Posts Tagged ‘Movies’

The BabadookWhile the debate goes on about female roles in mainstream movies, women continue to kill it – literally and figuratively – in genre films. On the second day of the 2014 Berlin Fantasy Filmfest, audiences were treated to consecutive screenings of a trio of strong flicks with an actress in the lead role, two of which also have a female director/screenwriter behind the projects. Honeymoon stars Rose Leslie, and Starry Eyes features Alex Essoe, but it is Essie Davis in The Babadook who turns in the most remarkable performance. Working in her feature film debut, director/writer Jennifer Kant unleashes childhood horrors on a defenseless widow (Davis) and her maladjusted son (Noah Wiseman) in a movie that works the nerves of the audience by manifesting familial dysfunction and behavioral disorders into the ultimate boogeyman in the closet.


TheZeroTheoremA unique pleasure awaits in the not-too-distant future for a film archivist or critic or festival organizer charged with organizing the definitive Terry Gilliam retrospective. The body of work he has amassed to date has already established Gilliam as a historically significant figure in cinema. With each subsequent release that begins with the placard “A Terry Gilliam Film,” his legacy expands. We know his vision: the steampunk designs of modern society strangling itself on ducts and tubes, cathode ray technology, and soul-sucking workplaces populated with mid-level drones assigned to tasks of mindless repetition. Outside, the infrastructure is crumbling, the cacophony of post-modern life is numbing, and the individual is targeted for extinction. The only escape is fantasy and women and a fantasy woman that exists only as long as one can whisper the word, “Hope.” (more…)

Hector-And-The-Search-For-HappinessHector and the Search for Happiness  fancies itself a comedy, a drama, an action movie, and a travelogue, but the film fails in each of the genres, revealing itself to be nothing more than an awful little film about one uninteresting man’s mid-life crisis. Wrapped in pretension with a bow of psuedo-self help nonsense and delivered by a squandered all-star cast, Hector is a two-hour illustration of vapidness without even a hint of a redeeming satirical sense. It is a cyncical, clumsy, excruciating exercise in failed manipulation without a single genuine moment.

The critique of Hector as comedy is simple: it is not funny. As a drama, it lacks characters that we care about or a situation that we wish to see resolved. The action/adventure component is ludicrous, while the travelogue is very definitely offensive. (more…)

The Possession of Michael KingThis is what horror for grown ups looks like.

The Possession of Michael King is a terrifying tale well told with solid performances throughout the cast, a smart script, and technical wizardry that all combine to deliver a story with an escalating sense of nihilism and dread, more than enough jolts of terror, a smattering of gore, and a taste of real taboo. In short, this flick has all the ingredients necessary for a superior scary movie. In his first feature film, director/screenwriter David Jung announces himself as a force within the genre and gives horror fans an unexpected and genuine treat. (more…)

COD3Crawl or Die has two things going for it, the first being the title. The exhortation with threatening consequences invokes a warm, familiar feeling for fans of the exploitation genre. And yet, how great would it have been if the movie had been released with its original title, Crawl Bitch Crawl? That name alone would have guaranteed the movie’s admission into a score of film festivals, while simultaneously generating invaluable attention and publicity from the professionally outraged and easily offended among us. Director/writer/editor/cinematographer/producer/set designer Oklahoma Ward promises a sequel at the end of this one, and the film’s official web site is, so there’s still a chance for this Hall of Fame-level title to find its way into the record books.


Midnight GameThe Midnight Game plays out like a loving homage to 80’s horror flicks, but with PG-13 love and horror. The sex is limited to a brief make out session, and the horror mostly to shadows and bumps in the night. The end result is an old fashioned scary movie that invokes more nostalgia than fear. Younger viewers new to the genre can safely cut their teeth on this offering before moving on to more intense fare.

Five high schoolers have an impromptu slumber party when Mom goes out of town, after admonishing young Kaitlan (Renee Olstead) to the last moment, “No parties, no boys.” Kaitlan’s sleepover friends, Rose (Shelby Young) and Jenna (Valentine de Angelis), have a different idea and invite Shane (Guy Wilson) and Jeff (Spencer Daniels) and beer to the festivities.


at-the-devils-door-8Once or twice each NASCAR season, a car near the lead, maybe even in first place, will run out of gas on the last lap. Instead of racing to triumph, the driver does his or her best just to nurse the car across the finish line. The NASCAR metaphor is an apt description of what happens in the horror film, At the Devil’s Door. After roaring ahead of its genre competition for the better part of its 93-minute runtime, the movie runs out of gas and ideas in its final ten minutes and resorts to clichés to limp to the end credits. The absence of a strong finish is particularly notable for a film that successfully avoids the obvious, while delivering some real jolts and two terrific twists along the way. (more…)

frontera04Those with strong views on the issue of immigration may find Frontera maddening. The film assiduously avoids coming down on either side of this polarizing issue. There is no macro examination here of the situation on the border between Mexico and the United States. Instead, Frontera offers a micro look at the devastating effects of the forces at play on the families on either side of the divide. Currently, a wrenching, confusing scene is playing out in the southwestern United States with unaccompanied and undocumented minors flooding across the porous border. Local authorities are overwhelmed; the federal government feeble so far in its response. The film offers no insight or answers, glib or otherwise, to what should, must, or even can be done. Frontera takes an almost old-fashioned view of the situation on the border, presenting the problem as one of young Mexican men crossing over illegally in search of employment to provide for their families.


susan_sarandon-the_callingSusan Sarandon is a wonderful, accomplished actress, capable of a broad range of roles, but the one thing she cannot do at this stage of her career is convincingly play the part of a small-time cop investigating a series of gruesome murders. The Calling does not fail because of the casting of Sarandon as the tin badge in a one-horse, two-detective town in eastern Canada, who steals prescription pills from crime scenes and washes them down with Jim Beam, but the glacial pace of the story gives ample time to dwell on the mistake.

Sarandon plays Detective Hazel Micallef, a back surgery survivor who lives with her mom in Port Dundas – 82-year old Ellen Burstyn, who, like the 68-year old Sarandon, is an Oscar winner. The Calling stockpiles so much underused talent that it resembles the Los Angeles Dodgers outfield. Burstyn’s big scene in the film is when she falls asleep in the living room chair, leaving Sarandon and the audience to believe for a moment that she’s fallen victim to the film’s serial killer. (more…)

DAMNEDIFCEXCPICRELEASEFEAT“The Howling Man” is an episode from the original The Twilight Zone series in which a man taking a walking tour across Europe seeks refuge in a monastery during a ferocious storm. Once there, he comes across a prisoner who accuses the monks of being zealots and begs for help. Against the monks’ warnings, the man releases the prisoner, only to realize that he has set free the devil himself.

The Damned (aka Gallows Hill) takes that basic premise and transposes it rather smartly in time, place and circumstance to Colombia, where a group of five must seek refuge in a closed hotel in the midst of a ferocious storm. They discover what they believe to be the ultimate horror: a young girl locked in the filthy basement of the decaying establishment. Naturally, they free the girl, only to discover what true horror is. (more…)