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Tuesday, May 26, 2020

DARKNESS IN TENEMENT 45 (Film Review)


                              Starring: Nicole Tompkins, Casey Kramer, Keyon Bowman

                                                      Directed by Nicole Groton

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  Jumping into the feature-length directorial waters is a daunting task, I'm sure, and it's even more of a rewarding risk when the said project turns out to be something that's discussed in essence, especially during these trying times. Nicole Groton is behind the lens for the bleakly displayed Darkness In Tenement 45 - one of those movies that make you wish you never had to venture out into the open-air.

 The year is 1953, and the question inside of a New York apartment is whether or not the Soviet Union has dropped a biological weapon of-sorts on the good ol' USA. The occupants inside have taken up shelter inside the high-rise and have all barricaded themselves away from a potential infection due to the fallout - it all adds up to a general sense of unknowing and heavy foreboding. Our main focus here is on teenager Joanna (Tompkins): a 16-year-old who has been under the very watchful eye of her Aunt Martha (Kramer) after an especially volatile episode took place. It has been dubbed "The Darkness" and it's safe to say that it's something that's better kept under wraps for the safety of all who inhabit this building. The film uses its confinements as a centerpiece to give the audience that certain aura of unsettled consistency - there will be disagreements among the survivors, and tempers will most definitely flare when food and supplies run short.

 Groton's direction is refreshing in the fact that there isn't a direct reliance upon a lone horror here, but rather delving into the residents' impatience with each other as a cloaking uncertainty begins to overwhelm them. Pretty frightening stuff if you think about it, and it definitely was a refreshing change of pace from the normal slam-bang tactics that are seen in a lot of horror films today. With its strong portrayals, an eerie semblance of self and respectable storyline, Darkness In Tenement 45 is one of those indie-creepers that should put its director in the spotlight, and provide an enjoyable viewing experience for those who like a little thought in their thrillers.

FILM RATING: 3 out of 5

Saturday, May 9, 2020

THE BODY (Short Film Review)


                               Starring: Marc Clement, Anton Schrama, Tim Hawkins

                                                   Directed by: Adam Weber

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  Let it be said that on-the-job training can be a bit of a strain on one's mental framework - from the trainer to the trainee. There's a certain way that people like things to be done, be it in a speedy yet cautious fashion...then there's which tool to use to properly dispose of the corpse - Uh, let's just forget that I mentioned the last part there, okay? MOVE ALONG PEOPLE - NOTHING TO SEE HERE!!

  Actually, there's plenty to see here in this near 12-minute short film from my fellow compadre from Down Under - his name is Adam Weber and he's not only the extremely talented backbone of his own film review website AdamTheMovieGod.com (MUST-VISIT SITE), he just happens to be the writer, producer and directorial heavyweight for this darkly comedic jaunt into the world of hitmen and their overeager cleanup crews. Adam was gracious enough to provide me with a screener for this which at this time is still lying in wait until all this pandemic crap blows over, so consider me the FIFTH HORSEMAN, yet I only bring only fortunate upcoming news to the masses...that and the fact that I've only ridden a horse once and almost got bucked off within the first minute my big ass hit the saddle, but I digress. Let's get to the meat and taters of this little gem, shall we?

  We as the audience are tossed into a roaring Thunderbird as it makes its way down a lonely stretch of Australian highway, and our main man at the wheel is the "trainee" if you will - his name is Steve-O (Schrama), and he's headed to meet up with his superior-of-sorts. The fella who will be showing the ropes to his slightly overzealous charge is Darryl (Clement), a hitman who acts as if he's got no time to waste and very little patience for learners who don't possess the ability to soak up the knowledge. Needless to say, Steve-O has brought all the wrong tools for the job, and before this night is over he'll either snag a passing or failing grade on his job performance. At the risk of blowing any pertinent plot details out of the water (and ruining the integrity of Adam's work), I'll keep my yapper closed as to any more info on this one, but rest assured that it's an utterly fun way to kill a dozen minutes.

 Cinematography-wise, this presentation is an all-out winner from its early dusty, wind-swept views of a dried-out strip of asphalt, to its tail-light illuminated night shots that give the darkness of the desert a glowing pulse. All performances were engaging, comedic in a darkened fashion, and kept attention locked on the screen - I've found over the years that even some portrayals in a short film can lose the audience and cause the product to stall out, even under an abbreviated timeframe - not the case here, however. Overall, The Body is a successful ride that should squarely show up on your radar once it's released to the masses, and we here will keep everyone updated as to when that will happen so stick close by!

RATING: 4 out of 5

Sunday, April 19, 2020

WE SUMMON THE DARKNESS (Film Review)


                         Starring: Alexandra Daddario, Maddie Hasson, Johnny Knoxville

                                                 Directed by: Marc Meyers

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   Director Marc Meyers' attempt at an 80's timepiece horror showcase grabbed the biggest piece of lumber off of the bat-rack and stepped into the box ready to knock one out of the park. What we saw at the plate however was a colossal swing-and-a-miss, eventually leaving viewers emptier than the theaters that this was originally to have been shown in...if ya ask me, we all got saved in THAT aspect. The film is titled We Summon The Darkness, and at the risk of sounding a bit too sermon-like, I think we could all pray that this passes quicker than a case of Taco Bell gas-pains.

 Synopsized as "three friends embark on a road trip to see a heavy metal show, set against the backdrop of a slew of Satanic-killings" - so yeah, there you have it - the beauties (Daddario, Hasson, and Amy Forsyth), the beers (compliments of a trio of party buds that the gals meet up with)...then, of course, there's blood and the occasional banging of some metal tunes (minus the ACTUAL metal music - copyrights are a bitch, apparently). Oh hey, did I mention we've got the king "Jackass" himself, Johnny Knoxville as a jerkwater-town servant of God? He's on TV regularly preaching his word to the toothless masses in the hopes of squashing this unholy uprising that's giving his followers a run for their money...AHEM, I mean their "support for the church." Come on, you don't throw into the collection plate from time-to-time either? In any event, the ladies decide to invite the fellas back to their place for a little post-concert celebration, and we quickly learn that this trio isn't what they were cracked up to be...which trio was I referring to - the girls or the guys, you ask? Well, you'll just have to suffer through this 90 minutes like I did if you want that answer, my little lambs of the lord.

 Swerves in the plot are the altar at which this film tries to deliver its message, and if your eyes are at LEAST a quarter of the way open you'll see them a mile out before they hit your windshield. Our main sextet of characters range from slightly off-kilter to just unlikeable in nature, and when the blood starts flying you'll more than likely yawn off each respective kill - they're just that bland in premise and execution (slight pun). I honestly enjoyed Mr. Knoxville (as I have for years with his endless amounts of self-torture), and his role as a holy mouthpiece was corny but entertaining as a whole. We've got a slew of clunky scenes and dialogue that walk hand-in-hand with the inane actions of more than a few souls on-screen, and it all adds up to a gigantic missed opportunity that honestly, should be missed by the masses...oh, I almost forgot - if you're going to base your "80's metal" film around HEAVY METAL MUSIC, could ya at least attempt to have more than ONE SONG of an actual metal band in said film? That's all I've got for this one - please feel free to leave any and all donations in the basket - we'll be counting after the service has concluded.

FILM SCORE: 2(and that's generous) OUT OF 5

 

Thursday, April 9, 2020

HELL'S BELLS (Film Review)


                                     Starring Jim O'Rear, Scott Tepperman, Marc Price

                                       Directed by Jim O'Rear & Scott Tepperman

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  As it has been said: "Music soothes the savage beast" - but what if it was that beast that was behind said music? I was recently gifted the opportunity of checking out Los Bastardz Productions latest dive into dulcet-laden waters - this one's called Hells' Bells and if you've got a hankering for some melodically maniacal moviemaking, then grab your instruments (no, not THOSE instruments) and meet me in the studio - we've got a film to break down into readable stanzas!

  O'Rear & Tepperman (the Bastardz, most respectfully speaking) pull some seriously heavy duty in this presentation, with acting roles, accompanied by writing, production and directorial functions as well. Their roles are that of longtime buds and fledgling rockers Art "Destroyer" Finkleman and Herb "Rainmaker" Stankin, and it's an absolute toss-up as to which is more of a deficit in their lives right now: the lack of quality employment, a shortness of intellectual elevation or the fact that they've gone nowhere with their band, Devil Music in quite a long time. The guys are henpecked by their significant others, ridiculed regularly by their manager at work (Jim Maguire in a funny role), and gather religiously for practice in a pseudo-studio that leaks like a sieve. Will anything help these hapless "artists" catch a break? Maybe their help isn't so far away after all...enter The Mysterious Stranger, played to diabolical excellence by Marc Price (TV's "Family Ties" and the 80's horror cult-classic Trick Or Treat) - everything he offers comes with a contract, and a small fee for his services - question is, is your life worth a little bit of excess or instant fame?

  The guys' representation gets snatched up by a seedy promoter (Tom Komisar) who has done a little bit of dealin' with the Devil, if ya catch my drift. It all adds up to increased notoriety for the group, a little bit of chaos thrown in for good measure, and the sound that the band has been looking for for ages...problem is when it's time to "collect" the fellas aren't too keen on having a demon (Jerry Reeves) beating down their door to reap what the duo has sowed. The film from front to back is jammed with goofy humor and comic instances, with even a few scenes set up like an old black and white sitcom, complete with laugh-track. Both O'Rear and Tepperman play off of each other extremely well, and the accompanying work of Price and Komisar make this an all-around fun-flick to take in - just add beverages, munchies and whatever other stimulants you may crave - oh yeah, don't forget the tunes either! Just don't play them too terribly loud, or there will be the Devil to pay.

 RATING: 3.5 out of 5

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

ONLY (Film Review)


                                 Starring: Freida Pinto, Leslie Odom Jr, Chandler Riggs

                                                  Directed by: Takeshi Doscher

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  In these uncertain times, nothing says "coincidence" like a well-timed pandemic film to chew upon - hell, it's not like we all don't have the hours to pass blankly staring at a screen, be it large or small. The only problem with director Takeshi Doscher's gloomy virus film Only, that's all I seemed to be doing for the majority of the runtime - gawking emptily fish-eyed as the minutes ticked off the clock as a general sense of gloom & hopelessness filtered back at me.

 This slower than a snail-fart of a movie focuses on the not-so-overly-endearing couple of Will (Odom Jr) and Eva (Pinto) and their harrowing journey after an unknown virus that's taken to the air is shredding the world's population, mainly of the female persuasion. This sudden and virtually unexplained phenomena of falling ash is eradicating the very essence of life on Earth, and if you think that just the ladies on 2 legs are being cut out of the future's plans, you're quite wrong. The female animal kingdom is suffering as well, and it all adds up to serious money being offered for "viable and healthy" subjects to be brought in and help restart society. Now, plot-wise Doscher was surely onto something - my interest was most definitely piqued in this dystopian shit-show presentation, and with good intent...that was until the PLAY button was pushed. At the onset of this "outbreak" of sorts Will decides to turn his home into a sealed sarcophagus of plastic-wrapped protection, and Eve isn't all that jazzed about it - she's been cut off from society (Will's waning hope of saving his love), and there doesn't look to be a cure on the horizon.

 Eventually, the two take their show on the road, and Eve does her best to conceal her gender for fear of being hauled in as a test-subject, or worse. At one point a father and son duo are in hot pursuit (the son is the one and only Carl from "The Walking Dead" - Chandler Riggs in a rather quiet and un-impactful role). What acts as somewhat of a nice blend of initial storytelling are the flashbacks (and there are quite a few), but they can get a little tedious, especially in the movie's later stages - we see the couples' arguments, preparation...and even a little bedroom activity (eyes closed, ya pervs). While I can give props to both Pinto and Odom Jr for their performances, I sincerely couldn't have cared for either character's survival, which can have a detrimental effect on the ingestion of some films' backbones. Overall, the mood in this one is about as gray as the skies that were on display, and the scenery seemed to be the only plus that could help this ship stay afloat (not a lifeboat to be found either). At the end of it all, Only wasn't a terrible film by any stretch - it just needed to have its many rough edges planed generously until baby-butt smoothness was achieved...didn't happen, however. This was strictly a one-time watch, and I'm fairly positive that respective viewers would agree with the same - our current situation sucks enough, and we don't need it magnified on screen any more than necessary.

 FILM RATING: 2 out of 5







Friday, March 6, 2020

THE DARE (Film Review)


                               Starring: Bart Edwards, Richard Brake, Richard Short

                                                    Directed by: Giles Alderson

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  With the bullying epidemic becoming one of those things that can really draw a line in the sand between a hero and a truly evil soul, director Giles Alderson's The Dare comes off like a teaching tool in a rather demented fashion. It's routinely textbook, satisfactorily gruesome, and should appeal to those who like their torture porn gritty and grimy.

 The movie's premise is as follows: we're tagging along with devoted family man Jay ((Edwards) who is prepping to hit the road for a work conference when he's kidnapped and chucked into a dingy room with a trio of shackled prisoners. Now it certainly doesn't take a rocket scientist to conclude that these people have some sort of connection, and it'll get fleshed out over the course of the film, and as that's going on we're treated to a series of flashbacks telling the tale of the hulking kook who is acting as the quartet's very sadistic party host. His name is Dominic (Robert Maaser), and his past is one of not only physical but horrific mental abuse, all at the hands of his captor, Credence (played to delightful excellence by Richard Brake). He's "taken in" Dominic at an early age, and has filled his mind with the notion that his parents have left him and won't be looking for him any time soon. Now you can probably guess the corrosive impact a twisted thought of that nature would have on a child, but those are merely words - Credence teaches with an iron fist, and other sharp implements to instruct the youngin' in the ways of the world - talk about home schooling!

  While the fate-filled foursome is forced at random by the masked muscle-head to perform some rather grisly undertakings, the overall construction of the plot begins to truly unfold in front of our eyes. While I'm not going to admit that this is something I've never seen before, it does work on a moderate level and outside of a few herky-jerky plot hiccups the film was a decent watch. Performances were adequate for what was being conveyed here, but the standalone was Brake's portrayal of a seriously warped individual who appeared as if he wanted to impart life's hardest lessons in the direction of a child - some scenes were a bit uncomfortable, but that's what makes a convincing story and if it's effective enough to make you shift in your seat during its undertakings then it's a victory in the eyes of the presenters. After all was said and done and the credits had rolled, I thought about watching this one again to see if there were any pertinent pieces of information that may have escaped me, but all was laid out nicely and I was content in the fact that this was a "one-and-done" for me, and might be as well for you also. The Dare doesn't reinvent the wheel in its barbarism and dire circumstances, but it's a passable viewing for some who want their cautionary tales sprawled out in blood and dirt. The film is available now on VOD and digital platforms and is having a ONE-NIGHT ONLY theatrical release on March 6th (hey, that's tonight!), so check your local listings to see if it's on a big screen near you.

FILM SCORE: 3 out of 5

 

 

Tuesday, March 3, 2020

THE LURKER (Film Review)


                          Starring: Scout Taylor-Compton, Naomi Grossman, Ari Lehman

                                                  Directed by: Eric Liberacki

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   Sooner or later, it simply had to happen. When you sift through what seems like endless piles of poo-poo tossed on film, in that rare occurrence you'll find a dullened pearl that shines ever so lightly once the crap is thoroughly hosed off. In an even sadder turn of events, you'll come across something that still has that distinctive "reek" to it, no matter what process is utilized to purify and sterilize...enter Exhibit A: The Lurker from director Eric Liberacki - get your splash guards on, students - this one's gonna leave a stinky stain on your duds if not protected.

  The film tags along with a group of (cough, cough) "high-school" theater students as they're readying to wrap up production on their presentation of "Romeo and Juliet." The reviews have been decent, and all seems well outside of some generalized tension between actors (Michael Emery in his role of Miles Little sets the bar for douchebaggery - well done). The Juliet to his Romeo? Well, it's none other than the beautiful Scout Taylor-Compton, and her character of...well, Taylor is pedestrian at best - she's got problems with just more than her leading fellow, and the cracks are starting to show. If it's not enough that the play is heading towards a fireball completion of sorts, there's a killer in a black hoodie and plague doctor mask, offing students in the most yawn-inducing of ways. This one has all the dented bells and broken whistles of a late-80's, early 90's slasher minus the thought, execution, creativity, likeability of personas and general "must-see" aura that usually comes attached to a horror film.

   The movie makes a half-hearted attempt to reel in the audience for a whodunit-styled presentation, but when more than a handful of potential suspects are tossed at the audience like rice at a wedding reception, it waters down the entire notion and renders the game unsatisfying. Now while I'm a fan of Taylor-Compton's work, the believability rate of she and several of her co-stars coming off as high-schoolers? Yeah, it wasn't happening in the least. Horror fans are even chucked a very small bone with the cast inclusion of names such as Naomi Grossman (American Horror Story) and Ari Lehman (thie first ever little Voorhees) - don't get too attached as their screen time is brief at absolute best. Kills are as lame as a three-legged turtle and when the conclusion (and eventual payoff) lands in your lap, you'll more than likely be wiping the sleep-boogers from the corners of your eyes.

 Overall, The Lurker is one of those wanna-be slashers that is left standing at the bus-stop, like a sad child on his first day of school - don't worry, little Buckaroo: there was many before you, and there will more than likely be a crap-ton after you.

 FILM SCORE: 1.5 out of 5