Blood in the Snow Festival: The Whistler (Short, 2018)

The Whistler (2018)

The Whistler

Director (and writer): Jennifer Nicole Stang

Cast: Karis Cameron, Baya Ipatowicz, Nelson Leis, Alison Wandzura, John Emmet Tracy

Lindsey is forced to babysit her sister, Becky, one night, when, after innocently falling asleep, wakes up to find her sister gone. Someone has taken Becky and could be after her as well. – Blood in the Snow Festival

The Whistler is a short film that definitely feels very polished from the acting to the setting to the screenplay itself. While it only runs 11 minutes, the short film takes on quite a few memorable bits. One of the fun parts is its playful mentions of various iconic horror movies, for example a clever mention of Crystal Lake. The other one is having The Whistler start as a fairy tale or lore of sorts and build it from there, making us wonder on not only whether it is real or not but also how it ends.

As the movie brings in those elements of the fairy tale becoming a reality, the pieces fall into place and it all comes down to Lindsey who witnesses it all. The atmosphere and the music and sound effects here play a big part in making it all bring in a lot of the sinister feeling. Adding in some of the effects like how the eyes change and whatnot in the film that work just well enough for its purpose. At the same time, there keeps a creepy feeling that keeps us on the edge. At the same time, the cast of young actresses here do a great job in each of their roles.

There is still a sense of The Whistler being an indie film. However, whether we are talking about the acting and the cast or the story and the execution and all the effects, there is a lot to love here. It builds a nice atmosphere and its a fun little movie to watch. There is a nice twist of whether this is a fairy tale or the reality and the ending also brings in a bit of a question which can be interpreted from what was talked about previously in the film. Some of the bits here are slightly predictable but the sum of its parts definitely makes this one a short that I’d recommend.

The Whistler was a part of the Bloody Bits Showcase Part 2 at the Blood in the Snow Festival 2018.

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BITS 2018: The Hoard (2018)

The Hoard (2018)

The Hoard

Directors (and co-writers): Jesse Thomas Cook & Matt Wiele

Cast: Lisa Solberg, Tony Burgess, Barry More, Ry Barrett, Elma Begovic, Marcus Ludlow, Justin Darmanin, Charles Ivey, Jesse Thomas Cook

THE HOARD is a comedy/horror mockumentary that chronicles the unravelling of a production team who are attempting to produce the ultimate reality TV show pilot ‘Extremely Haunted Hoarders’. – IMDB

Mockumentaries are a tough subgenre to crack. They have to carry a certain comedic value to them as they go and mock a certain style. In this case, The Hoard tackles mocking reality TV in the likes of ghost hunting combined with house flipping shows. The movie is a comedy for the most part but takes a turn for something more in the horror area near the end as the plot takes a sudden turn. The main hurdle for The Hoard is honestly on how much its viewers enjoy mockumentaries in general. It embraces what it is trying to achieve fully both with its ragtag team of “experts” with each of their specialities and the way the entire movie is executed.

The Hoard

Looking at the characters, they are the heart of The Hoard. The most comedic being that of the pompous Dr. Ebe (Tony Burgess) who takes his role as the resident psychiatrist to solve this hoarding habit of their subject to another level with both impractical and ridiculous ways. Another highlight is the divorced paranormal experts Chloe (Emma Begovic) and Caleb Black (Ry Barrett) who have their incredibly hilarious interpretation of ghost hunters both making fun of the scenario in an indirect way in an over the top manner that offers lots of entertainment and plenty of laughs. It is quite a treat to see Emma Begovic switch from the really intense main role in Bite to this comedic role which shows her acting chops. The professional organizer, Sheila Smyth (Lisa Solberg) is the leader of the team and while she is simply the glue and grounded person here and the one who goes through a lot more situations and dramatic moments, she somehow doesn’t have quite as much impact as the previously mentioned ones. Same goes for the construction/renovation trio, Duke (Marcus Ludlow), Falcon (Justin Darmanin) and their temp worker Ivey (Charles Ivey). They do cover a bit of the over the top dumb humor which lands less because it sometimes overstays its welcome.

Humor is a subjective thing. It is what makes the mockumentary comedy genre sometimes hard to talk about. What works for me might not tickle your funny bone. In this case, the humor lands enough for this film to work and as a mockumentary, it is done in an entertaining way with enough to keep it intriguing. However, it does feel slightly disjointed at times and some other bits felt not so necessary. It’s a short run time and sometimes it feels like it circles too long in a lot of the same movements before switching the plot up. There are some good and some lacking elements here especially in terms of the horror coming a little too late. For those who do appreciate mockumentaries, this one is worth a shot.

Side note: I can appreciate what it does here but I’m not the audience for this one so I can see that it does a good job but I didn’t quite get as involved as other who enjoy mockumentaries would.

BITS 2018: Deadsight (2018)

Deadsight (2018)

Deadsight

Director: Jesse Thomas Cook

Cast: Liv Collins (co-writer), Adam Seybold, Ry Barrett

A man with partial blindness and a young pregnant police officer must work together to escape from a deadly virus that has spread across Grey County. – IMDB

Zombie movies are a dime a dozen these days. So many of them pop up and disappear but then every once in a while, we see some that add their own twist either with their characters or their plot. Deadsight takes the route of having two rather weaker protagonists who end up meeting and fighting for survival together. Its a refreshing idea  not only for choosing not really less competent characters but characters both with physical weaknesses or hindrances to their health temporarily to have to fight together but also the fact that the reason behind why all this happened and how this deadly virus has caused this zombie apocalypse of sorts.

Deadsight

With that said, its important to take a look at these two main characters. Ben (Adam Seybold) who is partially blind gives the fear because the audience can see his attackers before he can, creating a lot of fast-paced tense moments. On the other hand, Mara (Liv Collins) who is pregnant has the obvious disadvantage of having less physical capacity as she obviously has because she is a police officer and that makes her a strong character because she is quite resourceful. As much as these two have their weaknesses, they also never dwell on them and because stronger and more capable roles because of it. Another nice part here that cuts out a lot of any drama is making these two strictly staying in line with surviving, and what makes this executed well is that while we never learn too much about these character’s backgrounds, it is their actions during this situation they are thrown in and crafts their true nature and personality and makes us want them to make it out of this ordeal alive.

Deadsight

Aside from well-crafted characters, Deadsight also is well-paced. That is linked to a previous comment about keeping it less about drama and more about survival which a lot of horror films forget about. At the same time, there might not be a whole lot of dialogue between the characters but there is a decent bit of zombie attacks, escapes and encounters to make it an intense and fast-paced work. A part of this has to do with the camera work and how it delivers each of these scenes and the other part has to do with having an impressive soundtrack that is subtle but also creates the proper atmosphere. Not to mention the zombies are also designed really well.

Deadsight

If there is one little thing to criticize about Deadsight, it would have to be that all the characters have this incredible desire to throw out their weapons after one use. That doesn’t mean guns but rather axes or things that can be used over and over again. However, that can be overlooked since many films do happen to do that. One thing that lift this film is its camaraderie between the characters despite being strangers, especially in the final at when they complement each other’s weaknesses  to be a stronger team. The whole movie is done well but the final act has some great elements as it works itself to end on an intense note. Deadsight is a well-executed zombie film that you should watch.

Deadsight is screening its world premiere on November 25th at 4:30pm at The Royal Cinema for Blood in the Snow Festival. 

BITS 2018: Montreal Dead End (2018)

Montreal Dead End (2018)

Montreal Dead End

Directors: Remi Fréchette, Priscilla Piccoli, Quentin Lecocq, Emilie Gauthier, Loic Surprenant, David Emond-Ferrat, Eve Dufaud, Frederick Neegan Trudel, Mickael N’Dour, Julie De LaFreniere, Catherine Villleminot, Tiphaine Dereyer, Hugo Belhassen, Audric Cussigh, Gaelle Quemener, Mara Joly, Charles Massicote, Jimmy Pettigrew

Montreal Dead End is a 15 part horror anthology set while “a supernatural mist is seeping through the cracks of the city, causing various evil enchantments related to the neighborhood from which it escapes, waking up a dark spirit here, a vengeful ghost there, releasing a plethora of terrifying creatures, possessing numerous citizens and even turning some of them into zombies, or entities from the beyond. The key to this paranormal chaos lies within a First Nations legend, a shamanic amulet and a guardian (Marco Collin) in search of a book of prophecies and premonitions which only he can decipher.  The quest takes us from one part of the city to another, crossing paths with unexpected events and multiple creatures along the way. ” [BITS 2018]

A fifteen part horror anthology that runs over less than an hour and a half is a marathon in itself. Some of these are barely snippets and is truly a short film in itself set in the different boroughs of the city. Between these films is one part of the anthology called The Guardian (“Le Gardien”) directed by Remi Fréchette that is the key behind all this chaos. It is intertwined between all these different stories and brings the entire story together. The beauty of Montreal Dead End is that it acts as a tour of the island of Montreal. Its panning scenes taken by drone takes a lot of aerial landscapes of this city, at the same time also showing off its many touristic areas. Being knowledgable of Montreal probably adds to the enjoyment of the city because of the familiarities and the preconceptions of each neighborhood.

Montreal Dead End

To call this anthology a beauty is not accurate because it is better described as a quirky movie experience. Many of the stories grow from some very odd ideas, for example “Part 10: Who Listens to Celine Anyways?” where anyone who listens to Celine Dion music will automatically be possessed and some can see some indirect influence from other films like “Part 13: Folie Legumineuse” that feels a bit like the gingerbread man scene in Krampus. There isn’t any story in particular that is extremely horrific however. It acts more of a horror comedy with perhaps a few slight exceptions. A lot of the merit of these stories are in its creative ideas even though some of the execution is overly obvious.

This anthology’s heavily lies on the main plot that runs throughout with the guardian played by Marco Collin as he goes in search for the book of prophecies that only he can control. It is well-timed each time the appearance of these small snippets appear from one location to the next just like a treasure hunt as it also helps gain a better understanding of what is going on. After the resolution of it all seems a little hasty. 

Montreal Dead End

A movie anthology like this has its charms. To be fair, any anthology has its great, good and lackluster bits. With one with so many different parts, it is hard to escape that fate. With that said, Montreal Dead End won’t be for anyone. Maybe one story or another will please someone but this one has some very odd ideas that might just seem off putting for many.  You can’t fault any of these directors for not putting their twist and being incredibly creative with their ideas. Its going to appeal to a specific audience who will appreciate what its trying to do here.

Montreal Dead End is showing on November 24, 2018 at 9pm at The Royal Cinema for BITS Festival.

BITS 2018: Hammer of the Gods (2018)

Hammer of the Gods (2018)

hammer of the gods

Director (and writer): Nick Szostakiwskyj

Cast: Rob Raco, Josh Collins, Samantha Carly, Parmiss Sehat

Hammer of the Gods is the story of falling-from-grace rock group half a decade after the release of their hit single, as they travel deep into the Canadian wilderness on a spirit journey. – IMDB

Horror films set in the wilderness is fairly underused. The Canadian wilderness is a vast and intriguing location to choose. Hammer of the Gods sets their story in the Canadian wilderness starting right away to show off the vast nature surrounding where this starts on a big area of water, a lake that leads into a water system to start their adventure for a one time wonder rock band, Sled Dog out to find inspiration for their future music. Being a horror thriller, this one takes its story through an acid trip journey while following some specific rules set on the first night by this band for the three members and a groupie they picked up at the beginning of the trip.  Hammer of the Gods is set up for success in its premise. However, in the actual execution, this is where it starts to fall apart slightly.

Hammer of the Gods

One of the main issues with the film is how it takes a long and dragged out first act to get to its climax point. However, once it gets there, it also has the issue of whether the reveal was slightly too early before it got to the grand finale where everything unravels to a certain point. The first act which lasts almost the first half of the film is full of very small things. There is somewhat of a Predator sort of idea where there’s these moments of something lurking in the forest observing and following. There’s the big question of whether they are hallucinations from the drug and that is the assumption that is expected to be drawn but of course, there is something more. However, after many scenes of these moments that feel somewhat disjointed but seem to also escalate a little more from one to the next, it still is done well however at one point overstays its welcome slightly. When the turning point comes and we have the first reveal of sorts, it becomes this appreciated moment but then it also seems like its still a little too abrupt and makes us wonder how much farther this story can go. What happens as it goes to the end does work but at some point, the reveal of the true nature of what lurks in this journey, how real this all is as well as the true intention of this journey (because why wouldn’t it not have another layer), turns into this dramatic point for its band members that feel already too late and inappropriate to be dealing with this when survival is the more important part of the equation.

Hammer of the Gods

As much as the execution as its issues, what does stand out in Hammer of the Gods is its use of its natural atmosphere and surrounds. The camerawork here works to the advantage as it helps to focus on the forest in each location. The canoe rides and the conversations all have a deeper meaning and the layout of events, although taking dragged out has a lot of atmospheric moments that create a decent level of tension. The second half of the film in that regards, aside from some dramatic moments which understandably is to give the characters some more substance, takes a turn in pace and propels quickly towards its ending. There is some tense moments and some shocking moments and some predictable moments where the character makes a desperate albeit dumb decision. There are some nicely crafted moments here but Hammer of the Gods just falls short of its potential.

Hammer of the Gods is screening at The Royal Cinema on November 24th at 4:30pm for Blood in the Snow Festival.

BITS 2018: Alive (2018)

Alive (2018)

Alive 2018

Director: Rob Grant

Cast: Thomas Cocquerel, Camille Stopps, Angus Macfadyen

A severely injured man and woman awake in an abandoned sanitarium only to discover that a sadistic caretaker holds the keys to their freedom and the horrific answers as to their real identity. – IMDB

Let’s face it. At this point in the horror film scene, a lot of plots have already been used. Alive’s plot absolutely looks familiar. One setting, sanitarium, amnesiac captives/patients, ominous unknown captor: been there, done that, right? What separates a familiar plot from the crowd is how it is executed and what twist it can add and especially for something set in one location, how engaging its characters are. Alive nails all these elements and successfully creates an impressive thrilling indie gem.

Alive

One of its best elements is its engaging characters. By keeping its cast small, it can also control the characters depth. The amnesiac patients/captives are one man and one woman who is credited only by Man Patient and Woman Patient and played respectfully by Thomas Cocquerel and Camille Stopps. There is a world to create with this blank slate and as small specks of their memories come back, the mystery doesn’t get any less especially when faced with their captor played by Angus Macfadyen, who takes his roles and runs with it. The instability and the suspense as well as the villainous nature of his character portrayed on point at every turn, making every scene with him an absolute tense delight. Even when he is off screen, his presence is lurking in the shadows. That, in itself defines such a well acted character. There is this unknown the whole way wondering whether there is always more to a scene to the next, at the same time, wondering what link these two captives have in common. The questions are endless but that is how it is meant to be to keep the intrigue alive throughout.

Alive

Alive is also done with multiple layers. It starts out with a suspense and torture porn sort of movie. Its blood streaked in every scene. However, there is also this psychological layer to it especially when it comes to who the captor is and his final motive. However, the film takes a turn of events as it progresses and the bloody moments turn around and become a cat and mouse sort of game in the final escape and the plot and motives unravel. The finale definitely takes the audience for a ride in an unexpected and surprising way.

However, Alive takes a step too many which is where it falls short. There are after credits scenes so do remember to stay to watch it. The unnecessary additions to a lot of horror is what drags this down. Its a pity that Alive decided to take such a cheap and expected route. It didn’t really need to because the entire film before it had done such a wonderfully executed horror thriller filled with tension and suspense.

Alive will be showing at the BITS Festival on November 23rd at 9pm at The Royal Cinema.

Movies and Tea #11 – Mimic

Season 2, Episode 2 of Movies and Tea is here! This time we look at Guillermo Del Toro’s Mimic and dive into the subway system of New York. Head over to the blog to give it a listen.

Remember that you can find us also on various other avenues as well:
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Spotify – https://tinyurl.com/y82rqg84
Podomatic – https://tinyurl.com/ybrt4rru

Thanks for listening and feel free to share your thoughts on this film and the show!

Movies and Tea

Having announced himself as an exciting new voice in horror with “Cronos” Del Toro chose to follow it with his first English language feature “Mimic” based on the Donald A. Wollheim short story as Del Toro brought to the screen a tale of shape shifting bugs living in the New York system in a production hampered by the interference of producer Harvey Weinstein leaving Del Toro with a film he was unhappy with until his directors cut finally saw the light of day in 2011.

Come Join Us in the Booth as Elwood and Kim go on a bug hunt to see if this might be a hidden gem in Del Toro’s filmography.

Further Viewing

Bug (2006)
Bite
The Relic
Them
Phase IV

Music on this episode

Keith Mansfield – Funky Fanfare
Marco Beltrami – Bathtub
Marco Beltrami – No Sweat

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