27 November 2010

Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon 2006 - REVIEW

If I've said it once, I've said it a thousand times. What this genre needs is (figuratively speaking) fresh meat for fans to sink their teeth into. We've been so bombarded with remakes... oh I'm sorry the new term is "reboot"... lately that we've lost faith. Well, I can't really speak for every genre fan so I guess I should say I've lost faith. It's not only remak... er, reboots... it's the lack of quality. Most of the big budgeted production that have come out lately have been dull and boring or just overall crap. Hollywood horror appears to have lost it's shine. But never fear because there is a hero in our midst and his name..... is..... Leslie Vernon.

In a world where supernatural killers like Michael Myers, Jason Voorhees and Freddy Krueger are real, journalist Taylor Gentry (Angela Goethals) and her crew have been given the opportunity to join the next great slasher, Leslie Vernon (Nathan Baesel), as he plans to seek his revenge on the town of Glen Echo. The legend of Leslie Vernon is this... There once was a boy, spawned from a vicious rape, who murdered his parents. The angry townspeople, thinking the boy was evil, cast him over the falls and into the icy river never to be heard from again. Well sorta. Taylor and her crew film Leslie, documentary style, as he meticulously plans his murder spree. When the big night comes, things take a sinister, dark turn, and their documentary becomes much less important when the tables are turned.

Baesel's character is so well written and he does a spot on performance transitioning in and out of his dual personas. He said in an interview that he got inspiration from the Silence of the Lambs character Dr. Hannibal Lecter and I could see that. I read reviews that said he seemed too cartoonish but I didn't get that at all. To me he came off as likeable and funny and charasmatic. Goethals also brings her A game to the screen. The chemistry between their characters is solid and at times heartfelt. Even the teens gave an impressive performance.

Hmm, what to say about this film? I've been sitting here for an hour now going over it in my head and can only think of two words... ORIGINAL and PERFECTION... I guess I'll work off of those two words. For all of you in the middle of an eye roll right now, c'mon. How many horror films have you seen that totally deconstruct the basics of the slasher sub-genre? Ever wanted to know why the victims of this type film always get caught? How bout why the lowly virgin is always the one to live? Pretty much every question that you can come up with about the stupid actions of slasher victims is addressed in this "mockumentary" style horror flick.

Scott Glosserman and David J Stieve managed to write a script that not only pokes fun at this particular genre but did it respectfully. Non-horror fans probably won't get the inside jokes of having Kane Hodder appear as Freddy Krueger's one time neighbor or having Robert Englund show up as a "Dr. Sam Loomis" type character or even the cameo by the legendary Zelda Rubinstein. But fans of the genre will definitely pick up on all the subtle and not so subtle inside jokes.

I read several reviews comparing this film to those of the Scream franchise. I don't know what the hell they've been smoking but I don't get that AT ALL. I feel this film is in a class of it's own. I don't think I've ever seen one quite like it. It's original and intelligent and classy. The twists are a bit predictable and the gore is minimal but I'd say it's definitely a must see for any horror fan. For those who say it's not a believable story or that say it's asking too much to believe slashers are real, go pull that stick out of your ass and stop over analyzing EVERYTHING. They call it fiction for a reason.

18 November 2010

Fell 2010 - REVIEW

There are lots of advantages to attending indie film festivals. You get to watch new, creative films come to life on the big screen. Some of which have never been seen by an audience before. Films shot with little to no funding and in little to no time. I got to watch several short films at the DOA Blood Bath Film Festival that were written, shot and edited all in one weekend. For the most part they were fresh and creative and actually very well done. But again, they were shorts and I think sometimes working on a tight schedule can be effective but not so much in a feature. I'll elaborate more on that in a moment.

This story centers around Bill (Jeff Dylan Graham) who is one very sick puppy. The recent break up with the love of his life has sent him into a tailspin of delusion and madness. Which only intensifies when he wakes up from a drug induced sleep to find a body in his bathtub. He tries desperately to reach his ex-girlfriend Jenny (Katie Walters) for some kind of support. Not being able to reach her just pushes him deeper and deeper into depression. He's pretty much at his breaking point when his long time friend Derrik (Kristian Day) shows up. Bill confides in Derrik about his little visitor in tub and after some discussion, they agree the body should be disposed of before anyone finds out. Unfortunately Jenny shows up before that can happen. Unfortunately for Bill and his friends, the truth is far more complicated than any of them could've predicted.

Let me first start off by saying that Graham is the bright point of this film. His performance was solid and he seemed really immersed in his character which is probably why he took home the award for Best Performance in a Feature. That said, I wasn't at all impressed by the film itself. The twists and turns thrown in to surprise the viewer were completely predictable. I had it figured out within the first 5 minutes. What was meant to be a psychological thriller just came of as bland and even boring at times. Other than a couple of outside shots, the whole film took place inside one small apartment which I'm guessing they were hoping to create a claustrophobic atmosphere but even that didn't really work for me. The score was so irritating it became deafening at times and didn't do anything to enhance the film. You may be asking why I'm being so hard on this film when I took extra steps to be constructive with my criticism of another film from the festival. I'm gonna answer that now...

I can't remember all of what was talked about during the Q&A but it was something about another film, the firing of an actor, a hotel room... Oh and 90 WORDS ON A PAGE! That's right, there was no script for this film at all. Just 90 or so words scribbled in a note pad and 3 days of shooting. And let me tell you, it showed. I seem to also remember some talk of "coming up with something new and different". This is where it gets pretty over the top ridiculous for me. I'm not sure how someone can say they wanted to bring something new to the table when this is clearly a blatant rip off of Adam Green and Joel David Moore's Spiral. From the lead actor's gentle psychosis right down to the hallway shots of the bathroom door. The only difference was Green's film had substance and this one didn't. Then again, I'm not sure how much substance can be reached in a mere 3 day shoot. I'm not a film expert but it doesn't seem to me that Marcus Koch and his team put their best foot forward on this project. I think they were just jazzed to make a film and decided to go with it.

In the end Fell really should've been F-A-I-L. If you're looking for an taut psychological thriller, I'd recommend a viewing of Spiral instead.

15 November 2010

Kodie 2010 - REVIEW

Kodie was the final film shown on opening night at the 2nd annual DOA Blood Bath Film Festival so there was a lot of build up. As we were walking around we overheard most of the crowd saying this was the film they were anticipating the most. Of course with all the buzz, we began to get more and more jazzed about it. It's a hard thing being a reviewer sometimes. Especially when it comes to Indie films because you know that these people are probably the hardest working filmmakers out there. They literally dump their heart and soul into each and every project.

David (Jayson Champion) a paranormal investigator, has come to a point in his life where everything he cares about is being ripped away in domestic turmoil. He soon finds himself and his team caught in a world of an enraged murderous little girl named Kodie (Jennifer Stone), in the form of a Teddy bear. Set forth by a witches curse, she rips, eats, dismembers and lays waste to the abusive hearts of the town, leaving them in a pool of red chaos and mangled corpses. Now they must free themselves from the torment of Kodie's ruthless brutal Hell. (Written by Abel Berry)

And this is where it gets hard, on one hand I know that each one of these films were made with little to no funding. On the other hand, I also feel that it doesn't always take an ass load of money to make a great film. I don't want to condemn this film or the filmmaker. I'm not here to make anyone feel like shit. But I'm also not going to adjust my opinion based on the fact that I had a conversation with someone in it. It wouldn't be fair to them or to my readers (yes, I have readers :p).

I would've liked to have seen some further exploration on David's struggle to keep his life from falling apart. That would've connected me more to his character. Instead what we got was a shot of him drowning his sorrows in a bottle while holding a picture of his kid. Then a brief but heated phone conversation with his ex. Digging into that a little deeper would've made his character seem more real.

Another thing that bothered me is that I wasn't sure if they were really going for a comedic feel or not. It was hard to distinguish between what was intentionally funny and what wasn't. Any funny line or scene that came along seemed forced and awkward. For example when David's character was having a beer with Jasper (Abel Berry) there was a good 30 seconds where they just uncomfortably stared at each other. I guess it's entirely possible that it was done on purpose but I felt uneasy just watching it.

In a nut shell, I didn't think the film was great but I do think that Abel Berry is a very talented filmmaker and given the right tools, could really go places. I applaud anyone who has the skill and ambition to bring their vision to life. I wish him luck and look forward to seeing what he comes up with next.

06 November 2010

Kill Devil Hill 2010 (Short Film) - REVIEW

Synopsis: A short film based on an unsolved crime that triggered a bizarre series of murders through out North Carolina.

Kill Devil Hill is a debut horror short of Robert "Ace" Jordan and focuses on an unsolved crime case from Kill Devil Hills, NC. The 12 minute short follows the Reed family Jamie (Melinda Bennett), Jesse (Taylor Graham) and their children Joey (Aiden Miranda) and James (Hunter Miranda) as they're preparing to call it a night. What transpires is a horrific tale of possession murder. I won't get into the details because I don't want to give away any spoilers.

For a piece that was shot in approximately 37 hours over 3 days it's remarkably well done. The film is put together nicely although in some parts, the transitions are a little long. There's a bit of CGI introduced that could've been left out and not hurt the film at all. What I find incredible is that for a 12 minute piece it had it all. The tension was there, the acting was spot on and Rob Gokee did an awesome score that only served to enhance the tense feel of the film. If I hadn't read ahead of time that it was a first time directing thing, I'd never have known it.

The biggest thing for me is that by the end, I wanted more but not in a bad way. I think it has the potential to make a great full length feature. A little more explanation to what was going on would've been good but it's not something that you absolutely need to get through it. Every aspect of the film is very well done. I hope to see more from the folks over at Jordanfilm Empirical Pictures very soon!