Thursday, March 26, 2015

BUFF 17: THE EDITOR, Offers Hysterical Bloody Satire Of GIALLO.



A wildly inventive spoof of the giallo genre, The Editor kicked off the 17th annual Boston Underground Film Festival this past Sunday, and it was certainly an appropriate selection for the opening night film. It’s ultraviolent, wickedly funny and playfully self-aware, making for one twisted romp that started off the festival with a big, bloody bang.

Writer and director Adam Brooks also stars as the titular film editor, Rey Ciso, who’s currently working on an Italian horror film with his young, lovely assistant, Bella (Samantha Hill). Reduced to cutting his pictures with one hand after accidentally chopping off his fingers in a gruesome accident, Ciso is suffering from an artistic meltdown, and in addition to that, is receiving no intimacy from his stone-cold wife, Josephine (Paz de la Huerta). Before long, a series of brutal murders occur, in which each of the victims’ fingers have been severed in an identical fashion to Ciso’s. Claiming that he’s being framed by a faulty calling card, Ciso must uncover the identity of the killer in order to prove his innocence to the hilariously misguided detective, Peter Porfry (co-director Matthew Kennedy), and before any more bodies are sliced up in a spectacularly gory fashion.

The plot becomes inscrutable to the point of pure absurdity, much like the central mysteries of the films it’s satirizing, becoming a big driving force for a string of cleverly depraved gags. In one sequence, Detective Porfry is certain that a female character linked to the murders is wearing a mask, then, in an attempt to remove it, rips off her entire face. It’s a shockingly graphic bit, exposing the disgustingly horrific aftermath, but what makes it even more hysterically warped is that the detective simply sticks her face back on, resulting in the character being totally fine, and the scene continues as if it never happened.

Combining elements of horror and comedy is always a tricky balancing act, but Brooks and Kennedy construct their characters with utterly sincere archetypal personalities. The inventive homages to the films of Dario Argento and Brian De Palma, in particular, through various first-person kills, split-screen techniques, neon lighting and an old-school synth score may be winking at the viewer, but the characters never are, which makes the pathos of their violent scenarios that much funnier when meshed with such beloved horror-themed stylistics. If it were played any other way, it could have come off as smug and self-satisfied, but everything from the intentionally cheesy performances to the deliberately awkward dubbing helps create a pitch-perfect tribute to a genre piece from the 1970s.


The Editor might run on a little too long, and is a bit rough around the edges. Some gags in the middle, such as two characters addressing the killer may be a ‘black’ man rather than saying ‘a man dressed in black,’ as well as a rape-turned-consensual-sex set piece, didn’t resonate so well with me. But for every joke that falls flat, there are at least two or three preceding it that are a scream. This is one uproariously inspired satire, and a wet dream for die-hard giallo fans.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Review: RECIPE And The Elusive Quest for The Perfect Bod



With a tongue planted firmly inside her cheek, director Olivia Saperstein takes the piss out of the unrealistic exercise and diet standards that the beauty industry bombards women with on a daily basis. Recipe whips up a wicked and morbid bit of satire in just over five minutes of runtime.

While a pair of vapid hostesses extol the virtues of a raw food diet on a TV cooking show that blares in the background, Faye (Augie Duke) prepares her post workout shake. It's not long before we learn the secret behind Faye's toned physique. Needing to get her daily intake of protein and vitamins, Faye keeps her roommate zip tied to the apartment's treadmill machine and has lopped of a leg at the knee. As Faye sucks down the frothy mixture of blood bone and muscle, she lets her best bud know that she's jazzercized herself all the way down to a size two and has her sight set on getting down to a zero.

It's no big secret that our image obsessed culture promotes unrealistic and dangerous ideas about what the ideal human body looks like. With Recipe, Saperstein takes the stereotype of the gym obsessed fitness nut-the kind that spends hours a day pounding their feet on the stair master while subsisting on green tea and kale-and pushes it to even further extremes. Though the short leans more towards humor than horror, Duke exemplifies the outwardly beautiful woman with a very specific psychosis and obsession with melting of any sign of flab. Duke plays her part with the cult-like fervor of a true believer who will achieve her goals through any means necessary. There's nothing outwardly evil about her demeanor. In fact, she's almost Stepford like in her mannerisms as she details the results of her diet to her bound and mutilated roommate with the zeal of a little girl who just took first prize at the elementary school science fair.

Saperstein also manages to take shots at the double standard that exists between the acceptable beauty standards between men and women. While Faye has to pump iron (into her roommates face) nonstop in order to land a mate, all the guy has to do is show up. Literally. We meet Faye's beau Bobby (Herbert Russell) late in the short, and he's the spitting image of Faye if it were Opposite Day and she had sprouted a penis. Overweight, slovenly and exhausted from the exertion it took to climb the stairs and knock on the door, Bobby is the slobbish sitcom dad that lands the trophy wife taken to the next level.

We get our paws on more than our fair share of short films that tear into fucked up body image issues. It's rare we get to see one that's as funny as Recipe. The message doesn't get lost in the mirth however, and it delivers a fantastic work of body horror.

(RECIPE makes its world premiere at the Boston Underground Film Festival Thursday March 26th at 955pm in front of the feature EXCESS FLESH.)


Review: PENTA And The Programmable Girlfriend



(Author's note: Andrea Mark-Wolanin is both a contributor to this site and a dear friend.)

Boston filmmaker Andrea Mark-Wolanin made her debut at last year's Boston Underground Film Festival screening her entry to the ABC's of Death competition, M Is For Mundane. While that short gave a hint at Ms. Wolanin's talent, her follow up Penta feels a lot more like a talent kicking open the door and arriving on the scene. Set against a science fiction backdrop in a not too distant future, Penta brings to screen an all too real scenario that threatens a countless number of women.

Sweet Penta is hailed as "the biomechanical companion for the discerning connoisseur." As envisioned by the company that created her, Penta possesses the perfect traits for the lonely bachelor that orders her. Along with physical beauty she has been programmed to be obedient, to enjoy the same activities as her owner, and to cater to his every need while never expressing any of her own. By twisting a few parts in place and plugging in nodes to the correct ports, Adam (Shaun Callaghan) only has to wait a half a day to connect with his perfect woman.

While taken out of context the moments of the new couple laughing hand in hand, or canoodling on the sofa should not give one pause, Wolanin never lets the viewer forget the fact that Sweet Penta's out of the box personality have been lab tested and scientifically engineered to meet the expectations of male entitlement. Even during the serene moments of romantic bliss featured prominently in the opening segment of Penta, the looming sense of discomfort and hint of a dark turn never feels far off. As created by her corporate lab, Penta is a woman without agency. There are some very specific choices made in her wardrobe choices, the couple's body language and the tight framing of Dayla and Callaghan that are reminiscent of the 1950's era marked by the idea of a submissive housewife and a "Father Knows Best" gender dynamic.

It's not until Penta starts to make incremental steps into exploring the world on her own that Adam's insecurities come roaring to the surface in the form of emotional and physical violence. As Penta begins to take tentative steps towards independence, Adam puts his foot down and asserts his dominance, curbing her desires before they blossom into something larger. As Adam, Callaghan embodies the inadequacies found in a specific kind of male who not only has no desire for, but explicitly fears the idea of an equal partnership. In a fit of rage Adam cuts off one of Penta's arms as a means of punishment, exposing the wire and steel under her soft surfaces and reminding her that she's something less than human. This initial action sets off an all to familiar and repeated pattern where Penta loses more of herself in both a physical and emotional sense, the light going out of her eyes as Adam's punishments continue. Penta paints a clear portrait at how abusers see their victims as “less than,” blaming the people they're hurting for bringing it on themselves and seeing their own role as more of a teacher attempting to correct faulty behaviors. By the time Adam has had his fill with his former robotic lover, the events become tough to stomach.

Dayla manages to bring true depth to her performance as the robot girlfriend brought to life. She brings a sweetness to the role, and a very childlike wonder and awe at the larger world around her. She manages to convey an honest sense of satisfaction at Penta's smaller victories and discoveries as she explores her new world while retreating someplace deep and small into herself as Adam looms large and threatening over her. A fixture in the Boston performance art scene, Dayla continues to grow as an actress, bringing a screen presence and charm that transfixes audiences. 

The characteristic of innocence Dayla brings to the role makes the final turn all the more of a gut punch. Penta taps into a wealth of thematic veins, but what stands out is its exploration of how a person loves is so hugely influenced by how they were loved. Without diving headlong into spoiler territory, the closing moments drive home the idea that abuse tends to be a perpetual motion machine, passed like a virus from one victim to the next. For Penta, her actions do not come from a place of wanting to hurt the people, but from the misguided sense of love she learned from Adam. It's abuse masked as “correction” and it's not only heartbreaking to see the end result of this misconception but to also recognize the look of satisfaction towards a task well done that Dayla wears in the short film's closing shot.




(PENTA makes its world premiere at the Boston Underground Film Festival Friday, March 27th at 5:45pm as part of the Homegrown Horror program.)

Monday, March 23, 2015

INTERVIEW: TURBO KID Masterminds RKSS Films

Fans of late 70's/early 80's science fiction and post apocalyptic cinema are going to fall head over heels in love with Turbo Kid. An unholy mashup of The Terminator, Mad Max and Soylent Green with the four color world of comics thrown in for good measure, the film transcends genre boundaries and offers something for everyone. Centered around THE KID, a teen boy who scavenges for goods on his BMX in a nightmarish hellhole of a world, the film covers all the bases from over-the-top gore, action, romance and all around badassery. Conceived as a short film as part of ABC's of Death 2's "T is For" short film competition, the project gained steam online and was developed as a full blown feature. The creative team at RKSS Films: Yoann-Karl Whissell, Anouk Whissell and Francois Simard recently took home the Midnighters Award at this year's SXSW festival. While no word has come regarding an official release, it'd be shocking if that doesn't occur soon. 

I recently chatted over the phone with the trio ahead of the SXSW premiere. My apologies, as a poor bluetooth connection, road noise and surprise hailstorm made hearing their answers a bit dodgy at times. Check out the T Is For Turbo short film, posted below. 


From Left To Right: RKSS Films Masters Of Disaster Yoann Karl-Whissell, Anouk Whissell & Francois Simard


Is the official SXSW screening tonight? 

Yoann: Tonight is the official SXSW premiere and we're all very excited.

Do you have a ritual you all partake in the day of a festival premiere?

Anouk Whissell: Yes, we panic. 

Yoann-Karl Whissell: We're half joking but we'll have a couple beers help take off the edge.

Francois Simard: We've heard great things about the crowd here so we're excited. 

There's been a lot of Canadian exploitation films these past few years, starting with Hobo With A Shotgun and continuing with titles like Dead Hooker In A Trunk, Wolfcop, Father's Day, The Editor, Manborg  and now Turbo Kid, that all draw a deep influence from a period in the early days of cable television where pay stations like HBO and Showtime would snap up any low budget film they could inform and show them on a loop in order to fill 24 hours a day of programming. What is it about that period that's so appealing as a filmmaker to go back and try to recreate it?

Yoann: I think it's the fond memories. We grew up watching those films and with Turbo Kid, we didn't want to make a spoof. We wanted to make it a genuine love letter to those films. 

Francois: As crazy as they are, we grew up with those films, so we wanted to make a homage. 

What stands out in Turbo Kid is it is played straight and though there's a lot of humor, it happens organically and there aren't moments of winking at the audience and saying it's all a big joke. The film looks like it could have been lifted from a time capsule. Is there a struggle to rein in humor when you have such an over the top premise or is it natural to play it straight and let moments of levity play out as they come? 

Yoann: For us it is like riding a fine line between both worlds. I believe we managed to be genuine towards the whole process. 

Francois: The performers were so good, we let them improvise. As they came up with really great stuff on set we allowed them the freedom to have fun and explore their characters. 

Turbo Kid also tosses the audience right in to the middle of a world already turned to shit and expects them to catch up. It's a fully realized world. How much world building goes in to the process ahead of time and how conscious are you of not doing so much an origin story but letting the audience dive right in to the thick of it? 

Yoann: We were very confident that people could catch up and understand what was going on with the world. As long as they knew the reason, and we put that reason in our script, why the world was like that, it would come organically. So far everyone has been able to connect to the world right away.

Francois: We're three filmmakers and we all agreed we wanted to go that way. We felt confident that if  we all agreed and we all liked the story as we wrote it that audiences would like it as well.  

How do you divide up the responsibilities as a trio? How do you tap into one another's strengths to create the best movie possible?

Yoann: When we're writing the story, we write with the three of together at the same time. It's really a collaboration. We're all in the same room, around the same table and we're all pitching ideas to one another. We argue, we fight and laugh and cry and we have a blast coming up with everything together. 

Francois: People often ask "You're three directors and you're still friends? How does that work?" We're all best at different things. Yoann works best with the actors. I'm more a behind the camera and storyboarding. Anouk makes sure that everything goes well. She basically directs us. 

Anouk: I control the chaos.

So she's pulling your strings basically. Can you talk about some of the influences? The film feels like Terminator meets Mad Max with a dash of Army of Darkness thrown in. What are some of the less obvious titles you drew from that audiences might miss? 

Yoann: There's hints of Never Ending Story and Goonies for sure. 

Francois: Brain Dead. It's my favorite movie of all time.

Anouk: There's a kids film that came out of Quebec: "The Dog That Stopped The War" (La guerre des tuques). That was a big influence. 

Jesus how did I miss that the first time around? Turbo is so bloody and so creative in the ways it disposes of people.  That's one of the things that's going to suck the audience in. How do you dream up ways of getting rid of "X" character and try to do it in ways no one has ever seen before. I don't recall another film where a severed torso has been used as a hat in a battle royale. How do you determine what to use and what to veto when it comes to going over the top? 

Yoann: It comes down when we write and all sit down in the same room, we're all throwing ideas at one another. The one that makes us laugh really loud is the one we keep. If we find it funny, we figure other people will find it funny as well. That moment you're talking about, we had it in the short and it was a hit, so we kept it for the feature. We were able to go all the way with it. 

It's funny, I was watching the film on my laptop and my wife walked in the room and heard what was going on onscreen and commented "I don't know what you're watching but it sounds disgusting and I want no part of it!"

Yohann: Awesome.

On the other side of the coin, you really do explore the relationship between The Kid and Apple. How do you find ways to balance the drama and human moments in between the gore and carnage? It's not necessarily a romantic relationship between the two, but it's a deep friendship that grows very quickly. 

Yohann: That was the part we had the most fun writing because it goes against the grain of the rest of the film. We had so much fun cultivating that in the story because we had fallen so much in love with those two characters and we wanted to have everyone who sees the film fall in love with them as well. It's fun to play against the over the top gore with the cuteness. It's something different from other films.We wanted a very human story. We actually cut some gore because we wanted to take care of that love story and make sure it had all the time it needed to fully develop. You can do all the gore you want but if you don't care about the characters then eventually you tune out. 

So even though the film is low budget, the world is fully formed and it looks so lived in and like it had been in place forever. What are the challenges in creating that world and making it feel so tangible and believable when you might not have all the resources you want at your disposal? 

Yoann: You need to be creative. Some places partially worked so we had to find our filming angles and ways to make it work. We were lucky to find some great places and we were really lucky because we lost one of our primary locations just weeks before the shoot. We were able to find alternatives that worked as well. It was never as easy as just walking in to a place and it being perfect but everybody from the technical team to the actors and the whole Turbo Family just make it work.

So what's next for The Kid?

Yoann: Hopefully we can do a sequel. The universe has so many stories to tell. Why not a trilogy? It depends on audience reaction, but so far so good!  










Film Thrills Podcast Episode 7: Michael J Epstein & Sophia Cacciola (TEN, MAGNETIC)

Husband and Wife team Michael J Epstein and Sophia Cacciola are longtime fixtures of the Boston art and music communities. Playing together in diverse projects Do Not Forsake Me Oh My Darling, Space Balloons, The Michael J Epstein Memorial Library and Darling Pet Munkee, the pair always look for new creative challenges lest the fear of stagnation set in.

After directing a number of music video projects and short films, the partners turned their attention to TEN,  unique lulls audiences in with the appearance of a standard  slasher film before pulling the rug out and defying easy categorization. With a comprised completely of women, including a number of stalwarts in the local burlesque and performance art community, and taking full advantage of its location shoot at a sprawling, gothic mansion, TEN offers a unique experience for the adventurous viewer. The film makes its DVD and VOD release April 24th.

The pair followed up their feature debut with MAGNETIC, which makes its world premiere at the Boston Underground Film Festival this Sunday March 29th at the Brattle Theater. Set in a post apocalyptic future, it focuses on a lonely woman with the Herculean and depressing task of informing families their loved ones are no longer. While it sounds simple on the surface, the duo promise a post modern experience where music and mood are instrumental to one's appreciation of the film. 
Michael and Sophia joined Mike to discuss how they broke in to filmmaking from music, the allure of pushing boundaries and telling nonconformist stories, and the benefits of making art with the person you love. 



Find out more about Michael and Sophia's music and film projects here. 

As always, we appreciate your feedback. Please feel free to leave us a review here or on iTunes.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Hey Boston, IT FOLLOWS Is Playing Coolidge Corner All Week

Dear Boston Horror Fans:

I know you love to gripe that there's nothing good playing in theaters. Sometimes it's hard to blame you when PG-13 tripe fills the theaters. Like a dehydrated man wandering the desert, we're forced to gulp down the schlock if we want to get our fix.

Well I'm here to tell you it doesn't have to be that way this week. IT FOLLOWS, one of the scariest and most critically adored horror films to come along in ages, is playing all this week at the Coolidge Corner theater. There's ZERO reason for you to not check this film out. Yes, it's cold as balls. Yes, Mother Nature is still laughing at us while dumping more snow and ice out of a seemingly inexhaustible well. Dammit, we're New Englanders and we're a hearty bunch, and if we want to soil our britches in terror, thn

You're welcome,
Mike

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Repost Review: Drafthouse Film's SPRING Is Here And It's Wonderful

The following review was first posted as part of our 2014 Fantastic Fest coverage. Not only was the film my favorite of that festival, it was my favorite of the year, period. Drafthouse Films officially released the film on March 20th and it is now out for purchase rental on iTunes, Amazon, Google Play, Vudu and XBox among other platforms. Additionally, the film is now playing across Alamo Drafthouse locations now before expanding to more theaters on March 27th (including the Coolidge Corner in Boston and Luna Theater in Lowell MA). Locations and advance tickets can be found here. 

Combining monster tropes, horror elements and heart warming romance and set against stunning set pieces in Italy, Spring will appeal to fans across many genres. If you're feeling amorous, watch this movie with your partner and I promise you two will be up for anything afterwards. Including butt stuff. 



Aaron Moorhead and Justin Benson's first feature Resolution remains one of my favorite films of the past few years. Looking back on the movie, it's amazing how thoughtful it is despite the small scope of what essentially is a one location movie. For their sophomore effort, Moorhead and Benson stretch their boundaries, traveling to oceanside villas of Italy for Spring. The sweeping backdrops only add to a a stunningly beautiful and moving story for what was my favorite film of all Fantastic Fest.

Evan (Lou Taylor Pucci) needs to see him escape his problems and the country after a week that sees him burying his mother followed by him nearly killing a man in a bar fight. A small inheritance allows him to travel abroad to Italy where he finds himself “living the life of a bored, rich American house wife” while trying to drink his sorrows behind him. A chance encounter brings him into contact with the beautiful Louise (Nadia Hilker), and while she seems aloof to his charms at first, he manages to win her over and convince her to go on a date with him. The chemistry is apparent from their first moments together and the evening ends with them in bed. What Evan does not know is Louise is something more than human, and their encounter triggers the start of a monstrous transformation within her.

While the monster aspect of Spring takes a backseat to the romantic elements, the film offers a creature unlike anything seen in film before, and its evolving nature allows FX supervisor Robert Kurtzman the chance to play with a variety of designs. The monster's explanation owes equal debt to Lovecraftian horror as well as Darwinism. It's mythology helps further one of the central themes of Spring, which is the constant struggle between faith and fact. Despite being afforded millenia to study herself Louise admits that what she understands rests on unproven theory.

Spring rests on the chemistry and performances and Pucci and Hilker. Just as Resolution explored the bonds of male friendship, Spring unapologetically examines why people fall in love, and whether or not it's an emotion one controls or simply takes over.Two films in to their career, Benson and Moorhead have an uncanny knack for making you believe in their characters and their motivations in short order. Given what you learn about Evan's history, it makes complete sense he would seek a deeper connection than a brief fling would offer. By the same token, Louise’s stand offishness makes perfect sense as well. Even as I found myself getting further invested in the pair's burgeoning relationship, I found myself questioning whether or not Evan was being selfish with what he was proposing to Louise. Spring asks Is this really worth it? a question that might not ever be more evident that in the moments after Evan discovers Louise’s nature and sits there with a mute, dumbstruck expression on face. Pucci and Hilker have a terrific cadence in their interactions with a great deal of push/pull as one tries to convince the other what the best course of action is. The filmmakers know how to manipulate this chemistry, especially during the elongated single take of the duo arguing while walking the cobblestone streets of the villa.


When people ask why I would travel halfway across the country just to watch movies when there's a half dozen cineplexes within a fifteen minute drive in any direction from my house, I would point them towards films like Spring. There's a reason why it's called “Fantastic” Fest and not “So-So” Fest, and it's because of the films like these that move you in ways that are completely unexpected. There is a joyous optimism in Spring that transcends the love story. It's every bit the tale of committing every part of yourself to a course of action and seeing it through to the end, knowing that it isn't always the end result that matters, but the peace that comes from the knowledge that you took your best shot, and you won't lie awake asking what could have been. While it's a theme that apples to the romance within the film, it also serves as a larger call to the act of independent filmmaking itself.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

POSTPARTUM: The Ugly And Psychotic Side Of Motherhood

(Author's note: I've been good friends with the director for a few years now and along with being the cofounder of this site, co-writer Chris Hallock is one of my closest friends. )



Boston filmmaker Izzy Lee continues to grow as an artist, and her latest short, Postpartum, is her most complete work to date. Clocking in at six minutes with credits, it still manages to pack more of a wallop than many feature films. Like many of our favorite shorts, it delivers a hell of a gut punch and is sure to make even the most hardened fan squirm with discomfort.

Postpartum begins with Diana (Diana Porter) checking on her friend Holly (Kasey Lansdale) after the latter has gone incommunicado following the birth of her child. She's met at the door by a woman nearly unrecognizable from her close friend. What greets her is a disheveled mess of a woman, gaunt from malnutrition and clutching her ears from the sound of phantom shrieks. Even if one were to remove the trappings of the horror genre, Holly's life would appear nightmarish to any outsider. An eviction notice is plastered to her front door. Every surface of her apartment is covered with trash and spoiled food. She has the wild-eyed look of a person who has been up for days straight snorting pixie stix while listening to the Styx "Don't Pay The Ferryman" on a constant loop, convinced that the lyrics hold the key to all of life's secrets. It's not a pretty place to be.

Only three shorts into her filmmaking career and Lee already has the art of delivering "what the fuck" moments down pat. Postpartum packs a pair of these moments into six minutes of runtime, first with a crib side reveal followed mere moments later with just how Holly deals with drop in guests. Lee embraces the chaotic side of terror where the heart leaps up and gets stuck in the throat and every nerve ending feels like its on fire because the mind can't process and react to what's going on. It's refreshing to see someone just say "fuck it" and throw a monkey wrench into what you think is going to be a straight forward narrative.

With Postpartum Lee tackles the misconception that new motherhood brings out a "glow" in a woman. The reality is, up to 80% of women struggle with some form of postpartum depression after birth. This film shows the ugly, albeit exaggerated, side of motherhood that often gets dismissed by those who think parenthood means sacrificing one's own health and well being for a squalling miniature human.

Special note goes to the makeup and special effects, also done by the director. From cracked fingernails, puffed and baggy eyelids, greasy, stringy hair and cracked, bloody fingers Izzy pulls out all the stops in her arsenal in order to turn the stunningly beautiful Lansdale into something that resembles Zelda from Pet Semetary. 

If your partner has been harping on you to fire up the baby making machine but you're leaning towards enjoying a life of sleeping in on weekends and coming and going as you please, sit down with your significant other and show them Postpartum. Terrific on its own right, it' enough to turn just about anyone down from parenthood. 

Postpartum makes its Boston Premiere in front of the feature Excess Flesh on Thursday March 26th at 9:55pm as part of the Boston Underground film festival.  

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

SXSW Review: TURBO KID Delivers A Love Letter To The 80s In The Form Of Post Apocalyptic Ass Kicking



There must be something in the water up north in America's Hat, because for the past few years Canadian film productions have churned out a number of titles that encapsulate the glory days of the VHS era. Starting with Hobo With A Shotgun, the Canadian B-Movie resurrgence has included the films Manborg, Father's Day, Dead Hooker In A Trunk, Wolfcop and now Turbo Kid can be added to the list. all the listed titles feel rooted in the early days of cable television, where premium stations like Cinemax would run any low budget action, horror or science fiction title they could get the rights to as cheaply as possible in order to fill twenty four hours of programming.

TURBO KID takes place in an alternate reality where by 1997 the machines have turned Earth into a wasteland where most of the population is dead, civilization has been replaced by chaos and the scarcest resource is drinkable water. Ruling the hellish realm with an iron fist, Zeus (Michael Ironside) placates the denizens with bread and circuses that find kidnapped victims killed for sport and their remains liquified and turned into useable drinkable H2O. In order to keep his ironclad grip on the Wasteland, Zeus employs a gang of skull mask and spiked shoulder pad wearing killers that would look right at home at a Raiders game.

It's in this post-apocalyptic nightmare that we meet The Kid (Munro Chambers). He survives by scavenging the surrounding areas and selling what he finds at the local black market. The Kid obsesses over a comic book about his hero: the fallen soldier Turbo Rider. His outfits, helmet even his trusty BMX serve as a homage to his hero. One day The Kid's solitary existence is interrupted by a chance encounter with Apple (Laurence Lebouf), a robot programmed for friendship who is adamant about making The Kid her new best friend. As slavers and kidnappers roam the area, it's only a matter of time before they cross paths with Zeus.

Turbo Kid serves as a love letter to the glory days of 80's B-movie cinema while borrowing liberal doses from The Road Warrior, Soylent Green Terminator, and certain Peter Jackson film we'll touch on shortly. That said, the film stands on its own artistic merits with a colorful collection of characters and a fully realized and lived in world in the form of the Wasteland. The film is the result of the collaboration of Canadian trio Francois Simard, Yoann Karl-Whissell and Anouk Whissell and the team fill the screen with a colorful assortment of nostalgia, action, humor and balls to the wall gore. As far as the Wateland goes, the team paid incredible attention to detail, making sure that every major set location from the black market, Zeus' compound and the desolate Robot Graveyard had a lived in, dirty sheen. The world feels ragged and on its last legs and the sort of place where a stranger would cut your throat for a cup of precious water.

The spectre of Dead Alive looms large over Turbo Kid as the film contains some of the most shocking, hilarious and over the top kill sequences committed to screen. If you told me the kills were conceived in an all night drinking session where the trio had to constantly one up each other or chug a pint glass filled with whiskey I would not bat an eye. From intestines being sucked out by an exercise bike, severed torsos worn as hats to a particle accelerator that pummels and liquifies the human body, Turbo Kid delivers the goods when it comes to batshit crazy chaos and mayhem.

Yet the film accomplishes satisfying the gorehounds without sacrificing the human emotions. Lebouf is a revelation as the unflagging and upbeat robogirl while Chambers never lets you forget that The Kid is still just that. The Kid might be a survivor, but he's still a boy forced into an extreme, frightening and lonely situation. Chambers and Lebouf do an admirable job creating a deep connection between Apple and the Kid in a short time, and as the stakes rise in the film, you feel invested in their outcome.

Turbo Kid could have been a pure nostalgia trip and that on its own would be enough for it to find an audience. It winds up being something far greater than that, offering audience an absolute thrill ride from the word go.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Should You Stream It? THE HOUSE AT THE END OF TIME



Welcome back to our too often ignored feature where we try to help you navigate through the wooly booly world of Netflix Instant. While it's great that a paltry $8 a month gains one access to thousands of titles, the sad reality is at any given moment there's maybe a few dozen horror films worth your attention. Allow us to be your guide and we'll never steer you wrong. This week, we're tacking the Guatemalan horror/tragedy The House At The End Of Time. 

What's It About? In what seems little more than a blink of an eye, Dulce's whole family is swept out from under her. After losing one boy to a tragic accident, her husband lies dead from multiple stab wounds at her feet while her eldest son disappears into thin air right in front of her eyes. Despite Dulce's innocence, the lack of any other plausible explanation lands the woman in jail for more than three decades. Upon being reassigned to house arrest, the now elderly woman moves back to her former home, determined to discover what happened all those years ago.

What Works With The Film? Both thematically and visually, The House At The End Of Time shares a lot with  Spanish supernatural film The Orphanage. Both films are rooted in the grief and of a mother towards her missing child.

House becomes a transcendent work through the ways director Alejandro Hidalgo weaves between the past and present, oftentimes blurring the lines between them. Nightmarish visions fill Dulce's peripheral visions and the question that begs to be answered whether they have a supernatural origin or are rooted in something outside of linear time. The massive yet rundown structure of the house is character itself. Door bang, footfalls pound across the hardwood floors and in the most gripping moments, unknown assailants do their damnedest to force their way into Dulce's room. Meanwhile, in the past setting, Dulce starts receiving messages to keep the children apart from one another before the tragedy strikes.

Hidalgo also excels at fleshing out the family, which adds more impact to the ensuing tragedy. The marriage between Dulce and her husband begins in a precarious position as she blames his lack of ambition for the lack of food on the table and the shabby home their forced to live in. Meanwhile the brothers are just beginning to shed boyhood for young adulthood as they develop their first crushes and spend afternoons trying to best one another on the baseball diamond. Dulce runs the house with an iron fist and sharp tongue, yet her love for both her children, and the ferocity with which she will fight to protect them is never in question.

Should You Stream It? Hell yes. I'm doing my best to be as vague as possible in the passages above as a large part of the pleasure of House comes from watching the mystery unfold. That said, the film is gorgeous, creepy and as emotionally satisfying a genre effort as you're going to come across this year.