Shorts Triple Feature: The Substitute/I Want You Inside Me/The Stylist

We hopped back into Shudder and since there was quite a few movies still backlogged for review, I decided to check out some of the short films instead.

The Subsitute (2015)

the substitute

Director: Nathan Hughes-Berry

Cast: Madeleine Sims-Fewer, David Bamber, Ben Kerfoot, Haruka Abe, Alfie Stewart, Anna Hogarth

A young teacher takes a job at an unusual private school where the boys have a sinister power over the girls. – IMDB

The Substitute is a sinister and psychological short. It takes a dark and suspenseful tone of this private school with peculiar rules that most teachers are able to adapt to hence why they have hired a substitute. Not only are the classes structured weird but also the behavior of everyone is also. Particularly when there is a mysterious locked door at the end of the room that no one talks about but when there is bad behavior, it is where the student exit the class. The movie gives the viewers lots of questions and hits them with a few answers. Being a short film, it does a great job of keeping the mystery of the locked door. Its impossible to not think throughout the film of what is actually going on here and especially is what behind the locked door.

Its been a long time since I’ve felt this amount of suspense and thrills that has honestly been on my mind for a few days lingering on the movie stirring up some deep emotions about the connotations of this short and honestly, hoping that this was a full length film because it would give more answers. Of course, that is only a hope and looking at IMDB, it doesn’t seem like its in the works but I still highly recommend this short film.

I Want You Inside Me (2016)

i want you inside me

Director: Alice Shindelar

Cast: Abigail Wahl, Kiley Juckel, Nate Bucsko, Ezekiel Ashamu, Malik Johnson

A tale of all-consuming desire. – IMDB

A young girl losing her virginity is already quite the scary thing but think about not even remembering what happened and also finding that the boyfriend as disappeared as well when she wakes up, that is nothing short of confusing and heartbreaking. I Want You Inside Me is a intriguing one. While the tone of the film lies in the mystery of what happen and the reveal feels odd, it also does have this weird vibe throughout the film that works and doesn’t at the same time. Perhaps its because a short film doesn’t give the viewer enough time to bond with the main character here and she doesn’t exactly hang around with a crowd that makes it easier to like her more. Whatever it is, they do drop one hint of sorts in the film and if the viewer catches that, the ending might seem a little more apparent. It is a little out there but not something completely unique and unexpected. Actually, it is slightly goofy and disturbing all at the same time.

The Stylist (2016)

the stylist

Director (and writer): Jill Gevargizian

Cast: Najarra Townsend, Jennifer Plas, Angela Dupuie

Claire is a lonely hairstylist with an unnerving desire to escape her disappointing reality. When her final client of the evening arrives with the request to look perfect, Claire has plans of her own. – IMDB

I’m not up to date with a lot of short films. However, The Stylist has been on my radar since it had hit the festival circuit. I remember some other blogger writing about it and seemed incredibly intriguing. The Stylist is a solo journey for this young woman who stays late at her job to take care of her last customer at the salon. As the movie proceeds, we learn more through her actions and emotions about who she is. There might not be a ton of dialogue but her expressions will get you a trip into her world. Somehow it strikes a chord easily on the idea of wanting to be someone else. However, the short did remind me of a few films as it was going on that it lacked the originality it needed to really make it very suspenseful. It definitely still had the psychological aspect because The Stylist herself, played by Najarra Townsend does  a great job in interpreting the main character Claire and showing all the right emotions .

The Stylist had all the right tones and an outstanding performance with a mysterious character however, the layout of the story lacked a bit of intrigue. It is still done very well and for just looking at the snippet of Claire’s world is as deep as 15 minutes can get you.

This wrap up the triple feature for these short films!
A very suspenseful and psychological thriller collection of three shorts! 🙂 

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Radius (2017)

Radius (2017)

Radius

Director: Caroline Lebrèche & Steeve Léonard

Cast: Diego Klattenhoff, Charlotte Sullivan, Brett Donahue

Liam wakes from a car crash with no memory of who he is. As he makes his way into town to look for help, he finds only dead bodies, all with strange pale eyes. Liam’s first assessment is that a virus is present in the air, but he soon discovers the horrible truth: anyone who comes within a 50-foot radius of him dies instantly. – IMDB

Car crashes and memory losses are a common occurrence in film. Radius however takes a different approach by adding extra element to the familiar, an unknown danger. From that point on, Radius sets up a thriller that starts off in its opening scene setting up the mysterious and suspenseful scenario and following through with a tense and well-paced thriller to the finish. There are only a few key characters and while the foundation of the movie sometimes falls into a familiar formula, the radius of death for Liam and his reliance on this unknown girl who is the only one mysteriously immune to it is what keeps the audience on their toes. There is a danger here and yet, the characters don’t seem to deserve any of it because they are hurt and confused.

Radius

The cast mainly revolves around the two main characters. The first is a man we soon learn to be Liam. He is portrayed by Diego Klattenhoff who pulls off a strong performance. A lot of the opening scenes are solo and quiet moments and he manages to show the confusion and desperation as he realizes fairly early in the film that he has this mysterious danger to others. As the first act wraps up, Liam has learned his name and meets this other girl who also lost her memory and doesn’t remember her name so is referred to as Jane (short for Jane Doe), who is played by Charlotte Sullivan. Her role here is also done well as she seems even more of a blank slate than Liam and because of that, she is more suspicious of the situation and this man who initially hides information from her. Their bond is one that is intriguing to watch evolve as their journey to follow each  memory that flashes by them to uncover what actually happened takes us through the course of the film up until the big reveal. Other than this bond, these characters constantly remind us of their innocence in this situation and the despair makes them the victims. With no apparent villain other than their predicament, the audience can bond with these two characters.

 

Radius

Radius is a well-paced thriller. It creates a balance of mystery and humanity. Its story has the elements that raises it above the cliched initial scenario, setting it apart in a unique way. The dangers of being able to kill with proximity alienates these two characters, making their bond more intriguing to watch develop. Radius does an intriguing set up in its first act and a tense fast-paced second act but slightly stumbles in its third act during its ramp to the final reveal. Despite its small stumbles, the third act is still shocking. Radius relies on the audiences bond with the characters. The bottomline is that Radius is a competent thriller that does well with great pacing and good characters.

Radius is an official selection for FrightFest, Fantastic Fest and Fantasia Film Festival. It is available on VOD on November 10, 2017.

Double Feature: The Precipice Game (2016) & The Loft (2014)

And we are back to regular programming!

I have a few outstanding movies to review. Lets just hope I still remember them enough to write about them. First up is a double for two thriller-esque movies, a Chinese thriller set on a cruise ship The Precipice Game and a thriller with some well-known actors that I like called The Loft.

Lets check it out!

The Precipice Game (2016)

precipice game

Director: Zao Wang

Cast: Ruby Lin, Peter Ho, Mr. Black, Scar Kim, Wang Ji, Li Lin, Li Shangyi, Gai Yuexi

Liu Chenchen, a free-spirited young woman, rebels against her wealthy family and elopes with her boyfriend to join a cruise-bond treasure hunt. But what began as an innocent game with promises of great reward soon turns into a battle for survival when the contestants are thrown into a mysterious world of intrigue and chaos in the middle of the sea.-IMDB

The Precipice Game can really only be categorized as a thriller because of its twisty ending which while doesn’t seem to hint at it too much, you start somewhat suspecting the possibility of it all no matter how extremely ridiculous it seems. Now may be a good time to emphasize for those unfamiliar that the term Chinese films differ from Hong Kong films and I make that difference not because I particularly emphasize on my love for Hong Kong but because the film industry was established and progressed differently before the handover in 1997 and the themes and styles still differ immensely. It also goes to say that I’m still fairly new to the Chinese movies that are not from Hong Kong and therefore am frequently unfamiliar with the cast, this movie being somewhat of an exception because the actor and actress here is the reason I even gave The Precipice Game a chance.

the precipice game

The Precipice Game isn’t  all bad. They draw inspiration on different Hollywood films perhaps and while it all seems ambitious, it does try the best to get the tone down. The Precipice Game also has a decent cast however, suffers from having too many characters and really giving time for 2 or 3 characters to have the spotlight. Adding on the fact that some do overact a little on a film that is really quite serious makes it all the more frustrating to watch. There are scenes that will remind you of Saw a little (without the extreme body horror) and it gets the whole playing the game thing going on. Perhaps its strength is the cruise ship setting, giving it the tight corridors and similar paths easily making it claustrophobic and hard to maneuver.

The Precipice Game didn’t give me any thrills but the I did like some of the characters and wished they had more time to drive the suspense than  just keep a death tally on people that we didn’t particularly care about. It may be the bitterness I have after watching Saw and being fed up of the “lets play a game” except these people were dumb enough to join into a vague game to win a big prize but my common sense took over where if I saw it was a weird host and an empty cruise ship, my danger receptors would sound off and I would choose to just leave. However, I am aware that people, especially in movies, make a lot of dumb choices.

Fairly average and quite predictable, even its decent cast couldn’t quite save it. It does have a twist ending so maybe you want to see this to see if you can figure it out.

The Loft (2014)

the loft

Director: Erik Van Looy

Cast: Karl Urban, James Marsden, Wentworth Miller, Eric Stonestreet, Matthias Schoenaerts, Isabel Lucas, Rachael Taylor

Five married guys conspire to secretly share a penthouse loft in the city–a place where they can carry out hidden affairs and indulge in their deepest fantasies. But the fantasy becomes a nightmare when they discover the dead body of an unknown woman in the loft, and they realize one of the group must be involved. – IMDB

I wanted to like The Loft so much. I’m not a fan of the premise to begin with. I mean, married men who believe they need a place to have their affairs. Suffice to say, The Loft should have been a character study of these different men. However, the cast here is amazing. If we didn’t have this cast, I might have turned off the movie and never finished it. Really what falls apart is the story and the dialogue. It seems this was a remake of a European thriller and I’ll probably try to hunt that one down one day since I do think there’s something interesting here.

the loft

There isn’t much to say about this one. I’m fairly indifferent to it. There are some pacing issues and it tries to mesh the investigation afterwards with what happened and then doing flashback and current and the story does seem to jump around quite a bit. To be fair, some of the characters here aren’t really bad in nature however, this is one of those stories where you don’t really want to cheer for anyone but its really wondering who did it, who is lying and what secrets do they have all hidden away.

The Loft didn’t offer any thrills. It never hit the erotic part of what it seemed to want to do either and then it never has compelling enough characters and dialogue to keep it suspenseful. Its fall short in so many ways that its quite below average. 

This wraps up the lackluster thriller double feature of The Loft and The Precipice Game.
Both have things they do right and they have the potential to be good but for various reasons, it just falls flat making them both average and  forgettable.

Have you seen these two? 

Dirty Little Secrets (J.J. Graves Mystery #1) by Liliana Hart

Diving back into my TBR list sitting on my Kindle, I’m not sure if I picked up this book because I was hooked on Pretty Little Liars and the cover reminded me of the series so I thought it would be cool. There really are no reasons especially when its really a shot in the dark and hoping that its a good read. I’ve never read anything from Liliana Hart before so let’s check it out!

Dirty Little Secrets (J.J. Graves Mystery #1)
By: Liliana Hart

dirty little secrets

J.J. Graves has seen a lot of dead bodies in her line of work. She’s not only in the mortuary business, but she’s also the coroner for King George County, Virginia. When a grisly murder is discovered in the small town of Bloody Mary, it’s up to J.J. and her best friend, Detective Jack Lawson, to bring the victim justice. The murders are piling up. When a popular mystery writer shows up on J.J.’s doorstep with plans of writing his new book about the Bloody Mary Serial Killer, J.J. has to decide if he might be going above and beyond the call of duty to create the spine tinglers he’s so well known for. Passions are rising. J.J and Jack discover each victim had a shocking secret, and the very foundation of J.J.’s life is in danger of crumbling when it turns out she’s harboring secrets of her own—secrets that make her a perfect target in a deadly game. – Goodreads

Mystery/thriller/suspense are so hard to do well. I can tell you that this book has nothing to do with anything like the plot of Pretty Little Liars of course, as you can see in the summary above. The star of the show is J.J. Graves who is a doctor turned mortician who also shadows in this small hometown as the person taking care of autopsies which usually are just normal everyday natural or accidental deaths and nothing like murders until one murder after the next plague the town and it becomes apparent that someone from the town itself could be responsible and that the victims lead a much darker life than they lead on. Small towns are a great setting for murder mysteries because it keeps things confined whether in terms of relationships or just the possible suspects and gives it space to be easier to follow. For that, Liliana Hart did really good at setting up that stage. The mystery itself made sense and the big reveal also was logical and twisty enough to be a surprise.

Dirty Little Secrets is a pretty quick read because it keeps its length under control. It will have your brain wondering the whodunnit question. However, the book does have its downfall. One of the biggest ones is creating a character like J.J. who isn’t exactly someone we can care for. She is very human because of her imperfections however, she does have a generic personality as a mortician or even the big hidden secret reveal. Her conversations are uninspired especially as we step into the middle when she is infatuated by the stranger in the town while her best friend, the hunk and player of the town Jack fumes over her decisions. Now, what J.J. lacks, Jack’s character makes up a little for. He is still a little generic in his background but there are more layers to his personality and in the bits where he shows up, it leaves us wanting to know more about this character.

As the debut of a series, Dirty Little Lies does well to set up our characters and a look at the town setting. While there are some uncompelling and generic elements, there are still bits to retain it and if not that, the writing style here is a pleasure to read. It does leave me curious to see where the characters will go especially after getting through showing is the basics of this character in this first book that the next one will have more intriguing layers to work with. Maybe I will give it a whirl some time, just to see if its worth continuing to read the entire series, which seems to have ended at Book #4.5.

Visual Novel: LAQUE: Premonitions by Jean Fukuda Miyasato

One more visual novel before jumping back to actual novels.

This next one is called LAQUE: Premonitions. Like I said in the first visual novel post, I’m starting to grow a fondness for them. For one, they aren’t long and two, they have art to look at. Its like a picture book for grown-ups. Plus, the last one was not exactly what I expected a visual novel to be. If you missed it, you can find it here. This one should be a bit more interactive. Let’s see, shall we?

LAQUE: Premonitions
by: Jean Fukuda Miyasato

LAQUE: premonitions

If you knew that the girl you know you will die for a FUTURE know would avoid? Laque is a boy with a special gift, he often has prophetic dreams, and one of them manages to see his future love gives her life to save his, now have to decide whether to approach it or avoid it so as not to sacrifice for him. – Google Play Store

Laque is structured much more like what I thought visual novels are. This one has actual choices to decide on the path. It floats between the premonition ( maybe dream) world that the main character Laque resides in. At the beginning, we learn that he has a gift of premonition. Ghosts or images will show up that clue him in on the future events. Then he meets a girl in one of these who don’t talk. There are some blood and deaths and whatnot and now he needs to hunt down who this girl is and who the killer is to try to stop it.

The story itself is pretty basic but the idea here is pretty. The experience still left something to desire. For one, there are some unnecessary random cheap jumpscares here and there. Sometimes they caught me off guard, most of the time it was a WTF moment because it didn’t seem to fit with the story. Note that horror and mystery/suspense are two different genres therefore jumpscares are not necessary. The second point and also the last was the story and dialogue was really like watching an anime or reading a manga or whatnot but the words looked like they were being typed slowly on. I don’t know if it was for anticipation or to make the unveiling of secret feel more effective but in random conversations, it felt much longer than it needed to be.

To be fair, Laque Premonitions is pretty good. The lesson he gives at the end is a good one, at least the ending I got. I have a suspicion that there may be multiple endings. While thete are plenty of saves on the progression, the impatient me just couldn’t handle another session of slow dialogue particularly when Laque’s inner monologue could be sped up to show all at once and not thr actual ones out loud to other characters. Still, a decent experience other than some minor technicalities.

Halloween Marathon: Residue (TV mini-series, 2015)

As a little break in between the two featured franchises, I managed to finally check out TV mini-series Residue. I’ve been meaning to since I saw it on Netflix a few months ago but never actually got around to it. Residue is only 3 episodes long and each episode is about 40-45 minutes long. It is completely doable to do in one sitting. I took it as a movie which is generally the length of any movie now.

Let’s check it out!

Residue (Mini-series, 2015)

Residue

Director: Alex Garcia Lopez

Cast: Natalia Tena, Iwan Rheon, Jamie Draven, Danny Webb, Franz Drameh, Adrian Schiller, Eleanor Matsuura

The government cover-up of the causes behind a massive explosion in a futuristic UK metropolis spur photo journalist Jennifer Preston on to search for the truth and in the process blow open a paranormal phenomenon haunting the city.-IMDB

I’m not one to watch mini series frequently but Residue looks to have a well-crafted atmosphere or the poster shows it like that. On top of that, Residue has Natalia Tena and I absolutely loved her in Harry Potter as Tonks and even more in ….. There is something about her that makes her really fun to watch in her roles. Maybe it is because she shows off characters that are more of a tough and brave girl. Her roles show off a lot of personality and that is always nice to see. That is no differerent for Residue.

Residue

Residue is an incredibly atmospheric mini series. Plus, it has a rather unique take. The production setting itself attributes to it a lot. The mostly evacuated city and the quarantined zone both hold a strong contrast. There is a strewn of characters aside from Jennifer, Natalia Tena’s character, that take us to look at how people from different backgrounds and sectors of this new dystopian future world is reacting and adapting. A lot of the amusement of the series goes to this factor as we see the political side, the underground gang and even the police force and also the unnoticed that sneak around. No one knows everything but everyone seems to know a little as they each seem to be intrigued to find out more. And it is because of these range of characters that make us also want to learn more about what is actually going on after the explosion.

Residue

While Residue has a great production set and story premise and even really great cast in each of the roles, the one thing that lacks a little is the relationships between the characters. It is hard to care too much about a character when we don’t quite understand the importance of their roles to the people they are linked to. The mini series dumps you into the story rather quickly. We know that our main character Jennifer and her boyfriend Jonas are very much in love however we lose a sense of where it all lost track months later and its hard to pinpoint where they are in their relationship anymore. This has a lot to do with the fact that the mini series is only three episodes. If there was more time, probably more care would be place into building the characters more. At the same time, possibly the role that gets the most lost in the equation is the cop Mathis who we know has some sort of addiction or problem and ends up losing his daughter in the explosion. He looks like a rather young character so its hard to imagine that he did lose a daughter and we don’t have any pretext as to what went on and how he turned out to be like that. The devastation is expected but he seems to be the less developed character that may have gotten more especially with his turnout.

Residue

It is hard for me to look at Residue and not question whether it would have been a fantastic full series. There could be so many angles to take this especially with everything in place. At three episodes, there just isn’t enough to justify a lot of what is going on and many times, especially the ending, there is a sinking feeling of wanting it to be more. However, for some, perhaps this is the brilliance as it will leave the audience guessing the outcome in a rather open ending. Honestly, I like Residue a lot despite the minor faults here. In some ways, while I didn’t connect to the characters as much as I’d like to, the atmosphere resounded with me and got me a little creeped out and some genuinely chilling moments. And if this ever did turn into something with more length, I would be totally on board to see it built more. It would be fun creepy ride that just doesn’t seem to be in the TV market right now.

Have you seen Residue? What are some mini series that you like?

Red Ribbons by Louise Phillips

Its been a few weeks since a book review but I’ve taken some time to get back into a new rhythm. Its still a work in progress.  The good news is that I’m back to reading and I have book reviews for the next few weeks. I’m pretty happy about that. There is naturally no feeling better than sitting next to the pool under the sun and reading. That is one of the best feelings of summer. I’m still diving into the unread books on my Kindle so next up is a mystery thriller called Red Ribbons by Louise Phillips. I know nothing about this and have no expectations, which is probably the best way to start a book.

Let’s check it out! 🙂

Red Ribbons
by Louise Phillips

Red Ribbons

 A SERIAL KILLER. A missing schoolgirl is found buried in the Dublin Mountains, hands clasped together in prayer, two red ribbons in her hair. Twenty-four hours later, a second schoolgirl is found in a shallow grave – her body identically arranged. A hunt for the killer is on.
THE CRIMINAL PSYCHOLOGIST. The police call in profiler Dr Kate Pearson to get inside the mind of the murderer before he strikes again. But the more Kate discovers about the killings, the more it all feels terrifyingly familiar.
THE ACCUSED WOMAN. As the pressure to find the killer intensifies, there’s one vital connection to be made – Ellie Brady, a mother institutionalised fifteen years earlier for the murder of her daughter Amy. She stopped talking when everyone stopped listening.
What connects the death of Amy Brady to the murdered schoolgirls? As Kate Pearson begins to unravel the truth, danger is closer than she knows… The bad man is everywhere. Can you see him? – Goodreads

Red Ribbons was a downright surprise. While at part the story dragged on, the overall story had so many tense and chilling moments. Sitting in the mind of the serial killer, the criminal psychologist and an accused woman that everyone thinks is crazy has a whole new level of contrast in characters. In the beginning, its hard to determine what everyone is doing. You might not even know what the end goal of anyone is here. Thing is, these are all flawed beings and they have their own issues. As we peek into their lives and the case opens up and more information is discovered, the tone and effectiveness of the story really grabs hold. Its hard to fathom actually experiencing a murder like this one. Thing is, what everything means never becomes apparent until the last few chapters. It doesn’t have anything to do with the manipulation of surprises and twists like a lot of thrillers do. There is a care in building up so that the we start understanding and developing especially the serial killer and criminal psychologist.

I can’t say that there isn’t a bias on my part. I do love criminal psychology a lot. However, its the feeling of learning about the deep complex psychological aspects that us as humans have. The scariest thing in this world to me (even above my immense fear of ghosts) is the twisted human nature. Its why this intrigues me so much.  This is the true winner of Red Ribbons.  Its not hard to believe that the characters in Red Ribbons could exist in our world. They are made to be human as well as their reactions and their lives. Kate, the criminal psychologist, is accomplished and smart. She notices and captures the little details that others have neglected. However, despite all these abilities, it strengthens the fact that your pros professionally may be your downfall in your personal life and her life is fractured. She struggles to find a balance just like a normal everyday person (at least I can feel for her). Even Ellie, the accused woman has a strong voice. Her loss, her flaws, her self-blame and her hopelessness is actually a little heartbreaking to read. The scariest character has to be the serial killer. The twist is that we as the reader, know who he is the whole time. Not by name or specific character but he drops hints on himself and we start wondering who this person doing the narrative is and we also know his personality traits. The piece of the puzzle that we learn is his history and what triggered him to murder.

Red Ribbons is a great find and a well-paced read. There is no point to dive further into details because that just kills a thriller. The best way is to walk into this not knowing too much and deciphering for yourself. I promise you, I just scratched the surface. There is still so much to unveil. I urge you to give it a chance if you like mystery thrillers or criminal psychology investigations.