“The Lure” – (Movie Review)

By Andrew Buckner

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

The Lure (2015), a horror/ musical based on Hans Christian Anderson’s “The Little Mermaid” (1837), is one of the most unique, imaginative, surreal and visually spectacular films I have seen in years. Jakob Kijowski’s cinematography is gorgeous, the writing and direction (from Robert Bolesto and Agnieska Smoczynska respectively) are beautifully done and Marcin Charlicki’s effects are credible and superb. Congruently, the acting is stellar. Michalina Olszanska and Marta Mazurek as our heroines, Zlota and Srebrna, are especially good. Moreover, the nearly wall to wall songs, and dance numbers that accompany them, are lively and emotive. Likewise, the moments of terror are memorable and effective. The non-linear storytelling, as well as its constant contrasts in cheery and ominous mood, only helps add a deeper sense of unpredictability, drama, poetry and art house allure to the proceedings. Additionally, the touches of love narrative and same treated, often darkly comedic elements are handled in a proficient and spectacularly blended fashion. It is in a manner that never takes away from the true focal point of the fiction: the bond of Zlota and Srebrna. Correspondingly, these cinematic components are anything but formulaic. Such only makes this production, originally titled Corki dancingu (Daughters of the Dance Club), increasingly layered.

The result is an awe-inspiring, ardent and breezily paced ninety-two- minute stroke of excellence. This is a consistently hypnotic endeavor. It is one that seems to take as many cues from Jim Sharman’s The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975) as it does any number of grindhouse flicks from that era. Smockzynska’s feature length debut masterpiece, which concerns a pair of sea nymphs who find themselves working in an adult night club in Poland in the 1980’s, is as toe-tapping and, at times, head-banging as it is brilliant. From beginning to grisly and smirk-inducing end, this is one continually soaring, high-note of cinematic exhilaration. For those who claim there is little originality left in the genre, I strongly urge you to seek this one out.

Available now on demand and on DVD and Blu-ray.

Distributed in the USA by Janus Films.

(Unrated). Contains nudity, some graphic violence, sexuality and adult themes.

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“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.

“Ghosts of Darkness” – (Movie Review)

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

Ghosts of Darkness (2017), the third full-length feature from writer-director David Ryan Keith, assembles many familiar ingredients into a remarkably enjoyable package. For example, the splendidly and authentically developed characterizations. They oversee the oft-utilized incorporation of a skeptic of the supernatural. We find him in the slightly cynical Jack Donovan (in a terrific performance from Michael Koltes). He is being paired with a psychic and fervent believer in such phenomena, Jonathan Blazer (in a deliberately old-fashioned, entertaining depiction from Paul Flannery which draws an unmistakable resemblance to the many roles of Hollywood actor Johnny Depp). Even the plot follows this tried and true suit. It details Donovan and Blazer being paid $50,000 each. Such is a reward to be issued once they have successfully spent three nights in a home with a history of violence. More particularly, an abode plagued by a one-hundred-year old puzzle. Such an enigma has frequently fired off reported incidents of the paranormal. Donovan and Blazer are being asked to do this in an admitted “publicity stunt”. It is being implemented to make the locals believe there is nothing to these ghoulish rumors. In turn, the hope is to dispel the spectral stigma which hangs over the residence. Soon one of the two unveils his own intentions with his time in the estate. The impression caused by such a revelation is also much in this time-tested vain.

Moreover, the piece, which never overstays its welcome at a brisk eighty-two minutes in length, is structured and paced via Keith’s otherwise solid screenplay in a manner we have come to expect. This is with the gradual development of its on-screen personas and their motivations. Such is combined with a slow build-up of unsettling events in the first half. These unnatural circumstances grow at a rapid clip through the midway point. This predictably accrues until the rousing, twenty-minute long climax. All the while the emotional and professional stakes rise for our heroes. This is particularly accurate for Donovan. Such arises as he becomes plagued by nightmarish visions of his wife, Rebecca (in a representation by Lisa Livingstone that is powerful and immediately commanding), slitting her wrists. Such results in several well-staged sequences of fright. All of which revolve around these circumstances. These episodes commence at thirty-one minutes into the arrangement. This is as the ethereal menace surrounding the two reaches a zenith.

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Despite the over acquaintance of these items, as well as the myriad yarns of cinematic ghost hunters that have been hitting screens with increasing intensity over the years, this still endures as a purely fun ghost story. It is also confident, beautifully fashioned and disarmingly side-splitting at times. Many of these witty flashes of laughter arrive early on through the credibly penned dialogue Keith has given Blazer. Yet, every issuance of these elements never feels forced. Instead these items convey the traits of Flannery’s embodiment of Blazer spectacularly. In turn, such enriches both the individual and the scene such a winning factor is presented within. Further helping matters is the integration of other conversant manifestations. Evidence of this rests in a quick sight glimpsed at the thirty-seven-minute mark. In this instance a swarm of flies buzz in a large cluster before a window. This is in a way that instantly calls to mind Stuart Rosenberg’s classic adaptation of Jay Anson’s best-seller The Amityville Horror (1979).

The first act is the most promising and captivating section in the photoplay. Still, it is noteworthy that Keith doesn’t overindulge in the largely convincing special effects of the labor, courtesy of Martin Fernandez Motion Design & VFX, in its further along portions. This is as so many pictures of this ilk are apt to do. When Keith does so, he bestows such acquainted turns as the door which gradually and inexplicably unveils by itself. Such ensues at twenty-two minutes into the exercise. Yet, when implemented through Keith’s sophisticated, elegant and claustrophobic direction the incident comes off as astonishingly fresh and new. This is true even if the film never tops the gothic atmosphere, imagination and successful execution of terror found in its commencing five and a half minutes. Regardless, Keith sustains an unblemished tone of the ominous throughout the exertion.

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Such is a grand courtesy of Niall Mathewson’s alluring, pulse-pounding and appropriately chill-inducing music. Additionally, Keith’s cinematography is sumptuous and assuredly pleasing to the eye. This attribute aligns itself to old-fashioned fright flicks superbly. Keith’s editing is similarly sharp and seamless. Ali Campbell, Matthew Cooper and Liam Matheson construct a proficient sound department. Adam Falconer, Michael Martin, Sean Smillie and Matheson offer terrific grip work. They create a camera and electrical team that is remarkable. As well, Leigh Butler’s special makeup effects are phenomenal. Together these cinematic donations augment the vast quality of the project immensely.

Additionally, the previously unmentioned cast contributes just as stalwartly. Steve Weston is memorable, enigmatic and instantly likable in his role as Donovan and Blazer’s cryptic boss, Mysterious Man. The early sequence he is in with our leads is among the most gripping and quietly entertaining in the entire venture. In this segment, Mysterious Man discusses the general details of his deal with Donovan and Blazer. This is while simultaneously introducing them to the eerie abode the duo will make a temporary habitat. Matheson’s portrayal of Big Beard, Morgan Faith Keith as Sarah Johnson and Cameron Mowat as Mike Johnson are also terrific in their brief turns. Lindsay Cromar as a shotgun victim and Lisa Cameron as Laura Johnson are also excellent. The result is an all-around triumph.

This Uncork’d Entertainment distribution and Clear Focus Movies co-production, aspires to be among the likes of Peter Jackson’s The Frighteners (1996) and Ivan Reitman’s seminal Ghostbusters (1984). Though it doesn’t have the high level of inventiveness visible in these aforesaid configurations, Keith has provided spectators with a wonderful example of how well horror can blend with slyly dispensed doses of slight humor. Correspondingly, the residence where Keith has set his fiction is superb. It reinforces the classically creepy veneer overseen in its gothic terror tone masterfully. Even if the endeavor is never overly terrifying, the scares are credibly erected. They are also largely organic to the turns of the narrative. In so doing, these events are uncommonly placed into the film simply as a quick jolt to temporarily service bystanders. Such is certainly admirable. It is also much the rare find nowadays. The outcome of these admirable details is a genre entry I highly recommend seeking out. You can do so when Ghosts of Darkness hits video on demand on March 7th, 2017.

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“Bornless Ones” – (Movie Review)

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

Bornless Ones (2016), the eighty-minute full-length feature debut from writer-director Alexander Babaev, summons the spirit of Sam Raimi’s seminal horror classic, The Evil Dead (1981), spectacularly well. Respecting the foundation laid down by Raimi, Babaev has crafted a rollercoaster ride of gore. It is one which is propelled by increasingly ghastly coincidences. Furthering this parallel is that these fearful events revolve around a batch of ruthless demons. All of whom are summoned to a secluded cabin the woods. Additionally, Babaev’s structure and general build-up of the presentation, alongside the previously stated mechanisms of the tried and true plot, are also reminiscent of Raimi’s tale. This is with the first half of the endeavor being more character-oriented. To its further favor, it is also noticeably well-mounted. In this early section, Babaev, whose direction is taunt and quietly stylish throughout, successfully executes a continuous sense of ominous dread. Once the runtime passes the halfway mark, the film tilts into full gear. From herein, it hits a momentous creative stride of claustrophobic, apprehension-inducing sequences that never wavers.

Likewise, Babaev fills each frame with inventive images and scenarios to brilliant consequence. They, in turn, make the unfolding chaos ever-present ever more tense and palpable. A memorably macabre moment at forty-two minutes in, which involves the torturous sight of a deceased child in a bath tub, is definitive proof of such a statement. It is also a testament to the largely convincing nature of Artem Miroshin’s accomplished visual effects. The idea Babaev conceives of “demons who heal”, as it is described by an individual in the effort itself, is especially novel. It further showcases the inventive spin Babaev puts into the standard mechanisms of such a rigorously held terror formula. In so doing, Babaev incorporates an even balance of promise and pay-off. Such works as well in Babaev’s narrative as it did when Raimi incorporated such a manner of account telling stability thirty-six years prior. Yet, the sum of Babaev’s affair isn’t entirely reliant on these imitative attributes to establish its high-quality. As a matter of fact, Babaev’s deft screenplay is decidedly fashioned more from the modern cinematic approach to the genre. This is in regards to the fact that it delves deeper into the brooding and often pained backstories of its leads. Such is in comparison to the previously stated Raimi authored groundbreaker. Yet, the configuration as a whole is, ultimately, hindered by occasionally tiresome dialogue. This is most visible when such celluloid derived speech lapses too often into the repeated question of “What’s wrong with you?”. This is projected as a go-to reaction to the revulsion-laced happenstances our central figures undergo in the later stretches.

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Babaev’s routinely erected on-screen personas, none of whom may prove as iconic as Raimi’s hero from The Evil Dead, Ash (Bruce Campbell), are united by a variety of past tragedies. This is both openly articulated among some and with others initially kept secret. Such issues a perfect pulpit to develop ever-enigmatic personalities. All of whom constantly keep audiences intrigued. Simultaneously, this gives Babaev an opportunity to erect several genuinely surprising dramatic twists. These are positioned throughout the undertaking. Such authentically gasp-worthy instances beautifully compliment the unnerving tone of the construction. Moreover, they bring a human allegory to the frightful fiends that dominate the fiction. These elements assist the exertion in showcasing that it is much its own entity. Such transpires to great consequence. This is while keeping its obvious inspirations much in check. It makes for a well-rounded, delightfully entertaining exercise in dread. Such is one which is capped off by an ingenious final scene. In this brief bit, Babaev issues a clever and sinisterly smirk-inducing change in roles and perspective. Such represents a deliberate turn from the expected. Though Babaev can never completely liberate himself from such trappings, the sum of the exhibition remains potently engaging because of such unique components.

After a tense, gorgeously realized and attention-garnering opening section, Babaev focuses in on Emily (in a credible and charismatic performance from Margaret Judson). She has been left to care for her cerebral palsy afflicted brother, Zach (in a depiction by Michael Johnston that is towering and powerful; the emotive driving force of the labor). We follow her and group of her friends. This is as they help Zach, Emily and her boyfriend, Jesse (in a stalwart enactment from Devin Goodsell) settle down in their new abode. Yet, almost immediately the group uncovers strange symbols and handwritten notes. Making matters worse is the discovery of a satanic mural. All of which are strewn throughout the edifice. These are signposts related to the catastrophic circumstances, unknown to Emily and her confidants, which were inflicted upon those who owned the house previously. All the while, Zach seems to be undergoing sudden, miraculous improvements in regards to his condition. Yet, once an effort is made to remove these bizarre markings seven so-called “guardians”, ominous defensive entities, begin to gather outside. Such is another emblem. It is one personifying the chaos that is about to be unleashed.

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Relatedly, this Uncork’d Entertainment distribution and Black Drone Media production, mostly shot in California’s Pine Mountain Club, is a triumph in the performance arena. It is graced with a hilariously energetic portrayal from David Banks. He plays the quirky, eccentric real estate agent, Richard Alonzo Jr. III. Mark Furze as Woodrow, Bobby T. as Michele and Victoria Clare as Christina are all wonderful in their portrayals. Gwen Holloway is particularly striking in her brief turn as Emily’s mother. Nick Saso as Dennis, Rob Tepper as Dr. Weisenberg and Svetlana Titova as Dolores are terrific. Pony Wave as Sarah and Greg Travis as Billy all bring distinctly remarkable life to the personas they embody.

From a technical standpoint, it is just as accomplished. The music by Paul Hartwig is compellingly constructed and masterfully moody. Correspondingly, the cinematography from Egor Povolotskiy is phenomenally proficient. Babaev’s editing is seamless. The camera and electrical department, make-up crew and sound team all deliver impeccibly in their specific categories. Augmenting this appeal is Catelin Dziuba’s fresh and exciting costume design. Similarly, Carlos Cortez’s art direction is eye-popping.

Such results in a flawed, but certainly admirable and worthwhile attempt. Many of the story beats ring with a sense of deja vu. For example, the anticipated episode early on where the team arrives at a rundown gas station. Such is a time-tested trademark often spied in motion pictures such as these. But, Babaev proves unafraid to boldly touch upon sobering subjects etched from real life fears and atrocities. Such illuminates and gives purpose to our protagonists. It makes us care for them even more because of this decision. We understand their motivations. Because of this, we feel the intensity of their plight. This is as they combat the otherworldly wickedness at hand. Such makes the suspense Babaev generates so ceaselessly here more profound and nail-biting. The pedigree of invention Babaev registers further elevates the material. Moreover, there are other slyly positioned winks to other entries in The Evil Dead series outside of the original. There is one especially smirk-inducing moment involving the tongue of the possessed and a pair of open scissors seen in the last act of Babaev’s latest. Such calls to mind Fede Alvarez’s 2013 remake of Raimi’s masterpiece. The voices of the overtaken in the oddly titled Bornless Ones, though not wholly believable and shakily dispensed, also seem to mirror such a trait in the three film (or four if you count Alvarez’s previously addressed reboot) series. Such adds an extra undercurrent of fun, especially for fellow cinephiles, to the proceedings. Because of such measures Babaev proves all that can be done with a familiar plot and set-up. The culmination of these minutiae is certainly worth seeing for yourself. You can do so when the movie arrives in select theatres and is simultaneously released on video on demand on February 10th, 2017.

The Facebook page for the photoplay can be found here.

The Twitter page for the flick can be found here.

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“VooDoo” – (Movie Review)

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

VooDoo (2017), the eighty-four-minute full-length feature debut from writer-director Tom Costabile, is a surreal, delightfully disturbing and triumphantly terrifying midnight movie. It is also wickedly entertaining. Likewise, the HyperCube Films production hits a stride in its second half. This is with a relentless unveiling of gothic horror events. All of which perpetually calls to mind Sam Raimi’s masterpiece The Evil Dead (1981). Additionally, there is a midway instance that showcases a door slamming shut by itself. We are also given a dark entity with red eyes in this section. Such adds to the sheer cinephile delight on-screen. This is as such tried and true genre tropes, all of which are well-done and are presented in a manner that feels consistently fresh and new, draw a distinct parallel to Stuart Rosenberg’s classic adaptation of Jay Anson’s iconic best-seller, The Amityville Horror (1979). Yet, the last half hour is full of haunting, jarring, claustrophobic scenarios and images. All of which seem immediately pulled from the zenith of brimstone and hellfire that is Dante Aligheri’s epic poem, The Divine Comedy (circa 1308-1320). Such makes this assuredly entertaining release increasingly enjoyable. Best of all, Costabile, through his dazzling and taunt guidance of the project, mounts these sequences brilliantly. In the tradition of the greatest endeavors into celluloid fear, the scares begin with a fun, but effective, approach. Yet, as they go on they become far more unnerving. This is with each proceeding fright becoming more unsettling and memorable than the one which we encountered previously. It ends on a note that, though respectful to the foundation laid down by countless other found footage style flicks such as this one beforehand, is perfectly eerie. In turn, Costabile finds a punctuation point to his terrific endeavor that is hauntingly constructed. Moreover, it is guaranteed to leave audiences with a lingering sense of unrest long afterwards.

Costabile wraps these beautifully executed occurrences around an intriguing, if familiar, plot. The narrative concerns Dani Lamb (in a credible performance by Samantha Stewart that vibrantly captures the personality of her innocent, southern girl lead). She imparts on a vacation to Los Angeles. Here she stays with her cousin, Stacy Cole (in a depiction by Ruth Reynolds that is every bit as charismatic and well-wrought as the portrayal exhibited by Stewart). While exploring the city, a sinister link from Dani’s past finds them. Soon Dani finds herself in an apprehensive situation that quickly spirals out of control. After her daylong journey through “The City of Dreams”, Dani returns to Stacy’s quaint home. This is to be greeted by a black magic fueled nightmare.

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The Costabile penned screenplay for this tale is structured, paced and characterized routinely. Yet, it is so tremendously put together that these attributes do little to tarnish the overall quality of the exertion. For example, after a genuinely chilling opening portion which depicts the abduction and ritualistic slaying of a young child, the affair provides exposition in the expected manner. This is as Dani and Stacy merrily discourse among one another as they discreetly drink Bloody Marys, sunbathe and immerse themselves in the sights of local California. The often jovial banter among the duo is also rooted among commonplace grounds. Much of the first forty minutes of the endeavor goes about in this fashion. Yet, these moments work. This is because there is an organic chemistry of friendship and likability to Dani and Stacy. When combined with the natural allure of the views the two partake in, the effort is breezily engaging. Because of this, Costabile’s motion picture rises where many similar entries fail. This is in getting us to genuinely become enraptured in the plight and care for our central figures. Given how gorgeously conceived the apprehensive components of this presentation is, such makes the balance between terror and real-life drama even more impressive and well-rounded.

Both the upbeat and seriously dread-inducing segments of the opus are masterfully erected. This is via David M. Brewer’s suitably gritty, yet consistently impressive, cinematography. Costabile and Alec Justin Henderson (who also takes on the role of “Sunset Playboy” nicely here) administer editing that is terrific. It is at times deliberately ragged. This is most evidently perceived in the aforestated commencing bit. Such a finely honed detail adds a sense of mounting intensity. This is built upon the confusion of the unexpected. It is what both potential victim of the account as well as patrons may be undertaking when witnessing such a scene unfold.

Furthermore, Christian Alexander, Albert Adams Polinsky, Adam Rettino and Seth Thomas exhibit incredible set decoration. Dean Guilotis, Bo Howe, Lior Molcho and Frank Synowicz distribute hallucinogenic, top-notch visual effects. The eight-person sound department, the camera and electrical as well as the make-up team all offer proficient turns. Melanie Macugoski’s costumes are rich and authentic. Composers Michael Dino Boito and Nathan Kwan reinforce the ominous atmosphere of the release magnificently. This is with a score that is sparse, but surely operative. It has such an instantly legendary impression that you can almost imagine Dracula himself playing the tune on a creaky, old piano.

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Correspondingly, Dominic Matteuci is phenomenal in his representation of Spencer Boyd. Daniel Kozul as Trey Neil, Richard Krey as Bum and Constance Strickland as Serafine L’Amour are solid in their respective arrangements. Timothy Patrick O’Neill is exceptional as Uncle Jake. A cameo where Ron Jeremy plays himself, spied at sixteen and nineteen-minutes in, is smirk-inducing; a pleasant wink to the audience. The gathering of those who bring the assorted demons, minions and nefarious figures unveiled herein to life are all responsible for wonderful enactments. They vastly enhance the grim tone the photoplay gives way to in its later stretches.

The result is an undergoing that is sure to delight both budding and seasoned aficionados of nail-biting, supernatural cinema. With this excellent composition, Costabile has established a command of mood and buildup. This can also be attributed to the seemingly unproblematic fashion in which he develops his on-screen personas. Such makes it easy to state that Costabile is a director to be watched. His cast and crew prove themselves just as capable. He has evoked a heart-pounding rollercoaster ride of a movie. To its further benefit, it has a plethora of ghastly circumstances and ideas. But, it never falls into the trappings of being excessively graphic to illuminate these notions for maximum impact. Such is one of a variety of wise moves in a labor filled with such smart decisions. It all comes together to generate a wonderful exercise in cinematic anxiety. Such is one addressees will undoubtedly want to return to repeatedly. VooDoo hits select theaters across America on February 24th, 2017.

The Facebook page for the film can be found here.

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“Delusion” – (Movie Review)

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

Director Christopher Di Nunzio’s neo-noir horror opus, Delusion (2016), is a masterful stylistic showcase. Released through Creepy Kid Productions, this is an old-fashioned psychological portrait with touches of the occult. Likewise, it is a lesson in the power and potency of subtly and restraint. Di Nunzio’s upcoming undertaking comes together so ingeniously because it draws us in with its mystery. This is expertly teased with the on-going question of what exactly is going on with the lead, Frank (in an enactment by David Graziano which is remarkable, credible and continually watchable). We find ourselves peering through the tiniest of details trying, must as our protagonist himself must be doing, to sort out what is physical and what is nightmare. This, enthrallingly, takes up most of the feature. Yet, it plays with the imagination incredibly well throughout. Di Nunzio leaves so much to the seat of our thoughts that one cannot help but stand in admiration of how skillfully fashioned the entire endeavor remains.

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These sentiments are eluded to, after an ominous and brief credit sequence, with a commencing shot of a woman’s eye. This calls to mind the climactic moments of the legendary shower murder sequence of Lila Crane (Janet Leigh) in Alfred Hitchcock’s quintessential tale of murder and madness, Psycho (1960). For the rest of the meticulously paced, mesmerizing and impeccably structured eighty-five minute length of the affair, Di Nunzio’s bravura behind the lens vividly recalls the aforementioned cinematic maestro. This is incorporated with a dash of early David Cronenberg (1975’s Shivers, 1977’s Rabid) and Brian De Palma (1973’s Sisters, 1978’s The Fury). The previously stated comparison is most striking in the tensely orchestrated concluding fifteen minutes. This inspiration is mixed in to make this unique blend of fear all the more savory.

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With some of Di Nunzio’s earlier works paralleling other silver screen savants, such as he did with Ingmar Bergman and Martin Scorsese in A Life Not to Follow (2015), such a resemblance only heightens how impressive Di Nunzio’s talent and multi-faceted handling of his various genre turns remains. Still, his style is distinctly his own. Di Nunzio is undoubtedly an independent moviemaker to be watched. He is a name that all fellow admirers of cinema will be well-acquainted with in the immediate future. This is, of course, if they are not already aware of this great name looming on the horizon.

All of this is also visible in the manner Di Nunzio composes a shot. This adds to the proficiency at hand. It also gives the arrangement even more of a visual allure. A design like this makes this ever-intriguing puzzle box of a flick all the more enchantingly cryptic. These physiognomies are also observable in Di Nunzio’s awe-inspiring framing. It all comes together to create a pulse-pounding example of showmanship. We also witness these components in the anything but straight-forward manner in which Di Nunzio’s equally intelligent and striking screenplay is constructed. Ultimately, Delusion is as much thriller as it is art.

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Di Nunzio chronicles Frank Parrillo. In the exertion’s first ten minutes he receives a letter from his wife, Isabella (in a marvelous performance by Carlyne Fournier). What is odd about this, and also instantly attention-garnering on the spectator’s side, is that she died three years prior. While recovering from this event with the support of his nephew, Tommy (in a depiction by Justin Thibault that is beautifully rendered and multi-layered), Frank tries to figure out what the written piece signifies. In the process he meets the enigmatic Mary (an incredible turn by Jami Tennille). Their mutual scars initially appear to be a point of healing between the two. All of this shapes a confrontation of Frank’s own personal doubts and fears. Yet, he is haunted by a male figure whose existence is questionable. Simultaneously, he is further plagued by a psychic, Lavinia (in a representation by Irina Peligrad that is certainly compelling). Her own premonitions tell Frank to stay away from the new love in his life. Amid these incidents, Frank must discern what is fact and what is fiction. This is before his time and chances to do so have vanquished.

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The story is riveting. It is also, much like some of the undertones presented herein, spellbindingly surreal unto itself. Such is indefinitely punctuated and made all the more captivating in the incredible, haunting manner in which it is told. Frederic Maurerhofer’s music is also eloquent and unsettling. This suits the atmosphere of the piece tremendously well. The same can be said for Nolan Yee’s eye-catching, gorgeously honed cinematography. Di Nunzio’s editing is skillful. This item assists greatly in giving the configuration its classic build. Arsen Bortnik’s special effects mirror the legitimacy Di Nunzio strives for spectacularly. They are a welcome distraction from the cartoonish computer generated imagery which, sadly, dominates so many motion pictures of our day. Additionally, Jessica-Lee Van Winkle’s make-up in this particular department is wonderful.

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Those responsible for the sound heard here offer us a demonstration of brilliance. Consisting of Carlo J. Barbieri III, Laura Grose and Christopher Lee, their collective contribution is crisp and ear-catching. Di Nunzio also supplies, along with the other pleasing apparatuses mentioned early, dialogue that cracks with believability. The situations that are bestowed upon us throughout align themselves to this facet with astonishing precision.

Moreover, the rest of cast fares just as well as those mentioned above. Kris Salvi is magnificent as Grayson. Renee Lawrie is exceptional as Rose. Jessy Rowe as Wendy, Christine Perla as Catarina and Ronnie Oberg as Ronnie all provide grand interpretations of their respective personas as well.

Set to be released on October 31st, Di Nunzio has crafted an exceptional example of the strength of the understated. It’s deeply impressed, poetic imagery is beautifully, terrifying issued. This is without a single exhibition of the various clichés and cold- shoulder to characterization which often takes over the category of fright. Di Nunzio keeps Frank’s plight and inner-wars at the forefront of the project. This adds heart to the proceedings. It also demonstrates a dramatic intensity that blends with the more outright suspenseful elements sweepingly. This makes the attempt resonate immensely. It is as if we are quietly walking alongside Frank throughout the entirety of the venture. This is as the wrenching chain of otherworldly events, which gradually encompass the plot, sweep over us. Consequently, we find ourselves absolutely amazed and intrigued throughout the course of this mesmerizing opus. Such is all the more reason that Di Nunzio’s latest, which was shot entirely in the state of Massachusetts, is a rich filmic experience. It is one which will prove worthy of many future viewings and potentially buried insights. This is as we return to the material in fascination of the craftsmanship at all technical levels as well in admiration of the quiet intensity and intricacy of the narrative. Di Nunzio has erected a tour de force. For fellow cinephiles: this is essential viewing. Delusion is a magnum opus of the highest order.

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The official Facebook page for Delusion can be found here.

“The Other Side of the Door” – (Movie Review)

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

Sarah Wayne Callies is exceptional as the heroine, Maria, in the May 4th of 2016 released horror outing The Other Side of the Door. She provides an unusually strong backbone for a ninety-six minute film that often seems to echo a piece by Italian genre maestro Lucio Fulci. This is in its steady, but confident pace, and gothic tone. It also pulsates in its overall demeanor. Yet, for every instance which holds a mirror to Fulci there is a hokey sight. For example, the flick’s penchant for showcasing a child’s eyes turning black. There are just as many cheaply executed jump scares. Little of this holds any real baring on the actual narrative. The Johannes Roberts (2012’s Storage 24) and Ernest Riera (2011’s Forest of the Damned 2) penned screenplay also suffers from another near-fatal, tired trope of similar cinematic entries: myriad dream sequences. Most of these, exhaustedly, cut off a potential scream with Maria jumping up, as if from a nightmare, in her bed.

Perhaps, director Roberts was attempting to inject a surreal feeling into the proceedings. It would certainly fit the atmosphere. In fact, it doesn’t entirely take away from it. But, it seems to be one of the many attributes confining an otherwise skillfully done, if conventional in theme and overall narrative, opus. Regardless, Callies keeps the work watchable throughout.

This is true even when the fiction wavers away from Maria’s suffering. She has recently lost her son, Oliver (in a serviceable portrayal by Logan Creran). Such is the pushing, powerhouse force of the first act. When Maria becomes the central pawn the auteurs construct the segments of terror around in the remaining bulk of the picture: this suffering is still present in Callies’ mannerisms. Callies continues to bring depth to Maria. This is even when Roberts and Riera seem to have nearly forgotten the importance of her plight. Such transpires all the more readably as the composition progresses.

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Roberts and Riera tell the tale of Maria uncovering a ritual which will bring her deceased youngster back to her. The only catch comes once the ceremony, which involves a transcendent Hindu temple, is accomplished. This is that when Oliver, who passed away in a car crash which is harrowingly exhibited at about ten minutes in, is resurrected that she cannot disturb the balance between life and death. To do so, she would have to open the title entryway for Oliver and allow him into Maria’s world. Predictably, Callies ignores this warning. She keeps the knowledge of Oliver’s return between her daughter, Lucy (in a cloying, one-dimensional enactment by Sofia Rosinsky) and herself. Her husband, Michael (a routine performance by Jeremy Sisto) goes about his business. This is without the slightest notion of what is occurring. Gradually, Maria begins to realize she has welcomed an evil into the home.

The theme of resurrection, even in the manner it is presented here, is well-worn ground for a terror feature. Much of the proceedings call to mind a human reversal of Pet Semetary (1983) by Stephen King. Even a late segment seems to be drawing an unmistakable parallel to the re-animated Gage Creed. We are also provided similarities to Wes Craven’s The Serpent and the Rainbow (1988). It is this familiarity which holds back the various competently done attempts at generating suspense herein. This also produces a restriction on our ability to fully become engulfed in the occurrences on-screen.

What also sinks the exertion is the rote, stereotypical handling of Lucy and Michael. They are a hollow presence. Their particular personas are practically indecipherable from comparable roles in endeavors of this variety. Lucy is where this is most noticable. The writers see her merely as an instrument for faux screams and not as a singular entity. Throughout the effort, Roberts and Riera never once care enough to develop Lucy and Michael as a presence we care about. In turn, they are amended one clichéd bit of dialogue after another. They exist to stumble about while Maria solely keeps the momentum of the account pummeling forward.

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Distributed by 20th Century Fox, the R- rated product sports mesmerizingly bleak cinematography by Maxime Alexandre. The editing by Baxter is tremendous and only heightens the comparisons to Fulci. Joseph Bishara’s music is haunting and appropriate. Roberts’ direction is impressive. The sound department offers a terrific contribution. But, the special and visual effects are another deductive component. They are wrought of the visibly, and all too common, computer generated type. Scenes meant to evoke fear, exemplified by the final shot, only summon a raise of the eyebrow or a chuckle.

Robert’s theatrical creation benefits greatly from its distinctive South India setting. The landscapes are illustrious. Additionally, its conclusion, outside of the aforementioned wrong step, is satisfactory. There is even a bit of poetry, albeit stating nothing new, summoned from it. Yet, it is still, much like the general structure of the tale itself: all too formulaic. We can see it coming once the set-up is introduced early on. On a likewise note: there are no surprises or genuinely frightful manifestations whatsoever in store.

The result is a fair, but ordinary, undertaking. It is a cut above comparable configurations in veneer and in style. For most of the production, the arrangement utilizes subtly instead of excessive gore. This, again, proves the far more successful manner of constructing revulsion. But, the characters, like the jolts, could’ve been taken from any other labor of this ilk.

Roberts’ opus may vaguely bring forth memories of Poltergeist (1982) at periodic intervals. Yet, The Other Side of the Door is missing the urgency, the sense of awe and the charismatic, cut from the everyday, personalities which made Poltergeist one of the best haunted house movies of all time. Instead, we find ourselves admiring the craftsmanship. But, we there is a distance to our admiration. The cause of this is the tedious exercise in trepidation this proficiency is built around. Such makes for a hit and miss affair. The potential is abounding. Yet, the storytelling confidence is not. Of all the things that evidently restrain this photoplay: this is the most critical.

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“Don’t Look in the Basement II” – (Movie Review)

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

Director S.F. Brownrigg’s Don’t Look in the Basement, or The Forgotten as it was formerly titled, was an unusually effective thriller. Released in 1973, the Bill Pope penned and Bill McGee starring vehicle turned its $100,000 dollar budget into gold. The grainy, washed out quality of Robert B. Alcott’s cinematography, alongside a winning combination of 70’s horror exploitation charm, made the feature a minor cult classic. Brownrigg milked the asylum setting, which was still rather common back then, and made it feel fresh. Fast forward forty-two years later to the release of the long-awaited sequel. It is predictably titled Don’t Look in the Basement II. Now, such an institution is incessantly manipulated. This is to the point that even the concept of it being used again in another fearful undertaking is more terrifying than anything those behind said production can put on screen. What’s just as threadbare is the concept of the aforementioned location being overrun by sinister forces. Despite the fatigue of these components, they are no match for the various wrong-headed moves Anthony Brownrigg, the director of the past affair’s son, makes in the follow-up.

Brownrigg, who co-wrote the hackneyed and strictly serviceable screenplay with Megan Emerick, tells the aftermath of the slaughter at Stephens Sanitarium viewed in the first go-round. The lone survivor of the atrocity, quiet and introverted, arrives at a shelter. It eerily resembles that in the preceding outing. As if greeting the man’s presence, the patients and employees of the area beginning to act strange. They hear and see things. Such incidents slowly unnerve them and make them question their own sanity. It isn’t long until these events become worse. From herein, the specters attached to the place reach out. This is when the slaughter commences again.

The often too gradual pace Brownrigg and Emerick, who also winningly plays Jennifer, mirrors the erstwhile Don’t Look in the Basement well. There’s a slow build until the last half hour that is welcome and refreshing. It largely radiates an air of competence to 2/3 of this silver screen travesty. This makes the stock characterizations and routine arc bearable. Yet, it has difficulty with engagingly delivering exposition. Instead of the ghosts applied for genuine scares, they often provide lengthy dialogues about their own backstory. This could be interesting. That is if it weren’t distributed in such an accessible fashion.

What is just as trite is the emphasis Brownrigg has on reusing footage from the last installment. He turns these segments into gritty, briefly glimpsed black and white bits. Likewise, they are used to fill in the countless flashback sequences herein. It is a jab at David Lynch style avant-garde artistry. Such is interposed far too frequently into the attempt. This is attention-getting when it is displayed as the earliest sight of the composition. But, when the notion is repeated invariably throughout the effort, it becomes increasingly dull. In the end, it is simply a worn trick meant to be eerie. It doesn’t succeed. Such makes the exertion feel much more protracted than its otherwise short eighty-two minute runtime suggests. It also makes the genuine lack of meat on the narrative’s bones all the more obvious.

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There’s a noticeably low body count. Regardless, some of the deaths are well-staged. A possessed woman who slits her own throat is where this is mainly evident. Such depictions build suspense temporarily and satisfactorily. Yet, it only serves to remind us what could’ve been. Moreover, it allows us to realize how little intensity Brownrigg and Emerick’s other cracks at trepidation generated. Actually, one of the supremely haunting images is one of the tried and true. This is when a window is spied slowly shutting and locking itself in the second act. It also gets credit for the way it hides an otherwise obvious ‘secret’ about the location of the tale itself. This successfully distracts its spectators from such a reality until just the right moment. Furthermore, it interplays a major twist from the primary item well into the action.

Additionally, the performances are solid. Arianne Margot as Dr. Lucy Mills, Andrew Sensenig as Dr. William Matthews and Frank Mosley as Dr. Lance White round out a watchable and talented cast. Screenwriter and actress Camilla Carr, who played Harriett initially, enacts a character named Emily terrifically. The cinematography by Chuck Hatcher and music by Gordy Haab and Kyle Newmaster is proficient and impressive. Yet, it is indistinct. They fit the modern approach Brownrigg is striving for well. Despite this, it is never memorably so. The same can be said for Daniel Redd, David Rennke and Brownrigg’s editing. The art direction by Bryan Wailor and set decoration by Alec Gates and Lance Martin are beautifully issued. The special effects from Matthew Ash, Marcus Koch, Brownrigg and Rennke are credibly etched. We are also given an outstanding contribution from the make-up and sound department.

But, these technical aspect can’t overcome the uncertainty in Brownrigg’s direction. This is especially noteworthy in how many occasions he tries to align this second dose to the 1973 endeavor. Worst of all is its whimper of a finale. It is one which incorporates more head-scratching than anything resembling a chill.

That is one of the largest problems with Don’t Look in the Basement II. The Legless Corpse Films and RDM Productions release from 2015 simply isn’t scary. This is despite the tone being consistently serious. Such is much in line with its contemporary bravura. It also isn’t B-movie fun like the freshman entry in this series. Instead, Brownrigg’s recent offering is a misfire. It is a bland exercise sprinkled with several visually intriguing incidents. There’s potential here. It is just weighed down by its insistence on reams of re-iterated details from the previous picture. Though this isn’t as heavily utilized as it was in the unbearable Silent Night, Deadly Night II from 1987, it seriously injures the proceedings. Also, it’s window dressing. This is meant to allow the audience to think there is more depth and plot bulk than what Brownrigg actually provides.

If you do insist on going back in the basement again, you are better off re-watching the original. Afterwards, come to your own conclusions what might happen in another installment. I assure you it will be far more satisfying than what we find in Brownrigg’s hollow account. As it is, the novelty of finally getting this opus after four plus decades, and seeing some familiar faces and sights, wears off quickly. What we are left with is a few well-done instances breaking up another underwhelming, routine genre piece. There’s little here to set it apart from its similarly themed peers. Ultimately, Brownrigg’s continuation is forgettable. Considering how well the drive-in feature that came before it is preserved in the memory of fellow cinephiles, this could be the most disappointing element of all.

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“Howl” – (Movie Review)

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

Howl (2015), from director Paul Hyett (2005’s The Descent, 2008’s Doomsday), is at its best in the first half. This section promises a moody, circa 1930’s- 1960’s Hammer Films Productions style opus. Hyett successfully utilizes this early portion to soak his frames in atmosphere to nerve-tingling effect. Likewise, sequences such as the opening shot of the full-moon hovering in the night sky, a trademark in depictions of this ilk, is striking and beautifully composed. Adam Biddle’s dark, brooding and hauntingly illustrious cinematography is perfectly suited for the undertaking. It complements the allure of such instances splendidly. These elements, especially the gradual pace of its set-up, suggest a sophisticated, subtle genre offering. Such is disregarded when this silver screen misfire descends into stock terror conventions midway into its second act. This is carried out until the concluding credits begin their wearied scroll. What is worse is that this occurs without a bit of the careful touch that came before it.

The narrative of this unrated, Starchild Pictures released horror offering concerns a ticket-collecting young man named Joe (Ed Speelers in a well-honed performance). Going about his job on the last train to London, worry sets in as the vehicle stops unexpectedly. The driver (Sean Pertwee in a solid representation) comes out to investigate. He is never seen again. Soon the answer to what may have come of him arrives in the form of a pack of ravenous lycanthropes. They are ready to tear the passengers apart. The picture than becomes a predictable battle for survival, complete with the usual components of a raging storm and all communications cut-off, between the humans and the bloodthirsty entities that slowly encompass them.

Such a plot, in itself, all too familiar. Still, there was potential to go somewhere new and have fun with the material. Alas, this only surfaces intermittently. This can be mainly attributed to the straightforward, and serviceably written, Mark Huckerby and Nick Ostler penned screenplay. It turns its emphasis on modern tropes after establishing itself in the classic model. This is another glaring problem of the last forty-five minutes. Instead of dread constructed through pieces the imagination puts together, we are amended excessive gore and other variations of cheap shock. Moreover, increasingly unlikable, and routinely issued, characterizations replace this stalwart attribute. Not only does the story itself suffer, but so does the dialogue.

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Huckerby and Ostler resort to the usual hurried shtick in this category. The on-screen personages spout exposition to strangers in a completely faux and rushed manner. What is even more ridiculous is that this is instituted while chaos reigns around them. Such makes the product all the more underwhelming. It seems like a cop-out. This is especially true after the visually stunning splendor of what came before it.

Hyett goes out of his way to promise us something much grander than we actually receive. Though it maintains moments of ebbing interest throughout, the quality is noticeably diminished. The commonplace motions of the chronicle’s arc, evident throughout, becomes all the more visible as well. It all leads to a serviceably rendered, and sadly predictable, finale.

The claustrophobia of its interior setting is also wisely used to build maximum suspenseful impact. Yet, one of the wisest moves Hyett incorporates here is the antiquated trick of leaving the savage protagonists out of the frame for most of the runtime. Instead, we smartly view small glimpses of them, much as director Ridley Scott did in Alien (1979), as they lurk in the shadows and pick off one person after the next. The creatures aren’t shown in full until fifty-six minutes into its eighty-nine minute duration. Here, Hyett also proves the old adage that a monster is usually more effective when left in the shadows. When one of these brutes are shown completely the result is vastly more disappointing than terrifying. It is another of the many signs in the later phases that the exertion is quickly derailing to a more mediocre destination.

Despite this, the performances are sturdy all around. Elliott Cowen as Adrian, Holly Weston as Ellen and Shauna MacDonald as Kate are especially terrific. Paul E. Francis’ music is well-suited and tense. Agnieska Ligget’s editing is sharp. Raquel Azevedo adds elegance to the composition with her costume design. The make-up, art and sound department deliver incredible work. But, the special and visual effects, a contribution from twenty-six people collectively, are lacking. It’s another reason why the movie should’ve stayed on its original course.

Still, Howl is fair entertainment. It’s certainly not the re-invention of its sub-genre. As a matter of fact, there is nothing to these proceedings we haven’t seen before. The sum of the labor cowers beneath the likes of features like John Landis’ An American Werewolf in London (1981), Joe Dante’s The Howling (1981) and the greatest entry in this field: George Waggner’s The Wolf Man (1941). Yet, the way it stages itself and recalls its timeless counterparts is certainly admirable. But, the individuals we follow, the heart of any account, are forgotten along the way. There is nothing distinguishing about anyone we meet on screen. This is with the exception of Joe. Thus, when the fiends start attacking we have no one to root for. Because of this any potential intensity is deflated. Instead, we watch the effort from a place of indifference and distance. Of all the crimes this ultimately average affair incorporates this is the most unforgiveable.

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“Ava’s Possessions” – (Movie Review)

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By Andrew Buckner
**** out of *****.

Ava’s Possessions, from writer and director Jordan Galland, has done what countless movies have tried desperately to enact but, largely failed to accomplish. This is to unveil a new perspective on the demonic possession tale. By concerning itself with the aftermath of such an unholy event, the eighty-six minute chronicle almost immediately bypasses the legions of rip-offs of The Exorcist that have arrived since William Friedkin’s masterpiece hit theater screens in 1973. These are the inferior knock-offs which go into the usual vulgarities and blasphemies associated with such entries as if on an emotionally vapid autopilot. What is just as refreshing is that Galland’s well-honed screenplay puts into play the idea that one may actually want to be-possessed.

Such is invigorating. This is given that most pictures of this ilk have their heroes or heroines recovering and never wanting to experience such a nightmarish undergoing again. It is this assortment of fresh, wonderfully underplayed notions, which help the composition come together so well. This is because Galland takes an otherwise tired concept and often runs quickly in the other direction with it. The results are more than welcome.

The Traction Media and Ravenous Films release makes us aware of this immediately. This is established instantly by turning the conventions of its well-executed, and largely seriously toned, opening on its head. Remarkably, this is issued with only a single line of dialogue. It is delivered by Ava (Louisa Krause in an exceptional performance) in a quip, which thankfully are reserved for just this attention-garnering section, as she sees her possessed face in a nearby mirror. This provides the first of several genuinely clever, and well placed, laughs. It also acts as a proficient way of setting the tone for the entire piece.

Galland knows how to properly use and place the guffaws here. They are lightly, quietly peppered throughout. Such is done in a method that doesn’t intrude upon its true, terrifying essence. Instead, it just adds more flavor to the characters as well as the circumstances which they derive from. That, in itself, makes this undoubtedly solid, but not quite masterful, addition recommendation worthy on this basis alone. This is especially true given the obvious, over-exaggerated manner most silver screen affairs pile one joke upon another.

Such is achieved by establishing its effortless intervals of comedy and horror in this prior addressed sequence. What is all the more interesting is that this runs less than two minutes. The commencing credits segment continues this delicate balance beautifully. With vibrantly lettered acknowledgments, and Sean Lennon’s consistently amusing and atmospheric music pounding on the soundtrack, Galland proves he is more than competent at instantly setting a mood and keeping it. This is even more intriguing giving the often clashing genres it utilizes to do so. The rest of the production follows suit. In so doing, it is an easy, seldom dull watch.

Galland tells the account of the title woman’s struggles to get her life together, which she hilariously quips early on that it should only take about a week, after being taken over by a vengeful entity. This satanic brute resides within her for a month’s time. In the early sections we see her joining a Spirit Possessions Anonymous. Following the familiar steps of other support groups, which is another sly and creative venue Galland utilizes herein, she tries to make amends with the people who she may have victimized emotionally or physically while being under spectral influence. We follow our lead as she tries to get her job back. Our intrigue is peaked as she tries to remember what caused the bloodstain she unveils in her apartment.

This all works as entertaining character development. Such is so because we actually care and feel for Ava. We want her attempts to reconcile her life to succeed. This is a far different experience when remembering that most exorcism themed ventures see the protagonist as just a pulpit for cheap scares. So when she inevitably begins to see ghastly sights, and senses the fiend which just left her may be summoning her again, we realize Galland has again been crowned victor. This where most cinematic terrors miscarry. Such is in giving us someone who is credible, as much as the semi-tongue in cheek moments herein allow, that we can actually root for.

He also keeps the pace brisk. Moreover, Galland builds his suspense naturally. This is without relying heavily on it to maintain our interest. Such is especially intriguing given that most of the feature concerns Ava’s plight and not just the ghoul which caused her problems. Furthermore, the movie doesn’t settle into the usual barrage of violent outbursts as most cinemagoers will be expecting. Instead, we are again taken down another wonderfully new avenue.

Galland never abandons the plot for the usual special effects extravaganza such items often become. Yet, when they are rarely used they are proficient and impressive. There is also a much appreciated absence of gore. Such gives the proceedings a polished, even and unique blend of the modern and classic approach.

Gary Breslin and Matthew Turks contributions, though primarily reserved for the predictable but satisfying and far from overblown climax, to this visual aspect is tremendous. It is magnificently light years above the noticeably bad computer generated imagery which dominates, and is sadly expected, within the sub-genre. Galland and Daniel Han’s editing is just as sharp. The cinematography by Adrian Peng Correia is phenomenal. It illuminates the undercurrents of teen angst Galland often issues. These are most visible in the on-screen personality’s actions and dialogue. This is highlighted with a look that calls to mind the best submissions in the aforementioned category. The gleam is bright and luminous. Yet, not so much so that it betrays the depiction’s turns to trepidation. Marci Mudd’s art direction, Maria Hooper’s costume design and Zachary Luke Kislevitz’s set decoration add to this spectacularly. The same can certainly be said for Kristen Alimena, Kaela Dobson, Brenda Bush Johannesen and Joelle Troisi’s make-up.

The cast is just as accomplished. William Sadler as Bernard, Dan Fogler as J.J. Samson and Alysia Reiner as Noelle are all top-notch. They add further dimension to Galland’s already well-scribed representations. Lou Taylor Pucci as Ben, Whitney Able as Jillian and Deborah Rush as Joanna are sensational. Joel de la Fuente is compulsively watchable as Escobar. John Ventimiglia is absorbing as Father Merrino. Annabelle Dexter- Jones as Hazel, Zachary Booth as Roger and Geneva Carr as Darlene fare just as well.

Galland proves that even though fellow fear fanatics may publically discuss their disgust with the overdone tropes of their beloved genre, that it is not so much the category. It is the viewpoint, and the routine associated with it, that they are discouraged over. Zombies, found footage flicks, ghost stories (especially those involving paranormal teams with cameras) and vampire exertions are currently among the equally exhausted. Yet, all these time-tested ingredients need is a simple face-lift. It is necessary for them to evoke an innovative turn to stay alluring to us. They need a novel jolt to get the dead heart of these sub-genres pumping again with life again.

Galland has done this to the arena of demonic possession with endless confidence and gusto. Perhaps in his next moviemaking endeavor he will take on one of these previously stated sub-genres. They sure need it. Ava’s Possessions is more than enough proof that Galland is up to the task.

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