017 *see review* https://adamthemoviegod.com/creeper-review/. Well, I’m pleased to see Drew right back at it again with another outstanding homegrown piece of work. The film, whilst fictional in nature, broaches some of the current societal issues we’re having with bullying in our schools and the detrimental effects on the victims of that bullying. Young Elki is just minding her own business on the bus home from school and is yet subjected to a barrage of physical and mental abuse from fellow teen classmate Noelle (Small). Sadly Macdonald showcases the worst of adolescent behavior, and what’s more disturbing is that it’s true to form. This is happening to youths everywhere and it shows the dangers of what can transpire if others idly stand by and do nothing. This is DP, Josh Zaini’s first venture into short filmmaking and it’s a successful one at that. His framing is lovely, the shot choices are smart, and the low angles on the school bus are some of the best shots in the film. The night exteriors of the depot are atmospherically backlit too.

Erin McKimm (who scored Creeper) delivers another memorable score and some really sharp sound design here. Early provocative foley techniques effectively generate a sense of uneasiness and help convey Elki’s ever-growing frustration and anger toward what she’s constantly having to deal with.  A lovely section of the score contains somber piano and violin, and then when the situation escalates, the driving synth begins to flow in. The creatures terrifying sound is another facet worth mentioning. A rather inexperienced Savannah McDaniel simply blew me away with her performance. She’s got her eye line right, a truly expressive face, and she manages to hit all the required emotional beats – seemingly doing so with ease. I wasn’t surprised at all to see Steve Boyle’s name (expert special effects artist from Queensland) attached to this project. Boyle’s worked on a number of impressive films (Daybreakers, Bait, and Boar are just a few) and combines here with Toby Barron to bring this otherworldly monster/alien to life. Macdonald times his final dramatic transition in the ideal place and the viewer is also left to make up their own mind about the validity of the creature and what it represents in the scheme of the narrative.

THE BAD

One particularly shocking moment between Noelle and Elki at the start does lead to the smallest of continuity errors regarding the latter and her makeup (at least if what I saw or didn’t see, was right).

I recall giving Drew’s previous short Creeper a perfect score (something I don’t usually do) and I’m very much inclined to do the same thing with this follow-up film. This is simply brilliant filmmaking of the highest order. The issues on display are pertinent, the technical elements are outstanding, and McDaniel has got that raw talent that very few actors possess. The creature is carefully presented and the film as a whole is entertaining, informative, and thrilling in its final stages. I can’t fault Macdonald at all, he’s a guy who budding filmmakers can look to in order to see how it’s done. I feel he’s poised to have a successful career in the industry if he continues driving high standards and production values. With only a couple of weeks left before I compile my Top 10 of 2018 list, it’s almost impossible to see anything dethroning Here There Be Monsters for the best short of the year. Keep an eye out for this one soon, you certainly won’t want to miss it!

My rating for “Here There Be Monsters” is 9.5/10

Advertisements

Mystery Box (Review) It’s the gift that keeps giving…

mb

MYSTERY BOX

 

THE SETUP

Firstly, I’d just like to say thank you to Stockholm Syndrome Film and Co-Writer/Director, Sonny Laguna (Blood Runs Cold and Wither) for allowing me early access to an online screener of his 10-minute Horror/Mystery short titled “Mystery Box”. Mystery Box opens on an isolated island with Moa (played by Lisa Henni), a young woman whose enjoying a quiet bit of fishing, her only haul for the day being a mysterious metal box. Placing it in a nearby shed she thinks nothing more of it, but as nightfall approaches, there’s a knock at the door and Moa discovers that getting rid of the box might not be so easy.

mb2

THE GOOD

I was introduced to Swedish-born Sonny Laguna years back, around the same time he released his feature film “Blood Runs Cold” (one of the first films I reviewed here at AdamTheMovieGod). It was a micro-budget homage to the slasher in the woods trope (only those particular woods were snow-covered Canadian ones) and the end result certainly surprised me *see review* https://adamthemoviegod.com/blood-runs-cold-review/. Sonny followed up with “Wither”, yet another tribute, this time to Sam Raimi’s “The Evil Dead”. I thoroughly enjoyed the practical effects on display and even some of the action sequences, but the film as a whole was rather lacking. From there, Laguna dropped off my radar for a few years, despite going on to make another couple of features during that time. Mystery Box sees him return to the world of short filmmaking. This might be the first time I’ve seen him utilizing more cinematic methods in spite of  budget. The cinematography is made up of some glorious aerial shots of both the boat in the beginning and Moa’s cabin too. The edit transitions with a bunch of nice quick cuts, most of the framing is good, and there are even a couple of smooth tracking shots as well. The audio is clear and the foley work is the best it’s been in any of Sonny’s films thus far. The music can be likened to that of a Lovecraftian style film. Loud horns are eerie and atmospheric synth gives Mystery Box that desired otherworldly feel. This is a one-woman show and Henni does a fine job in the role. Stockholm Syndrome Films have always taken pride in their effects work, and once again, Mystery Box is no exception. This time, Sonny and Co. opt for dirty and greasy makeup and goop and a majority of it works.

mb1

THE BAD

My only real complaint is that the film lacks clarity in regard to the function of the box. The climax plays out in intriguing fashion but you don’t necessarily get the reveal you might be expecting. Also, Lisa has somewhat of an understated reaction to the contents of the box. I expected her to show a little more shock and awe.

Mystery Box is an entertaining and sharp short film from talented European filmmaker, Sonny Laguna. The film is clearly inspired by the world of H.P Lovecraft, with perhaps a little nod to something like Richard Kelly’s “The Box” in there. The cinematography looks impressive, the sound is clean, and the moody synth score further complements the intended tone. Henni is easy to watch and the practical effects are of a high standard. Issues are slim and mostly personal preference in nature. I think Moa’s reaction to what’s inside the box is a little weak and I think the film may have better benefited from some clearer details in relation to the box itself. Small gripes aside, Mystery Box is an impressive short film that genre fans are really going to enjoy. Keep an eye out for the teaser trailer soon!

My rating for “Mystery Box” is 8/10

I’m Dreaming Of A White Doomsday (Review) Tis the season to lay low…

DOOMSDAY_LOW_RES_FINAL

I’M DREAMING OF A WHITE DOOMSDAY

 

THE SETUP

Firstly, I’d just like to say thank you to Reel Splatter Productions and Writer/Director, Mike Lombardo for allowing me early access to an online screener of his debut feature-length film “I’m Dreaming Of A White Doomsday”. I’m Dreaming Of A White Doomsday (aside from being quite the lengthy title) is a Christmas themed post-apocalyptic/horror film about the lives of a mother (played by first-timer Hope Bikle) and her 8-year-old son Riley (Reeve Blazi) as they fight for their survival in the wake of an end of the world apocalypse. The film also stars Damian Maffei (The Strangers: Prey At Night), Holly Andrew, and Shannon Moyer.

d3

THE GOOD

The hand-drawn poster art for Lombardo’s holiday-themed survival film is what initially caught my eye. I didn’t know much about the film going in, but the combination of the end of the world and the holiday season makes for an interesting premise. Now, I’ve reviewed some pretty good post-apocalyptic films over the years, Brett Bentman’s “Apocalypse Road” *see review* https://adamthemoviegod.com/apocalypse-road-review/ is one that comes to mind. In spite of its micro-budget price tag, I’m Dreaming Of A White Doomsday manages to get a fair bit right. The film opens with an abundance of establishing shots showcasing some impressive decorations and Christmas set design. Lombardo managed to do this with less than 5 percent of the budget spent on John Carpenter’s “Halloween”. It begs the question, Where were your decorations, John? (sorry folks and Halloween fanboys but it had to be said haha). Dylan Stern-Courney’s camera work is pretty solid. He employs some nice panning techniques and gentle zooming here and there, as well as opting for plenty of tripod shots in the latter half of the film. The audio track is clean and the score implements a touch of the holiday jingles without overstating it. The highlight is a haunting synth piece that reminded me somewhat of the key theme in Brad Anderson’s masterpiece, “The Machinist”. The art department also deserves some credit for their resourcefulness in manufacturing a bulky and realistic bunker door with such little money. The film’s key location is a basement and that looks fairly well detailed too. The two lead performances are both quite consistent, all the more impressive given that this is Hope and Reeve’s first time in front of the camera. The dynamic between the pair is raw and natural, add a little experience from Maffei and you’ve got a solid foundation. The film contains some practical blood spray but it’s rather brief.

d1

THE BAD

Even taking into consideration the speedy run time of just 71 minutes, I’m Dreaming Of A White Doomsday is somewhat diminished due to its one location and the overall slow burn nature, which ultimately sees very little actually happen over the duration. I think Lombardo could have elaborated on the decline of the environment itself, perhaps eluding to certain essentials dwindling or other resources failing altogether. The food supply is briefly addressed but other than that the rest remains unexplored. The cinematography is usually best when the shots are stabilized. Unfortunately, there are a few moments early on where the focus drifts back and forth and that indecision is a little distracting. The score is good but maybe a touch repetitive, and I’d like to have seen some more foley recorded. The sound of gusty winds is formulated for externals, but at times the sound bed as a whole feels a little hollow. For a sizeable chunk of the film young Riley is nowhere to be seen. The sole focus switches to Kelly (the mother) and there isn’t so much as a glimpse of the young boy. It was quite noticeable because there are predominantly only three characters. The continuity and details surrounding Simon (Maffei) are a little foggy too. He mentions heading out to look for more supplies, and although he appears to return, it isn’t actually shown. There’s no loving embrace or even a general outcome to that particular plot point (Was it in her head?). Unless I happened to have missed something, it seems as if he must have left again at some point (unbeknownst to the viewer). There doesn’t appear to be any fallout from whatever transpired. I don’t know? It was all rather confusing.

d4

I’m Dreaming Of A White Doomsday is a small time indie production competently made by some hard-working people with a DIY methodology. I’m digging the poster art, Lombardo’s setup has its own little spin on the sub-genre, and most of the technical facets are quite well conceived for a film of this nature and budget. Some of the music is memorable, the set design contains attention to detail, and each of the performances is better than I expected. Although it’s only just over an hour, the combination of some slow pacing and a lack of verve do hamper the end result somewhat. Mike could have passed the time better by introducing a few more developments inside the four walls of the bunker to keep it engaging. That said, I quite enjoyed the third act all the same. The film does lack sound design and some much-needed clarity in regard to Simon’s character. All in all, though, this is still a solid debut feature-length film from Lombardo and I look forward to seeing what Reel Splatter Productions does next. If you’re a fan of post-apocalyptic films and indie filmmaking, go ahead and check out the official trailer below!

My rating for “I’m Dreaming Of A White Doomsday” is 6/10

Father (Review) He’s the type of figure you don’t want in your life…

father_poster_03

FATHER

 

THE SETUP

Firstly, I’d just like to say thank you to Co-Writer/Director, Chris Keller for sending me the link to his fifth short film, a 9-minute Horror tale called “Father”. Father introduces us to a young boy named Danny (played by Rodion Kilinc), whose quietly drawing in his bedroom late at night. Shortly after his mother (Rayanna Dibs) and her soon-to-be latest one-night stand (Sam South) arrive home, things take a dark turn. Danny is locked in his bedroom and eventually forced to face the very real demon that plagues his nightmares. The film also stars James Killeen as “Father”.

f1

THE GOOD

Chris Keller has forged a seven or eight-year-long career thus far, working in compositing visual effects on projects like “Man Of Steel”, “Thor: The Dark World” and “The Hunger Games” (just to name a few). Throughout that period he began venturing into short film, doing so with quite some success. DP, Thomas Shawcroft shot Father’s cinematography in glorious 5K, and the image really pops (as is to be expected). All of the framing is nicely conceived and the gentle camera movements make for pleasant viewing. The scenes in Danny’s bedroom are atmospherically lit and provide plenty of suspense to proceedings. The audio track’s clear, there is some big sound design, and the use of keys in the score results in an eerie little theme that feels like something out of a dark fairytale. The demon design and the practical makeup effects are where Father truly shines through though. A decaying corpselike exterior isn’t necessarily anything new (just look to The Walking Dead, among other things) but this trio of makeup artists bring it to life really well (well.. not life but ya know what I mean). Combine its look and sound with Killeen’s sudden jerky movements and restrained advances at Danny and you’ve got a memorable evil.

f3

THE BAD

My only real complaint in Father is that young Rodion, being a little raw/green (in just his second short), lacks consistency with the level of fear he portrays. It’s a tough balancing act because you don’t want a child actor to be over the top or forced, but on the opposite side of the coin, you don’t want to underplay it either. Unfortunately, his performance doesn’t quite progress at the same rate as the level of threat does. That said, it’s by no means enough to take away from the overall entertainment and enjoyment of Father. Also, I’m not sure how I feel about the ending either.

Father is my official introduction to Keller as a Writer/Director and the end result is a rather impressive one. Coming from a visual effects background, it’s clear Chris approaches his work with a high level of attention to detail. The 5K image looks superb, the audio and sound design are both sharp, and the score, while subtle, is rather fitting. The presence of the demon is alarming, and the practical effects, coupled with James’s acting, are the reason this one is as good as it is. If I’m being critical, I do think young Rodion’s intensity wavers somewhat toward the back end of the film, but I have no doubt he’ll further improve with more time and experience. Father is now currently available for viewing on YouTube and you should definitely check it out at the link below, Enjoy!

My rating for “Father” is 8/10

Halloween 2018 (Review) Michael’s coming home…

halloween-2018-poster-1103254

HALLOWEEN

 

THE SETUP

October 31st, 1978 was the night he came home. He, being the evil that is Michael Myers. Some of you may recall that I recently reviewed Director, John Carpenter’s iconic horror film “Halloween” not all that long ago here at AdamTheMovieGod *see review* https://adamthemoviegod.com/2018/08/21/halloween-review-the-night-he-came-home/. Despite composing a thorough breakdown of the film highlighting all its obvious shortcomings (shortcomings some hardcore fans just refuse to acknowledge), I still really respect Carpenter’s original film and how it paved the way for future generations of filmmakers, particularly in the horror genre and its subsequent “slasher” format. Is it a masterpiece? No, I don’t think it is. But I certainly don’t hate it. I just simply can’t ignore the number of issues, which stem all the way back to even the simplest foundation of creating a Halloween themed film but not establishing any cornerstones of the actual holiday itself. Now that’s not being critical, that’s just an essential element you need if you’re going to call your film “Halloween”. Its age tag shouldn’t be an excuse either, because Wes Craven’s rejuvenation of the genre 22 years ago with “Scream”, still more than holds up in just about every department. Anyways, enough about all of that. It’s been 40 years, a tonne of pretty lame sequels, a tonal shift through two of Rob Zombie’s entries, and here we are talking about the highly anticipated release of Halloween in 2018. Halloween is Directed by David Gordon Green (Stronger and Snow Angels) and is a true sequel to Carpenter’s 78′ original. Laurie Strode (played by Jamie Lee Curtis) is now a broken woman living in isolation. After two failed marriages and a now rocky relationship with her daughter Karen (Judy Greer) and granddaughter Allyson (played by Andi Matichak), Laurie must face her fears once and for all, when on Halloween night she’s confronted by the masked figure known as Michael Myers. The film also stars Will Patton, Haluk Bilginer, Toby Huss, Dylan Arnold, James Jude Courtney, and Nick Castle.

h7

THE GOOD

Halloween comes to us from Blumhouse Productions, a company responsible for some of the best horror releases of the last decade. DP, Michael Simmonds manages to re-create some of that visual appeal that was present in Carpenter’s original, while still maintaining a particular contemporary look and feel for the modern slasher audience. The cinematography is wonderfully executed. Highlights include a number of terrifying and sharp profile shots of Michael, slick panning, and a slew of atmospheric POV shots (point of view). Timothy Alverson’s edit is nice and tight and the color grading exhumes the best of both worlds in regard to light and dark. John teams with son Cody to resurrect the infamous Halloween synth theme – man it’s a classic. The score is much more effective this time around because it’s not overworked, it doesn’t cue every single one of Michael’s entrances and there’s room left for the material to breathe. Where is the suspense if you choose to telegraph each one of those moments?  I’m pleased to say that Green and Co. opted against that. There are a number of stretches void of music and yet they manage to effectively build tension. The dramatic themes are also nicely composed. Make no mistake about it, this year’s undertaking of Halloween deserves its slasher crown. In spite of its worldwide success, in my eyes, Carpenter’s original film was mismarketed. Seemingly advertised as a slasher film, where in reality, very little slashing occurs. It plays as much more of a suspense/thriller than anything else.

h8

Most fans were excited about the return of Jamie Lee Curtis, the real Laurie Strode if you will (not to say Scout Taylor Compton’s Laurie wasn’t real) but… well, you know what I mean. To be honest, I’ve never really rated Curtis’s performance from forty years ago, nor was the one-dimensional character of much interest to me either. I understand the intention was probably to keep a simplistic approach to the setup, but you still want to root for a protagonist you like and care about, and I simply didn’t. Let’s just say Jamie’s improved a lot over the years and she’s gone on to make a number of solid films. Her performance as an older downtrodden Laurie, whose living the life of a timeworn recluse, is a very good one. Not only that but it was a stroke of genius casting a dark-haired Judy Greer to play her daughter Karen, so to newcomer Andi Matichak as the youngest in the Strode family lineage. All three are incredibly well cast and have the required level of fight in them to face Myers. There are a few other familiar faces in here, such as Will Patton (Remember The Titans) as Officer Hawkins, Toby Huss (HBO’s Carnivale) as Ray, Karen’s husband and Jefferson Hall (of Vikings). The performances all around are a hell of a lot better than almost all the other films in the franchise. Turkish born, Haluk Bilginer was a much-needed addition and served as a credible vehicle for Michael’s character arc over the course of the years between the original film and this one. Bilginer plays Dr. Sartain, once a pupil of Dr. Loomis (played by the late Donald Pleasence) who was Michael’s original physician following the murders in 78′. The writing surrounding Sartain makes for a fresh perspective on the potential risks or dangers of spending your entire life studying something that simply can’t be explained. I liked that angle.

h5

This latest script, penned by a combination of three writers, is multi-faceted in nature. A majority of the issues surrounding a lack of attention to detail in Carpenter’s original film are all but rectified here in 2018. Let’s start with the raw foundations. As soon as the words October 31st hit the screen at the start of the second act, the holiday is well and truly established. Halloween itself is incorporated into the story through a number of different avenues, none of which required much money to conceive. Whether it be a number of conversations that mention it, decorations on porches and pumpkins exploding, or an abundance of trick or treaters out in force on the streets of Haddonfield. It’s all there, everything you want to make you believe in the world that Green’s creating. Even the school dance is aptly a costume themed one. The importance of simply filling out the world of the film and having Michael blend in with his surroundings cannot be understated. There’s a certain eerieness that’s generated from that. I’m going to assume that actor turned writer, Danny McBride (Eastbound & Down) was responsible for the comedy infused into the script. Surprisingly, it’s good-natured and pretty well-timed. Youngster, Jibrail Nantambu (in his first film) plays Julian, a boy being babysat by Allyson’s friend, Vicky (Gardner). He’s quite a charming kid and a couple of his lines were pretty funny. Huss has his moments, playing the dorky somewhat embarrassing dad To a T, and even the duo of local cops have some back and forth banter in their patrol car which provided a couple of chuckles. The decision to age Michael and have two different actors play him was a smart one. The disheveled look of his mask was a nice touch too.

h6

The pacing and runtime of Halloween are perfect. The proper consideration is taken regarding setting crucial events in motion before the chaos and body count starts to pile up. Normally it’s a strike against any slasher that doesn’t deliver a kill in the first fifteen minutes, but given this is a widely known franchise with a lot of entries I can forgive that. It’s somewhat overshadowed by the fact that you’ve got countless entertaining nods to the original film and a number of others in the series. Notable moments include Allyson looking out the classroom window, shots lingering through a clothesline, the graveyard scene, and one particular character being killed and hung up and left against a wall. Babysitters, escaped mental patients, and references to sibling connections are just a few of the many more. Finally, we get a Halloween film where virtually every single character takes Michael Myers seriously. Even residents of the town are told to stay inside their homes and batten down the hatches. Short of including a news bulletin or a town curfew, not much more could be asked of the writers. Most importantly, Laurie is crafty. She’s prepared for everything that’s coming and approaches the inevitable showdown with a sense of confidence and vigor. It’s a combination that results in an outstanding final twenty minutes that sees Laurie navigate every inch of her home trying to find Myers. It’s darkly presented, perfectly slow burned in nature, and further highlights Laurie’s preparedness. The on-screen violence certainly hits hard too. Maybe not Rob Zombie kind of hard, but still heavy none the less. The film boasts quality practical blood and gore fx and some extremely suspenseful stalking scenes. The killing is often swift and ruthless, especially during a montage of Michael going house to house. Even the off-screen kills usually contain a graphic aftermath and that’s a blast to see.

h2

THE BAD

The number one hindrance with Halloween is the creative license issue that comes when the filmmakers consciously choose to ignore crucial details established in prior films from the franchise. Firstly, if you’re going to attempt to do that then the last thing you ought to be doing is referencing said films, other than perhaps the original. Secondly, I’m not sure why you’d want to disregard the previously explored backstory between Michael and Laurie anyway, especially when the result makes for a far more unnerving context within their cat and mouse game. In this particular sequel, the writers provide us with some passing dialogue intended to debunk the theory of Michael and Laurie being siblings by claiming it’s all just something people made up to make the ordeal seem bigger than it was. Come on guys, that’s a pretty weak out. If the two are related, it’s personal and scary as hell. If they’re not, then why Laurie? Myers has no particular MO, so why her? A couple of pieces of dialogue might have benefited from a re-write. Namely the overly formal use of the term “grandmother”. Laurie is even labeled that way in Allyson’s phone contacts. One might argue that it was to convey the separation of the family, but that only works if Allyson and Laurie feel like strangers, and they don’t. They seemingly talk quite regularly so a simple change to “grandma” would have sufficed. In addition, Laurie’s line “Every night I prayed he’d escape” and explanation “So I could kill him” (I’m paraphrasing), leads to Hawkins reply of “Well that was stupid” and subsequently the conversation ends on an awkward beat. He would have been better to respond with something like “Congratulations, you got what you wanted” (or something to that effect). It has more impact and makes more sense than simply just stating the obvious.

h9

If I’m being nitpicky the older father in the truck with his young son should have been established as his grandfather, the guy was way too old to play that part. Halloween isn’t without a few flat reactions from characters either. Allyson’s phone being thrown into a bowl of food would likely elicit more of a response than she ends up giving (after all she’s a teenage girl). She never really reacts to what she initially witnesses Cameron doing, and then also contradicts herself by showing frustration and disapproval of his drinking and immaturity at the dance, yet moments before makes plans for the two of them to meet up with Vicky and her boyfriend Dave to smoke weed, uh, what?? In addition, it takes laying eyes on Myers and not a friend of hers incapacitated in a precarious position, to make Allyson act. The most obvious example of an undersold reaction comes in response to the demise of one particular and likable character. There’s zero reaction from two others in the moments after it occurs, nor is there anything from them at the closing of the film. The inclusion of a few slow-motion frames highlighting the magnitude of it all wouldn’t have gone astray. Little Jibrail’s reaction to seeing Michael pop out of the closet is oddly comedic and underplayed as well, though he can be forgiven because it’s his first time in front of the camera.

h1

Halloween well and truly exceeded my expectations and has turned out to be arguably the best pure slasher film since “Scream 2”. The cinematography is fantastic, the editing is stylish and tight, and Carpenter’s iconic score is employed in all the right places. There are countless nods for fans of the original, the casting of the family is spot on, Sartain acts as the conduit for the missing years as well as an homage to Loomis, and to most people’s delight Curtis leads from the front and all the remaining performances follow suit nicely. Halloween’s pacing is superb and it boasts a level of attention to detail like no other film in the franchise has. For once the characters actually take Michael seriously. There are a few nice light-hearted moments but the violence is hard hitting and the body count is high. The practical effects look impressive and the final twenty minutes makes for one of the best third acts in recent horror history. I have to say the filmmakers choosing to ignore all the other films wasn’t the best decision and I think Laurie and Michael’s specifics should have remained the same as they always have. A few lines of dialogue feel clumsy, characters sometimes contradict themselves, and on a few occasions the reactions either simply aren’t present or aren’t all that believable. In the end, though, the facts don’t lie. Halloween has just overtaken Wes Craven’s “Scream” as the highest grossing slasher film of all time, and for that and more, it deserves credit. Needless to say, it’s the best film in the Halloween franchise and certainly the best horror film of the year. You can and should check out the official trailer below!

My rating for “Halloween” is 8/10

Vesper (Review) Something is haunting Marge Ofenbey…

v

VESPER

 

THE SETUP

Firstly, I’d just like to say thanks to Amitice and French Writer/Director, Keyvan Sheikhalishahi for allowing me access to an online screener of his 23 minute Mystery/Thriller short, “Vesper”. Vesper places you in a dream-like state as Marge (played by Agnes Godey), a middle-aged woman, shuts herself off from the world in the hopes of escaping her manipulative and controlling husband, Walter (played by Gotz Otto from Iron Sky). Marge seeks counsel from her young nephew Christian (played by Sheikhalishahi himself), but he begins to discover secrets that involve both him and the troubled pair.

v2

THE GOOD

At just twenty years old, Keyvan has already made two shorts and a feature-length film, a wonderful accomplishment in an of itself. Vesper serves as my introduction to the young French filmmaker and it’s certainly an interesting little film. For the most part, Jean-Claude Aumont’s cinematography is easy on the eyes, with all the shots nicely framed and well executed. The internals at night are one of the highlights and the house makes for a quaint setting for this psychological story. The audio track is clean and the subtitles are all accurate. The original score is rather plain, though some of the high-frequency synth notes help to create a sense of otherworldliness. Vesper aims to keep you guessing about what’s at the core of it all and I certainly had an awareness about what the two male characters ultimately represented. All of the performances are good and the respective characters each have a solid arc.

v3

THE BAD

On the technical front everything is pretty well conceived, but if I’m being critical the lighting is perhaps a touch flat in a few frames. My biggest criticism of Vesper is that it is a bit long and rather vague in some of its specifics. Twenty-three minutes is a long short, probably too long. I think Keyvan’s intention was to leave his audience with questions, but the problem is that the resolution feels unrewarding. It’s as if there are supposed to be two different timelines playing out over the course of the runtime, and characters reactions further support that theory. Christian and Marge are in the living room having a conversation about Walter and his ever-growing threatening behavior when he actually comes in and approaches her, yet there’s no reaction from Christian at all. It’s as if he didn’t know Walter was there, something established again in the scene that follows. Why couldn’t Christian see without his sunglasses? Or more specifically why was it painful for him without them? Was that a reference to something that had previously happened to him? It’s those vague particulars that prevent Vesper from really shining. I feel as though you can get away with a fair bit in the realms of a mystery film, but I think it may have benefited had there been some more clarity.

v4

In spite of its shortcomings, Vesper is a nicely presented and effectively enough Mystery/Thriller from a young up and coming French filmmaker. The camera work is impressive, the sound is sharp, and all three performances are good ones. The story is intriguing enough but the lack of transparency took away from the end result. I think the runtime is a good five or six minutes too long and I had plenty of questions surrounding Christian’s reactions (or lack thereof) to various situations. I think it’s certainly worth a look but I’m even more excited to check out Keyvan’s next short film “Nox”. You can check out the trailer for Vesper below and keep an eye out for it soon!

My rating for “Vesper” is 6/10

Hang Up! (Review) Some things are best kept secret…

hu

HANG UP!

 

THE SETUP

Firstly, I’d just like to say thank you to Fatal Pictures and Producer, Zach Green along with Writer/Director, Richard Powell for allowing me early access to an online screener of their 13 minute Drama/Thriller short “Hang Up!”. Hang Up is the fifth short from the Fatal Pictures duo and it sees them team up yet again with actor, Robert Nolan (Silent Retreat and Canswer). Gary’s at his work desk when he suddenly gets a call from his wife Emelia (voiced by Astrida Auza). It’s an accidental dial that proves to be enlightening, as a multitude of dark secrets are bought to the surface.

hu3

THE GOOD

I’ve been privileged enough to have seen and reviewed three other films from Fatal Pictures, each very different from one another, but all equally as impressive. The common denominator between “Worm”, a story about a high school teacher with a narcissistic personality, “Familiar”, where a father and husband suspects something is controlling his mind, and “Heir” a dark tale of a father and son, is the superbly talented Robert Nolan. There’s a reason Powell and Green continue to utilize Nolan and it’s likely because of his range. Hang Up is tonally quite different from Powell’s other works. He primes you for an intense one-way conversation, where you’re simply a fly on the wall, as Gary, a seemingly everyday man, endures a verbal onslaught that reveals some startling discoveries. DP, Michael Jari Davidson (who worked on the two previous FP shorts) brings a mix of simple shots choices to the table (I mean to the actual table the character sits at haha) but he also implements some interesting techniques, such as flipping the camera on its head or using a reflection to frame something a certain way. The black and white photography is something new from Fatal Pictures and I liked it. The audio is clear, and some bass within the soft score makes for a nice change of pace as well. Nolan’s primarily reactive based display is as good as I’ve seen and Astrida has an interesting and sinful emphasis to her line delivery. Richard’s script is certainly adult in nature and deals with some pretty ruinous stuff. A focus on the dying plant was interesting, I saw it as a metaphorical touch regarding the couple’s connection. In a roundabout way, Hang Up has surprising topical relevance with things like the #MeToo movement and other pertinent issues in the world right now.

hu2

THE BAD

My only criticism of the film (and it’s a personal preference issue) is that it should’ve ended after Emelia discovered what transpired. It wasn’t necessary to hear her reaction and I think it ultimately took away from some of the desired impact had she just hung up. Stylistically speaking, the way it bleeds into the credits does kind of work though.

hu1

Simply put, Hang Up is just more superb filmmaking from Richard Powell and Fatal Pictures. These guys are constantly reinventing themselves and there’s a real sense of professionalism about what they do. There’s a dedication to telling impactful stories, each different from the next. The black and white works well, the shot choices are cool, and the audio sharp. The script is smartly written and both Nolan and Auza deliver extremely impressive performances. I do think the last couple of minutes could’ve been cut in order to garner more of a one-two punch finish. Leave some mystery. First and foremost, do yourself a favor and pick up a copy of “The Boxcutter Trilogy”, which features three of Powell’s aforementioned short films. Check out the teaser trailer for Hang Up! because it’s coming soon.

My rating for “Hang Up!” is 9/10