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

By Andrew Buckner

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

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

2. Onibaba (1964)
Director: Kaneto Shindo.

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

4. Possum (2018)
Director: Matthew Holness.

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

6. Haxan (1922)
Director: Benjamin Christensen.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

18. Magic (1978)
Director: Richard Attenborough.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

31. Eraserhead (1977)
Director: David Lynch.

AWordofDreams’ 21 Favorite Horror Novels of the 21st Century (So Far)

By Andrew Buckner

21. The Scarlet Gospels by Clive Barker
20. The Night Parade by Ronald Malfi
19. The Devil’s Labyrinth by John Saul
18. Head Full of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay
17. Broken Monsters by Lauren Feukes
16. The Lords of Salem by Rob Zombie, B.K. Evenson
15. The Taking by Dean Koontz
14. Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill
13. The Gordon Place by Isaac Thorne
12. Lock Every Door by Riley Sager
11. Stranglehold by Jack Ketchum
10. The Cabin at the End of the World by Paul Tremblay
9. The Strain by Guillermo del Toro, Chuck Hogan
8. The Institute by Stephen King
7. Under the Skin by Michael Faber
6. Consumed by David Cronenberg
5. House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski
4. Nos4a2 by Joe Hill
3. Doctor Sleep by Stephen King
2. The Fireman by Joe Hill
1. Baby Teeth by Zoje Stage

“Go to School, Kanunu” by Chris Esper (Book Review)

By Andrew Buckner

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

Hilarious, heartfelt and deeply personal, Go to School, Kanunu (2019) by Chris Esper is a perfect children’s book. Inventive and lively in its storytelling, with a multitude of terrific illustrations by Cardigan Broadmoor which bring these inherent qualities in the text to eye-popping life, the thirty-two-page tome has a look and demeanor that is easily aligned to the collective works of Dr. Seuss. This aspect can be easily assessed in the colorful and tone-setting cover Broadmoor conceived. It deftly summarizes Esper’s brief saga in a single image.

What further broadens this comparison to the ever-iconic catalogue of Dr. Seuss is how the project moves efficiently, effectively and enjoyably from one smirk-inducing situation to the next. Commencing with an ordinary moment, a mother telling her son to finish breakfast and do as the title of the effort suggests, the narrative becomes increasingly off-the-wall. This is as the mother seeks out inanimate objects as well as household animals to help get Kanunu to listen to her demands. They range from a timeout chair to a mouse.

Yet, what is most admirable about the self-published endeavor, which was released on July 30th of this year, is that it has a wide-ranging accessibility. This is most apparent in its theme of having a sluggish start to the day. Such is a topic guaranteed to ring true for every youth. It’s moral emphasis, the importance of punctuality, is fashioned in an easy-to-understand and amusing manner. It is one which its target audience will retain without difficulty.

As mentioned above, there is a private component to the undertaking which makes Go to School, Kanunu much more than an engrossing chronicle. In the touching Introduction, Esper states that this is a fiction his father would tell him and his sister. It was passed down to his father from his parents. Both of whom receive a loving dedication in the opening of the literature. This intimate connection tightens when we learn that Esper sees the yarn as a link to his Syrian heritage. It is an account his grandparents most likely heard themselves for the first time in the Middle East country. Esper’s hopes that the folk tale “may also shed a different light” on Syria is just as moving as the information garnered in this early passage.

Punctuated by an appropriately pleasant concluding note, Esper’s sophomore trek into the world of the printed word (after his brilliant 2016 debut, The Filmmaker’s Journey: Or What Nobody Tells You About the Industry) further showcases his depth and range as an artist. Whether tackling the subject of anxiety in the fantastic silent short “Imposter” (2018) or penning an engaging item for kids (as he does in his most recent opus), there is a consistently introspective nature to Esper’s material that is as relatable as it is endearing. This element illuminates every page of Esper’s latest venture. With great assistance from this quality, Esper has crafted an undertaking that feels immediately timeless. Go to School, Kanunu is an instant classic.

“The Mason Brothers” – (Movie Review)

By Andrew Buckner

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

The one-hundred and fourteen-minute debut feature from thirty-year-old writer-director Keith Sutliff, The Mason Brothers (2017), is a handsomely fashioned, if all too familiar, revenge tale. Deriving inspiration from Brian De Palma’s The Untouchables (1987) and Quentin Tarantino’s oft-mimicked Reservoir Dogs (1992), the KS Pictures production has all the tough talk and sudden bouts of violence expected from a crime story of this ilk. In this arena, Sutliff’s endeavor soars. The opus also triumphs in its Tarantino-like ability to entertain via dialogue. A great example of this would be in the many cases throughout the exertion where Sutliff’s fictional personas describe the failed scheme that takes place immediately before the commencement of the piece. Where lesser filmmakers would punctuate such arrangements with actual flashbacks to the event out of fear of losing audience intrigue, Sutliff forces spectators to participate by imagining the episode themselves. Such occurs via the verbal illustrations painted by our central figures in their frequent discussions among one another. The backstories of our leads and related expository instances are similarly addressed to equally potent consequence in this manner.

In turn, Sutliff creates a slick, classically designed caper. It is one which is as gripping when the fists fly as it is in its quieter episodes. Yet, this otherwise engaging movie, despite its penchant for narrative, never feels as if it fleshes out its characters in any satisfactory way. Yet, this works masterfully to make those we follow on-screen enigmatic. The same can be said for the relatively routine arc of events. Correspondingly, this celluloid vehicle offers no true surprises. Still, it succeeds far more frequently than it falters.

Sutliff chronicles Ren (in an intense, commanding performance from Sutliff), Jesse (in an exceptional depiction from Brandon Sean Pearson) and Orion Mason (in a brilliant, consistently compelling representation from Michael Ryan Whelan). They are a group of close brothers and expert robbers. When their botched plan to steal $10,000,000 via a Los Angeles bank results in the death of one of the members of this outlaw clique, it becomes evident that this fatal event was anything but an accident. This soon becomes believed to be a set-up. Seeking payback, Ren, the eldest and head of the team, hires a bounty hunter, Jerry (in a captivating enactment from Tim Park). His assignment is to uncover who was involved in this tragic incident. But, these fervently sought-after answers come with unwanted results. Soon one felonious mind is battling with another. This is as a rival neighborhood gang is declared to be the guilty party.

Co-producer Sutliff augments this intriguing plot with a script that is confidently paced. Though it concludes on a predictable note, the undertaking remains an all-around solid venture. This is largely a courtesy of the plethora of brutal, deftly executed action scenes Sutliff incorporates throughout the runtime. There is also an unwavering, no-nonsense atmosphere found in the labor. Such is a signpost of Sutliff’s taut, claustrophobic and ever-stylish guidance of the project. When combined with the dark, mood-setting cinematography from Errol Webber Jr. and Federico Vaona’s immersive music, the effort continues to astonish. Complete with a magnificent portrayal from Carlotta Montanari as Allena, splendid visual effects from John Myers and sharp editing from Gio Arias, the affair endures as a consistently dazzling genre outing. I highly recommend seeking it out.

The Mason Brothers will be released on Video on Demand in the United States of America, Germany/ Austria, Japan and in the United Kingdom on August 2nd, 2017 through Adler & Associates.

(R). Contains graphic language and violence.

 

“Extraordinary: The Stan Romanek Story” – (Capsule Movie Review)

By Andrew Buckner

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

Extraordinary: The Stan Romanek Story (2013) is a riveting companion piece to Romanek’s three prior books. They are the groundbreaking Messages: The World’s Most Documented Extraterrestrial Contact Story (2009), The Orion Regressions (2011) and Answers (2012). These popular tomes, all of which I highly recommend reading, detail Romanek’s personal encounters with unearthly life forms. Needless to say, the one-hundred and five-minute documentary which reiterates the content of these penned articles is nowhere near as in-depth as Romanek’s literary compositions on the subject.

Additionally,  the style is difficult to get used to at first. There is also an overreliance on quotes from many differing sources to fill gaps in the runtime. Still, the film is nonetheless fascinating. This is especially accurate when considering the reams of video, audio and photographic evidence which is presented in Romanek’s defense. Moreover, the three main sections the piece is assembled into (“The Evidence”, “Stan and Lisa” and “Validation” respectively) create a perfectly well-rounded beginning, middle and open-ended conclusion to Romanek’s on-going communion with these highly-intelligent beings.

Correspondingly, Romanek makes for an intriguing focal point. Likewise, the mid-section arrangements which concern the relationship between Stan and his wife, Lisa, are gripping. They are as potent as the myriad interviews from experts glimpsed in the last act. This is despite the fact that the latter component often feels as if there is too much emphasis on swaying viewers towards Romanek’s credibility. A similarly manipulative sensation is found in the brief “Prologue” situated at the commencement of the account.

Yet, the formerly addressed climactic conversations emit a refreshingly cerebral and alternately cryptic tone. Such makes these suspicious impressions easy to overlook. These profound inquiries complement the labor immeasurably. This is as these discussions turn to questions of the past, present and future of mankind itself.

From a technical standpoint, Jon Sumple provides all-around skillful work. This encapsulates his roles as director, co-writer (with Jack Roth), co-producer (with Roth and Jamie Sernoff), cinematographer and editor. Correspondingly, Anton Patzer’s intense, hypnotic original music and Patrick Lomantini’s superb visual effects enhance the quality of the effort immensely. In turn, the lingering impact of this illuminating presentation is both haunting and harrowing. Such results in a flawed, but worthwhile, production. It is one which fellow fans of true alien abduction tales will want to seek out for themselves. You can do so now on DVD, Blu-ray, Netflix and Video on Demand.

(UNRATED). Contains adult themes and situations.

Production Company: j3Films.

A Word of Dreams Recommends: “Child Eater” and “The Void”

By Andrew Buckner

Child Eater

****1/2 out of *****.

Child Eater (2016) is a terrific, no-holds-barred creature feature that will reaffirm your youthful fear of the dark. Backed by Erlingur Thoroddsen’s masterfully paced writing and mood-laced direction, the plot of this Icelandic-American photoplay, an adaptation of Thoroddsen’s short film from 2012 of the same name, centers around Helen Connolly (in a brilliant depiction from Cait Bliss). She has been handed the job of babysitting Lucas Parker (in a wonderful enactment from Colin Critchley). But, soon this simple task turns into a nightmare. This is as Connolly finds out that Parker’s  closet harbors an evil mythological entity. He is one who has an affinity for gouging out eyeballs as well as devouring the young.

Thoroddsen turns what sounds like a conventional genre storyline into a refreshingly unique, intense and beautifully made eighty-two minute presentation. The performances, especially Jason Martin as Robert Bowery and James Wilcox as Sheriff Connolly, are exceptional all around. John Wakayama-Carey’s cinematography is lush and ominous. Einar Sv. Tryggvason’s music is as haunting as the scenes they punctuate. Jonty Pressinger’s visual effects are marvelous. Best of all, Thoroddsen keeps the beast at the heart of this tale in the shadows for most of the runtime. This is with only the briefest glimpses of the fiend dominating the affair. It is a time-tested method for these types of motion pictures. With Thoroddsen’s full-length debut, it is again proven wildly effective. The same sentiment can be attached to this  Wheelhouse Creative Production Company release as a whole. Thoroddsen starts off on an atmospherically nail-biting angle. From herein, he only accelerates the suspense. This is especially punctuated by the many imaginative kill scenes herein. Such transpires until the startlingly memorable climax.

(Unrated). Contains graphic violence.

Child Eater is currently screening in film festivals. It can also be seen on video on demand.

The Void

****1/2 out of *****.

Endlessly atmospheric, taut and uncompromisingly well-made, The Void (2016), from the writing and directing team of Jeremy Gillespie and Steven Kostanski, will assuredly go down as one of the year’s best horror films. Gillespie and Kostanski evoke a surreal, visceral experience. It is one that owes as much to the blood-soaked genre efforts of the 1980’s as it does the American author H.P. Lovecraft (1890-1937). The jaw-dropping special effects from Stefano Beninati, as well as  the dozen individuals who constitute the visual department of this arena, carry on both of these attributes wonderfully. Samy Inayeh’s cinematography, Aaron Poole’s lead performance as Daniel Carter and the hypnotic soundtrack make this tale all the more impactful. The plot itself, which involves a group of hooded figures gathering around a hospital after the arrival of a patient signifies increasing violence in the building, is undeniably intriguing. It is made all the more so in the breakneck, yet confident and novel-like, manner in which Gillespie and Kostanski allow the unpredictable events of their chronicle to unfold. The influences from John Carpenter’s The Thing (1982) and the work of George Romero certainly add to the nostalgia-laden fun of the piece. This is even more amplified as the fantastically gothic final fifteen minutes definitely resonate a heavy Clive Barker feel. Though the characters themselves are a bit archetypal, the rest of this ninety-minute endeavor is so strong that you will have no problem looking past such comparatively minor faults.

(Unrated). Contains graphic violence and adult language.

Production Companies: Cave Painting Pictures and Jo Bro Productions Film Finance.

The Void is showing in select theaters and on video on demand.

“Mom and Me” – (Capsule Movie Review)

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

Irish writer-director Ken Wardrop’s seventy-seven-minute documentary, Mom and Me (2015), is a sweet, poignant and frequently amusing love letter to the unbreakable mother-son bond. Told in a deceptively simple manner, which benefits the general demeanor of the production splendidly, Wardrop centers his action around a local radio broadcast in Oklahoma. The host of said program is the charming and earnest Joe Cristiano. As the photoplay commences, we soon learn he is doing a Mother’s Day special. Cristiano takes this as a chance to invite listeners to call and discuss their relationships with those who are celebrated on this holiday. From herein, Wardrop fashions a varied, complex, gripping and undoubtedly impactful portrait of the subject matter. This is as we meet the callers and hear their tales. Wardrop also opens the door to see even more intimately into the lives of these individuals. He does this by allowing viewers a chance to personally witness scenes between these aforesaid familial counterparts unfold.

Though every narrative is strikingly different, they are all uniquely effective. In turn, Wardrop takes us through the emotional ringer with gentle, quiet sincerity. This is especially evident as this efficient, tightly paced and beautifully fashioned chronicle alternates between themes of regret, drug addiction, imprisonment and Alzheimer’s Disease. These more wrenching episodes match the generally upbeat air of the effort masterfully. The concluding sequences are especially harrowing. They balance all the prior beats of the endeavor spectacularly well. Consequently, they bring every individual yarn to a satisfying conclusion. John E.R. Hardy and Benjamin Talbott make this arrangement all the more immersive with their phenomenal musical contributions. This can also be said of the editing from Mark Bankhead.

The result is consistently ardent and brilliant; one of the best films of the year. This is a testament to true masculinity. It is one which will undoubtedly prove relatable to  audiences of all ages and backgrounds. I whole-heartedly recommend you check out Wardrop’s latest, which is being distributed through Uncork’d Entertainment and Visit Films, when it is released theatrically and on video on demand May 5th, 2017.

Production Companies: Boom Pictures and Venom Films.

(Unrated). Contains adult themes.

 

“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.

“Don’t Be Bad” – (Movie Review)

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

Don’t Be Bad (2015), the final flick from acclaimed Italian co-writer-director Claudio Caligari, continuously calls to mind the works of legendary poet, novelist, essayist, political activist and fellow moviemaker Pier Paolo Pasolini. This is most visible in Caligari’s deft ability to muster intrigue through his deliberately aimless anecdotal sensibilities. This is inherent in both the pace and general events of the respectable, if wholly familiar, script Caligari (who also formulated the storyline) co-penned with Giordano Meacci and Francesca Serafini. Such a factor is a trait most accessibly glimpsed in Pasolini’s ground-breaking, Franco Citti starring debut picture, Accattone (1961). It is also noticeable in Pasolini’s earlier novels, Boys of Life (1955) and A Violent Life (1959). This is the tome which Accattone is rumored to be partially based upon. Besides, the character-oriented essence that bridges these earlier stated creations, there is also an emphasis on our leads being thieves that is as much a part of Accattone and Pasolini’s brilliant literary fiction, A Street Life (1955), as it is in Caligari’s Toxic Love (1983). Interestingly, the later declared construction is referenced early on in Caligari’s seventh feature, Don’t Be Bad. The exception is that Pasolini was known to fixate on pimps and prostitutes in these prior addressed classics, the central figures of Caligari’s landscape were frequently an assortment of partially misunderstood drug dealers. The hedonistic individuals unveiled in these masterpieces were frequently those who, in hindsight, yearned for a better existence. This is despite the underlying tragedy that recurrently taunted them.

There is also a detached, clinical approach, that burns with an emotion that is present but rarely expressed, to both of Pasolini’s mediums. It is much in line with Caligari’s overall narrative tactics in Don’t Be Bad. Such adds an increasingly authentic, almost ruggedly documentary-like, veneer to the proceedings. The gritty cinematography from Maurizio Calvesi, as well as the everyday, straight-forward, though intermittently comic, dialogue, further heighten this impression. Thus, when a genuinely heartfelt illustration is conveyed it makes the scenes that they occur in, such as one in the aforesaid opus that transpires at circa the one hour mark, evermore painful and powerful. In turn, these arrangements force themselves to standout and linger on in our subconscious. Yet, one can’t help but think that there is still not enough of these moments to make the entire presentation memorable. Consequently, this lack of open sentimentality, as commendable as it endures throughout, and as perfect as it is for the types of people who dominate this tour de force, makes for protagonists that come off as assuredly angry. Yet, they are undeniably cold. Furthermore, it gives them the sensation of not being sufficiently fleshed-out. This makes them appear no different than those we’ve encountered in similar ventures. Maybe this is the purpose of such an exercise. Regardless, the distance Caligari and Pasolini creates, which can also be perceived as another of the life mirroring qualities on display, is as frustrating as it is invigorating.

Set in the peripheries of Rome (another connection to the tales of Pasolini) in the 1990’s, Caligari chronicles the relationship between Vittorio (in a solid enactment from Alessandro Borghi) and Cesare (Luca Marinelli, who is quietly riveting in his portrayal). They are self-proclaimed “brothers for life”. When the depiction begins, we spy them engaging in a life of excessive alcohol and drugs. Their nights are largely spent at the local disco. They also appear to be drawn to material flash. This is with fancy automobiles being among the shared interests of the duo. When Vittorio encounters Linda (in a unflinchingly stalwart turn from Roberta Matteia), he sees this as a chance to get out of the endlessly risqué being he has erected with Cesare. Yet, where Vittorio has found love, Cesare has uncovered a world that is slowly unraveling around him. Still, the distance between the pair is not eternal. Soon Vittorio and Cesare reunite. From herein, they attempt to live a “normal” being; one that is sewn from honest labor. But, will the past catch back up with them? Or will they be able to maintain this less hazardous, more gradual, routine they are currently building?

The plot, though sturdy, offers no real surprises. Not to mention, the otherwise well-made climax is cut from far too many similarly themed photographic entries. It also comes across as slightly overlong. But, Caligari has an eye that never leaves what should be the focus of any truly good narrative: those who dominate the presentation itself. Also, assisting matters is that none of the occurrences herein feel inorganic. Nothing in the one hundred and two minute and twenty-five second runtime of Don’t Be Bad, which has also been translated to Don’t Be Mean, comes off as placed in the invention to fashion unearned dramatic or tense instances. Such would simply be for the sake of garnering audience attention. The tone is also striking. This is especially true given the changes Vittorio and Cesare undergo throughout the affair. Yet, Caligari finds a method for the entire piece to continuously echo a tough, gritty, yet, somber and mature atmosphere. Such is a wondrous feat itself. This is made all the more awe-provoking given the fact that all of this unravels in a confident and unrushed fashion. Additionally, the performances are captivating all-around. Silvia D’Amico’s turn as Viviana is a magnificent highlight in this arena. When these exceptional constituents are combined with the consistently impressive reality that the photoplay unveils: it is all too easy to look away from the minor flaws of the application. Because of this, one cannot deny the satisfactory, ever-admirable nature of the production.

This endearing marker of quality, is made progressively evident by Caligari’s taunt, proficient direction. Co-composers Alessandro Sartini and Paolo Vivaldi offer terrific music. Their numbers marvelously illuminate all that is transpiring in Caligari’s construction. In turn, this detail augments both the beats of the exertion as well as impact of the bits they transpire within. Likewise, Mauro Bonanni offers seamless and sharp editing. Chiara Ferrantini’s costume design is superb. Paolo Soldini’ set decoration is masterful. Franco and Paolo Galiano’s special effects blend perfectly with the authenticity Caligari has meticulously carved into the effort itself. The same can be said for the team of individuals who put together the visual component of these celluloid illusions. Correspondingly, the make-up and sound squads are equally remarkable in their respective contributions.

The consequence of these elements is a reliably cinematic fabrication. This is most apparent in the quieter episodes. For example, the second act configurations which involve Vittorio and Cesare toiling alongside one another in a more commonplace location for employment. They are far more arresting than the combative notes the presentation commences upon. Yet, this Italian entry for Best Foreign Language Film at the 88th Academy Awards, soars because it provides what all great works should unveil: a demanding, beautifully crafted and singular experience. There is an easy, graceful movement to both Caligari’s on-screen style that is evident in the smooth handling of the various relationships, especially that of Linda and Vittorio, in the endeavor. It is also viewable in the manner the sequences and fiction unfold. This is another of the many attributes Caligari shares with Pasolini. With Don’t Be Bad, which opens in theatres on April 7th and will be available on video on demand May 23rd, 2017 through Uncork’d Entertainment, Caligari has erected a satisfying, stalwart conclusion to a fantastic career.

(Unrated). Contains violence, language and adult themes.

“Lion” – (Capsule Film Review)

By Andrew Buckner

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

Lion (2016) is a harrowing, haunting, inspiring and undeniably human experience; an achingly beautiful masterpiece. This is even if the last hour cannot compete with the sheer emotional resonance and filmmaking perfection of the first. Director Garth Davis’ direction is as honest and intimate as Saroo Brierley’s autobiographical source material, A Long Way Home (2013), demands the work to be. Additionally, the lead performances, as well as Luke Davies’ academy-award nominated screenplay, are all spellbinding. In turn, Davis has delivered a debut feature that is as much a sentimental journey as the riveting plot, which concerns a young man trying to find his lost family and his way back to his childhood home after twenty-five years, is itself. The cinematography by Greg Fraser as well as the expected, though nonetheless rousing, climax of the endeavor are similarly striking, triumphant and full of life. Such results in a must-see; undoubtedly one of the best cinematic works of 2016. (PG-13) 118 minutes. Starring: Dev Patel, Rooney Mara, David Wenham, Nicole Kidman.