“Tennessee Gothic” – (Movie Review)

By Andrew Buckner

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

Tennessee Gothic (2019), from writer-director Jeff Wedding and based on the short story “American Gothic” (1987) by Ray Russell, is an incredibly successful blend of comedy and horror. Though Wedding’s latest favors the latter, it uses the former to pepper the personality of the sufficiently developed characters and occasionally off-the-wall situations. Regardless, the jokes are never overdone or unnecessary (as is the case of many such genre hybrids). Additionally, these lighter instances are mostly reseved for the second act.

This is an effective move. It is one that helps make every one of the eighty-eight minutes of the undertaking unpredictable and entertaining. In so doing, Wedding crafts a wild ride of beautifully rendered terror and more hit than miss humor. Yet, what is most impressive is that, despite these naturally conflicting elements, the ominous tone is never broken.

Via his deftly structured screenplay, Wedding tells the tale of Sylvia (in a brilliant, commanding portrayal by Jackie Kelly which stands as one of the highlights of the production). After an act of violence, which is caught in the harrowing and well-done opening four minutes of the endeavor, she finds herself under the care of teenage Caleb (William Ryan Watson) and the widower Paw (Victor Hollingsworth). The joy the pair initially find in this new living situation on their farm, which is amplified by the reoccurring presence of Reverend Simms (Wynn Reichert), slowly turns nightmarish. This is in a manner that none of the aforementioned male leads could’ve possibly foreseen.

One of the smartest and most engaging moves in the picture is how well Wedding keeps a veil of mystery hovering over Sylvia. It is playfully hinted at and clues are teased addictively throughout the endeavor. All of these aforesaid bits are utilized in a fashion that constantly makes Wedding’s exercise evermore gripping. When the answer to such a question is exposed in the fantastic conclusion, it more than satisfies.

What is just is stunning is the gorgeous and colorful cinematography from Eric Stanze. It wonderfully captures the often earthy spirit of the narrative. The same can be said of the mood and atmosphere-appropriate music from Greg Bennett. Moreover, Watson, Hollingsworth and Reichert offer astounding turns. Christine Poythress is just as good in her enactment of Mrs. Simms. Jason Christ is excellent as Ronnie.

Furthermore, Wedding’s editing is strong. The special effects from Katie Groshong is superb. Trevor Williams’ visual effects are equally splendid. The makeup and sound department implement a magnificent contribution to the exercise. Wedding’s guidance of the project is stylish and stunning.

In turn, Wedding delivers an unforgettable modern take on folklore. Its themes branchout from said cultural body in a clever, credible and appealing fashion. Best of all, none of these touches feel as if they are an inorganic aspect of the plot. Such is a testament to both the quality of the storytelling at hand and the account itself. It is also a small part of the reason why Tennessee Gothic is spellbinding from the first frame to the last.

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“Art of the Dead” – (Movie Review)

By Andrew Buckner

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

Art of the Dead (2019), from writer-director Rolfe Kanefsky, is a surreal, wildly entertaining and wickedly inventive work of cinematic horror. It ranks among the best genre pictures of the year. As was the case in earlier Kanefsky productions, such as The Black Room (2017), there are touches of movie masters Dario Argento, Lucio Fulci (such as one gloriously gooey occasion near the midway mark where an image of a slug oozes slime) and Mario Bava. These are unmistakably located throughout the ninety-seven minute project. There is also a first act death scene involving overdrinking that lovingly calls to mind a moment one might see in a feature from Troma Entertainment. Such examples showcase that Kanefsky is clearly inspired. His ability to evoke memories obtained from so many sources is commendable. It increases the varied and effortlessly enjoyable nature of the proceedings.

What is just as gripping is Kanefsky’s theme of the art world. In particular, the artist being underappreciated by his or her audience. This is displayed effectively in the eye-opening and attention-garnering six-minute opening segment. There is also a concentration on the hindrance of critics through the eye of said artist. Such an emphasis adds layers of insight to the proceedings. These gently sewn bits help make the work evermore resonate.

The efficiently paced effort is further propelled to excellence by its engaging plot. It involves a family, the Wilsons, who, unbeknownst to its tragic past, are slowly taken over by the Sinsation Collection. These are an assembly of beautifully rendered paintings that revolve around the seven deadly sins. In so doing, the clan begin to enact the transgressions depicted in the canvases. This is as the handspun portraits individually speak to the members of the kin and use them as pawns in their wicked bidding.

From a narrative perspective, Kanefsky’s latest also benefits from a solid and intense third act. It weaves its various plot threads into a spectacularly sinister and satisfying climax. The concluding sequence is intriguing and ominous. It offers the perfect punctuation point for the material. The sections of backstory found in the first sixty minutes mechanize just as well. It serves as engaging exposition. The handling of this attribute adds to the wonderfully bizarre and unpredictable atmosphere of the undertaking.

Kanefsky’s script, from a story by Michael and Sonny Mahal, has the right amount of character focus, development and content. The dialogue is believable and enjoyable. Furthermore, it is brought richly to life by a game cast. Every actor and actress involved with the development delivers with a fantastic performance. Jessica Morris as Gina Wilson, Lukas Hasssel as Dylan Wilson, Richard Grieco as Douglas Winter, Tania Fox as Tiffany Roberts and Tara Reid as Tess Barryman are especially good.

The exercise is just as stalwart from a technical standpoint. The cinematography from Michael Su is colorful and striking. It increases the imaginative and hypnotic essence of the exercise. This can also be said of the smartly utilized visual effects. They were supervised by Clint Carney. Christopher Farrell’s music is moody and masterful. The costume design by Monique Marie Long, editing by Jay Woelfel and the collective contribution from the makeup department is also astounding. These characteristics are all wonder-inducing highlights of this gloriously grim gem.

In turn, Kanefsky has crafted a brilliant genre outing. The venture is ambitious and thoughtful. It can also be quite graphic at times. The subtle moments of terror are instrumented just as phenomenally as the more daring, aggressive instances of fear. Much as he had done prior, Kanefsky draws from a large catalogue of genre-related elements. This will assuredly be a source of endless appeal and admiration to fellow fans of fright flicks of all varieties. What is just as exemplary is how well he wields them into a memorable composition. It is one that is wholly his own. Regardless of the familiarity of some of the items in Kanefky’s arsenal, there is never a sense of anything in the endeavor being overdone. Best of all, there is also not a dull second in sight. For these reasons, Art of the Dead is a must-see this Halloween season. It is guaranteed to satisfy.

Andrew Buckner’s 60 Favorite Horror Films of 2019

By Andrew Buckner

*Please note that the inclusion of all films on this list is based on an original 2019 U.S. release date.

60. Hoax
Director: Matt Allen.

59. The Furies
Director: Tony D’Aquino.

58. Between the Trees
Director: Brad Douglas.

57. Artik
Director: Tom Botchii Skowronski.

56.Winterskin
Director: Charlie Steeds.

55. The Farm
Director: Hans Stjernsward.

54. I Spit on Your Grave: Déjà vu
Director: Meir Zarchi.

53. Reborn
Director: Julian Richards.

52. Greta
Director: Neil Jordan.

51. Camp Wedding
Director: Greg Emetaz.

50. The Silence
Director: John R. Leonetti.

49. Incredible Violence
Director: G. Patrick Condon.

48. Devil’s Revenge
Director: Jared Cohn.

47. Annabelle Comes Home
Director: Gary Dauberman.

46. Blood Craft
Director: James Cullen Bressack.

45. Gwen
Director: William McGregor.

44. The Banana Splits Movie
Director: Danishka Esterhazy.

43. Pet Sematary
Directors: Kevin Kolsch, Dennis Widmyer.

42. Seeds
Director: Owen Long.

41. The Hole in the Ground
Director: Lee Cronin.

40. Into the Dark: Culture Shock
Director: Gigi Saul Guerrero.

39. Nightmare Cinema
Directors: Alejandro Brugues, Joe Dante, Mick Garris, Ryuhei Kitamuri, David Slade.

38. The Field Guide to Evil
Directors: Ashim Ahluwalia, Can Evrenol, Severin Fiala, Veronika Franz, Katrin Gebbe, Calvin Reeder, Agnieszka Smoczynska, Peter Strickland, Yannis Veslemes.

37. The Night Sitter
Directors: Abiel Bruhn, John Rocco.

36. Satanic Panic
Director: Chelsea Stardust.

35. Critters Attack!
Director: Bobby Miller.

34. Crawl
Director: Alexandre Aja.

33. It Chapter 2
Director: Andy Muschietti.

32. Scary Stories to Tell in The Dark
Director: Andre Ovredal.

31. Child’s Play
Director: Lars Klevberg.

30. Belzebuth
Director: Emilio Portes.

29. Tigers Are Not Afraid
Director: Issa Lopez.

28. One Cut of the Dead
Director: Shin’ichiro Ureda.

27. Darlin’
Director: Pollyanna McIntosh.

26. The Wind
Director: Emma Tammi.

25. We Have Always Lived in the Castle
Director: Stacie Passon.

24. Escape Room
Director: Adam Robitel.

23. Piercing
Director: Nicolas Pesce.

22. Ready or Not
Directors: Matt Bettinelli-Olpin, Tyler Gillet.

21. The Prodigy
Director: Nicholas McCarthy.

20. Knife+Heart
Director: Yann Gonzalez.

19. The Perfection
Director: Richard Shepard.

18. Starfish
Director: Al White.

17. Depraved
Director: Larry Fessenden.

16. The Whistler: Origins
Director: Gisberg Bermudez.

15. I Trapped the Devil
Director: Josh Lobo.

14. Hagazussa
Director: Lukas Feigelfeld.

13. Lords of Chaos
Director: Jonas Akerlund.

12. The Dead Don’t Die
Director: Jim Jarmusch.

11. Art of the Dead
Director: Rolfe Kanefsky.

10. Midsommar
Director: Ari Aster.

9. The Head Hunter
Director: Jordan Downey.

8. 3 from Hell
Director: Rob Zombie.

7. In the Tall Grass
Director: Vincenzo Natalia.

6. The Nightshifter
Director: Dennison Ramalho.

5. Velvet Buzzsaw
Director: Dan Gilroy.

4. Bliss
Director: Joe Begos.

3. Climax
Director: Gaspar Noe.

2. Luz
Director: Tilman Singer.

1. Us
Director: Jordan Peele.

AWordofDreams Presents: 31 Great Lesser Known Horror Films From 1920-2018

By Andrew Buckner

From the entertaining to the extreme, here is a list of thirty-one great lesser known horror films from 1920-2018 to make your Halloween season unforgettable.

1. At Midnight I’ll Take Your Soul (1964)
Director: Jose Mojica Marins.

2. Onibaba (1964)
Director: Kaneto Shindo.

3. Begotten (1990)
Director: E. Elias Merhige.

4. Possum (2018)
Director: Matthew Holness.

5. Eyes Without a Face (1960)
Director: Georges Franju.

6. Haxan (1922)
Director: Benjamin Christensen.

7. Carnival of Souls (1962)
Director: Herk Harvey.

8. 10 Rillington Place (1971)
Director: Richard Fleischer.

9. Men Behind the Sun (1988)
Director: T.F. Mous.

10. Visions of Suffering (2006)
Director: Andrey Iskanov.

11. The Strange Color of Your Body’s Tears (2013)
Directors: Helene Cattet, Bruno Forzani.

12. Mark of the Devil (1970)
Director: Michael Armstrong.

13. Antichrist (2009)
Director: Lars von Trier.

14. Three…Extremes (2004)
Directors: Fruit Chan, Takashi Miike, Chan-wook Park.

15. Hour of the Wolf (1968)
Director: Ingmar Bergman.

16. Children Shouldn’t Play with Dead Things (1972)
Director: Bob Clark.

17. A Cat in the Brain (1990)
Director: Lucio Fulci.

18. Magic (1978)
Director: Richard Attenborough.

19. Bloodsucking Freaks (1976)
Director: Joel M. Reed.

20. The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane (1976)
Director: Nicolas Gessner.

21. Curse of the Demon (1957)
Director: Jacques Tourner.

22. Vampyr (1932)
Director: Carl Theodor Dreyer.

23. The Old Dark House (1932)
Director: James Whale.

24. Dr. Cyclops (1940)
Director: Ernest B. Schoedsack.

25. The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms (1953)
Director: Eugene Lourie.

26. Dead of Night (1945)
Directors: Alberto Calvacanti, Charles Crichton, Basil Dearden, Robert Hamer.

27. I Bury the Living (1958)
Director: Albert Band.

28. The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920)
Director: Robert Wiene.

29. Brain Damage (1988)
Director: Frank Henenlotter.

30. Pieces (1982)
Director: J.P. Simon.

31. Eraserhead (1977)
Director: David Lynch.