Fantasia Fest 2015: Bite (2015)

Black Fawn Films has been on fire with tons of horror.  The year before last, it was Antisocial.  Last year, it was responsible for The Drownsman.  This year, other than Antisocial 2 (which I will review next), its Bite.  The love and passion for horror is fully apparent in the producers and directors at Black Fawn Films.  The Drownsman aimed to bring in a new memorable figure just like how Jason and Michael Myers was supposed to do and for Bite, it is at the level of David Cronenberg’s The Fly (which I haven’t seen).  Regardless, I chose this film because despite having a little issue with The Drownsman, there is no doubt that director Chad Archibald is really great at doing horror and for all that passion I see during last year’s Q&A, I would go see whatever other projects him and his company will release.  So there I was, lining up super early, because I had nothing else to do, at the world premiere of Bite.

Right before the movie, we get a little gift handed out to us and I tweeted about it.

Official Bite Barf Bag

Official Bite Barf Bag, includes: promotional card for Bite and Antisocial 2 and 2 mints

That was a thing and it made me a little worried about what to expect.  I usually can stomach pretty gruesome things but really? A barf bag? At least it got me mentally prepared ;)

Bite (2015)

World premiere

Bite

Director: Chad Archibald

Cast: Elma Begovic, Denise Yuen, Annette Wozniak, Jordan Gray, Lawrene Denkers

Casey (Elma Begovic) going away with her two girl friends Kirsten (Denise Yuen) and Jill (Annette Wozniak) to Costa Rica for her bachelorette party.  While exploring there, she gets bitten by something in the water.  When she gets home, what seemed like a small bite starts to get infected and worsen.  Soon, she starts feeling a change.  These changes intensifies as her fear for getting married with her fiance Jared (Jordan Gray) shadow over her.

I’m sure that whole disgusting thing is looming in the background of your heads after the whole barf bag gift so I’m going to start with that.  While I don’t know if it was related to the movie or just the massive heat wave we had last week, I do know that one girl seemed like she wasn’t doing well as she exited the theatre after the first scene or two that was pretty stomach-turning.  At the end of the show, they were saying that 3 people left and paramedics had to come.  I sure hope they are doing alright but yes, while I didn’t need to use my barf bag, there were a few scenes that it was so revolting that I resulted to taking off my glasses for one or two scenes and turned away for a few seconds in the earlier ones.  If that was their goal, applause to them, hell, even standing ovation to a phenomenal job!

bite

Consider that part more of a warning of what to expect than my criticizing it because Bite was a very good horror movie.  It starts off in a pretty mellow way to set up the situation of how Casey and her feelings towards her upcoming wedding and her dynamics with her friends and their personality.  It gives us hints of what will happen.  Being away only took a little bit of time but being back in her place, it doesn’t have a lot of places that it moves around from.  Casey and her apartment building is where mostly everything happens and that location has a really nice atmosphere to it (even though the exterior of that building makes me question its believability as a residential building).  The atmosphere is what I love the most about Chad Archibald’s work, even in The Drownsman last year.  This one has a rather sombre texture to every scene, especially when Casey starts her transformation.  That whole set of her apartment is a work of art in the third act in all its super nauseating and creepy way.

I guess the only thing I can rag on about Bite is the dialogue.  Its not exactly engaging and it can be too much.  The opening sequence was a little bit of burden and I got a little worried we had entered into the found footage film which only applied to that first little bit in the exotic getaway part where they were setting up the stage.

While, the best parts is in some very good performances from the cast.  The very successfully mean future mother in law was done in the most convincingly nasty way that you will hate everything about her.  Casey was portrayed very well by Elma Begovic.  The whole physical transformation and the things she does, her reactions are really awesome.  She was able to embrace the character from emotional fear to the physical changes. As for the other characters, the best friends have this balance of good and bad while the fiance, and I honestly believe his character was meant to be like this, a little frustrating and kind of a jerk. But that is the character and everyone fit well in their spots so I’m happy with it.

Bite

Q&A Session

Overall, Bite is a very good horror film. The cast was great at letting us know the characters in this story especially Elma Begovic as the main character Casey. While the first act isn’t quite as solid, it picks itself up in the second act and excels in the third act.  The atmosphere and particularly the set is done very well.  One of the most outstanding features is in the incredible set transformation and also Casey’s transformation from the after effects of the bite.  Its a slimy, gooey and very disgusting movie but if you can stomach it, you definitely should give this a go! :)

Thoughts on Bite?

Fantasia Fest 2015: Cop Car (2015) & Black Eyes (Short 2015)

Now that Fantasia (for my rundown) is done and I had the weekend to recuperate a little (so very little), I can put my energy into getting last week’s movies reviewed and done! Moving along, the next movie is a break from horror and we jump into a thriller hosted by director Jon Watts and actor and co-producer Kevin Bacon. I mean, the Kevin Bacon, (you know, Footloose) was here in Montreal at Fantasia! Consider me excited! :)

We started with the world premiere of a short called Black Eyes. Its features the same boy that is in Cop Car.

Black Eyes

Alex discovers Alice trying to commit suicide. When she hesitates he offers another path. Using special effects makeup, the kids pretend to die and become zombies.-IMDB

Black Eyes started a little weird.  The chemistry was a little awkward but it turned out to be really fun and kind of a little dark humor given the premise of it all. When it ended, I liked it quite a bit.

Cop Car (2015)

Canadian Premiere

Cop Car
Director/Co-writer: Jon Watts

Cast: Kevin Bacon, Hayes Wellford, James Freedson-Jackson, Shea Whigham, Camryn Manheim

Two boys, Travis (James Freedson-Jackson) and Harrison (Hayes Wellford), run away from home looking for an adventure. They come across a cop car in the middle of nowhere and they even find the keys for it. They end up driving off with it to have some fun except what they didn’t  know is that this car belongs to the sheriff (Kevin Bacon) and he will do anything to get it back.

cop car

Cop Car is an intriguing thriller.  There is a lot of sounds and not so much dialogue. The deserted location makes for a nice emphasis on the small town boys.  Still, in between the physical nothingness, there seems to be something to read between the lines.  Like, what I noticed is that the adults are much more quiet.  They are deceiving and cunning.  None of the adults in this are saying the truth when they open their mouths.  There’s always a hidden agenda.  But against the boys, Travis and Harrison are young and simple and maybe even a little naive.  They want to seem like big boys but you can read them like an open book.  Its a movie that asks for the audience to read body language a lot, especially with Kevin Bacon’s character as the sheriff.  He almost has no lines but you can read his character more and more as the plot thickens.  That in itself makes this very engaging to watch.

cop car

For sure, you will wonder how the young boys are able to drive the cop car but lets put that aside as we suspend that disbelief. Even the director didn’t  want to ruin that magic when asked during the Q&A session.  You know, I didn’t even think about that while I was watching this.

What we have here is a great look at a talented small cast that can take a rather simple script and make it engaging. Allowing the audience to connect with the young boys as we watch them make some decisions and try new things that might make you fear for them.  Travis and Harrison, played by James Freedson-Jackson and Hayes Wellford respectively, are very fun to watch.  They are young boys and they want to look for adventure.  This might not be the adventure they are looking for but their characters are genuine and convincing.  They sometimes make you laugh because of the sporadic choices or the silly outbursts or their clearly inexperienced ways to deal with certain situations.  As they come across the sheriff and other characters, you watch them grow as the things get more intense and the situation becomes more serious.  At the same time, we watch their characters also shape up to be something more than what was in the beginning.

cop car

Now, time to look at Kevin Bacon. I’ve taken a few days (its like a week after I saw this movie) to kind of let the hype of being in the same room as someone as famous as Kevin Bacon die down.  The Q&A session was fantastic.  Kevin Bacon and Jon Watts are really great at answering the questions.

Before I get carried away, Kevin Bacon as the evil sheriff who is a little ruthless and deceiving and just all kinds of bad.  His character didn’t talk much but because he is such a good actor, he was able to show us through this body language and his expressions/reactions just the calm and collected guy he is trying to portray, a facade he has when he is in public while slowly as the situation intensifies, the real him pops up more and more.

Overall, Cop Car is a simple story but one that uses a great mix of sound, location and a minimal amount of characters to make it all work.  The character development and how we, as the audience, grows to care for the characters, is a huge plus.  It is well paced and at a very nice 88 minutes runtime, Cop Car gave us an increasing dose of tension and thrills as the plot thickens and a few surprise reveals. The kids may have taken the car for a joy ride but its one for all of us as well.

**Following that thought on the Q&A before, I wish that I could publish that one (and I’ll try to figure out how to make a Youtube video or something with snippets of the Q&As).  It was pretty nice.  People asked Kevin Bacon about the meaning of life (which we all laughed) and the difference between independent films and big budget films (filming done in 9 days versus 9 months and his words, “you don’t get paid”).  While Jon Watts got questions about “how he thinks it’ll differ for him in the experience of going from directing Cop Car to Clown to the upcoming reboot of Spiderman (he doesn’t know) and why he likes using kids in peril as central characters.  It was a pretty fun and memorable Q&A session. Sadly, I was seated pretty high up that my picture of them was so small and blurry, I didn’t post up the picture here but I’m still cursing myself for not bringing the DSLR.**

Genre Grandeur – Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events (2004) – Tranquil Dreams

Kim @ Tranquil Dreams:

This month’s Genre Grandeur at MovieRob is all about Dark Comedies! My choice is none other than one of my favorite movies that I revisit a few times a year called Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events. A children’s story that isn’t happy and fluffy but takes the dark and gloomy and deals with death while bringing in some sarcastic humor? Now, that’s what dark comedies are all about.
Remember head over there and give check out the review and other entries. There are some very awesome choices! :)

Originally posted on :

darkFor this month’s next review for Genre Grandeur – Dark Comedies, here’s a review of Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events (2004) by Kim of Tranquil Dreams

Thanks again to Reut of Sweet Archives. for choosing this month’s genre.

Next month’s Genre has been chosen by Steven of Past Present Future TV and Film  We will be reviewing our favorite B&W films prior to 1990. Please get me your submissions by the 25th of August by sending them to b&w@movierob.net  Try to think out of the box! Great choice Steven!

Let’s see what Kim thought of this movie:

______________________________________

Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events (2004)

a series of unfortunate events

Director: Brad Silberling

Cast: Jim Carrey, Jude Law, Emily Browning, Liam Aiken, Kara Hoffman, Timothy Spall, Catherine O’Hara, Billy Connolly, Meryl Streep

The Baudelaires are a wealthy family. The parents were frequently away but the Baudelaire children all had their abilities…

View original 445 more words

Unboxing: Arcade Block [July 2015]

Monday was a fantastic day.  Weird to say it about a Monday, right?

Well, I had a really hot weekend, weather-wise that got me a sunburn while eating a lot. I’ll talk about that in another post soon.  Sun and fatigue from running around the festival and everything going on in life kind of crashed and hit me this weekend and my body just wanted to sleep A LOT. So I passed out early at night and woke up a little earlier than normal, got a ton  of stuff done.  Long story short, it was a great weekend that made Monday great, even if we got a crazy thunderstorm.

Because of the thunderstorm that lasted for hours on and off, when I got home from work, my two mystery boxes were at my doorstep, soaked in rain. To make sure there wasn’t any damage, I did the unboxing without my fiance so while I kept the other box as a post (which will be up soon), I did the unboxing for the Arcade Block as a video. Its the first time I did editing on YouTube directly and I haven’t vlogged or made a video in a forever (maybe a few months ago at least), so umm…if its boring, I’m sorry…But I tried and its less than 7 minutes long so its worth it!

Hint: The gear is awesome! :)

What did you think of the gear in Arcade Block this month?

Which do you prefer: Unboxing videos or posts like THIS?

I wasn’t planning on posting this up but its kind of a timely thing to post these unboxing ones.  And I’m having quite a traffic jam of posts over here from stuff needing to be written (Festival film reviews) and a ton of other things because I’ve been out late all the time for the Festival. Enjoy!! :)

Fantasia Fest: Tales of Halloween (2015)

My first ever horror anthology everyone! And I get to start it with a world premiere of Tales of Halloween directed by some awesome directors who happen to be hosting the event also.  Included in this group is definitely one of my favorite directors, Neil Marshall, the guy who directed The Descent which is one of my favorite horror movies.  Before the movie started, a few of directors hadn’t seen the final cut because its has only been completed a few days according to them.  To them, this is a project among good friends who would want to direct a movie together and that resulted in 11 directors for 10 stories in this horror anthology. For this one, I was that crazy person scribbling on my notebook in the dark without looking at the paper while the movie was playing and my eyes were glued to the screen. The hype in the theatre was incredible.  Tales of Halloween might be one of the best theatre experiences I’ve had! It defines why I always love going to Fantasia even if it means lining up 80 minutes in advance outside.

Let’s check it out!

Tales of Halloween (2015)

World Premiere

Tales of Halloween

Sweet ToothDave Parker
The Night Billy Raised HellDarren Lynn Bousman
TrickAdam Gierasch
The Weak and the Wicked – Paul Solet
Grim Grinning GhostAxelle Carolyn
Ding DongLucky McKee
This Means WarJohn Skipp & Andrew Kasch
Friday the 31stMike Mendez
The Ransom of Rusty RexRyan Schifrin
Bad SeedNeil Marshall

I’m going to try to keep this short.  Each segment was maybe about 10-12 minute pieces or so and it was in that order up there, title with the respective director for that piece.  Tales of Halloween is set in a small American town where these 10 stories take place in different areas and at various timelines where you’ll see characters crossing in each other’s stories.   It features all things Halloween from ghosts, witches, killers, monsters and a whole lot more that you should go and discover.

Tales of Halloween

I wasn’t so sure that I’d be into horror anthology and to be honest, the first trailer released for Tales of Halloween really didn’t quite get me so eager to see it.  What sold me was the Comic-con trailer that was a lot more detailed and well, Neil Marshall being there.  The Q&A for this one was really great, just to hear their experiences and working together and how to put it together.  There is one thing that you can’t doubt: the passion and heart put into Tales in Halloween.  There is a ton of it!

Going into an anthology for the first time, I had the expectation that it would be hard to follow and wondering whether there would be correlation between the stories.  As it happens, there was a lot of little details from the directors appearing in each other’s stories to characters crossing through stories as it all takes place in various time lines through this town.  The second expectation is that I’d probably end up liking one more than the other for reasons of different style or whatnot.  In a way, that was true. I didn’t like all the stories equally but they were all entertaining and I didn’t hate any of them but they all definitely had different styles.

Tales of Halloween

Tales of Halloween sets the tone right at the beginning like its taking us into a town on the day/evening/night of Halloween.  The opening sequence was done so well.  It was kind of cartoony and had this really nice score in the background as we had the narrator take us into the town and we got snapshots of each story and their directors.  At least that’s what I remembered it was.  I just loved it a lot and it pulled me right into being the excitement of watching this.  Right off the bat, we step into the first story, Sweet Tooth and it takes us right into the mood as we have teenagers scaring a little kid about legends of this character called Sweet Tooth revolving candy and trick or treat and Halloween traditions.  Honestly, there is no better way to take everyone into Halloween than that.  As the other stories unfold, we have neighbors fighting for who decorates their lawn better, flipping the perspective around to trick or treat, slight turns of faint, facing demons and bullies and haunting ghost stories.  It all comes into the mix with all the symbols we’d associate with Halloween played into this mix and then ending it with something a big finale of action and craziness.

A lot of thought was put into organizing the Tales of Halloween so that they would flow well together and build the Halloween mood.  What’s nice is its not just scares, there’s quite a bit of sarcasm and comedy in it all and it really lifts the movie.  There was some stories that didn’t quite have me into it all the time but there was also the whole idea of knowing how good a director is when it knows when to play the audiences expectations, be it a jump scare or a turn of events.

I really don’t want to dive into this too much.  Overall, Tales of Halloween is an impressive horror anthology with a fantastic opening sequence, catchy score and a nice mix of horror subgenres while giving it a thoughtful flow of events.  Nothing makes a movie better than feeling the talent mixed with heart and passion put into a project.  Tales of Halloween is an entertaining set of stories and if you get a chance, you really need to check this out for yourself! :)

Have you heard of Tales of Halloween? What do you think of it: directors, cast, premise, trailer? Do you like horror anthologies? Any recommendations?

TV Binge: Pretty Little Liars [Season 5]

There’s something quite magical about Pretty Little Liars that’s made it to Season 5.  I started Pretty Little Liars when it was somewhere in the middle of Season 3 a few summers ago and as much as I really didn’t think much of it to begin with, I don’t even know why I started.  Maybe its because I thought I’d be stepping into yet another high school TV series (which I like a lot).  I mean, I’ve liked Gossip Girl, The OC, 90210, and all that stuff.  Its always a fun time.  Pretty Little Liars has somewhat of a different dynamic. It sets a creepy atmosphere and adds a ton of mystery and drama and intensity to 4 girls who has a lot of secrets and gets manipulated by a mysterious person called A through texts and other forms of messages.  Originally they think A is their dead friend Alison but things take a turn around when you learn one thing in Pretty Little Liars:  Never believe anything that happens because any twist can happen and probably will ;)

There is never a series with more plot twists that I’ve seen than Pretty Little Liars.  But the key is, I believe it every time.  Its got some pretty solid characters and somehow finding out who A is never gets old.  Lets stop this rambling and check out Season 5!!

Note: If you haven’t seen Pretty Little Liars or not Season 5 yet, you might want to refrain from continuing.  Possible spoilers (that I will try to avoid) and if you haven’t seen it, you will get lost and confused.

Pretty Little Liars

Creator: I. Marlene King

Cast: Lucy Hale, Ashley Benson, Troian Bellisario, Shay Mitchell, Sasha Pieterse, Ian Harding, Tyler Blackburn, Janel Parrish, Keegan Allen

So far, I’ve been happy with Pretty Little Liars. In general, they’ve kept me well entertained and really into it.  But I’d be lying if all the past 4 seasons have been totally and completely great.  Which series has those moments constantly, right? I do give the creator and her crew praise that they can pull so many twists and make this still a pretty intriguing adventure in the search for who is A.  That centre plot is the most relevant and the most captivating.  Whereas, the past season or two (I can’t remember anymore) has had frustrating moments in character developments and relationships (as most teen-based series will have). I never did a full review of the past seasons since I only launched TV Binge segment this year but that’s the overview.

Jumping into Season 5, there are definitely more pros and cons.  The intensity is completely back and the whole dynamic is different because guess what, when we ended Season 4, we now know for sure that Alison is alive and she’s running.  Which means, she isn’t A (or is she?).  Who is after them? After a crazy beginning where they finally think they are rid of A, they come to realize that maybe A just took another holiday to set up for something a lot bigger and badder than before, just showing the girls how intricate the plans can be.  Not that we didn’t know that before.

pretty little liars s5

What’s really great is the change that Season 5 brings.  Aria, Spencer, Emily and Hanna and now Alison are the focal points of this series, there is no doubt about it.  Their boyfriends and family all seem to just be decorating backdrops for them but what I appreciate more is that A is now in the open.  Some of their close ones know about them and as their danger of sitting in orange jump suits grow, the boyfriends have to step up and have a bigger role. It changes the whole chemistry of the situation.  Something that was well needed a few seasons back.  On the other hand, this also gives space for some characters to fall into lesser roles and some lesser roles in previous seasons to have bigger roles. A show like this stays fresh by knowing when to keep and ditch certain characters and so far its been effective enough. Plus, each character can spin something a little more with their back story to make it keep going.

pretty little liars

While Pretty Little Liars is about the 4 main girls, I really like the character of Mona because she’s deep and mysterious.  There’s always more to her character.  Its like every time something happens, her layers fall apart.  In the end, Mona is just a simple smart girl who wants to be accepted for who she is. When the main girls get annoying, Mona, even in her evil and bitchy personality is the breath of fresh air and the fact that she’s becoming a huge focus in Season 5 makes this quite awesome.

pretty little liars s5

Mind you, don’t think that I’m saying its anything other than dramatic.  It is pretty dramatic but Pretty Little Liars has its lame and/or ridiculous moments but it has a solid cast and a decent storyline that keeps the audience intrigued, especially when who is A turns to who are A then by the end of this season, we were promised a name to match A.  A is everywhere and nowhere and even when you think you win, you really haven’t.  A is a bitch, whether its a guy or a girl and you never know who to trust.  Just like any series set in some form of fiction, Pretty Little Liars needs you to suspend your disbelief a little and just go with the flow of things while mildly trying to guess who A is.  If you can do that, Pretty Little Liars is a fun ride with some rather effectively creepy moments ;)

Season 5 does pick up after the first few episodes and takes the series into a new direction that I’m rather happy with. Now for Season 6! :)

Have you seen Pretty Little Liars? Are you still watching it or have you given it up? 

Fantasia Fest 2015: Anguish (2015)

The wake up call hits when its a week ago that I went to go see the world premiere of this horror film called Anguish. This one had a trailer that creeped me out so much I pretty much didn’t finish watching it and stood waiting for the movie to start so early that I had time to get all nervous about how scary it might actually be.  I’m sure amping up my expectations on something I essentially knew nothing about wasn’t a great idea but you know what, so far in the two years of Fantasia, I’ve made some pretty good choices especially in smaller films so I’m pretty excited.  In an afterthought, my suggestion is to NOT watch the trailer ;) However, mine will be a spoiler-free review and I’ll keep it relatively short to not go into too many details so here we go!

Anguish (2015)

World Premiere

Anguish

No poster so here’s from the director Sonny Mallhi hosting the world premiere of his movie, Anguish

Director/Writer: Sonny Mallhi

Cast: Ryan Simpkins, Annika Marks, Karina Logue, Amberley Gridley

Sixteen-year-old Tess (an astoundingly powerful Ryan Simpkins) may be young in age, but she’s already had several lifetimes worth of psychological distress, beginning randomly when she was found banging her head into a wall at the age of five. Through the years, her mother has tried everything, every specialist, every alternative treatment, to bring her into balance. The closest thing to a proper diagnosis that doctors have been able to assign to her mental condition is an identity disorder, and in a sense, that’s not incorrect. Tess’s identity is horrifically disordered — because it’s being encroached upon by spirits of the dead. – Fantasia

Before we start the review, what you should know is that Anguish is inspired by true events of people suffering with unexplained psychological disorders (or that’s the idea of it if I remember correctly).  They clarify it more in the beginning of the movie.  Regardless, that’s a good point to remember as you watch it.

Anguish

Anguish is the directorial debut for Sonny Mallhi who is the producer and/or writer of a good few films that we all know ranging from The Lake House to The Roommate to the much more well received The Strangers.  Last year, I almost went to see another movie he produced at Fantasia called At the Devil’s Door.  I’ll probably give that a watch for the Halloween marathon later this year.   He definitely has a knack for horror and in Anguish, he succeeds at writing and directing a very atmospheric spirit possession movie.  However, as I mentioned in the opening paragraph, I blame part of my lack of fright because the trailer reveals a lot of the scares to expect in the first act.  They are still quite creepy and will give you that chill down your spine regardless.  For those who go in with less knowledge, this one will give you plenty of scares.  The scares build from utilizing his background sounds and knowing when to isolate sounds in that environment and using an ambient soundtrack that creates the mood the audience needs to be in.  The story premise itself is also pretty good.  It does sometimes feel a little predictable with reminisces of Insidious (for one example).

Anguish

The setting that they choose for Anguish is also very good with lots of nature and contrasts of the city scene.  It gives space for the change in scene and mood that’s well needed for the story.  Some shots are done so well that they captured in my memory quite a bit.  However, Anguish focuses very much on women because we look at two parallels in mother-daughter relationship and the ties they  have.  It pulls in a good level of drama and struggle and successfully allowing us time in the well-paced story to bond with sixteen year old Tess.  While we’re talking about Tess, she is such a central character and Ryan Simpkins does a great job of capturing Tess and making us wonder about her mental disorder and how much it has to do with this being haunted business.

Anguish is a little movie that deserves a lot of attention.  While it may suffer mildly from predictability, it does a great job at building the perfect creepy and chilling atmosphere blending it with a suiting sounds that will make you jump up from your seat with some of the scares.  You will feel anguished and dread what will happen one scene after another.  Not quite as much about jump scares as it is about making this a psychological journey in the horrific world that Tess gets dragged into. There’s something pretty awesome about Anguish and its worth a watch! :)

Have you heard of Anguish? Are you a fan of some of the movies that Sonny Mallhi has produced and/or wrote?