“Annabelle: Creation” – (Movie Review)

By Andrew Buckner

Rating: ***1/2 out of *****.

Annabelle: Creation (2017) is a skillfully executed bag of time-tested horror tricks. It is also carefully structured and paced. Likewise, the New Line Cinema and Atomic Monster release is character-driven and fun. This latter stated attribute is especially true of the climactic last half hour. This is when all hell breaks loose.

Director David F. Sandberg and screenwriter Gary Dauberman tell the origin story of the demonically manipulated title plaything. The aforesaid object spends most of the 1950’s set film terrorizing a group of children who have recently relocated from an orphanage. These young girls are now residing in a home owned by a dollmaker, Samuel Mullins (Anthony LaPaglia), and his bed-ridden wife, Esther (Miranda Otto). With this noticeably thin plot, Sandberg and Dauberman fashion an ambitious spinoff of the Conjuring series. Though their respective contributions are certainly a case of style over substance, it works well for the material.

Correspondingly, Lulu Wilson’s turn as Linda, Talitha Bateman’s depiction of Janice and Stephanie Sigman’s embodiment of Sister Charlotte are extraordinary. They help make their lead personas unique, memorable and layered. The effects, animation and sound are just as impressive. Furthermore, Maxime Alexandre’s cinematography is moody and beautiful. When combined with Benjamin Wallfisch’s same said music, Sandberg’s atmosphere becomes increasingly unnerving, palpable and hypnotic.

What is just as admirable is the restraint that hurtles the 109-minute project forward. Such a factor also lends a wonderfully old-fashioned feel to the proceedings. Continually, the middle and post-credits bits implement supplementary smirks from the audience. In the end, what Sandberg’s picture lacks in imagination, it makes up for in sheer craft.

(R). Contains adult content and violence.

Annabelle: Creation is now showing exclusively in theaters.

“Anti Matter”- (Movie Review)

By Andrew Buckner

Rating: ****1/2 out of *****.

Writer-director Keir Burrows’ Anti Matter (2016) is smart, credible and entertaining science based fiction. It is the type of tale those of us with a lifelong admiration for such literary masters as Ray Bradbury, Michael Chrichton and Jules Verne always find an absolute joy to sit through. This is because Burrows’ meticulously paced and structured, 106-minute project feels as if it could’ve been the brainchild of any one of these prior stated legends. This is true of both its bold, theoretical themes and its captivating execution. Such a comparison also derives from Burrows’ existence-mirroring and suitably developed characterizations. There is also a related respect Burrows has for the intelligence of his audience. This is a courtesy of Burrows’ intriguing plot. Continued thanks in this arena is also due to his sharp, layered screenplay. It is full of insightful dialogue. Praise is also mandated to his hypnotic guidance of the exercise.

Burrows’ presentation concerns Ana Carter (in a gripping portrayal by Yaiza Figueroa). She is a PhD student at Oxford University. As the saga unfolds, she finds memories impossible to erect. This is after a procedure to build and go through a wormhole. After a well-done setup, the last two acts of this Uncork’d Entertainment distribution release showcase Ana’s frantic cracks at understanding what transpired while conducting the experiment. Adding to the sudden stress is a lingering impression that something terrible is slowly surrounding her. Such attributes institute a ticking clock motif to the endeavor. This makes the underlying suspense evermore palpable.

Previously titled Worm, Burrows’ production is initially a bit conventional. This is in its incorporation of Ana’s inexplicable amnesia. Though Burrows works other traditional elements into the narrative afterwards, this criticism quickly diminishes. This is as Burrows goes beyond the standard employment of this oft-exploited trope. In so doing, Burrows immerses bystanders in Ana’s newfound fascination with dreams. This interest also extends to making sense of the noticeably off world around her. Best of all, Burrows provides a rousing finale. It is one that deserts the multi-million-dollar mayhem so commonly equated with far too many climaxes in this chronicle-oriented genus. This is to bring us a culmination that is harrowing, not because of explosions or endless gunfire, but because of the ideas it offers. Not to mention, the resolution beautifully ties up the details of Ana’s circumstance. The cause of which is as riveting as it is illuminating.

From a cast and crew standpoint, the feature is just as triumphant. Edwin Sykes’ regularly low-key music is terrific. The cinematography from Gerry Vasbenter is gritty and proficient. Such is perfectly fitting to Burrows’ brilliantly executed, same said tone. The editing by Rhys Barter is seamless. Correspondingly, the make-up, sound and costume design are top-notch. The formerly undeclared representations are also strong. For example, Phillipa Carson is excellent as Liv. Tom-Barber Duffy as Nate and Noah Maxwell Clarke as Stovington are just as successful.

Though not as deceptively intricate or emotionally resonant as Denis Villeneuve’s recent film, Arrival (2016), Burrows has crafted a movie that is just as unforgettable. The subject matter alone draws alignments to Bradbury’s short story, “A Sound of Thunder” (1952), and Chrichton’s novel, Timeline (1999). This primarily stems from its application of connections in space-time. Likewise, the ability to get through them into other regions. Yet, Burrows’ exertion abandons the exploration of what may hypothetically be on the other side of such a construction. This is to focus in on how such travel may immediately affect the universe we call our own. It is an engaging notion; one that is marvelously put together. Simultaneously, the manner that the opening and conclusion play off one another is just as smirk-inducing. There are also some felicitous topics, such as vivisection, Burrows instills into the episode. This comes in the form of the peer protests that surround Ana. These tidbits also lend perpetual authenticity to her landscape. Such relatively quiet touches also further the depth of the venture immeasurably. The result of these qualities is the best film of its ilk I’ve seen this year.

(Unrated). Contains adult content and profanity.

Anti Matter will be available in select theaters and on Video on Demand September 8th.


“Open Water 3: Cage Dive” – (Capsule Movie Review)

By Andrew Buckner

Rating: ***1/2 out of *****.

Co-writer and director Gerald Rascionato’s Open Water 3: Cage Dive (2017) is credible, tense, well-paced and satisfying. It stands as a worthy entry in the now 14-year-old series. The formula is familiar. Still, the eighty-minute tale, which concerns a trio of aspiring reality stars who find themselves stranded at sea and surrounded by sharks after a massive wave capsizes their boat, remains fresh and original. Best of all, the Lionsgate distribution release hardly repeats ideas. This is especially accurate when considering prior entries in the franchise.

Simultaneously, the effects, situations and performances add to the believability at hand. Megan Peta Hill is especially good as Megan Murphy. Joel Hogan as Jeff Miller and Josh Potthoff as his brother, Josh, are just as solid in their respective enactments. The Newton Brothers’ music is immersive and appropriate. The same can be said of Andrew Bambach and Rascionato’s highly-skillful cinematography.

A love triangle sub-plot, which is established in the first act, bogs down the proceedings a bit. Regardless, this detail heightens the underlying emotional intensity when necessary. This is especially true of the enjoyable, impactful and grounded finale. The consequence of these attributes is an efficient found footage film. Rascionato has administered a survival thriller with real bite.


On digital platforms today.

“Demon Hunter” – (Movie Review)

By Andrew Buckner

Rating: ***1/2 out of *****.

Demon Hunter (2016), the feature debut of co-writer and director Zoe Kavanagh, effortlessly shifts between riveting Underworld (2003) style action and genuinely atmospheric horror. These gear changes happen spontaneously. They also arrive at generally unpredictable intervals. This is noteworthy throughout the brisk and efficient 85-minute runtime. But, they blend together seamlessly. In turn, these elements create a sleek and largely diverting endeavor. This is even if Kavangh’s otherwise sturdy exercise gives way to an all-too-familiar battle of opposing forces finale. Such an expected conclusion seems to defy the unique structure and storytelling that is evident beforehand. Nevertheless, the afore-mentioned qualities are stalwart enough to overcome such obstacles.

In a plot that is honed from a tried and true setup, Kavangh follows the heroine of the tale, Taryn Barker (in a captivating depiction from Niamh Hogan). Barker is still seeking answers to and suffering from the rape and murder of her pre-teen sister, Annabelle (in a stellar representation from Aisli Moran). This transpired seven years earlier. In the originating stages of the arrangement, Barker is brought into questioning. This interrogation, overseen by Detective Ray Beckett (in a solid depiction from Alan Talbot), involves a decapitated man. It is one who Barker claims was an unholy fiend. In so doing, Beckett soon realizes this is the same individual he promised he would find and incarcerate. This was in a failed attempt to bring Barker justice. When Barker warns Beckett of a brute by the name of Falstaff (in a wickedly terrific representation from Michael Parle), who is accused of trying to steal Barker’s soul, the stakes rise. It isn’t long before Falstaff makes Beckett’s dealings personal. From herein, the duo become bent on breaking up a malevolent cult. These worshippers of Satan are intent on unleashing an ancient menace on the world.

This is a solid foundation for an outing of this ilk. Kavanagh punctuates this attribute with a guidance of the piece that is claustrophobic and eye-popping. Her meticulously paced screenplay, which was co-penned by Tony Flynn, develops the archetypical characters of the account in a satisfactory manner. The structure, especially in the early moments, is alluring. This is as Kavanagh readily alternates between past and present situations. The dialogue is appropriately straight-forward. Still, it is suitably delivered by the cast.

Furthermore, the musical contribution from Scott Tobin is an overall success. This is even if it is initially off-putting in the pulse-pounding and claustrophobic opening sequences. The retro effects are charming. Luca Rocchini’s cinematography is brooding and immersive. The previously undeclared depictions, including Nic Furlong as Barnes and Saorla Wright as Jess, are just as victorious.

Correspondingly, Kavanagh has crafted an exciting bit of escapist entertainment. Those who enjoyed Paul W.S. Anderson’s Resident Evil (2002-2017) series, or any related video game to film adaptation, should also be able to appreciate Kavanagh’s latest labor. It is both visceral and visually appealing. The often gory exertion is also full of nail-biting delights. Though we have seen it all before, it is still a tough, taut and well-made entry. Audiences craving a good midnight movie should be more than satisfied.

(Unrated). Contains adult content, profanity and violence.

Demon Hunter will be available on digital and Video on Demand platforms August 15th, 2017.

“Is This Now” – (Movie Review)

By Andrew Buckner

Rating: ****1/2 out of *****

Is This Now (2017), the fourth feature from writer-director Joe Scott, is exceptional. Scott perfectly conveys the inward isolation of the socially awkward lead of the drama, Ingrid (in a transcendent and layered portrayal from Sabrina Dickens), to masterful consequence. The Ace Film production just as potently operates as an emotionally resonant observation of the healing power of art. Namely, music.

This is immediately evident in the painfully private and brooding opening moments of the 96-minute configuration. Such resounds with an edgy, almost surreal sensibility. It is one which is instantly absorbing. With the combination of song and successfully administered tone unveiled in the effort, this three-minute sequence calls to mind a grimly stylish video. This is for a number that can be easily assessed as a soul-bearing, #1 hit. As the endeavor moves forward, Scott’s photoplay becomes relatively lighter at times. Still, Ingrid’s anguish and anxiety, caused from a dark history of abuse, is always at the forefront. This gives way to a finale that is too abrupt. Nonetheless, it is genuinely shocking. Not even the conventional romantic beats and sparks of optimism that flower in the second half can dilute the sheer effectiveness of this passage.

Scott’s tale concerns Ingrid’s attempts to escape her mistreatment. In so doing, she finds a friend in Jade (in a wonderful enactment from Brigid Shine). She is a young rocker. From herein, Ingrid, whose parents died in a car crash, follows Jade and the group, JOANovArc. Such an act brings out the creative side in Ingrid. In turn, she begins to pursue formulating her own sonic compositions. This helps her to begin to obtain an internal strength. There are even flashes of trust. Yet, the conclusion suggests that this also helps reinforce another entirely different desire.

This narrative is certainly affecting. Scott, via his intelligent and meticulously paced scripting and introspective guidance of the project, treats both Ingrid and the sensitive subject matter at hand with the maturity and understanding it demands. Also, Ingrid’s gradual development throughout the exertion is believable. The same can be said of the dialogue and interactions. This is also accurate when considering the characterizations of those who share screen time with Scott’s central figure. What is just as striking is how Scott makes many of the emotive turns in the arrangement simultaneously elegiac and evermore stirring. This is via Simon Finley and Kaya-Herstad Carney’s terrific tunes.

Assisting matters is Ian Cash and Joao da Silva’s sharp cinematography. Andrew McKee’s editing is superb. The costume design from Danielle Cooper is similarly astounding. Contributions from the make-up and sound department fare just as well. Correspondingly, the previously undeclared performances are just as stalwart. For instance, Anu Hasan is excellent as Ms. Murray. Fabien Ara is incredible as Dion. Not to mention, Scott’s incorporation of flashbacks is assuredly haunting. This is especially true of the first fifty percent of the picture.

This all comes together to create a marvelously honed and meditative tour de force. Though many of the themes explored and plot points are comparable to his prior features, such as the brilliant My Lonely Me (2015), the episode never feels anything less than fresh. It’s also admirable how tightly related Scott’s works remain. Such a factor adds a consistency to his material. This is supplementary to their collective high-quality. Regardless, Scott continues to evolve as an artist. It is expressed in every frame of his latest labor. What Scott crafts in Is This Now is as challenging as it is memorable. The result is one of the best pictures of the year.

(Unrated). Contains adult content and profanity.

“Second Nature” – (Movie Review)

By Andrew Buckner

Rating: ****1/2 out of *****.

Co-writer and director Michael Cross’ feature debut, Second Nature (2016), is fresh, breezy and uproarious. It is also a flat-out brilliant examination of gender roles. The eighty-minute comedy, a Cross Films and Mirror Image LTD. production, also benefits from a politically influenced, but never overdone, plot. It is one that is as inventive as it is timely.

Such an inherently enjoyable story revolves around our likeable heroine, Amanda Maxwell (in a wonderful and lively enactment from Collette Wolfe). Early on, she finds a mirror in her grandmother’s once discarded belongings. After Amanda takes the looking-glass into her hands, her town of Louisburg transforms into Ellensburg (a sly reference to the same-named city in Washington where the arrangement was recorded). Taking cues from the transitions from the masculine to the feminine found in the titles of these areas, the archetypical actions and attitudes of the men and women in Amanda’s home town switch. These alterations become increasingly interesting when Amanda decides to run against the philandering Bret Johnson (in a stellar turn from Sam Huntington) for mayor.

The efficiently paced screenplay from Cross, J.C. Ford and Edi Zanidache, utilizes this reversal to masterful effect. The jokes the trio pulls from the engaging situation at hand are constantly witty. They are also endlessly successful. Best of all, even on the rare occasion a gag misfires it doesn’t diminish the effectiveness of the humor. The variety of laughs at hand operate just as sharply at punctuating the underlying message of this potent tour de force. This is a courtesy of the scripters’ knack for offbeat dialogue. These bits further establish the authors’ capacity to set-up unique, often absurd, spins on commonplace situations.

Simultaneously, Cross’ guidance of the project is as vibrant as the suitably developed characters who populate the tale. Given the heft of the themes, Cross’ generally light-hearted tone and approach makes for a bold choice. But, such a decision pays off tremendously well. Such an atmosphere makes the balance between luminous and cerebral entertainment Cross juggles throughout the runtime evermore effortless.

Also assisting matters is Michael Boydstun’s cheery, handsome cinematography. Mateo Messina and The Filthy Hypocrites offer stellar, largely upbeat and emotive music. Such masterfully punctuates the deliberately conventional beats of the narrative. Additionally, the charmingly retro effects, sound and make-up work are just as triumphant. The previously undeclared performances are just as spectacular. For example, Carolyn Cox is terrific as Estelle Otto. The same can be said of Carollani Sandberg as Nat Jones. Correspondingly, Riley Shanahan is exceptional as Dex Gamble.

Though the finale and its expected resolutions feel a bit rushed, this does little to dilute the infectious likability, intelligence and depth of the exercise. The guffaws come almost as soon as the picture commences. They don’t let up until after the smirk-inducing concluding credits have completed their run. Relatedly, the exertion towers from a cast and crew standpoint. Yet, unlike many similar genre entries in recent memory, there is genuine thought, heart and substance to Cross’ excursion. The result of these high-functioning attributes is undoubtedly one of the best comedies of the year.

(Unrated). Contains adult content and profanity.

Second Nature will be in select theaters starting September 8th, 2017. It will be available on Blu-Ray, DVD and some digital platforms, including Amazon, September 19th.

“Suburban Cowboy” – (Movie Review)

By Andrew Buckner

Rating: **** out of *****.

From the animated opening until the grounded, riveting finale, Suburban Cowboy (2016) resonates palpable style and attitude in abundance. Skillfully directed by Ryan Colucci and two-time Grammy-nominee Dragan Roganovic, the 92-minute project chronicles the debt Jay (in a masterful portrayal by Frank Raducz Jr.), a Long Island drug dealer, is forced to pay. This is after someone in his inner-circle robs a Serbian gangster affiliate. Though based on a true story, the plot isn’t exactly mold-breaking. This can also be said of the narrative twists and characterizations. This criticism also extends to the general chain of events in the picture. Still, the Colucci-penned script is confidently paced and enjoyable. It also excels at satisfactorily developing its central figures. Moreover, the dialogue, though bound by the expected tough talk found in similar cinematic exercises of this ilk, is continuously credible. It augments the rugged atmosphere that readily courses through this Unbreakable Films production.

Further assisting matters are the previously undeclared performances. For example, Alandrea Martin is excellent as Victoria. Matty Finochio is stupendous as Alex. Correspondingly, the dark, immersive cinematography from Jakob Lofberg heightens the brooding tone. Such is an attribute Colucci and Roganovic beautifully orchestrates into the affair. Dirty South’s music is just as phenomenal and mood-setting. Additionally, Lucy Li’s costume design is superb. The lighting, editing (from Colucci and Roganovic) and sound work are just as stellar.

One of the best achievements herein is that, unlike many related endeavors, Colucci and Roganovic sparingly use their brutal and well-done action scenes. Regardless, a sense of menace and potential conflict always seems to hang over the proceedings. This is accurate of even the more exposition-heavy stretches. Such a quality boosts the underlying intensity of the piece tenfold. Connectively, Colucci and Roganovic’s debut feature never breaks its unyielding focus on those who populate the screen. These details only enhance the afore-mentioned authenticity that pulsates through every frame of the effort. In the end, these items come together to craft a gritty and massively entertaining crime saga. Suburban Cowboy is a real bulls-eye.

(Unrated). Contains graphic language, nudity and violence.

Available on Video on Demand in August of 2017.

“House on Rodeo Gulch” – (Movie Review)

By Andrew Buckner

Rating: ***1/2 out of *****.

Enjoyable performances enhance an already engaging mystery in writer-director William Scherer’s debut, House on Rodeo Gulch (2017). This central secret involves the strange goings-on in a home located in Santa Cruz, California. Such occurs after Denise Peterson (Chanel Ryan), and her strong-willed step-daughter, Shani (Megan Jay Simrell), take residence in the household. Soon afterward, the duo uncover that the building has attracted the attention of their neighbors. They are an obsessive Reverend, James (Jaye Wolfe), and his alcoholic assistant, Raul (Adrian Torres).

Based on true events, this plot is a stalwart foundation for a thriller. Scherer’s Hitchcockian inspiration lends a classical, underlying elegance to the fabrication. Continually, the meticulous, slow-burn pace of the excursion beautifully builds upon this basis. The high-functioning presence of this trait is consistently noteworthy throughout the 95-minute production. This is a courtesy of Scherer, who deftly plays Junior, and his well-structured and intelligent scripting. The same can be said of his equally proficient guidance of the affair. These items combine spectacularly. This is to keep both audience devotion and the enigma of the tale ever-palpable. The comedic bits installed into the undertaking, though minimal, further season the exercise. Simultaneously, Scott toys with the potentially supernatural elements of the saga to admirable consequence. This is true in the early sections of the feature. Still, there is a succession of familiar beats unveiled throughout the endeavor. Such a quality keeps the project from becoming groundbreaking. This is most evident in the underwhelming finale.

Regardless, the cinematography from Chen Dubrin, who also crafts a wonderful depiction of George in the picture, is stellar. His former-stated influence offers a gloomy, atmospheric veneer to the chronicle. Such comfortably suits the general feel of the configuration. Likewise, Scherer’s editing is proficient. The make-up, effects, costume design and sound contributions are also solid. Correspondingly, Austin Lawrence and Kevin MacLeod’s music is riveting.

The relationship between Denise and Shani is also a smart focal point for Scherer’s work. These aforesaid protagonists are sufficiently developed. They offer an internal intensity to the piece that makes viewers care. It also heightens the credibility Scherer injects into the proceedings. The other individuals that populate Scherer’s account aren’t as fully formed. Still, the vagueness of these details immeasurably increases the overall mystery coursing throughout the effort.

Such results in a splendidly honed and character-oriented psychological suspense yarn. The philosophical themes Scherer explores are bold. Moreover, the film comes off as authentic in nearly all departments. in turn, the arrangement builds a captivatingly believable tone. Best of all, Scherer culminates shock and surprise from sheer storytelling. Rarely does he resort to cheap jump scares or similar tactics of evoking on-screen fear. Scherer’s latest cinematic venture, which is full of many smoothly engineered narrative shifts, fluently allows bystanders to obtain the perspective of its chief figures. The undergoing just as readily establishes Scherer as an upcoming moviemaker to be watched. Because of these incredible attributes, the unique House on Rodeo Gulch is certainly worthwhile.


Available on Vimeo and other digital platforms now.

A Brief Word on New/Upcoming Releases: “Alone”, “The Brainwashing of My Dad”, “Burning Bridges”, “47 Meters Down” and “A Quiet Passion”

By Andrew Buckner


Rating: **** out of *****.

“Alone” (2017), a 2-minute short film from director Tofiq Rzayev, is a smartly bare bones exploration of fear. Specifically, the terror that strikes one man (in an absorbing performance from Mehmet Faith Guven). This is as he begins to sense that he might not be the only one in his home. It is a classic horror story set-up; a scene spied in many cinematic entries in the genre. Yet, Rzayev proves its enduring effectiveness. This is with his atmospheric and nail-biting guidance of the project. The sudden bump-in-the-night trope so commonly associated with stories of this ilk is brilliantly incorporated. This is especially true when considering the wisely wordless attributes of the piece.

When combined with Gergo Elekes’ wonderfully creepy music and Rzayev’s masterful cinematography, the effort is all-around incredible. This Angry Student Films production also operates as a dazzling homage to an impression many have felt at one point or another in their life. Such a relatable trepidation makes this haunting exercise evermore unnerving. Because of these aforementioned qualities, Rzayev’s latest is as hair-raising as it is well-made.


“Alone” can be seen in its entirety at the YouTube link above.


The Brainwashing of My Dad

Rating: ***** out of *****.

Director and co-writer Jen Senko’s The Brainwashing of My Dad (2016) is a beautifully fashioned and essential political documentary. Concerning the effects conservative media has on her once long-standing democrat father, a World War II veteran, the 92-minute project is as powerful as it is timely. Though it can be argued that the Gravitas Ventures distribution release is a bit one-sided at times, the intriguing interviews administered are undeniably affecting. The same can be said of the myriad bits of documented evidence Senko presents to back up her case. Such results in an endeavor that is ever-absorbing.

Furthermore, the overall style of the documentary, which is heavily reminiscent of a Michael Moore venture, is perfectly suited to the material. When combined with Rachel Levine’s solid cinematography and Jeff Formosa’s same said sound contribution, the deft execution of the exertion is dually perceivable. Alongside these attributes, Senko fashions an insightful gem. It is one that is as well-paced and in-depth as it is eye-opening. In turn, The Brainwashing of My Dad endures as an emotionally resonant looking glass into the effects of televised propaganda on American culture. This is a must-see.


Available now on Blu-ray, DVD and on Amazon prime.


Burning Bridges

Rating: ****1/2 out of *****.

Rapper Ernie D’s 6-track, 23-minute EP, Burning Bridges (2017), is insightful, introspective and immersive; a truly inspiring work. The production is fantastic. Additionally, the lyricism is poetic, complex, clever and mesmerizing. It uplifts. This is while being filled with sorrow, pain, wisdom and life lessons. Correspondingly, every song is a standout. This is some of the best material from this artist to date.

(Parental Advisory). Explicit lyrics.

Available now at Amazon and other streaming platforms.


47 Meters Down

Rating: ** out of *****.

Aside from stellar cinematography and an enjoyable final twist, there is hardly anything that doesn’t feel standard service in 47 Meters Down (2017): a surprisingly ineffectual shark survival/suspense story. Mandy Moore is charismatic and enjoyable as the lead, Lisa. This is even if her central figure is a one-dimensional archetype. Additionally, Johannes’ Roberts’ direction is competent enough. Still, it does little to keep this forgettable 89-minute project afloat.

(PG-13). Contains violence and adult content.

In theaters now. On Blu-Ray and DVD September 26th, 2017.


A Quiet Passion

Rating: ****1/2 out of *****.

Though conventional in structure, writer-director Terence Davies’ biopic of the ever-rebellious Emily Dickinson, A Quiet Passion (2016), effortlessly flows with an unvarnished beauty. This is in nearly all cinematic facets. Such is especially visible in Davies’ admirable handling of mood. Yet, the cinematography, music and philosophical themes explored in the venture are where this exquisite nature is most evident. Still, the crowning achievement of Davies’ exercise are the performances. Most notably, Cynthia Nixon’s masterful, layered and nuanced lead turn.

Dickinson’s timeless and immersive poetry, which is narrated in a manner which is meant to communicate her unspoken thoughts to the audience during the more pensive moments of the labor, only heightens the elegance of the 125-minute project. Furthermore, Davies’ screenplay and overall guidance of the feature, which brings about a hefty Ingmar Bergman-like sensibility to the proceedings, are every bit as mature and refined as the narrative demands. The result of these high-caliber attributes is a mesmerizing masterpiece. Davies has crafted what is undoubtedly one of the best movies of the year.

(PG-13). Contains adult content.

Now available on Blu-ray, DVD and digital platforms.

“Clowntergeist” – (Movie Review)

By Andrew Buckner

Rating: **** out of *****.

Incorporating likable characters, performances, credible dialogue and a clever concept, writer-director Aaron Mirtes’ Clowntergeist (2017) is efficient, effective horror. The build-up and overall atmosphere of the eighty-minute venture are both equally outstanding. Mirtes, with constant assistance from Kris Brendrick’s chill-inducing music and Chaz Olivier’s remarkably moody cinematography, induces unyielding fear in cinema patrons. This is perceptible from the unnerving opening sequence. The full-throttle terror Mirtes, who works from a story by Brad Belemjian, implements courses throughout the labor. Yet, audiences care all the while. This is thanks to a screenplay that is as scary as it is protagonist-oriented. Such a debt is also owed to Mirtes’ stylish and nail-biting guidance of the project. The attempt is also graced with a satisfying finale. Such is proceeded by an eye-popping and imaginative concluding credits segment. This passage also makes good use of the blood red balloons which become equated with our antagonist.

The engaging plot concerns a coulrophobic college student, Emma (Brittany Belland). After becoming the recipient of the aforesaid inflatable, which we learn early on in Mirtes’ exercise tells victims the exact date and time the demonic title fiend will attack, Emma is forced to face her worst nightmare. With two days until the unholy fiend, Ribcage the Clown (Eric Corbin), delivers his promised violence upon her, she must find out how to defeat the evil creature. As news surfaces throughout Emma’s home town of the bodies the entity has left in its wake, the anxiety within Emma only rises.

Such is a wonderful platform for a feature of this ilk. It is one which Mirtes injects with the presence of wickedness, whether in the dialogue between the central figures or in physicality, in nearly every scene of the production. The inventive means of terror Mirtes derives from the big top related nature of his villain is just as admirable. Mirtes also utilizes statements at the bottom of the screen. This is to inform viewers of the time left until the murderous beast strikes. Such is a bold decision. It is one which could’ve easily become cloying. In so doing, it might have just as readily pulled bystanders out of the entire episode. This is on each occasion that these countdowns are seen. Yet, it only adds to the deftly executed intensity. Such is another reason why the monster at the center of the tale always feels like he is watching and silently stalking Mirtes’ leads throughout the effort. Given the many haunting sensibilities of the piece, spectators may even have the same impression about their own surroundings.

Additionally, Mirtes’ editing is seamless and sharp. Karina Rivera’s costume design is spectacular. The make-up from Mirtes and Michelle Struve is similarly astonishing. Mirtes’ visual effects are just as triumphant. The sound, camera and lighting fare just as well. Likewise, Monica Baker is exceptional as Emma’s friend, Heather. Mirtes skillfully portrays Uncle Ted.

The result of these high-functioning traits is an incredibly memorable descent into fear. One of the greatest qualities of the exertion is that it doesn’t overdo it on the gore. Still, this restraint does little to dilute the wild and raw impact at hand. It’s a lot like Tobe Hooper’s magnum opus, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974), in that respect. There is also a touch of Stephen King visible in the endeavor. This can be found lurking in the personalities of those who embody Mirtes’ fiction. It is just as noteworthy in the general tone. Mirtes has crafted a real winner. This High Octane Pictures distribution release is fast-paced and captivating. Genre fans will assuredly be delighted.

Clowntergeist will be available on Video on Demand September 12th, 2017.