Thursday, January 22, 2015

The Short Films Of the BOSTON HORROR SHOW

Along with a killer lineup of feature films, the BOSTON HORROR SHOW has lined up a quartet of outstanding short horror films. Shorts have always been a key part of our monthly events, and the day wouldn't be complete without them. Check out the trailers and plot outlines below...

SLUT (dir. Chloe Okuno) A dark, coming of age thriller about a 16 year old misfit named Maddy who lives alone with her grandmother in a small town in Texas. When Maddy crosses paths with an older, charismatic Stranger- a fellow misfit who’s passing through town- her quiet, monotonous life takes a dangerous turn. Plays with "SINS OF DRACULA" at 2PM

"SLUT" Trailer from World International Pictures on Vimeo.

I AM MONSTER (dir. Lori Bowen & Shannon Lark) Vivienne's extraordinary fetishism has taken her to a new level: necrophilia. She gets her kicks by violating the dead in a hospital morgue on the outskirts of the city, discarding them like trash. Tonight, however, Vivienne gets a whole new taste of what the dead can provide when she meets Jason, a fresh body who has some ideas of his own. Plays with "DYS~" at 4PM

BEATING HEARTS (dir. Matt Garrett) A sickening twist on the 'killer child' sub-genre. Plays with "THE BATTERY" at 6PM

Beating Hearts Teaser Trailer from Matthew Garrett on Vimeo.

DEAD HEARTS (dir. Stephen Martin) A young mortician learns that not even death can stand in the way of true love. A whimsical, gothic bedtime story filled with love, loss, taxidermy, Kung Fu, and biker werewolves. Plays with "SPRING" at 8PM

Upcoming Anthology XX Unveils Killer Poster Art

I wish there was more to report on this than just a poster, BUT it's a pretty sweet piece of artwork. the upcoming XX Anthology film, featuring short works of horror from Jennifer Lynch, Mary Harron, Jovanka Vuckovic and Karyn Kusama. Magnolia Films is on board to distribute XX on VOD platforms and theaters later this year. This title is high on my "must see" list and I look forward to posting more news and artwork/stills as they're made available.

Meanwhile, enjoy this poster, courtesy of Justin Erickson from Phantom City Creative.

THE BOY NEXT DOOR brings the laughs

It is rare for film critics to agree on anything, let alone a film. So when the credits began to roll at the end of THE BOY NEXT DOOR I was astonished to see that every critic at the screening had the same reaction: This is the funniest film of the year. 

The laugh riot starts out as if it is trying to be a thriller or horror film. As the film progresses, however, you realize that there is no fathomable way that a film with so much star power and money behind it could possibly have made so many crude and inexcusable errors. So this must be a comedy!

Jennifer Lopez stars as Claire, a weak willed woman whose main purpose in the plot is to serve cookies and lemonade to all of the men in the film. That is, until the grandnephew of the elderly neighbor shows up and takes a shine to the newly separated Claire. Noah (Ryan Guzman) is twenty years old, but due to a series of life crises is still in high school. What luck- Claire teaches at the high school Noah just enrolled in and her son attends it too. 

The plot takes its turn towards the absurd when a late night encounter between Claire and Noah pivots quickly from a rape to consensual sexy-sex. The next morning Claire is filled with regret and Noah has morphed into a crazed stalker. Not only is this plot cliché and predictable, but it is horribly dismissive and insulting to both men and women alike. This must be all for a giant joke in the end, because there is not possible way responsible filmmakers could create such a blatantly offensive film today. 
Rather than go on-and-on about the rest of the nonsensical plot or the anachronistic wardrobe, I only present a few of the hilarious missteps that director Rob Cohen made when bringing Claire to screen. In the first four scenes, and many of the non-sex scenes that follow, Claire provides food for the men in her life. Whether it is coffee to the neighbor, cookies to her son, or a full Sunday dinner to her estranged husband Claire’s major purported purpose is to feed men. The representation of Claire as a 1950s house wife is not subtle enough to be satire, and is instead played straight for plenty of laughs. Claire also goes on one of the worst first dates imaginable. Set-up by her best friend and boss Vicky (Kristin Chenoweth, who seems to be in on the joke throughout the film) Claire braves leaving the house to meet this man. After the man openly insults the poet Homer and Claire’s teaching position, Claire name-drops J. K. Rowling, drops the metaphorical mic, and swiftly exists the restaurant. What a better way to make a joke about feminism than to have a villainous man, amongst a string of villainous men in the film, taken down by naming the only successful woman who comes to mind? Without engaging in any actual conversation and returning to her man hating Claire plays this scene for giggles as well, but the biggest joke is yet to come. 

The good news is that the entire climax of the film is one giant joke. The full audience, not just the critics, at my screening were splitting their sides and laughing out loud at every violent act in the final show down between Claire and Noah. There is not possible way that the script for the film could be serious about so many characters acting so dumb. The filmmakers must be in on the joke. 

If you like TUCKER AND DALE VS. EVIL and want to see an entire film set in the world populated by folks as stupid as those college kids minus the pesky self awareness, this is the film for you. If you are looking for even a passing attempt at suspense or character development you will find neither in THE BOY NEXT DOOR. Good thing it is so damn funny. 

THE CANAL: Supernatural Flick Offers A Pastiche Of Familiar Films

The Canal opens with a weary David (Rupert Evans) staring into the camera to inform the audience that “everyone you're going to see on this film is already dead, so they are like ghosts). The camera then pulls back and reveals David is speaking to an auditorium of unruly schoolchildren. With that opening gambit it's as if director Ivan Kavanagh wants to tip his hand as to what will follow. Along with the similarly themed The Babadook, The Canal is part of a current run of horror aimed at more mature audiences as it plays on parental unit fears. The result is a mixed bag. While the film offers a number of creepy moments, they are lifted from a variety of more memorable films.

The Canal gives a brief moment of happiness between David and his expectant wife Claire (Antonia Campbell-Hughes) as the couple move into their dream home to start their new life together. Fast forwarding five years, David suspects Claire of having an affair with a coworker. At the same time he is trying to suss out the truth, new reels arrive at his film archival job that show a man once murdered his wife and family before killing himself a century before in David and Claire's house. On the night David confirm's his suspicions about Claire, she goes missing, turning up days later in the canal that runs behind their home.

The Canal attempts to pull the audience in two directions. David remains stedfast that a supernatural entity is responsible for Claire's death, and it is related to the footage that David now obsesses over. Yet Kavanagh bends over backwards to establish David as an unreliable narrator. No one seems to hold David with any regard at all. His mother in law goes so far as to recommend she take his son into custody since David would be a poor caretaker, before telling David he should be more sensitive to the feelings of Claire's lover. As David goes further down the rabbit hole, his psyche becomes more and more unhinged, putting himself, his darling little boy (seriously, this kid is too cute) and the live in nanny in tremendous danger.

As mentioned there are hints of other, superior films throughout The Canal. You'll find hints of The Ring and other J-Horror films at points. Polanski's The Tenant springs to mind and the recent Sinister is an especially large influence on the film. The problem is The Canal doesn't do anything better than those particular films, and at times grinds itself to a standstill. By the film's end, Poe's The Tell Tale Heart leapt immediately to mind. The Babadook mines similar terrain when it toys with the idea that everything lives inside its' main character's mind, but it does so in a much more artful way.

Overall The Canal is an entertaining if empty film. I'll give it points for going in directions most films would never dare to in terms of putting a child in harm's way. Kavanagh knows what he's doing in terms if framing a shot to amp out the discomfort and tension. The biggest drawback to the film is the way it telegraphs all its reveals so far in advance. From the opening moments to Steve Oram's skeptical investigator telling David “Do you know why we focus on the husband? Because it's always the husband” The Canal too often feels like sitting down with a magician as he meticulously explains how each of his tricks work rather than getting swept up in the act itself. 

Monday, January 19, 2015

FILM THRILLS #3: "The New Republic Can Suck It" Now Live

A recent article published by the New Republic titled "What Its Says About You If You Enjoy Horror Movies" sent ripples of anger through the horror community. Citing 30 year old research and a pair of films that fall under the fantasy and biblical epic categories, author Alice Robb made some egregious assumptions about horror fans. One of the most striking and tone deaf arguments of the article was the assumption that women either don't enjoy or lack the strong constitution for horror movies. We sat down with head Horror Honey KAT, Boston filmmaker IZZY LEE, Day of The Woman's BJ-COANGELO & our own DEDE CRIMMINS to discuss this article and what it means to them to be a horror fan/journalist/filmmaker.  
For your reading enjoyment, we present links to the original article along with several refutations:
The New Republic "What It Says About You If You Enjoy Horror Movies"

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Saturday, January 17, 2015

BLOODSUCKING BASTARDS Debuts A New Trailer Ahead Of Slamdance Premiere

With a killer assembly of talent and a comedic premise and tone reminiscent of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the new comedy horror hybrid BLOODSUCKING BASTARDS has a shot at becoming a cult favorite akin to Tucker and Dale vs. Evil. Fran Kanz (Cabin in the Woods, Dollhouse) leads an ensemble cast as an office worker  that notices his coworkers are dropping off in alarming numbers when a new sales manager takes the reigns. The trailer doesn't skimp on the bloodshed, and the film has earned a world premiere at the Slamdance Film Festival on January 23rd. The film co-stars Game of Thrones' Pedro Pascal, Mad Men's Joel Murray, and Inherent Vice's Yvette Yates.

Synopsis: An OFFICE SPACE meets SHAUN OF THE DEAD action-packed vampire comedy, BLOODSUCKINGBASTARDS stars Fran Kranz as Evan Sanders, a dutiful and overworked employee stuck at a soul-killing corporation with his beautiful co-worker and girlfriend Amanda (Emma Fitzpatrick) and his slacker best friend Tim (Joey Kern). Evan’s world begins to crumble when Amanda dumps him and his boss Ted (Joel Murray) hands his coveted promotion to his nemesis Max (Pedro Pascal). When his officemates start going through disturbing changes and bodies begin to pile up, Evan must find a way to stop the evil brewing amidst the cubicles and water coolers, win back Amanda, and rescue his workplace pals before his life and career go from dead-end… to just dead.

ZOMBIE WITH A SHOT GUN Gets A New Poster, More Episodes

The popular web series ZOMBIE WITH A SHOTGUN released a new poster ahead of their planned filming of a feature film. Director Hilton Ariel Ruiz has also announced plans or a graphic novel along with more web episodes below. You can check out the first episode along with the poster artwork below. One can only hope the project finds enough success that one day it can bring Rutger Hauer on board so both the Hobo and the Zombies can engage in a winner take all slugfest.

Sci-Fi/Horror Hybrid EJECTA Gets Release Date From IFC Midnight

Between Pontypool and Septic Man, Tony Burgess has proved himself to be one of the most talented script writers working in genre films today. His latest, EJECTA blew me away at Fantasia last summer, and next month IFC Midnight is releasing the film on both VOD and theatrical platforms. The film combines documentary and narrative footage in a story that evokes classic X-Files and is sure to be appreciated among those who love whipsmart sci-fi/horror blends. Look for Ejecta February 27th when it comes out.

Synopsis: Reclusive blogger Bill Cassidy (Richings) claims to be the subject of a horrific alien haunting that has plagued him for a majority of his life. Documentary filmmaker Joe Sullivan (Seybold) receives a mysterious email from Cassidy’s online alias one night with instructions to meet him the following day to discuss the unexplainable possession. As Cassidy tells his story on the eve of a historic solar storm an unidentified flying object crash lands on the property and Joe Sullivan films the entire thing. As the two men fight for their lives while the terrifying life form hunts them an anonymous intelligence group descends on the farm to ensure they are the only ones who can control the information regarding what Bill has witnessed. Lead by the insane and soulless Dr. Tobin (Houle) this group will stop at nothing to prove to the world that we were never alone in the universe.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

BLACKHAT shows smart characters finally getting some action

 Blackhat (dir. Michael Mann)

The first few minutes of the new action thriller BLACKHAT seem to be leading audiences into a clichéd, brainless cyber drama. The camera slowly follows light blips as they travel around internal circuitry in a giant server, illustrating an in-progress hack. The 1990s style graphics made me worry that Director Michael Mann was somehow rehashing the scenes from 1995’s HACKERS. This circuit tracking servings a purpose in the film, not just in terms of plot; it is setting the mood for the rest of BLACKHAT. The film repeatedly lulls the audience into a sense of comfort just before yanking the rug out from under their theater seats. Just as we ease into the circuits and their trite paths, a giant nuclear meltdown in China brings our attention back to the film. 

Chris Helmsworth stars as Hathaway, the too smart convict (which is, to me, the male equivalent to the female “hooker with a heart of gold”) who is using his prison sentence to catch up on music and reading. It turns out that Hathaway is the original architect for the virus which caused the meltdown and conveniently the college roommate of the lead Chinese investigator. Though everything in the film up to this point has been portrayed on celluloid times, BLACKHAT still manages to deliver the action while avoiding the most major action frustrations. 

One particular strength of the film is that the characters are all smart. The film is incredibly well cast and diverse. Mann did not squander the talents of these brilliant actors and gave each of the characters both depth and something to do. Too often the women are left at home to cry or the black friend just waits to be killed first, but that is not the case here. Everyone in the film is likeable and has a backstory, which we are fed in very small pieces. Each character has depth and nuance, and each of them stays true to themselves. 

The film also has a surprising lack of exposition. Being that much of the action involves computer hacking, Mann does not let the camera simply stare at characters explaining what they are doing as they bang on keyboards. All of the players understand what the other is doing (remember, they are not the typical dumb characters) and the audience is given just enough contextual information to understand what is going on. BLACKHAT shows instead of tells.

The characters’ relationships also feel quite real. These are very intelligent and well trained experts in a high stakes situation and all of them act as you would expect. When Hathaway and his former roommate are reunited they have a quick hug and then get down to business. When the team finds a giant lead that should get them the bad guy, there is no swelling music and celebration, they keep their heads down and keep working. The roommate and his sister have an obvious affection for one another, but there are no nostalgic flashbacks to underline their relationship because none are needed. 

Mann somehow managed to do away with most of the major issues I have with action films. The characters are smart. Logistics (obtaining weapons, traveling, law enforcement, etc.) are shown as procedures and not solved by off-screen magic. Sex is not overly romanticized or dramatized. The film makes sense, and in doing so allows you to be drawn into this world of cyber espionage. 

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Should You Stream It? MOCKINGBIRD

Goddamn it's cold out. There's NO reason to leave the house and have he wind bite into your skin while you pretend to enjoy activities like skiing and sledding. To hell with that nonsense. My couch, a hot chocolate, my Roku remote and my Netlfix queue are pretty all I need these cold winter months. However, with so many films available to stream, how does one separate the wheat from the chaff? Well, that's what we're here to do.

This week, we bring you MOCKINGBIRD.

WHAT'S IT ABOUT? Three separate groups: a young married couple, a college student and a down and out schlub that lives with his mom in squalor all receive a video camera with the instructions to record everything, follow the instructions they will receive and figure out the clues in order to win. While at first they all believe they won the camera through sweepstakes contests, it becomes all too clear that something sinister is at play, and the participants have no choice but to do as they're told or pay with their and their loved ones lives.

WHAT WORKS? Mockingbird opens in stunning fashion. A first person shot takes us through a home in complete disarray, while a voice screams for help and mercy in the distance. It ends with a young boy cowering in a bathroom, holding a camera and begging for his life moments before his brains splatter the walls. It a terrific opening, made all the more chilling by the brutal violence inflicted on a prepubescent boy. It certainly sets the expectation that this is going to be a no holds barred and unnerving horror film.

Barak Hardley gives a hysterical performance as the sad sack Leonard. It's hard to comprehend a life that is so sad and beaten down that the “gift” of a clown suit sparks the kind of pure, unadulterated joy seen by little kids opening presents under the tree on Christmas morning. Every other line out of Hardley's mouth only confirms how pathetic he is, and if you can't get a laugh out of a clown getting kicked in the balls (twice) outside a liquor store then you live a joyless existence and I can't help you.

WHAT DOESN'T WORK? Everything else.

OK, we'll go a bit further. The film is set in 1995, and the camerawork reflects that. While most found footage films now try to minimize the shaky camera effect, Mockingbird feels like it was shot in a backyard by a bunch of ten year olds that lack the upper body strength to hold a video camera, let alone film a coherent story.

Aside from Hardley as the sad sack clown, there's not a single character to give a flying fuck about. The parents spend the second half of the film screaming and crying and acting irrational. I have no idea why the student was included or why her ex-boyfriend was such a big deal, but my god was she boring.

I didn't look up who directed the film until after it ended, and as I watched it, I couldn't help but think how much it resembled the second half of The Strangers. That ends up making a lot of sense after learning Mockingbird is Bryan Bertino's followup to that film. Here's the problem though. While the first half of The Strangers offers a clinic in how to build tension and left me with my heart pounding in my throat, the second half, once the couple knows they are under attack, is a hot mess. Mockingbird is the second half of The Strangers. After the first few minutes, anything involving the married couple or the college student is a chore to get through.

Oh, and the final reveal in the closing minute is a huge “fuck you” to the audience, a completely lazy solution used for shock value and makes zero logistical sense.

SHOULD I WATCH IT? Nah. At most I would say watch up until the title card, then skim through the film, watching the stills until you see an appearance from Leonard. His stuff is comic gold and worth a watch. That gives you a solid twenty minutes or so of entertainment.

FINAL VERDICT: This Mockingbird should sing no more.