Halloween Double Feature: The Ranger (2018) & Summer of ’84 (2018)

DOUBLEFEATURE (4)

Its been a little while since the last Halloween double feature due to the intermission of Festival du Nouveau Cinema and Toronto After Dark happening. However, we are back in action with double feature #5 looking at 2 movies currently on Shudder that I wanted to watch but didn’t get a chance in 2018’s Fantasia Festival: The Ranger and Summer of ’84! Its a bit late but let’s wrap this marathon up (even though technically its already over).

Let’s check it out!

The Ranger (2018)

The Ranger

Director (and co-writer): Jenn Wexler

Cast: Chloe Levine, Jeremy Holm, Granit Lahu, Jeremy Pope, Bubba Weiler, Amanda Grace Benitez

Teen punks, on the run from the cops and hiding out in the woods, come up against the local authority – an unhinged park ranger with an axe to grind. – IMDB

In concept and premise, The Ranger is a really fun throwback to 80’s slasher. It uses the whole punk element to its character as well as in its soundtrack as well which works to a certain extent. The Ranger has the whole slasher thing with an unhinged character that does work in the books as well and possibly ends up to be one of the more standout elements.

The Ranger stumbles mostly because of its short run time. Its a rare thing for me to say because I usually complain that films are too long and ends up causing a movie to drag on without reason. However, in The Ranger’s case, it actually still has pacing issues. It spends a lot of time showing off its one-dimensional characters and their rather linear development of the situation even from its obvious deaths. It also spends a lot of time showing off how unlikeable the majority of these characters are, making them less likely characters to root for. The character that does get more attention would be its female lead who is a fairly tough girl who also has her past connection with this area and The Ranger himself. The deal is that while there is a slight touch on the connection, there are still a lot of depth that gets overlooked making it hard to connect with her character either.

The Ranger isn’t all bad. There is a tough female lead for one despite its lack of depth as mentioned above. However, The Ranger himself, played by Jeremy Holm is really great most of the time. The unhinged characters are always fascinating to see unfold on screen. He elevates to a point in his lair that really drives the movie to a very unsettling and creepy feeling. That scene alone is the best one. Of course, it also focuses on those ramped up tension that tries to build with each supporting character’s death which mostly is fairly creative and works well in the slasher realm.

Summer of ’84 (2018)

Summer of '84

Director: Francois Simard, Anouk Whissell, Yoann-Karl Whissell (RKSS)

Cast: Graham Verchere, Judah Lewis, Caleb Emery, Cory Gruter-Andrew, Tiera Skovbye, Rich Sommer, Jason Gray-Stanford, Shauna Johannesen

After suspecting that their police officer neighbor is a serial killer, a group of teenage friends spend their summer spying on him and gathering evidence, but as they get closer to discovering the truth, things get dangerous. – IMDB

If you could take the idea of Disturbia and then add in the character structure of Stranger Things, you would get Summer of ’84. Seeing as both Disturbia and Stranger Things are my favorites, its hard to say that this one wasn’t a win right from the premise alone. There are still elements here that don’t quite work as well which mostly goes playing with the reveal and juggling the truth and smokes and mirrors kind of thing.

Summer of ’84 was high on my anticipated films list in 2018 so I had some expectations for this one which I’m not sure exactly reached the height of what I had wanted it to be versus the reality of how it turned out. But, Summer of ’84 had a lot of well-executed moments and tense moments and even some fun moments for good measure and never forgetting that it is teenagers that we are dealing with.

Summer of ’84 is a lot of familiar territory and meshes some of my faves together. At the same time, its soundtrack and style and even its references truly shows off the 80s very well. Its a rather immersive experience to watch. The atmosphere building and the whole use of the community playing together outside is a nice addition that makes everything so much more natural. There are some genuinely tense moments. Where it stumbles is that the movie at times feels slightly disjointed in pulling all the elements together however the boys here are rather fun to watch but adds a fresh dynamic to this group. Its not a standout sort of film but its a fun little indie horror that works for the most part.

Have you seen these two indie horror films?

 

TADFF 2019: International Shorts After Dark

Toronto After Dark Film Festival

Compiled as 8 short films from various international locations, a few of them from the USA and screened as the International Shorts After Dark, here are 6 of the 8 shorts reviewed. One of them called Bar Fight was paired with a feature during Fantasia Festival in July so the review is linked at the bottom.

Maggie May (2018)

Maggie May

Director (and writer): Mia Kate Russell

Cast: Lulu McClatchy, Katrina Mathers, Sophia Davey, Ditch Davey, Don Bridges

Maggie May is about a sister who stays back to help out after their mother dies to end up in an accident which leaves her dying but her sister Maggie May simply ignores it. Sometimes, the scariest thing is not what someone does but in some situations, what someone doesn’t do. That is what powers the horror and unsettling feeling in Maggie May.

While the short itself is done fairly well, there’s this over exaggeration (perhaps deliberate) of the character of Maggie May and that makes it too over the top to make it feel as horrifying and more just a loathing in general to watch. What does work for the concept itself is the whole idea of passivity being more dangerous than the other way around in some cases. However, what does balance it out is the whole process of dying with the sister and the both the psychological and physical changes that she goes through hoping for help but also noticing the pieces around her fading away.  There’s a decent amount of blood and gore that somehow balance with the psychological elements of the whole story and pulls through a fairly effectively little short.

Puzzle (2019)

Director: Vincenzo Aiello

Cast: Marie Wyler

In a fairly concise story, Puzzle is a rather creepy one as it is based on the premise of a woman finding puzzle pieces around her home. As she pieces them together, it reveals something frightening. This one is very well-executed. It keeps its setting confined in a room mostly while using the puzzle pieces to each lead to the next one and it having the final unveil of what and possible who is responsible and yet, it still manages to keep some mysteries, mostly because its less than 5 minutes and the ability to craft something rather unnerving is already very impressive.

Eject (2019)

Eject

Director (and writer): David Yorke

Cast: Elena Saurel

Eject is about a woman that finds her arm has a USB port and proceeds to plug it in and ends up in another place where she can sort through files of her life. There are some fairly horror elements here and yet, characters finding too good to be true situations and using it to their advantage is not a new concept although this one for being a short did leave a fairly precious deeper message (in my mind but I might be overthinking) about the impossibilities of casting everything bad out of life as that isn’t reality. Its the mechanics of how this dimension works that becomes the mystery and the horror all wrapped up together. Its not a long short, less than 10 minutes and yet, long dark tunnels and empty room with a cabinet and a mysterious door leading to who knows is the unknown factors that add to this short film.

La Noria (2019)

La Noria

Director (and writer): Carlos Baena

La Noria is a Spanish animated short with no dialogue about a grieving boy who sees creatures in his attic who ends up showing him compassion.

La Noria is possibly the best short so far in all of the shorts shown at the festival. The animation is absolutely brilliant. On a visual level, the color palette is beautiful. The creature designs are also incredibly creative. There’s something of a Christmas holidays setting but somehow its the tint of light that works here. What starts off as failing to put together a ferris wheel and remembering his father turns into an intense walk through  his home festering with all kinds of creatures, all different in their appearance and having their own characteristics but all takes a surprising turn of events to something very touching. This one shows off the concept of being able to deliver an effective story with the power of visuals and sound effects and score to give it all it needs. Even the ending credits are done fantastically.

The Haunted Swordsman (2019)

The Haunted Swordsman

Director: Kevin McTurk

Cast: Jason Scott Lee, James Hong, Franka Potente, Christopher Lloyd

In terms of uniqueness, The Haunted Swordsman is a short that definitely fills that criteria. Its a ghost story puppet film that takes a horror adventure following a samurai in a world of witches and creatures. Made with 36 inch tall bunraku puppets and in live action, The Haunted Swordsman is a lot of fun filled with sufficient amount of horror, fantasy and adventure.

The story itself is a lot of fun as it starts with a samurai on a quest with a severed head, The Navigator as his companion guide, whichever it is in search of the The Black Monk, voiced by Christopher Lloyd. The samurai being voiced by Jason Scott Lee and The Navigator voiced by James Hong. The score itself blends well with the samurai tale elements and for a puppet film, the action is incredibly on point. A lot of compliments go to the attention to detail given to the puppets and how great it all looks as well as the puppeteers who make it all come to life convincingly. Its definitely a realm well worth looking at. While this is a short animated film at about 15 minutes or so, the samurai is sent on a quest, giving this concept and story a lot of potential to explore further and hopefully, director Kevin McTurk will do just that in the future.

Place (2019)

Place

Director: Jason Gudasz

Cast: Emily Green, Nick Hurley, Stella Edwards, Emmanuelle Roumain, Willy Roberts

Place is a short about a couple the goes into their new home to find the electrician dead in a freak accident to find that something seems to also be inhabiting it.

Place is about a family adjusting to all the ghosts in the place. While the ghosts never quite reveal itself, it does take over the family one by one. It gives them a rather edgy character and each of them change in their own way as they each take on a different oddness to them, whether its their change in how they talk. A lot of it is rather deliberate and possibly in a fairly dark comedy sort of way. Each of them interact with it in a different form as well. The character changes are a bit abrupt for a short, it needs to be paced fairly quickly. However, the daughter in here does bring in those little details of giving out clues of what legends are in the equation, inhabiting their place. Place is quite odd but then its meant to be that way with those little details which adds to the story plus it does have a rather good twist at the end.

Other shorts in this showcase not reviewed here:

Bar Fight (Fantasia Review)
Your Last Day on Earth

TADFF 2019 Shorts:Barbara-Anne/Kakatshat/Schism/A Noise That Comes

Toronto After Dark Film Festival

Barbara-Anne (2019)

barbara-anne

Director: Kat Webber

Cast: Emily Coutts, Philip Riccio, Katelyn McCulloch

Starting off as a light-hearted little dancing housewife through the kitchen as she prepares a full course meal for her husband, the story takes an obvious turn stylistically as well as in atmosphere when her husband who stays in the much more modern living room with his gadgets like wireless earphones and goes to do his workout when his wife has something much darker in the plans.

Barbara-Anne is a nice blend of classic Hollywood style with a modern contrast that works so well. The wife here while being the typical blonde beauty also delivers up a clever act that turns her into quite the femme fatale which pretty much happens all to the audience’s knowledge and not to her unsuspecting husband who expects her to be the wife that waits for his attention when he wants to give it to her. Of course, nothing is as you expect and Barbara-Anne has some tricks up its sleeve that gives it that dark twist while serving up some dark comedy as well. Fantastically done short!

Kakatshat (2018)

Kakatshat

Director: Eve Ringuette

Cast: Therese Vollant, Philippe St-Arnault

Starting the short in 1829 when a son abandons his mother in the forest who in turn curses his family and all the descendants to pay for his disrespect, it continues to the present where a father and son bond on a camping trip to where the woman was abandoned and the curse follows them.

Filmed in Sept-Iles in Quebec,  Kakatshat takes a rather atmospheric build here as it moves from the past to the present, not only contrasting the neglect from a grown-up son to a parent versus a young boy and his father, who talks about being neglected by his own father and generally not wanting to be like that. It also takes a sinister turn when the curse follows them in the forest which gives a tense dark atmosphere that builds up to a truly effective jump scare. To have that effect in 8 minutes is a great feat and also shares a bit about the culture of what is shown in the beginning as well. Kakatshat is a short well worth watching if you get the chance.

Schism (2019)

Schism 2019

Director: Andrew Todd & Johnny Hall

Schism is a 3 minute black and white short that is essentially no narrative and splits the screen into two as the main character is a man that has been split into two and negotiating with himself to become whole again. What is intriguing to note here is that Schism was made during the 48 Hours 2019, which definitely shows the creativity here at work especially for something put together in such a short time frame.

While the short is a bit odd and very abstract in what it is trying to do, there is a rather cool use of how the screen is split into two and how effective it is for the execution of this short as the one person split into two is almost like two sides of his personality compromising each other. One is much more wild and sinister while the other is serious and a bit worried about being split into two. At the same time, the soundtrack it uses really adds to the entire experience and the black and white gives it a nice style.

A Noise That Carries (2019)

A Noise That Carries

Director: Guillermo de la Rosa

Cast: Paul Payne, Lee Lawson, Meredith Heinrich

A Noise That Carries is a 15 minute short about a recently divorced man who wakes up to the sound of creaking floorboards which sounds like someone stops right outside his bedroom door and suspects that someone is has broken in during the night and decides to investigate this with a neighbor that drops by with similar concerns.

Pulling in at 15 minutes, A Noise That Carries is more fleshed out just by it being slightly longer. However, it takes no time to get its story set up with the basic knowledge of its situation and starts setting up the unsettling home invasion atmosphere immediately. Its takes its time to give the quiet a chance to do its work especially when subtle noises are the elements that are creating this horror element until it turns around with the big reveal and then things still play more on the quiet evasion rather than any intense chase scene and that works so much better. A Noise That Carries lets “less is more” do its work and it works incredibly well here leaving me at the edge of my seat and wondering whether there would be a jumpscare/surprise around every corner. Great home invasion stories usually have that effect.

 

 

 

TADFF 2019 Shorts 2: Ocimokw!!/Grave Sight/Down the Rabbit Hole/Hearth

Toronto After Dark Film Festival

Ocimokw!! (Go Away!!, 2017)

ocimokw!!

Director: Mathis Ottawa

Running at less than 3 minutes, Ocimokw is made in Manawan, Quebec and shows the start of a zombie invasion and two guys who run away to be saved by a car passing by.

Its a bit goofy with the zombies and its not exactly a convincing portrayal of what we’ve been accustomed to, however, Ocimokw!! is pretty fun in a horror comedy sort of way while blending in some fairly nice dark color palette with atmospheric background music. Its not a lot of dialogue and really, the only person that talks is the radio warning them about the zombies and to run away. Its very basic and yet there’s no fault with that.

Grave Sight (2019)

Grave Sight

Directors (and co-writer): Walter Forsyth & Angus Swantee

Cast: Holly Stevens, Craig Gunn, Dale Bellefontaine

A couple goes to rob a grave which turns out to belong to a witch. As they open it, it releases a demon.

Running at about 7 minutes, this short actually is done pretty well. There are some rather comedic effects and probably done for that purpose. It plays on its low budget and yet, the demon itself is done really well. The couple actually do work although it plays on them being one braver than the other and finding their courage to fight back or save the other but also on the obvious clumsy act which amounts to whole deed being a loss at the end of the day. There’s some nice ideas here and the premise is pretty good as well.

Down the Rabbit Hole (2019)

Down the Rabbit Hole

Director (and writer): Ali Froggatt

Cast: Ali Froggatt, Jeff Gladstone, Darion Trotman, Lucia Forward, Charlie Kerr

Down the Rabbit Hole is a short about a woman who falls in love and cuts out their heart afterwards until one day, she suffers heartache. Its hard to pinpoint exactly what all of it means as the really lovely cinematography here actually hides a lot of it off screen and leaves it for our own imagination. No doubt one of the more polished and artistic shorts so far, the story itself has no narration and only has atmospheric background music and non-verbal exchanges whether facial expressions or actions as a means of directing the story forward. While its an abstract sort of storyline, it leaves a lot of space for its own interpretation which is quite fun. Not to mention, the effects here are done really well and there’s a deep sense of build-up for the leading lady as she goes from one rendez-vous to the next until that final turning point which is rather shocking on how it all works.

Its one those stories that leave enough space that it could be interesting to see what this could be with more space to develop the story and what direction it can take as there seems to definitely be a bigger picture here to understand and explore.

Hearth (2019)

foyer le film

Director: Sophie B Jacques

Cast: Marilyn Castonguay, Joel Marin, Marianne Farley, Guy Richer

Paralleled with reality to the past events of an Airbnb owner coming home after renting out her home to a couple, the story follows the reading of the man of the letter he leaves after their departure (or maybe the note in the guestbook, something like that). As she goes through the house, she is pleased by its appearance while its contrasted with how the events of the night the couple rented went and it was much more sinister in nature.

Using dim lighting and a very clever use of camera as it moves from one room to the next and blending in the past and the present, Hearth is an outstanding telling of the horror stories behind the unknowns of renting out a house, taking the opposite side of the spectrum when most people will talk about the owners being the one with the questionable motives, the renters can also be the ones that are the unknown factor here and can be involved in some suspicious activity. Its a clever little script that works really well and perfectly paced for this 10 minute experience.

With Airbnb and such services becoming such a hit, it was only a matter of time before horror took its direction there and gave everyone the warning of what could happen with their tenants. Its definitely a territory to explore in the future of horror and suspense.

 

FNC 2019: J’ai Perdu Mon Corps (I Lost My Body, 2019)

J’ai Perdu Mon Corps (I Lost My Body, 2019)

J'ai Perdu Mon corps

Director (and co-screenplay): Jeremy Clapin

Voice Cast: Hakim Faris, Victoire Du Bois, Patrick D’Assumcao

A story of Naoufel, a young man who is in love with Gabrielle. In another part of town, a severed hand escapes from a dissection lab, determined to find its body again. – IMDB

French animated features always seem to have a darkness to its overall premise. In this case, this upcoming Netflix France Original film (according to this poster is set to release in the end of November) follows two sides of a story. The first is the story of Nafouel, a pizza delivery boy having a bad day that ends up having a random conversation with a girl through a building intercom during a rain storm outside and is intrigued by this stranger and finds a way to approach her while on the other side, it follows a severed hand trying to go through the city to reunite with the body it belongs to. Its easy to see that these two stories are linked together and who this severed hand belongs to and yet, alternating between the two and having it converge at the end gives this film so much charm. Perhaps of the timeline jumping back and forth between the two that the story sometimes does have moments of disjointedness.

Somehow French animated films have such good grasp hitting those bizarre themes and finding just the right balance of humor to make it work. J’ai Perdu Mon Corps is a fine example of this. While Naoufel’s side of the story feels a bit awkward and maybe a tad sketchy if you think about the almost stalker-ish way he chooses to approach this girl. At the same time, he is somewhat of a rather unpleasant character or simply flawed and fairly shallow which is where this film falls short slightly. It all depends on how his character is viewed although there are some believable moments of clumsiness and his trying to work hard to get her attention and some missteps that he does which makes some funny moments. As I always like to mention, flawed characters to begin with makes for the better development characters as they have so much more room to grow and that definitely applies in this story.

Where it does shine right from the beginning is starting with how the severed hand is introduced and the moments of how it goes from location to location. There’s a lot of dark humor to be had, especially as it meets all kinds of things and dangers along the way and is essentially defenceless. Some come out with mostly unexpected outcomes and that just makes each step of its way back to the body that it belongs to even more rewarding in the end.

Overall, J’ai Perdu Mon Corps is exactly as its title hints at. The winning factor here is how it uses the whole concept of a severed hand and can create a rather charming and humorous story out of it. It fits into the whole charm of French animation that is a tad odd but still works out overall to have those dramatic moments as well. As a feature-length directorial debut for Jeremy Clapin, its definitely one that lands very well and has a unique premise.

J’ai Perdu Mon Corps will be hitting theatres for a limited release in US (November 15) and UK (November 22) and also hitting Netflix (for most countries) on November 29th (all based on research on the Internet, so please check or correct me in the comments if you have other more accurate info).

TADFF 2019 Shorts: Turbo Killer/Far Horizon/Flip

Toronto After Dark Film Festival

The next batch of three shorts is here! These were screened with a shorter length feature called Blood Machines, which happens to be a sequel to the first of these three shorts reviewed here. The others suitably work with this post-apocalyptic sort of concept with quite a bit of imagination and creativity behind each of these premises.

Turbo Killer (2016)

Director (and writer): Seth Ickerman

Cast: Joelle Berckmans, Guillaume Faure, Marc-Antoine Frederic, Noémie Stevens

 Set up like a music video with a great soundtrack, Turbo Killer is a visual feast. The color palette pops. The story is abstract but still somewhat easy to understand about a post-apocalyptic world where a man accidentally transports a woman and then another masked man comes to save her. Its a fun little (almost) 5 minutes short that truly shows something that can be expanded on.

Far Horizon (2019)

Far Horizon

Director: Sara Martins

Set in 2025, Far Horizon is episode one of what I’d expect would be a series with fairly short episodes. Episode 1 is called survivor. While the context isn’t quite there, the synopsis of this is pretty much that a group of soldiers search the desolate land and end up going to look through, what they believe, is an abandoned field hospital for a supply run and ends up finding the first survivor in three years.

The tone here is done well. The suspense is also quite good. The cast also works as well as the characters definitely seem to have something more to learn about. The whole episode/short builds in tension as the suspense and darkness of each scene hides a lot of whats around them, limiting the vision and giving the final discovery such a nice element of surprise. Its rather impressive and if this is an actual series, it’d be nice to see where it heads for story-wise.

Flip (2019)

Flip

Director: Jessica Grace Smith

Kept in a post-apocalyptic future trapped in a bunk, mother Flip and daughter Plug need to find a way to escape their prison. Flip tries to protect Plug as much as possible and kept her away from Helmet, a growling aggressive beast (of sorts) that goes to visit them and abuse her. However, when things go wrong one day, Plug finds the courage to protect her mother and fight back.

Whether its the design of the mother and daughter or the world or even the villainous Helmet, Flip is a very well-executed short. Running at 13 minutes, this one has more depth than the typical short and actually manages to show off a lot of the elements of their entrapment as well as their dangerous situation and the creeping fear of the inevitable if they do stay there. The action sequence and the stakes in the story make Flip a really good short (and even one that could merit a full length project to see what this world has to offer more especially for this mother and daughter duo).

That’s it for these three shorts!
If anything, these short films show that there’s still a lot more to explore in the whole post-apocalypse idea or a dystopian future.

 

 

FNC 2019: A White, White Day (Hvítur, Hvítur Dagur, 2019)

A White, White Day (2019)

A White White Day

Director (and writer): Hlynur Palmason

Cast: Ingvar Sigurdsson, Ida Mekkin Hlynsdottir, Hilmir Snaer Guonason

In a remote Icelandic town, an off duty police chief begins to suspect a local man to have had an affair with his wife, who has recently died in a car accident. Gradually his obsession for finding out the truth accumulates and inevitably begins to endanger himself and his loved ones. A story of grief, revenge and unconditional love. – Letterboxd

Unlike a lot of the films at Festival du Nouveau Cinema (that I’ve seen this year), A White White Day is not about a relationship but rather a person’s journey. Its fairly existentialist and also very arthouse. It also is quite slow-paced as the story slowly revealed of those tidbits that pieced the story together to come together in the second half. This movie is focused on a lot of time pieces which is quite obvious just from how the movie starts off showing a car passing through different surveillance cameras on the secluded highway of remote Iceland and ends up in a car accident. Its filled with fog regularly (as we soon learn). And then it jumps forward to a still shot of a house and snapping away like a time piece as different elements change and shift in and out and the seasons also slightly change as well. Everything is in the detail and the director’s respect for the audience’s ability to connect the dots is where most audience will appreciate it the most. At some points, these little time-shift still shots aren’t quite for everyone (just like watching someone eat pie for 10 minutes in A Ghost Story doesn’t work for everyone either). Consistency is quite important and A White White Day commits with these transitional shots to show time and possibly different emotions during driving with these styles of shot a few times during the film.

The entire remote Iceland setting is fantastic for this story. The middle of nowhere fits well with a man who loses his wife and thinks about her and the mixed feelings that he has about the situation that soon reveals as an obsession for the truth behind his wife and whether she had an affair and who it was with. This leads to the high point of the film as he loses it and makes for a fantastic way to end the film. Don’t get me wrong though, A White, White Day has some really great moments especially the one where he tells a scary bedtime story to his sick granddaughter.

As much as all the technical is worth a note here, the true star here would go to the main male character Ingimundur played by Ingvar Sigurdsson, as this is his journey of finding out the truth. Everything is in the details just like how it frames its shots to his facial expressions and how he acts with his eyes (which is always a sign of a great actor especially for a quiet and subtle role).

A White, White Day is not a film that is to my cup of tea whether in pacing or just snapshots of the same thing over and over again (which was where I knew this wasn’t going to be for me). However, there will no doubt be an audience that can appreciate it because there are a lot of standout elements and some great moments here and the second half of the film really does boost the movie to fantastic heights.  If existentialist and arthouse drama is your cup of tea, this one does have a lot to offer.

A White, White Day has one more screening during Festival du Nouveau Cinema on October 18th at Cineplex Odeon Quartier – Salle 17. You can find more info HERE.