Double Feature: Turbo Kid (2015) & Hell Night (1981)

Next up in the double feature is the continuation of our catch-up for the New Year’s viewing with a movie set in a post-apocalyptic wasteland in an alternate reality then hopping back to watch some 80s slasher as we work through some of the Shudder selections that we often forget to check out.

Turbo Kid (2015)

Turbo Kid

Directors (and writers): Francois Simard, Anouk Whissell, Yoann-Karl Whissell

Cast: Munro Chambers, Laurence Leboeuf, Michael Ironside, Edwin Wright, Aaron Jeffery, Romano Orzari, Anouk Whissell, Francois Simard

In a post-apocalyptic wasteland in 1997, a comic book fan adopts the persona of his favourite hero to save his enthusiastic friend and fight a tyrannical overlord. – IMDB

Turbo Kid is a wonderful little full feature debut for RKSS, the team that contains the director trio, Francois Simard, Anouk Whissell and Yoann-Karl Whissell. Together they put together this alternate 1997 post-apocalyptic wasteland setting filmed in the secluded Thetford Mines in the province of Quebec where asbestos mining used to be its main activity. Suffice to say, the thought of the setting already gives it a lot of extra points. The 1997 setting also gave this film a lot of the charm with its music selection, its effects, the color palette as well as the outfits of the characters.

turbo kid

On the other hand, the character designs are equally fun. Leading the movie is Munro Chambers who plays The Kid, who finds his heroism through his comic book fandom for Turbo Rider. The Kid lives by himself and has found a way to survive on his own since he was young and the film takes its time to gradually reveal his backstory. At the same time, his subtlety is quickly contrasted by his new friendship with a mysterious and very bizarre girl with an over the top enthusiasm called Apple, played by Laurence Leboeuf. If anything, Laurence Leboeuf does steal the show a little here as her character is colorful both physically an emotionally. There is something so odd about her that makes her the more intriguing to discover. With any hero movie, there has to be a villain and of course,  its not hard to soon discover in the harsh wastelands played masterfully by Michael Ironside, a towering bad guy called Zeus who pretty much controls the scarce resource: water. It doesn’t help that his masked henchman , Skeletron is also as intimidating.

There’s a lot to love about Turbo Kid. Its packed with a lot of creativity and creates an alternate reality that works in a wasteland that makes sense. The acting and characters all have their stand-out points. It also manages to blend comedy and action adventure elements really well to keep it fun while having some more dramatic moments as well.

Hell Night (1981)

hell night

Director: Tom DeSimone

Cast: Linda Blair, Vincent Van Patten, Peter Barton, Kevin Brophy, Jenny Neumann, Suki Goodwin, Jimmy Sturtevant

Four college pledges are forced to spend the night in a deserted old mansion, where they are stalked by the monstrous survivor of a family massacre years earlier. – IMDB

80s slasher films probably mean more to others than it does to me. To myself, its really just a fun little killing romp with a lot of the similar kind of deal. There’s always some kind of bad effects (usually because of the film not aging well) and then it has some disposable dialogue (that at the best of times is very fun to laugh at) and of course, a certain flow of events of the final girl syndrome and the couple having sex that gets killed first and the likes. I’m not well-versed in 80s slasher and really have just mostly seen the main big franchises so I probably don’t appreciate it as much as the connoisseurs out there.

With that said, Hell Night is okay. It has its very similar moments with a lot of the other 80s slashers and falls pretty much where I’d expect it. It drags in the middle a little and its incredibly predictable. The slasher scenes or death scenes aren’t very fulfilling as they just kind of happen and hope to get multiple scares as other characters discover the deaths. The acting itself is rather lackluster and its not helped by some pretty bad dialogue which merited some eye-rolling or laugh out loud moments. There’s some really silly moments in Hell Night.

Honestly, Hell Night is a lot of what you would expect of 80s slasher films, especially the earlier ones. Its not great but it has some entertaining elements that comes with the time. Its not quite as good as some of the more known slasher films but then, I think slasher film has its audience and if you happen to haven’t seen it, its okay. Save it for a rainy day or something.

That’s it for this double feature!
Have you seen either of these films? What are your thoughts?

BITS 2019: Hunter’s Moon (World Premiere 2019)

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Hunter’s Moon (2019)

Hunter's Moon

Director (and co-writer): Matthew Campagna

Cast: Steven Morana, Holly Deveaux, Ari Millen, Colm Feore, Katie Boland, Art Hindle, Marco Timpano, Bobbie Philips, Melissa D’Agostino, Jon Cor

A creature-feature twist on the Agatha Christie Whodunit thriller-genre, that turns into an action-packed race for survival when the killer is revealed. – IMDB

I always say that werewolf movies are really not done enough. In fact, if you look back at the last while, there really hasn’t been too many without them having to pair with the vampires world or some other world. Its why Hunter’s Moon is a movie that hits a lot of elements that become very intriguing and one that breaks through overused topics especially as it hits a clever style of whodunnit (which is a fairly challenging mystery to tackle) and action-paced survival.

Hunter’s Moon is about a video game launch party that has to be hosted by their introvert and anti-social lead designer, August (Steven Morana) who reluctantly takes the reins when the game development company’s owner Brian (Art Hindle) is under scrutiny for some questionable practices. While August would prefer to be anywhere else but the party, he is motivated to be there to meet an online friend, Cheyenne (Holly Deveaux) that he has been interested in furthering their relationship. Unfortunately, the party takes a turn when the guests start falling dead in different ways and its seeming that the game is somehow coming to life in its way. As they try to survive while deciphering who is behind all this, its a rather wild ride.

There’s this very cheesy satisfaction to Hunter’s Moon. Its not that the effects aren’t done well or that there are any technical elements that aren’t done on point. Actually, the scenes itself including the cinematography and the atmosphere matches with the style here, whether its in the first part of the whole who-dunnit mystery investigation or the second part where its a game of survival. The story here feels like a fun little ride. Its never really that intense but its an entertaining fun time, which feels like what its partially trying to achieve. The oddest part of the film is some weird change in tones with its background music especially one specific scene that gets some sudden action happens and then switches to some sexy music. Its a bit odd in the beginning but then its also something has this very satisfying moment to it all in the most awkward way. Plus, the whole werewolf transformation (which is a key element in werewolf films) as well as the whole blood and gore is executed pretty good.

If there were any little things that may have fell a little short, it might be that some of the characters weren’t written well or there was some overacting for some of the supporting cast. There are quite a few smaller roles here and its a question of whether they were intended to have this bit of over the top elements to give them a sort of more comedic element to the film. I can’t quite decide the intention yet. Other than that, there is a certain level of deliberateness to how some items come into play like Cheyenne having a gun in her purse for example. Coincidences sometimes gives the film a level of being on rails but yet, there are quite a bit of unpredictable turns here and transitions that do take it off guard mostly in a good way.

The main cast was very fun to watch including Steve Morana as the male lead here who has this subtle intensity to this character behind his introvert personality paired up with Holly Deveaux as Cheyenne who is a rather bad-ass female character. There are some comedic reliefs  as well as some other more intense characters like Remy (Ari Millen) and even a supporting role from Colm Feore (who honestly seems to appear in some of the less expected films).

Overall, Hunter’s Moon has some little things that fall short here and there but its a fun little experience. Its always great to see these lesser used film story telling themes/genre get used and in one film, they hit werewolves and whodunnit all in one shot along with the backdrop of a video game launch party turned into a night of survival which somehow all fits together rather well. Its shot well and the atmosphere is done well and between all this supposedly more suspenseful environment, there still a good balance of fun entertaining elements. Its a satisfying film overall to watch and so much to appreciate.

As an ending thought, the ending does leave me wondering whether there is space for a sequel because that could be fun.

BITS 2019: Dark Visions Shorts Program

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The last shorts program to be presented at Blood in the Snow Festival 2019 is Dark Visions which features 10 Canadian short films which are dark, scary, moody and intense. 9 of which I was able to check out remotely.

BITS 2019 Dark Visions

Romi (2019)

Romi

Director: Robert Cuffley

Cast: Camille Sullivan

Romi is a 10 minute short about a woman who is terrorized by her virtual assistant Romi after it keeps refusing to let go of her past. This short is fantastically well-executed. In terms of building up the horror of technology and meshing somewhat with the paranormal to add it all together to make it a scary world when technology manages every aspect of everyday life that its malfunction or abnormality will cause uncontrollable consequences. Romi also shot really well with each frame capturing so much in it, giving it space to anticipate something that may or may not happen. This short is every bit scary the event of her past starts to reveal itself again as she tries to push it away and forget it.

The Thought of You (2019)

The Thought of You

Director (and writer): Elvis Deane

Cast: Avelyn Graye, Aundreya Thompson, Letréal Farquharson, Aziza Jaffer

A woman tries to move on from the events of a violent night, but finds that it’s not only trauma that comes clawing back. – IMDB

The Thought of You is almost completely filled in the beginning by a monologue that recaps the traumatic event that has happened and fills in the information with news headlines of what happened for a vague idea. On one hand, the distress of the woman is felt from the start but its easy to feel that the second half as the trauma comes back to haunt her that it makes it much more unsettling to watch. The tension built up in the second half of the short definitely seeps through effectively and the ending it chooses is also great for the situation, leaving a little space for imagination.

Abhorrent (2019)

Abhorrent

Director (and co-writer): David Scott

Cast: Stacey Iseman, Garth Wigle, Alex Friesen, Elliott Scott

Abhorrent is a 15 minute short film about a woman who learns about her husband’s sinister secret and decides to take action to prevent her sons from being badly influenced. Abhorrent is very odd. The way the characters talk are rather weird but then maybe its just the emphasis on the odd characters, making them feel more unsettling to watch. The story itself in the big reveal and all the secrets revealed in the 15 minutes are actually pretty decent. The story itself thought probably could have been done in less time. There’s definitely something more to the story and it leaves a little bit of questions at the end from the different elements of what has hinted at but never completely revealed until the end. The ending is more satisfying than the whole process of the short perhaps.

Polar Tour (2019)

Polar Tour

Director (and writer): Dustin McGladrey

Cast: Delphine Menu, Elizabeth Potskin, Matt Paynter, Crow Billy

Three university friends embark on an adventure they hope never to forget. They chose the Arctic to go polar bear sighting. On their first tour, the engine of the bus breaks down. Isolated, cold and in the dark; they wait for rescue. – IMDB

Polar Tour is a simple short film. Its one that shows three friends stuck in a van stalled in the Arctic. Its not exactly quite as refined and is definitely rather expected but somehow, the isolation and how it uses its territory and the dangers that come with it does work to a certain extent. It doesn’t pull anything out of the ordinary but I have seen a film that tries to use polar bears (even though unseen) as a danger horror element and not a lot of films will have friends heading down to the freezing Arctic instead of the beach or something. It definitely has its unique elements but maybe its just a tad short to have enough of the premise fleshed out to make it have more impact.

Pepper (2019)

Pepper

Director: Kate Felix

Cast: Stennie Bell, Jennifer Hardy, Mathew Chenuz

Pepper is a 7 minute short film about Fidelma who is desperately looking for a job and ends up finding one with Weylon’s farm as his assistant to help him out. When she gets sent to do her first task, it turns out that it might be more than she expected. Its an intriguing little short that plays a lot on the unknown. The mystery of finding Pepper is the main basis as she follows the barks throughout the barn and she gradually starts seeing different things that make her (and the viewers) wonder where it is and probably what twist there is (because it gets oddly suspicious).

Foret noire (2018)

foret noire

Director (and writer): Jean-Marc E. Roy & Philippe David Gagné

Cast: Pascale Montpetit, Charli Arcouette-Martineau, Joanie Guérin, Nadia Essadiqi, Fayolle Jean

Foret Noire is a 20 minutes short about the reenactment of a crime scene ordered by a judge in France to clear up inconsistencies in the murder case, bringing back the three women involved to relive the day step by step in detail. This short is definitely longer in length than most shorts produced and because of that it has a lot of depth to every element. The place that its filmed has this sense of isolation. At the same time, the characters themselves and the little details in their moments and reactions as well as what some of the outside characters observing the case and the Judge’s requests of the little details make the inconsistencies stand out and truly highlight what might actually have been the truth behind the situation or at least where the differences may have occurred without actually ever making it crystal clear on what the truth is. Leaving a little bit of mystery adds so much charm to the storytelling here.

Le otto dita della morte (2018)

le otto dita della morte

Director (and writer): Frédéric Chalté

Cast: Rose-Marie Perreault, Pierre Pinchiaroli

An homage to Italian giallo and an affectionate tribute to the genre in the form of a 70s theatrical trailer for a fantasized faux-film from that era with Italian voice-over pastiche. – IMDB

Structured like a music video of sorts and adding a lot of theatre and drama to each of the scenes adds a lot of style to this short film. Le otto dita della morte has a story that might not be wildly clear on what is going on exactly  but for its short length, it lands to a certain extent of what its trying to pay tribute to. While the music itself is not exactly and some of the style here isn’t exactly something that I particularly like, but the story has some nice elements to it.

She Must Vanish (2019)

she must vanish

Director (and writer): Kyle Martellacci

Cast: Anne-Carolyne Binette, Renny Jachowicz, Meri Spencer, Quinn Bennett, Valerie Taller

In a seaside town, residents succumb to the malevolence of a witch, who sets a fury in motion. – IMDB

Tales about witches are always fascinating to see where it can now take its stories and unique spins from the traditional knowledge of their existence. Meshing a bit of the old and new, this witch tale She Must Vanish has some subtleties as well as the first act that gives it a lot of style in how its all executed from its lighting to to the little details on the witch. However, a lot of the follow-up afterwards uses a simple town and normal everyday and meeting some incredibly cryptic woman along the way that ends up leading to a scene that becomes rather unsettling (and was meant to be) to a scene that felt rather set up but ends on quite a high note in how the witch is revealed. This short is somewhat of a wild ride.

Lady in the Shower (2018)

Lady in the Shower

Director (and writer): Chris Borgo

Cast: Laura Woodbeck, Jennifer Swistun, Chris Borgo

A woman with a shady secret is haunted by a mysterious entity, while taking a shower in a historic hotel. – IMDB

Lady in the Shower is one of the more predictable sort of horror shorts in this group. It has the normal tropes in horror films in general from shadows to what the woman’s secret is and the whole deal behind it even up to some of the ending little bit. At the same time, what does stand out in this short is how the cinematography really does help a more familiar sort of horror give it the style it needs to stand out and become visually appealing.

Short not reviewed from this shorts program:

Dreamcatcher (director: Michael Alexander Uccello)

BITS 2019: Z (2019)

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Z (2019)

Z

Director (and co-writer): Brandon Christensen

Cast: Keegan Connor Tracy, Jett Klyne, Sean Rogerson, Sara Canning, Stephen McHattie, Chandra West

A family find themselves terrorized by their eight-year-old son’s imaginary friend. – IMDB

Coming in a year where Daniel isn’t Real (review) was an outstanding film with an well-crafted evil imaginary friend, Z takes on their own take on what can be done with the imaginary friends premise as well. Taking home the Best Director and Best Feature at the Blood in the Snow Festival this year, this movie does definitely pack quite a punch. 

Its easy nowadays to quickly assume that creepy children and evil actions and the whole lurking camera can bring a lot of general unsettled feeling. Z is a bit different. While it starts off in that familiar way, there is a hint of many great horror films and how it is execute from toning its scene into darker tones inside the house to create the atmosphere and playing with the off-scene sound effects while having the story scripted to progress in a well-paced delivery. These all add up to effective scares and a lot of them are land very well. There are quite a few startling jump scares that are delivered through its atmosphere, lighting and building the tension.

Z

The cast here also delivers some solid performances. The most notable comes from lead actress as Beth played by Keegan Connor Tracy who plays the mother who realizes that her son’s imaginary friend might actually be real and causing him to do troubling things. Beth has a lot of depth and character development and its a fairly subtle performance most of the time with little reactions and expressions running the show until the bigger moments happen. Taking on the creepy child aka the troubled son role as Joshua is Jett Klyne (who we also saw in another BITS 2019 film in Puppet Killer) who definitely delivers on this without any overacting and making it very unsettling. Finally, two actor and actress, Stephen McHattie and Sara Canning respectively, always appears in the most unexpected places and also puts in some great performances as the respective roles of psychiatrist and sister of Beth. 

A family is terrorized by their eight-year-old son's imaginary friend.

Perhaps the one thing to criticize about Z would be that that possibly its budget limited its polish of its effects. In a fire scene, there was some very apparently unreal fire and smoke circling the screen. The appearance of some of the scares while landed really well, also had the after effect of suffering one or two times from having this goofy CGI as well that took about the scare afterwards by a little. This is where we need to talk about creature design of Z, the imaginary friend in question. Z is revealed step by step and there’s a few creepy scenes that works however, there are some moments in close-up or in faster motion that gives it less of the finesse and fear that it should instigate. Luckily, the horror is maintained by how the scene was built up in advance to play up the moment, giving Z’s appearance more of a fleeting jumpscare moment. It is most effective and also frequently, remaining as the unseen presence.

Z

Overall, Z is quite a breath of fresh air. Director Brandon Christensen crafts a movie with very good horror atmosphere. There are some tropes and predictable elements at the beginning but it quickly also increasingly adds in some surprises that startles whether as jump scares or traumatic scenes or simply finding a way to change it to have its own unique elements. Despite some minor CGI effects falling short, this indie horror film takes an innocent imaginary friend concept and breaths a lot of life and builds the tension using its atmosphere and all the surrounding elements as well as great performances by Keegan Connor Tracy and Jett Klyne. A lot of Z’s charm lies in its surprises and unique twists that it takes leading into unexpected territory.

BITS 2019: The Nights Before Christmas (World Premiere 2019)

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The Nights Before Christmas (2019)

The Nights Before Christmas

Director (and co-writer): Paul Tanter

Cast: Simon Phillips, Sayla de Goede, Keegan Chambers, Meredith Heinrich, Jennifer Willis, Kate Schroder, Michael Coughlan, Anne-Carolyne Binette

The Nights Before Christmas is the sequel of 2017’s Once Upon a Time at Christmas. I have never seen the first movie so there is no comparison or expectations going into this one. Alternate Christmas movies are always a welcome a sight and choosing psycho killers who call themselves Mr. and Mrs. Claus is a pretty decent angle to take. There are some very obvious choices here that feel familiar like Mrs. Claus channels a lot of a character like Harley Quinn. There are some scenes that remind of movies like Silence of the Lamb between Clarice and Hannibal Lecter. And then there are elements that fall in the path a little like Halloween with Loomis. Less refined versions of it. There are some good and some bad in The Nights Before Christmas and it applies to almost every aspect of the film which leaves it less memorable than it probably could have been.

The Nights Before Christmas

Let’s start with the positives. The villainous psycho killers are the definite positives here. Mr. Claus specifically, played by Simon Phillips is a wild character that truly takes the whole crazy killer to a whole new level. His character with his blind eye and even the first scene as she commits his crime in the asylum already shows off the type of killer that the story is about to embrace. There is some character in the film that makes a point about him being equal crazy and equal smart and that very well rounds up the character and adds a little more to the story as the unexpected plan comes into play and what his endgame is or even where it all starts. Mrs. Claus is similar to what Harley Quinn is to Joker, who pales a little to the greatness achieved by Mr. Claus. She has the unsettled character but never seems to command the scene the same way but because her character also is rather crazy, nothing really has to make too much sense.  Other than that, the story and twists here are actually scripted relatively well especially when it concerns the scenes with Mr. and Mrs. Claus on the killing spree.

The Nights Before Christmas

This horror film struggles with depth (as a lot of horror films do). Perhaps its the watching it from the second film where I’m going to give it some benefit of the doubt as this one does go back to the roots of where Mr. and Mrs. Claus seems to have started their killing spree after burning down the asylum and surprisingly, it links back to the Woodridge massacre of the previous film. How the timeline all works is something that is a bit fuzzy. Another issue is the script for everyone else is very flat and sometimes illogical or clunky. There are dialogues that don’t quite fit their role, especially for the rather unconvincing FBI special agent role. It leaves quite a lot to be desired in terms of depth to the character itself. While the survivors of the Woodridge Massacre do come into play here and try to build it back up to something intriguing, they don’t appear quite as often to save it and is supposed to have this twist element that doesn’t quite land as none of the characters seem to have enough depth to care about too much.

Its hard to truly give an accurate review of The Nights Before Christmas mostly because the first film may or may not add to the experience here. There’s a certain level of stand-alone to this one where the first movie is not required to understand the story of this one, but maybe it might help. The story is singular to this story. Dialogue is a really important element in a film and somehow its what broke the experience the majority of the time here. Luckily, the villains do glue this film together and gives it some entertainment value. I may come back to this review and further it after seeing the first one to complete the experience but for now, its a tad lacking.

 

BITS 2019: Majic (2019)

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Majic (2019)

Majic

Director (and co-writer): Erin Berry

Cast: Paula Brancati, Richard Fitzpatrick, Marc Hickox, Michael Majeski, Debra McGrath, Paulino Nunes, Anand Rajaram, Michael Seater

An anti-conspiracy video blogger thinks she is slipping into an alternate reality after being approached by an old man claiming to have worked for the legendary Majestic-12 (aka majic), the covert US spy agency, created after the UFO incident at Roswell, New Mexico in 1947. –IMDB

Majic is a mystery science fiction thriller that lands a lot of its punches. In the field of anti-conspiracy and research regarding secret agencies, its hard to be certain what side of it is real even what evidence can be trusted. This is what Majic does exceptionally well. As it dives into the world of debunking conspiracies, we follow a video blogger on a secret meeting with an old man claiming to be part of the Majestic-12 or as he calls it, Majic. As she follows the path he offers her, she ends up going on a road that ends up messing up her timeline. The reality she knows has suddenly slipped into an alternate reality where she struggles to find what is the reality and what is the cause. Is it related to UFOs? What is the truth?

As she falls down the rabbit hole of what is real, all she has left is herself to figure it out and yet, in a story that flips back and forth in what is real and what isn’t, Majic executes its mystery so well that its hard to not sucked into it and get our own minds boggled as well. It remembers that its story is where the complexity lies and keeps the rest of the elements simple and straightforward.

MAJIC

Other than having a well-built mystery, what lifts Majic is a clever script. Its dialogue between the characters leave a lot of room for the suspense and mystery to build. It adds questions on top of questions and doesn’t leave a lot of answers lying in the open. Each encounter is slightly cryptic and yet the back and forth never drags and keeps it intriguing. With a clever script, you also need a great cast to execute it. Paula Brancati plays as the central character Bernwood who does an incredible job in capturing the many states of the character, right up to the big final twist which pulls the whole story together. At the same time, she is faced against two strong performances by Anderson, who is played by Richard Fitzpatrick as well Specter who is played by Paulino Nunes. The latter actually almost feels like this confusing verbal spar that is so satisfying to watch.

Majic

There isn’t enough great things to say about Majic. Its a film that will become a hidden gem of this year (or at least I hope so). It keeps a lot of the other elements simple to boost up the fantastic performances given here especially with a strong female performance by Paula Brancati. Its been a while that I’ve watched a mystery that truly boggles the mind right to the very end with a rather mind-blowing ending that pulls it all together and adds substance to the little detail that ties it all together. Its bit wordy and packed with a lot of quick dialogue for some but this one was a surprisingly great film and one that shouldn’t be missed.

BITS 2019: Emerging Screams Shorts Program

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Emerging Screams Shorts Showcase is a collection of Canadian horror short films featuring either brillian first time directors or the most promising student filmmakers. It features 10 short films over a variety of horror subgenres. There’s a lot f unique visions here whether in script or atmosphere or tension respectively in each of these.

Emerging Screams

Emerging Screams Shorts Showcase is screening at Blood in the Snow Festival on November 24th at 2pm. 

Spectre (2019)

Director: Gabriela Diacon & Mariana Diacon

Cast: Julia Krikorian & Alina Lapteva

Things turn sinister at midnight when Anna realizes a presence in her house. – IMDB

Running at 4 minutes long, Spectre is a very quick short that sets up its atmosphere really well. There are some creepy background details that go on. What is very  nice is how they set up the whole scene of each one, leaving space for the expectation of something to happen to ramp up some dread. Its a bit predictable in how the whole short runs, it uses the off screen and sounds to add to its atmosphere and mood.

Solitude (2019)

Director (and writer): Andrew Fleming

Cast: Andrew Fleming

Solitude is a very short thriller, running at 5 minutes, about a man who disconnects from the city life while campy and canoeing on his own through the Ontario backcountry. What starts out as a calm and mundane trip takes a turn when he discovers something very unsettling. The moment of change from nothing to something takes it off guard. It uses its single tone lurking and building intensity of the soundtrack to fill in the void and quietness and then ends it on a wonderfully clever ending, leaving a lot to the imagination. At the same time, it uses its lighting and darkness to build up the atmosphere and emptiness of being in the wild. Its a wonderfully executed short.

The Acrylic (2019)

The Acrylic

Director (and writer): Daniel Pike

Cast: Athena Kaitlin Trinh, Wendy German, Jarrett Siddall

On the hunt for some new art for her apartment walls, Rosie acquires a bizarre painting from an equally bizarre art collector… – IMDB

The rule of life we can all learn from watching horror movies is to not buy anything too ancient because its probably not going to be too good or something that looks ominous, like a completely blacked out painting. Just like the painting, The Acrylic is rather ominous. There are some very inexplicable things that happen to it throughout the course where as the owner of it probably wouldn’t dismiss like the one in the short. There’s a little leap of imagination to get past that point. However, the great part of this is the creativity in how the story goes and the creativity behind creating the unknown here. There’s some foreshadowing in the dialogue and then it really takes a creepy dark turn and does ramp up the tension very well in how the cinematography works and how each scene is set up to garner its focal point.

Snack Time! (2019)

Director: Kaw Tay Whee School students

Full of hand puppets and made by students from Kaw Tay Whee School which is located in Yellowknife, Snack Time! is all kinds of weird. Running at a mere 4 minutes, its a rather horror comedy sort of deal. There’s flesh-eating puppets with a plan to pretend to be kindergarten kids to find their next snack. Its honestly a bit wild and there are really no words to say about its execution but as a student project, its oddly entertaining. That’s probably the best way to describe it.

Experience Machine (2019)

Experience Machine

Director: Ivana Bittnerova

Cast: Joanna Caplan, Nicholas Koy Santillo, Jonathan Davies

A young mechanic and his family lead comfortable lives in a sleek underground bunker. His life of futuristic luxury begins to deteriorate when the medical device strapped to his wrist is corrupted, revealing the reality of their true dystopian world. – IMDB

Experience Machine is a much more refined short. It has a decent cast with pretty good acting. The story itself builds up the futuristic world that it is set in, giving the setting a background and foundation. The science fiction elements of this future also works with the broken down elements of technology and the luxuries it can bring as well as the escape from reality in the dystopian world. There’s quite a lot to like about the depth in the world created here which leaves a lot of space for its premise to be expanded if ever desired.

Death’s Toll (2019)

Death's Toll

Director (and co-writer): Spencer Hetherington

Cast: Nick Nylen, Rob Hetherington

When the bells toll, the heads roll. A bell tower becomes the harbinger of death at the hands of an ancient creature, Mortuus.

Running at less than 4 minutes, Death’s Toll is a rather peculiar one that doesn’t have much dialogue but lets its own lore to told through the course of events. While I am personally unfamiliar with ancient creature or if Mortuus is a real thing or a figment of the writer’s imagination, the short does achieve a nice cinematography in executing the film to build up on the suspense and the fear. The creature itself is also done rather well. Its a simple and straightforward horror story and there’s a lot of appreciation in creating something without a lot of dialogue.

New Woman (2019)

New Woman

Director: Benjamin Noah

Cast: Rhiannon Morgan, Stephen Oates

New Woman is a gothic tale about a mysterious wealthy woman living in a castle that has recently moved into the area and her invitation to a male pickpocket to her home which ends up into a descent into a labyrinth of terror in 1888.

Definitely one of the more polished short films presented here, this short starts off with a quick note on the whereabouts of the scenario and then follows the woman, their encounter, the invitation, the dinner and then what happens afterwards. The film score is so enchanting and beautiful and a little haunting as well, creating a fantastic atmosphere. At the same time, as the story progresses, there is an edginess and ominous feeling to the beautiful woman and then hints of what she might be. The cinematography of both capturing the beautiful snowy setting all the way to each interaction and focus and when to pull away for the each shot is set up so intricately. This is well-shot, well-executed and well-paced and very mysterious and captivating as a whole.

Trash (2019)

Trash

Director (and co-writer): Suzanna Etheridge

Cast: Ian Etheridge, Suzanne Etheridge, Heather Nice, Michael Russer, Braedan Alexander, Sherri Young

They thought the dump fires were behind them, but something has emerged from the flames. Actions have consequences in this dark fairy tale, reminding you to take care of your trash, before it takes care of you. – IMDB

Starting up a broadcast about the current news and trash and dump fire issues and the focus on missing dog flyers in the area followed by Moonlight Sonata playing, Trash is set in Iqaluit where trash isn’t being taken care by its community well and comes to life to start take action on its kids causing a lot of missing kids. Dark fairy tales are always a welcome sight (in my world). It always anchors itself on a greater issue of the society that calls out for a dark force (that might not be completely right in its execution) and uses its way to share a message. In this case, its about trash and the importance of its being treated and taken care of properly. The Creature here is actually done pretty nice and suitably in shredded garbage bags and such. The quick rundown of the situation is set by its voiceover and the conversations between its members of the community so see the situation. Its a bit disjointed in its execution but the message sent is well worth a watch.

What’s Within (2019)

What's Within

Director (and writer): Haad Bakshi

Cast: Risa Cohen, Kaija Kalev, Vijay Mehta, Ali Shmaisani, Connor Atkins

When everyday problems in a home are seen as routine, Jane, a 16 year old is locked in her room in need of help. Her parents Amelia, and Zach approach her problems as normal teenage behavior. – IMDB

What’s Within takes a clever twist in the dynamic of what is seen as a troublesome teenager daughter behavior and her parents when the expectations or routine of doing wrong causes her to be neglected when she is actually in danger. Call this something of a The Boy Cries Wolf sort of deal but at the same time giving it a lot of suspense to give children the benefit of the doubt. Its a fairly extreme situation presented here and yet its executed with a lot of tension as it lands as a edge of the seat thriller to see how Jane will get out of the situation. A lot of credit goes to how well Risa Cohen does playing Jane as her fear truly comes through. This 7 minute short packs in quite a unexpected experience full of suspense and thrills.

Willa (2019)

willa

Director (and co-writer): Corey Mayne

Cast: Kelsi Mayne, Adrian Jaworski, Bex Carney, Nick Szeman, Gar Reid, Madison Seguin

A classic, haunting ghost story based off of Stephen King’s original tale. – IMDB

Willa is a 15 minute short about a man David who insists on leaving the stalled train in the middle of nowhere to find his fiancee Willa. Stephen King stories are always such great source material to work with. While I’ve never read this short story, Willa is really  nice ghost story. Its about a couple and then about their discovery of the situation on hand. The flow of this short works very well as well as the play of the light and darkness in contrast with the setup of the situation. The little details and the twist in the story all come together. The cinematography of the smoke and how the camera pans over the different scenes adds a lot of depth. Its one well worth watching.

BITS 2019: Dead Dicks (2019)

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Dead Dicks (2019)

Dead Dicks

Director (and writer): Chris Bavota & Lee Paula Springer

Cast: Heston Horwin, Jillian Harris, Matt Keyes, Kristina Sandev

After Becca receives a distressing call from her suicidal brother Richie, she rushes over to his apartment and finds him alive and well – surrounded by copies of his own dead body. – IMDB

Its hard to imagine what experience to expect when you go into a film called Dead Dicks. Is it supposed to be funny and not serious? Or even in general what direction it could all go. As the movie get through its first act, it starts to fit together why its this title, which actually takes a warning in the beginning about seeking help for suicidal thoughts via a hotline and then right away picking up its first opening scene with an intense suicide scene.

Dead Dicks has its dark humor approach to the whole issue while also leaving in some bloody horror, some science fiction and a lot of drama as the siblings both try to get rid of the bodies while dealing with their lack of communication of their feelings towards each other whether its Richie’s suicidal tendencies or his mental illness to Becca’s fear of sharing her successes. The story goes much deeper than is anticipated and gives it a lot to think about by the end. Its easy to expect this as the title is fairly multi-layer from Dick being short for Richard and it having multiple dead Richie’s on the scene as well as the whole layout.

Dead Dicks

Dead Dicks chooses to have a one location setting. The majority of the events happen in his apartment with some starting scenes outside or in the vicinity of it. This gives the apartment a lot of depth in layout and the various places that the different deaths can happen and the bodies. The location has somewhat of a treasure trove element where behind every close door, there is something more to discover that furthers the story. It gives it some twists. Some that are surprising and probably one that felt a tad more predictable. Its one that emphasizes on the details of each scene.

Dead Dicks

The final element that brings the whole film together are the siblings, Becca and Richie played by Jillian Harris and Heston Horwin respectively, who do a fantastic job in each of their roles. Their roles build quite a bit over the course of the film. It has this subtle development as the one night of events brings them both together as they communicate with each other about their own feelings to all come together for a very touching (yes, I said touching and emotional) final act. Its really quite an unexpected moment.

Overall, Dead Dicks is a film that hard to really explain. Its title makes it hard to take it seriously and describing the first part of the film without giving any spoilers also makes it sound rather weird. However, its a movie that is well worth a watch. There’s a lot of appreciation in how it executes the “less in more” in its details, the one location setting, the focus on very little characters of mostly just the sibling relationship which is rather dysfunctional and the effect of mental illness and suicide tendencies. Its rare to call a horror film genuinely emotional and powerful and yet, this one does achieve that. Its not a film for everyone but if you aren’t sensitive to the two elements mentioned above, this one has a lot of unexpectedness to it that really comes together in a subtle way.

BITS 2019: Happy Face (2018)

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Happy Face (2018)

Happy Face 2018

Director (and co-writer): Alexandre Franchi

Cast: Robin L’Houmeau, Debbie Lynch-White, David Roche, E.R. Ruiz, Alison Midstokke, Noemie Kocher, Cyndy Nicholsen

Desperate to become less shallow, a handsome teenage boy deforms his face with bandages and attends a support group for disfigured people. – IMDB

Happy Face is a unique film.  Its brave to make the choice to find a cast with facial differences that plays fictional characters facing a world that is beauty-obsessed. Most view physical differences on obesity or even being overweight (which also used in this story) and facing societal expectations of what someone should look and weigh. However, physical differences that bring judgement and ridicule sometimes are permanent damages. In a year where this is gradually becoming a familiar topic (for example, Dirty God also tackles this topic), its all about the character growth and development and creating intriguing characters that grow alongside the main character Stan (Robin L’Houmeau) who might be “handsome” but has his own shortcomings and motives on a more “inner beauty” level.

Happy Face

Happy Face aims at its authentic and raw experience. Its characters are not linear. Its not because they have facial differences or physical differences that make them deep down fantastic people. In fact, these characters are also flawed in their own ways. However, that just makes them more real as they also have their own dreams and their own bridges to mend and relationships to face. While Stan is the focal character here, somehow his story falls further in the backdrop to the characters in the support group. Its an empowerment story for its characters: all of which having their own issues and sometimes its a much deeper issues than just their facial differences, giving each of them their own depth to reveal as they embrace those moments and get to the final moments to face their own demons and seek out their own answers. At the same time, it challenges  its viewers of their acceptance of these characters just like the steps of therapy that Stan teaches the group about challenging those who judge their differences. 

Happy Face

There are some issues with Happy Face like the story feels slightly disjointed as it addresses all these different characters. Stan’s story feels very lightly touched as its all just insinuating his actual story and how much of it is the truth with snapshots and flashbacks to fill in the pieces that his mother is about to be faced with the difficulties like the support group he has become involved in. And while the story ends in a relatively decent wrap-up, the final act goes into some mind-boggling choices that I’m personally struggling to grasp its entire reason and meaning (particularly one scene). One of the bigger issues here is language. The group itself is all in English with French-accented English with some of the characters while Stan himself interacts with his family with French (English subtitled). It sounds like an odd choice but in the demographic of where they are, it feels like a more authentic experience might be to do it in French and then subtitle it in English. That is not so much a criticism as a personal preference that might feel more natural (but of course, perhaps there are elements here like other cast members in the consideration and viewer convenience that I’m not aware of).

Happy Face

Happy Face is not an easy movie to watch in the beginning. Its also hard to evaluate a film like this because its a careful territory to tread on. The topic here is touchy to say the very least. Its heart is in the right place. There’s a lot to appreciate about this film that deserves a viewing just from its authenticity and the message its trying to send out.

*Happy Face has a screening at Blood in the Snow Festival on November 22nd at 7pm. You can find the info HERE for the festival.*

What’s Up: Week 46 Blood in the Snow Festival is right around the corner…

Tranquil Dreams (48)

A week of vacation is upon us and the recap of it actually is surprisingly not quite a lot, especially since we just had a stay-cation so still around our home quite a bit. However, a lot of it was in the relaxing state so all doing things that I wanted to do while catching on a few little errands and eating good food and you know, the having fun not in the house variety. I’ll share those adventures at the end of the month in the November Adventures post. For now, lets look at the week!

READING

Proximity

  • Proximity by Jem Tugwell

Currently reading: Love, Potions & Other Calamities

And we are done with Proximity! Its a pretty clever little mystery and suspense thriller which plays on a future that could happen if technology were to control our lives or due to the overdependence of it in the future. A premise that definitely applies very well to questioning certain elements of a technology-filled world and how it applies to the investigation. I’ll talk more about it in the upcoming review. As for now, I just started reading Love, Potions & Other Calamities. Its too early to say anything yet but I have great hope that it will be great as this author Charlie Laidlaw has released some solid novels.

PLAYING

Afterparty

Currently playing: Afterparty & Cube Escape: Paradox

An hour down and a bunch more to go for Afterparty but its a start. Afterparty is a game that I’ve been anticipating since its announcement so I’m working hard to get some hours into it. Only thing hindering it is that whole Cube Escape: Paradox that I started but never got around to finishing it as its very difficult. I’m going to wrap that up before continuing on with Afterparty.

WATCHING

As the final festival of 2019 is among us, yet again the watching section will be split between two sections. The normal viewings and the festival viewing. The festival hasn’t actually started BUT remote coverage means some reviews can start going up as it approaches so if you are in the Toronto area, you can always go and catch it during this festival run.

Murder on Orient Express

  • Creepshow 2 (1987) Friday Film Club
  • Murder on the Orient Express (2017)
  • The Ice Storm (1997)

If only I had a 2007 then I’d have watched films ending with 7s over 3 decades. It wasn’t intended until I noticed the pattern here. Either way, Creepshow 2 was my pick for the Friday Film Club and I’ve shared the link up there. However, the movie that caught my attention the most was Murder on Orient Express which finally landed on Netflix so I jumped right on it during vacation week to catch up and it did not disappoint. As for The Ice Storm, its part of the Movies and Tea new season which is starting up soon with Ang Lee’s filmography.

Blood in the Snow Festival 2019 (Remote coverage)

Puppet Killer

  • Puppet Killer (2019)
  • Liaison (short 2019) Review
  • Housekreeping (short 2019) Review
  • Happy Face (2018)
  • Copenhagen Road (short 2019) Review

I’m slowly getting into the Blood in the Snow Festival screeners day by day and working out a nice schedule to get the writing done. Its been a lot of procrastinating and pondering. Hopefully by the time this gets out, the review for Puppet Killer will be listed as done above. I spent a few days thinking about it and putting together the review and its really growing on me.

BINGING

Wait My Youth

  • Wait, My Youth (2019)
  • Nailed It! France (Season 1, 2019)

Currently binging: Lipstick Prince (Season 2), Relation Ship, Green Eggs and Ham, Chase Me, Who’s the Murderer (Season 5), Viva La Romance (Season 3)

Go ahead! Tell me to pick my favorites this week! Not an easy task. Everything I watched was really awesome. Wait My Youth was the TV series that I chose as the series to watch during my week off and it was a ton of fun. I’m a huge fan of the male lead, a young actor with a lot of potential. Nailed It! France was hilarious to watch as well. The husband and I has pretty much pinpointed that understanding the language does help in the enjoyment of these things but this host also seems more in line with our type of humor than the other foreign version we saw, I think it was Nailed It! Mexico (review). I’ll probably do a TV binge on Nailed It! France soon!

Even my currently binging stuff, which is more currently playing, except for Green Eggs and Ham, has been pretty entertaining. All the variety shows and reality shows and whatnot have just been a blast to watch. I sometimes play the episode in the background when I’m writing to watch again. Its rare that I do that usually. Unfortunately a lot of them don’t have subtitles. But then, I’m translating the 90% of Chase Me, which is a celebrity Ultimate Beastmaster tag concept game on Zhejiang TV (on Youtube), for my husband as he also finds it very amusing to watch. Not to mention Season 5 of Who’s The Murderer is set on a cruise ship so its awesome plus it has Boran Jing (who I like a lot) as one of the participants. Viva La Romance Season 3 also started (and I just realized that I never finished Season 2..oops) and it has Miriam Yeung and I never knew a lot about her after she got married so its a fun little wife’s trip. So far, its been pretty cool. Lots of a great shows!

That’s it for this What’s Up!
Week 46 already of 2019! Its crazy!
But then, we have started setting up for Christmas..so I guess its not that crazy, right?

What have you been reading/watching/playing/binging?