DEATH COUNT (2022) – Movie Review

By Andrew Buckner

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

Death Count (2022), from director Michael Su and screenwriter Michael Merino (with revisions by Rolfe Kanefsky), is a lean, efficient, captivating, and grisly take on Saw (2004) style horror pictures. After a visually bravura and claustrophobic commencing acknowledgements segment, Su’s offering even begins in a related manner to James Wan’s previously stated masterpiece. Continually, there is an explicit mention of Saw, as well as the narratively similar Hostel (2005) from director Eli Roth, in one sly late first act sequence. It involves a montage of news reports. Aside from being an opportunity to address the oft-utilized theme of the operation, the sadistic underbelly of The Internet, this short episode is also a refreshing nod to the photoplays from which it evokes motivation. The presence of Costas Mandylor, who deftly enacted Detective Lieutenant Mark Hoffman in Saw III (2006) through Saw: The Final Chapter (2010) and just as capably depicts the wonderfully ominous Warden in Su’s latest effort, greatly enhances this correlation.

Michael Madsen, who magnificently portrays Detective Casey, delightfully offers his gruff, commanding charm to the material. His bits of dark humor also pepper the proceedings. Yet, none of these items are employed so frequently that they take away from the superbly fashioned and anxiety-fueled tone of the enterprise. The beautifully orchestrated mood of the article skillfully permeates the appropriately brisk 81-minute attempt from the initial frame to the last.

The story concerns a group of eight strangers who find themselves in a foreign environment. They are isolated in holding cells and cannot recall how they got to be in such a situation. Their conditions become even more dire when the frightful Warden announces that they are being forced to play a deadly game. It is one which involves getting the most “likes” on social media. This is achieved by partaking in violent escapades, all of which have a ten-second time limit per unwilling contestant, that revolve around self-harm.

It’s exactly the type of plot one would expect from a tale of this ilk. The characters are also familiar archetypes. The exposition and general development they are handed is satisfactorily dispersed yet garden variety. Even the inevitable climactic reveal of why these individuals were gathered and how they are connected follows suit. The dialogue the central figures are handed is sharper and more successful. Nonetheless, it still falls under the banner of what spectators foresee from such an outing.

Notwithstanding, the film is relentless in terms of its taut pacing and same said tension. The project expertly erects its setup in the initial ten minutes of the venture. From herein, it imaginatively crafts increasingly macabre ordeals for our leads to endure. The account is just as creative in its plentiful and exceptionally well done gory bits. A courtesy of the confident guidance of the vehicle from Su, the solid script, and the all-around high-caliber performances in the construction, the suspense rarely wavers. It is smoothly concocted from the engaging and enigmatic opening to the grimly gratifying conclusion. The latter cleverly hints at a potential sequel.

What is just as impressive is the fascinating way in which the affair combines numerical, literary, and sonic clues which may aid in the contributors’ survival in the second half of the fiction. The quickness and unpredictability with which most of the cast gets slaughtered in the mesmerizing first act is just as noteworthy. Such measures create a welcome balance to the more routine beats of the composition. It also makes the endeavor far more palpable in the nerve-shredding anticipation it brilliantly builds.

From a technical perspective, the work is equally stalwart. The cinematography from Su and music from Scott Glasgow is atmospheric and immersive. I especially enjoyed the incorporation of the fitting track from Psycho Synner, the Jeremy Spencer and Shawn McGee penned “The Torture Never Stops” (2021), during the enthralling end credits. Moreover, the editing from Jeremy Wanek, costume design by Joe Lujan, sound, makeup, stunts, and effects are all outstanding.

Also identified as Numbers, Death Count is a scrappy, in-your-face midnight movie. It isn’t as groundbreaking as the features from which it derives inspiration. Regardless, it will assuredly please those of us who are always frantically searching for a stellar dose of grueling cinematic terror. A Mahal Empire, Mezek Films, and Blaen-Y-Maes Bootleg Films production, Su’s exercise is twisted fun. It’s also one of the best genre undertakings of the year.

Death Count will be released in North America on July 19th, 2022.

The 21 Best Books of 2022 (So Far)

By Andrew Buckner

*All the books included herein are incorporated into this list based on an original 2022 publication date.

21. City on Fire

By Don Winslow

20. Comedy Comedy Comedy Drama: A Memoir

By Bob Odenkirk

19. Child Zero: A Novel

By Chris Holm

18. Celest

By Sandy Robson

17. Quicksilver

By Dean Koontz

16. Diablo Mesa

By Douglas Preston, Lincoln Child

15. Finn

By Stephen King

14. Road of Bones

By Christopher Golden

13. Monstervsion: The Films of John and Mark Polonia

By Douglas Alan Waltz

12. The Girl Who Outgrew the World

By Zoje Stage

11. Fight or Play Basketball: every shot counts

By Mike Messier

10. Gwendy’s Final Task

By Stephen King, Richard Chizmar

9. Sundial

By Catriona Ward

8. Devil House

By John Darnielle

7. Bless the Daughter Raised by a Voice in Her Head: Poems

By Warsan Shire

6. Liarmouth: A Feel-Bad Romance

By John Waters

5. Sparring Partners

By John Grisham

4. All the Flowers Kneeling

By Paul Tran

3. The Kaiju Preservation Society

By John Scalzi

2. Feel Your Way Through: A Book of Poetry

By Kelsea Ballerini

1 The Rise and Reign of the Mammals: A New History, From the Shadow of the Dinosaurs to Us

By Steve Brusatte

The 15 Best Short Films of 2022 (So Far)

By Andrew Buckner

*The inclusion of the short films in this list is based on an official release date of 2022.

15. “Bros for Life”

Director: Leo Powell

14. “New Years”

Director: Kris Salvi

13. “Heart Shot”

Director: Marielle Woods

12. “Life’s Good”

Director: Jackson Tisi

11. “Erax”

Director: Hebru Brantley

10. “When the Daemon Takes Hold”

Director: Jackson Batchelor

9. “The Time Travelers”

Director: Killarney Traynor

8. “Not Waving but Drowning”

Director: Thara Popoola

7. “Briefcase Paranoia 2”

Director: Nicholas Hatch

6. “Wanna Play a Game”

Director: Brad Case

5. “Nightcap”

Director: Sam Mason-Bell

4. “A Christmas Card from a Hit Woman in Leominster”

Director: Kris Salvi

3. “Forgive Us Our Trespasses”

Director: Ashley Eakin

2. “Scribbles After Midnight”

Director: Jeremy Arruda

1.“The Blood of the Dinosaurs”

Director: Joe Badon

Runners-Up:

“Two Wrongs”

Director: Damien Nembhard

“Yo!”

Directors: Hamed & Mal

Disorienting Dick (2022) – Movie Review

By Andrew Buckner

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

Disorienting Dick (2022), from director Richard Griffin, functions brilliantly as a witty sex comedy, a political satire, and as a quietly charming and intimate cinematic journey. More specifically, one which concerns the time-tested theme of embracing your true self. It achieves a consummate symmetry of these previously stated elements. This is while being incredibly entertaining throughout its brisk 87-minute runtime. Just as importantly, it never wavers in its ability to make us laugh at the absurd rules and regulations society puts upon its citizens. This is also true of some policies certain parties flat-out ignore. A spectacular gag near the ten-minute mark which involves Covid-19 vaccinations, Republicans, and mask wearing hilariously displays the latter. With all that has been going-on in the world the past few years alone this is something that most will agree is welcome, cathartic, and desperately needed.

What is just as admirable is the pitch-perfect pacing of the project. There is not a single scene in the entire picture which doesn’t directly affect the plot and/or the motivations of the individuals unveiled in the undertaking. With the recent trend of bloated runtimes in Hollywood photoplays that are overstuffed with unnecessary sequences and thin characterizations, Griffin’s always trustworthy aptitude to keep the narrative going without any filler whatsoever while satisfactorily fleshing-out his leads is as refreshing as ever. This is as much a courtesy of the sharp editing and direction from Griffin as it is the smart, sensitive, and superbly structured script from Griffin, Robyn Guilford, and Daniel Martens (who also briefly and confidently plays Dream Pizza Boy/Plumber). Boosted by a remarkable flare for developing the on-screen personas in a way that is graceful and wholly natural, there are just the right amount of honest and tongue-in-cheek instances woven into the consistently clever dialogue. The capacity of this speech to pepper the proceedings with puns and sly meta moments only enhance this already stalwart quality.

Opening with an appealing section that is reminiscent of a 1950’s style educational reel that immediately introduces the delightfully campy and ultimately upbeat tone of the exercise, the plot revolves around Richard “Dick” Whiteman (Graham Stokes). When the identity he is trying to conceal from his Republican Rhode Island mayoral candidate mother, Maureen (Leslie Racine Vazquez), and girlfriend, Pat (Sarah Reed), comes into question he is abducted by the wicked Hyde Hippocampus Clinic. Through their use of extreme forms of mental therapy, they intend to transform “Dick” into a model of conservative ideals. The situation appears bleak for “Dick”. That is, until another group begins to repeatedly kidnap him. This collective is focused on bringing out the side of him which is often spied in the vivid fantasies that fuel his reveries throughout the production.  

Such is a simultaneously timely and timeless storyline that will prove relatable to many spectators. From the above summary alone, it is easy to ascertain how the two establishments that are fighting to take “Dick” down their path of orientation are his own personal struggles with finding himself. This subtle yet accessible symbolism, which is fluently threaded into the fiction, makes Griffin’s venture evermore fantastic. Moreover, the well-shot and elegant erotic segments, though occupied by nudity, are more suggestive than outright explicit. In turn, audiences are offered verified proof of the tasteful and vulnerable approach Griffin injects into what could’ve quickly become raunchy material.

Though many of the central figures, particularly those in antagonistic roles, are given intentionally stock traits in an endeavor to make the humor more palpable, everyone is marvelous. They are all finely cast in what are often purposefully over the top enactments. The sheer likability of the performers and those they depict, especially the protagonists, make this attribute even more perceptible. Stokes and Reed are commanding on this front. Terry Shea is wonderful as Dr. Hyde/Jekyll Hippocampus. Such is a dual representation which showcases opposing personalities.

Boosted by a pleasantly retro commencing and closing credits bit that is eye-popping in its use of black and blue colors, the effort is constantly beautiful and immersive. This is a courtesy of the clean, colorful, inventive, and incessantly striking cinematography from Griffin. It compliments every proficient frame of the affair. The sound design from Griffin is equally crisp and all-around excellent. In related terms, the music from Kissing Contest and Kraig Jordan is catchy and tonally appropriate for the article. The work is further strengthened by the great set construction from Ted Marr. The visual effects from Torey Haas are a standout. There are also some instantly iconic sock puppets created by Margaret Wolf that, like her costume creation in the attempt, elevates the merriment at hand.  

Benefitting from guffaws that elucidate from even the smallest of details, such as names and places and even the entendre-laden title of the outing itself, Disorienting Dick is the funniest movie I have seen all year. Ambitious and layered without being overdone, it is also one of the best features of 2022. It is loving, kind, and joyous. This is despite subject matter that could’ve pointed the arrangement in other directions. The composition is also a testament to the power of film as a source of discovery, expression, and freedom. Filled with Griffin’s distinct perspective and voice, it is endlessly rewatchable and enjoyable. It is a masterpiece of independent art and another unabashedly fun yet bold and thoughtful gem in Griffin’s impressive catalogue.

Writer-Director Lenny Schwartz and Actress Sheri Lee Discuss “The Haunted and the Hunted” (2022): An Interview

By Andrew Buckner

ANDREW BUCKNER: I have the distinct pleasure today of speaking with writer-director Lenny Schwartz and actress Sheri Lee. Welcome! Can you tell us a little about yourselves?

LENNY SCHWARTZ: I was born on the streets of Cranston, RI. For me, writing came at a time when I was considering joining a gang. I was a reckless, angry youth. One day after a family drive by, I started writing plays. That led into screenplays, and here we are! In all seriousness, I am just a lucky guy who has written a lot of plays. I am fortunate enough to be able to still do them. I am lucky to have written numerous screenplays and lucky to have them produced. Now I want to take all of that, and direct my first major feature film, which is something that I have never tried before.

SHERI LEE: I’m a NH based actress (and a mom of 4!) that loves all genres, but I excel in horror. I grew up on some of the greatest horror films. I’ve been dubbed New England’s scream Queen by a few directors now, haha! I’m ecstatic to be a part of Lenny’s film and always wake up feeling honored that he reached out to me that day.

LENNY: My god, it was four years ago I reached out to Sheri. I knew she was a “Scream Queen” and I wanted to deconstruct that.

Lenny, you are currently working on a script for a film you are set to direct, The Haunted and the Hunted (2022). What inspired this work?

LENNY: I always wanted to direct a feature that was unlike anything I had seen. I gave myself some parameters and huge obstacles to put myself into a really hard corner. I kept boiling the film down to essentials, and even took some of those away.

I also wanted to direct a film that was really unexpected for people who know me. I wrote plays which have a lot of dialogue. I didn’t want that. I wanted to take this to a place that is a purely cinematic experience. Something truly horrifying and beautiful.

So, what inspired me? The ambitious idea I had and the thought that this is going to be great.

Sheri, you have a role in The Haunted and the Hunted. What can you tell us about the role?

SHERI: The role in this film is seriously like no other I have taken on before. It is going to be the most challenging, the most emotional, and the most rewarding role to date. I can’t say much about her without giving some of the story away, but I can say that this character will have your attention throughout every second…. I hope I can pull that off.

Sheri, what are you doing to prepare yourself for the role?

Preparation for the role comes with really putting myself in her world. She has a lot of layers and so does the world that you’ll see in the film. Reading the script as much as I can really helps for me to dive right into the whirlwind of her beautiful chaos.

Lenny, you have a Kickstarter campaign for your upcoming film. Can you tell us about it? Also, can you please provide a link for the campaign for those of us who would like to be a part of the project?

LENNY: Yeah, we have a Kickstarter! It is at the link below. I ask that people donate or share it. If we don’t hit our goal, we will keep trying until we do. So, if you are friends with me on social media, pledge share or block me. You’re in it with us.

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Lenny and Sheri, how does The Haunted and the Hunted differ from other productions with which you’ve been involved?

LENNY: I have worked consistently with some of the best people in the business. I am very lucky and fortunate and always have been. I wouldn’t even attempt this without the lessons they imparted upon me and the friendships forged. This will be a very small production with the highest quality possible. I have no other plans to direct anything after this. This is the one.

While it does have horror elements of it, it isn’t just straight up horror. If anything, it’s a deconstruction of genres in a sense and it’s about the dissolution of the American family.

SHERI: This production differs from others mainly for the reason that I’ve been involved as a producer from the start. I love seeing the other side of productions and being a part of the growth.

The atmosphere that this film upholds is amazing and everyone will be in awe. I absolutely cannot wait to bring this to life and to entertain everyone with this extremely unique story.

Lenny, what are your plans for making the film?

LENNY: The plans for making the film will be to raise the most money possible to make the best possible film. I have also been assembling the best possible team for each aspect of this film. Only then, we will make it. But this year for sure.

Lenny, you have an interesting and unique approach to the dialogue and characters in the movie which should really help the work standout from related titles. Can you tell us about these aspects?

LENNY: I don’t want to give away too much except to say that I hear those things a lot. They are my crutches. For writers and directors and even performers, good or bad, we all have our crutches. I was interested in taking those crutches away. That’s all I can say.

Lenny, you’ve directed the brilliant and endlessly relatable political drama Vote M*********** (2020) and co-directed such terrific pictures as Comic Book Junkies (2020), which I have a speaking role in, and Far from Perfect: Life Inside a Global Pandemic (2020). How will the directorial style of The Haunted and the Hunted differ from these other ventures you’ve directed? What unique challenges will the director’s chair bring forth this time around?

LENNY: Thank you for the kind words about the other projects. I think the biggest thing for me on this one is that I will be able to be on an actual, physical set for these as all of those were filmed remotely on cell phones by the performers due to pandemic. It’s going to be nice to work physically with people! But it will be a safe set, both for creating and for the pandemic we are in.

The unique challenge is that I have a clear vision for what I want to see and then realizing it the closest I can to that vision.

Lenny, what has the process of writing the script for the movie been like so far? Do you have a routine for writing you utilize when working on the screenplay?

LENNY: It’s been weird. I finished the first draft in 2015…and now coming back to it again and again over many years has been great. I never get sick of the script and it is always on my mind.

I also reached out to my female friends a ton writing this script as there are feminist themes inherent in this script. I leaned a lot onto Sheri for that as well.

This also has the most action and tension I have ever put in a script. It’s like an anxiety attack that never lets up.

That sounds terrific. I can’t wait to see it.

Lenny and Sheri, is there anything else you would like to discuss that I haven’t asked about yet?

SHERI: I want to thank everyone that has donated so far and encourage others to do so if they can.

Don’t miss out on being part of bringing a truly unique werewolf film like this to life.

LENNY: Thank you to everyone who supported us thus far. The best is yet to come.

Thank you for your time.  I appreciate it. I also wish you all the best of luck on your project.

*The poster art featured above is the work of Mark Michaelson.

The 55 Best Albums/ EPs of 2021

By Andrew Buckner

 *The recordings featured in this list are included based on an official 2021 release date.*

55. 30 by Adele

54. Keys by Alicia Keys

53. Cycles (Original Score) by The Alchemist

52. Blacklight by Apollo Brown, Stalley

51. Collapsed in Sunbeams by Arlo Parks

50. Yellow River Blue by Yu Su

49. Bizarre of D-12 Presents Starvin’ Artists (Mixtape) by Various Artists

48. S.O.S (EP) by Rittz

47. Turquoise Tornado by Yelawolf, Riff Raff

46. Bushido by Mello Music Group

45. Imaginary Everything by L’Orange, Namir Blade

44. If It Bleeds It Can Be Killed by Conway the Machine, Big Ghost Ltd

43. Wasteland: What Ails Our People is Clear by Lice

42. Slumafia (EP) by Yelawolf, DJ Paul

41. Squirrel Tape Instrumentals, Vol. 1 by Evidence

40. Mouse on Mars by AA1

39. Mile Zero by Yelawolf, DJ Muggs

38. Shane by Madchild

37. Gary Bartz JID006 by Gary Bartz, Adrian Younge, Ali Shaheed Muhammad

36. Maquishta by Patricia Brennan

35. The American Negro by Adrian Younge

34. Milestones (EP) by Skyzoo

33. The Plugs I Met 2 (EP) by Benny the Butcher, Harry Fraud

32. Haram by Armand Hammer, The Alchemist

31. Throw Aways 96 by Goblin

30. Sound Ancestors by Madlib

29. Season of the Se7en by Bronze Nazareth, Recognize Ali          

28. La Maquina by Conway the Machine

27. Word? by Atmosphere

26. An Evening with Silk Sonic by Silk Sonic

25. Shane 2 by Madchild

24. The Blue of Distance by Elori Saxl

23. Lovesick by Apollo Brown, Raheem DeVaughn

22. Onyx 4 Life by Onyx

21. Ghostbusters: Afterlife: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack by Rob Simonsen

20. Dumpster Juice by Bizarre

19. Exodus by DMX

18. All the Brilliant Things by Skyzoo

17. Autograph by Joell Ortiz

16. The Lost Themes III: Alive After Death by John Carpenter

15. The Last Ride by HRSMN

14. The Lunar Injection Kool Aid Eclipse Conspiracy by Rob Zombie

13. Doe or Die II by AZ

12. Big Sleepover by Big Boi, Sleepy Brown

11. Long Story Longer by Swifty McVay, Ras Kass, Yukmouth, MRK SX

10. Mudmouth by Yelawolf

9. Unlearning Vol. 1 by Evidence

8. Gotham by Talib Kweli, Diamond D

7. Super What? by Czarface, MF DOOM

6. Asin9ne by Tech N9ne

5. Call Me If You Get Lost by Tyler, The Creator

4. Summer End Café by Killah Priest

3. A Beautiful Revolution, Pt. 2 by Common

2. King’s Disease II by Nas

1. Remedy Meets Wu-Tang by Remedy, Wu-Tang Clan

The 22 Best Books of 2021

By Andrew Buckner

*The books included in this list are based on the criteria of an original publication date in 2021.*

22. My Heart is a Chainsaw

By Stephen Graham Jones

21. The Final Girl Support Group

By Grady Hendrix

20. The Scorpion’s Tail

By Douglas Preston, Lincoln Child

19. The Plot

By Jean Hanff Korelitz

18. Getaway

By Zoje Stage

17. Rovers

By Richard Lange

16. Survive the Night

By Riley Sager

15. Sooley: A Novel

By John Grisham

14. The Other Emily

By Dean Koontz

13. Bloodless

By Douglas Preston, Lincoln Child

12. Jesus: A New Vision

By Whitley Strieber

11. Distance from Avalon: When the Dying and the Young Unite

By Mike Messier

10. Because He’s Jeff Goldblum: The Movies, Memes and Meaning of Hollywood’s Most Enigmatic Actor

By Travis M. Andrews

9. Later

By Stephen King

8. The Judge’s List

By John Grisham

7. These Fists Break Bricks: How Kung Fu Movies Swept America and Changed the World

By Chris Poggiali, Grady Hendrix.

6. Starstruck: My Unlikely Road to Hollywood

By Leonard Maltin

5. Chasing the Boogeyman

By Richard Chizmar

4. Billy Summers

By Stephen King

3. A Bright Ray of Darkness

By Ethan Hawke

2. Project Hail Mary

By Andy Weir

1. Vibrate Higher: A Rap Story

By Talib Kweli

The Archivist (2021) – Movie Review

By Andrew Buckner

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

The Archivist (2021), the debut feature from director Eric Hand, is a glorious tribute to the distinct storytelling mechanics, characterizations, and vibrant, eye-popping style of the grindhouse motion pictures of the 1960’s–1970’s. The 109-minute creation beautifully mirrors this most cinematic of eras through its emotionally compelling, moody, and evocative music from White Noise Generator. The aforementioned time frame is also brilliantly reflected in the stunning cinematography from Hand. It is also seen in the remarkable performances, namely Emmett Corbin as Colonel Boaz and Jennifer Giles as Mother/Agent Pope, from everyone involved in the production.

This quality is immediately evident in the superb depiction from Hand as the lead of the narrative, Agent Caulder Benson. Hand’s enactment of Benson masterfully models that of Clint Eastwood as The Man With no Name in Sergio Leone’s brilliant Dollar Trilogy. This trio of western classics included A Fistful of Dollars (1964), For a Few Dollars More (1965), and The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (1966). What also heightens this parallel is that The Archivist was shot on restored 35mm Techniscope Arriflex cameras and lenses. These were also used in the recording of The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. When Hand’s effort gradually aligns itself to a series of events one would associate with the previously stated Leone/Eastwood collaborations, it naturally fits the loving homage the movie mesmerizingly crafts.

Utilizing the book burning and governmental control elements of Ray Bradbury’s tour de force, Fahrenheit 451 (1953), alongside other timeless bits of science-fiction, human horror, and fantasy, Hand, who also successfully portrays Lazarus, tells the tale of Benson: a violent man whose been given the title position by an oppressive administration. Taking place in 2070, the exercise concerns Benson destroying historical remnants which are considered forbidden. In so doing, he finds out that these items seem to have a strange power over him. Filled with sudden questions and concerns about the world around him, he steals a muscle car from the 1970’s. He then heads out into the chaos of the post-apocalyptic landscape around him. Pursued by an ominous sheriff and in constant danger of the bizarre individuals he encounters, Benson searches for answers. This is while trying to escape his own past.

The Archivist is an ambitious, layered marvel of independent filmmaking. The screenplay, co-authored by Bo Gardner and Hand, is filled with tough, organic, occasionally quippy, yet often thoughtful and poetic dialogue. Such speech, along with the on-screen personalities who speak them, fit perfectly with the ambiance of a Leone/Eastwood work from nearly six decades ago. Such a design signifies that the primary personalities that dominate the piece remain enigmatic throughout the duration of the project. Regardless, this general lack of development doesn’t hinder the proceedings.

What also further strengthens the endeavor is the exceptional visual effects from Michael Crigler and Zach Hunter. They also illuminate the 1970’s veneer of the attempt. Moreover, the editing from D. Prescott Noel and Tom Marotta, makeup from Paul Moody, and set decoration by Kendall Moody are first-rate. The art direction from Ed Amantia and stunts are just as finely honed.   

Opening with an exciting, no-nonsense first act and concluding with an engrossing and quietly moving finale, The Archivist is smart, accomplished, tonally flawless, and consistently captivating entertainment. It is guaranteed to thrill both cinephiles and casual viewers alike. The action scenes are retro excellence. They are intimate and never overdone. Continually, they are also enthralling and deftly constructed. The excursion moves at a confident pace. It is never too rushed or too slow. This is ideal for the material. Hand’s undertaking incorporates social commentary into the plot just as smoothly as it does its high-level of audience involvement. In turn, The Archivist is one of the most impressive photoplays I have seen all year. It is a true fabrication of celluloid art. Particularly, one that will prove to be as enduring as the legendary ventures from which it takes such fervent notes.

Blu-rays for The Archivist can be found at http://thearchivistmovie.com/.

THE 25 BEST ALBUMS OF 2021 (SO FAR)

By Andrew Buckner

*The Inclusion of these albums in this list is based on an official initial 2021 release date.

25. Haram by Armand Hammer, The Alchemist

24. Turquoise Tornado by Yelawolf, Riff Raff

23. Bushido by Mello Music Group

22. Imaginary Everything by L’Orange, Namir Blade

21. If It Bleeds It Can Be Killed by Conway the Machine, Big Ghost LTD.

20. The Plugs I Met 2 by Benny the Butcher, Harry Fraud

19. Wasteland: What Ails Our People is Clear by Lice

18. Mouse on Mars by Aa1

17. Slumafia by Yelawolf, DJ Paul

16. Maquishta by Patricia Brennan

15. The American Negro by Adrian Younge

14. Season of the Se7en by Bronze Nazareth, Recognize Ali

13. Mile Zero by Yelawolf, DJ Muggs

12.  Gary Bartz JID006 by Gary Bartz, Adrian Younge, Ali Shaheed Muhammad

11. Sound Ancestors by Madlib

10. ONYX 4 LIFE by Onyx

9. The Blue of Distance by Elori Saxl

8. The Lost Themes III: Alive After Death by John Carpenter

7. La Maquina by Conway the Machine

6. Soulful Distance by Devin the Dude

5. Mudmouth by Yelawolf

4. The Lunar Injection Kool Aid Eclipse Conspiracy by Rob Zombie

3. Gotham by Talib Kweli, Diamond D.

2. Super What? by Czarface, MF DOOM

  1. Exodus by DMX

“A Distance from Avalon” (2021) By Mike Messier – Book Review

By Andrew Buckner

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

A Distance from Avalon (2021), the debut novella from fellow filmmaker and critic Mike Messier, is a refreshingly subtle and philosophical take on the vampire saga. In a compact and complex ninety-seven pages, Messier weaves the tale of two educators, Joe Humble and a young music instructor by the name of Shadow. Pairing up to enjoy a late October Friday Night, the duo arrives at an ominous mansion entitled Avalon. From herein, the hosts seduce and separate the guests. Immediately afterward, the visitors willingly follow the mysterious figures to separate rooms. At a point near the central mark, the narrative crafts a superb balance of introspection and intrigue. It is one which lasts the remainder of the volume. This is as the leads and their partners for the night gradually unveil secret and sentimental elements of themselves.

What is immediately striking about the tome is that Messier’s screenwriting roots are much intact. For example, the whole book is composed of brief chapters. These sections range mainly from one to two pages. They are so vividly written, yet efficient, that they could easily be scenes in a film. Additionally, every scrap of dialogue reads like a line of poetry: Beautiful, thoughtful, and as economical as the segments in which they are unified.

Messier’s characters, all of whom are terrifically formed and whose monikers greatly enhance the figurative essence of the effort, are equally captivating. They are all distinct, yet intelligent and credible. The individuals who dominate A Distance from Avalon are also enigmatic and insightful. They are well-established components that constantly elucidate the classic, sophisticated atmosphere of the project in spellbinding fashion. Messier uses them to discourse on religion, love, time, mankind, art, and a myriad of related subjects. This is in a way that is intellectually stimulating without appearing unnatural. It is also executed via a method that does not take away from the propulsion of the smoothly paced narrative.

I admired the manner with which Messier frequently avoids the tropes often attributed to such tales of bloodthirsty creatures. What is utilized of these bits is enough to establish a knowledge of the lore of these nocturnal entities. Instead of relying on this heavily, as an easy act of recognition hinging on events the audience has perused in other such exercises, Messier uses this foundation to forge his own path. In turn, this helps build a far more surprising and satisfying story.

In the work, Messier showcases a deft command of tying together all the fine details he has dispersed throughout the enterprise. This is most notable in the finale. In this climactic bit, Messier brings all the cumulative mystery, symbolism, and restraint that he exhibited throughout the endeavor to a compelling and appropriate punctuation point. It is one of the various signs ceaselessly at play of his knack for spinning an exemplary account.

There are also many sly references to the cinema of Messier expertly woven into the volume. The most obvious of these is his phenomenal forty-minute short documentary on the creative process, “Disregard the Vampire” (2017). His brief, and equally good, Fantasy tale, “The Nature of the Flame” (2014), are just as cleverly addressed. These winks at the reader are incredible. This is especially when considering how they organically derive from the attempt. They also operate just as significantly as world-building in the collective universe of Messier’s artistic ventures.

Graced by eye-popping and gorgeous cover art from Nazar Germanov, A Distance from Avalon is an all-around brilliant publication; a literary four-course meal. It is driven by a fantastic plot. Such is one that is given depth and dimension by Messier’s cerebral and refined writing abilities. The piece is intimate, open, ambitious, smartly structured, and perfectly told. Messier has constructed a sensational world of nuance and underlying fear. Masterful in all arenas, the power of this dignified beast is impossible to ignore.

A Distance from Avalon can be purchased in Kindle eBook or paperback format here.