90 Feet From Home (Review) The past always catches up with you…

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90 FEET FROM HOME

 

THE SETUP

Firstly, I’d just like to say thank you to B22 Films and Writer/Director, Brett Bentman (Apocalypse Road and Kreep) for allowing me early access to an online screener of his latest feature film “90 Feet From Home”. 90 Feet From Home is a hard-hitting drama about a fractured family. Scott Conway (played by Adam Hampton), a troubled ex-pro ball player, returns home to face his estranged older brother Tommy (Thom Hallum) and their abusive stepfather James Devine (played by pro-wrestler Shawn Michaels). The film also stars Eric Roberts (The Human Centipede 3), Steven Michael Quezada (TV’S Breaking Bad), Dean Cain (God’s Not Dead), Laura Menzie, and Heather Williams.

Jersey-born Bentman, now a Texas-based filmmaker, initially began writing and directing short films back in 2013. It wasn’t until 2016 and the release of his impressive directorial feature-length debut “Apocalypse Road” *see review* https://adamthemoviegod.com/apocalypse-road-review/ that I began following his work. Since that initial venture into the post-apocalyptic wasteland, Brett has made two more feature films. The intimate and controlled crime/drama film “Kreep” *see review* https://adamthemoviegod.com/kreep-review-2/ and a home invasion-style horror flick called “The Night Before” https://adamthemoviegod.com/the-night-before-review-2/. One of the most beneficial traits Bentman seems to possess is his broad turn of mind regarding branching out. 90 Feet From Home is further evidence of that.

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90 Feet From Home is a well-conceived and simple story about the inevitable ramifications of domestic violence. This small-town Texas setting gives the story an appropriately intimate physicality.  DP, Anthony Gutierrez employs simple framing and nice shot choices to help best display character-driven drama. One such discernible moment comes in the form of a clever upshot where Scott is looking down on his stepfather, it speaks volumes by clearly signaling a change in the dynamics of that power struggle. The audio track is clean, and the understated orchestral and synth score manages to filter through without ever feeling like it’s emotionally manipulating the viewer. A few familiar faces appear in 90 Feet From Home so it’s clear Bentman has a great rapport with his actors.

All the performances are consistently good, and that’s quite rare for an independent drama. Both leads bring different properties to their respective characters and they carry themselves well, in particular, Hallum. Actor, Jaren Lewison (who more than passes for a younger Hallum) might just be the best casting decision, playing the role of teenage Tommy in the first act. Hampton’s characters younger counterpart is played by Chase Pollock (who also turns in a nice performance), though I think the two do look significantly different (I pictured someone more like Kevin Makely). Menzie plays Tommy’s wife Margaret, who’s sort of the grounded and level-headed one despite being kept at arm’s length regarding the Conway family history. Heather Williams handles her emotional moments the strongest of anyone in the film and she plays a character that many will identify with. The surprise packet in 90 Feet From Home is certainly D-Generation X alumni (for those wrestling fans out there haha) Shawn Michaels. A raspy, tired and torn Michaels consciously remains self-contained throughout his depiction of the Conway brothers brutish, mean, and alcoholic stepfather. His customary turn to god just further highlights the notion that religion can serve as a convenient vehicle for vindication – I hate that. Experienced heads in Roberts, Cain, and Quezada round out the cast and deliver a memorable moment or two during their short amount of screen time.

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At a touch over two hours, 90 Feet From Home does feel rather long for an independent film. That’s not to say there’s necessarily much content here that needed scrapping, perhaps just tightening somewhat. If I’m being nitpicky, the interior location used to double for the police station didn’t look entirely credible. A couple of the flatter interactions may have been better off being swapped out for some much-needed baseball content. The closest thing we get to any ball playing is James vehemently swinging a bat at an unsuspecting Scott. Now that wouldn’t be so much of a problem if there weren’t a number of mentions of baseball and that fact that Scott made pro. The inclusion of at least one actual game so the scouts could view him would’ve definitely been wise. It’s also problematic that there’s barely a reaction when Conway returns home (despite having made it to the big time no one in this small town seems to care). The timeline jumping forward fifteen years was always going to make it difficult to age the characters accordingly. Michael’s would’ve benefited from growing his beard out a lot more for the latter part of the film, and Hampton could’ve better resembled an older Chase Pollock if he had of gone for the completely clean-shaven look instead.

90 Feet From Home is a surprisingly heavy hitting character piece that sees Bentman spread his wings once again. With elements from films like “Shotgun Stories” and even Gavin O’Connor’s stellar 2011 film “Warrior”, this one tackles an all too familiar shade of violence. The cinematography is solid, the audio crisp, and the score fittingly somber. Aspects of the casting are superb and the performances are really good right across the board. Hallum is wonderful given his limited experience, Hampton wears the anti-hero badge with pride, and both Laura and Heather drive the emotional punch. Michael’s is restrained but wholly effective in his depiction of an incredibly small-minded man. This type of film is so difficult to get made and rarely do they get it right. If you want something with a little more substance I can safely recommend 90 Feet From Home. You can check out the trailer below and be sure to keep an eye out for it soon!

My rating for “90 Feet From Home” is 7/10

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Hunter (Review) Waging war between fantasy and reality…

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HUNTER

 

THE SETUP

Firstly, I’d just like to start off by thanking Skyfire Productions and Writer/Actor, Jason Kellerman for allowing me early access to an online screener of his independent Horror/Thriller film “Hunter”, Directed by David Tarleton. Hunter (played by Kellerman) centers around a young man of the same name, haunted by a tragic past. Once a dominant brawler, now with unresolved PTSD issues and consigned to a life on the unforgiving streets in Chicago, Hunter grapples with the supernatural truth behind what happened to his family and eventually meets Danni (Rachel Cerda), a caseworker of sorts who may just be the key to his personal salvation. The film also stars Leigh Foster, Ryan Heindl, Beau Forbes, and Nick Searcy.

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Kellerman kickstarts proceedings with a gritty cage fight montage that sees a popular and inked Hunter going round for round with various local “contenders”. Cut to a downtrodden and heavy bearded present-day Hunter, who wakes from one nightmare and straight into another – the realization that he’s homeless and now on the streets of Chicago during the middle of winter. What we know is that something violent occurred and it’s now causing Hunter all sorts of psychological problems. Through natural evolution, the film actually becomes much more about the drama than it does its thrills and that threw me somewhat and is bound to do the same with other viewers. DP, Scotty Summers presents us with some nice swift dolly movements and an overall slick look to the image. A stylish upshot of the city skyline and consistently good over the shoulder shots are the films visual highlights. The audio track appears to contain some ADR (additional dialogue recording), but for the most part, it’s a clear recording. The score is most interesting when it’s calling on sharp orchestral tones to build the atmosphere, most notably in the second act. The performances are generally consistent and serviceable, with Cerda the best of the bunch. Rachel’s rawness combined with the character’s good nature certainly makes her the most likable. Kellerman challenges himself by seeing to it that his character run the full gamut of emotions, in turn, delivering some pretty solid moments. Whilst not as threatening as he could’ve been, Searcy, as Volakas, is a welcomed addition with his experience on show in the third act. There are a couple of action sequences that involve some practical blood but they don’t take front and center.

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On the technical side of things, I found a combination of too many quick-cut visuals and static editing that simply don’t give you any time to get your bearings, particularly during the opening act. I think filmmakers often feel a need to utilize rapid or static symbolism in order to convey a fractured psyche, and while that might be the case, it just doesn’t make for great viewing. The lack of light in the “home invasion” sequence involving Volakas and his men made it difficult to discern any of the particulars. On occasion, the dialogue comes across as clunky too. Hunter uses the line “screw off” after having his patience tested by a fellow bum. It’s almost as if he was intentionally trying not to swear, need I say that the appropriate word replacement for that one goes without saying. Danni well and truly wears out Hunter’s name, using it an inordinate amount of times at the beginning of sentences. It’s awkward and unnatural, especially when they’re the only two people in the room. If I recall correctly, Hunter mentions Paul (Foster), one of the mysterious men, quite early on in the piece, although it wasn’t clear as to how he even knew who he was at that point. I always shake my head at characters who do their damnedest to act like lunatics and are still surprised when they inevitably draw attention to themselves. There are at least two examples of Hunter doing that exact thing. The first comes while he’s doing a little recon in tailing young Luke (Heindl), who spots him, and a rattled Hunter hurriedly takes off – not smart. The second is more noticeable as he lets out a maniacal laugh before running from a group of police officers (as you do). I suppose one could argue that his mind has played tricks on him in the past, but the problem is that we’ve already seen a lighter side of him come to the surface in his interactions with Danni, along with his ability to direct that mindset, therefore, it doesn’t make much sense. Details regarding the “mystery men” were scarce and I would’ve loved to have known a little bit more about how that community materialized.

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Hunter is a competently made and fairly polished Horror/Thriller from Tarleton and Kellerman. Certain aspects of films like “The Thompsons”, and even some of the fundamentals in that of “Van Helsing” can be found here. By and large, the cinematography is quite skillful, the audio pops nicely, and the orchestral based score fits the tone of the material. The performances work pretty well and the few moments of supernatural action are decent. Unfortunately, I’d hoped to see a little more in the way of mechanics, something to sink my teeth into better (pardon the pun). Lighting is lacking in certain scenes and some of the visuals weren’t to my liking (a personal preference). A few chunks of the dialogue felt stiff and there were a few too many unnatural uses of Hunter’s name in nearly every conversation. Some of his erratic behavior was undoubtedly fitting, though equally as frustrating and hard to understand at the business end of things. More of a shared approach to the inner workings of Volakas and his men would’ve given me something more to latch onto (pardon the secondary pun… I’ve really got to stop that haha). Hunter is still definitely worth a look and if you’re a fan of this brand of Horror/Thriller I think you’ll potentially get even more of a kick out of it than I did. You can check out the official trailer below and be sure to keep an eye out for it soon!

My rating for “Hunter” is 5.5/10

Le Rouge Est Mis (Review) Who can you really trust?

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LE ROUGE EST MIS

 

THE SETUP

“Film-noir” was a term initially coined by French critics, and was often used to describe American Crime films of the ’40s and ’50s, in particular, the works of prolific filmmakers such as Orson Welles (Citizen Kane), Fritz Lang (The Big Heat) and Billy Wilder (Sunset Boulevard). One of the earliest ventures was Roy Del Ruth’s original 1931 “The Maltese Falcon”, but the first display may have actually been “Underworld” in 1927. Anywho, it’s since become known for being one of the most stylish genres of filmmaking. At one stage it was the most popular type of film being made in Hollywood and you can see the influence firmly established in many modern-day filmmaker’s works. Think Paul Verhoeven and “Basic Instinct”, Curtis Hanson and “LA Confidential”, or more recently Robert Rodriguez and his visual approach to “Sin City”. I’ll jump at any chance I get to talk about some of the lesser knowns that are deserved of more attention. One such film is Gilles Grangier’s 1957 French Crime/Drama “Le Rouge Est Mis”. Le Rouge Est Mis opens with a daring daylight heist – the men responsible, a ragtag gang led by Paris garage owner, Louis Bertain (played by Jean Gabin). The three of his accomplices, Fredo (Paul Frankeur) the one who got the tip, Pepito (played by Lino Ventura), and The Sailor (not sure who to credit) begin to suspect that Louis’s younger brother Pierre (Marcel Bozzuffi), an ex-convict, may have given the men up in order for a leash with a little more slack. The film also stars Albert Dinan, Antonin Berval, Annie Girardot, and Gina Nicloz.

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Le Rouge doesn’t waste any time setting the scene, and that’s a nice change of pace in comparison to the similarly themed French poliziotteschi genre that ultimately put actors like Lino Ventura on the map. The pacing is good and the run time is a brisk 80 minutes. Accomplished cinematographer, Louis Page presents us with nice framing and simple shot choices that suit the narrative, and the audio track/subtitles are neat too. Composer, Denis Kieffer’s film career was short-lived, but he’ll be remembered for this classic score that utilizes a smooth mix of violin, french horn, and saxophone. The performances are solid right across the board, with a stalwart Gabin driving it home. Ventura provides the appropriate amount of menace, Bozzuffi brings a certain innocence to Pierre (but probably only because we aren’t privy to the details of his previous crime), and Girardot’s, Helene is somewhat of an enigma until Grangier deems it necessary to upheave the applecart.

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One of the most interesting plot points in Le Rouge Est Mis is the crafty way in which Louis approaches his interactions with Helene, leaving the viewer to ponder over intent. Part of me thought their dynamic was building to a certain revelation, but nothing came of it and I liked that element. It’s nice to see an active opening that cut straight to the heist, as well as later showcasing the means with which the gang dealt with covering their tracks, both on the vehicle and weaponry front. In the middle act, there’s a well-conceived and brazen drive-by sequence that sees Pepito’s submachine gun put to good use (years ahead of The Godfather scene). In addition, the chase scene following the aftermath of the said gun down is quite a fun ride. Notwithstanding the somewhat of a predictable finish, Le Rouge comes to a highly entertaining close when Louis is forced to make a life or death decision.

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Grangier’s film isn’t without noticeable hiccups regarding continuity and stretches in credibility though. There are a couple of scenes that could’ve been cut, if for no other reason than they don’t appear to have any relevance to proceedings. The first appears to take place at the property of a horticulturist, who from what I could tell, was supplying Fredo with useful garden tips and nothing more. A subsequent scene shows a group of bike riders stopping to help a straggler with a puncture (extremely random to say the least). Perhaps more of a glimpse into the personal lives of the other members of the gang, in Pepito and The Sailor, may have been a better way to spend that time. Something I noticed right off that bat was the seemingly narrow age gap between Gabin and Nicloz (playing Mother Bertain) who look better suited to play husband and wife. I can’t lock down her age but I know he was 54 years old at the time of filming and looks far too old to be her son (at a guess I’d say she looks in between 65-70).

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As for continuity, the biggest stumble is certainly in the lack of clarity surrounding details of the fate of one of the gang members. It comes across as really clunky just due to inferior editing. Helene also tells Pierre to wash up before laying down with her but he never actually does it. He walks into the bathroom, loosens his shirt, and walks back out, slowly sinking onto the sheets of her bed. Why include the line of dialogue if you’re not going to carry out the action? Both the opening heist and eventual arrest are rather poorly staged and therefore equally as weakly edited. There are some stock foley sounds followed by cutaways and that’s about all we get. Even keeping in mind that this was 1957 and things were done a lot different back then, the fact that such a huge amount of unsecured money was being transferred is beyond incomprehensible. No locked briefcases, no armed security, no nothing. Had the figure been hundreds of thousands of dollars instead of multimillion’s, one may have been able to overlook that not so minor detail, but alas. Only further hammering the point home is the ineptitude of the uniformed police officer responsible for holding Louis. The way in which he escapes just screams of lazy writing and it really hurts that third act.

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Le Rouge Est Mis was a very difficult film to track down (or at least a version with English subtitles) but I was pleasantly surprised with Grangier’s stylish Crime/Drama which is ahead of its time. The pacing is consistent, the cinematography quite sharp, and the blues and jazz score one of the more memorable aspects. Whilst the narrative isn’t anything new, the characters are developed enough to be engaging and the dealings between the trio of Helene and brothers Louis and Pierre add another layer. The moments of action are copacetic and the climax brings things to a relatively satisfying conclusion. There’s a couple of disconnected scenes in the middle and Gabin and Nicloz can’t really pass for mother and son and so I’m pleased they didn’t fall back on that too hard. One particular action set piece with the gang in the car was in need of a re-cut to better display what went down so as to avoid debate over what was the eventual cause. A few too many convenient plot specifics involving the money, the arrest, and the police all hamper the foundation of the whole thing. I understand that the film is over 60 years old so these issues are bound to come up more than once. All that said, Le Rouge Est Mis was damn entertaining and I can definitely recommend it to fans of ’40s and 50s’ film-noir, just check your thinking man’s (or women’s) hat at the door first. This is quite a rare print but you can check out the intro clip below and purchase a clear label DVD from “MovieDetective” for around $20 at the following link – https://www.moviedetective.net/.

My rating for “Le Rouge Est Mis” is 6/10

The Cannibal Club (Review) Only the finest meats and wines…

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THE CANNIBAL CLUB

 

THE SETUP

Firstly, I’d just like to say thank you to Uncork’d Entertainment for sending me an online screener of Guto Parente’s Brazilian made Horror/Comedy film, “The Cannibal Club”. The Cannibal Club is a dark and perverse exploration into the elitist world of wealthy married couple Otavio and Gilda (played by Tavinho Teixeira and Ana Luiza Rios). Otavio owns a private security company and spends his leisure time with Cannibal Club members, mingling at parties, or dining on whoever happens to be his and Gilda’s latest caretaker. One night, Gilda discovers something about Borges (Pedro Domingues), the club leader, that puts her and Otavio’s life of comfort in jeopardy. The film also stars Ze Maria, Rodrigo Capistrano, and Lc Galetto.

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I saw the sunny poster art and the contradictory trailer for The Cannibal Club a while back and I thought it looked quite interesting. I’m always keen to step outside the conventional avenues and check out more foreign material. So, The Cannibal Club – well… it’s all in the title really (or so you would think). There have been a number of films depicting themes or scenes of cannibalism, from a gritty exploitative venture like “Cannibal Holocaust” or “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre”, through to the more polished foreign films like “I Saw The Devil” and “Raw” (just to name a couple). This time around though it’s the upper crust committing consumption, and there’s something truly disturbing about witnessing the self-serving, holier-than-thou march to the beat of your own drum types partaking and reveling in the slaying of others. Let’s be honest, Is anyone really surprised when the backwoods hillbilly inbred starts chowing down on part of a fleshy human thigh? No, you’re not, and you know why? Because you’ve had time to prepare yourself for it, you even expect it, and although you don’t want to judge a book by its discolored cover, deep down you know its damaged goods. Here, Otavio and Gilda live a life of luxury, and they certainly look the part, so who would suspect them of such wickedness?

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The couples villa and beachfront paradise make for a nice location, even if it isn’t taken full advantage of coverage wise. Lucas Barbi’s cinematography is steady and stylish, everything nicely framed and all the two shots are slickly presented. Composer, Fernando Catatau is a relative newcomer (to film) but brings about an eclectic group of themes to The Cannibal Club. It’s a jazz/blues orientated score with french horn taking front and center for a bulk of the runtime. There are frantic moments of eerie keys during the third act and some interesting fusion drum and synth that fits a sort of live show scene. The film is well acted, and plenty of credit should go to both Tavinho and Ana for baring all and putting themselves out there for a couple of unnecessarily graphic and crude scenes. Being a foreign film, it should come as no surprise that the multiple sex scenes are graphic and portrayed realistically (although I don’t think the shock value money shot was needed). It doesn’t take long for The Cannibal Club to serve up its entrée, doing so in the form of a sexually charged kill mid-thrust, followed by a disturbingly real dismemberment (shown from a distance but still bold). The practical blood and gore fx are impressive although they could be considered scarce given the title of the film. The climax (not that kind…) lacked clarity in terms of its specifics but it was still enjoyable, and in a way probably fitting.

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The Cannibal Club is only 80 minutes long (including credits) but the pacing still feels a bit off, no doubt magnified by the spates of downtime in the middle act. The lengthy exchange between Gilda and Borges in his office, regarding the fallout of events from the party, could’ve been halved and still sufficiently summarised. I thought the vocal performance at the party was quite weak and even a little flat in places and the music could be pulled back in the mix just a bit. Aside from a number of questions I was left with about the club and its overall purpose, Otavio’s meek, tepid water like persona rising to the surface early in proceedings proves to be contradictory to what we’ve previously witnessed, in turn, calling into question the validity of those initial convictions. Whereas at least Gilda has a backbone, a willingness to position the pieces on her board where they need be so she can maintain control. The film requires more of that take no prisoners alpha male presence and the violence that one would expect from these powerful people. I was left a little cold by the lack of exposition regarding the club too. Other than a thinly outlined mantra from Borges about wearing your stripes proudly, we learn absolutely nothing about this club, its culture or how it came to fruition. Couple that with the absence of any further violence (until the end) and you’ve got somewhat of an unfulfilling end result. There are several mentions of a character named Clovis (Capistrano) and some sort of betrayal of the club although I don’t recall seeing anything of note (perhaps upon a second viewing I’ll get whatever was missed). The reasons for the implode don’t make a whole lot of sense either. Gilda’s reaction to what she witnesses doesn’t scream of concern, more of disappointment. Which begs the question as to why it bothered her enough to schedule a meeting with Borges? If she didn’t raise it he may have never accosted her. It wasn’t as if he was a potential meal for her and Otavio to consume.

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The Cannibal Club is a polished and competently made Horror/Comedy from a young Brazilian filmmaker in Parente. The sun-soaked imagery and darkly satirical vibe mixed the displeasure of cannibalism initially had me intrigued. The cinematography is high in production value, the score is a little different, and the performances are all solid. There is some impressive practical fx on display but the action isn’t as widespread as one might hope. On the downside, the pacing could have used some work, the score is too loud, and Otavio’s core characteristics negate the credibility behind his early actions. With little detail given about the club itself and Gilda’s peculiar approach to Borges personal life, things don’t quite come together as smoothly as they should. The Cannibal Club is quite entertaining but it simply doesn’t have a clear enough voice to get over the sounds of the crowd. You can check out the official trailer below and the film will be available in limited theatres March 1st and on VOD March 5th!

My rating for “The Cannibal Club” is 5/10

Dry Blood (Review) Isolation can be hazardous to your health…

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DRY BLOOD

 

THE SETUP

Firstly, I’d just like to start off by thanking Business Lunch Productions and Director, Kelton Jones for allowing me access to an online screener of his debut feature-length film “Dry Blood”. Dry Blood is a confined psychological Horror/Thriller about Brian (played by Clint Carney, who also wrote the screenplay) an alcoholic and drug addict who’s just relapsed yet again. With plans to get sober once and for all, Brian heads to a lakeside cabin that he shares ownership of with his ex-wife (Rin Ehlers). It’s there that he encounters a strange sheriff (played by Jones himself) and attempts to reconnect with a friend/old flame named Anna (Jaymie Valentine) whilst battling to keep his psyche in check. The film also stars Graham Sheldon, Robert Galluzzo, and Macy Johnson.

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Dry Blood had quite the successful festival campaign in 2018, garnering plenty of selections, nominations, and awards for both acting/writing and directing. I didn’t know a lot about the film prior to viewing it but I’m always keen to support independent work. Carney’s contained approach is certainly a smart one, especially when you’re working with limited funds and resources. Dry Blood is mostly psychological in nature and primarily only consists of two characters. The lakeside cabin locale has long been commonplace for the genre, but this particular wooded haven happens to have some character to it. The slanted roofing, the hidden frills, and the crawlspace make for interesting characteristics. The film’s audio track is nice and clear and the music is by Carney’s “System Syn”. It includes the likes of dramatic keys during the intro, and a drum and synth theme to build suspense as the situation escalates. The general score is often made up of individual distant piano notes, it’s rather striking. Dry Blood has some of the best use of natural light that I’ve seen in a low-budget venture for quite a while. Daylight seeping through the kitchen windows and the door awnings makes for some gorgeous interiors.

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Graham Sheldon’s cinematography is surprisingly eloquent – all the more impressive is that this is his first time shooting a feature. He sets things up nicely with a series of eclectic establishing shots and utilizes some blurred and warping imagery in order to depict Brian’s intoxicated state from the outset. There’s a lot of steady movements and crisp panning and I particularly like some of the tight shots taken from under the cabin.  Carney’s on-screen for almost the entire run time and does a serviceable job of what is clearly a demanding role. I think it’s Jones who delivers the most well-rounded performance though – benefitted by the fact that the sheriff is at the very least interesting, arousing the viewer’s suspicions. Credit must go to Chad Engel and Sioux Sinclair for their superb special fx work. Dry Blood boasts realistic practical blood and gore when it comes to the action. Brian’s head has a habit of playing tricks on him and the images depicted showcase this duo’s prosthetic work. Things eventually come to a head during the third act, doing so in a rather brutal fashion. The likes of which involve guns, knives, and even a beer bottle (that one will make you cringe).

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Dry Blood can accurately be described as a slow burn, even at just 80 minutes there feels like a little too much padding was added in order to get it to feature-length running time. An increase in suspense might have been a way to break up those limitations that usually come about due to a lack of time and funds. As it stands, the repetition makes it a bit of a chore to get through at times. The film is guilty of having a couple of telegraphed jump scares and overall it does lack tension. Carney may have written scenes a certain way but they don’t necessarily translate with the same level of impact e.g being Brian’s fear quickly turning to inferior whimpering after he’s seen a spirit. There are a few forced lines of dialogue and I think Kelton and Co could’ve done a little more with their foley work in order to heighten the atmosphere. The emotional surges are oftentimes where the inexperience of the cast shows. Carney wanes when it comes to the crying and most of Valentine’s delivery lacks conviction, though that may have been the intent if her character was a little on the wishy-washy side. Being of a subconscious nature, I figured I’d be left with a few questions at the end but I really didn’t get a whole lot of clarity on events that transpired (or didn’t). How did Anna even get to the mountain town? It didn’t strike me as a place that public transport called on, Was Alecia related to Brian and is that why he saw her clothing at the cabin when he arrived? Who or what was the sheriff? Just a manifestation of Brian’s? Or was it as I perceived, that everything had already previously happened and he just couldn’t remember any of it? Make of those points what you will.

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I read a couple of mind-boggling reviews for Dry Blood that virtually liken the quality to an inferior student film endeavor, a critique that’s entirely unjustified and rather disrespectful to those involved. I’m not entirely sure your average movie-goer knows what goes into making a film, that and the preconceived notion that the majority of independents have endless amounts of time and money to spend on their projects (which just simply isn’t the case). Dry Blood can be more accurately described as bearing small time comparisons to the likes of David Koepp’s “Secret Window”, perhaps by way of Benson and Moorhead’s “Resolution”. Production value well and truly eclipses your average low-budget venture, the location lends itself to some great cinematography, and the score rests on a number of equally effective tones. Jones is strong despite the character’s one-note reach and Carney does his best to maintain a heightened intensity. The practical blood and gore fx during the final act are where Dry Blood really shines. The downside is that the films slow-burn nature renders it somewhat of a chore in certain sections. It lacks suspense due to some flat reactionary content and the odd predictable jump scare. Jaymie’s performance is guilty of lacking energy and the remaining ambiguity left me feeling a little dissatisfied. With all that said, Kelton and Co showcase ample know-how and the end result is a fine debut feature-length genre film. If you’re a fan of psychological and intimate horror I’d suggest giving Dry Blood a spin. It’s now available on DVD and Blu Ray as well as various online streaming platforms. You can check out the official trailer below!

My rating for “Dry Blood” is 6/10

Imposter (Review) A picture says a thousand words…

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IMPOSTER

 

THE SETUP

Firstly, I’d just like to say thank you to On Edge Productions and Writer/Director, Chris Esper for allowing me access to an online screener of his 9 minute Drama short, “Imposter”. Imposter is an experimental drama that deals with the inner struggles for those who suffer from anxiety. A bus ride sees a number of individuals come together to deal with their crippling debilitation. The film stars Tom Mariano, Brendan Meehan, Sheetal Kelkar, and Jamie Braddy.

At just 29 years of age, Chris Esper has already racked up a number of credits. Having worked on shorts for over a decade now, Imposter marks his twenty-fourth short film (and by his own admission one of the most important). Most of DP, Richard King’s camera work looks interesting and he utilizes gentle movements to highlight certain things in the scene. The pleasant piano themed score completes the mood and the acting is solid all around. Whilst I didn’t love all the framing choices and the inconsistency of the practical fx toward the end, Imposter highlights an extremely important supposition that at the end of the day we’re all the same. Don’t judge someone until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes. Circumstance is just circumstance. We all love, we all hurt, we all bleed, we all cry, and we lean on each other to get through the hard times. It’s making that choice to put yourself out there despite the fear of failing. I commend Esper for starting to render the foundations of the stigma surrounding anxiety and depression and doing so in such a muted but powerful way. What’s more impressive is Chris’s willingness to put himself out there in spite of his own personal struggles and to bare all in what is one of the most vulnerable of artistic mediums. Imposter is unfiltered and very well made, you can check out the trailer below and be sure to keep an eye out for it soon!

My rating for “Imposter” is 8/10

The After Party (Review) A watering hole of a different kind…

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THE AFTER PARTY

 

THE SETUP

Firstly, I’d just like to start by thanking Ela Road Films and Writer/Director, Colin Costello for allowing me early access to an online screener of his 17-minute Horror/Mystery short, “The After Party”. The After Party introduces us to Skye, a social media mogul (played by Rachel Amanda Bryant) who’s living it up during just another night out on the town. Before heading home she stops for one last drink, it’s there where she encounters four mysterious women each with a story to tell. The film also stars Hilary Barraford (The Ice Cream Truck), Ashley Platz (Big Legend), Denise Milfort (Repentance), and Veronica Sixtos.

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I’ve had Costello’s short sitting in my pile for around a month and finally found the time to give it my undivided attention. The obvious thing of note about The After Party’s presentation has to be Brook Willard’s glorious black and white photography. We simply don’t see enough of it these days, as luck would have it the film’s neo-noir aesthetics just happen to lend themselves perfectly to the form. Everything is nicely framed and the shot choices are simple but effective. The audio track is quite crisp and the mix of eerie sounding strings helps complement the mystery behind the night’s events. The guitar-centric score in the latter half has hints of David Lynch’s cult classic TV show “Twin Peaks” about it, especially with its additional use of ambient reverb. The acting from all involved is of a high standard and the ladies each have their own traits. Costello’s conversation (or more accurately his characters) seems to center around the need for us to be accepted and or adored and the dangers that can be associated with worshipping false idols – something that is certainly an issue in society. Social media can be extremely damaging if you gear your self-worth around your number of likes, followers, shares, and re-tweets. Make what you want of the signs on display in The After Party, broken glass and fading light are just a couple of indicators that should get you invested. My only real criticism is the sudden shift in Skye once she arrives. It’s a little contradictory because she claims not to know who the girls are but then suddenly she’s able to recall where she met them or the details of the interactions she had with them. I suppose one could chalk it up to just her self-obsessed persona and perhaps she truly didn’t realize until she actually stopped to reflect. I’d like to have seen certain pieces of information trigger her a little more, particularly just before she leaves the bar. There’s not a lot of charged emotion regarding her questioning what was really going on.

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The After Party is a thoroughly entertaining and polished short film from a promising filmmaker in Costello. The cinematography is impressive, the score has fitting spectral tones, and the performances are all great. I think the writing is as smart as I’ve seen in quite a while and there’s a positive message about surface value versus the important things in life. I think a couple of Skye’s specifics could’ve been altered and perhaps improved upon, but it’s nothing that really takes away from the overall quality of the product. If you get the chance to check this one out I suggest you do! For now, you can watch the teaser trailer below, enjoy!

My rating for “The After Party” is 8/10