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October 1, 2022

A Binge too Far #26 - A Quiet Place duo (2018 - 2020)

A frame from A Quiet Place (2018)


Reviews:

 

A Quiet Place (2018) poster

A Quiet Place
(2018)

 

The tagline pretty much explains the plot here (the screenplay was written by John Krasinski [who also directed], Bryan Woods and Scott Beck [based upon the duo’s own story]). Set in a post-apocalypse world, where disgusting and big alien creatures have taken over, this is focusing on a family that tries its best to survive; meaning they try to remain quiet at all times (they employ the sign language in order to communicate with each other), because the monsters may be blind (an advantage to the few human survivors) but they have extra sensitive hearing abilities (a disadvantage to the few humans left alive) and will attack anything that makes the slightest sound.

 

Not a lot has been left that hasn’t been already said about this, which is essentially the cinematic sensation of the year, so I’ll keep it short and simple, in the tradition of this column. The project was originally developed as a Cloverfield (2008 – present) sequel, one that would be inspired by the many silent films the filmmakers are fans of, but somewhere along the road it was decided to make it as a standalone feature with no connection to that franchise. It was mostly filmed in November 2017 in New York, and a teaser was quickly released, albeit to not too many views. Then in March 2018 the film was premiered at the South by Southwest Festival to huge critical acclaim which worked as a domino effect and had everyone talking about this new original piece, resulting to several online hits and queries for further screenings. It went on general theatrical release and it grossed more than $334.5 million, which considering its $21 million budget is impressive to say the least and a sequel is already in the works (it is said that it will see the light of the night in 2020).

 

But is it as good as the word of mouth says it is? Yes, and more so! It is featuring the best sound design in the history of the medium, and it actually is the most original and intelligent horror film that we have seen in ages. Sure, it is awkward in the sense that all its set-pieces are long, so we do not get too many of them in its short 90 minutes running time (and some 7 minutes of that is the end credits, leaving us only with approximately 83 minutes of monster mayhem), and maybe the whole idea would be more appropriate for a longer film or as a matter of fact, an event TV series, but there are so many moments of great drama on display here that you should be forgiving with such small faults. The end result is not entertaining per say, and it should probably be mostly observed as a great work of art. But even if you are here for the monsters and the monsters alone, fear not, the ones here are both terrific and terrifying. The bottom line is that if you need to see only one horror film this year, this should be it.

 

A Quiet Place Part II (2020) promotional poster

A Quiet Place Part II
(2020)

 

Follow Emmett (Cillian Murphy), Evelyn Abbott (Emily Blunt), and a fistful of kids under their protection, as they try to survive an alien invasion featuring big and gross creatures that cannot see you, but do instead have very sensitive hearing, not to mention a desire to eat you alive. For a chase film with overtones of horror (don’t look for too much character development in here), this is competent enough (the air of professionalism is top-notch in every department), but I prefer films that have something to say, and this does not.

 

For a film about monsters that attack when you make a sound, the sound design in particular is outstanding, especially when it changes its point of view (or is it point of hear?). Directed by John Krasinski, this dialogue-free for most of the time, which is its most original element, but its overall silence also boosts the jump scares when those happen and help them become more effective. The end result is very similar to television’s most successful zombie show, but this is not a bad thing. Made on a $61 million budget, this went on to gross $297.4 – an impressive amount, considering the Covid-19 pandemic factor – so it was natural that more of the same has already been announced.


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September 1, 2022

Static Age #22: Legends of the Superheroes (1979)

Promotional frame from Legends of the Superheroes (1979)


This Static Age’s spotlight goes to Legends of the Superheroes (1979), a two-episode television special (each episode runs for a full hour) made by Hanna-Barbera Productions and aired on NBC. Loosely based on the Super Friends animated series (that I may cover one day via this column) and featuring several DC superheroes and super-villains, most notably the ones from the 1960s Batman kitsch-fest. By employing a standard TV show approach (complete with a laugh track and stand-up comedy antics that range from sexist to racist – I mean, ‘Ghetto-Man’, seriously?), the first studio-confined episode (‘The Challenge’) is unbearable, but the second one (‘The Roast’) is featuring several vignettes that makes it a bit more sustainable.

 

And now, let’s switch our focus towards some recent series…

 

Stanger Things - Season 4

Netflix’s crown jewel series Stranger Things (2016 – present) returned with its 4th and most epic season offered in two volumes (the first becoming available in May and the other in July 2022) totaling 9 feature-length episodes (the finale alone is almost two and a half hours long) that reveal an increase in budget and inspiration. The Duffer brothers have done it again, offering a solid story that takes us back to our favorite 1980s amidst a chaos of alien threats and banal fashions. This is landmark television, master storytelling, killer pop aesthetics, and it should not be missed by fans of the genre.

 


Daredevil - Season 3

It used to be the case that if you were dark you’d most likely be in the DC Universe, but Netflix changed things and the 3rd season of Marvel’s Daredevil (2015 – 2018) is violent and bloody, as we find the titular superhero (Charlie Cox) in a new round of battles against Wilson Fisk (Vincent D’Onofrio); it’s a pity though that the end result is boring as well, and after you’ve finished with its 13 episodes you feel like it’s for better that we didn’t get more. The angle with the Albanian mob and the arc with Daredevil as a wanted man from the FBI are both interesting, but not enough to save the day.

 

Executive produced by Jason Blum for his own Blumhouse Television and made available on Hulu, the 1st season of Into the Dark (2018 – 2021) consists of 12 feature-length holiday-themed episodes, most of them so well-done that could have easily played theaters. ‘The Body’ is about a hit-man (Tom Bateman) who after offing somebody gets mixed-up in some circumstances that have him lose the dead body to some Halloween partying teenagers (each one of them more annoying than the other) and now has to retrieve it on time and deliver it to his unseen boss (they only talk on the phone), a task that will also require the help of data analyst Maggie (the gorgeous Rebecca Rittenhouse). ‘Flesh & Blood’ is about agoraphobic teenager Kimberly (Diana Silvers) who is mourning the recent death of her mother, but her dad (Dermot Mulroney) may be hiding a terrible secret or two. ‘Pooka!’ is about a struggling actor (Nyasha Hatendi) who strikes gold when he signs up to play the titular toy character in a television commercial and his life changes completely, but is it for the better or for worse? ‘New Year, New You’ is about healthy lifestyle influencer Danielle Williams (Carly Chaikin) who gets invited at a house party set up by her old friends from school, but unbeknownst to her the setting is a trap and all they want from her is to confess to the bullying she had initiated that resulted in the suicide of a young girl several years ago. ‘Down’ is about two people (Natalie Martinez and Matt Lauria) stuck in an elevator, but there’s more to the situation than what meets the eye. ‘Treehouse’ is about a TV chef (Jimmi Simpson) who is about to get punished for his sinister past. ‘I’m Just F*cking with you’ is about a resentful internet troll (Larry Adams) who spends a night in Bates-like motel where the jokester clerk (Hayes MacArthur) may be a bit too dangerous. In ‘All that We Destroy’, a geneticist Victoria Harris (Samantha Mathis) creates several clones to satisfy the violent urges of her son (Israel Broussard). A family mourns the passing of the mother in ‘They Come Knocking’, until things get a paranormal twist. ‘Culture Shock’ tells the story of a group of people crossing the Mexico/U.S. border in order to find the American dream, but all they find is nightmares. A group of students in detention are about to face nightmares of both the real and supernatural kind in ‘School Spirit’. A dodgy purity camp featuring a creepy pastor is the setting of ‘Pure’, but religious fundamentalists may get what they deserve in this one.

 

Castle Rock - Season 2

Based on characters and settings created by Stephen King and executive produced by J.J. Abrams, the 2nd season of Hulu’s Castle Rock (2018 – 2019) is about a nurse (the gorgeous Lizzy Caplan) who is struggling with her own personal mental demons, but things will get worse once she moves into the titular location where she’ll find herself amidst a beef between local businessmen and Somali migrants. Featuring a near-perfect performance by the legendary Tim Robbins, this may not be a small screen masterpiece, but it is quite enjoyable. Its main weakness are the several flashbacks that have become mandatory these days, but drag the proceedings.

 


Peaky Blinders - Season 6

The 6th season of Peaky Blinders (2013 – 2022) has ruthless gangster Thomas Shelby (Cilian Murphy) getting involved with more gum than he can chew (his limitations are often a matter of discussion among some of the main characters), eventually involved with politics and bigger businesses, essentially suffering from delusions of grandness. He will also get to question his faith and superstitions, as well as lose more things that he loves and possibly more than he can stand. A dark hero’s journey in six episodes, this is less of a gangster epic and more of a western-like grotesque poem that although not really entertaining, always a thrill to watch.

 

The Boys - Season 3

The 3rd season of Amazon Prime’s The Boys (2019 – present) starts with the sups returning to their old evil ways (complete with fame and corporate shame) and it is now up to the real good guys to get things back in order. Troma-style humor that includes exploding body members and a guy getting inside another person’s anus, this is a big-budget excess of grossness and toilet humor.

 

The 13th season of Doctor Who (2005 – present) is the last one featuring Jodie Whittaker in the titular role and she goes out with a bang, as the mere 6 arc episodes are amongst the best we’ve seen so far from the series. Facing the threat of an evil force that may end the universe, the Doctor along with her remaining sidekick (Mandip Gill) need to save the world once again, while the production finds the space to throw in all of our favorite villains from past seasons.

 

The Deuce - Season 3

Set in 1985, HBO’s 3rd (and final) season of The Deuce (2017 – 2019) is about the decline of New York’s 42nd Street smut-peddling, drug-pushing, and trick-turning empire, detailing how the dirt was defeated by the AIDS epidemic, the transformation of the porn industry from chic films to plot-less scenes shot on videocassette, as well as the invasion of capitalism and real estate that resulted in the gentrification of the world’s greatest sewer. This is great television and my favorite series in the history of the medium, so it is a pity that it didn’t last for longer, pretty much like the story and the characters it depicts.

 

And now, please allow me a word on some recent mainstream releases…

 

Spider-Man: No Way Home

Marvel’s Spider-Man: No Way Home (2021) directed by Jon Watts, has the titular superhero (Tom Holland) accidentally revealing his identity and sees the world turning against him, thinking of him as a vigilante and a threat. Spider-Man asks for the help of Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch), but when he doesn’t play by the magician’s and the universe’s rules, things get even worse. An array of super-villains including the Green Goblin (William Dafoe) and Otto Octavius (Alfred Molina) target the web-slinger, but the biggest enemy he has is himself. Made on a massive $200 million budget, this is as big and epic as these things get, and it went on to gross a stunning $1.8 billion, making it one of the most successful films in cinema history, and what’s more the critics and the fans alike loved it; deservedly so if I may add.

 

DC’s The Batman (2022) directed by Matt Reeves, is not an origin story per se, but we get to learn a lot about the titular superhero (the excellently cast Robert Pattison), as it is to be expected by a reboot of sorts. The main thing however is that gangsters like The Penguin (Colin Farell) and nut-jobs like The Riddler (an outstanding performance by Paul Dano) have brought chaos to Gotham city, and since the police is corrupt and controlled by the underworld, the Batman vigilante will have to take the law into his own hands, albeit with a little bit of help from the Catwoman (Zoe Kravitz). Noir-ish in its approach, and epic in its scope (and clocking at almost 3 hours long), this is an unforgettable masterpiece that will forever be cherished as one of the best superhero films ever made.

 

Morbius (2022) poster

Marvel’s Morbius (2022) directed by Daniel Espinosa, tells the tale of the titular vampire superhero (Jared Leto) and its struggle against his mean brother (Matt Smith) who is also a vampire. Putting a lot of effort into presenting its protagonist as the new poster boy for gothic fandom, this is a mediocre film that relies too much on its CGI that are not that well-done anyway.

 

Old-timer maverick director Sam Raimi, responsible for iconic horror aesthetics as well as some of superhero cinema’s greatest innovations, brings fresh air to the tired Marvel formula in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (2022), in which the titular sorcerer supreme (returning Benedict Cumberbatch) changes universes with the frequency most people change their underwear, only to find out – once again – that his (as well as the world’s) greatest enemy is himself. Looking like exactly what it is – a canon Marvel movie directed by Sam Raimi – this brings the best of both worlds on the table and succeeds on almost every level, going as far as even scaring little kids a little bit.

 

Jurassic World Dominion

Colin Trevorrow’s Jurassic World Dominion (2022) takes the iconic 1990s franchise’s story forward (some of the original cast returns) and in a world where dinosaurs now live peacefully – and sometimes not so peacefully – amongst us and the rest of this planet’s animals, until the central evil science corporation sets up a locust pandemic that is threatening to extinguish all life. Clocking at a massive – and at times tiring – 2 hours and a half, as is the norm for most blockbusters nowadays that unleash as many character arcs as possible and then fails to tie them together, this is spectacular as expected (even the CGI are surprisingly stunning for this sort of thing) and biology students will have a field day with.

 

BJ McDonnell’s Studio 666 (2022) is about the struggle of stadium rockers Foo Fighters to find inspiration for their tenth album, until they acquire a haunted villa, resulting in the demonic possession of their lead singer (Dave Grohl, playing himself) that assists him in discovering a new musical note and writing an epic song. For a horror-comedy – a very difficult genre to find balance in – this is not very funny, nor very scary, and it even drags at times as its pacing is not its strongest asset; however, its heart is in the right place, the attempt seems sincere, and the gore effects are gruesomely entertaining, so it is not without its merits. Featuring cameos from John Carpenter (who also co-wrote the score) and Kerry King (from Slayer).

 

Netflix’s feature-length true crime documentary Girl in the Picture (2022) directed by Skye Borgman, is looking at the mystery behind a – you guessed it – girl in a picture that was taken with the man that pretended to be her father, ended up marrying her, pimping her to a strip club, and eventually killing her. But who was she, and what was her real name? For such a rich and captivating story, the documentary is not as strong as it could be, but it is still a more than a worthy addition to the annals of the genre.

 

Minions: The Rise of Gru

Illumination Entertainment’s Minions: The Rise of Gru (2022) are about the rise of the titular villain (voiced by Steve Carell) with the help of the beloved minions, and for such a late addition to the franchise it is surprisingly strong and funny. Featuring voice acting by Julie Andrews, Michelle Yeoh, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Dolph Lundgren, Danny Trejo, Lucy Lawless, and Steve Coogan among others, hyper-realistic and stunning animation, as well as a bombastic soundtrack (featuring artists such as Ted Nugent and The Rolling Stones), this is a thoroughly good time.

 

And finally, this time around I enriched my bookshelf with the following additions…

 

Not as thorough or definite as it could have been (I can think of several films that could be included and were not, and a few franchises had some films tackled and others not) David J. Moore’s massive 560-pages-long coffee-table hardcover edition of The Good, the Tough & the Deadly: Action Movies & Stars, 1960s-Present (2016, Schiffer) is still a work to behold, written with a lot of passion and affection for the genre. This being a guide book, most of its hundreds of reviews consist of a total of two paragraphs (usually a synopsis and a few comments), but where the book really shines is with its numerous interviews of action stars that are informative and entertaining.

 

Katherine Coldiron’s Midnight Movie Monographs: Plan 9 from Outer Space (1959) (2021, PS Publishing) at a mere 97 pages long is a tiny but highly intelligent tackling on Edward D Wood Jr.’s infamous atrocious cinema classic that manages to become what amounts to the most accurate thesis I have ever read on why we watch bad movies. Highly recommended both for fans of the director as well as anyone that is even mildly interested in theorizing about film.

 

Alan Jones’ Frightfest Guide 5: Grindhouse Movies (2021, FAB Press) is actually the author’s second volume – within the same book series – to tackle the same subject (the first volume was labeled ‘exploitation’), although this is a much more interesting outing both for widely relying on notes he wrote upon the first viewing of the films and for focusing on largely more obscure titles. Short and sweet, this is informative, entertaining, and well-illustrated in glowing color.

 

Tim Lucas’ The Man with Kaleidoscope Eyes (2022, Electric Dreamhouse, PS Publishing) is the novelization of the same-titled unproduced screenplay that the renowned film critic co-authored (heralded as one of the greatest movies never made) and it takes a deep but entertaining dive into the making of The Trip, one of Roger Corman’s finest pictures and a 1960s milestone. Based on interviews the author had conducted over the years with several key people involved, this is truer than fiction, but most importantly it is masterful storytelling and a very special treat for us, Corman super-fans.


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August 1, 2022

A Binge too Far #25: Paul W.S. Anderson’s Video Game Adaptation Film Vault duo (2020 – 2021)

Stunning Monster Hunter (2020) promotional art


This month we look at two recent video game adaptations from the usual suspect, Hollywood darling Paul W.S. Anderson.

 

Reviews:

 

Monster Hunter (2020) poster

Monster Hunter 
(2020)

 

While an UN operation team led by Captain Artemis (the always dreamy but tough action star MillaJovovich) are somehow teleported to another world, it has to fight a variety of giant monsters (some of them resembling dinosaurs and some others even arachnids). Will the soldiers find a way to get back to where they came from, or even survive the unpredictable mission?

 

Based upon the same-titled video game by Capcom, this work from writer/director/producer Paul W.S. Anderson (no introduction needed), is delivering what it sets out to do: MillaJovovich and other soldiers against alien monsters. It does so in spades, relying heavily on the expected CGI, but also some visceral imagery, some of it involving wounds and/or spiders.

 

A passion project for its director, this was in development since 2012, but it was officially announced in 2018, which was also the year it was shot. It was released in theaters a couple of years later. The way the film is set (from the fairy-tale like opening, to the mythology and world established later on) as well as its open ending, reveal that a franchise was in the works, but it grossed a mere $44.5 million, on a $60 million budget, so unfortunately, you shouldn’t hold your breath for getting any more of this.

 

Resident Evil: Welcome to...

Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City
(2021)

 

Set in the late 1990s this prequel to the long-running eponymous franchise (2002 – 2016) that was based on the same-titled zombie video games, is the origin story of Spencer Mansion and the titular city that in conjunction with the evil plans of the Umbrella corporation unleashed chaos to the world, in the form of living dead creatures that constitute the perfect killing machines.

 

Written by Johannes Roberts (who also directed), this has a Claudio Fragasso-level plot, so silly and naïve that Bruno Mattei would be proud of, but it is all salvaged by some Dario Argento-influenced aesthetic sensibilities, so good in fact that the end result is much more horrifying and atmospheric than anything done previously within the confines of these film series. It is also low-key for most of its running time, but the ending is a grotesque masterpiece. The fact that the soundtrack is killer too adds bonus points in this overall winner opus.

 

Because this reboot is MillaJovovich-less and Paul W.S. Anderson restrained himself in a mere executive producer credit, and since its inception back in 2017 the original director and writer team (James Wan and Greg Russo respectively) were replaced by the aforementioned Johannes Roberts [known for helming 47 Meters Down (2017) and 47 Meters Down: Uncaged (2019)], things didn’t look good, and when reshoots were ordered people thought that this was doomed from the get-go, but it went on to gross a respectable $41.9 million on a $25 million budget, so there has already been some talk on sequels.


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July 1, 2022

A Binge too Far #24: Horrorant International Film Festival 7 report

Fright Nights - Horrorant International Film Festival 7


After two years of having to put Horrorant on hold due to the Covid-19 crisis, Greece’s prestigious international film festival returned, for 11 days, in several cities, with 62 films, among them 25 feature films – all of them Greek premieres – and with several guests that provided the audience with Q&A sessions. Here’s the report.

 

Horrorant found its home at the ΕΛΙΖΕ theater.

The festival was kick-started as usual, with the screening of the previous edition’s winner of the ‘Best Feature’ Award, namely Pledge (2018) and the Opening Ceremony feature, which was Post Portem (2020).

 

A good surprise the festival had in store was a special screening of a group of collected animated shorts including Coin (2019), Deeply Deep (2020), Gholu (2019), Knock Knock (2019), Las Putas Pastillas (2021), Mirror (2019), and Re-Animal (2021).

 

The audience experienced 11 nights of horror

Competition Horror:

 

Several interesting new horror films competed in this category, including The Last Thing Mary Saw (2021), Apps (2021), The Sadness (2021), Llanto Maldito (2021), Hambre (2021), Luz: The Flower of Evil (2019), and the ones reviewed bellow.

 

The Devil’s Tail (2021)

 

The mysterious patient Mr. Moore who had 80% of his body terribly burned, is going through a hellish hospitalization that includes strong medicine and restraining, until one day he disappears from his room with his bed intact. Several years later, a stereotypical nurse manager tells tales that are somehow connected with this tragic and uncanny event.

 

Although the anthology horror picture is a difficult thing to tackle with any success, especially in recent years (the British films from Amicus and the like in the 1970s are now considered classics, but they are the exception), an array of newcomers did just that with this co-production between Argentina and New Zealand. Most of the stories are functioning well enough to guarantee for a good viewing material, combining horror and humor, and they would all work well on their own, had they been offered as short subjects individually. It is not the anthology horror film that will take the independent film world by storm, but it is a very good addition to the much-maligned subgenre.

 


The 100 Candles Game
(2020)

 

Four friends that look very ‘alternative’ – in conjunction with this modern horror trend which has the fans taking of over the filmmaking side of things – gather in a house and set-up a 100 candles game in which they each have to tell a scary story. This is another anthology horror co-production between Argentina and New Zealand, and its segments not only work, but are scary as hell, which is all you really need from such fare. It comes highly recommended.

 

Urubu (2019)

 

Tomas (Carlos Urrutia) a photographer, travels deep in the Amazonian forest to get the perfect picture of a rare bird, dragging with him his dysfunctional family that consists of his attractive wife Eva (Clarice Alves) and their daughter Andrea (Jullie D’Arrigo). The marriage will be tested as tensions arise in the first half of the film, but their problems will get much worse in the climactic second half.

 

Directed by Alejandro Ibanez (his feature length theatrical debut, as he had previously helmed only shorts and TV-movies) this is – as per the promotional material – a tribute to the cinematic legacy of his father Narciso Ibanez Serrador, and to be more precise, to the landmark film Who Can Kill a Child? (1976), although this is more prevalent in the second half, while the first half is mostly reminiscent of the Italian erotic thrillers from the 1970s.

 

This is cinema with guts, the like of which we unfortunately don’t see much of – or any – these days, and it is a pity that it won’t have the impact it should, as international genre cinema does not have the place that 1970s exploitation film had in the global landscape of theaters and home video. However, this doesn’t take anything away from the absolute thrill that it is to experience this masterpiece, and you should absolutely go out of your way to see it, as hands down it is my favorite piece that was screened during this year’s program.

 

Al Tercer Dia (2021) poster

Al Tercer Dia
(2021)

 

A mother is looking for her son, but things gets worse when she becomes the prisoner of a religious maniac, in this Argentinean genre-bending outing from director Daniel de la Vega. Think of a cross between ‘torture porn’ and a creature feature, but with its biggest inspiration being the classic Don’t Look Now (1973), and you might get a vague idea of what this feature is like, but I recommend seeing it for yourselves to full comprehend its originality.

 

Ex (2021)

 

Entrapped in a virtual world where sharing everything is more important than living anything in real life, this is about a group of teenagers that get in supernatural trouble once a ‘memory’ picture is shared on social media.

 

By combining elements from modern ghost story films and hip subjects such as the dangers of social media, this is doomed to be dated not long from now, but if seen today – like we did at Horrorant – it is quite an enjoyable experience and quite scary at times. Directed by Evgeniy Puzyrevskiy, this is a Russian production, probably the last one that managed to get internationally screened before the widespread cancel.

 

Christos Mouroukis presents Troma's award

#Shakespeare’s Shitstorm
(2020)

 

And speaking of Russia, Troma let us know via one of its several introductory videos that it stands with Ukraine (yes, our beloved Toxic Avenger can stop tanks!). Other videos included Lloyd Kaufman’s greeting to Horrorant (needless to say, we are proud for this), as well as the Troma’s now-classic short Radiation March.

 

The movie itself as you might have guessed is another take on the works of Shakespeare – this time it is The Tempest, but Troma had also notably adapted Romeo and Juliet to Tromeo & Juliet – albeit one with a New Jersey spin on it. What’s this spin? The corrupted ‘Big Pharma’ industry is putting lives in danger, essentially allowing dope to destroy our kids in exchange for big profit. What’s more, a family beef and a new drug called The Tempest that just hit the streets generate a shitstorm! It is up to the social justice warriors and soft activists to save the day.

 

#Shakespeare's Shitstorm

With Lloyd Kaufman at the helm, as well as in several roles, this will have the New York legend going out with a bang if he decides for it to be his swan song. It is an absolute chaos, of seemingly endless scenes of people partying with drugs, vomit, blood, piss, semen, and excrement, but Troma as always is keen to offer well-masqueraded social commentary as well. This time the target is the ‘politically correct’ obsession, the capitalist threat, the Big Pharma, the media, the white house, the social justice warriors, and everyone that would stand on Toxie’s way and beyond! This is a masterpiece that is firing on all cylinders, and I consider it to be one of the most important works of art of recent years.

 

La Forma Del Bosque (2021)

 

This co-production between Argentina and Uruguay was directed by Gonzalo Mellid, is your typical ‘cabin in the woods’ story in which two siblings and their weird grandfather have to face a paranormal entity. Although no masterpiece by any stretch of the word, it is an enjoyable effort that at its mere 87 minutes of running time, it never outstays its welcome.

 

Offseason (2021)

 

Upon receiving a letter, a young woman (Jocelin Donahue) arrives at a small seaside town where she gets entrapped in a horrible nightmare. Directed by Mickey Keating, this Shudder Original may not be very original, but it is thrilling, tense, and most importantly scary. It is not the horror film that will change the history of the genre, but it is outstandingly eerie, coming highly recommended.

 

The Red Book Ritual (2022)

 

Another co-production between New Zealand and Argentina that opts for the anthology format, this time revolving around the titular game that is about to unleash an evil witch. Not a game changer, but a very welcome addition to the subgenre, this is enjoyable enough and at a mere 83 minutes long it never outstays its welcome.

 

Konstantinos Chatzipapas and Filip Jan Rymsza

Mosquito State
(2020)

 

Wall Street wolf and computer engineer Richard Boca is working on a ‘model’ that keeps on resembling the operational methods of mosquitoes, essentially driving him deeper and deeper into madness, as well as the nightmares of body horror. Although too original to be pigeonholed to any genre, this resembles a distant cousin of an orphan David Cronenberg film, but its constant social commentary elevates it to something really outstanding. Directed by Filip Jan Rymsza, this is one of most unique U.S. films I’ve seen in many years.

 

Luz: The Flower of Evil (2019)

Luz: The Flower of Evil
(2019)

 

Set in a Columbian mountain (where this Columbian production was shot on location), this tells the story of a local priest who introduces to his community a young boy as their savior, but it looks like he brings doom and despair with him. Directed by Juan Diego Escobar Alzate, this indie production has become a film festival sensation around the globe, thanks to its awkward stance on female sexuality and the overall peculiar shooting style. It is a masterpiece, it is original (the screenplay in particular is odd and genious), and it deserves to be seen by a wider audience.

 

Competition Panorama:

 

Several new independent features competed in this category, including Nikolina (2020), Dark Cloud (2022), Glasshouse (2021), and the ones reviewed bellow.

 

Emboscada (2020)

 

Bodies are lost and found, appear and disappear, under mysterious circumstances in this Mexican thriller from director Rene Herrera. Peculiar in terms of storytelling and awkward in terms of execution, this is difficult to get but it is an enjoyable journey. I only wish it had downplayed the gangster element and went for a more full-on horror approach, but it is still quite strong as it is.

 



Slumber Party Massacre
(2021)

 

Trish Devereaux [Schelaine Bennett from Monster Hunter (2020)] the sole survivor of a serial killer’s 1993 rampage (as seen in the same-titled 1982 film and re-enacted masterfully here in a pre-credits sequence) lets her teenage daughter Dana [Hannah Gonera from Spell (2020)] in present day Los Angeles to go on a field trip with her girlfriends, but unbeknownst she goes to the exact same location to face the same serial killer [Rob Van Vuuren from Tremors: A Cold Day in Hell (2018)] who is alive and killing according to a famous true crime podcast. Will the lot kill him or be killed?

 

Director Danishka Esterhazy [I Was Lorena Bobbitt (2020)] perfectly captures the tone of the franchise (which it wasn’t that easy, considering that the original series ran from 1982 to 1990, and the second rendition from 2003 to 2011) and does so with plenty of affection for its spirit. Essentially a feminist slasher (like the original), it somehow goes a step further to objectify the male figure and create a free-for-all homoerotic fantasy. However, this being the fan service that it is (it pays its respects by including several ‘Easter eggs’ not only from the original film, but also its sequels), only super fans will ‘get it’ and the rest will be dumbfounded by the sheer stupidity of it all.

 

Muerto Con Gloria (2021)

 

The titular young woman is working in a bookstore and has no real personal life with sex being absolutely absent from her life. That is until one night she is visited by an invisible ghost with the most and has passionate intercourse with her.

 

Directed by Mauro Sarser and Marcela Matta, this is mainly a comedy with only the ghost aspects giving it some elements of horror, but light as it is – especially in comparison with the context of Horrorant – it is enjoyable, it works, and surprisingly never gets tiring even at almost 2 hours long. It was a nice break from the constant horror we were experiencing for eleven days.

 

Vivian Papageorgiou receives Hansel's award

Greek Shorts:

 

Horrorant always showcases Greek horror short films, and this year we had the pleasure of watching That Night (2020), Stay Safe (2020), Love (2022), Wicca Book (2020), as well as the ones reviewed bellow.

 

Hansel (2020)

 

Written and directed by Vivian Papageorgiou (her second short subject to be screened at Horrorant Film Festival) this is about a young boy facing a mysterious man that comes from the nearby forest. Seemingly inspired by the works of Tim Burton; this excellent dark fairytale benefits from stunning production design.

 

Michelle Coverley receives The Wick's award

International Shorts:

 

Horrorant always showcases international horror short films, and this year we had the pleasure of watching Noite Macabra (2020), T’Es Morte Helene (2020), La Penumbra (2021), Hopes (2019), Casa (2020), Nuisible(s) (2020), Guardian Angel (2019), Mama (2021), El Bosque Del Silencio (2019), Aamama (2020), Horrorscope (2019), Part Forever (2021), Stalker (2019), as well as the ones reviewed bellow.

 

Lili (2019)

 

The titular actress is auditioning for a role, until the man behind the camera becomes a creep and harasses her. But she just won’t take it. Directed by Yfke van Berckelaer, this excellent one-shot (we need more of these) is a perfect #metoo-inspired addition to the revenge horrors cannon.

 

Scriptum (2021)

 

Directed by Marco Leonato, this horror short comes from Spain and it is about an author who is suffering from a writer’s block much to his editor’s angst, until one day he finds the inspiration he was searching for, but it may prove deadly. Clocking at a massive 20 minutes long, this manages to never drag. It wears its Alfred Hitchcock inspiration proudly on its sleeve and it benefits from ace performances from the two female leads.

 

Tebori (2020)

 

Directed by Silvana Zancolo, this highly erotic Italian horror short is about a hip couple that gets entrapped in the dangers of social media when they get involved in a dodgy auction. Scary, sexy, and above all enjoyable, this was a joy to watch.

 

Sonrisas (2020)

 

Directed by Javier Chavanel, this horror short comes from Spain, and it is about a young man who upon accepting his girlfriend’s invitation to meet her family he gets introduced to some very strange people. Eerie and in the spirit of a Twilight Zone episode (if you could imagine one with gore), this is well-made and enjoyable.

 

El Juego (2019)

 

This stunning monster movie from Peru is effective, atmospheric, and scary. Directed by Rogger Vergara, there is not too much plot to speak of, but surprisingly for a short film the special effects are stunning (and mostly of the practical variety, as we like them) and the mood is eerie.

 

Koreatown Ghost Story (2021)

 

Although technically a U.S. production, this short – as revealed by its title – has a full-on Korean flavor and it is a Faust-like story about a woman that accepts a macabre deal in order to make her life’s dreams come true.

 

Salpicon (2021)

 

Hailing from Mexico, this 8 minutes short by director Marcos Munoz is about a zombie breakout from the perspective of a man trapped in a public bathroom and suffering from diarrhea.

 

No Podras Volver Nunca (2020)

 

Coming from the renowned horror-producing country that is Spain and directed by Monica Mateo, this is a very interesting short about an interracial couple that upon saying goodbye during a totally conventional day, something will put them in a horrifying reality. This is one of the most well-made and intense shorts I’ve had the pleasure of watching at this year’s fest, and it’s a shame that I can’t tell you more for fearing of getting into spoiler territory.

 

La Tueur Du Lac Maudit (2020)

 

This French short from directors Laurent Ardoint and Stephane Duprat (the two of them also star in it) is a fun meta-take parody of the slasher tropes and the film festival circuit.

 

The Wick (2020)

 

Set in 19th Century England this British short film tells the eerie story of a witch trial. It is always hard to make a period piece in itself, let alone in the short film form, but this one does this really well. Based on a real story and inspired by the many similar cases through the ages, it provides us with stark realism, resulting in eeriness. It is an important work that I would love to see in feature length form.

 

No Apto Para Menores (2020)

 

This sweet and humorous short from Spain was directed by Daniel Noblom and it tells a story from two perspectives.

 

Closing Ceremony feature:

 

Meander (2020) poster

Meander
(2020)

 

Following a hitchhike with a mysterious man (Peter Franzen), Lisa (Gaia Weiss) wakes up in a block of miniscule tunnels full of deadly booby-traps. Will she manage to get out in one piece, or alive at all?

 

Writer/director Mathieu Turi [Hostile (2017)] employs the setting of Cube (1997) and the ethics of Saw (2004), albeit in sci-fi manner, and I only wish he had a larger budget to pull it off, as the potentional was there and begging for it. It premiered at the online version of the Sitges Film Festival.

 

The Awards:

 

K. Chatzipapas at the opening ceremony

Best Feature (International Competition): Mosquito State (Filip Jan Ryszma)
Best Feature (Panorama): Las Noches son de los Monstruos (Sebastian Perillo)
Best Director: Filip Jan Ryszma (Mosquito State)
Best Screenplay: Piros Zankay, Gabor Hellebrandt & Peter Bergendy (Post Mortem)
Best Actor: Carlos Urrutia (Urubú)
Best Actress: Mariana Anghileri (Al Tercer Día)
Best Cinematography: Nicolas Caballero Arenas (Luz: The Flower of Evil)
Best Special Effects: The Sadness
Special Mention Lifetime Achievement Award: Lloyd Kaufman and Troma Entertainment

Best International Short: The Wick
Best Greek Short: Hansel
Best Animated Short: Mirror


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