BITS 2018: Fugue (2018)

Fugue (2018)

Fugue

Director (and writer): Tomas Street

Cast: Jack Foley, Laura Tremblay, Mike Donis, Kristen Da Silva, Michael Lipka, Evan Siemann

Amnesiac Malcolm struggles to put the pieces of his life back together and begins questioning those closest to him in this puzzle of memory and identity. – IMDB

Fugue might be one of the hardest ones to write about because of how easy it is to jump into spoiler territory. It also kight be the hardest to search up because to my surprise, there are a lot of movies released as Fugue this year. Not sure how the other ones are but this Fugue is one of the highlights of BITS 2018. There is a great level of craftmanship and execution and pacing that plays so well together along with a small enough cast for us to care and feel involved with. There are so many questions right from the start. At the same time, the timeline is a little scrambled but never confusing to follow and is all in the attentiveness of the details. It is those clues here and the questions there that build up this mystery and have all kinds of thrills.

Malcolm (Jack Foley) is an intriguing character and it has to do with a contrast that is presented to us in the first and second acts which is where the questions come up. Then the character remains a mystery because of all the questions surrounding him. Jack Foley was a supporting character in Lifechanger (review) at Fantasia Festival and delivered a great role but there is no denying that he has a lot more to offer especially after seeing Fugue. Malcolm is a role with a very big contrast in just the first two acts and he is able to handle it convincingly. The cast here is small but they all grasp their role really well. Its hard to dive into each character without spoiling the movie.

Fugue benefits from a lot other than its characters and its puzzling mystery plot. It uses an isolated one location setting. Its smart because it gives it a much more narrow scope. It never needs to share unnecessary information of its characters, keeping them simple but never feeling like they lack depth either. Its a true challenge that not a lot of films are able to achieve and this one does a great job at executing it. I highly recommend this one.

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BITS 2018: Hammer of the Gods (2018)

Hammer of the Gods (2018)

hammer of the gods

Director (and writer): Nick Szostakiwskyj

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

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

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

Hammer of the Gods

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

Hammer of the Gods

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

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

BITS 2018: Alive (2018)

Alive (2018)

Alive 2018

Director: Rob Grant

Cast: Thomas Cocquerel, Camille Stopps, Angus Macfadyen

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

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

Alive

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

Alive

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

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

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

BITS 2018: Altered Skin (2018)

Blood in the Snow (BITS) Canadian Film Festival kicks off tomorrow, November 22nd at the Royal Cinema in Toronto, Canada and runs until November 27th. This festival celebrates contemporary Canadian horror, genre and underground films. While the festival only runs a few days, it is filled with not only full-length feature films but also two short film showcases, industry panels as well as a web series showcase.

You can find the festival schedule here.

Altered Skin (2018)

altered skin

Director (and writer): Adnan Ahmed

Cast: Robin Dunne, Juggan Kazim, Salman Shahid, Ali Kazmi, Nimra Bucha

An American expat living in Karachi, Pakistan, Craig Evans is married to Insiya Zia, a Pakistani doctor. During a routine hospital round, contracts a virus called the MN-2. A devastating pathogen, the virus causes uncontrollable outbursts of violent rage. Then when the dead body of an investigative reporter turns up in a sewer, it sets off a domino of events that lead Craig to the mystery behind the virus…and to the last chance at saving his wife. – BITS 2018

Medical thrillers are not frequent as thriller material but have had its success. Altered Skin comes somewhere midway. The execution is clear-cut and straight forward. It starts off on the first act setting up the story and what happened to reach the point of conflict. The second act focuses on the suspense and mystery and just like any thriller, building up the unanswered questions that keep its audience intrigued and the third act works towards unraveling the final reveal. Thrillers thrive on how well the setup of the mystery is done to create the shocking yet logical fundamental twist or reveal. In some ways, that is one of the elements that slightly miss the mark. There is missing a wow factor here. While the execution is done pretty well and the suspense does build well enough, the pacing at times feels like it lingers too long on unnecessary bits.

Looking at the cast and characters, there are a lot of them. The focus is on Craig, played by Robin Dunne, who for some reason feels very rigid in this role. Something never quite feels convincing enough. Maybe it is the script and dialogue that feels slightly clunky in parts. Maybe it is the sheer amount of characters that shuffles around that never creates enough depth to connect or care about anyone of them. Or maybe it is the flow of events that sometimes try to add horror to its pure thriller roots but never seems to fit in and at times, some moments feel slightly contrived and predictable.

However, all is not lost. What works here is the setting in Pakistan plus the effects are done well, both sound and visual. The altered skin victims also have a zombie-like sort of nature to them which is also pretty impressive to see and adds to the mystery element. Altered Skin might not be perfect, but it has the makings of a well enough thriller. Packed with some intense moments throughout, the only thing lacking is the build up to the reveal that becomes slightly generic and falls short of its potential.

The world premiere of Altered Skin will be showing at BITS at The Royal Cinema on November 23rd at 7:30pm. 

Halloween Finale 2018: Green Room (2015)

Next up in the Halloween marathon and the official final film to wrap it up, we jump into a movie that I have heard a lot of great things but kept putting it off. Green Room packs quite a decent cast like Patrick Stewart and Anton Yelchin plus has an intriguing plot. Two things that made me want to watch this.

Lets check it out.

Green Room (2015)

green cloud

Director (and writer): Jeremy Saulnier

Cast: Anton Yelchin, Joe Cole, Alia Shawkat, Callum Turner, David W. Thompson, Mark Webber, Macon Blair, Brent Werner, Imogen Poots, Patrick Stewart

A punk rock band is forced to fight for survival after witnessing a murder at a neo-Nazi skinhead bar. – IMDB

Thrillers take the right mindset to watch and I have to admit that the two times that I sat down to watch this one was not in the right one. However, the good part is that it wasn’t hard to follow and the tension was definitely there. There are layers to this story as the story starts with a scene about picking their desert island bands and it highlights a little just who the different personalities in this band are. Then the plot starts quickly and moves forward as they try to figure out how to escape while negotiating and the neo-Nazi movement lead by Darcy (played by Patrick Stewart) has their own turnaround events and we get pieces of each side. Its executed really well on that level.

Green Room

Its a horror film so characters tend to get out of the picture fairly quickly and its good in a certain way. For one, there is a real thought to how these characters end up. Its a fairly bloody affair. At the same time, it keeps the story more contained leaving us with the bigger names in the film like Anton Yelchin and Imogen Poots. And there is a lot to like about these characters. While Yelchin’s character plays more of an indecisive character, his character develops a lot as the situation hardens him in some ways. While Imogen Poots’ character was one not from the band, so carries a kind of mystery as to how much to trust her while she also gave a certain unhinged feeling so making it a little harder to truly believe her intentions. However, its also a toughness that this group trapped in the room looking to escape need.

Overall, Green Room is pretty fun and intense. It had a decent amount of thrills and was executed really well whether the pacing or the character development. There are twists and turns to the stories to create mystery and awe. It went by really quick and never felt like it dragged on anywhere and was an intriguing one to watch.

Halloween 2018: Lights Out (2016) – Rewatch

A bit of cheating today as I rewatched Lights Out with my husband who had not seen it in the first time. Main reason is that I’m under a mountain of work to finish a deadline for tomorrow so this will have to do for now as I couldn’t finish the movie I was watching after this rewatch. Review for that coming up soon though. 🙂

In this second viewing after two years, I still remember a lot of how I felt the first time and the scenes which is quite impressive to say about a film because I have a horrible memory. It may be a second viewing but I still enjoyed the tension and the use of lights and the whole premise of it. I still see some of the flaws that I mentioned in the original review but its easily ignored as it keeps a decent paced because of its controlled run time. It never lingers too long to be over dramatic and keeps its horror moments even some of their predictable jump scares to work in the realm of what they are doing.

Head over to the original review when I saw it at Fantasia to see my full thoughts. It really hasn’t changed that much.

Tranquil Dreams

The next movie in the Fantasia Festival Line-up before almost a week off before the next one is Lights Out. I haven’t been able to finish the trailer on this one and it hits a lot of my fears such as darkness. Its one I am excited, skeptical and incredibly nervous and frightened to go see. Lights Out is presented as a Montreal Special Screening and was a sold out show. It also presented me with one of the most engaging film watching experience. Please note the film watching and not film. It seemed to need that clarification on Twitter. Everyone screamed and laughed and emoted together. Maybe it will disturb a normal theatre experience but Fantasia is a different vibe because a ton of people there are film buffs if not horror film buffs which adds on to the fun.

Lights Out (2016) 

Lights Out

Director: David F. Sandberg

Cast: Teresa…

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Halloween 2018: Annihilation (2018)

Continuing on with the Halloween movie watching, we’re back to something a little more current with a 2018 film. While a lot of people got this on Netflix, Canada got the theatrical release and therefore only just got it available on Netflix now. I remember watching the trailer for this and being incredibly interested in it. It felt like it would be a horror thriller with science fiction and such. Honestly, at this point, I don’t remember much from the trailer except the general storyline.

Annihilation (2018)

annihilation

Director: Alex Garland

Cast: Natalie Portman, Benedict Wong, Oscar Isaac, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Gina Rodriguez, Tuva Novotny, Tessa Thompson

A biologist signs up for a dangerous, secret expedition into a mysterious zone where the laws of nature don’t apply. – IMDB

As usual, I’m going to be clear that I’ve never read the source material so this write-up is based completely on the film itself.

Annihilation comes as a midway point  for myself. I had some high expectations for it when I first saw it announced but somehow that feeling has gone away a little. As for whether it met my expectations, I’d have to say that it did in one way and then it didn’t quite reach what I had expected it to be completely. A part of me also thinks that this isn’t quite horror. Its more of a scifi/fantasy thriller with horror elements. With that said, Annihilation is visually very pretty. The creativity behind the world that the five scientists go into definitely was an eye-opening experience just to see the ideas behind it and how it was executed. The execution itself is a recount of events from Natalie Portman’s character and with that centers her as being the main character which makes it out by all means but then it jumps from mostly in the past rundown of events but jumping back to the present as she is being questioned.

Annihilation

The creatures in this world and the flora and the colorfulness that covers all over the world has this sinister yet mesmerizing sort of effect. The world creation actually is the plus in Annihilation. Its the mystery that surrounds it which makes it so intriguing to keep watching just to see what more there is around the corner. There is this creeping feeling of something bad always going to happen because of the little that we know especially with the history of no one making it back from this area. At the same time, there is a lot of genuinely dangerous moments that happen at fairly unexpected moments. There are some that pack in quite a lot of atmosphere building tension.

Annihilation

As for the cast itself, I haven’t seen Natalie Portman in too many movies so I’m not sure that I’m exactly impressed with her performance. To be honest, everyone does a well enough job but nothing really does standout because it becomes fairly obvious that the scientists here are only half developed especially with anyone outside of Natalie Portman. Everyone seems to have some past that gives them some form of weakness but its never given enough attention to make them memorable. Some of them seem to fall a tad flat. For anyone back in the facility with Benedict Wong who only plays as a tough interrogator while Oscar Isaac is a survivor that pretty much that falls into a coma after the events and is the main reason behind the mystery and why Natalie Portman’s character goes into this area. His parts are best described as powerful because of what the scene delivers but its Oscar Isaac and he always has some presence but he’s more of a supporting leaning into cameo part. However, there are some familiar faces like Jennifer Jason Leigh and Tessa Thompson.

Overall, Annihilation is visually very impressive and the story and execution uses ambiguity to create mystery and suspense and that works especially with the beautiful world they have created. However, there’s something lacking about it that makes it hard to really be completely memorable and that probably gets down to lack of character development. There has this effect of giving the story something to think about at the end but then, I’m not sure it actually lingered that long in my mind.