FNC 2020: The Tremor (2020)

The Tremor (2020)

The Tremor

Director (and writer): Balaji Vembu Chelli

Cast: Rajeev Anand, Semmalar Annam, Sasikumar Sivalingam

Following a tip-off, a rookie photojournalist sets off to report on a destructive earthquake but soon finds himself on a mysterious journey that questions the line between fact, myth, and sensationalism. – IMDB

The Tremor is one of those movies that is very hard to sell. The plot of it (just like described above) is rather intriguing but the execution is one that is going to test a lot of the viewer’s patience. The Tremor follows an unnamed photojournalist who spends most of his film driving in his car through mountain paths. The movie starts with scenes of the aftermath of an earthquake in first person as it sees trees fallen down and people being carried out in stretchers and there’s this brewing sound effects in the background that gets louder and louder and yet, back on the road, the movie spends a lot of time with a GoPro or dashcam bouncing around in first person of the mountainous roads that he drives on or close-up of his face whether trying to figure out where to go next or smoking.

The few encounters he has turns out to be fairly cryptic with different information being shared about whether an earthquake did happen and where it is exactly. That is where the suspense lies: in the unknown and whether this did happen and whether the tip-off was a real thing because it starts feeling a lot like its misinformation at a certain point. Its what keeps the plot going and the intrigue of following this man drive around the movie and visit different places and climb through mountainous locations and these little villages along the way looking and questioning the people that want to talk to him. Its these little conversations that much like him, the viewers are learning about the location and what happened or has happened.

In reality, what does give The Tremor the most style is the setting. The mountainous roads and the forest along with a deep fog that creeps in from the valley that starts covering up what is going on. It seems to come in slowly and unexpectedly, following him around. The isolated roads and the vast mountain range and valleys and just the emptiness of the whole location gives it so much suspense. As the past is revealed and almost always constant denial, much like the main character, its easy to wonder what is real or myth. If it wasn’t for the mountainous roads that feel like they loop (or maybe they do) and the unknowing direction of just moving forward and keep hitting figurative dead ends of this situation either having never been heard or the connection of a past earthquake that has been lingering in the village’s memory, it all gets a little uncertain and unclear.

In some ways, The Tremor really is quite an outstanding movie. The cinematography, the setting, the soundtrack all give it the suspense and mystery to keep the viewer intrigue. But at the same time, its a grueling experience where it ends and its a wonder how it was one to get into because in reality, its the most basic elements of watching one man drive through a mountain constantly going forward with almost always fruitless effort and it lies on whether the endgame is one that is satisfying enough. For myself, its a little half and half.

*The Tremor is currently playing virtually for Festival du Nouveau Cinema until October 31st, 2020*

Fantasia Festival 2020: Shorts Round-up

Like every year, the final post for Fantasia Festival 2020 is going to be a short film round-up.

Abracitos (2020)

Director (and co-writer): Tony Morales

Cast: Virginia Gomez, Beatriz Salas, Carmen Salas

This Spanish horror short running at 11 minutes is set in the bedroom of a little girl when a phone call rings and the two sisters picks up the phone to realize that there’s something outside the little hideaway. While there is a little bit of campiness in the design of the “monster” on hand, the execution and atmosphere is done so well that it is very creepy and unsettling of tension build-up as anticipation of something happening builds up more and more of what will appear and all ends in a startling ending.

Abracitos is an incredible short executed with such a strong sense of horror that just makes you cringe in your seat waiting for what will happen next but never actually knowing when it will happen.

Downs of the Dead (2019)

Director (and co-writer): Even Husby Grodahl

Cast: David Vekony, Svein Andre Hofso Myhre, Eili Harboe, Ivar Lykke, Jeppe Beck Laursen, Elg Elgesem, Giulia Hellesdatter Roi, Trond Halbo

Running at 23 minutes, Downs of the Dead is a horror comedy set in a home for the intellectually disabled when the zombie apocalypse hits. The nurse tries to find a way out with the residents as the people around start turning one by one. The comedy elements of Downs of the Dead is pretty good. The incorporation of the different character groups with both the residents and the nurse’s collaboration to escape taking a different angle while using the visiting music band and the boss who gets turned into another element of added danger. Its all rather entertaining to watch and runs at a decent pacing. Horror comedy set during zombie apocalypse is really a been there done that sort of premise however its characters and setting is really what gives it the unique edge.

Suspense (2020)

Director (and writer): Ben Burghart & Jacob Burghart

Cast: Robert Coppage III, Jelani Talib

Running at a swift 7 minutes, Suspense starts off with an army pilot caught in the canopy of trees after he escapes the crash. As another army pilot reunites with him on land, they realize that something is chasing them in the shadows. Playing a little like Predator, this story takes a turn for the worse really quickly as the invisible enemy is tracked mostly by its sound with the aid of the camera. Its a fast-paced and excitingly intense short film that delivers on executing some thrilling build-up.

Dead Birds (2018)

Director (and co-writer): Johnny Kenton

Cast: Shannon Tarbet, Tara Fitzgerald, Luke Newberry, Synnove Karlsen, Lydia Wilson

A failing teenage badminton player at a Catholic Girls School is visited by a Saint – who agrees to help her if she’ll complete three tasks for him. Dead Birds is a twisted Super Natural Black Comedy about competitive mother daughter relationships, losing your religion and learning how far you’d go to get what you want. – IMDB

Running over 30 minutes, Dead Birds is one of the longer short films in this batch and also that I’ve seen to date. Its a dark comedy that elevates in its intensity gradually and also a horror comedy that doesn’t use zombies but rather the psyche of a badminton player striving for success and recognition to move up before a big competition. Its quite a wild ride with a good execution on the humor (at least for myself) and all builds up to this fairly alarming twist ending that becomes a little apparent by the final moments right before it as things all piece together from the various conversations. Its a fun and engaging short film that feels very different from any that I’ve seen before.

Homo ErecTattoos (2020)

Director (and writer): Kim Tae-woo

A terrible accident leaves a young soldier horribly scarred, but his rediscovery of art heals his wounded soul, in this brief but powerful animated documentary. – Fantasia Festival

If there was any short film that’s unique, it would definitely be this 8 minute South Korean animated short film. One of the most standout points is how it uses its black and white art style to execute each of its scenes as the pictures morph into one and another to progress through the story of a soldier recovering. There’s such a powerful story told here while still keeping it stylish and visually gripping. Its a movie experience that shouldn’t be missed.

Fantasia Festival 2020: Perdida (2019)

Perdida (2019)

Director: Jorge Michel Grau

Cast: José Maria de Tavira, Cristina Rodlo, Paulina Davila, Juan Carlos Colombo, Sonia Franco, Paulette Hernandez, Luis Fernando Pena

Shattered by the unexpected news of their irreversible break-up, an aspiring orchestra conductor is puzzled by his girlfriend’s mysterious and seemingly inexplicable case of disappearance. But, can he look beyond the facts? – IMDB

Perdida is the 2019 remake of the 2011 Columbian thriller called La Cara Oculta aka The Hidden Face (review). The source material itself is an outstanding piece of psychological horror thriller kind of deal with great execution and a stellar twist. It comes as a surprise after some research for this film that there was a remake before this one which was Bollywood film Murder 3. Its always been somewhat of a mystery in my mind whether knowing the twist of this plot would change its value in a second viewing and its probably one of the reasons that I haven’t revisited the original since I saw it years ago in the early days of the blog. Its also a movie that is very rarely talked about and it makes me wonder whether people actually have seen the original. Putting all that aside, Perdida was one that had a lot to live up to and one that is hard to not at least compare it to its original a little especially since movies that live in my brain years after its viewing is a rarity.

For the most part, Perdida stick fairly close to the source material especially in structure. Its atmosphere and the characters all come together quite well. Its interpretation of the suspense and the thriller also works well. What it does really well is the cinematography as it creates all the tension with ambiance as well as making some visually appealing scenes using the dim lighting and shadows. There are some passionate sex scenes and then the music score is probably what blends the best with the film which pulls together the orchestra conductor profession of Eric. The score builds up a lot of the scenes. At the same time, the contrast of subtlety in sound also crafts the suspenseful side of the story.

Where Perdida might not quite work so well is that the characters feel a little empty. The main leads between Eric, Fabiana and Carolina do a good job as their dynamic and the scenes sees the shift in those relationships. However, the need to cast suspicion on the husband being responsible isn’t as prominent and that has to do with a lack of the police officers presence in the story. There’s a bigger focus on the passionate love between Eric and Fabiana, a little bit of Eric’s obsession for this conducting career and a bit of his darker character perhaps, while Carolina is a someone who seems very resourceful but also having some extremes in her character.

Overall, Perdida on its own is a decent thriller. It follows the source material a lot and that originally had a very good story to begin with. The three main leads as Eric, Fabiana and Carolina all do a decent job while the other elements also come together fairly well. They also make the new home as a setting some kind of life as well with the little things that happen. In case anyone hasn’t seen The Hidden Face or Perdida, I’m going to avoid talking about the twist here which is executed fairly well. However, on a personal level, Perdida didn’t quite live up as a remake of La Cara Oculta since in my memory, the original still seemed to have a better control of a lot of these elements but that’s all comparison which if you haven’t seen it, Perdida is done pretty well overall.

Blog Tour: The Memories We Bury by H.A. Leuschel

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From June 29th to July 5th, you can purchase her book for ONLY $0.99 on Amazon! You can also try to win a digital copy of The Memories We Bury by entering the giveaway below!

The Memories We Bury
By: H.A. Leuschel

The Memories We Bury

Publication Date: April 17, 2020
Genre: Contemporary/Psychological Suspense

SYNOPSIS

An emotionally charged and captivating novel about the complexities of female friendship and motherhood.

Lizzie Thomson has landed her first job as a music teacher, and after a whirlwind romance with Markus, the newlywed couple move into a beautiful new home in the outskirts of Edinburgh. Lizzie quickly befriends their neighbour Morag, an elderly, resourceful yet lonely widow, who’s own children rarely visit her. Everything seems perfect in Lizzie’s life until she finds out she is pregnant and her relationship with both Morag and Markus change beyond her control.

Can Lizzie really trust Morag and why is Markus keeping secrets from her?

In ‘The Memories We Bury’ the author explores the dangerous bonds we can create with strangers and how past memories can cast long shadows over the present.

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REVIEW

The Memories We Bury is a psychological sort of novel that alternates between the first person narrative of its two main characters: Lizzie, a new mother and her elderly neighbor, Morag who has a strong desire to be needed and control and views this opportunity to be a chance to nurture another child. The first person narration style gives these two characters a slowly building development and very much suited as in many ways, this story is something of a character study, especially in terms of Morag who gradually reveals the reason why her children have left her and the other secrets that others have hinted at but never mentioned as it builds up to the big finale where she truly oversteps. On the other hand, Lizzie’s side of the story is much more about motherhood and the suspense behind her suspicions of Morag and her intentions. As their friendship develops over the course of the story, the dynamic changes and it moves between control and manipulation. In that regard, both of the characters are very well-written.

The flow of the story is probably one of the elements that is much  more of a slow-burn. Just like the chapters move through a timeline to give an idea of the progression of time, which didn’t really impact my own reading experience too much. The story unravels very slowly. It could definitely have been paced a little better. As mentioned before, the characters did need the time and events to develop however, it did also feel like it dragged on a little in the middle bits between the beginning build-up which was intriguing to introduce and set-up the two characters and the big climax that was quite scary and shocking overall.

Overall, The Memories We Bury keeps in line with the strong psychological elements of H.A. Heurschel stories. Much like some of the previous works that I’ve read, this one also delivers with another completely different sort of relationship as it jumps into the topic of motherhood as well as friendship. The characters are intriguing to watch and even manages to add a little uncertainty at the end. Its an impressive way to end the story which leaves a little space to contemplate.

Score: 3.5/5

Where to buy: Amazon

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Photo - Helene edited

Helene Andrea Leuschel gained a Master in Journalism & Communication, which led to a career in radio and television in Brussels, London and Edinburgh. She later acquired a Master in Philosophy, specializing in the study of the mind. Helene has a particular interest in emotional, psychological and social well-being and this led her to write her first novel, Manipulated Lives, a fictional collection of five novellas, each highlighting the dangers of interacting with narcissists. She lives with her husband and two children in Portugal.

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BITS 2019 Shorts: Sky So Blue/One in Two People/Songs My Mother Taught Me/Break In Break Out

BITS 2019 banner

As we continue the Blood in the Snow Festival coverage, these are the next batch of films that were paired with full feature films screened. This time, we’re taking up four films: Sky So Blue, One in Two People, Songs My Mother Taught Me, Break In Break Out. Four very impressive horror shorts!

Sky So Blue (2019)

Sky So Blue

Director: Tyler Williams

Cast: Jeff Sinasac, Daniel Park

After being attacked and imprisoned in his own home, a man stands accused of creating a strange piece of music that may or may not have the power to kill anyone who hears it. – IMDB

Sky So Blue is a 15 minute short that is a psychologically unsettling and suspenseful interaction between two people: a man being accused of creating a deadly music piece that has gone viral and since then killed a lot of people and the other a man who has lost his family because of it. The interaction leads to a whole did he or did he not do it. Is the accusation right? Is the other one just acting innocent? The questions constantly rise as the man asks him questions to get the reason of why and how he created this music. Its a little bit of a cat and mouse sort of conversation with not a whole lot of resolution but as revenge seems to get stronger between them, its a rather “shocking” sort of ending that still manages to keep it slightly ambiguous. Those types of endings are the best as they can spark up some nice afterthought and reflection.

*Sky So Blue screened at the Blood in the Snow Festival with Dead Dicks on November 23 at 7pm*

One in Two People (2019)

One in Two People

Director: Ali Mashayekhi

Cast: Ashley Leggat, Katie Boland, Karissa Strain, Jade Hassouné, Katie Strain, Adam Tsekhman, Matt Murray

Emily is surrounded by her friends as she reveals her dark secret. – IMDB

One in Two People is a 7 minute short that plays with the unseen and the unknown. This one is executed really well as it leaves a lot of suspense and guesswork that only be deciphered through the conversation between the friends and their different position in Emily’s life and how they view her. It all becomes a question off deciphering both the character of Emily and whether she is to be believed. Of course, being a short film, it wouldn’t possibly be nothing but rather how this something will be presented. One in Two People uses the reactions of entering into this locked and the aftermath that builds up the unsettling horror feeling and giving this well-executed finale that honestly was rather creepy. As an addition, Jade Hassouné who played Meliorn in Shadowhunters plays the boyfriend of Emily in this short which was pretty great.

*One in Two People screens at Blood in the Snow Festival with The Nights Before Christmas on November 23rd at 9:30pm*

Song My Mother Taught Me (2018)

Song My Mother Taught Me

Director (and co-writer): Doug Cook

Cast: Julian Robino, Ace Hicks, Brock Morgan, Jane Moffat, Farid Yazdani, Allison Dawn Doiron, Blake Johnson

After Bobby and Lydia lose their mother to cancer, life becomes a difficult feat, especially for Bobby. In an attempt to cheer up her brother, Lydia throws a Halloween party with a close group of friends. It is on this night that they will discover what they mean to each other and learn an important lesson…the dead should always be left alone. – IMDB 

In some ways, Songs My Mother Taught Me starts in a rather generic rundown especially with the recent overuse of Ouija as a central focus however, this short film takes it for a refreshing new twist as this Ouija channels something very different from the moment that the literal countdown starts. From the first moment of how they present what this group channels that causes from a lot of craziness that ensues. It builds up the tension very well and adds in a different element of surprise of what is actually going on, leaving a bit of mystery of the whole situation. Its a fun, tense and quick-paced spiral of events executed with a lot of heart to give this premise a refreshing take.

* Songs My Mother Taught Me is screening with Majic on November 24th at 4:30pm at the Blood in the Snow Festival.*

Break In Break Out (2019)

Break In Break Out

Director (and writer): Michael Driscoll

Cast: Athena Karkanis, Nick Smyth, James Rejent, Robert Morse, Tara Yelland

Break In Break Out is a 7 minute short about a routine burglary goes terribly wrong. This short is probably the one which is the most daring in its execution as it keeps it silent with no dialogue. Its hyper focused on the actions and the sound effects around the scene to build up the interest. Its a awesome and unique way to present this story as within the few minutes that it is presented, it adds in two surprising twists, flips the typical story that you’d expect around and then adds in so much style to its execution. Its a lot of awesomeness to this one that gives it a wow actor. Its one that shouldn’t be missed!

*Break In Break Out is screening with Hunter’s Moon on November 24 at 9:30pm in the Blood in the Snow Festival.*

Double Feature: Murder on the Orient Express (2017) & My Teacher, My Obsession (2018)

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My Teacher, My Obsessions (2018)

My Teacher My Obsession

Director: Damian Romay

Cast: Rusty Joiner, Lucy Loken, Laura Bilgeri, Jana Lee Hamblin, Alexandria DeBerry

Riley struggles to meet friends after transferring to a new high school where her father is an English teacher. When she meets Kyla, a fellow loner, they become close friends until Riley learns that Kyla is obsessed with her father. – IMDB

I had zero expectations when I started up this one. Frankly, this whole subgenre has me quite sad that there aren’t better films and My Teacher, My Obsession is no exception. It had a lot of bad dialogue and that really does make it hard to digest the whole thing better. Not to mention the execution is not too good either. Its hard to understand what movies, especially thrillers try to achieve in starting the film from a scene from the finale and then going back in time to meet up with there and then make the big reveal. There is no reveal when its already obvious from the start who is doing the obsessing and how it will get worse and worse. Not only that but the teacher in question is a rather well-built good-looking gentleman who happens to be the father of one of the girl characters that gets befriended by the girl who is attracted to the teacher and the daughter.

There’s just a lot of hard to understand decisions here. However, I am not one to only talk negatives so to wrap this up on a positive note, the cinematography was actually pretty good here and some of the scenes with Kyla, the girl obsessed was also done pretty well plus she did pretty good with the material she had to work with.

Murder on the Orient Express (2017)

Murder on Orient Express

Director: Kenneth Branagh

Cast: Kenneth Branagh, Daisy Ridley, Leslie Odom Jr., Tom Bateman, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo, Penelope Cruz, Josh Gad, Johnny Depp, Derek Jacobi, Sergei Polunin, Lucy Boynton, Marwan Kenzari, Michelle Pfeiffer, Judi Dench

When a murder occurs on the train on which he’s travelling, celebrated detective Hercule Poirot is recruited to solve the case. – IMDB

Murder on the Orient Express is a great choice among (the few that I’ve read) the Agatha Christie books to adapt. Kenneth Branagh is a director and actor that I have alwayd rather appreciated. He can usually put together very competent pieces cinema and while we can all complain about all the adaptations being done nowadays, this one is really good. It has a stellar cast with some biggers stars like Johnny Depp, Michelle Pfeiffer, Daisy Ridley, Judi Dench, Penelope Cruz, Josh Gad. Then Hercule Poirot is played by Kenneth Branagh who does capture the role so well.

Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot mysteries (probably much like Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes) has so much depth and big twists that make them almost perfect for adaptations. However, it has those moments of whether these stories are as thrilling for those who have read it and how it executes it for both connoisseurs and those who are new to this character. It was one of the few concerns I had before I started up this film to be honest. However, the characters each played together so well and the experienced cast brought of them to life in turn so did the mystery. It had great visual style and lovely cinematography. There’s a lot to love here. It set the tone right from the opening act right to the end. I honestly can’t wait for the next movie, Death on the Nile.

That’s it for this double feature!
Have you seen Murder on the Orient Express & My Teacher, My Obsession?

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

Fantasia Festival 2019: Door Lock (2018)

Door Lock (2018)

Door Lock

Director (and co-writer): Kwon Lee

Cast: Hyo-jin Kong, Sung-oh Kim, Ye-won Kim

Door Lock is a 2018 South Korean thriller about a woman who suspects that someone is trying to break into her apartment and tries to figure out who it is.

Door Lock is the South Korean remake of 2011 film Sleep Tight except taking it from the other perspective. If you haven’t seen Sleep Tight, you probably want to see it after this one, mostly because then the thrills of figuring out who is the bad guy will be taken away. At the same time, if you have seen it, then this one might just be an exercise of watching the story from a different angle set in a different city. Falling into the category of never having seen the original, Door Lock is a mystery thriller mixed a different twist on the home invasion genre.

Starting with the opening scene of a woman going home to her apartment and being attacked suddenly, Door Lock quickly changes to a woman who wakes up and has a certain routine that has set herself in almost an compulsive way so the little changes automatically spark her attention. Despite her safety precautions of moving to a big building with better security and installing an electronic door lock, she still feels unsafe however one night, she is woken up by the sound of someone trying to break into her apartment frantically. Except her suspicions aren’t enough to keep the police to investigate further so she decides to take matters into her own hands.

Door Lock isn’t exactly a new idea and in the thriller department, it really takes noticing that one clue and that one dialogue in the movie to already have suspicions of the invader. However, there is some nice execution here. Right from the beginning, there is a sense of being followed as the camera will move from different angles and through surveillance cameras and from ceiling shots. Its quite creative and adds to the unsettling feeling of being observed. The sounds aren’t overpowering as well. It raises as the scene intensifies but also takes the care to focus on the little sounds in the surrounding like the clock ticking for example and isolating onto the everyday sounds amplified. There’s one scene that the soundtrack done really well where it follows two characters and there is a contrast on the soundtracks playing which was unique. The audience also gets a lot of the insider information, know more than the main character which works especially as the quick reveal of what is going on which leaves the rest of the story to question who, why and how.

In South Korean films, there’s always a notion about things being too slow because of its lengthy run time. In this case, it actually is the opposite. Its shorter run time actually deters it a little. It does give it a good pacing and the plot moves forward fairly quickly however there’s a lot of shallow characters especially the main girl who only gets caught in all the mess but feels never gives enough to be invested in her safety to begin with. Plus, the predictable misdirection to suspect other characters are fairly easy to see through as well. Perhaps the one thing that gets to be taken away from this is the concept of safety in the society and the false pretenses of it whether its the people around our everyday lives to the bigger buildings feeling more secure or the fancy gadgets to ensure safety all seems to have the loopholes that can be broken especially because they are also involving humans who might not all have the right intentions.

Overall, Door Lock is a decent thriller (from the opinion of someone who has never seen the original Spanish film). It has a few flaws to it but also has some tension and is fairly well-paced. Its cinematography and background sound design and soundtrack does it a lot of favors to build the atmosphere. Even if the characters are fairly shallow, the message it conveys is an important one.

Double Feature: The Ritual (2017) & The Silence (2019)

Its time for the next double feature. This time we are looking at two Netflix Original movies. Both are in the horror/thriller categories as well. As our second R selection, it went to The Ritual, which to be honest was a surprise addition due to movie night choices. Moving right along with the alphabet, we landed on S selection being The Silence. Two movies that looked pretty good but one worked better than the other.

Let’s check it out!

The Ritual (2017)

the ritual

Director: David Bruckner

Cast: Rafe Spall, Arsher Ali, Robert James-Collier, Sam Troughton, Paul Reid

A group of college friends reunite for a trip to the forest, but encounter a menacing presence in the woods that’s stalking them. – IMDB

The Ritual is a mix of supernatural and back country kind of horror thriller. Its one of those situations where the characters all seem to have their own story behind this trip and because of it, its definite that the drama will cause them to break at some point. At the same time, its always these decisions that some characters will make some bad decisions and get into some trouble. I spent a lot of the first bit having a whole discussion of when its time to GTFO but of course, if they did, we wouldn’t have the movie (at least a shorter version).

Thing is, as much as I say that some decisions were illogical, The Ritual is one of the more solid horror flicks coming out of Netflix Originals selection. One of it has to do with the fact that its characters have some contrast. While there are a few too many that some don’t truly have their purpose, they each have their own issues to deal with in the spectrum of the story. In some ways, it feels a bit like everything happens with too much coincidence (ex. some guy twists his ankle right at the start of the trek) and then they still decide to go forward instead of backwards. Various other signs of addressing the dangers around them as well happen. However, deal is once the ominous bits start, its atmosphere builds the tension up and that is the saving grace of the film. It also has to do with a fantastic sense of lore, that I wish was a little deeper especially since the dangers we see are done in a timely fashion, revealed bit by bit to execute a good level of suspense.

The Ritual might have some lack of depth and a bit of it feels like its on rails but it does so well in execution and atmosphere building, using the terrain and the forest that these friends are lost in that its easy to forgive a lot of the other stuff and be immersed in this increasing suspense and horror and wondering what will happen next.

The Silence (2019)

the silence

Director: John R. Leonetti

Cast: Stanley Tucci, Kiernan Shipka, Miranda Otto, Kate Trotter, John Corbett, Kyle Breitkopf, Dempsey Bryk, Billy MacLellan

When the world is under attack from terrifying creatures who hunt their human prey by sound, 16-year old Ally Andrews (Kiernan Shipka), who lost her hearing at 13, and her family seek refuge in a remote haven. – IMDB

The Silence is one of those films that (I think) landed during a phase of that overly used in a short amount of time idea of being stuck in a post-apocalyptic world where one certain sense is over reliant. In this case, its about being silent and the sense of hearing and survival. This horror film can be best described as a movie that starts off pretty strong but goes has a massive downward spiral as it crashes in the final act and then ends the film in a fairly abrupt way. Its not so much as a bad film as much as its a disappointing one. The main issue had to be with the final act when a new danger element adds into the already existing factors. It just felt unnecessary.

With that said, there was some elements that did work such as the sound design and the creature design. At the same time, Stanley Tucci is such an underrated actor and its great to see him in a lead role. Between him and even young actress Kiernan Shipka who plays his daughter, and I’d say the starting group of family and John Corbett as his best buddy, they all set a good foundation for all the characters involved. It was when some new characters get added in near the end that really gave the story a weird turn of events.

There isn’t much to say about The Silence. In some ways, a lot of its separate elements work and there are some moments that also work fairly well. However, its those moments that felt useless or added very little to the story that make the execution fall apart. For myself, the ending just didn’t quite cut it especially with the lackluster segment before that and the people they encounter before the finale.

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

Book Review: Justice For Belle by Didi Oviatt

Justice For Belle
By: Didi Oviatt

Justice For Belle

Ahnia has a very dicey past – one that is scratching under the surface, just dying to get out.

She’s hit rock bottom, broke and desperate to be on top again. When she finds herself partnering up with man she hardly knows, and who’s utterly untouchable, she’s forced out of her comfort zone and left to question her own sanity.

Will Ahnia and Mac’s dangerous decision be a success, or will she find herself in the clutches of an unforgiving force, brought about by her childhood sin?

In this nail biting thrill ride, no one is as they seem… and no one is truly safe with those they trust. – Goodreads

Justice For Belle is a psychological thriller novella. Novellas are a great way to build take a relatively simple story and give it a great pacing and execution as is the case with Didi Oviatt’s latest release. Justice For Belle doesn’t thrive on a lot of characters. In fact, it is more of a character study of our main character Ahnia who has a fascination with death. Not particularly her death but envisioning how others can be murderers and how they would commit their murders unique to them. This gives Ahnia a special angle right from the start and makes it intriguing to see how she has become this way and what secrets she hides in her past that has caused her to have this fascination, especially after seeing that she is a one hit wonder writer who thrived on a past personal experience. It gives Ahnia depth as the story lets us learn more and more about her. Opposite of her is Mac, who she meets randomly and has this attractive quality that makes Ahnia drawn to him. He is fairly spontaneous and being as the novel angles behind Ahnia, Mac becomes even more mysterious especially when there is a few mysteries that come out like the similarity of his fiancee’s appearance to Ahnia or his similar psychological fascination and of course, he goes one step further to create another adrenaline rush scenario that will hopefully trigger both him and Ahnia’s creative juices to write another book. Its an absurd and dangerous idea to say the least and it makes Mac feel even more mysterious than Ahnia is and the extent of how their plans will play out. Both of these characters are very strong and have a great deal of depth of them which makes them the more intriguing to see how their story unravels.

There’s always a risk in novels who want to dive into the more romantic thriller side and that is generally how Ahnia and Mac’s relationship seems to have that forbidden love element to it and a certain level of danger that attracts them both to each other. It is really in these moments that don’t quite work for me and feel somewhat unnecessary. Its starting to feel like attraction is a hard element to put into stories and they are very subjective because different writing will work better (or worse) than others. In this case, the general writing style works however, when it goes into the more intense moments once or twice, it feels a bit overwritten.

Overall, Justice For Belle is pretty good. It has a decent execution and stay well-paced. There are a lot of questions and mysteries bundled together in this psychological thriller that all gets cleared up by the end. The two characters are created with a good deal of depth and layers as they unravel throughout the story as well. It stays pretty much intriguing. While there are little bits of writing in terms of the story development for the relationship between Ahnia and Mac, everything else does work too create enough suspense.

Goodreads: 3/5 (I’d give it 3.5/5 to be more accurate)

***Book received for free in exchange for honest review from R&R Book Tours***

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