Film Criticism

Film Review – SiREN

Image from the horror thriller film “SiREN” a Chiller Films release. Photo courtesy of Chiller Films.

Image from the horror thriller film “SiREN” a Chiller Films release. Photo courtesy of Chiller Films.

LISTEN to Freddy’s interview with star Hannah Fierman here.

SiREN is a very fun monster movie based on the short “Amateur Night” from V/H/S. In this feature length version, director Gregg Bishop takes the simple idea of the wolf in sheep’s clothing and adds a whole slew of hints at a much larger world full of mystical adventure and threats. Hannah Fierman returns as “Lily” the sweetheart of a monster who has big eyes and bigger teeth. Justin Welborn (The Signal) really shines as the villain of the story, the human/inhuman trafficker “Mr. Nyx.” Nyx runs an anything goes Eyes Wide Shut style club in a mansion in the middle of the woods of the southern town of Garden City. When groom to be “Jonah” rolls in with his groomsmen to celebrate his bachelor party, the excrement makes physical contact with a hydro-electric powered oscillating air current distribution device.

Stephen Caudill as Sheriff Boone from the horror thriller film “SiREN” a Chiller Films release. Photo courtesy of Chiller Films.

Stephen Caudill as Sheriff Boone from the horror thriller film “SiREN” a Chiller Films release. Photo courtesy of Chiller Films.

At first, the foursome of the groom and his men come off as templates of The Hangover gang, but the writers manage to give them a little more depth as the story progresses. All of our leading men turn in solidly charming performances. It doesn’t hurt that the creators of SiREN don’t settle for a simple douchebags in peril storyline. They give what could otherwise be a forgettable film an edge by including a veritable Star Wars Cantina of supporting creatures and weird patrons at Nyx’s club. Brittany S. Hall as “Ash” is a particular standout. The reveal of her character’s special talent suggests a magical world supporting the action of our… Continue reading

Film Review – Los Parecidos (The Similars)

115In Los Parecidos (The Similars) writer/director Isaac Ezban has created a loving tribute to the horror and sci-fi masterpieces of 1960s TV and film. The setup will be familiar to anyone who has ever seen an episode of “The Twilight Zone”. Onscreen text establishes that it’s October 2, 1968 as a rainstorm wails outside a remote bus station. A male actor delivers a voiceover narration in a clipped baritone in the sale of Rod Serling introducing one of the story’s ancillary characters “Martin”. Martin works the ticket counter and reads nudie magazines and listens to the radio to pass the time. A young man with shaggy hair and one hell of a beard “Ulises” is frantically trying to get to Mexico City as his wife is in labor in a hospital there. A young woman fleeing her abusive husband arrives; she too is trying to get to Mexico City to escape her abuser. An indigenous woman (possibly Mayan or Aztec) is also in the station. She is agitated and seems to be praying or performing some sort of religious rite in the corner. Meanwhile, as other characters arrive at the station, something truly bizarre begins to unfold as Martin spontaneously grows a beard and starts to morph into Ulises’ twin. From this point, paranoia and fear take over the proceedings as our stranded cast of characters try to deduce what is going on and who is responsible for it.4-copy

Fans of “The Twilight Zone” will appreciate The Similars. The vignetted photography and use of filters create a vintage look and Edy Lan’s musical score is a perfect homage to the work of Bernard Herrmann. This film really feels like a lost episode of the TV series that inspired it. Like Serling, Ezban works some political and classist… Continue reading

Film Review: The Windmill

Image from the horror film “THE WINDMILL” an XLrator Media release. Photo courtesy of XLrator Media.

Image from the horror film “THE WINDMILL” an XLrator Media release. Photo courtesy of XLrator Media.

The Windmill is a slasher film and a spooky supernatural tale in the tradition of “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” and countless campfire tales. The film is very good and certain to please a wide variety of horror fans. It’s gruesome and gory, yet restrained when it benefits the eerie atmosphere. The acting is top shelf too, featuring the always expert Noah Taylor (“Game of Thrones”, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory) as the troubled doctor Nicholas and Charlotte Beaumont (“Broadchurch”, Jupiter Ascending) in the lead role of Jennifer. Jennifer is an Australian fugitive on the run in Amsterdam. She ends up with Nicholas and a diverse cast of characters on a tour bus in the back country of Holland. When their bus breaks down near a dilapidated ancient windmill, all hell breaks loose and the passengers begin to disappear one by one as is the tradition of any good slasher film.

(L-R) Bart Klever as Abe, Fiona Hampton as Ruby, Adam Thomas Wright as Curt, Patrick Baladi as Douglas, Charlotte Beaumont as Jennifer, and Noah Taylor as Nicholas in the horror film “THE WINDMILL” an XLrator Media release. Photo courtesy of XLrator Media.

(L-R) Bart Klever as Abe, Fiona Hampton as Ruby, Adam Thomas Wright as Curt, Patrick Baladi as Douglas, Charlotte Beaumont as Jennifer, and Noah Taylor as Nicholas in the horror film “THE WINDMILL” an XLrator Media release. Photo courtesy of XLrator Media.

What sets The Windmill apart from most slashers is the care taken in creating atmosphere. Who knew Holland’s countryside could be so ghostly and weird? The surroundings are evocative of sets from classic monster movies, but with enough grimy realism to make them worthy of being inhabited by modern characters. The story is given some additional depth by implementing the classic Serling-esque trope of anti-heroes as acceptable targets for supernatural punishment/redemption. Our protagonists all have checkered pasts that ultimately led them to the windmill. This trope can… Continue reading

Surveillance and Privacy Horrors in 13 Cameras

13-cameras-poster

Your home is meant to be a safe haven, protecting you from the dangers of the outside world. However, with today’s technology, home invaders can easily find ways to break in without actually breaking in. The 2015 film, 13 Cameras, shows us how the horrors of a home invasion can be made real through simple video surveillance.

 

In 13 Cameras, a creepy and sweaty landlord, Gerald, played by Neville Archambault, fixes up a starter home and installs tiny hidden cameras around the house, from the shower to the bedroom and even inside the toilet bowl. He rents this house out to a newlywed and young couple, Ryan and Claire (P.J. McCabe and Brianne Moncrief, respectively) and parents-to-be. Gerald constantly watches and gawks at the couple through his television screens as they go about their daily lives, and we experience the creeping horror of 24/7 video surveillance as it invades the spaces we consider to be most private.

 

There have actually been multiple real-life accounts of non-consenting video surveillance, of course. In August of 2015, a couple in Toronto found themselves victims to this very crime. While watching Netflix, their webcam was hacked and they were sent intimate pictures of themselves in the following days. Any wireless device can easily and unknowingly be hacked and used against you. However, 13 Cameras offers a new perspective on a different threat. Although not exactly common, landlords spying on tenants can be a real and plausible threat – something that can even happen to you.

 

Writer and director, Victor Zarcoff, does a great job of displaying the right amount of found footage, making sure not to overuse this format throughout the film. The film succeeds in this format, avoiding full Paranormal Activity style and opting for a… Continue reading

Film Review: Bleed

Sarah (Chelsey Crisp, “Fresh Off the Boat”) and Matt (Michael Steger, “90210”) have moved into a big house in the country. Sarah is pregnant and the couple hopes to raise their new family away from the city. They’ve invited their friends Bree and Dave out to the new house to celebrate. Sarah’s estranged twin brother Eric and his girlfriend Skye crash the housewarming party, and they convince the group to spend the evening ghost hunting in the nearby ruins of a burned-out prison.

Michael Steger and Chelsey Crisp in Bleed

Michael Steger and Chelsey Crisp in Bleed

Bleed is the first feature film from writer/director Tripp Rhame (also a first for co-writer Ben Jacoby). The filmmakers were wise to surround themselves with veteran actors who do a good job of bringing to life an otherwise middling screenplay. Crisp and cast elevate a run of the mill straight-to-video offering to something better; a film that successfully creates a spooky remote atmosphere. In the first act, Sarah has a blow out on a lonely country road and a squirrelly small-town deputy comes along to help her change her tire. Actor Mark Ashworth plays the deputy and his performance is a stand out. I would have really enjoyed seeing much more of him and was disappointed that he didn’t have a larger role to play.

Much of the film features subtle makeup effects that work beautifully, without drawing too much attention to them. The digital visual effects, however, cheapened some scenes they were intended to enhance. These moments weren’t terrible or jarring, but some unneeded bigger visual moments were attempted that didn’t particularly benefit the end product. Bleed shines more during its more atmospheric and simpler moments. The film’s runtime is only 80 minutes, yet it drags a little in places. Bleed is an above average ghost story… Continue reading

Film Review: MARTYRS (2016)

Tribute or Triumph: A Review of the Film MARTYRS (2016)

What happens after we die? Is there such a thing as an unwilling martyr? Is the suffering of the flesh a skill set, something that transcends this world  and could set one apart from humanity?

(L-R) Director Kevin Goetz, Director Michael Goetz and Troian Bellisario as Lucie in the action horror film MARTYRS an Anchor Bay Entertainment release. Photo courtesy of Anchor Bay Entertainment.

(L-R) Director Kevin Goetz, Director Michael Goetz and Troian Bellisario as Lucie in the action horror film MARTYRS an Anchor Bay Entertainment release. Photo courtesy of Anchor Bay Entertainment.

How far would you be willing to go to find answers to life’s great mysteries? Would you kill? Would you torture? These are some of the questions that MARTYRS (Blumhouse Productions, The Safran Company, and Temple Hill Entertainment) asks – and wants you to ask yourself. But before you can begin to answer, there are other questions that should be considered.

Did they need to remake the film in the first place? Were they able to add something to the conversation as opposed to just asking it again in English? The question of what purpose a remake serves is not an easy one to answer. Remakes are a lot like cover songs; they’re done out of love. But are you making it your own or is it simply a copy?

In making a remake, the choices shrink, thus making those small decisions magnified and more important. Do you “re-interpret” the melody, structure, etc; do you change the style completely and turn a punk song country? Or do you do your damnedest to be faithful to the original, an homage, a tribute of devotion?

(L-R) Ever Prishkulnik as young Lucie and Elyse Cole as young Anna in the action horror film MARTYRS an Anchor Bay Entertainment release. Photo courtesy of Anchor Bay Entertainment.

(L-R) Ever Prishkulnik as young Lucie and Elyse Cole as young Anna in the action horror film MARTYRS an Anchor Bay Entertainment release. Photo courtesy of Anchor Bay Entertainment.

If you change nothing, you risk having fans of the original… Continue reading

Film Review: The Funhouse Massacre


kFJcc5-XsxfWiqtfWsI-j22WF3cndBTbnF08EFxfxXgThe Funhouse Massacre
is a fun watch. It’s got a lot to offer horror fans – gore, laughs, murderous maniacs, inventive kills, boobs, and clowns. It also has something for haunt fans and in particular Greater Cincinnati haunt fans as our area’s Land of Illusion is featured prominently.  The film begins at the Statesville Asylum, where the warden (Robert Englund) is attempting to convince a journalist that she shouldn’t write about this place and it’s five very horrifying inmates. He reasons that society is better off without these freaks, and if you can’t kill ‘em, you might as well lock them up. These homicidal maniacs – a wicked wrestler, cannibal chef, deranged dentist, twisted taxidermist (Clint Howard), and a charismatic cult leader (Jere Burns) – manage to break free thanks to our cult leader’s equally monstrous daughter. They head to the Land of Illusion Haunted Scream Park, where the haunted mazes are inspired by the legends of their crimes and atrocities. It’s Halloween night, and the crowds come in droves for scares…that end up being all too real.

DSC_3461Our protagonists are friends and co-workers from a local diner that head to the haunt after work. There’s a side plot that intersects our main set of characters featuring the local sheriff and her stereotypically bumbling deputy. The actors do a solid job with the comedy and the horror, balancing some really ridiculous moments. And when I say ridiculous, I mean ridiculously funny or not very anatomically correct, but it’s all good. The cameos are great and exciting for genre fans, or fans of Reno 911.

My only problem with the movie was the Stitch Face Killer. How in the hell did her make-up stay put in that one scene I won’t describe because I don’t want to spoil… Continue reading

Film Review: Condemned

As someone who once briefly contemplated moving into a condemned building to live in Manhattan the recent straight to DVD release Condemned was already ahead of the game based on the premise alone. That combined with a robust cast of “oh yeah! That guy!” I was primed to love this movie. Unfortunately I did not. Fortunately, I also did not hate it. Let’s take a deeper look.

Ronen Rubinstein as Dante in the horror film “CONDEMNED” an RLJ Entertainment release. Photo credit: Paul Sarkis.

Ronen Rubinstein as Dante in the horror film “CONDEMNED” an RLJ Entertainment release. Photo credit: Paul Sarkis.

The story begins when a beautiful slacker, played by the up and coming teen heart throb Ronen Rubinstein, invites his equally beautiful girlfriend, played by an amalgam of all the brothers from the 90s pop band Hansen, to flee her abusive parents and come stay with him and all of his junky friends in an abandoned building in the West Village in Manhattan. I know you’re thinking “but, Fozzie. That sounds like the start of every successful power couple I’ve ever heard of. What could possibly go wrong?” As it turns out, a lot. For starters everyone who lives in the building has their personal demons and they insist on flushing those problems down the drain. In one apartment an abusive Rabbi flushes his transsexual hooker/girlfriend’s pills down the drain while in another a drug dealer/restaurateur spills his leftover Junk in the bathtub. One resident on the ground floor is the first recipient of this vile concoction and does nothing but sit on the toilet and cry while listening to Christmas music. Think Martha Stewart on New Year’s Day. It seems the combination of all the various flotsam and jetsam flushed down the drain has coalesced into a powerful drug that not only causes violent delusions but also causes really gross boils to break… Continue reading