Revenge (Review) Sins never really go unpunished…

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REVENGE

 

THE SETUP

Firstly, I’d just like to say thank you to Alicia Diaz from October Coast PR and Beta Cinema for sending me a link to an online screener of the Norwegian made, Drama/Thriller film “Revenge” aka “Hevn”, Written and Directed by Kjersti Steinsbo. Revenge introduces us to a grief-stricken and angry Rebekka (played by Siren Jorgensen), a traveling journalist whose just recently lost her sister, a previously emotionally damaged individual. In search of answers, she makes her way back to a beautiful waterfront town in the fjords of Western Norway that she’d previously visited years before. It’s there that she meets hotel owners and lovely couple, Morten and Nina (Frode Winther and Maria Bock). Rebekka slowly begins to gain the families trust when they take her in, all the while assimilating with some of the locals who consist of bar owner, Bimbo (played by Anders Baasmo Christiansen) and a troubled young woman named Maya (Helene Bergsholm). Rebekka maps out a plan of revenge that involves catching a predator in the act with a young teen, Sara (played by Kine Jentoft). The film also stars Trond Espen Seim and Rakel Hamre.

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THE GOOD

There’s been a number of impressive Scandinavian genre films in recent years, a couple of my favorites being “Headhunters” and “Flocken”. The latter of which calls to mind Steinsbo’s setting for Revenge. Revenge or “Hevn” as it’s known in Europe, was shot back in 2015 but is just now seeing an official release. The film is a slow-burn dramatic thriller that reveals itself carefully over the course of the 95 minute run time. Right off the bat, you’ll notice how the luscious landscape lends itself perfectly to our seemingly happy couples tranquil existence. It allows DP, Anna Myking to set the scene from the outset with some stunning aerial vision of the mountainous countryside, the quaint town, and its surrounding lake. There are a few nice tracking shots and simple techniques employed to raise the production value and most of the framing looks good. The audio track is clean and all the hardcoded English subtitles are accurate. The music is another real feature of Revenge. The opening experimental pop song performed by Thea Hjelmeland (according to IMDB) is engaging and unique, the vocals reminiscent of someone like Kate Miller-Heidke. A crew of around eight musicians were involved in the lively score. There’s a nice dramatic piano motif in some early scenes and the bass and cello take effect once characters intentions start to come to the surface. Each of the performances is well grounded, but it’s the efforts of Jorgensen whose the backbone of the piece that makes it all work. Bock and Winther have a natural chemistry together and as Rebekka discovers, their characters, as a pair, are genuinely likable. Revenge is ultimately quite predictable, but interestingly enough Christiansen’s character becomes the most important in the film. I enjoy it when a character’s arc takes an unforeseen direction, and in Revenge, it’s “Bimbo’s” who does.

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THE BAD

Even though a bulk of the cinematography is pretty good, I wasn’t a fan of some of the Steadicam work. The askew balance is evident in a few early shots of Rebekka wandering the terrain and going into town. There are a few unnecessarily heavy shadows on actors faces and it’s often bouncing from the corners of the internals as well. Revenge isn’t a stylistic piece of work so those techniques feel somewhat removed. A couple of the key plot devices are rather far-fetched and your overall assessment of the film may hinge on whether you can accept them or not. Rebekka comes to town under a false identity, passing herself off as a magazine writer. Smart, right? So she’s switched on enough to do that but not enough to ensure that she has her bases covered regarding actually selling the lie. She tells Morten and Nina that she lost her luggage at the airport, a mistake unlikely to be made by someone in her supposed line of work, someone who travels all the time. Anywho, no one really questions it so she dodges bullet number one. Rebekka then proceeds to somehow convince Morten, through phone texting, that she is his friend’s daughter, Sara (Jentoft). That might be credible if we saw Sara take her father Ivar’s phone at some point to find Morton’s number or vice versa, he takes his friend phone to get her number, but we don’t see either. If Sara’s name came up in Morton’s contacts, surely he’d think how did she get my number? We see Rebekka briefly meddle with Morten’s phone when he leaves it unattended, but last time I checked you couldn’t pretend to send messages as someone else unless you had their sim card (which the appropriate number is assigned to) because the other part would just recognize the number. The other issue is simply that it’s a risky proposition to play those sorts of games and assume that the two people won’t actually talk to each other at some point.

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The release of the Norwegian made Drama/Thriller Revenge or “Hevn” has been a long time coming. It’s a slow burn piece of poetic justice and Kjersti does a fine job of directing. The setting is absolutely beautiful, the music is aptly moody and some of the cinematography is well-defined. The performances are quite impressive and a couple of the character arcs are carefully structured despite the film being a little too predictable. There are a few shortcomings or personal preference issues I had with the camera techniques and lighting but this is Steinsbo’s debut feature-length film, so credit where credit is due. A few crucial plot points are extremely convenient and perhaps call into question the overall credibility of the foundation and that does hold the film back somewhat. At the end of the day though Revenge is a fine film, and if you’re a fan of dark European cinema you’ll definitely enjoy this one. It’s just been released for a limited theatrical run in LA but keep an eye out for the wider release coming soon. You can check out the trailer below!

My rating for “Revenge” is 6.5/10

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Blood Widow (Review) She’s an emotionally broken killing machine…

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BLOOD WIDOW

 

THE SETUP

This is an official review for the Region 1 (US) DVD of Arcani Pictures 2014 Horror film “Blood Widow”, Co-Written by Chad Coup, Ian Davis and Jeremiah Buckhalt (who also directs). Blood Widow is a modern slasher film about a young wealthy couple, Laurie and Hugh (played by Danielle Lilley and Brandon Kyle Peters) who have just purchased a getaway home outside the city. What they don’t know is that the neighboring property was once home to an old boarding school where a horrific massacre took place years before. However, the sole survivor of the brutal murders still resides in the depths of the long-since abandoned building and when a group of Laurie and Hugh’s friends arrive to celebrate the housewarming, all mayhem breaks loose and the mystery woman fights back. The film also stars Christopher de Padua, Jose Vasquez, Kelly Quinn, Emily Cutting and Gabrielle Ann Henry.

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THE GOOD

In a nutshell, Blood Widow is a prime example of most slashers. What you see is what you get. Buckhalt and Co, who are clearly fans of the now well-established sub-genre, are all about the simple formulaic slasher antics done on a limited budget (estimated at $65,000). Blood Widow might be camera operator, Andrew Barton’s only credit as of 2018 but the film is decently shot and nicely framed. There’s a number of gentle camera movements and the overall edit is pretty good. The score isn’t overly memorable but the use of bass works well in order to create a few suspenseful moments throughout. If I’m honest, the performances are a bit of a mishmash but seeing as this is Peters film debut he does an alright job as Hugh. Danielle Lilley is cute and most of her general dialogue works, but the issue is that Laurie (yet another Halloween reference in a modern horror) isn’t all that likable and yet you’re stuck with her for the long haul. The foursome of Padua, Vasquez, Quinn, and Cutting are pretty raw and they have their weaknesses, but they only really serve to be fodder for the blood widow anyway. Like any worthwhile slasher, the combination of a semi-unique villain (that just so happens to be a strong woman) and a series of entertaining kills is what ultimately makes the film a fun watch. The all white mask and slick leather outfit, with additional black-coated armor plating, give the concealed killer a look inspired by Asian horror. A couple of violent kills are on display in the second act, the likes of which include a neck being slit, along with two decapitations. There’s also a nice early kill for fans who don’t like to wait, though it could’ve used some more blood spray. The big savage finish involving the widow and Laurie makes for a fun finish.

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THE BAD

As is usually expected with independent films some of Blood Widow’s technical aspects don’t quite cut it. The quality of the foley isn’t bad, but the volume is too low in the mix for the impact hits to take effect during those action sequences. The audio levels are inconsistent and the mix of the respective channels is off. The bulk of the color grading varies hugely from shot to shot as well. Exteriors are in low-light due to overcast weather and the interiors that follow are suddenly bright and sun-drenched. Once the film transitions to-night everything looks better. The music choice for the party scene is your usual monotone dance beats, been there done that, give us something different. I’m not necessarily going to fault Blood Widow for lacking originality, most slashers do. In the words of alternative rock band Barenaked Ladies, “It’s all been done”. Still, critics have no choice other than to acknowledge that it’s a genre wide issue. Some of the secondary actors are quite rough around the edges, namely the pairing that plays the Wilsons, the couple from which our young duo purchase the house from. Most of the key characters here are throwaway ones, in the sense that we don’t really learn anything about them, nor do we care. That lack of exposition can work for films that either have a strong protagonist, or where the writers are just looking to raise the body count. Sadly, such is not the case with Black Widow, not when characters like Kelly Quinn’s “Harmony” exist. She’s an old soul with a hippie mentality that just doesn’ seem to fit the mold of the rest of the group of friends. There are patches of weak dialogue, most notably from Laurie. That and she can’t seem to make up her mind regarding the house or her relationship. Initially, she’s totally on board with purchasing the home and then out of nowhere she’s talking with her friends and questioning the decision, ultimately throwing it back in Hugh’s face. There’s a bit too much relationship drama for my liking.

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I’ve had Blood Widow sitting in my collection for a few years so it was nice to finally get around to checking it out. It calls to mind similar indie efforts like, “Steel Trap” and “Bunni” https://adamthemoviegod.com/bunni-review/ and serves its purpose well as another low-level entry into the sub-genre. The artwork looks great, the premise is simple and both the camera work and music are pretty decent. Peters and Lilley’s respective characters look well suited to be a couple and the pair’s performances are certainly better than the rest. Most of Blood Widow’s budget was clearly spent on creating a memorable villain and some fun kills to showcase the practical blood and gore effects. On the downside, a lot of the technical elements needed some fine-tuning and the finished product could’ve definitely benefited from a re-master. The scripts foundation is alright but it offers very little in the way of character arc, that and some of the dialogue isn’t great either. The secondary characters, and in turn the actors, aren’t on-screen that long, which is a good thing because they’re rather weak. Its problems aside, Blood Widow is a perfectly serviceable slasher with a quick run time of just 77 minutes. I can recommend this one to fans of independent horror and the aforementioned films. Check out the official trailer below and if you want to purchase the film you can do so from a number of different outlets.

My rating for “Blood Widow” is 5.5/10

Chimes (Review) There’s a method to the madness…

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CHIMES

 

THE SETUP

Firstly, I’d just like to say thank you to Irish actor, Martin O’Sullivan (Catcalls) and Motum Films for hooking me up with a screener of the 18 minute Drama/Thriller short “Chimes”, Written and Directed by first time filmmaker, Jannine Benkhardt. Chimes opens to a young downtrodden boy (Finian Duff Lennon) sitting in a basement. Head low, knees crossed and looking fearful of his mother (played by Michelle Audrey). Years of abuse later, a now adult, Paul (O’Sullivan) has become a killer. His latest target being fellow church-goer, Mary (Cristina Ryan). How much of who and what we are is ultimately decided by circumstance? And in the face of all of it is there a way to find salvation? The film also stars Degnan Geraghty, Thomas Leggett and Angel Hannigan.

THE GOOD

Chimes has really nice production value for an independent film. Conor Fleming’s framing is consistent and most of the camera work is simple but effective. The audio track is clear and there’s some clever uses of music that work in tandem to complement the on-screen violence. Paul is clearly an emotionally scarred man, that much is evident from the moment he awakens from his bed, current day. Chimes appear to be both a trigger and a familiar haven for Paul as he tries to balance a tortured mindset. The consensus among most psychologists is that trauma is often at the root of all deep-seated emotional and physical problems. For the most part no one is born evil, a notion that’s displayed in this thriller short. The acting is serviceable, with O’Sullivan as the lead, and Geraghty as a Priest, both sharing equal screen time and each turning in solid performances. Cristina Ryan is good with limited material too.

THE BAD

Unfortunately, Chimes as a narrative isn’t quite gripping enough to warrant an 18 minute run time. The film tries to go between time periods, with Paul as a child and showing his connection to the Priest, and then back to him as an adult. There’s no obvious specifics to highlight the early era, nor do those scenes feel like a conventional flashback. The initial interaction between Paul and Mary lacks some clarity as well. I thought perhaps the two already knew each other, after all, they’re looking at each other like they do and they’re attending the same church. It quickly became clear when they started conversing that it was a first time introduction though. When it came to the cat and mouse game, Mary had very little fight in her. In fact, minus a few flat whimpers when she’s captured, she doesn’t once yell or scream for help and that was disappointing.

Chimes is a serviceable debut Thriller short from a young Irish film maker. There’s some good cinematography on display, clean sound and a few nice performances. The subject matter is interesting but difficult to analyse thoroughly in a short medium. I think those uncertain dynamics of Paul and Mary hurt the film and the lack of compelling substance makes it appear lengthier than it actually is. The two timelines don’t have resounding separation and Mary makes for a lightweight protagonist. All in all I still think the film is creative and worth a watch, and it’s great to see more women getting involved in the industry. Keep an eye out for Chimes soon and you can check out the teaser trailer below!

My rating for “Chimes” is 5.5/10

Pledge (Review) Few get in, none get out…

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PLEDGE

 

THE SETUP

Firstly, I’d just like to start off by thanking Stag Pictures and both Writer/Actor, Zack Weiner and Director, Daniel Robbins for allowing me early access to a screener of the new Horror/Thriller film “Pledge”. Pledge is set in the world of exclusive college fraternities, centering around a trio of freshmen buddies who get more than they bargained for after accepting a private invitation to a swanky party. David (played by Weiner himself), the socially awkward geek and self-proclaimed leader of the group, takes it upon himself to manage rush week for his friends, who include the out of shape, Justin (Zachery Byrd) and shy, Ethan (played by Phillip Andre Botello). After meeting with Ricky (Cameron Cowperthwaite), a suave young guy who belongs to a secret society of sorts, the trio are joined by two other pledges as the night takes a turn for the worse when an impromptu hazing session begins inside the four walls of the house. The film also stars Aaron Dalla Villa, Jesse Pimentel, Joe Gallagher, Jean-Louis Droulers and Erica Boozer.

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THE GOOD

From the moment Pledge started, it immediately called to mind something like Tyler Shield’s “Final Girl”, a criminally underrated thriller from 2015 that followed a unique girl and her violent encounter with a group of sadistic teens who hunt and stalk for entertainment. Pledge’s content and setting are vastly different to the aforementioned and are perhaps more likely to draw comparisons to similar films set in the world of brotherhoods (even the film Brotherhood for that matter haha), still, I couldn’t help but feel that same sense of impending dread when it came to this one. It’s quite hard to believe that this is DP, William Babcock’s first time shooting a feature-length film. Weiner and Robbins could have easily resorted to just dulling the image, or washing it out completely in the hopes of pairing the films rather bleak content with matching visuals, but they didn’t. Pledge is a gorgeous looking film with superb framing, evident in the lingering drone shot that opens the film, slowly closing in on a young man whose running through corn fields like his life depends on it. The same sequence than transitions into some really smooth tracking shots and ultimately finishes on a brief but shocking beat. A majority of Pledge takes place in a gorgeous isolated home, making for an elegant backdrop to a subject matter that is anything but. There’s a lot of nice zooming and pulling back with the camera, as well as a few jib shots and some effective slow motion. The audio track is clean and the sound design is aptly built around bass and discordant noises. Jon Natchez’s fusion synth score deserves plenty of attention too, especially that opening track. It’s 80’s in nature but suspenseful, consisting of more dramatic tones rather than just pure energetic electro/pop for the sake of it.

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Zack approaches the material with a level of maturity well beyond his years. Nothing feels contrived, as he’s seemingly always got one foot firmly planted on emphasising the mentality of the alpha male and the dangers of conformity. The combination of Robbins directing and Nik Voyta’s edit, help to authentically encapsulate pack mentality and it makes for destructive viewing in the best way possible. Pledge is very well acted right across the board. Our protagonists all possess different qualities that make them either relatable or likeable, sometimes even both. Weiner’s got smart comedic timing and you can’t help but feel bad for David during his desperate times. As for Byrd, playing Justin. We all know someone like that, he’s the level-headed friend whose easy to root for when the going gets tough. I was trying to work out how I knew Phillip Botello and eventually I realized it was from the recent indie horror, “Minutes To Midnight”. While I didn’t care all that much for the film, his performance was a good one, as it is again here. Ethan’s that guy that’s almost one of the click but not quite. There’s a separation preventing unification and no one really knows why. On the other end of the spectrum we’ve got kingpin Max (Dalla Villa), a young socialite with a sadistic persona who ultimately leads the charge when it comes to the fun and games. It’s a controlled, less is more style of portrayal that works perfectly for the character. Second in command is Ricky. Boy does Cameron bear a striking resemblance to IT actor, Bill Skarsgard, wow. I liked a few of his specific traits and the overall direction of the arc. The duo’s muscle comes in the form of the overly eager, Bret (Pimentel), who happens to look a hell of a lot like American Horror Story’s, Cheyenne Jackson. The script has some nice surprises, such as not revealing certain motives as early as one might expect. That and the character of Ben (Gallagher) makes for an interesting inclusion. Pledge is unapologetic and fast paced at just 76 minutes, that and it pulls no punches with its darkly violent finish. And when I say dark, I mean dark…

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THE BAD

If we’re being particular, one might question why this seemingly smart group of three fail to even ask the most basic of questions when it comes to the fraternity and its essentials. I guess we’re supposed to believe these young men are rather naive, which is fair enough, but if a beautiful girl invited me to a private gathering (looking the average sort I do), I’d be a little suspect, yet no one raises an eyebrow even for a second. The idea behind the concept of a fraternity has never made much sense to me, nor does it appear to hold much weight. I know I’m foreign and we don’t have those factions here but what values are they supposed to instill in you that can’t be attained by other means? All you tend to hear about is the degrading nature of the bullying which comes in both physical and psychological forms. I’m a non drinker and I’m not a “guys” guy either so that’s probably me out (haha). The only other specific of Pledge that could’ve been handled a little better was the twist of events. The reveal is plausible enough but perhaps dueling storylines might have cleared some things up, or at the very least Weiner could’ve thrown in a few extra clues along the way.

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Zack Weiner and Daniel Robbins Indie/Thriller “Pledge” is a film that I’ve been hearing a lot about over the last couple of months, and with good reason. With shades of “The Skulls” and the previously mentioned “Final Girl” about it, and a visceral gut punch finish akin to Jeremy Saulnier’s “Green Room”, Pledge is a masterclass of gritty independent cinema. Babcock’s exquisite cinematography complements the surface value appeal in the world of these young men, Natchez’s synth driving soundtrack works wonders and the sound design is tension filled. Zack’s writing is strong, the acting even better, and given the juvenile characters that occupy the landscape, that’s a difficult balancing act. The pacing is great, and while the violence is limited, it’s still ruthless. The freshmen’s lack of ability to think for themselves remains the catalyst in setting these events in motion and that might frustrate viewers, given that outwardly they look to be more switched on than most. The twist could’ve been further explored, but in the end it doesn’t take much away from what is sure to go down as one of the best independent films of 2018. Pledge is fantastic and I urge you to check out the trailer below and keep an eye out for the film soon!

My rating for “Pledge” is 8.5/10

Blood Clots (Review) Seven gore filled stories

THE SETUP

Firstly, I’d just like to thank Kate at October Coast PR, as well as Hewes Pictures for sending me a screener to their new Horror Anthology titled, “Blood Clots”. Blood Clots is a collection of seven horror themed short films from Australia, Canada, The UK and The United States. I’m going to give a quick summary and rating of each short, followed by an overall rating for the entire anthology.

CLOT 1- HELL OF A DAY

Hell Of A Day is a 13 minute short from Australia, Written and Directed by Evan Hughes and starring Alexandra Octavia. Octavia plays a mystery woman who ends up stuck in a pub while trying to survive a zombie apocalypse. Trent Schneider’s high quality cinematography is a big part of what drives Hughes atmospheric country setting. The framing is wonderful and the shot choices are varied, made up of aerials, slow pans and close-ups. The basement makes for a great location for the climax, that and the pub itself is laced with plenty of smoke/fog to create a dire mood. Mark Farrow’s sound design is incredibly sharp and there’s a nice bass and drum orientated score from Erin McKimm too. The other selling point of the short is some of its impressive practical blood and gore fx. There’s very little on-screen action but the aftermath shots are more than serviceable. On the downside, there could have been some more attention to detail with some of the extras zombie makeup. Alexandra’s acting feels a little restrained in places and I got frustrated with her lack of urgency about finding a weapon or something to defend herself with. Small gripes aside, Hell Of A Day is a really good homegrown zombie short.

My rating is 8/10

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CLOT 2- NEVER TEAR US APART

Never Tear Us Apart is a 7 minute Canadian made Horror/Comedy short, Co-Written by Chris Bavota and Sid Zanforlin (who also directs). It sees two friends, James and Colin (played respectively by Matt Keyes and Alex Weiner) encounter a couple of backwoods cannibals while searching for James’s long-lost relatives. The film also stars James Rae and Leigh Ann Taylor. I thought this film looked familiar as it played out, and then it dawned on me that I remember seeing this 2015 short film a couple of years ago. The comedic tones started coming back to me as James and Colin showcased their natural dynamics. Again, the cinematography and editing here are really crisp. The chase sequence makes for one of the best scenes and all of the color grading looks consistent. It’s very well acted, and more importantly both the characters are likeable, in turn making Keyes and Weiner a funnier duo. There’s a nice on-screen kill in the beginning and a rather impressive practical decapitation that only sees a minimal use of CG. The only lame aspect of Never Tear Us Apart is the “scream” stock sound playing over the title credits because we’ve heard that a hundred times before. Sid and Chris have got a darkly funny but horrific little short in Never Tear Us Apart and I suggest everyone check this one out.

My rating is 9/10

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CLOT 3- BLUE MOON

Blue Moon is 12 minute English Horror short, Written by Airell Anthony Hayles and Directed by Martyn Pick. Three teens are out to lose their virginity at a dogging site in the woods but encounter a gang of werewolves and are forced to fight for their lives. The film stars Madalina Bellariu Ion, Adrian Annis, Brian Hanford and Katherine Rodden. IMDB’s plot synopsis of Blue Moon is a little confusing and the pacing isn’t great. For one, the central character is a seedy middle-aged man with a handheld camera whose attempting to exploit a gorgeous young woman named, Nicoletta (played by Ion). So I don’t remember seeing any teenage boys and I don’t re-call anything about the loss of virginity. Anywho, the films setting in a public place where people have sex is a rather odd, albeit unique choice. There’s some nice gentle tracking shots through the tops of trees in the beginning but a majority of the content is presented via live camera or the handheld approach. The acting is servicable and Madalina is absolutely stunning. Most of the action takes place off-screen but the aftermath of the blood and gore fx look cool. In regard to the werewolf, it appears to be a practical suit, which is always a tick in my column. All of my issues with Blue Moon are technical related ones. The dialogue audio is a little low in the mix and I’m certainly not a fan of the shaky cam stuff on display as the situation escalated. John Fensom’s rapid editing to depict the transformation from human to wolf doesn’t quite compute either. I understand that element is probably down to time and budget constraints though. You do all you can do I guess.

My rating for “Blue Moon” is 6.5/10

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CLOT 4- TIME TO EAT

Time To Eat is a 4 minute Horror short, Written and Directed by Luke Guidici. A mischievous young boy, Xavier (played by Ethan Michael Mora) discovers a monstrous revelation after he follows his bouncing ball down into the basement. The film also stars Ydaiber Orozco. Time To Eat is a blink and you’ll miss it type of deal that pays homage to the likes of H.P Lovecraft and even Roger Corman. The standout feature of this quickie has to be Nathaniel Smith’s fantastic quirky score, reminiscent of some of Tim Burton’s previous collaborations with renowned composer, Danny Elfman. The camera work and framing are both very good and there’s yet another atmospheric basement put to good use. A handful of POV (point of view) shots create a little mystery during the closing stages and the creature aspect, albeit mostly CG in nature, still works well. The only part of the film that makes very little sense is the boys trepidation with entering the basement in the first place, ultimately made null and void.

My rating for “Time To Eat” is 9/10

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CLOT 5- STILL

Still is a 7 minute Horror/Comedy short, Written and Directed by Carl Timms. This English-made short continues the theme of the zombie apocalypse, picking up with a living statue street performer (played by Joe Capella) caught in the middle of an outbreak in Golden Square. He must stay perfectly still and conceive a plan of escape if he wants to survive. What I like most about Still is Timms fun premise, that and the different take on situational comedy which can work well in the confines of the zombie sub-genre. DP, Alan Tisch sets up the film with some great opening shots of the big attack sequence in the middle of the square, there’s also a handful of nice macro shots as things roll on. Matthew Steed’s fusion based score really complements the situation nicely and Capella’s narration puts a fresh spin on the delivery of the material. Good practical blood spray gives the horror fans something to indulge in as well. There’s a couple of brief black and white flashback shots that aren’t necessary and the films closing shot calls into question the continuity (when you look at the direction the crowd approaches our statue man from). Still, still is good stuff.

My rating for “Still” is 8/10

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CLOT 6- HELLYFISH

Hellyfish is a 12 minute Sci-Fi/Creature Feature short Co-Written by Kate Fitzpatrick and Patrick Longstreth (who also co-directed). Hellyfish centres around a missing nuclear weapon that’s currently leaking radioactive waste into the ocean just off of the coast of Tybee Island, GA. A devastating Jellyfish attack is about to hit a group of unfortunate beach-goers whose day of fun in the sun quickly turns to a nightmare. I actually reviewed this particular short film here at AdamTheMovieGod several years back and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Hellyfish has some crisp clear audio, along with some impressive camera work and editing. The digital effects work is quite ambitious and the end result is actually a pretty good one. The mother of all showdowns during the climax reminds me of films like “Frankenfish” and “Boar”. There’s a couple of cute girls in here and each character has their moment in the sun (so to speak). I noticed a few focus issues and some of the depth of field stuff is a little off. Despite the sizeable chunks of action in such a short run time, there’s no actual practical blood and gore which might disappoint some. It would’ve made for a nice addition. Even with its shortcomings, Hellyfish is one of the most entertaining creature feature shorts going around.

My rating for “Hellyfish” is 8/10

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CLOT 7- CALL OF CHARLIE

Call Of Charlie is a 14 minute Horror/Comedy/Drama short Co-Written by Guy Benoit, John Simpson and Nick Spooner (who also directs) and it rounds out the Blood Clots anthology. The film sees a new age Los Angeles couple (played by Brooke Smith and Harry Sinclair) fix up Charlie (Sven Holmberg), an Ancient Evil from beneath the sea, on a blind date. The film also stars Evan Arnold, Roberta Valderrama, Kristin Slaysmith and Bradley Bundlie. Like the rest of the anthology, the technical facets here are all high quality. DP, Adam Santelli has worked on “Fear The Walking Dead” and his ability to frame well and shoot crisply shows that he’s more than capable. The audio track is nice and loud and Michael Cudahy’s lively offbeat score complements the bizarre nature of this particular entry. It’s well acted and the monster design is completely practical, it looks superb on camera. I can’t help but notice that something’s a miss when only one of your dinner guests thinks it’s weird you invited a sea creature to the party. I actually wanted to know more about Smith and Sinclair’s characters and how this “relationship” (for lack of  a better word) with Charlie came to be. The pacing does linger in places so this one might be a little to out there for some but I still found it to be quite a fun watch.

My rating for “Call Of Charlie” is 7.5/10

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Blood Clots is a very impressive horror anthology from a number of really talented individuals, perhaps even one of the best of its kind since 2013’s, V/H/S 2. There’s no inferior products here due to a lot of really consistent technical application.”Hell Of A Day” brings some great atmosphere and is one of the best, “Never Tear Us Apart” has a cannibal edge but remains funny, Blue Moon is your after dark caper though probably the weakest, and “Time To Eat” gives of those essential evil child vibes that go hand in hand with the horror genre. Rounding out the film are a unique “Still”, which is probably the best premise of the bunch, and creature feature doubles, “Hellyfish” and “Call Of Charlie”, albeit tonally very different from one another, equally as enjoyable. There’s a bit of everything here for fans of horror and a number of its sub-genres. Blood Clots is now officially available for viewing on Vimeo and Amazon and please keep an eye out for it soon on VOD (video on demand)! Until then, you can check out the official trailer below.

My rating for “Blood Clots” is 8/10

Teenage Slumber Party Nightmare (Review) This is going to be the best spring break ever!

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TEENAGE SLUMBER PARTY NIGHTMARE

 

THE SETUP

This is a review for the RickMoe Productions Horror/Slasher film “Teenage Slumber Party Nightmare”, Written and Directed by Richard Mogg (Massage Parlor Of Death) https://adamthemoviegod.com/massage-parlor-of-death-review/. Teenage Slumber Party Nighmare picks up with four young high-schoolers who are about to start spring break. Jamie (played by the lovely Kaitlyn Yurkiw) and her friends, Marlo (Lauren Richardson), Trish (Hillary Kaplan) and Casey (Martha Staus) decide to have a slumber party of which will consist of booze, boys and bullshit…. uh sorry, girl talk. What the girls don’t know is that a deranged stalker wielding a power drill has been following them and intends on putting an end to all the fun. The film also stars Kirk Munaweera, Payton John Bonn and Kevin Paynter. I’ve long been a supporter of RickMoe Productions and what Mogg is attempting to create with his love of SOV (shot on video) film making. Regardless of the end result, Richard is an affable guy and there’s always plenty to be learnt from listening to him and his commentary on the DIY approach.

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THE GOOD

I’ve never been one to deceive my readers so the first thing that you should know about a RickMoe Production is that it’s micro budget. When I say micro budget, I mean chump change. Teenage Slumber Party Nightmare was made with a budget of $100. Yes you heard that right, $100 dollars, which believe it or not is twice as much as he spent on his previous feature “Massage Parlor Of Death”. Mogg often works with the same people, makes his own cheap effects and utilizes his home for shooting. He prides himself on being able to create films on minimal time and money (a nod to some of those that came before him e.g Tim Ritter). The hand drawn poster art for Teenage Slumber Party Nightmare looks great, even if the film doesn’t boast that standard of blood and gore. On the technical side of things, the mostly handheld camera work is serviceable and I enjoyed some of the POV (point of view) shots, despite the rear window of the car being wound down when it would’ve made more sense for it to be the front passenger one instead. The natural audio track was much more pleasant on the ear drums this time around, less screaming and therefore less pitching. The acting is about what you’d expect from the relatively inexperienced bunch. Kaitlyn’s performance is the best of the bunch, that and she’s a cute girl too. RickMoe regular, Kirk Munaweera tries hard and the always funny Kevin Paynter makes a nice appearance as a New Yorker pizza delivery guy (even though it’s not New York haha). There are a handful of kills toward the end of the movie but the effects are home-made and consequently look very cheap. The film does have a speedy run time of just 75 minutes though.

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THE BAD

Notwithstanding owning your own equipment, there’s always going to be technical inconsistencies when you’re attempting to make a film on $100. The very opening tripod shot highlights a dirty lens and unfortunately the sun wreaks havoc with a majority of the external shots throughout the rest of the film. Because Mogg doesn’t have a crew (probably due to the cost) he does everything himself and it makes it virtually impossible to block shots, so you end up with bright light piercing into the frame constantly. I’d like to see Richard shoot to avoid the sun more often. There’s a fairly long scene where the three girls are sitting on a porch and it could have easily been shot from the opposite direction and with more cuts so as to avoid the harshness of the sun. Some of the framing and zoom use is a little odd and unintentionally leads the film down the found footage trail, which I’m sure wasn’t the intention at all. Richard does like to shoot handheld and I can respect that simple approach, after all, it was a cornerstone of the shot on video days, but it does however limit variety and the image can become stale. The fight choreography is really quite poor. Perhaps it was intended to be comical, though it would seem out of sorts for a film that is ultimately supposed to be serious. Rob Rochon opts for some high frequency synth notes in the score but they don’t really accomplish much, and the “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” inspired, grandpa mask the killer wears isn’t great either. Some of the actors are guilty of looking into the lens on occasion (whether it be intentional or not) and I can’t ignore the fact that Richard cast Munaweera as a high school student…. the guy’s like 40, not even I can let that one slide. Perhaps an alternative might have been to make him a jealous janitor or groundskeeper? Let’s not even mention his complete lack of stalking skills.

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The two most problematic aspects of Teenage Slumber Party Nightmare are the films pacing and the character of Marlo. There’s a lot going on here that doesn’t make any sense, but that would be at least somewhat forgivable if not for the complete slog you’ve got to endure to get to some pretty scarce action on display in the last ten minutes. It takes exactly an hour to get to any of the good stuff, unless you include two characters whose deaths occur from falling from a height. After having watched the behind the scenes featurette on the Blu Ray, I discovered that Mogg had a different design for this latest film, approaching it with more of a coming of age story in mind. Unfortunately I don’t think that’s what audiences are looking for when they hear the title Teenage Slumber Party Nightmare. In hindsight, that marketing may have been a little misleading. This is an extremely talky film that consists of long-winded conversations of little substance. With weak dialogue and time lapses to further stretch out a never-ending game of “quarters”, the film can be summarised as having pacing issues. Clear continuity flaws exist, such as the girls attempting to tan but none of them are wearing bikini’s, Mogg’s recognizable pink phone isn’t connected when it rings and the killer’s power drill has a chord that we never see him plug-in (haha). These are all silly things that you’d expect were done purposely but they’re still issues all the same. It’s also daylight for a really long time in this film, in fact there’s no night-time shots at all. If the characters offered up something more or we didn’t have to listen to Marlo seemingly stoned it would have made for easier viewing. I don’t want to resort to picking on actress, Lauren Richardson, whom I was critical of in Mogg’s most recent film “Bigfoot Ate My Boyfriend”, because I’m sure she was playing the character how it was written, but it begs the question as to why she seemed like she was equal parts high and drunk. Now I know there was real beer on the set, but still. Marlo’s constantly going on about “the best spring break ever”, clearly she’s set the bar low if the groups idea of that is some hot dogs, beer, dancing and a game of quarters… oh how times have changed. Marlo just happened to be a cringe inducing character that I wanted to die in the beginning, but alas.

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Teenage Slumber Party Nightmare is a throwback to similar micro-budget slasher films of the 80’s and even recent entries like Steve Rudzinski’s, “Everyone Must Die” and Drew Barnhardt’s, “Blood Cabin”. This is the fourth film I’ve watched from RickMoe Productions and unfortunately it’s probably the weakest of the bunch. I love the artwork, the POV shots were good, the clear audio is among the best of the technical facets and Kaitlyn Yurkiw is lovely and enjoyable to watch. Although the run time is short, the bulk of the film feels like a chore. A lot of the lighting is harsh, the zooming is a parameter of found footage camera work, the creative elements are disappointing and the film might have benefited from Munaweera playing a character his age rather than a student. While I can partially forgive some of the stupid continuity gripes, the sluggish pacing and minimal action both ultimately hurt the film. I’m not too sure what was going on with Richardson’s character, Marlo but she drove me insane. In turn, the perplexed delivery throws off the whole performance. I can respect Richard opting for a more mature process in regard to the coming of age story, but I think the slasher content really suffers and it’s probably likely to turn its target audience off. I enjoyed the behind the scenes learnings from Richard more than I did the actual film, and although I’d like to recommend this one I just don’t think there’s enough good here to warrant 75 minutes of your time. That said, if you’re a sucker for micro-budget horror or you’re a budding film maker you might find something more in it than I did. You can check out the official trailer below!

My rating for “Teenage Slumber Party Nightmare” is 2.5/10

Termitator (Review) He’s a different kind of Terminator…

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TERMITATOR

 

THE SETUP

Firstly, I’d just like to start off by saying thanks to the trio of French Candian film makers in, Camille Monette, Roxane De Koninck and Keenan Poloncsak for allowing me access to an online screener of their 14 minute, Horror/Splatter short “Termitator”. Termitator sees four young adults head to a cabin in the woods for a weekend of heavy drinking and partying. What they’re not prepared for is a recently transformed logger whose become an infected humanoid-termite mutant. The film stars Luce Cossette, Nadim Mahi-Bahi, Stéphane Dumais, Sara Piché-Sénécal, Keenan Poloncsak and Rico Beaudouin.

THE GOOD

I didn’t know what to expect going into Termitator (which sounds a lot like Terminator), but it quickly became apparent what type of horror film this was going to be. Co-Director, De Koninck also served as the director of photography and she displays some solid technical know-how. Whilst everything is pretty simple shot setup-wise, the framing is consistent and there’s some really slick shots, such as the one of the loggers boots. Termitator’s photography is aided by a lovely forest backdrop with its very own lake. The film looks as if it were shot in 5K and I certainly wasn’t expecting that sort of quality from a micro-budget independent film. The foley or sound design appeared to be all natural and plenty loud enough in the mix. The acting is serviceable despite the clear lack of experience from the cast. Gore Addict FX, but more appropriately fellow Co-Director, Camille Monette was responsible for the practical blood and gore effects. The film boasts some extremely ambitious but well conceived splatter effects that see plenty of faces melted over the course of the 14 minutes. This team made impressive prosthetic pieces with flaps that they could fill with all types of goo and gunk, making for a colorful but disgusting ooze fest. The kills aren’t necessarily the best but I did like the practical ankle chop. There’s also a half-naked girl with a chainsaw in the movie that plays on the TV in the beginning. She proceeds to castrate a man, its bloody and effective but I don’t think it would’ve taken so long to get through said appendage with an instrument such as that. The termite creature himself (played by the third Co-Director, Poloncsak) looked great. We witness the metamorphosis process that sees him infected by the termites, and eventually it leads to a full head-piece mask for the remaining action sequences.

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THE BAD

There’s a couple of technical issues in Termitator, but that’s to be expected in this brand of independent film making. There’s a number of brief lapses where the camera loses focus and the dialogue audio appears a little low at the start of the film. The volume accompanying the horror movie that’s playing on the TV is a little too loud too and it drowns out the dialogue track. A handful of people were credited for the music, which unfortunately never really settles on just one style. There’s thrash metal and synth, as well as some off beat stuff, resulting in a less than stellar score. The only noticeably weak moment in Keenan’s performance was the awkward scream he lets out during the mutation scene. The dialogue and unsympathetic characters are quite obviously the worst parts of Termitator. The latter isn’t so much of an issue though, because let’s face it, the film is 14 minutes long and audiences are mostly just interested in the action and the effects. However, the dialogue isn’t so easy to excuse. It’s your standard throw away crap that simply aims to only further reinforce what we already know about how much these young adults want to get wasted and do drugs. That’d be somewhat understandable if they were actually attempting to escape something in their lives, but they have no lives. In the beginning they’re shown at home already drinking and doing drugs, so it begs the question, Why the little camping excursion if you’re only going to continue to do what you were already doing? There’s other head scratching details like one of the girls dropping a laxative in her girlfriends beer… uh why? Why would you do that to a supposed friend? The women characters in Termitator acted more like men and it was weird.

Termitator reminds me of  Peter Jackson’s early work like “Bad Taste” by way of the stuff that Italian company Necrostorm put out e.g “Adam Chaplin” and “Taeter City”. The cinematography is pretty polished, the sound design is sharp and most of the acting is serviceable. Gore Addict’s FX are certainly the key selling point, the film almost serving solely as a show reel for their talents. I can’t praise the use of practical fx enough and the creature design is sure to thrill fans of a good fashion splatter film with a monster at the centre of it. Not all of the technical facets are perfect and the score fails to generate any real sense of atmosphere. Big chunks of the dialogue are weak and trashy, and all of the characters are built around the same framework which makes them quite ordinary to watch. In addition, the one girl doesn’t seem to like her supposed friend all that much (otherwise why drop a lax tab in her beer) and the whole reasoning behind the camping trip remains a mystery. Despite it’s shortcomings, Termitator should please the horror crowd due to the copious amount of goo and melting bodies just don’t expect much in the way of character or story. I look forward to seeing what this trio does next! Keep an eye out for this one soon!

My rating for “Termitator” is 6.5/10