My November Adventures 2021!

Wow! November is already done! Some things wrapped up and the final film festival coverage wrapped up for this year already. A lot of little preparations went up and some more thinking started for next year’s plans. Basically a month with a few things that are too early to talk about but still a few overviews to work on.

Halloween Marathon Extended Done!

Last month, I made the executive decision to extend the Halloween marathon. Suffice to say that the big part of it was a fail however, it did give it a chance to align with the final film festival coverage of the year which had a few horror titles to add in. With that said, the next marathon is just around the corner so let’s hope that it goes better than this one.

Still, for those interested in the Halloween horror marathon list, its been updated on the menu already right HERE.

Blood In The Snow Film Festival

Blood in the Snow Film Festival was the final film festival coverage for us. There’s nothing else after this for the rest of the year as we head into the holidays and a lot of other housekeeping and year-end round-ups start up. The remote coverage for their on location film festival portion was pretty nice. I covered all the full-length features and due to time constraints didn’t get around to any of the short films. If you checked out the Halloween marathon link above than its essentially the same in part. However here are the films covered from my favorite to the least enjoyable:

Restaurant: 1930 Shanghai

After craving some soup-filled dumplings aka Xiao Long Bao for an entire month, I finally got to go try out this restaurant on location. I’ve only had them last year takeout. It was still great but the travel time does take away from the fresh hot element. I forgot to take pictures of the pan-fried dumplings but they were all pretty good. I do think that the pan-fried combination of chicken and cabbage wasn’t too great and the juicy sweet pork dumplings were a tad on the too sweet side and preferred the classic soup-filled dumplings and the pan-fried leek, pork and shrimp ones. These two were very delicious.

Announcement: Holidays Marathon

December is here and with that the holidays marathon. A little change this year due to the simple lack of material tp cover at the current moment that I am interested in and some other year end stuff to deal with so will probably start the 10th which gives it two weeks and possibly run further into before new year’s if there is suddenly more films to cover.

The Coming Plans Update (follow-up from last month…)

Last month, I had mentioned the possibility of talking more about my current predicament that is causing the whole lower frequency in posting, etc. However, after some thought, I wanted to talk about for the new year with my new plans. Give it another month to settle down and have some better routine before I talk about it. However, with that said, this so-called new routine is breaking in fairly well. It doesn’t reflect too much in the posting as I am still getting back into the groove but its definitely looking up. Either way, we will see in the coming month. But boy do I have some news for the New Year. Since let’s face it, December round-up is mostly year-end overview things and holiday stuff.

That’s it for the November adventures!
Not exactly any adventures to talk about but its kind of nice to get some stuff out of the way.
How has your November been?

BITS 2021: The Family (2021)

The Family (2021)

Director (and co-writer): Dan Slater

Cast: Nigel Bennett, Toni Ellwand, Benjamin Charles Watson, Keana Lyn, Jenna Warren, Yasmin MacKay, Onyx Spark

A young family, living in isolation and forced into hard labor out of fear of dishonoring their Father and Mother, fight to free themselves from their religious cult. – IMDB

The Family dives into the rural 1800s setting in an isolated farmland who is run by a family who has strong religious faith and the parents makes sure that their children follow their strict rules. Right from the opening scene, the consequences of defying those rules are harsh. The opening scene sets up the tone of the plot as much as the whole scenario that this family lives with a strict father (Nigel Bennet) standing watch while the children work on their various chores and their mother (Toni Ellwand) keeping watching in her chair holding a shotgun in her hands. Its immediately apparent that this family is very different. Throughout the first act, their followings and their rules are laid out one by one. However, when a new member joins them and ends up having altered plans, it makes them question whether their father’s teachings are as true as they’ve believed before. The Family feels like a combination of The Witch (review) and another indie film earlier this year, Glasshouse (review).

The Family is a very decent watch. Its a psychological thriller at its core with both the haunting parent figures who craft their beliefs into their children’s mind, the unknown surroundings outside of their set threshold and a group of children who obviously are not their own offspring. The million questions start firing right from the beginning. What is this religion? Where do the children come from? Is there really an exterior threat? The main focus of the story is through the eyes of their children especially Caleb (Benjamin Charles Watson) as he is now entering adulthood and waiting for his companion to show up. At the same time, he is growing more curious about what his parents are up to and what may lie outside the threshold especially when his chore leads him to follow this odd noise. His curiosity slowly trickles to the others as they start to act on their suspicion especially Abigail (Jenna Warren) who quietly observes each of his brothers’ punishments one by one and hurts on her own. When a new girl enters the picture, Caleb’s infatuation and their father’s change in attitude all comes together to create their suspicion and wavering in faith.

With quiet films like these, its very much in the atmosphere and tone and The Family does this incredibly well. What also helps is that the cast of characters are also very well portrayed. The reactions and expressions exceed any dialogue whether its fear or worry. There’s this lingering unsettling feeling of not knowing when the whole situation will turn around and how they will retaliate when they inevitably will no longer believe in their religious ways and their parents’ teachings as well as try to break free from the rules. The Father and Mother are done incredibly well especially with the Mother who is this more subtle character who doesn’t speak a lot but feels like she has this dominating and manipulative appearance even more than the Father who seems to be running the whole thing. Caleb, portrayed by Benjamin Charles Watson, does a fantastic job as well. His character having the most development and change as he is the focal character right from the start as he experiences quite a few events throughout the film. However, in a more subtle role, Jenna Warren as Abigail also does a great job despite the lesser dialogue especially in the final act.

There’s a lot to love about The Family. It grabs the psychological thriller elements really well. There are a few interesting twists here. While its nothing that becomes very surprising but the tension and atmosphere is done very well as it uses the isolated natural setting efficiently and creating their whole life in this space. The questions are all answered by the end especially the ending itself giving a really nice touch. A really well done thriller through and through.

BITS 2021: Vicious Fun (2020)

Vicious Fun (2020)

Director (and co-written): Cody Calahan

Cast: Evan Marsh, Amber Goldfarb, Ari Millen, Julian Richings, Robert Maillet, Sean Baek, David Koechner, Alexa Rose Steele, Kristopher Bowman, Mark Gibson, John Fray

Joel, a caustic 1980s film critic for a national horror magazine, finds himself unwittingly trapped in a self-help group for serial killers. With no other choice, Joel attempts to blend in or risk becoming the next victim. – IMDB

Being a huge fan of Black Fawn Films since Antisocial (review), its almost like I’ve been following director and writer Cody Calahan from his debut until now. There’s a few little gaps in the filmography however, its always been intriguing and/or fun premises especially when looking at the last film, The Oak Room (review). This latest film which also happens to be available on Shudder right now is very different from the toned down last film premise but still incredibly fun. I’m always a fan when its title sells exactly and much more as to what is expected.

Vicious Fun follows a 1980s horror fanatic and film critic for a horror magazine called Joel (Evan Marsh) who follows his roommate’s new boyfriend Bob (Ari Millen) to this Chinese restaurant-bar and ends up getting himself drunk and passes out in the storage room. When he wakes up, the restaurant is closed and he stumbles into a self-help group for serial killers and gets mistaken for the missing member, Phil. Right when the others buy his impersonation, Bob enters to question his identity and all hell breaks loose as this cast of serial killers start to go after him. As he finds a potential ally, tries to protect his roommate and gets caught up with some dumb cops, the night takes a very dangerous turn. 

There’s so much to love about Vicious Fun. The 80s setting gives it the neon-lit rooms to the synthetic soundtrack that accompanies the entire film. The cinematography here is fantastic right down to the setting of the restaurant from its set design. Vicious Fun also has this rather straight-forward plot but still has a little reveal to another side for its female lead, another serial killer at the group with her own little plan that gets slightly sidetracked played by Amber Goldfarb. Much like some familiar faces as the serial killers especially in the indie film world with David Koechner, Ari Millen and Julian Richings. Each of the serial killers have their own different style which makes it all the more fun to watch. 

The cast here really does need a detailed mention as they all come together to put together this wonderful slasher all combined in one whether its the emotionless thought-out killer Fritz (Julian Richings) who disguises as a clown, the tall masked sorority/summer camp killer Mike (Robert Maillet), the Japanese chef and cannibal, Hideo (Sean Baek), the handsome and smart psychopath Bob (Ari Millen) who is a master of disguise and the Zachary, the government funded killer. This crew embodies all kinds of slashers mashed into one film and gives a little bit of everything as they work together to get rid of their intruder and the mysterious femme fatale Carrie with her own little mission and seemingly turns on them to help Joel. These two are an interesting pairing as well since its usual that we would see the cranky male mentor with the scaredy-cat young follower and yet, this one changes it to a badass lady who really carries the whole situation and Amber Goldfarb takes on this role so well.

Overall, Vicious Fun is a stylistic neon-lit, 80s music filled, blood-soaked and gut-spilling horror comedy. It’s a ton of fun to watch and just an overall good time. The characters are over the top crazy and yet, wrapped up in this wild night is a much more grounded character reacting ridiculously but for some normal joe is also very believable. The horror and comedy balance itself out very nicely. Vicious Fun is currently available on Shudder. 

BITS 2021: Woodland Grey (2021)

Woodland Grey (2021)

Director (and co-writer): Adam Reider

Cast: Jenny Raven, Ryan Blakely, Art Hindle, Katharine King So, Chelsea Goldwater

When a man living alone in the woods saves the life of a young woman, they are forced to coexist. Chaos ensues when the woman makes a terrifying discovery in the woods behind the man’s home and unleashes something truly haunting. – IMDB

Isolated woods setting is such a great setting and its nice to see that it is being used more and more in recent horror and/or thrillers. The helplessness and emptiness and difficulty to navigate makes it all the more dangerous. Woodland Grey captures all these elements. In the face of meeting a solitary loner in the woods who appears to be saving this young woman who has her own baggage to set off this spontaneous hiking trip and to make a rather ominous discovery, the typical assumptions can be made which are gradually revealed to be something else. The film itself drives the story rather well from that point on and keeps a constant grasp on the situation adding in a little something while also giving space for flashbacks to better understand these two characters and why they have ended up in the woods.

Woodland Grey thrives from a certain fear that is similar to that of films like Blair Witch where something more sinister resides in the woods. When this fear is revealed (as most synopsis have already revealed which doesn’t exactly make it a spoiler but it kind of is), it sits in a rather mysterious and unknown space for the remainder of the film. It also has a similar mechanism where the crew seems to be stuck in a loop. Not a time loop but just a literal loop in terms of area where they cannot escape this place, or can they being the main goal from that point on. The concept of the hidden mysterious entity is a rather decent concept except in execution here, it sits in so many questions and most of them unanswered by the end that it becomes so confusing by the end that its a little hard to digest what was watched when so little of the result can be fully understood. Normally, I do love films that give the mind a nice boggling but leaves space for some mystery to sit but this one has too many confusing moments by the end that even the ending itself feels too open to find some type of closure for this film or even contemplate further. However, the whole story structure moving from past and present is well thought out where the past and present does work well together.

However, the film is executed very well as it does use its location very well. The woods and the wandering isn’t just that. Every detail does come into play at some part of the story. Some of it is fairly predictable and rather easy to see where it goes but still, the mystery and atmosphere does help to make those moments still have a certain psychological fear attached to it. In films like this, a lot of it does revolve around well-crafted logical characters and whether in terms of the solitary man or the hiking girl, their reactions to their encounter all does make sense. Adding in their back stories in the flashbacks, they have a good development throughout. The most important one being the urgency of why the girl must escape the woods within a certain timeframe being a big underlying factor.

Overall, Woodland Grey is a decent psychological thriller. There are certain thrills to be had especially with all the mystery and the twist upon twists which sometimes are predictable but some that do have a nice bit of creativity. With decent characters and acting along with a good nature backdrop and a mysterious threat that never seems to be fully explained, the film is mostly a good viewing experience perhaps right up to the end when things truly feel a tad unresolved and hard to fully comprehend.

BITS 2021: Flee The Light (2021)

Flee the Light (2021)

Director: Alexandra Senza

Cast: Annie Tuma, Ariana Marquis, Jamar Adams Thompson, Jane Siberry, Caroline Raynaud

A psychology student attempts to cure her sister’s crippling psychosis only to expose them both to its origin: an ancient creature intent on claiming their souls. – IMDB

Flee the Light is an intriguing premise. It meshes a storyline, something like a lore from its past to its present day that goes through generations of something awaken from the past which haunts these sisters which dabbles into sorcery and the concept of light and dark. The premise itself as a whole works well especially when this unknown entity seems to be preying on them and ready to possess them at the right opportunity. As one of the sisters try to help the other more unhinged one, it first becomes a whole acceptance than this whole situation surpasses that of science and dives into the occult practices to get to the bottom of the situation. With some cryptic and odd encounters as well as their own journey facing this together, the story is a little bizarre in places.

While the premise of the film itself is pretty decent, there are some little issues in execution. This is a minor issue which relates mostly to a flashback that builds up the whole plot and twist. The repetition of it loses its effectiveness with its frequency perhaps. The purpose of it is rather good but rather having a little less repetition perhaps would benefit it in my opinion (but of course, I’m not a screenwriter). The setting especially when the reach the cabin setting as the past merges with the present bringing the beginning moments of the film together in plot does work really well while the setting also creates a nice atmosphere and tone to the film which brings in a little bit of answers but also some mystery. This whole entity (not sure what else to call it) is also rather well constructed as it remains mostly mysterious throughout but still has that threatening/danger element that’s moving closer as the story progresses.

Much like the supporting characters that are introduced which feels very useless overall. The story’s focus is mostly on the sisters and these extra encounters are all a means to an end giving them rather empty shells, some more than others. However, the sisters are well-crafted characters and yet the acting also seems to lose a little bit of the desired effect mostly for the character of Andra (Annie Tuma) who has a more complex role and experiences some really weird stuff particularly one scene when she seems to be woken up from this whole situation. It sometimes makes the character feel awkward like the script or whatnot doesn’t seem to jive exactly with the whole situation. Its hard to exactly say what it is. The character does come together in the final act.

Overall, Flee the Light is a decent directorial debut for Alexandra Senza. The film itself is done well and there are little things probably more related to script that affected the whole execution. The premise is also pretty intriguing which introduced a mysterious entity from the past, almost like a old lore. It didn’t get a whole lot of depth but still had a decent threat element.

BITS 2021: The Chamber of Terror (2021)

The Chamber of Terror (2021)

Director (and writer): Michael Pereira

Cast: Timothy Paul McCarthy, Jessica Vano, Ry Barrett, Sigourney McAuley, Derek Gilroy, Robert Nolan, Ian Dyck, Storm Steenson, Seth O’Shea

Nash Caruthers is on a deadly collision course with the people that tore his world apart…along with something unexpected. Something far more sinister. – IMDB

Blood-squirting, gory, over the top are only the few words that I’d use to describe The Chamber of Terror. Directed and written by Michael Pereira, this film is one that feels very odd and bizarre right from the get-go filled with a strong indie horror vibe and packed with a cast of over the top characters acting way over to what you’d expect. Its not easy to take in and probably won’t be for everyone. However, The Chamber of Terrors, once you can get into the tone and pacing, is a pretty decent indie horror offering. Sure, there are some moments that are downright disgusting from vomit to organs and blood all over the floor and even some of the over-exaggerated blood squirting sequences like a Tarantino film but the film keeps to its not so serious tone and every one of the cast seems like they are having a blast and letting it go from zero to a thousand in terms of crazy, absurd and strange that it somehow makes it all work in the end.

The story here is one that starts off in something of a crime mystery interrogation gone wrong in an extreme setting from a family business that has a chamber of terror, making them not exactly the right people to stand behind but slowly painting the picture of this family who has a missing son, Tyler who was supposed to be the heir of this violent underground business and is having the daughter, Ava take on the business on their day one as they kidnap the suspect, Nash Caruthers who may have taken Tyler. As the story moves along in the interrogation while waiting for the father Ackerman show up, a whole different situation starts to coming up bringing on the unleashing of something more supernatural than gory as the past gets dug up. Suddenly this film take a change in direction but definitely not a change in tone which gives it that extra exciting element.

The cast also delivers really well as they all did work very well. The characters were all a little whacky and bizarre in general but due to the tone of the film and the story itself, they all worked well together. Plus, there are some familiar faces. The standout role does go to Timothy Paul McCarthy who plays Nash Caruthers who starts off the film with a fantastic scene and great introduction to his character and ends up being kidnapped by these ridiculous group that seems to not exactly know what to do with the whole situation and easily manipulated by his little tactics but also ends up saving this crew of people that he did initially construct a plan of revenge. Despite the all the blood and craziness, his character has the most development and backstory. Another familiar face but a shorter presence on screen is Ry Barrett which is very much a familiar face in the world of indie horror film especially Canadian ones and still his latest film that I saw of his, Still The Water also shows the diversity that he has to take on all kinds of different films, slower films and over the top films like this one since his character here is probably one of the wilder ones especially with it crafted for this deep love for classic horror films. Of course, another interesting character is the father character who has a shorter presence by Robert Nolan but his character also adds in some fourth wall breaking moments.

Its pretty hard to pinpoint exactly where The Chamber of Terror stands. Its not exactly for everyone and yet its not the first time that films like this pop up on the indie horror radar. However, these horror films, if you can get past the blood and guts all over the place, is a fun time. It doesn’t always make a ton of sense and its all strange from the setting to the characters to the tone and yet its always great to see the cast having a great time and that’s exactly what this film makes you feel like so that its not really something to take seriously but still has a story that has a good enough trajectory to piece it all together. Considering its supernatural and violent elements, this film is not exactly the traditional scary horror but really just a fun horror comedy that absolutely achieves exactly what its going for.

BITS 2021: Funhouse (2019)

Funhouse (2019)

Director (and co-writer): Jason William Lee

Cast: Valter Skarsgard, Khamisa Wilsher, Gigi Saul Guerrero, Christopher Gerard, Karolina Benefield, Amanda Howells, Mathias Retamal, Dayleigh Nelson, Jerome Velinsky, Kylee Bush, Bradley Duffy

When 8 celebrities from around the globe are invited to compete in an online reality show, they soon realize that they are playing for their very lives, as those voted off suffer horrific consequences, broadcast live to the entire world. – IMDB

There’s really nothing like the horror of being danger for a fight to be the only one standing. Its almost like Big Brother, The Circle mixed with Danganrompa (video game if you don’t know). Last one standing film content is so frequently seen especially after the recent Squid Game which notched things up quite a bit. Without any comparisons however, Funhouse is a good premise but lacks the proper execution however, credit where its due, they did execute a decent ending.

Funhouse sets up with these characters who are all different level of social influence on different media platforms but each having their own unworthiness of their fame which leads them to being picked to be here. These eight contestants are all introduced in a decent way. Worth a mention is probably Gigi Saul Guerrero is plays one of the contestants Ximena as she is quite the name in both being an actress and a director in the indie horror world. At the same time, there’s also the male lead played by Valter Skarsgard, another of Stellan Skarsgard’s children making an appearance on the big screen. The plan to make you want to cheer for them to survive is their little interactions and what they talk about in their camera moments and then the film’s audience votes. The problem for the actual film audience is the whole film feels repetitive and in turn, gets boring by the time the same cycle goes a few time. Its camera time, 2 seconds later not knowing them more its voting time and then their death in whatever gruesome way and rinse and repeat. Things do change when the characters flip after they realize this is a game with deadly stakes. However past that, it doesn’t quite manage to stay entertaining. No one seems like they deserve to die no matter how unworthy their Internet fame is but they also aren’t intriguing characters. The intriguing moments comes a little too late.

The previous point does lead to the more important element which is the execution and scripting being more of an issue. These two is what creates these characters and the flow of events. What helps is that the tone itself isn’t exactly serious so the characters can be as over the top (or not) as they are written without a lot of limits. Same goes for the rich guy who runs the show in the background showing himself as an animated panda on screen and going off on cheeky rants. Another point that is good is that it does circle around and gives a basic idea of who this mysterious behind the scenes guy is and why he set this whole thing up by the end, giving it a bit of resolution as well.

Thing is, Funhouse is rather below average. Its leans on the boring side of horror. Sure, it has some creative and varied ways to kill its contestants and it has a decent premise overall but it just lacks the tension these films should have. There is no sense of sympathy towards them other than the reason of why they were picked seems a little over the top ridiculous, which does match with the mentality of some killers in these sorts of film. The whole broadcast element does show an issue with Internet control for younger audiences if anything and it does also cover the scrutiny of other media sources towards the authenticity of these sorts of shows. There is something deeper trying to be told here, I assume but something just feels missing to make it more entertaining of a watch whether as a horror or even a not so serious dark humor film.

*Funhouse was part of the Super Channel program for Blood in the Snow Film Festival. The physical film festival is on November 18th to 23rd in Royal Theatre Toronto. You can check out the line-up HERE.*

My October Adventures!

Welcome to October Adventures! I’m going to say this right now…October was an adventure in some ways but nothing that I can really talk about here yet. Its some real life stuff that I’m working through right now which did cause some hiccups in the original blogging plans and well, the many festivals that happened to pop up with their last minute accreditation approvals so it was a little wild in general. Call this an update on the original commitments as a lot of stuff didn’t go as planned, but here we go!

Halloween/Horror Marathon – Extended

First things first, the main focus of October was the Halloween Marathon. Suffice to say, I stopped about halfway through the month and then switched gears into other commitments. Some did match the theme more than others but overall, I will talk about some little things happening potentially next month. Right now, I’m still working through it. However, because Halloween Marathon aka Horror Marathon is a big part of my year and I don’t want to cheat my way out of it as I haven’t even completed the main feature franchise film reviews, I’m going to be extending it for another 2 weeks or so to make up for the second half of the month. I still have some other reviews to wrap up which I will talk about in other sections of this update but it will be potentially going on simultaneously as I get rid of all the backlog in terms of movie reviews and festival coverage.

50th edition – Festival du Nouveau Cinema Overview

The first festival coverage to give me accreditation the day that it started was FNC 2021. Now, I’ve covered Festival du Nouveau Cinema a few years already and they have some great movies most of the time. Very arthouse and different from my normal wheelhouse including some Oscar nominated films even, however, the last minute thing threw me for a loop. Its not exactly anyone’s fault but my own since I lost track of what festivals I had applied for so didn’t realize that everything was clashing together. With that said, I truly did want to get more done for this festival however, due to work and life reasons, this festival was the one that suffered the most. It also occurred to me that this festival might truly be above my capabilities anymore as a lot of films while intriguing, its a sea of so many unknowns that in the process of decision-making, its a fear of choosing something that I didn’t like that worried me the most, causing less films being chosen as well.

However, I am still sitting on a few films that I haven’t reviewed yet. You can check out the films I have reviewed to this point. I did pick some pretty fun ones.

Compartment No.6
Bound
The Noise of Engines
Wood and Water
Days

I still have a short films compilation as well as two reviews coming up soon.

Toronto After Dark Film Festival 2021

Toronto After Dark ran for a swift 5 days event. This is the first year that I got the full media accreditation and not only short films (which is what I got in 2019). In all my festival coverage time, I do feel that TADFF has the best press support team. I had issues with the virtual platform and they helped me out immediately that evening. Plus, the press coordinator was pretty cool and did check on likes and dislikes from the festival which I hadn’t got in other festivals before. A really lovely experience overall. The technical issues did set my coverage plans a little behind but I did end up catching everything that I intended on watching. With this being horror film focus during October, it did have priority during those few days and there were some fantastic discoveries.

You can check out the reviews below:

Canadian Shorts After Dark
Sweetie, You Won’t Believe It
Post Mortem
Nightshooters
Ditched
The Free Fall

Blood in the Snow Film Festival

The final film festival to come in is Blood in the Snow Film Festival! Now, this one is a little unique as it has its virtual platform at as a three day event at the end of October. Suffice to say, no reviews have been posted considering the delay on my reviews over this weekend however, they will be coming up soon. There are a few films that I’ve reviewed previously so there’s only a few movies for this part.

However, this festival does have its on location festival (of course, I’m covering remotely as I’m not in Toronto) during November 18 to 23 which I will have reviews up for that line-up probably around mid-November. It might be the final wrap-up for the extended Halloween marathon as it seems to fit. If you are in Toronto, you can see if you want to go check it out. The line-up is on the website: bloodinthesnow.ca

Tranquil Dreams Podcast – Hiatus

As a final update, due to just everything going on, I’ve decided to put the Tranquil Dreams podcast on hiatus for now. I have other projects going on and coverage and its just too much at the moment. Plus, I’m not too happy with the What’s Up structure that I’ve been doing. I want to really focus on creating some shows that highlight my initial idea of why I wanted to start the podcast in the first place. Its going on hiatus so that I can get it back on the drawing board. Get some ideas and structure set and bring it back with content that I think will be more fun to record and more interesting in general.

ON THE SIDE NOTE: If you are looking for podcasts, I’m still co-hosting Movies and Tea and Game Warp with Elwood so you can still find them on most platforms where you can listen to podcasts. Movies and Tea is in its female directors season so you can check out which directors and their respective films made it on our list for this season.

A Little Life Update
(one of the reasons for the slowdown this month)

So…the last two updates I’ve talked about not feeling too good overall and its been truly taking a toll on me. As much as I want to keep the blog running as it did, I’m slowing down to focus on myself a little bit. Most of it is restructuring my lifestyle a little and getting back to some form of routine. Its working for the most part as you can see that I’ve been posting a little more frequently lately. However, I have decided to change my sleeping routine (aka sleep earlier) and get back to some healthy lifestyle with more workouts and healthier eating. This stuff all takes more prep time and dedication so more time there means less time for the blog. I am finding my routine over this month so its been going rather on track. That’s all I’m going to say for now but that is one of the main reasons.

I’m hoping that November will have some more normalcy in posting. The goal is to get a post up every other day. I’m definitely not lacking in content to write, but I just need to find time to do it.

That’s it for this October “Adventures”!
Hope you all had a Happy Halloween!
I sure hope everyone’s month has been much more exciting and healthier and feel good!

TADFF 2021: The Free Fall (2021)

The Free Fall (2021)

Director: Adam Stilwell

Cast: Andrea Londo, Shawn Ashmore, Jane Badler, Michael Berry Jr., Elizabeth Cappuccino, Dominic Hoffman

After attempting to take her own life, a young woman must wrestle with an overbearing husband. – IMDB

The big finale for my coverage of Toronto After Dark Film Festival is also the high point of the entire festival with this clever, thrilling and tense psychological horror film. There is so much to love about it and yet, what really pulls it together is its fantastic twist that gives this movie such a unique concept that pulls together the whole film in a way that hasn’t been done before (at least in my film experience). I don’t want to dive into the details as that will definitely ruin what makes this so cleverly structured and written. With any film which relies heavily on the ending being able to pull all its pieces together in a rewarding way for its audience, it also comes with a lot of mysteries and questions built out throughout that will definitely be very mindboggling and confusing. However, trust me on this one, if you stick it out, the ending is well worth it.

Moving away from the element that I can’t talk about, there’s a lot of other things that make this film pretty well-executed. The first has to be its one setting. One setting films are really quite fun as it works well to use its space efficiently, having spaces left to be explored and in this case, with a main character suffering from amnesia also brings in going into spaces that may or may not bring in new memories and create different atmospheres.

The atmosphere is also built up pretty well especially when it comes to the imagery and visuals. The house itself having a lot to do with how some shots are set up in an appealing way. The atmosphere also changes with the fluctuation of the main character Sara as she struggles with what she is seeing in reality or her imagination. It brings in a lot of darker and sinister moments that create the horror lurking in the background whether its through reflections or dark spaces. At the same time, there’s a nice control of how to use some of the scenes repeatedly but also expanding on them to add more to the story as it progresses.

A lot of credit does have to go to the cast here. Andrea Londo as Sara does a great job right from the start as she experiences the trauma that drags her into this situation where she struggles with recovering from amnesia and dealing with all the odd and suspicious things that seems to be happening in her home. Andrea Londo has a good control over her role which is ever so important here as it makes sure there isn’t any overacting. Much like Shawn Ashmore who also delivers a good performance as the husband Nick. Nick’s character is suspicious right at the beginning and in some ways, its meant to have that feeling especially when amnesia and suspicious husband roles come into play as they are estranged characters that haven’t been introduced until that moment. His character develops and changes over the course of the film especially in its character’s intensity and calmness that delivers a different layer.

Overall, The Free Fall is an outstanding psychological horror film. Thrillers are so hard to do great and this one manages to make the ending so rewarding and gives such a unique angle to the horror subgenre that its tackling. The writer Kent Harper deserves a lot of credit. The cast, the cinematography, the writing are all really well-executed, making this film well worth a watch.

TADFF 2021: Ditched (2021)

Ditched (2021)

Director (and writer): Christopher Donaldson

Cast: Marika Silas, Mackenzie Gray, Kris Loranger, Declan O’Reilly, Lara Taillon, Shawna Pliva McGill, Reamonn Joshee, Lee Lopez, Michelle Molineux, J. Lindsay Robinson

After a routine prison transfer crashes in the forest, young Inuit paramedic Melina finds herself surrounded by murderers with a mere 100 feet to climb out of a ditch to escape. When they are attacked by an unseen force in the forest, Melina’s short journey to safety becomes the ultimate contest of wills. – IMDB

Ditched is a 2021 Canadian survival horror film where it almost feelings like Panic Room but in an isolated country road but instead of an actual panic room, its the insides of an overturned ambulance. As the people involved in the accident both in the police car and the ambulance wakes up, they start to realize that there is a group of brutal killers outside waiting to kill each one of them one by one.

The isolated ditch in the middle of nowhere at night is a wonderful horror/thriller setting. It brings in the helplessness and the fear even more as the unknowns lie in the dark. The mystery also comes from why this group has targeted them specifically: Is it for the prisoners that are being transferred or is it just for the hunt itself? The questions that build up do get answered gradually towards the middle which does feel like the reveal is a little bit early at times as this leads into this long face-off period which loses steam as the final confrontation is also drawn out as it faces down to almost monologue moment that also feels a little tedious. This is definitely a pacing issue with the script itself as perhaps the entire plot was structured a little straightforward in the beginning that there isn’t as many angles to play with in execution.

With that said, the tension that is built in the first act is done really well and does trail into a good portion of the second act. A lot of it also comes down to some well-structured kills as they go through them one by one while they try to survive in their own way. Its a rather psychological battle for the most part as well as a battle of the wits in the final act. While there are quite a few characters in these interactions, the main few do focus around Melina the paramedic, the strapped down manipulative prisoner as well some other paramedics that make it out. As they use the resources in their tight ambulance space to survive, it does make for some nice fight back moments.

The main element with Ditched is that where it works and doesn’t work is in its plot. Where is doesn’t work is in how it seems to get to the reveal point of what the goal is as mentioned before. However, it also works in the plot as it creates this more conflicted view towards people in general where it makes the audience think about whether the killers are actually bad and the survivors are actually good. In more simple terms, the gray area gets explored here in human nature and probably how some people aren’t exactly what meets the eye completely while also leaving some room at the end for a little further contemplation about whether what is done as the big finale is actually justified.

Overall, Ditched is a decent horror thriller. It does show a lot of low budget elements. It also does feel like it has a lot of influences in terms how certain moments are treated. The director’s message at the beginning does talk about his intentions of creating something that feels like it been the missing 80s film that no one ever saw before but finally get a 4K release and in many moments, it definitely feels like an 80s film whether in dialogue or the effects or how certain scenes are structured.