“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.

Press Release: Andrew Buckner Releases Third Feature, “The Silent Journey of the Page”

Filmmaker, author and musician Andrew Buckner has released his third feature film, The Silent Journey of the Page (2020), via YouTube. The 51-minute work utilizes black and white, repeated images, silence and poetry to represent the creative process. It is an abstract piece which is also aesthetically unique and daring. The effort, which Buckner made entirely by himself for free, can be seen in full at the link above.

Press Release: Andrew Buckner “Eyes and Bones” Short Found Footage/ Audio Film

Filmmaker, author and musician Andrew Buckner has released a four-minute short film entitled “Eyes and Bones” (2020) via YouTube. The work, which can be seen in full at the link above, is a found footage/ audio work directed, edited, recorded and produced by Buckner. The piece involves an unnamed individual who sees lights in the sky one night. The next morning he decides to document what is occurring. This triggers a series of events where the beings behind the light seem to be repeatedly following and tormenting him. Utilizing no special effects or human faces, the endeavor is another example of Buckner’s ability to make high-quality films in his backyard that are completely free of cost.

Press Release: Andrew Buckner Releases “Big Screen Memories” Short Film

Director, author and musician Andrew Buckner has released his third short documentary film via YouTube, “Andrew Buckner’s Big Screen Memories: A Short Film Retrospective on Family, Midnight Movies and the Theater Experience” (2020).

The 14 minute and 45 second project contains unscripted audio of Buckner speaking on some of the memories he has with local theaters and drive-ins throughout his life. Filled with nostalgia and a love for film, the work also showcases how the theater experience has brought him many wonderful times with his family. Buckner also reminisces on some memorable midnight movie premieres he attended. The endeavor is also broadened by Buckner discoursing on how the recent theater shutdown his altered his current feelings about motion pictures.

In turn, this is a glorious love letter to movie theaters and the connection one individual has had with them throughout the years.

Andrew Buckner’s 12 Favorite Books of 2019

By Andrew Buckner

12. The Night Window by Dean Koontz

11. Tales to Chill Your Bones To by Michael Haberfelner

10. Theodore Boone: The Accomplice by John Grisham

9. Full Throttle: Stories by Joe Hill

8. Go to School, Kanunu by Chris Esper

7. Growing Things and Other Stories by Paul Tremblay

6. The Cabin at the End of the World by Paul Tremblay

5. The Gordon Place by Isaac Thorne

4. Lock Every Door by Riley Sager

3. The Andromeda Evolution by Michael Chrichton, Daniel H. Wilson

2. The Guardians by John Grisham

1. The Institute by Stephen King

 

The 25 Best Rap Albums of 2019

By Andrew Buckner

25. Put a Crown on It – Rittz
24. Yuck! – Anoyd, Statik Selektah
23. Ga$ Money – Lyric Jones
22. S.P. The Goat: Ghost of all Time – Styles P
21. Trunk Muzik 3 – Yelawolf
20. Igor –Tyler, the Creator
19. The Fifth – Obie Trice
18. W.W.C.D. – Griselda
17. Sincerely, Detroit – Apollo Brown
16. The Bando Theory – Kuniva
15. Demons – Madchild
14. Under Bad Influence – Ubi
13. N9na – Tech N9ne
12. Vernia – Erick Sermon
11. Street Urchin 2 – Sean Strange
10. Out to Sea – Chris Orrick
9. Ghetto Cowboy – Yelawolf
8. Born 2 Rap – The Game
7. Practice Makes Paper – E40
6. Let Love – Common
5. The Lost Tapes 2 – Nas
4. Chamber No. 9 – Inspectah Deck
3. Czarface Meets Ghostface – Czarface, Ghostface Killah
2. Ghostface Killahs – Ghostface Killah
1. I Read That I Was Dead – Chris Orrick, The Lasso

Andrew Buckner’s 75 Favorite Films of 2019

By Andrew Buckner

*Please note: All films included in this list are based on a 2019 U.S. release date.

1. Once Upon a Time….in Hollywood
Director: Quentin Tarantino.

2. They Shall Not Grow Old
Director: Peter Jackson.

3. The Last Black Man in San Francisco
Director: Joe Talbot.

4. The Irishman
Director: Martin Scorsese.

5. A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood
Director: Marielle Heller.

6. Doctor Sleep
Director: Michael Flanagan.

7. Memory: The Origins of Alien
Director: Alexandre O. Phillipe.

8. The Image Book
Director: Jean-Luc Godard.

9. Never Look Away
Director: Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck

10. Ad Astra
Director: James Gray

11. Us
Director: Jordan Peele.

12. Hail Satan?
Director: Penny Lane

13. Apollo 11
Director: Todd Douglas Miller.

14. Non-Fiction
Director: Olivier Assayas.

15. Birds of Passage
Directors: Cristina Gallego, Ciro Guerra.

16. Climax
Director: Gaspar Noe.

17. Prosecuting Evil: The Extraordinary World of Ben Ferencz
Director: Barry Avrich.

18. High Life
Director: Claire Denis.

19. American Factory
Directors: Julia Reichert, Steven Bognar.

20. One Child Nation
Directors: Nanfu Wang, Jialing Zhang.

21. The Souvenir
Director: Joanna Hogg.

22. The Farewell
Director: Lulu Wang.

23. The Nightingale
Director: Jennifer Kent.

24. Dolemite is My Name
Director: Craig Brewer

25. Cold Case Hammarskjold
Director: Mads Brugger.

26. We Believe in Dinosaurs
Directors: Monica Long Ross, Clayton Brown.

27. Meeting Gorbachev
Directors: Werner Herzog, Andre Singer.

28. Transit
Director: Christian Petzold.

29. The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind
Director: Chiwetel Ejiofor

30. Antrum: The Deadliest Film Ever Made
Directors: David Amito, Michael Laicini.

31. Luz
Director: Tilman Singer.

32. Bliss
Director: Joe Begos.

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

34. Midsommar
Director: Ari Aster.

35. Velvet Buzzsaw
Director: Dan Gilroy.

36. Shadow
Director: Yimou Zhang.

37. Aniara
Directors: Pella Kagerman, Hugo Lilja.

38. Booksmart
Director: Olivia Wilde.

39. Empathy, Inc.
Director: Yedidya Gorsetman.

40. The Nightshifter
Director: Dennison Ramalho.

41. The Head Hunter
Director: Jordan Downey.

42. Knock Down the House
Director: Rachel Lears.

43. Harriet
Director: Kasi Lemmons

44. Her Smell
Director: Alex Ross Perry.

45. Super Size Me 2: Holy Chicken
Director: Morgan Spurlock.

46. Art of the Dead
Director: Rolfe Kanefsky.

47. Tennessee Gothic
Director: Jeff Wedding.

48. The Mustang
Director: Laure de Clermont-Tonnerre.

49. Little Woods
Director: Nia DaCosta.

50. Tolkien
Director: Dome Karukoski.

51. Knife+Heart
Director: Yann Gonzalez.

52. 10/31 Part 2
Directors: Breet DeJager, Zane Hershberger, Jennifer Nangle, Tory van Buskirk, Stephen Wolfe.

53. Vault
Director: Tom DeNucci.

54. In the Tall Grass
Director: Vincenzo Natali.

55. 3 from Hell
Director: Rob Zombie.

56. Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark
Director: Andre Ovredal.

57. It Chapter Two
Director: Andy Muschietti.

58. The Prodigy
Director: Nicholas McCarthy.

59. Charlie Says
Director: Mary Harron.

60. Child’s Play
Director: Lars Klevberg.

61. Depraved
Director: Larry Fessenden.

62. I Trapped the Devil
Director: Josh Lobo.

63. Hagazussa
Director: Lukas Feigelfeld.

64. The Wind
Director: Emma Tammi.

65. Rust Creek
Director: Jen McGowan.

66. The Girl on the Third Floor
Director: Travis Stevens.

67. Satanic Panic
Director: Chelsea Stardust.

68. The Furies
Director: Tony D’Aquino.

69. Crawl
Director: Alexandre Aja.

70. Dragged Across Concrete
Director: S. Craig Zahler.

71. The Peanut Butter Falcon
Directors: Tyler Nilson, Michael Schwartz.

72. Glass
Director: M. Night Shyamalan.

73. The Beach Bum
Director: Harmony Korine.

74. The Lake Vampire
Director: Carl Zitelmann.

75. The Standoff at Sparrow Creek
Director: Henry Dunham.

 

The Fifty-Five Greatest Films of the 2010s

By Andrew Buckner

The 2010s have been a terrific decade for films of all genres. Blockbusters. Award-winning dramas and critically acclaimed documentaries. Thought-provoking and spine-tingling horror films. They can all be found here in my list of the fifty-five greatest films from 2010-2019.

55. Memory: The Origins of Alien (2019)
Director: Alexandre O. Philippe.

54. Bridge of Spies (2015)
Director: Steven Spielberg.

53. Blue Valentine (2010)
Director: Derek Cianfrance.

52. Pasolini (2014)
Director: Abel Ferrara.

51. Drive (2011)
Director: Nicolas Winding Refn.

50. Shame (2011)
Director: Steve McQueen.

49. Cosmopolis (2012)
Director: David Cronenberg.

48. Love (2015)
Director: Gaspar Noe.

47. Long Night in a Dead City (2017)
Director: Richard Griffin.

46. The Neon Demon (2016)
Director: Nicolas Winding Refn

45. Annihilation (2018)
Director: Alex Garland.

44. The Witch (2015)
Director: Robert Eggers.

43. The Babadook (2014)
Director: Jennifer Kent

42. Bodied (2017)
Director: Joseph Kahn.

41. Super 8 (2011)
Director: J.J. Abrams.

40. Ad Astra (2019)
Director: James Gray.

39. The Handmaiden (2016)
Director: Chan-wook Park.

38. The Post (2017)
Director: Steven Spielberg.

37. Crimson Peak (2015)
Director: Guillermo del Toro.

36. The Hateful Eight (2015)
Director: Quentin Tarantino.

35. Capernaum (2018)
Director: Nadine Labaki.

34. Filmworker (2017)
Director: Tony Zierra.

33. Us (2019)
Director: Jordan Peele.

32. The House That Jack Built (2018)
Director: Lars von Trier.

31. Boyhood (2014)
Director: Richard Linklater.

30. The Black Swan (2010)
Director: Darren Aronofsky.

29. The Artist (2011)
Director: Michel Hazanavicius.

28. The King’s Speech (2010)
Director: Tom Hooper.

27. Moonlight (2016)
Director: Barry Jenkins.

26. Django Unchained (2012)
Director: Quentin Tarantino.

25. Call Me by Your Name (2017)
Director: Luca Guadagnino.

24. Lincoln (2012)
Director: Steven Spielberg.

23. The Image Book (2019)
Director: Jean-Luc Godard.

22. Fahrenheit 11/9 (2018)
Director: Michael Moore.

21. The Master (2012)
Director: Paul Thomas Anderson.

20. Selma (2014)
Director: Ava DuVernay.

19. Once Upon a Time….in Hollywood (2019)
Director: Quentin Tarantino.

18. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011)
Director: Tomas Alfredson.

17. Interstellar (2014)
Director: Christopher Nolan.

16.The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)
Director: Martin Scorsese.

15. mother! (2017)
Director: Darren Aronofsky.

14. Blue is the Warmest Color (2013)
Director: Abdellatif Kechiche

13. They Shall Not Grow Old (2018)
Director: Peter Jackson

12. Amour (2012)
Director: Michael Haneke.

11. Roma (2018)
Director: Alfonso Cuaron.

10. A Ghost Story (2017)
Director: David Lowery.

9. A Separation (2011)
Director: Asghar Farhadi.

8. The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (2018)
Director: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen.

7. The Revenant (2015)
Director: Alejandro G. Inarritu.

6. Silence (2016)
Director: Martin Scorsese.

5. Inside Llewyn Davis (2013)
Director: Ethan Coen, Joel Coen

4. Life Itself (2014)
Director: Steve James.

3. Nightcrawler (2014)
Director: Dan Gilroy.

2. 12 Years a Slave (2013)
Director: Steve McQueen.

1. The Tree of Life (2011)
Director: Terrence Malick.

Andrew Buckner’s 10 Favorite Documentary Films/ Limited Series of 2019

By Andrew Buckner

Please note: All films included in this list are based on a 2019 release date.

10. Wrinkles the Clown
Director: Michael Beach Nichols.

9. Supersize Me 2: Holy Chicken!
Director: Morgan Spurlock.

8. Cold Case Hammarskjold
Director: Mads Brugger.

7. Wu-Tang Clan: Of Mics and Men
Director: Sacha Jenkins.

6. Knock Down the House
Director: Rachel Lears.

5. American Factory
Directors: Steven Bognar, Julia Reichert.

4. Apollo 11
Director: Todd Douglas Miller.

3. Hail Satan?
Director: Penny Lane.

2. Memory: The Origins of Alien
Director: Alexandre O. Philippe.

1. They Shall Not Grow Old
Director: Peter Jackson.

“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.