Fantasia Film Festival 2014: Cybernatural (2014)

Fantasia Film Festival is really something.  The world premiere of Cybernatural included it being hosted by the director Leo Gabriadze and co-producer Adam Sidman.  Much to my surprise, he also managed to match the whole cyber theme and get the first (at least they said so) live Skype Q&A session going with the writer Nelson Greaves, producer Timur Bekmambetov and three members of the cast. As late as this was, it was quite the experience to get everyone there and to hear their thoughts.

Cybernatural

Live Skype Q&A: Hosted by director Leo Gabriadze and executive producer Adam Sidman in person & Writer Nelson Greaves & Producer Timur Bekmambetov

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Courtney Halverson & Shelley Hennig

I had to leave before the Q&A finished but I think I managed to stick around for a good part of it. My suggestion even if you skip this review because you want to see this, DON’T WATCH THE TRAILER! I’m in no way saying it was bad but if you want to be more impacted, just trust me on this one. But then I believe that I enjoy horror movies more because I always skip the trailer.

CybernaturalDirector: Leo Gabriadze

Cast: Shelley Hennig, Renee Olstead, Jacob Wysocki, William Peltz, Courtney Halverson, Moses Jacob Storm

Six teens; Blaire (Shelley Hennig), Mitch (Moses Jacob Storm), Jess (Renee Olstead), Adam (William Peltz), Val (Courtney Halverson) and Ken (Jacob Wysocki) are in a Skype online meeting  on the one year anniversary of a fellow classmate, Laura Burns death after an embarrassing video was posted up by an unknown person.  When Blaire mysteriously receives a message from the dead Laura Barns, and a mysterious person joins their chat with the profile of Laura, they think that someone is playing a prank on them.  Except, things get out of hand when they realize that there is something a lot bigger and more dangerous than even they could control.  Lies and secrets are revealed that pitch them against each other and they realize that whoever is on the other side of is really is making this into a deadly game.

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Cybernatural is a completely new take to what a new age found footage horror flick should be like. Its about webcams, online chats, chat rooms, messaging, Facebook, Youtube and all those goodies we hang around on. Thats why this movie is powerful.  Its about teens who is totally oblivious to the dangers of cyberbullying and the impact.  Its also about how danger can lurk behind the other side of the computer.  Our electronic devices can all be hacked. With the right skills, we can turn something completely innocent into something dangerous.  Its the new unknown.  Thats what always is scary, right? Diving into the unknown possiblities.  Who is on the other side? What is on the other side? Where could they be? Outside your door? Stalking you from their car? Inside your bathroom? In a world where everything is so connected but yet not really that connected, its hard to grasp the dangers and how everyone is very ignorant to all that because its become an everyday aspect of our lives.

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A few days ago, I reviewed a tech thriller from Fantasia Festival called Open Windows (review HERE).  Gearing from the same sort of technology focused found footage, this one becomes more personal as we are now solely on one of the six teens laptop screens.  We are connected with Blaire’s screen.  At the start of the movie, we know nothing about them.  When we first get the messages from the girl that we know died, its scary and creepy.  There is no other way to describe it. At the same time, what makes this all feel real is that we look at a similar screen when we are at home, Blair makes mistakes when she types; she multitasks as she chats with her friends.  She demonstrates to us the accessibility of information but how it can also slowly grow out of control as the situation intensifies.  As I write this up, my heart is starting to pound just thinking of everything that happened in this movie. With that said, Cybernatural is a gripping, intense and unique cinema experience.

 

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I personally think the writer did a fantastic job with putting this script together.  There is a tight knit of story flowing for each of the character’s and it does get  bit emotional as the secrets start flowing out.  The question essentially is who posted up that video? And then I can’t go through this without saying that casting essentially not so popular young actors and actresses are the key to making this successful.  They had amazing chemistry with each other and you could feel the bond and tension between each of the characters even though it was just through the way they talked.

Honestly, I don’t know what else to say except that Cybernatural is a true horrific experience.  Maybe not as horrific as creepy and dangerous. I rarely can be sure about saying a horror movie is good because I’m not ever sure about it but for once, Cybernatural is a piece that is worth your time.  Whether you want to give it chance for the new age found footage experience or you trust me and want to embark on this online session with these teens and learn about their secrets.  Its really one that you have to discover all on your own.  If I said any more, then I’d be spoiling your fun.  We wouldn’t want that, right? 😉

Are you a fan of found footage? What do you think about this new age found footage concept? 

By the way, if you don’t believe how good it is, it was so good that they added a screening so fellow Montrealers who wants to see this.  July 29th is the added screening.  Go buy those tickets because I’m pretty sure they’ll sell out! 🙂

Fantasia Festival 2014: Open Windows (2014)

After a 4 day movie run at the Fantasia Film Festival, I have a few days off to put together these reviews (before my next bunch comes around) 🙂

The first movie to kickoff my Fantasia Festival 2014 is Open Windows, a Spain/USA crime thriller.  Open Windows didn’t start off on a good note technically and it had nothing to do with the movie.  After a server reboot and two stops due to sound issues throughout, the movie did finish playing thankfully and I think despite the irritating sounds during, everyone had a good laugh out of it 🙂 Thats what I like about festivals.  Everyone is pretty chill about these things.  So, I put those things aside and I’m going to write how I felt about this one.

open windowsDirector: Nacho Vigalondo

Cast: Elijah Wood, Sasha Grey, Neil Maskell, Adam Quintero

Nick Chambers (Elijah Wood) is the webmaster of Jill Godard Caught: a website dedicated to a star he obsesses over.  Luckily, he wins the Internet contest to have dinner with Jill Godard (Sasha Grey) except the campaign manager, Chord contacts him and notifies him that Jill has decided to cancel it last minute.  However, Chord makes it up to him by  sending him links that brings him closer to Jill’s life.  However, as the night goes on, Nick realizes that Chord isn’t really the campaign manager and he has something much bigger and more dangerous than he imagined for both him and Jill.

Open Windows is a tech thriller and one that utilizes a found footage-esque sort of approach. I’m not much of a found footage expert.  In fact, I’m relatively new to this genre and honestly, I’ve found zero interest in it.  Maybe its the shaky camera work and the really horrible scripts I’ve seen.  I go into every single movie hoping to like it and finally, I think I’ve found one thats decent.  Open Windows is not with a video camera but its the modern day version of it.  Everything happens on the computer screen of Nick Chambers.  Then it moves onto another technology item as the plot thickens. Its a new take on an overused and not so much appreciated genre (from what I gather) and this gives it a new life. It truly reminds us: everyday people who rely on almost everything with our computers, the dangers behind it. Someone can hack anything, control anything and just rip your life apart. I promise you, the first thing I did when I got home is re-apply a piece of post-it to cover the webcam on my laptop.  I’m not going to striptease nor do I think someone would stalk me but you know, precautions are always good.

Open Windows

I think before we continue with this write-up, you should know that I’m exceptionally stupid at computers and technology.  I make do and I learn bit by bit but I think being on a computer in this day and age is all about multitasking and we have so many different windows going on at the same time.  That is something to prepare yourself for with Open Windows.  Its a bit of multitasking and whats really good is that its really very vocal.  Everything is said out loud and we can follow as to what Chord wants Nick to do the whole way with a few interruptions.  That being said, this is  thriller and to at least keep the thrills on, there really shouldn’t be too much of a reveal here.

Open Windows is a great approach and although sometimes that computer screen can get confusing especially with the sound system problems, the insert of some mysterious characters turns the whole plot around.  Those characters also were responsible for a part of my confusion as they had the main guy had a really heavy accent and with all the voices going on at one point, I just got the jest of what was going on.  The pace of the movie is actually really intriguing and tons of questions pops up right up to the big finale when literally everything turns into a huge twisty pile.  I can’t say mess because I do applaud what they were trying to do even if I needed to sit back for a while (or think a bit about it while I was walking to the bus) about what actually went down. I think I have a good idea of what happened.  Where they sometimes lost me was with the technical thing, but I think the less you know technology the more you can feel the danger of this whole thing and for the most part, I started wondering, how will Nick Chambers get himself out of this situation? Lets not even go to say, how he will save Jill Godard…

Open Windows

Before I get ahead of myself because I know I’m heading in that direction, we need to look at Nick Chambers character. Elijah Wood does an outstanding job and falling into an obsessive fanboy. You know that he is because he catches everything of Jill Godard on his site and takes screen shots of every moment she shows her face.  To a certain extent, it covers his judgement and logic.  To me, it was illogical that I’d click a link from a stranger who calls me claiming to be somebody and I can’t see his face.  On top of that, the link is from a site called hackspot.  Ding ding ding! This cannot lead to something legal, much less something that you want to get yourself into.  BUT, he loves this girl and he’s curious.  Some of you might watch this and think he is dumb but as out there as the ending feels, it gives us the answer we want. I thought it was worth the wait at least.

Open Windows

Now, I’m not familiar with Sasha Grey. I only ever saw her in Would You Rather (my review HERE) and she had a somewhat meh role in that.  She’s definitely gotten herself a better role in Open Windows.  She still gets partially naked once but for the most part, she does carry the movie pretty well.  She’s really just the damsel in distress but at the same time, we’re learning about her since thats who the camera is intentionally stalking.  The question before anything is why does Chord want to do this to her and why would he use the hands of Nick Chambers to do it?

Overall, Open Windows is full of questions like most thrillers should have and a lot of them do get answered by the end.  There are some issues with just logic and judgement with the characters and the ending is a bit complicated, maybe a bit too complex since I got lost for a few moments. There are some parts where I questioned why anyone would do that but Open Windows was done well enough with a fresh take on how it was in that intriguing tech-y found footage-esque approach that I got over all of it and felt the tension as the movie progressed on.  I’m not going to say this is the best thriller I’ve seen but its far from the worst.  It has a lot of potential and it might have had space to be better but everyone does a great job here and I fully appreciated the movie for what it was (even if we had pauses due to technical difficulties) 🙂 I enjoyed it a lot and I would probably give it a second chance, maybe at home with some headphones and subtitles on.

P.S. I’m bumping up Elijah Woods’ Maniac on my viewing list 😉

Since this is just a Canadian Premiere, has anyone else seen this yet? What did you think? Any thoughts on Elijah Woods and/or Sasha Grey?