Dementer (2020), from writer-director Chad Crawford Kinkle, establishes an expertly crafted tone of sinister menace, most readily expressed in a perceptibly hand-drawn commencing credits segment, in its opening moments. This sense of uncomfortable, impending doom remains unbroken for every one of its eighty minutes. What also makes the masterful atmosphere that permeates the work so impressive is that it is infused with a similarly well-done air of mystery. This primarily stems from the motivations of the lead character, Katie (in a fantastic and compelling turn from Katie Groshong). It is a question that is playfully teased, with genuinely haunting bits of flashbacks which add to the enigma at hand, throughout the efficient and effective feature.
The plot revolves around Katie embarking on a job. It is one that has her taking care of individuals with special needs. She soon finds herself assisting a resident of her new occupation, Stephanie (Stephanie Kinkle). Yet, there are undertones of darkness to the kindness Katie shows Stephanie. As reoccurring memories of escaping a terrifying spectacle take hold of Katie, her increasingly unpredictable actions make this unspecified wickedness more palpable. What is worse is that they seem to be directing their control over Katie to put Stephanie in danger.
This engaging and superbly developed narrative leads to a conclusion that is as unnerving and unforgettable as the film constantly leads viewers to imagine it will be. It is a powerful punctuation point. Such is one that makes this ominous puzzle-box horror outing, filled with indelible and eye-popping imagery, evermore brilliant. This is especially when considering how sharply everything has been put together.
What I also admired was the documentary-like veneer of many of the scenes. This is especially noteworthy in the stretches where Katie is going about her daily life. For example, the instances early-on where she is being interviewed by her latest employer. This is also reflected just as noticeably when she is performing her duties in her current career. It blends beautifully with the surreal glimpses of intense fear which push us to the finale.
The screenplay from Kinkle is top-notch. Continually, his direction is slyly stylish. What is evermore worthy of appreciation is that this element is never so overdone that it takes away from the admirable foremost concentration on weaving the tale at hand. Moreover, the characters from Kinkle are sufficiently developed and organic. His dialogue is also incredibly authentic and natural sounding. These ingredients certainly help make Dementer an incredibly believable and immersive experience.
This convincing quality is also reflected in the casting. Larry Fessenden is terrific, as always, as the wicked Larry. Brandy Edmiston as Brandy and Stephanie Kinkle are also excellent in this regard. The visually and tonally appropriate cinematography from Jeff Wedding is equally astounding. The music from Sean Spillane is superb. Furthermore, the same said editing from Chad Crawford Kinkle heightens these remarkable values.
In turn, the most recent cinematic exercise from Chad Crawford Kinkle is dazzling, dark, disturbing, and confidently paced. It reminded me of The Blair Witch Project (1999). This is in the way it memorably designs an all-too real feeling of foreboding and increasing underlying suspense. The effort is a knockout. It is a wonderful accumulation of talent in front of and behind the camera. Dementer is destined to endure as one of the best pictures of the year.
VHS Forever? Psychtronic People (2014) from writers and directors, Darren J. Perry and Mark Williams, is a remarkably fascinating, endlessly enjoyable, and compulsively watchable love letter to low-budget horror films, videos, video stores, and the myriad individuals who understood their endearing appeal. It is also a study in the ridiculous lengths the government, the Motion Picture Association of America, and related personages would go to conceal these daring types of art. The 110-minute documentary is filled with intriguing and intimate true life narratives that revel in the former and rightfully vilify the latter. Yet, it is just as much a riveting glimpse into what goes into the production of the title technology. It also operates just as well as a fantastic glimpse into some of the daily fears video buyers and store owners had during the days of the ‘Video Nasties’. A term coined in the United Kingdom in 1982, this refers to a list of often misunderstood terror and exploitation films, like Meir Zarchi’s I Spit on Your Grave (1978) and Sam Raimi’s The Evil Dead (1981), that were banned for their graphic nature. These previously stated brilliant and bold masterpieces are frequently discussed in the picture. This docket of controversial cinema, and the attraction the record had to collectors, is a subject the bulk of the feature unveils with tremendous depth and insight.
These bits give the project a magnificent symmetry and variety. This is as it expounds upon its core theme of the interest derived from VHS. Particularly, the “dangerous” cinematic wonders that may be held within each one. Yet, what functions just as well in Perry and Williams’ endeavor are the lively and charismatic interviews from the creative minds, many of whom are fellow writers and/or moviemakers, who discourse so passionately on the topic at hand. Their stories are infectiously relatable and always engaging. This is most noteworthy in the segments involving Troma Studios co-founder, Lloyd Kaufman. His consistently amusing conversations on the various releases, promotional methods, and censorship troubles of The Toxic Avenger (1984) are a constant highlight. Another section I vastly relished occurs around the fifteen-minute mark. It is an anecdote involving a VHS copy of Pier Paolo Pasolini’s essential and unforgettable swan song, Salo, or the 120 Days of Sodom (1975).
What also heightens my affection, as well as the sheer fun, radiating from the development is that there are even a few successful running gags throughout the venture. Among them is the wind being deemed “Psychotronic interference”. Moreover, the overall aesthetic of the exercise works perfectly in a similar regard. It calls to mind the look of early VHS. This is a dazzling touch. It is one which reiterates the distinct charm found in the cassettes so ardently touched upon in Perry and Williams’ undertaking.
In turn, VHS Forever? Psychotronic People is a must-see for anyone remotely concerned about film, its early home distribution forms, and its history. The labor has obvious esteem for its topic. Regardless, it does not shy away from stating some of the less desirable qualities of VHS with an underlying air of eager reverence. These hints make for an even more open, honest, and varied experience. This refreshing frankness helps make this gem worth seeking out with all the enthusiasm and merriment a collector would search for that one rare, elusive, uncut ‘Video Nasty’ on VHS. Perry and Williams’ feature is pure nostalgic joy.
*This list is dedicated to the many theaters that were closed or permanently shutdown this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Without your ever-comforting presence a pivotal part of the one-of-a-kind artistry, understanding, and universal joy inherent in the cinematic experience will be forever erased.
*Please note that the inclusion of the films in this list are based on an initial 2020 U.S. release date.
100. Cadaver Director: Jarand Herdal.
99. Nobody Sleeps in the Woods Tonight Director: Bartosz M. Kowalski.
98. Vampires vs. the Bronx Director: Osmany Rodriguez.
97. Unhinged Director: Derrick Borte.
96. Nocturne Director: Zu Quirke.
95. Have a Good Trip: Adventures in Psychedelics Director: Donick Cary.
94. His House Director: Remi Weekes.
93. The Phenomenon Director: James Fox.
92. Notzilla Director: Mitch Teemley.
91. May the Devil Take You Too Director: Timo Tjahjanto.
90. Impetigore Director: Joko Anwar.
89. Relic Director: Natalie Erika James.
88. The Rental Director: Dave Franco.
87. Dead Life: Wormwood’s End Director: William Victor Schotten.
86. Antebellum Directors: Gerard Bush, Christopher Renz.
85. Host Director: Rob Savage.
84. The Mortuary Collection Director: Ryan Spindell.
83. The Honeymoon Phase Director: Phillip G. Carroll Jr.
82. Skyman Director: Daniel Myrick.
81. Bill & Ted Face the Music Director: Dean Parisot.
80. Tesla Director: Michael Almereyda.
79. Porno Director: Keola Racela.
78. Save Yourselves! Directors: Alex Huston Fischer, Eleanor Wilson.
77. Cut Throat City Director: RZA.
76. Alone Director: John Hyams.
75. Elephant Directors: Mark Linfield, Vanessa Berlowitz, Alastair Fothergill.
74. Close Encounters of the Fifth Kind: Contact Has Begun Director: Michael Mazzola.
73. Why Don’t You Just Die! Director: Kirill Sokolov.
72. An English Haunting Director: Charlie Steeds.
71. The Gentlemen Director: Guy Ritchie.
70. VFW Director: Joe Begos.
69. First Love Director: Takashi Miike.
68. Extra Ordinary Directors: Mike Ahern, Enda Loughman.
67. Bit Director: Brad Michael Elmore.
66. Gretel & Hansel Director: Oz Perkins.
65. #Alive Director: II Cho.
64. The Invisible Man Director: Leigh Whannell.
63. Come to Daddy Director: Ant Timpson.
62. Snatchers Directors: Stephen Cedars, Benji Kleiman.
61. We Summon the Darkness Director: Marc Meyers.
60. 1BR Director: David Marmor.
59. The Lodge Directors: Severin Fiala, Veronika Franz.
58. Time Warp: The Greatest Cult Films of All-Time Volume 1 Midnight Madness Director: Danny Wolf.
57. Comic Book Junkies Directors: Lenny Schwartz, Nathan Suher.
56. Sputnik Director: Egor Abramenko.
55. Tigertail Director: Alan Yang
54. A Secret Love Director: Chris Boln.
53. Far from Perfect: Life Inside a Global Pandemic Directors: Lenny Schwartz, Nathan Suher.
52. Blow the Man Down Directors: Bridget Savage Cole, Danielle Krudy.
51. Uncle Peckerhead Director: Matthew John Lawrence.
50. Rent-A-Pal Director: Jon Stevenson.
49. The Platform Director: Galder Gaztelu-Urrutia.
48. Scare Package Directors: Courtney Andujar, Hillary Andujar, Anthony Cousins, Emily Hagins, Aaron B. Koontz, Chris McInroy, Noah Segan, Baron Vaughn.
The winner of multiple awards from film festivals across the United States, director and editor Patricia Chica’s “A Tricky Treat” is a brilliant, seamless blend of genuinely effective horror and magnificently macabre dark comedy. The quite graphic effects and makeup work is an impressive highlight throughout the three-minute and 11-second project. Moreover, the performances, script and perfectly constructed tone help make this wonderfully warped narrative a true gem for the Halloween season. It’s endlessly intriguing and efficient; wall-to-wall entertaining and delightfully bizarre.
A man is kidnapped by an unusual family. Things get even worse when he realizes that two children are in control of his fate. It is, as the YouTube description for the work states, “A shocking tale of the unexpected with a twist.”
26-Second Trailer for the Film:
YouTube Link For the Film in Full:
* All films shown in this festival are used with the kind permission of the filmmakers themselves.
AWordofDreams.com site owner and writer, Andrew Buckner, has just received his first acceptance into a film festival!
“Mower Vengeance: From Grass to Flesh” (2020), a fake black and white movie trailer about a murderous lawn mower that runs 41 seconds and was made entirely by Buckner in his backyard, will be a part of the Weird Local Virtual Film Festival’s latest gala of “super short films” (all a minute or less). It will play with the other selected projects for said cinematic celebration starting at 8p.m. on October 24th, 2020. The event will be online at Weird Local Virtual Film Festival’s YouTube channel. A link for which can be found at the link below.
Weird Local Virtual Film Festival YouTube Channel:
New York born Writer-director Jared Cohn delivers a beautifully made, splendidly acted and engrossing take on an oft utilized concept in Devil’s Domain (2016). Cohn’s invention concerns a cyber-bullied teenager, Lisa (in a compelling performance from Madi Vodane that immediately and continuously draws sympathy from audience patrons). Frustrated by the torment that she undergoes daily, and a video of our central figure that only makes our central figure more of a target for harassment, Lisa meets an appealing stranger online. She initially states that her name is Destiny (in a hypnotic and superb enactment from Linda Bella). Almost immediately Destiny reveals herself to be The Devil. Drawn into the powerful and seductive promise of having her desires fulfilled, Lisa makes a deal with Destiny. The promise soon turns to tragedy. This is as Lisa’s peers find themselves the unwilling victim of this unholy pact.
Despite the familiarity inherent in the general plot, Cohn’s feature never feels predictable or overdone. Such is a courtesy of Cohn’s competent pace. It is also the consequence of his terrific balance of characterization and story. The horror sequences, especially a third act arrangement involving Lisa watching someone who recently confessed her feelings to our protagonist being hit by a car, are all effectively staged and tremendously executed. Cohn also implements a finale that shares the generally tried and true sensation of the tale itself. Yet, still it arises as a potent punctuation point to this memorable thrill ride. It also serves as a necessary extension of where the narrative appears to be naturally headed.
Such an ability to turn tropes into triumphs is the result of Cohn’s masterful, ever-taunt guidance of the project. His script, which is immersed in realistic dialogue and motivations, provides a consistently solid backbone to this celluloid exhibition. The photoplay is also made increasingly stalwart by Josh Maas’ atmospheric and striking cinematography. Additionally, Rob Pallatina’s editing is seamless and sharp. Correspondingly, the special effects are so credible that they greatly enhance the believability of what we are watching on-screen. Furthermore, unlike many similar genre efforts of the day, there isn’t an overreliance on these filmmaking illusions to mount intensity or culminate dread. This is another indicator of the sheer craftsmanship at hand.
Also, assisting matters are the top-notch depictions. Michael Madsen is especially good as Lisa’s compassionate and understanding stepfather, Bill. The music from Iggy & The Stooges, DMX and Onyx, reiterates both the tone and the overall beats of the affair uniquely and spectacularly. Likewise, the piece casually ebbs and flows eye-catching style. This is evident instantly in an opening credits sequence that is filled with comic book-like renderings of the leads. This is paired with Satanic symbols and images. The section is capped off by excellent animation work from Devin J. Dilmore. In turn, this bit calls to mind the bravura cinematic flash of a Gallo feature from legendary Italian moviemaker Dario Argento. This visceral flare, and alignment to the aforesaid maestro, is recaptured in the variety of imaginative and grisly kill scenes found throughout the labor. The outcome of these elements is a gripping and ever-immersive example of all-around talent; a brilliant tour de force. See Devil’s Domain when it is released in limited theaters and on video on demand on May 30th, 2017.
Runtime: 92 minutes and 48 seconds.
Distribution Company: The Orchard.
Production Company: Cleopatra Films, Cleopatra Records.
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.
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.
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.
“Strawberry Lane” (2016), the outstanding and enigmatic twenty-three minute and fifteen second debut from writer-directors Jeremy Arruda and Aaron Babcock, is thematically and visually designed to unnerve. Arruda and Babcock have created a living nightmare on celluloid. This is via a collection of sinisterly striking images. All of which, even down to the otherwise simplistic visage of the child’s doll and ventriloquist’s dummy casually spied in the second half, are guaranteed to linger in the subconscious long after they are viewed. The upshot of these brilliantly delivered constituents is undoubtedly an extension of horror in its purest sense. We, the audience, are continually made to feel uncomfortable, apprehensive and alarmed. Yet, we are wholly engaged and intrigued throughout. This is by the notions and scenarios that are unfolding. Likewise, those that could potentially be right around the corner. In an era where most related yarns are more than content to go the safe route, with jump scares and routine motions galore, Arruda and Babcock give us a presentation of credible, sobering and unwavering darkness. It is one that is anything but predictable. The unsettling quote from American serial killer Albert Fish glimpsed in the opening moments set the clinical atmosphere and violent chain of events which are to follow quickly and proficiently.
Adding to the tonal ingenuity at hand, this wonderfully creepy concoction derives heavy inspiration from avant-garde maestro David Lynch, most notably Eraserhead (1977), as well as the chairman of many controversial comedies, John Waters. The eerily erected commencing and closing credits, made increasingly incredible and unflinchingly bizarre by the deliberately old-fashioned music from Arruda, make this point sharply evident. Such augments an endlessly intense, marvelously macabre impression. It is one which pulsates proudly through every frame of the proceedings. Such beautifully mirrors the exploitation features of the 1970’s. This is with Tobe Hooper’s quintessential masterpiece, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974), frequently coming to the forefront. Yet, the anti-heroes that pose as our leads are appropriately repulsive, menacing and impossibly mesmerizing. Such is in the tradition of the best cinematic villains. The duo of murderers who form this uncommon “love story”, as it is declared in the sub-title of the depiction, Harry Meyland (in a performance by Kris Salvi that is terrific) and Billy (in an enactment by Justin Thibault that is just as accomplished as that of Salvi) summon a certain parallel to Hannibal Lecter and Buffalo Bill. Such iconic entities were found in Jonathan Demme’s Best Picture Academy Award- winning The Silence of the Lambs (1991). These aforesaid mirrors to the past also provide an undercurrent of nostalgia to the piece. Such makes the overall feel of the labor akin to watching a long-lost classic for the first time.
All of this is punctuated, memorably and appropriately, by an extended, ardently gut-wrenching and impressive finale. Such readily calls to mind the oft banned invention of fright, Nekromantik (1987), from German auteur Jorg Buttgereit. The combination of these influences results in an artistically satisfying and courageous endeavor. Such is especially true when considering that these sights are set within the haunting, gorgeously gritty cinematography conducted by Babcock. This is also an undeniably potent display of the behind the lens capabilities Arruda and Babcock encompass. Their tough, taut and meticulously paced script, co-authored by Dave Orten, compliments these attributes splendidly. Arruda and Babcock utilize a uniquely fashioned, boldly constructed narrative. It is one that wisely leaves as much to the captivated psyche to ponder as it paints explicitly blood red. The team craft sparsely delivered, but authentic, dialogue. Such casts a painstaking eye for believability in all details of the effort. The plot, which contains just a touch of pulp, is gripping. Such makes the undertaking seamless; a deft exhibition of raw, uncompromising aptitude.
Arruda and Babcock chronicle an unexpected conflict that erupts with the introverted transvestite Harry Meyland. He is a psychotic maniac. More specifically, one who abducts and slaughters the women of the local Magdalene Escort Service. This act is made more dangerous by the fact that it is where he is employed. All the while, the near demonic sounding voice of his mother (exceptionally issued by Arruda) guides him along. Yet, he encounters a grave challenge. This is as Billy, who delights in the same fatal indulgences, takes Harry’s work into his own hands. What starts as a competition between Harry and Billy soon evolves into a strange affinity; one that is as strangely absorbing and twisted as the fiction itself.
The composition also benefits from other various components that are just as attention-garnering. Crystal Correa is phenomenal as Trisha. Geneve Lanouette is just as astounding in her turn as The Captive Woman. Carlo Barbieri III, Arruda and Kristen McNulty play Masked Figure 1-3 respectively. Their presence is unforgettable. They are seen fleetingly in an assembly of surprising instances which are heavily reminiscent of Bryan Bertino’s criminally underrated The Strangers (2008). Such apparently random illustrations hypnotically reinforce the brute, jarring strength of the visuals herein. A death sequence that transpires in the beginning minutes, worthy of Hitchcock in conception and delivery, only reaffirm this trait. Such is greatly enhanced by the slickly constructed editing Arruda and Babcock invoke.
Shot over the course of two years, this Zeta Wave Productions release is guaranteed to be a new favorite of fellow genre addicts. More importantly, it signifies the arrival of a tremendous pair of filmmakers. Both of whom have an obvious admiration for and wide-reaching knowledge of the history of moving picture terror. Best of all, they are equally versed in how to evoke fear and confidently, expertly project it on-screen. “Strawberry Lane” confirms this at every turn. The outcome of this is an astonishing tour de force; a brief affair that is far more satisfying, evocative and in-depth than most full-length exertions. That only offers further proof of their photographic command. Because of this, I greatly anticipate what gruesome marvels Arruda and Babcock bring to life in upcoming collaborations.
Trouser Snake (2016), the third short film from director and co-writer Alex DiVincenzo (2014’s “The Horrors of AutoCorrect” and 2016’s “Cybershock 1999”), plays as if the overblown “science” and informatory threats fashioned as lesson learning which made Refer Madness (1936) such a cult gem were repackaged as a deliberately uproarious 1950’s style creature feature. This is with the subject diverting from the purportedly “violent” dangers of marijuana. Such was the case illustrated to great comedic effect in the abovementioned Louis Gasnier directed and Arthur Hoerl penned presentation. DiVincenzo makes literal the idea of the “monster” that rises from the male anatomy. This is when said individual is confronted with an apparently unanticipated hormonal and sexual control. It is one which augments the naïve confusion of the teenage years. Such becomes the plight of our perplexed protagonist, Thomas (in a spot-on portrayal by Alexander Gauthier). All of this surfaces consequently to an extended bout of making out in a car with Thomas’ girlfriend, Lucy (in a phenomenal turn from Jamie Lyn Bagley). Such ensues at that notorious place in celluloid where such events always seem to stem from: Lover’s Lane.
DiVincenzo employs a variety of wildly triumphant jokes that pinpoint the outdated nature of Thomas’ gullibility. Most noteworthy of which is a brilliant sequence at nearly three minutes into DiVincenzo’s four minute and forty-nine second undertaking. This is from what can be perceived as a modern perspective. Such is derived during a family dinner. In this episode, Thomas tries to have an open discussion with his family concerning his current plunge into adulthood. It is at this point his much younger sibling, credited simply as “Sister” (in a terrific depiction by Morgan Walsh), says in a matter of fact manner: “Even I know about the birds and the bees, Thomas.”
This gag is undoubtedly amusing. Yet, it is a number involving the sudden slanting of a table that comes immediately after Sister’s words that is the centerpiece of the entire segment. Such also endures as one of the most successfully hilarious instances visible throughout the runtime. Another thematically linked highlight arrives both before and prior to a spectacularly issued, black and white post-credits sequence. This latter stated item concludes with the announcement, which I sincerely hope DiVincenzo makes good upon, that the “Trouser Snake will return in ‘Bride of Trouser Snake’ “. These already mentioned guffaws are exceedingly clever. They are also among the best uses of the amorous parallel DiVincenzo utilizes with the presence of the antagonistic fiend of this enterprise spied throughout this Grimbridge Productions release. Such instances are as cringe-worthy as they are, in various usages of the term, climactic.
Made for a mere $100, DiVincenzo’s invention is boosted by another outstanding, gleefully tongue-in-cheek performance. This is from Michael Thurber. He enacts Thomas’ specialist, Dr. Mason. Thurber bends the character in the ways of many associated clinicians from both the decade and genre DiVincenzo models his tour de force after. Such is orchestrated both readily and engagingly. He delivers exposition, most of which the audience is already informed of, with a merry, knowing wink to his unseen spectators all along. Such makes the scenes he is in sing with a heightened layer of underlying wit. This matches the tone of the piece beautifully. William DeCoff as Thomas’ father, Hugo, and Monica Saviolakis as Thomas’ mother, Joy, also offer similarly astounding depictions. The result is a herculean effort that is made incredible by the stalwart essence of those on-screen.
The brief affair is also graced with an appropriately cheery, splendidly done veneer. The look of the endeavor is like that of a classic, monochrome motion picture. Particularly, one that was colorized before being broadcast on late night cable television. Such cinematography, courtesy of Jill Poisson and DiVincenzo, further enhances the B-movie correspondence DiVincenzo proudly strives for throughout the exertion. DiVincenzo’s editing, script (co-authored by James Cilano) and general guidance of the project is sharp and masterful. The story is conservative, but fulfilling, in its construction. Such transpires as DiVincenzo and Cilano tell the tale through several connected sequences. These are often exited and quickly returned to at seemingly random intervals. Such fleshes out the saga as satisfactorily as any full-length fiction. It also provides a non-linear, artistic streak to the proceedings. Such intensifies the well-rounded sum of the attempt. The same can be spoken of Cilano’s musical influence. Such is an endlessly enjoyable mixture of antiquated terror and melodrama. Furthermore, Adam Parchesky’s sound is tremendous. Jordan Pacheco’s puppeteering of the title entity, and other effects, are skillfully orchestrated. Like all the other technical elements we encounter in DiVincenzo’s latest, with gaffer John Mosetich and his leadership of the proficient camera and electric work chiefly among them, these articles jump out at us and demand our attention.
But, what is most charming of all is how easy it is to see droves of youth lining up to see “Trouser Snake”, and its promised sequel, as part of a weekend double feature at the drive-in. When reflecting upon the epoch the account is set in, the illusion cast by this ardent homage is smirk-inducing and complete. This is nostalgia of the best variety. It stays true to the trappings, the general arc and stereotypes of related outings. Still, it wins us over. This is, primarily, with the obvious affinity for the early Roger Corman/ Ed Wood Jr. brand of cinema DiVincenzo has attached to his narrative. With the support of an intriguingly designed beast, a wonderful and apt cast, a fluent pace and an entertainment level that never wavers: DiVincenzo has crafted a genuine knockout.
Trinity (2016), the outstanding eighty-three minute feature debut from writer and director, Skip Shea, is what is most properly described as a “Lynchian nightmare”. It is an endlessly eerie and effortlessly unsettling endeavor; a journey through the psyche that perfectly blurs what is real and what is imagined. Such is conveyed with quiet, underplayed power. This is through the medium of Shea’s imaginative, genuinely eye-popping and undeniably haunting images. Such punctuates its grimly poetic, highly symbolic underpinnings masterfully. In turn, this attribute only greatly enhances its grand effect.
What is just as remarkable is the distinct rhythm to these phantasmagorias throughout. What makes this detail all the more spectacular is that they are frequently wrapped around intelligent, scholarly conversations. These concern art, religion, Italian proverbs, scripture and the quoting of renowned minds from the past. This gives the piece, released through Racconti Romani Produzioni and Wicked Bird Media, an increasingly intellectual atmosphere. It blends masterfully with the surreal marvels and insights Shea often summons. This detail is utilized incredibly well with the various themes woven into the narrative. It also helps us see our surroundings as Michael is: as a curious but somewhat naïve youth. Shea also focuses with tremendous and intense results on the lingering psychology and aftermath of such events on the victim. This gives us a window into our traumatized lead, Michael (in a courageous, always-watchable and magnificently realized performance by Sean Carmichael). It also acts as a delicate balance between the human and the horrific aspects of this wonderfully challenging work of cinema.
Shea tells a true tale. It focuses in on Michael meeting up with Father Tom (in an enactment by David Graziano that is occasionally vulnerably, often domineering, bold and appropriately creepy) at a coffee shop in New England. Father Tom sexually mistreated Michael, who is now an artist, as a boy. With this awkward, and unexpected, confrontation, the sentiments Michael repressed and tried to keep at bay unveil. Almost immediately, these feelings come again to the forefront. As he later journeys through three churches, an engrossing representation of Michael’s cerebral venture as a whole, Michael comprehends still and remembers the hold Father Tom had on him. It is projected regularly on-screen with chill-inducing power. With this impression, Shea builds the bulk of a picture as a terrifying meditation on the lasting hurt and ever-building torment Father Tom has caused. As we, the audience, move deeper into Michael’s brain the harder it becomes to judge what is accruing now and what has happened before. Than we begin to ponder an equally horrific thought: what if it is, in some fashion or another, beginning to transpire all over again?
It is this emotive impetus which Shea uses brilliantly throughout the film. Not only does this get us to know the character, and those which surround him, exceptionally well but, it creates a terrific imprint of Michael’s singular perspective. Similarly, this component keeps our fascination mounting through the entirety. This sensation of stepping inside the life and deliberations of our protagonist is echoed with a Kubrickian aesthetic habitually through the affair. This is immediately noticeable in the opening moments. Here, we see several well-executed sequences of Michael going about his daily routine. This is as the classic guise of Michael’s voice as narrator offers Michael’s exclusive commentary on casual subjects. One of these is what winter is like where he resides. In the commencing minutes where this occurs, we are drawn in by Michael’s everyday likability. We are just as mesmerized by the natural tranquility and beauty, complete with gorgeous shots of the luminous veneer of piled snow on the ground, which is made all the more hypnotic by Nolan Yee’s gorgeous cinematography. But, when the concluding instances align themselves to these serene commencing bits, it is held in a far darker, more brooding respect. It is in these near-final seconds that we realize just how phenomenally Shea has let us explore the battered recesses of Michael’s inner-workings. Such also lends another bit of the repetition of reflective snapshots so prevalent herein. All of this is evidence of Shea’s stylistic bravado. Furthermore, it is proof of his absolute command of form present in every challenging frame found within this spellbinding tour de force.
Shea keeps the pace even and appropriate through the duration. His screenplay is just as impressive and meditative as his ground-breaking and taunt direction. He gives us believable dialogue, motivations and a realistic platform for his gradually rug-pulling, horror show feat. Despite the aforementioned recurrence of some visions, all we encounter always comes off as fresh and new. In fact, this return makes the sum of Shea’s vehicle all the more like an ever-turning melody in a ghastly, but beautifully engineered, song; a ballad of one man’s tragic childhood circumstances being brought back to light. Such an illusion is made all the more potent by the remarkably funereal music courtesy of Steven Lanning-Cafaro. This particular item courses further effective dread through the soundtrack.
Lynn Lowry is great as Michael’s Mother. Jennifer Gjulameti fares just as Michael’s Spirit Guide. Diana Porter as Sam, Maria Natapov as Maria, Anthony Ambrosino as Nick and Susan T. Travers as Susan are all transcendent in their respective roles. The same can be said for the rest of the cast. Likewise, Shea’s editing is splendidly issued. Phil ‘Skippy’ Adams, Diane Pimentel and Jessica O’ Brien lend a seamless make-up contribution. The sound department produces crisp, solid work. Adams’ special effects are just as seamless and mightily impressive.
Shea’s feature is personal, painful and punishing. It is also intimate and sincere. This is the type of undertaking that mechanizes spectacularly on all levels. In the process, it successfully brings to the surface a multitude of sentiments. From learning Michael so deeply as this raw, unflinching experience moves along, we undergo the same gambit of emotions as Michael himself. This is proof of the movie’s triumph centrally as a drama. Visually, technically and expressively, this demands spectators’ time, reflection and attention. Trinity is fulfilling on all levels. Though it undoubtedly challengers its viewers, it is in the best way imaginable. Such makes the results of this incredible opus of real-life terror all the more potent, immediate and necessary. This is moving art as an example of individual examination and catharsis at its most memorable. Shea has crafted an absolute masterpiece.