FNC 2020: Violation (2020)

Violation (2020)

Violation

Director (and writers): Dusty Mancinelli & Madeleine Sims-Fewer

Cast: Madeleine Sims-Fewer, Anna Maguire, Jesse LaVercombe, Obi Abili

A troubled woman on the edge of divorce returns home to her younger sister after years apart. But when her sister and brother-in-law betray her trust, she embarks on a vicious crusade of revenge. – IMDB

Violation is a revenge thriller. One of the more direct and straight forward stories to be shown at this year’s Festival du Nouveau Cinema. Or at least it would seem that way. Violation executes its story on a double track. On one hand, its set in the present as the main character, Miriam reunites with her sister and her family to help prepare for a family gathering but there is a tension in the sisterhood and an uneasiness that sets between them that quickly comes to light when it also becomes apparent that she has other motives to be there that takes a rather brutal turn of events as her meticulous revenge plan. That’s where the other side comes into play as it flips between the present, the past answers the questions brought forward to what has caused her to go on this revenge streak. Violation is subtle and intense but yet, also brings forth this look at a touchy subject where it brings into question how the situation was interpreted and how she views it and the psyche behind her taking the matters into her own hands.

I still remember watching a short film last year on Shudder (which isn’t there anymore) called The Substitute which I liked a lot starring Madeleine Sims-Fewer who stars and writes the script and it was one that really showed how much potential she had as a writer. Helming both co-director/co-writer and the main actress, Madeleine Sims-Fewer plays Miriam, a woman with a revenge plan both wronged by her sister and her brother-in-law as it navigates between the past relationships with her husband and their failing marriage, the sisterhood and their trust and somewhat shaky foundation as well as the friendship/family connection between the brother-in-law which takes a turn after a night of trusting chat takes a betraying turn. Its a complex role and yet, Madeleine Sims-Fewer gives so much to the character of Miriam that gives her a lot of different sides to the character with the writing and subtle dialogue also building up her character right from the beginning.

Violation is a great film. In fact, there’s a lot of discussion to be had about the character Miriam as well as the situation that she deals with especially stemming from what happens with her brother-in-law who she trusted due to their prior friendship before the relationship with her sister as well as her own relationship with her sister and the fragility that it seems to have. There’s a lot to explore here and yet, its not exactly a character study but the character and the course of events takes on a rather unexpectedly brutal and intense scene at one point that brings this whole movie to a different notch. Its the delicate touch on the execution and pacing that makes this film quite the hidden gem.

FNC 2020: The Cloud in Her Room (她房间里的云, 2020)

The Cloud in Her Room (2020)

Director (and writer): Zheng Lu Xinyuan

Cast: Jin Jing, Dan Liu, Zhou Chen, Ye Hongming, Kangning Dong

Muzi, 22, returns to her hometown of Hangzhou. Her parents, now separated, have both moved on. She, in turn, hovers between past and present, flight and the eternal return.  – Festival du Nouveau Cinema

The Cloud in Her Room is generally the type of movies we all expect to see in Festival du Nouveau Cinema. Its absolutely arthouse. The movie is set in the current times in Hangzhou but shot completely in black and white along with some very interesting transition with close-ups of water, upside down swimming in the pool sequence and a negatives sort of filter of a building so on so forth. The setting itself also adds a lot of characters from her walks along the river to the residential area and its buildings and the different plances that she ventures alone or with others.

Its a slow-burn drama about a girl who returns home and the story floats between conversations with her mother, her father, her boyfriend and a barowner that she meets, her half-sister and the time she spends by herself wandering back to the family’s old apartment before her parents divorced. Another part is something like a documentary as there are interviews of the different people in her life or that she meets who talks about their view of relationships and how they came to this point in life. The concept of love, relationships and companionship and the unavoidable loneliness that she is coping with as everyone, especially her parents have moved on but she still hasn’t as she seems to be caught between the past and the present. We soon realize that in the present day, she’s remembering times of the past and what her past relationship meant to her as she was reconnecting with her each of her parents in their own lives.

While the film does float to the other characters in Muzi’s life in various conversations whether between her mother and her foreign boyfriends or her father and his new family, the central character is Muzi and she is one interesting subject. She is very flexible as she tries to blend with everyone and accepting to her mother’s more outward personality and her array of boyfriends. At the same time, her father has his own struggles with his family of his involvement and the whole discussion of not being a good father and in reality, realizing it himself when he asks whether she blames him for his decisions. At the same time, the most apparent relationship is the one with Yufei, a friend from school that has expanded further to something more intimate but never defined as boyfriend/girlfriend outwardly as he has issues with her personality and how she acts sometimes while he also has issues of his own from other relationships and really talking vaguely about what he wants from this before having a very memorable scene between them at the end.

The Cloud in Her Room isn’t for everyone. Its very slow-paced and almost feels like nothing much is happening except for the mundanity of Muzi’s life. Its full of subtle notes of watching a girl wander through her time and embracing her past and present and coming to terms with her life at this stage. Between the conversations and even the silent moments of observations and being in her own world, the movie crafts a rather deep character for Muzi and her life as well as the people in it. It sometimes feels random and disjointed but when the movie ends and giving it some thought (and I did a lot because this review took over a week to write up), it becomes a film that does carry some profound thoughts about relationships: family, love, friendship, companionship, etc.

*The Cloud in Her Room is currently screening on Festival du Nouveau Cinema and will be available until October 18th.*

Fantasia Festival 2020: Alone (2020)

Alone (2020)

Alone

Director: John Hyams

Cast: Jules Willcox, Marc Menchaca, Anthony Heald, Jonathan Rosenthal

A recently widowed traveler is kidnapped by a cold blooded killer, only to escape into the wilderness where she is forced to battle against the elements as her pursuer closes in on her. – IMDB

Being an American remake of 2011 Swedish film Gone, Alone is co-directed and written by its original source material. Alone is a simple thriller. It strips itself back to its basics while keep sounds mostly blending with the nature surrounding the characters, the cast kept limited to mostly the two main leads in a cat and mouse chase and the setting in an isolated forest that goes through different weather, phases and structured in swift chapters defining the different landmarks of the film.

Alone starts off with a rather slower first act. It consists of the main female lead, Jessica (Jules Willcox) making the decision to pack up after a tragedy much to the disapprovement from her family. Her story reveals itself over the course of the movie as she fights her grief and guilt and tries to survive from this unknown Man (Marc Menchaca that is hunting her down. The first act is incredibly strong especially having strong vibes of Duel as The Road part of the film sees her having this risky and eerie engagement with a muddy Jeep that she encounters and then follows her around. Unlike Duel, the Man approaches her in various instances and the conversations get more and more unsettling.

The strongest elements of the film does go to its main leads. Jessica and the Man play incredibly well off of each other. Their interaction and the chase between them heightens over the course of time. At the same time there is still a lot of subtlety. The two characters are dialed down to their absolute basics of one that is hunting and the other that is surviving. However, these characters also have enough backstory in little glimpses of phone calls or conversations that make them feel real.

The cinematography plays a big part in this film. It has many moments that feels like its almost comparable to David Fincher with the use of visuals and lighting. It might have to do with the fact that the film heightens a lot during the nighttime that the use of lights flare and the focus on dim lighting and how the film crafts the motion all comes into play. The isolated nature and not being scared to use darkness to its advantage adds onto the tension.

Overall, Alone is a well-executed thriller. Its not about all the fancy things and actually its at its best when the film focuses on being zeroed in on the characters interaction and the chase as well as using its environment to create the atmosphere and tension. The only part if I had to nitpick would be the parts of increasing in the background sound that builds at certain points of the films at times feels like it actually takes away from the tension a little and breaks from the subtlety that it works with. Luckily, its not too frequent. Sometimes less is more and Alone definitely applies that successfully.

Fantasia Festival 2020: Clapboard Jungle (2020)

Clapboard Jungle (2020)

Director: Justin McConnell

Following five years in the life and career of an independent filmmaker, supported by dozens of interviews, posing one question: how does an indie filmmaker survive in the current film business? – IMDB

Independent films might not exactly be on the radar for a lot of normal filmgoers but with the success of more and more of them, there are more people that are interested in looking up more of these low-budget independent films being produced. However, more than what gets to the front of the general public and released and distributed is all the hard work of getting one made. Justin McConnell takes us on his personal and arduous journey of getting a film made in Clapboard Jungle while calling this as a subtitle, Surviving the Independent Film Business.

For those interested in making their own independent film business, this might be a good starting point as McConnell not only shows his experience and the different routes he goes on to look for funding from investors but also interviews a lot of different key people involved in the independent film business from film festival administrators to fellow independent film directors and producers and more including some bigger names like George A. Romero and Guillermo Del Toro. Due to the span of this documentary, a few of these interviewees have already left this world however they did leave some great insight on this topic. The strength in this documentary does mainly go towards these various interviews spanning on the different hurdles that the independent film business brings along from its audience feedback in this current social media landscape and online accessibility addressing the keyboard warriors and their lack of respect. At the same time, also looking at the importance of social connections and the avenues to present a film concept like lookbooks as one example. Its rather educational and eye-opening to hear people in the business give their little insight and advice from their own experiences.

However, to say that McConnell’s journey isn’t interesting would be inaccurate. If anything, his journey proves to be one that might be a warning that perseverance is an important element as well as learning along the way. He starts off with one initial project and ends up creating multiple along the way from short films to getting another entirely different movie funded, Lifechanger (review) to add to his own portfolio. McConnell as the subject might not be such an interesting character to follow but he is representative of the everyday person chasing after a dream/passion but it shows a journey of growth as he expands his horizon by talking about the different avenues to present his project and the know-how from finances to creative elements that go into this process and on the social front such as presenting at the Frontieres Market and more.

Overall, Clapboard Jungle is a decent documentary that highlights the obstacles of being a filmmaker while giving both outside perspective and personal experience as a parallel. Its a rather educational sort of documentary and one that might make people reconsider the path of being a filmmaker or on the other hand, as an audience, how we should offer perspective and opinions on what might have been someone’s life for many years. However, the documentary does go a little in circles of things not going the right way so the beginning drags a little bit before things start moving forward. On a more personal level, perhaps its the fact that I’ve seen Lifechanger and enjoyed it quite a bit that seeing this documentary and McConnell’s journey feels much more fascinating. Especially as press and blogger that cover a few genre festivals throughout the year that show even more how much work has gone behind these projects that we see at these festivals and even more legitimate that its part of this year’s Fantasia Festival 2020.

Double Feature: Sonic the Hedgehog (2020) & The Lodge (2019)

A little of an early announcement that this the last double feature for August. Double Feature will resume in September however, don’t worry, movie reviews will be the main focus for the next two weeks. The double feature is wrapping up the rentals that I’ve been working through. One is an movie that released earlier this year as video game adaptation Sonic the Hedgehog and that is paired with independent horror movie, The Lodge.

Let’s check it out!

Sonic the Hedgehog (2020)

Director: Jeff Fowler

Cast: Ben Schwartz (voice), James Marsden, Jim Carrey, Tika Sumpter, Natasha Rothwell

After discovering a small, blue, fast hedgehog, a small-town police officer must help him defeat an evil genius who wants to do experiments on him. – IMDB

Video game adaptations seem to be more and more of late. Maybe its the surge of video game popularity or something but Sonic the Hedgehog is a fairly classic game and its one of my faves and because of this and the cast involved, it was one that I had on my radar. With the pandemic happening, it was something that just fell through until it circulated around on the rentals list. Sonic the Hedgehog has a similar tone to Pokemon Detective Pikachu and it has to do with aiming towards a younger audience for the most part and having the family/children’s live action with CG animated characters mesh.

With that said, Sonic the Hedgehog does manage to deliver on the children’s elements and a lot of the essence of the characters involved. There’s quite a bit of charm to each of them. Its a harmless and entertaining movie that aims to be an enjoyable experience and lands on its comedic points. For the older audience, it might be the charming element of Jim Carrey going back to his comedic roots like The Mask and Ace Venture: Pet Detective style with some jokes and movements really giving those vibes a lot as he portrays the villain Doctor Eggman.

Sonic is voiced by Ben Schwartz which is a fun character in general, both portraying the speedy blue hedgehog and as an actor himself. He is a good choice for the role and works it out really well. Sonic in CG animated form is pretty hilarious as well. Paired up with a rather dynamic performance by James Marsden, its a fun ride. There are some truly over the top moments but with the cast and material on hand, its rather expected.

The Lodge (2019)

Directors (and co-writers): Severin Fiala, Veronika Franz

Cast: Riley Keough, Jaeden Martell, Lia McHugh, Richard Armitage, Alicia Silverstone

A soon-to-be stepmom is snowed in with her fiancé’s two children at a remote holiday village. Just as relations begin to thaw between the trio, some strange and frightening events take place. – IMDB

The Lodge is a slow-paced atmospheric horror film. Its filmed in Montreal (where I am) which is why a lot of the road going up to the cabin looks incredibly familiar to myself which makes the isolated lodge in the familiar gloomy winter landscape feel even more unsettling. The Lodge builds on its quiet moments and its subtle sounds and creating this dark atmosphere. Whether its between the characters stuck in this lodge or dealing with the past and the events that happen, its all comes to spiral out of control even after the twist is revealed. It shows the dynamic and mentality between children and adults as well as the unsettled and unhinged mind. The setting creates a lot of the atmosphere to build up this story giving it the isolation and separation and even helplessness when things go bad.

At the same time, a lot of the movie is built up by its characters. The abrupt moments at the beginning and the simple-minded thoughts of children dealing with their soon-to-be stepmother and the nonacceptance of this new person in their lives followed by the dark past of said person all comes into play. Riley Keough delivers an outstanding performance as Grace, the soon to be stepmother who is trapped in this lodge with the two kids who are mostly ignoring her with the brother Aiden, played by Jaeden Martell being a big influence on the situation and having some unsettling moments of his own. Jaeden Martell made quite the performance in IT: Chapter One (review) previously and in The Lodge, its a different dynamic in his character.

The Lodge excels in its atmosphere and its characters and the surprise element that creeps along in the background until its final reveal. The way it concludes also takes a shocking path. This movie resides in knowing the least possible going in and experiencing its story so I won’t say any more. I do highly recommend it.

That’s it for this double feature!
Have you seen these two films? Thoughts?

Double Feature: Gwen (2018) & The Garden of Words (2013)

As we get back to more frequent double features, we head into the next letter in our alphabet run as we get to G. G selections on Shudder are rather slim pickings so I went ahead and started up 2018’s slow-burn film Gwen and then paired with also a shorter title with Japanese animated film by the same director as Your Name, The Garden of Words. Let’s check it out!

Gwen (2018)

Gwen

Director (and writer): William McGregor

Cast: Eleanor Worthington-Cox, Maxine Peake, Richard Harrington, Mark Lewis Jones, Kobna Holdbrook-Smith, Richard Elfyn

A folk tale set in the hills of Wales during the industrial revolution. – IMDB

Gwen is a slow pace Welsh horror drama set during the Industrial Revolution, mostly set in the isolated hills where this family of a mother and two daughters live on their farm. Unfortunate situations keep happening as the older daughter Gwen holds up the family and strives to survive while dealing with the farm animals dying mysteriously and her mother being overcome with a mysterious illness. Its a dark story and well-portrayed in its landscape and setting under its dim lighting and gloomy shots.

If we look at the characters, Gwen is played by Eleanor Worthington-Cox who does a really great job in this character. Its a quiet movie so dialogue is much less and there’s more of an observation of the situation and she does that very well. At the same time, her mother is played by Maxine Peake who also captures her role fairly well. There’s some rather “creepy” moments for lack of a better word. The movie itself isn’t exactly scary per se but it is a little unsettling at parts.

Gwen is for the patient audience that doesn’t mind a slow paced horror drama. Its not scary in the jump scare sense but more of a slow unwinding unsettling feeling that goes with where its set and the gloomy darker environment that surrounds this tale.

The Garden of Words (2013)

The Garden of Words

Director (and writer): Makoto Shinkai

Cast: Miyu Irino, Kana Hanazawa, Takeshi Maeda,

A 15-year-old boy and 27-year-old woman find an unlikely friendship one rainy day in the Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden. – IMDB

The Garden of Words is a 45 minute Japanese animated drama film written and directed by Makoto Shinkai, the person behind Your Name. Its interesting to see that this story also features two strangers Takao and Yukari who the latter is the mysterious woman who we actually don’t know the name until much later when her identity is revealed. The Garden of Words is something of a coming of age as the two characters have their own personal struggles of being a bit of a loner or misunderstood and finding it hard to know how to move forward. It uses the 15 year old boy, Takao’s passion for being a shoemaker and shoes in general as a metaphor for life.

Because of that focus, there’s a lot of scenes that capture the feet with how they sit and position their feet or walking through the streets, etc. Makoto Shinkai is a nice storyteller. His stories, at least the two to date that I’ve watched, has been rather meaningful. Its always about some element of life and adds a hint of romance in it that helps the characters grow. While this story isn’t quite as complex, it does take a level of careful execution to allow the story to work in the realm of keeping one of the character’s a mystery until giving her identity reveal. At the same time, Shinkai always gives these rich in color and beautiful animated scenery. In this case, its capturing the realistic rain fall set in the beautiful garden and capturing the light beams  and such.

The Garden of Words is a mere 45 minutes and because it doesn’t have a overly complex story but still with a little mystery, it adds enough to move the story in a quick paced. Its well-animated and has a rather careful metaphor. The story focuses on two characters with an age gap and while there are some elements of it that feels a little odd at first, its a rather interesting friendship that happens between them. Its a bit unlikely but then its not the friendship itself but rather how it develops emotionally perhaps. The Garden of Words is a quick viewing that’s definitely worth your time if you liked Your Name. Its not the same sort of story but its still a pretty good watch.

That’s it for this G double feature!
Have you seen these two movies? Thoughts?

Double Feature: Hell House LLC II:The Abaddon Hotel (2018) & Hell House LLC III: Lake of Fire (2019)

Wrapping up the Hell House LLC franchise from the first movie’s review HERE, its time to look at the remaining two movies. Let’s check it out!

Hell House LLC II: The Abaddon Hotel (2018)

hell house LLC II

Director (and writer): Stephen Cognetti

Cast:  Vasile Flutur, Jillian Geurts, Joy Shatz, Dustin Austen, Brian David Tracy, Kyle Inglemen, Amanda K. Morales, Laura Frenzer, Danny Bellini

It’s been eight years since the opening night tragedy of Hell House, LLC and still many unanswered questions remain. Thanks to an anonymous tip, investigative journalist Jessica Fox is convinced that key evidence is hidden inside the abandoned Abaddon Hotel-evidence that will shed light on the hotel’s mysteries. She assembles a team equally hungry for answers with one goal: break into the hotel and discover the truth. – IMDB

I’m going to be honest here and say that after watching Hell House LLC, it never seemed like it needed a sequel or that a sequel would be in the picture. Of course, it did leave some space to explore the whole Abaddon Hotel mystery a little further. Hell House LLC 2 is supposed to be just that. It takes up the same found footage concept. This time, its years later and this anonymous tip sets this new crew on a search to find some answers. Suffice to say that things get a little out of hand, or else there wouldn’t be a movie to watch.

Thing is, Hell House LLC 2 is about The Abaddon Hotel and yet, the story itself seems like it gets lost in its story a little and what it wants to tell. While the haunted house element pays a lot of tribute back to its original and it tries to dig a little deeper into the history of it again, the story is not quite as unique as its first one. A lot of elements are very predictable and it doesn’t have the same effect of making this work out quite the same way as this group goes in with something of a paranormal investigation mindset. There’s a little more paranormal and less of the atmosphere building that gives it what it originally shone in the first one.

Overall, Hell House LLC 2 felt a tad unnecessary. It does try to add more context to the Hell House LLC haunted house deal and who is behind the situation that went down in the first movie and does add to the story. Its execution, however, is where it falls short. The movie starts off relatively okay as the crew groups together and they break into Abaddon Hotel but the further it goes along, the movie loses a bit of steam up to this ending with a rather annoying monologue bit.

Hell House LLC III: Lake of Fire (2019)

hell house llc 3

Director (and writer): Stephen Cognetti

Cast: Elizabeth Vermilyea, Sam Kazzi, Theodore Bouloukos, Brian David Tracy, Brigid Abrams, Leo Defriend, Jordan Kaplan, Danny Bellini, Gabriel Chytry

The Abaddon Hotel will once again be open to the public. Russell Wynn has taken his audience-interactive show, Insomnia, into the abandoned hotel that is rumored to be haunted. – IMDB

Right after we talk about how unnecessary Hell House LLC 2 was, this series ends on the third movie, Hell House LLC: Lake of Fire. Lake of Fire was talked about in the second movie and here we see something of a first movie rehash as they try to rebuild the haunted house. The movie itself tries to pull the first and second movie together and then propels itself to an ending that wraps up the whole ordeal. There’s a lot of cuts that go back to those previous films as they go through the haunted house parts and draws parallels to the original and first sequel.

Its hard to tell whether its the pacing or the constant flashbacks or parallels drawn that make this film feel slow and rather boring. As the movie progresses, despite its shortcomings, it does add to bring in the “lake of fire” idea to the whole story and what makes it work especially when the haunted house experience is open the public. Its not hard to imagine what will be the result but how it all happens is on one hand cool in certain areas especially in this one area with the white corridor and adding in those creepy elements that link all three movies together actually work really well but then there are some shots that are cool in execution like using the camera on a turn table or display case or something that works out really well but at the same time, the believability of that scene has some flaws.

One of the better elements of this movie is how it chooses to wrap up the series to makes it more grounded and has some kind of conclusion. The ending ending itself is pretty clever. It sounds bad to say that the ending is the best part but the ending itself is structured to give the whole Hell House LLC something of an answer to what happened and why this is happening and how it all finds some kind of ending. Horror movies nowadays refer on the cliffhanger ending so they can have the “what happens next?” but with this third movie, Hell House LLC feels like its wrapped up and done and while I think it would have ended at the first movie at its strongest leaving some questions unanswered, somehow the ending of the third movie was good to have those answers as well.

Overall of the franchise: While Hell House LLC is strongest at its first movie, the haunted house and the whole location and lore that it brings is pretty solid. The execution in the second and third leaves a lot to be desired for the most part but the base story and what it tries to tell is still there.

That’s it for this double feature!
We wrapped up another horror franchise!
Have you seen the Hell House LLC movies? Thoughts?

Double Feature: Dog Soldiers (2002) & Hell House LLC (2015)

Welcome to the next double feature! Something of a horror double feature as we start bouncing between Shudder and Netflix more (so more horror in the horizon..a lot more). The first to appear is a pairing of one movie that I’ve been wanting to watch the finally go on Shudder, Dog Soldiers and the second is a random choice by my husband, the first of three movies called Hell House LLC. Let’s check it out!

Dog Soldiers (2002)

Dog Soldiers

Director (and writer): Neil Marshall

Cast: Sean Pertwee, Kevin McKidd, Emma Cleasby, Liam Cunningham, Thomas Lockyer, Darren Morfitt, Chris Robson, Leslie Simpson

A routine military exercise turns into a nightmare in the Scotland wilderness. – IMDB

Werewolf movies are rather hard to come by and its nice to see that here and there they do come up even if a lot of times, it sometimes still feels a bit lacking. Dog Soldiers has my praise for tackling this subgenre in horror films but at the same time, the movie itself is something of a slow-burn. It plays up on the unknown of who is hunting them and why this military team is at the location at the time and that takes a lot of time to build, probably longer than I’d have wanted.

There are some decent scenes and yet, while the script tries to give all the characters something more, its main players do dial down to 4 of the characters especially when they end up trapped in the house. The two military exercise leaders of sorts is Sean Pertwee’s character Sergeant Wells and Kevin McKidd’s character Private Cooper who takes over when Wells ends up injured rather seriously. The next two is a woman who lives in the area and knows of these odd events happening played by Emma Cleasby as a character of Megan who gives them a lot of the information as she saves them from the wilderness  while the last is a Captain who won’t talk about what happened but was involved in the last attack that killed his team pretty much.

Dog Soldiers itself has a decent premise. The story its trying to tell and the way they want to add in the twists and answer all those mysteries. Even some of the attack scenes and werewolf designs, despite its budget, still works alright. The biggest issue here dials down to execution where the first half seems to lag a little and when the reveal happens and things get serious (even though there were attack scenes and other scenes before that), it seems a little late in the game making the second half definitely stronger than the first.

Hell House LLC (2015)

Hell House LLC

Director (and writer): Stephen Cognetti

Cast: Gore Abrams, Alice Bahlke, Danny Bellini, Theodore Bouloukos, Jared Hacker, Ryan Jennifer Jones

Five years after an unexplained malfunction causes the death of 15 tour-goers and staff on the opening night of a Halloween haunted house tour, a documentary crew travels back to the scene of the tragedy to find out what really happened. – IMDB

Found footage films are always a somewhat interesting horror genre to see. They usually all reliant on the execution and finding how to create the right atmosphere. With Hell House LLC, its the first in what is now a 3 movie franchise. We’ll be looking at the other 2 later on as a double feature. This is an independent movie and yet somehow, found footage films are usually still very good with a smaller budget. This first movie does a great job in its execution and especially in using its cameras and background to have this lurking horror atmosphere. There are a few little jumpscares here and there but they are also very effective.

What does shine here is in the premise of looking back at this documentary that five crew members have joined together for their next haunted house tour in this abandoned hotel called Abaddon Hotel located in a small town . It shows the entire lead-up through the surveillance cameras and other filming cameras that document the whole making-of up to the night of the malfunction. It uses its lighting and darkness pretty well and also builds a decent lore with the story of the hotel and its previous hotel owner. It all makes sense but lacks enough information to keep it a mystery and how these characters one by one change in their own ways and it becomes a question of whether its because of the hotel and whatever seems to be haunting it or just the haunted house weighing down on them for other reasons. 

Overall, Hell House LLC is a strong found footage film. It has enough of a creepy factor and helps itself by having all these mysterious stories and how it brings in different horror elements in the background. There’s a change in the characters as well as the entire haunted house deal making it have a lot of opportunities to play with these suitable horror elements to appear amidst the haunted house props that also play well with the whole premise. Its one location makes Abaddon Hotel a worthy horror setting. Its definitely worth a watch if you  haven’t seen it yet!

That’s it for this double feature!
Have you seen these two films?

Double Feature: The Marshes (2018) & Short Term 12 (2013)

Time for the next double feature! This time, its somewhat of an odd pairing as we quickly catch up on some movies

The Marshes (2018)

The Marshes

Director (and writer): Roger Scott

Cast: Dafna Kronental, Sam Delich, Matthew Cooper, Eddie Baroo

Deep in a remote marshland, three young biologists conduct research but when they encounter evil, science ends and survival begins. – IMDB

Australian horror films have definitely been more abundant in the last few years. The Marshes is an alright look into the survival horror in a remote area as it creates something of a legend that wanders this land that these three take as a campfire story in the first part as they stay longer in this area to conduct the research. However, there seems to be a lot of fluff in the beginning between the three at the start before any of the horror starts that makes it a little harder to first get into. However, once the horror does start, the setting allows for a good atmosphere to build. 

The wilderness, isolation and the outdoors marshlands is where The Marshes is at its most unique and most effective horror parts. It creates a lot of thrills as the cannibalistic threat hunts down the three biologists. There is a good amount of stealth and hiding and makes for some tension. Visually, the setting also is appealing along with some of the more gruesome death scenes are well executed as well. However, the characters themselves and the flow of events are fairly predictable. It lacks a bit of surprise and the characters and situation always feel slightly underdeveloped that its hard to truly care of the three characters as well. 

The Marshes is an okay horror thriller. It has its gruesome scenes and creates a human/monstrous threat which has its creepy elements. However, a lot of it feels like it falls flat whether because it follows some expected motions in horror films or simply that it takes a little long to introduce its threat and start the hiding. If anything, The Marshes does prove that marshlands are a great horror setting perhaps with a slightly better script. 

Short Term 12 (2013)

Short Term 12
Director (and writer): Destin Daniel Cretton

Cast: Brie Larson, John Gallagher Jr., Stephanie Beatriz, Rami Malek, Alex Calloway, Kevin Balmore, LaKeith Stanfield, Kaitlyn Dever

A 20-something supervising staff member of a residential treatment facility navigates the troubled waters of that world alongside her co-worker and longtime boyfriend. – IMDB

Short Term 12 is a little indie hidden gem that shines out because of its cast of characters. While its central focal point is between two of the supervising staff members Grace and Mason, played by Brie Larson and John Gallagher Jr respectively, as they embrace the next step in their life, the past troubles for Grace and her inability to talk about them ends up creating a wall in their relationship especially as her troubled past reveals itself slowly as she deals with a new teenager that lives at the facility, Jayden played by Kaitlyn Dever. 

There’s so much to love as Short Term 12 remembers to keep its story focused on its characters. While it can’t give stories for all its youths, it focuses on a few. As for the supervisors, it also gives a few characters that make for a fresh pair of eyes especially as Rami Malek is the new supervisor that enters this residential treatment facility and learns how to maneuver and find his purpose here. On the other hand, the more interesting story is the next youth that is getting ready to be released from the facility and transition back to the real world Marcus, played incredibly well by LaKeith Stanfield. Marcus might be somewhat of a supporting story here for the youths facing transition while on the other hand, another youth looks at his dependence on his objects that is taken away suddenly. 

Each of the stories for its youth as well as the connections to the supervisors shows both sides of the characters in this facility called Short Term 12. Adapted from a short film of the same name, this indie film definitely tells a great story with a good deal of character depth and development. Plus, a handful of the cast has gone a long way since their roles here: Brie Larson, John Gallagher Jr., LaKeith Stanfield, Rami Malek. Short Term is a fantastic movie and well worth a watch if you haven’t seen it yet. 

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

BITS 2019: Puppet Killer (2019)

BITS 2019 banner.jpg

Puppet Killer (2019)

Puppet Killer

Director: Lisa Ovies

Cast: Aleks Paunovic, Lee Majdoub, Lisa Durupt, Richard Harmon, Gigi Saul Guerrero, Kyle Cassie, Geoff Gustafson

While celebrating Christmas at a cabin in the woods, a group of high school students are stalked by a psychotic killer obsessed with horror movie icons. – IMDB

A lot of indie film concepts grow from wanting to make their own take while paying tribute to some great horror film that the team loves. In some ways, Puppet Killer is a film that like. Its script and scene choices put a lot of heart into having a killer that loves horror movies and is using them to execute and chase after this group of teenagers. We’ll be talking about the odd casting choices soon because that’s one of the head-scratchers here. Let’s not let the title mislead you though, Puppet Killer is the literal term that probably would have worked better as “Killer Puppet”, but it does somehow give it a little room for questioning whether the puppet was controlled by an actual human or not.

puppet Killer 2019

Just like creepy kids, puppets (or things in the same category like dolls) being alive can also be rather unnerving. As much as this is a horror comedy, there are some serious moments of tension and very effect atmosphere built up to make the scene pretty creepy. Its a bit crazy to think that a pink puppet that looks like The Muppets is scary because of its tiny size and its very catchy color but its the misleading elements of childhood and innocence that makes it even creepier to watch and not to mention the color contrast on screen that also gives it a lot of style. How the puppet moves and the way its revealed one step at a time to give it much more fleshed out kill scenes: all this is done with a lot of care and it all works very well.

Puppet Killer 2019

Now, we’re at the casting choice. While the acting itself is pretty decent, plus it has The 100‘s Richard Harmon in a supporting role and the Mexican-Canadian director & actress Gigi Saul Guerrero in a acting role, the casting choices are very odd as the characters themselves, especially the main character is a much older actor playing a teenager. There’s a whole inner debate of whether this was deliberate or its just working with what is available within the budget of this film. As much as that is a hurdle to get through in the school scenes at the beginning, the acting was done pretty well and along with the Puppet Killer executing the movie in a way that shifts over to the cabin in the woods rather quickly, its easy to gradually forget that this is a group of teenagers and when the horror hits, the whole set up and atmosphere places the initial “confusion” even more in the background.

Puppet Killer 2019

Puppet Killer is a fun little horror comedy romp. It has some well-executed scenes and definitely should appeal to those who can catch all its iconic horror movie moments. If you don’t, it might feel a little more random but as this film does build fairly good atmosphere, more and more so after its climax, its easy to overlook a few of its shortcomings. Plus, its an alternate Christmas movie choice and we can never have enough of those.

Puppet Killer has a screening in Blood in the Snow Festival on November 21st at 9:30pm. You can find more info HERE.