I Am Mother (2019): Drama / Horror / Sci-Fi

I Am Mother.jpg

Years after the extinction of mankind, a girl, born in an underground facility and raised by an android she calls “Mother”, discovers one day that the outside world is not what she was taught it was.

Very interesting feature directorial debut from Grant Sputore. I Am Mother is a small budget, one-location sci-fi that definitely worths your time. Many questions are raised with some of them answered and, purposefully, some of them not. Read between the lines. Information is carefully revealed and spread throughout the three acts, and that is what paces the story brilliantly.

Excellent performances by Clara Rugaard and Hilary Swank. A huge congratulations to Rose Byrne for providing her voice for Mother but also Weta Workshop for creating her. Last but not least, kudos to all producers and Netflix who spent every penny wisely, proving (once more) that low budget films have as much or more to offer than Hollywood mega-budget blockbusters.

Hint: Who is the woman that inexplicably shows up knocking…

Advertisements

The Prodigy (2019): Horror / Thriller

The Prodigy.jpg

A kid’s disturbing behaviour gradually starts signaling that a sinister force might be guiding his actions.

The “possessed child” theme has been beaten to death. And The Prodigy doesn’t have an original angle. Acting, directing, cinematography, all work well together. Even the idea is – somewhat – solid. Its development to a story and then to a script though isn’t. It heavily relies on the sound design for good, old fashioned jump scares. Now, the editing could have saved a big part of it but it didn’t. It revealed almost everything in the first act, leaving nothing to the imagination, subtracting the speculation, and consequently, sucking out the mystery. It is not the editing’s fault though.

Producers and directors should have realised that the “horror” audience has seen all that already and brainstorm for new ideas that keep the genre fresh. And in this instance, scary.

The Perfection (2018): Drama / Horror / Thriller

The Perfection.jpg

Leaving one of the best music academies as a kid, Charlotte, with a twisted plan in mind, seeks now her old mentor and the younger girl who replaced her.

Daring, perverted, gruesome, and brilliant at parts, The Perfection utilises De Palma’s split diopter shots, Hitchcock’s shower scene ‘staccato’ editing, and Aja’s unsettling way to convey paranoia. Netflix’s new horror avoids cliches, scares, amuses, entertains, and gives you a good run for your money. Allison Williams and Logan Browning, accompanied by operatic music, hold no punches, seduce one another, but also ourselves, and steal the show. Excellent directing by Richard Shepard who masterfully orchestrates everyone and everything. Two things though:

Interesting but quite ironic for Miramax to choose such a theme to produce. Also, I wish it didn’t get that explanatory. It doesn’t leave much to think about once the end credits start rolling. Editing should have left certain information out or carefully reveal some of it at the end of the third act.

Regardless, a definite must-see for the Horror fans.

The Tattooist (2018): Short / Horror

The Tattooist.jpg

The art of tattoo and the unprecedented darkness of the artist.

Have you ever been to an under-2-minutes short film festival? “The Tattooist” is the poster child of their accomplishment. Terror, paranoia, and unfathomable blackness are synopsised in a minute and twenty seconds of ungodly, deranged insanity.

A short film by producer, writer, and director Michael Wong that needs exploring and expanding and so hope to see it becoming a feature in the very near future.

He’s Out There (2018): Horror / Thriller

He's Out There.jpg

A family vacation at a lakehouse becomes a nightmare for a mother and her two young daughters who become part of a psychopath’s deranged fantasy.

The oversaturation got me thinking from the opening shot. “Is there a purpose”? “What does this DOP offer to the story”? Anyway, the story itself showed signs of unoriginality since the early stages. The journey started, they made it to the house and, thankfully, the tension started building up and becoming interesting. And then, the uncreativeness came back stronger and ruined the film with tons of cliches and a high level of improbability.

Yvonne Strahovski has proven to be a versatile actress with tremendous potential. Even in a film like “He’s Out There”, she’s very convincing and she was the only reason I watched the film. Anna and Abigail Pniowski are not to blame for their performances here. This burdens solely the director.

Shame really as the potential was there. “Old wine in a new bottle” doesn’t mean to copy randomly (and badly) existing, successful styles, mix them up and paste them in a new movie.

Found Footage: Chronicles of Horror, Realism, and Case Studies

“The World of Apu”

“The World of Apu” is a bimonthly, diverse, and multilingual online film magazine which explores film cultures from around the world.

Below you can find my analysis on the origins, the decades of contestation, the development and expansion, the impact, and the current status of the found footage horror subgenre. I hope you enjoy the ride.

http://theworldofapu.com/found-footage-chronicles-of-horror-realism-and-case-studies/

 

Overlord (2018): Action / Adventure / Horror

Overlord.jpg

An American airborne unit lands on Nazi-occupied France only to discover a horror beyond the Nazis.

Brutal, savage, and sadistic, “Overlord”, keeps you on the edge of your seat. If there is anything worse than the Nazis, that is the realization of their twisted psychosis. Focusing on “Operation Overlord”, an operation that took place in parallel with “Operation Neptune” (both of them put together became known as D-Day), J.J. Abrams produces Julius Avery’s historical horror where “Band of Brothers” (2001) meets the “Night of the Living Dead” (1968).

Strong first act with an even stronger opening sequence, practical visual effects that beat CGI every single time, and acting that makes its implausibility easy to swallow. Is it flawless? Nope. Is it to be taken seriously? Not really. Does one forget their problems for almost two hours and get sucked in? Hell. Yeah.

A lot of unnecessary negativity surrounds the film but people tend to oversee sometimes why a film could have possibly been made, the purpose it might serve, and the unpredictable outcome an experimental genre mixture may have.

I’ve said this before, I’m saying it again, and I will keep on saying it: I don’t aim at the film but the intentions behind it.

Velvet Buzzsaw (2019): Horror / Mystery / Thriller

Velvet Buzzsaw.jpg

Hauntingly dark and beautiful drawings are found at a dead man’s apartment and upon their unlawful exhibition for personal profit, a price for greed comes along.

Fancy words, filthy words, art critique jargon, shiny dress code, and over the top personalities, to name but a few, characterise a snotty world that most of you, and most certainly myself, have never visited and probably never will. Hard to tell where writer/director Dan Gilroy stands and how he feels about this world he brilliantly depicts or why he chose such a sexual term for a title and that is pure magic.

Jake Gyllenhaal, Rene Russo, Zawe Ashton, Tom Sturridge, Toni Collette, Natalia Dyer, Daveed Diggs, and last but not least, John Malkovich give Gilroy’s surrealistic world flesh and blood and don’t hesitate to blow their performances out of proportion.

Gilroy was asked about the meaning of his film and in a cryptic manner, he responded that he would like people to perceive art differently. As we have proved time and time again that we can be a horrible species, I would say that I see where he is coming from and I’ll throw in my two cents. Instead of truly trying to appreciate and see art through the artists’ eyes, we make it all about ourselves, either by showing up at an illustrious museum just to be seen there or by benefiting from someone else’s expression. How? Most likely by fancily writing about it so we can look knowledgeable and special or by monetising it, upgrading our status at the same time. One way or another, we purely exploit it and try to hide the fact that we couldn’t do it ourselves.

Meaning aside and changing the subject, having watched numerous Netflix productions, once again, I would like to throw in my two cents. I think there is a resounding statement here that has been repeatedly given for quite a while now. By Netflix. “We don’t give a s#@% !!! Is your film thought-provoking? We’ll make it! Is it bizarre? Bring it! Is it something no one wants to produce? We will! We don’t give a s#@% which festivals accept our submissions! We couldn’t care less which studios alleviate our success! We spend billions and we make even more! And we do everything! We just… Don’t. Give. A. S%#@.

It Comes at Night (2017): Horror / Mystery

It Comes at Night.jpg

A dark, malevolent threat has plagued the world and a man with his wife and son, barricaded into their house living under strict rules, are challenged by a young family seeking refuge.

Post-apocalyptic, slow burn and edgy at the same time, “It Comes at Night” plants the seed of doubt, of what is really happening in the world, who is to be trusted and who isn’t, who is indeed carrying the infectious disease, and who has sunk into paranoia…

A psychological horror by Trey Edward Shults, with no cheap jump-scares, formulaic way of writing, standard character development, spoon-fed answers to epidermic questions, and Hollywood-like utterances, actions, and reactions. There are plenty of films like that out there but this is not one of them. You’ve been warned, proceed with caution. And if the story doesn’t really terrify you, the astonishing performances of Joel Edgerton, Christopher Abbott, Carmen Ejogo, Riley Keough, and Kelvin Harrison Jr. definitely will.

It’s really hard to analyse it, even briefly, without giving anything away so, I’ll try to draw a picture for you. Think of it as a parable. As a symbolic interpretation of four major “entities”: the fortified house, the infected outside world, the family living under an uncompromising domestic order, and the night itself. Try to place them accordingly as the story, admittedly, slowly unfolds and only then ask yourselves…

What is it that comes at night? And why?

Butterfly Kisses (2018): Documentary / Horror

Butterfly Kisses.jpg

A filmmaker puts together a bunch of old tapes he found in a basement that belonged to two students and does a documentary on them and their research on an urban legend called Peeping Tom.

Erik Kristopher Myers writes, directs, and takes to the next level a “found footage” horror on a story that we have watched before but he is doing it his way. As the late Wes Craven did in 1996 with “Scream”, Myers puts under the microscope and questions the cinematic taboos that regulate the subgenre:

  • Using handheld shots, he avoids and criticises the nauseous shaky camera.
  • He shows an understanding and endorses the public’s reaction towards something they don’t understand doing what Doubting Thomas did in the Bible.
  • He, somehow, manages to market his film on IMDb as documentary/horror with certain characters portraying allegedly themselves.
  • He adds extra layers and depth by jumping onboard himself making a film on a documentary that researches a documentary on a student project (very “Inception”).
  • Last but not least, among others, he interviews Matt Lake and Eduardo Sanchez; author of Weird Maryland and writer/director of Blair Witch Project respectively, deconstructing the “found footage” and urban legends.

Don’t try straight away to focus on or attack its originality. Romantic comedies (which I find appalling) are all more or less the same but people watch them. “Slasher” horrors have been out there for a lot more decades than the “found footage” ones yet people still watch them. And still “alien” films dominate the sci-fi genre. Anyway, you get the gist.

Is “Butterfly Kisses” flawless? Definitely not. Has Myers utilised his nano-budget the best possible way? Definitely yes. Also, “Blink Man” doesn’t make it to the level of other urban legends such as “Candyman”, “Boogeyman” or “Babadook” for example. All three of them got a decent budget and distribution and we can only hope that Myers started something that will get noticed by the right people who will hire him to scare the s%!% out of us in the future.

Orson Wells (on the radio), Dean Alioto, Eduardo Sanchez, Oren Peli… all of them have offered and contributed to the “found footage” horror their way. Erik Kristopher Myers takes the torch now and, I for one, look forward to watching his next film.

P.S. Panasonic DVX 100 was also the camera I was using in 2005 as a cameraman.