THE ABCS of DEATH 2 (2014)

Written and directed by a bunch of people. Stars a bunch of people. Just go to IMDB, seriously.

SYNOPSIS:

Twenty-six new stories, each taking one letter of the alphabet, a word starting with that letter. Twenty stories about death. Some more direct than others.

REVIEW:

I reviewed the first anthology when it came out and praised the effort, but felt the compilation was unbalanced. It felt uneven. I feel that the second iteration is even more so; many of the segments were very loosely based on their letter/word and some didn’t feel like they should have been included with the others. I guess the appeal with large-scale anthologies like this is that you’ll eventually find something you like. The problem with it however is that the more precise your taste, the more the content will fall short. For someone as heavily into horror as I am, that’s how it felt.

But let’s not dwell on the negative. The fact remains that some of the “letters” were brilliantly done and though they may differ depending on the person watching, the end result is that you are most likely to find something you love. Here are my favorite segments:

-K is for Knell by Kristina Buozyte and Bruno Samper.
Brilliant. So much story is shown in so little action. Visuals are top notch and you’re left asking for answers. That’s how shorts should be made. The story of a girl who looks out the window and notices something she doesn’t understand.

-N is for Nexus by Larry Fessenden.
Simple yet effective. Feels like something from Portlandia. Halloween party, the Frankensteins and intertwined fates. You know what’s going to happen from the moment the taxi shows up but you’re still watching.

-O is for Ochlocracy by Hajime Ohata.
So clever. I never thought about what would happen if “smart” zombies were the majority. This feels like Terry Pratchett’ living-impaired kind of humour.

-R is for Roulette by Marven Kren.
A classic yet intense scene. A twist ending. All in a couple minutes. I didn’t see it coming and it changed the entire story. Well played!

-U is for Utopia by Vicenzo Natali.
What would happen if the world looked like the people in hair product commercials. I like “doing nasty things for the sake of Utopia” stories. I liked this.

-W is for Wish by Steven Kostanski.
This could pass as a Whitest Kids You Know skit: two kids in an 80s toy commercial wish to live with their toys. They regret it.

-Z is for Zygote by Chris Nash.
That one was just weird. Story is the weakest part of the short but the (gross) effects… wow. So much comes out of that woman’s mouth, it’s Raimi-esque and I laughed out loud. Well done.

SHOULD YOU WATCH IT?

Sure. As I mentioned above, there’s something for everyone. Just don’t expect everything to be compelling.

Nightcrawler (2014)

Written and directed by Dan Gilroy. Stars Jake Gyllenhaal, Rene Russo and Bill Paxton.

SYNOPSIS:

Louis Bloom has a fortuitous encounter with a car crash and news hounds and decides to become a crime-chaser with a camera, selling his footage to a TV Station hungry for hits. His entrepreneurial spirit and lack of crimes lead him towards a more creative approach, with dark results.

REVIEW:

Some people call Louis Bloom the Patrick Bateman of the recession era. The comparison is apt; Gyllenhaal’s Lou is an inhumane monster with a perfect smile who’s goal-oriented attitude supersedes any morality he might have. He’s the living embodiment of a corporation: cold, clinical and whose only focus is success. He speaks in motivational quotes and deals with people like he’s writing contracts. Bottom line, Lou is a psychopath and Dan Gilroy successfully painted that character without falling into other directors’ pitfalls. Come to think of it, I am not sure I’ve seen any other movie character come as close to Lou.

The movie’s tone echoes Lou’s mind rather splendidly; dark colours, moments of quiet followed by unapologetic moments of violence, with a strangely whimsical soundtrack contrasting the bloody scenes, much like Lou’s fake smiles as he pulls leverage over other people’s lives.

Gyllenhaal finds a way to channel the darkest parts of his acting talent and here again, much like Donnie Darko and Zodiac, Jake shows he is as comfortable in showing emotion through silence as he is delivering intense dialog. If anyone still does not recognize Gyllenhaal as one of our current top actors, they don’t know anything about acting.

SHOULD YOU WATCH IT?

Yes! I’m ashamed it took me this long to see it, myself.

FEAR CLINIC (2014)

Written by Aaron Drane and Robert Hall. Directed by Roberty Hall. Stars Fiona Dourif, Thomas Dekker and Robert Englund.

SYNOPSIS:

Based on the web series of the same name, Fear Clinic centers around Dr. Andover, who specializes in curing fear through the use of a sensory-deprivation tank. Things don’t go as planned…

REVIEW:

I was excited for this. Englund in a horror movie as more than a cameo? This is getting rarer these days. And Fiona Dourif, daughter of Brad Dourif? She was the best part of Curse of Chucky, so this movie has to be good, right? Unfortunately, it really isn’t. Clinic is a mishmash of weak scenes filmed with cheap CGI and whose only purpose is akin to the director shouting at you from the TV, saying “here, SPIDERS THROUGH HER SHOULDER! WE’RE SCARY! BOOOOO!” The problem being that no, none of this is scary. You can’t go and hire known genre actors like Englund and expect the people who show up to be scared of a restaurant shooter, a couple spiders and a weird goo blob.The only two ways this can work is 1) if it’s a dark comedy (it isn’t) or two 2) the story is good enough to excuse the poor and infrequent scares. Again, it isn’t.

In short, what you have here is Wes Craven’s New Nightmare, minus Wes Craven. An entity is using people’s fears to come to life. People’s fears take the form of “lucid dreams” in the fear chamber. It’s essentially a bad Freddy movie, without the known director and without Freddy. Or creative fears and deaths.

SHOULD YOU WATCH IT?

You’re better off watching any of the Nightmare on Elm Street movies. Except the remake, of course.

STARRY EYES (2014)

Written and Directed by Kevin Kolsch and Dennis Widmyer. Stars Alex Essoe, Amanda Fuller and Noah Segan.

SYNOPSIS:

An introverted tried to break into the movie business but is constantly rejected, until one of the interviewers witnesses her masochistic fit of rage in the bathroom. From there, doors are opening but is fame worth the price?

REVIEW:

Starry Eyes started as a Kickstarted project which, helped by Chuck Palahniuk, got successfully funded and was filmed in only eighteen days. Not many can film a good story in less than three weeks. Did Kolsh and Widmyer succeed? Mostly, yes.

Let’s list what worked before we tackle what didn’t. Alex Essoe is a phenomenal method actress. I’ve read that a scene where she puked maggots and worms was in no way tricked; she held the crawlers in her mouth until the scene asked for her to puke them. As the slowly transforming Sarah, she goes from a Mia Farrow, Rosemary’s Baby archetype to the kind of sadistic character you find on shows like Deadly Women. Not a moment goes by that you’d feel she was the wrong choice.

The music and camera work are also amazing. Though I feel that the more years go by, the more “normal” it is to have that level of visual quality, it’s still worth mentioning. A certain scene in the kitchen with Erin (Fabienne Therese) is especially well crafted. The soundtrack has a retrosynth style that has been really popular in horror lately. Jonathan Snipes did a great job and you can listen to a couple of the tracks here.

Unfortunately, the biggest gripe I have against the movie is the story. I actually wrote a page-long text about this but deleted it after I realized I was pretty much spoiling the movie and I do want people to see it. Let’s simply state that by the time the second half of the movie starts, she’s already gone through what would normally constitute a full “satanic cult seducing a frail woman” story. Having the second part repeat itself, though physically this time, felt as I stated above, redundant. If Sarah was already willing to go through the mental anguish of the first part, then simply waiting through the physical part was a bit of a letdown. Though the carnage that ultimately ensues was entertaining.

I don’t know. Maybe I’m nitpicking what is otherwise a fine story with a fine lead and perfect visuals and music. For such a short shoot, with a small budget, they could have done much worse. At the end of the day, Starry Eyes will never top movies like Rosemary’s Baby but I don’t think it needs to. It’s plenty interesting on its own.

SHOULD YOU WATCH IT?

Yes. Of course, you should!

Beyond the Black Rainbow (2010)

Written and directed by Panos Cosmatos. Stars Eva Bourne, Michael Rogers and Scott Hylands.

SYNOPSIS:

The year is 1983 and it has been nearly twenty years since the Arboria commune has developed true happiness through the use of pharmacology and science. Barry is tasked to observe and test Elena, a young woman who was born in said commune.

REVIEW:

You are going to either love this movie or absolutely hate it. In our ADD internet world, movies like this don’t exist anymore and it’s a shame. Rainbow requires that you enjoy long pacing; it needs you to have an attention span. Little information is given with each scene and you have to figure out what goes on as the story progresses and even as the movie ends, you’re not entirely sure what’s happened. Because yes, the movie demands you fill in the gaps and imagine what’s going on. It’s not a friendly movie. It wants you to work for it.

It might not be friendly but it’s pleasing to the senses and especially more so if you are a fan of synthwave music and eighties aesthetics. The music is probably the best part, reminding me of Carpenter’s Assault on Precinct 13 or Escape from New York soundtracks but a slower burn. Visuals are reminiscent of titles like A Clockwork Orange and THX-1138. The elevator scene is certainly an homage to Dark Star (ugh. Dark Star. Can’t stand this movie). Many have criticized this movie as being too much of a pastiche than an original piece. I don’t entirely disagree though I feel that the combination of these styles felt fresh enough that as one story, it felt vaguely like the others but not quite.

SHOULD YOU WATCH IT?

It’s a long movie. Really long. Nothing much happens. But if you enjoyed Suspiria and Terry Gilliam visuals, if you like movies that take their time and builds pressure, yes. It’s a beautiful movie and many directors should take cues from it.

If you can’t stand anything that doesn’t explain the plot of the story ten minutes in, avoid it.

The Perfect Host (2010)

Written by Nick Tomnay and Krishna Jones. Directed by Nick Tomnay. Stars David Hyde Pierce, Clayne Crawford and Nathaniel Parker.

SYNOPSIS :

A bank robber tricks his way into a rich man’s home to avoid the police search. Unfortunately for the robber, his host is preparing for a soirée and isn’t entirely normal.

REVIEW:

Most people liked Frasier for Kelsey Grammer but I watched because of David Hyde Pierce. He was also my favorite of the two Terwilliger brothers in The Simpsons (where he plays Sideshow Bob’s brother Cecil). There’s something about his voice and accent that says “I’m a sophisticated man that is barely holding it together”. For the type of humour he played, it was always perfect. Since then, he’s done mostly theater, so I haven’t seen much of him until now.

Pierce is the only reason you should watch The Perfect Host. The movie is such a mess story-wise and Pierce’s character Warwick is the only redeeming value in this otherwise mediocre package. In other hands, the idea of having a cat and mouse game between a burglar and a serial-killer might have been interesting to see but in the hands of Tomnay, it plays out like someone who had a good idea a decade ago, didn’t know how to end it or flesh it out but went ahead and filmed it anyway.

Because yes, the ending is a total let down. I’m not going to spoil it here (I’ll do so in the comments) but the movie spends half its length setting something up (the fact that our host is a sadistic, delusional killer) and then gives you so many useless twists in the last fifteen minutes that destroy everything it set up. It’s as if the Tomnay wrote the story in one go but never bothered to read back and see if it made sense. Well, it doesn’t. it made no sense and it pissed me off.

Shame, because Pierce is extremely entertaining in his role.

SHOULD YOU WATCH IT?

Only if you’re a diehard David Hyde Pierce fan.

Two Ave Romeros and Three Spatter Noster for your delicious sins!

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 65 other followers