A Word of Dreams Recommends: “Child Eater” and “The Void”

By Andrew Buckner

Child Eater

****1/2 out of *****.

Child Eater (2016) is a terrific, no-holds-barred creature feature that will reaffirm your youthful fear of the dark. Backed by Erlingur Thoroddsen’s masterfully paced writing and mood-laced direction, the plot of this Icelandic-American photoplay, an adaptation of Thoroddsen’s short film from 2012 of the same name, centers around Helen Connolly (in a brilliant depiction from Cait Bliss). She has been handed the job of babysitting Lucas Parker (in a wonderful enactment from Colin Critchley). But, soon this simple task turns into a nightmare. This is as Connolly finds out that Parker’s  closet harbors an evil mythological entity. He is one who has an affinity for gouging out eyeballs as well as devouring the young.

Thoroddsen turns what sounds like a conventional genre storyline into a refreshingly unique, intense and beautifully made eighty-two minute presentation. The performances, especially Jason Martin as Robert Bowery and James Wilcox as Sheriff Connolly, are exceptional all around. John Wakayama-Carey’s cinematography is lush and ominous. Einar Sv. Tryggvason’s music is as haunting as the scenes they punctuate. Jonty Pressinger’s visual effects are marvelous. Best of all, Thoroddsen keeps the beast at the heart of this tale in the shadows for most of the runtime. This is with only the briefest glimpses of the fiend dominating the affair. It is a time-tested method for these types of motion pictures. With Thoroddsen’s full-length debut, it is again proven wildly effective. The same sentiment can be attached to this  Wheelhouse Creative Production Company release as a whole. Thoroddsen starts off on an atmospherically nail-biting angle. From herein, he only accelerates the suspense. This is especially punctuated by the many imaginative kill scenes herein. Such transpires until the startlingly memorable climax.

(Unrated). Contains graphic violence.

Child Eater is currently screening in film festivals. It can also be seen on video on demand.

The Void

****1/2 out of *****.

Endlessly atmospheric, taut and uncompromisingly well-made, The Void (2016), from the writing and directing team of Jeremy Gillespie and Steven Kostanski, will assuredly go down as one of the year’s best horror films. Gillespie and Kostanski evoke a surreal, visceral experience. It is one that owes as much to the blood-soaked genre efforts of the 1980’s as it does the American author H.P. Lovecraft (1890-1937). The jaw-dropping special effects from Stefano Beninati, as well as  the dozen individuals who constitute the visual department of this arena, carry on both of these attributes wonderfully. Samy Inayeh’s cinematography, Aaron Poole’s lead performance as Daniel Carter and the hypnotic soundtrack make this tale all the more impactful. The plot itself, which involves a group of hooded figures gathering around a hospital after the arrival of a patient signifies increasing violence in the building, is undeniably intriguing. It is made all the more so in the breakneck, yet confident and novel-like, manner in which Gillespie and Kostanski allow the unpredictable events of their chronicle to unfold. The influences from John Carpenter’s The Thing (1982) and the work of George Romero certainly add to the nostalgia-laden fun of the piece. This is even more amplified as the fantastically gothic final fifteen minutes definitely resonate a heavy Clive Barker feel. Though the characters themselves are a bit archetypal, the rest of this ninety-minute endeavor is so strong that you will have no problem looking past such comparatively minor faults.

(Unrated). Contains graphic violence and adult language.

Production Companies: Cave Painting Pictures and Jo Bro Productions Film Finance.

The Void is showing in select theaters and on video on demand.

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“Mom and Me” – (Capsule Movie Review)

By Andrew Buckner
Rating: ***** out of *****.

Irish writer-director Ken Wardrop’s seventy-seven-minute documentary, Mom and Me (2015), is a sweet, poignant and frequently amusing love letter to the unbreakable mother-son bond. Told in a deceptively simple manner, which benefits the general demeanor of the production splendidly, Wardrop centers his action around a local radio broadcast in Oklahoma. The host of said program is the charming and earnest Joe Cristiano. As the photoplay commences, we soon learn he is doing a Mother’s Day special. Cristiano takes this as a chance to invite listeners to call and discuss their relationships with those who are celebrated on this holiday. From herein, Wardrop fashions a varied, complex, gripping and undoubtedly impactful portrait of the subject matter. This is as we meet the callers and hear their tales. Wardrop also opens the door to see even more intimately into the lives of these individuals. He does this by allowing viewers a chance to personally witness scenes between these aforesaid familial counterparts unfold.

Though every narrative is strikingly different, they are all uniquely effective. In turn, Wardrop takes us through the emotional ringer with gentle, quiet sincerity. This is especially evident as this efficient, tightly paced and beautifully fashioned chronicle alternates between themes of regret, drug addiction, imprisonment and Alzheimer’s Disease. These more wrenching episodes match the generally upbeat air of the effort masterfully. The concluding sequences are especially harrowing. They balance all the prior beats of the endeavor spectacularly well. Consequently, they bring every individual yarn to a satisfying conclusion. John E.R. Hardy and Benjamin Talbott make this arrangement all the more immersive with their phenomenal musical contributions. This can also be said of the editing from Mark Bankhead.

The result is consistently ardent and brilliant; one of the best films of the year. This is a testament to true masculinity. It is one which will undoubtedly prove relatable to  audiences of all ages and backgrounds. I whole-heartedly recommend you check out Wardrop’s latest, which is being distributed through Uncork’d Entertainment and Visit Films, when it is released theatrically and on video on demand May 5th, 2017.

Production Companies: Boom Pictures and Venom Films.

(Unrated). Contains adult themes.

 

A Word of Dreams Recommends: “Neruda” and “Paterson”

By Andrew Buckner

Since movies about the lives of fellow poets are such a rarity nowadays, it is my honor to recommend two terrific, recently released films that fall into that category. These are the bold, beautiful and purely cinematic biography Neruda (2016) and the hilariously droll, exceptionally acted, cleverly penned and quietly emotive, Paterson (2016). The last twenty minutes of this later stated production are especially impactful. Though their tones and greatest qualities are almost wholly dissimilar, I’d rate both ****1/2 out of *****.

Neruda stars Gael Garcia Barnal and Luis Gnecco. It was directed by Pablo Larrain (who was the behind the lens chairman for another feature from 2016: the Natalie Portman led mixed bag Jackie.) The screenplay was by Guillermo Calderon.

Runtime: 107 minutes and fifty-six seconds.

(R). Contains nudity and some violence.

Paterson stars Adam Driver and Golshifteh Farahani. It was written and directed by Jim Jarmusch.

(R). Contains some adult language and themes.

Runtime: 118 minutes and 14 seconds.

Both photoplays are available on video on demand and on Blu-ray and DVD.

“Beacon Point” – (Movie Review)

By Andrew Buckner

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

Beacon Point (2016), the debut feature from co-writer and director Eric Blue, is a subtle, intelligent and enigmatic alien invasion tale. Yet, there is a human center, reflected in the familial motivations ultimately unveiled in the late stretches, which becomes the most masterful element in the cinematic arsenal of this eighty-two-and a half minute long production. Such a component draws an undeniable comparison to Robert Zemeckis’ brilliant adaptation of Carl Sagan’s same said 1985 novel, Contact (1997). There is also an undeniable alignment to be found in these aforesaid traits with Denis Villeneuve’s exceptional big-screen treatment of Ted Chiang’s fantastic short literary piece, “Story of Your Life” (1988), Arrival (2016). Additionally, the calculated, slow-burn method in which the events unfold, as well as the general setting itself, calls to mind Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sanchez’s ground-breaking found footage exertion, The Blair Witch Project (1999). Adding to this varied pot of movie-going ingredients is the inclusion of a brief opening, that runs approximately two minutes, which appears to mimic the beefed up, action-oriented nature of John McTiernan’s Predator (1987). Though this commencing bit feels out of place with the cerebral and dramatic turns that take place throughout the rest of the attempt, it is an intriguing, if all too familiar, way to lure audiences into the narrative at hand. The next few arrangements afterward, oddly enough, seem as if they are lifted from another entirely different category of chronicle: the buoyant comedy. Such creates a strange confection of genre beats. Yet, Blue, blends them into the arc seamlessly and sharply. This makes the overall result of the affair additionally admirable and unique.

Blue tells the account of a realtor, Zoe (in an unflinching, well-rounded and always captivating portrayal from Rae Oliver a.k.a. Rachel Marie Lewis). In the previously addressed early comic stages of the photoplay, we see her deliberately trying to get her potential buyers out of the house as quick as possible. This, we learn, is so that she can start a ten-day hiking trip through the Appalachian Trail. Yet, almost as soon as she departs on this journey, which promises an escape from the tribulations and stresses of the laboring world, she finds herself plagued by surreal nightmares. These are horrific visions she silently believes to be true. As those around her start to get sick and act strange, and sights lapse unexpectedly into her brain from her childhood, she soon learns that there is an extraterrestrial menace that has chosen the group. From herein, viewers are treated to a perfectly symmetrical balance of finely tuned and staged horror arrangements and personal drama. This is as we follow Zoe in her attempts to reveal why she has been  targeted in this fashion.

The plot is both bold and amusing. It is made increasingly gripping via Blue’s taut, visceral direction. The highlights of the fabrication, a terrifying flashback segment spied at the midway mark and the appropriately cryptic and beautifully made climax, are definitive proof of Blue’s abilities in this arena. Yet, the script Blue penned with Traci Carroll is just as solid. It is smartly, meticulously paced. Correspondingly, it is filled with credibly authored and delivered dialogue. Even if the twists are a mixed bag, with about half being expected and the rest a genuine surprise, this respective item is another pleasant component of the photoplay. It starts early on and is administered frequently throughout the runtime. The constant character focus is just as admirable. Likewise, the spectacular performances all around only augment this factor. Jon Briddell is excellent in his turn as the often-hostile group spearhead, Drake Jacobs. Eric Goins’ enactment of the overworked, but still frequently comical, Dan, is magnificent. Jason Burkey gives a stellar depiction of Brian. He quickly summons a flirtatious rapport with Zoe. RJ Shearer as Cheese is also wonderful in his particular representation. Furthermore, Jason MacDonald as Zoe’s Dad, Paisley Scott as Young Zoe, Jayson Warner Smith as Hunter and Randall Taylor as Phil are immensely proficient in their secondary roles.

Also, assisting matters is Kevin Riepl’s gently melodic, and ear-pleasing, musical score. Such punctuates every movement of the picture splendidly. The cinematography from Jim McKinney is illustrious and always striking. Scott Salamon’s editing is fluent. The make-up, costume, camera and sound department institute a terrific contribution. Deron Hoffmeyer’s visual effects are similarly impressive. Best of all, Blue’s flick mechanizes them in a manner that has proven most successful and effective with anecdotes of this ilk: only sparingly. Such makes this Georgia and North Carolina recorded endeavor refreshing and noteworthy. It even adds a welcome, old-fashioned touch to the proceedings. Bystanders only get the briefest glimpses of the creatively designed otherworldly entities that dominate the title area. This is with our fullest view transpires at the thirty-four minute mark to great consequence. But, what we see is certainly enough to enduringly haunt and intrigue us.

In this category, as well as many others, Blue succeeds at getting our psyches to ponder what we have seen. Yet, he doesn’t use the creature from outer space scenario purely for fear (as is the case of far too many similar efforts nowadays). There is a sense of awe; a yearning to understand what is occurring that is ever-present. This decision immerses us in Zoe’s attempts to unravel this ancient secret that has been thrust her way even more. Consequently, it makes us care. This is while giving us something to think about. Such makes Beacon Point, which will be released on video on demand and DVD through Uncork’d Entertainment on May 2nd , 2017, tower above its predecessors. In turn, Blue has crafted an illuminating and electrifying experience. This is a must-see for fanatics of thought-provoking science-fiction and horror alike.

(Unrated) Contains violence, adult themes and language.

The Facebook page for the project can be found here.

“Undatement Center” – (Short Film Review)

By Andrew Buckner
Rating: ****1/2 out of *****.

“Undatement Center” (2017), a nine-minute short film from writer-director Chris Esper, is effortlessly charming, consistently humorous and always likable. It carries on the same seamless marriage of upbeat and hopelessly romantic tones that made his prior inventions Please Punish Me (2015) and The Deja Vuers (2016) such an incredible success. This Stories by the River and Stories in Motion co-production is also a fantastic showcase of Esper’s ability, which has been ever-present throughout his career, to project fully fleshed-out, relatable characters. Such transpires in a heartwarming and enchanting, yet undeniably human, manner. This detail is made increasingly admirable with the incorporation of a pace that is as breakneck as view of the world of dating that is the focal point of Esper’s endeavor. Yet, none of the sequences, even the laughter-fueled montage that takes over the mid-section, feels rushed or superficial. There is a breezy demeanor to the proceedings that even makes the most familiar beats of the plot triumphantly sing. This is apparent in the relationship that forms between our twenty-six-year old lead, Jack (in a phenomenal turn from Trevor Duke), who turns to the title corporation in hopes of finding love after a twelve-year hiatus, and Lindsey (in a depiction by J.D. Achille that is consistently marvelous, engaging and authentic). The opening and concluding notes are also evidence of Esper’s mastery in this aforesaid department. Yet, these segments ring with a sweetness, an earnest simplicity and lack of pretension that is genuine and captivating. Despite its often-modern attitude (reflected most readily in the intriguing plot itself), the project feels wonderfully old-fashioned. Such only increases its amiability. Randy Veraguas’ depiction of the quirky desk clerk, Shelley, as well as Shandy Monte’s enactment of the similarly positioned Jennifer enhance the agreeable nature of the picture. Christie Devine is also stalwart in her quick role as Annie. Acei Martin, in a brief part dubbed “Urine Sample Woman”, is also stellar. When combined with the masterful moviemaking and deftly constructed literary contributions Esper incites herein, with his ear for often clever dialogue being another high-quality trait, it’s becomes immediately evident that the Secaucus, New Jersey born maestro has delivered another all-around winner.

This Quincy, Massachusetts recorded endeavor is also graced with illustrious cinematography from Mikel J. Wisler. Such a veneer reiterates the sunny atmosphere of the piece fantastically. Wisler’s seamless and sharp editing fares just as well. Also, assisting matters is Steven-Lanning Cafaro’s cheery and deeply cinematic music. Dominic Kaiser’s sound issuance is spectacular. J.L. Major and Rich Simpson’s assistant camera work is equally proficient.

Esper intends to comment on how intimate associations have become more akin to a business transaction, a one-sided meeting that is based on quick facts and reams of paper, than a personal experience. The conclusion, which hints at the latter method as the more beneficial, is evidence of this bitingly brilliant, but undeniably true, observation. In less capable hands, this is a storyline akin to this could’ve become a bitter, somber experience. But, Esper keeps the jokes cracking and the smiles brimming on our faces throughout. This is without ever diminishing the impact of his thesis statement. Such is, like the totality of “Undatement Center” itself, a tremendous accomplishment. Esper’s latest, an extension of many of the themes present in his earlier photoplays, is an all-out confirmation of his continually broadening talent. It is also a testament to his exceptional skill as a photographic craftsman. The result is side-splitting and deeply transcendent; an endlessly entertaining, quietly emotive must-see!

Premiered on April 1st, 2017.

(Unrated). Contains brief language and some sexual humor.

Stories in Motion’s page for the film can be found here.