Review: Psychotic! A Brooklyn Slasher Film (Brooklyn Horror Film Festival)

psychotic-a-brooklyn-slasher-film

 

Last weekend I had the pleasure of attending the after party at the excellent Brooklyn Horror Film Festival. It was held at a bar called The Abbey in Williamsburg and upon entering I grabbed a beer and a shot and started to mingle. About two minutes in I ended up meeting and instantly hitting it off with two dudes, Derek Gibbons and Maxwell Frey. We immediately started discussing film and after a few more drinks I discovered they made their own film, called Psychotic!, and it was filmed in my hometown of Brooklyn. We agreed on a screener and an interview for the podcast and I was very excited to see what these two gentlemen put together. It is not often one meets two people who are genuine and enthusiastic about their project without being obnoxious and overbearing. At the same time, I was afraid because what if I didn’t like Psychotic!? That would be a shame, as I genuinely enjoyed hanging with these guys. After viewing the film, I’m very happy to report that their project is worth your time.

 

 

Psychotic! A Brooklyn Slasher Film is set in the Bushwick area of Brooklyn and viewers are introduced to the Party Slasher at a bash in the opening scene. The rest of the film deals with the neighborhood paranoia surrounding this slasher, as well as the misadventures of our two heroes, played by Derek and Maxwell, who also wrote and produced.

 

24-brooklyn-horror-film-fest-2016-10-07-bk03_z

 

I can without prejudice say that I really dug this film. The two leads are appealing and I was genuinely interested in their non-horror related issues and how they would work out. I would love to see these guys do a non-horror Brooklyn dramedy, incorporating the hipster bar culture and its dynamic. I think they would do a good job. The supporting players were also solid, most notably Kristen Martin, who had a very naturalistic style in her acting. As for the horror backdrop, it mostly worked. The practical effects looked convincing and the suspense was handled well throughout. The killings had an interesting retro 80’s slasher vibe about them, which I greatly appreciated. I especially liked the use of the double door buzz in which works to comedic effect in one scene and horrific effect in another. Gibbons and Frey handle all the dynamics of constantly searching but never really doing hipster aesthetic perfect— the horrible roommate you are kind of stuck with, but is a douche, but you don’t hate him or her, but you really need the rent money, and then casual drug and alcohol prompts him/her to start and play in a band that just sucks, and the other dudes in the band are half-talentless dicks who fight all the time about a bad song that no one should hear. Whewf!

 

psychotic

 

My only issues are minor. One, and this is a personal one because I’m a Brooklyn guy, being that this is called A Brooklyn Slasher Film, I wish there were more noticeable locations highlighted. Some Brooklyn landmarks could’ve been on display, especially the juxtaposition of the differing neighborhoods in comparison to Bushwick. The city could be utilized more for its diversity, exclusively because the hipster culture is spreading like wild fire in all neighborhoods. The other problem for me is the end is slightly rushed; I wanted a little more explanation and backstory. Aside from these minor quibbles and nitpicks, I highly recommend this film. Go out and show these filmmakers some love! From this full-length feature, I’m very much looking forward to their next project and wish them success in their future endeavors.

 

3.5 out of 5 Zombie Heads

3-and-a-half

 

Review: 13 Cameras (2015)

I’m noticing a trend in a lot of horror movies lately where audiences are presented a plot, a conflict and no explanation or back story for the events being witnessed. Just having some weirdo nutjob do a bunch of wacky shit doesn’t always work, unless I know exactly why they are doing it. It takes me out of the experience and I am not totally involved. I can’t relate to a lot of what is going on and that is the major problem with the film debut of Victor Zarcoff.

We have a young couple renting a home from the creepiest landlord in history. He looks like a circus strongman that got hit in the head with a set of weights way too many times. Prior to them moving in, Landlord Sleaze set up a bunch of cameras (13, I guess) in order to spy on a couple. There are many voyeuristic moments as this creep spys on the film’s pregnant heroine (Brianne Moncrief) while she showers and gets sloppy seconds from her husband who is having an affair with his assistant (Sarah Baldwin). We even get to see his cleaning habits, as cleans the front of his pants off with the numerous crumbled up, and  probably sticky, napkins littering his computer area. All this watching and philandering ultimately becomes too much for all involved, and these worlds ultimately collide.

Like I stated earlier, my biggest problem with this film is that viewers get zero motive for the actions of our villain. I mean, this dude can barely grunt a sentence, so I have a really hard time believing that he has the brain capacity to become some secret surveillance expert. He also has the absolute worst hiding spot in film history for one of his kidnap victims. A ROOM IN THE HOUSE THAT HE IS WATCHING THAT HE DOES NOT LIVE IN! If there was a little backstory, maybe I could have rallied with this one a bit, but alas this did not happen.

On the positive side, the performances were solid and the movie moved along at a pace where I was not bored. The performance by Neville Archambault as the super creep was good but I wanted more from him. The last scene with his character did not strike me as something that would happen with the character as he was portrayed previously throughout the film. So unfortunately, I cannot recommend this one unless sweaty napkin defiling landlords is your thing.

 

2.5 out of 5 Zombie Heads

Review: The Love Witch (Fantasia 2016)

The Love Witch, showing at the Fantasia Film Festival, is a blatant tribute to the Technicolor films of the 60’s and 70’s, filmed in gorgeous 35mm. The film overcomes its overlong running time (120 minutes) with a great performance by its lead, Samantha Robinson, and excellent color usage and set design.

The plot follows our Love Witch, Elaine, as she attempts to meet and control her warped idea of the perfect man- after a betrayal by her former husband resulted in foul play. We get audio flashbacks showing verbal abuse towards our heroine by her father and Sleeping with the Enemy behavior from her ex husband. So all these bad occurances from the men in her life led her to seek solace and a new religion with a coven of witches. She soon moves to a new town, where her encounters with the male species usually lead to disaster.

As stated earlier, this film is gorgeous. The eye popping colors, the mod costumes all work to great effect. You will absolutely believe you are watching a film from the 60s or 70s. There is little, if anything, to identify the look of the film to the present. Instead we get all the key elements that exploitation films from that era are associated with. Stiff line readings, deliberately bad acting and over the top characters wearing bad suits with bad hairdos. All the great stuff to love about that period. Plus a lot of full frontal nudity from both males and females; although some unwanted, especially in the mass ritual scenes. If you are into a lot of hairy troll looking Sardu dudes showing their junk, you will dig this. The script elements where Elaine explains her desire for true love, and why she feels it is irresponsible of a woman to basically shut down in the relationship after getting a ring, is interesting and a refreshing outlook on male-female interaction for a change. I also liked the idea that the men are doomed due to Elaine basically making them feel too much.

image

But at the end of the day this film does overstay its welcome with a way too long running time. There are too many scenes with the coven Elaine is involved in, which really go nowhere and serve no purpose. The Simon, King of the Witches dude, played by Jared Sanford, did nothing for me; although his girlfriend in the film was beautiful. We could have totally done without them in the film and kept the focus totally on Samantha Robinson, who is not only drop dead gorgeous, but gives a fantastic performance. This character should come back in future roles for this type of setting, but in an exploitation quickie- and this film mirrors that perfectly. I recommend you seek this film out for the production value, Samantha Robinson, and its absolute pitch perfect salute to a bygone era of exploitation.

2.5 out of 5 Zombie Heads

Review: The Wailing (Fantasia 2016)

Fantasia Logo

The Wailing, directed by Hong Jin Na (The Yellow Sea, The Chaser), is being shown at this year’s Fantasia Film Festival and ultimately feels like a moderately successful, overlong (156 minutes), yet interesting film. The movie fails on as many levels as it succeeds. I know my review won’t be the popular one, considering many have labeled this an instant classic, but I ultimately concluded it was a worthwhile watch with many issues.

In The Wailing we meet Jong Goo (Do Won Kwak), a local police officer, who lives with his wife, daughter and mother in a crowded residence. So crowded that the only place he can be intimate or have a private conversation with his wife is inside their car. He appears to be a lazy cop who regularly gets berated by his superiors for his lack of caring and his inability to even try to come up with a reasonable excuse for his failures. In his village, mysterious events occur; such as a plague like illness, madness resulting in murder and an overall sense of impending doom. This all seems to coincide with the arrival of a mysterious stranger (Jun Kunimura), whose role is not revealed to the end. We also meet a greedy shaman and a mysterious female, whose roles are also not clearly defined. The first hour of this film has some comedic elements, but after all the mysterious unexplained behavior starts to hit home for our bungling hero, things get serious. An exorcist is brought into the village and the questions of who is truly the bad guy here and are multiple parties involved come to fruition.

The Wailing 1

The biggest issue here is that this film then starts to go all over the place with its action. Is it an exorcist thriller or a zombie thriller? What role does this supposed zombie play? What are its powers and how did it come to be? I don’t mind a film that leaves the viewer to interpret the action onscreen, but in this case that sensibility does not work. Confused in the end, I was not happy with my idea of what I had just witnessed. I may appreciate it more with a second viewing, but right now I was not contented, especially after two and a half hours. I just came away from this film empty. If a film with such a bloated running time is conceived, I really want a memorable epic. Our genre usually works best with slimmed down films. If deviating from the norm, I expect something special.

The Wailing 2

In conclusion, can I recommend this film? Yes I can. There are many positives— the acting, the cinematography and the tension in the last scene was fantastic. Like many Asian films, The Wailing is tonally all over the place and that style worked for me in the past, with such shockers like Dr. Lamb or Run and Kill, which have had bizarrely comedic elements side by side with mind numbing horror. The tonal schizophrenia did not work for me here, but it is a solid effort with enough successful elements for any genre fan to enjoy. I just would not hail this film as a new classic like many are. I would say it is an interesting film sorely in need of an editor.

2.5 out of 5 Zombie Heads

2-and-a-half.jpg.jpg

Review: La Rage Du Demon (Fantasia 2016)

Fantasia Logo

Mass Hysteria. Subliminal Messages. Devil Worship. These entities are investigated in the mockumentary La Rage Du Demon, directed by Fabien Delage, and the film is one of the latest offerings from this year’s Fantasia Film Festival.

4625428777

This hour long feature informs viewers about a film entitled The Fury of the Demon, made by an unknown director, possibly George Melies; the fantasy film pioneer best known for A Trip to the Moon, or his occult loving forgotten friend, Victor Sicarius— which when viewed caused outbursts of violence in the theatre it was being shown. The film was screened in 1897 and 2012 and incited riots at both screenings. Through interviews with real life figures, such as director Alexandre Aja and Dave Alexander of Rue Morgue, we learn about the history of this faux-movie and the violence it has inspired during its pop-up showings. An interesting aspect is the film had usually been shown somewhere, during a time of economic or political turmoil. There are eyewitness interviews from individuals who were present at these showings, and historians who have conspiracy theories behind the origin of the hysteria ensued from viewing the film.

4625428778

As for the mockumentary itself, I felt La Rage Du Demon worked. Through extremely convincing interviews, viewers get a history lesson on George Melies and an elaborate made-up backstory regarding The Fury of the Demon. The critics and historians are very committed in their storytelling, to the point that the viewer will start wondering if this film actually existed and these events occurred. All in all, this is an entertaining mockumentary which may interest viewers engrossed in cinema history, but it may bore others who are looking for horror movie thrills. It would serve well as on feature before a main. Regardless, it is an attention-grabbing effort and worth a view, especially since it is change-up in the genre, with committed con artists weaving convincing stories.

3 out of 5 Zombie Heads

3.jpg

Review: The Eyes of My Mother (Fantasia 2016)

The Eyes of My Mother is being presented at the 20th anniversary of the Fantasia Film Festival and is the first film I will be reviewing for the fest. If this is an indicator of the quality that Fantasia is bringing this year, the fest should be amazing. Right off the bat let me say that this film is a MASTERPIECE. This film will crawl into your brain, dig its pincers way in and never let go until its end. Not since Pascal Laugier’s Martyrs has a film grabbed me like this. It automatically jumps to my pick as best film of the year and a major contender for best of the decade. The writer, director and editor of this film, Nicholas Pesce, at the age of 26, has crafted a beautiful black and white nightmare with images that will be seared into my brain forever. In a shot where a prisoner is trying to escape, we watch him through a window, and he’s in the distance struggling as his stalker nears. We see this as if we were living in the house with our main character; beautiful and chilling. There is an overhead shot of a girl so distraught, as she realizes that she is now totally alone, she climbs into a tub of murky water for a last embrace with the last person who will truly love her. These are heartbreaking and terrifying images that will forever linger. The Eyes of my Mother is evidence pointing to the emergence of a great filmmaker.

The film begins at a country house where a mother (Diana Agostini) is very oddly and graphically explaining, as well as giving a demonstration, on a cow concerning her profession as an optometrist to her young daughter, Francisca, (Olivia Boand). After the graphic surgical display of optical removal, the girl is playing outside where she is met by a stranger (Will Brill), who will alter the course of their lives for the worse. What ensues from there I will not go into because it is best that the viewer proceed into this film blind like I did. There are no insane plot twists and turns, but instead a horrifying dissection of loneliness and how tragedy can alter a mind forever. Although based on the scene prior to the meeting with the stranger, and how that meeting is subsequently handled, I am inclined to believe that Francisca’s family was never a normal one. This is a film of ambiguity, which allows the viewer to fill in the blanks and create the missing narrative. Hence, the sparse 76 minute running time.

We then follow Francisca through different stages of her life as she tries to create a human connection and combat her loneliness with disastrous and disturbing results. As I watched the film and its characters, I kept saying to myself, as many do with horror films, why would you make that decision and what were you thinking when you did that? Then I realized that life is truly filled with people who do make those imprudent decisions. We constantly watch horror movies and say, “I would never do that,” but in life that constantly happens. People constantly make bad decisions, which end in tragedy. We watch the news or read; then we judge and state that we would never handle it that way. But sometimes, even though we as logical people can’t fathom it, said person makes that decision, gets in the car, gives the person a ride, lets the person use their phone or bathroom, and winds up dead as a result of some social anxiety about seeming rude. This film has moments like this but instead of them being a minus, they rang true for me.

The Eyes of My Mother has been shown at other festivals and has so far been polarizing audiences due to its graphic content. I’m sure it will gain a lot of attention when it hopefully gets a wider release. It’s a film that I’m sure will be studied forever and will gain classic status immediately. You will walk out of the cinema looking to discuss and I’m sure there will be a majority who will hate this. That’s what’s great about film, the debate; and you will debate this film. I implore the reader not to be turned off by its black and white photography, which is amazing, and the fact that it’s mostly dialogue free, which works perfectly, because you will be depriving yourself of a true cinematic experience. This is a film that screams for your attention in the most silent of ways, like Francisca’s poor victims.
5 out of 5 Zombie Heads

F*%k The Walking Dead

I was first introduced to The Walking Dead through the comic book series. After reading them, I thought they were revolutionary. The combination of horror and drama made me, as a horror fan, focus on the way a zombie apocalypse affects the human experience, rather than pure zombie mayhem. I remember calling my Dad and telling him to read this new comic and how it would make a great HBO series— I never believed it would happen though. Eventually, my hopes came true. A few years later, to my amazement, the show was picked up by AMC. Anticipation for a live adaption of The Walking Dead never wavered, as the comic book series kept getting better and better. It has presently plateaued a bit, but is still a superior horror comic compared to other series out there.

The first episode of The Walking Dead debuted on October 31, 2010, garnering critical acclaim and amazing ratings. This is an incredible feat for a horror television program based on a comic book. Comic books and horror succeeding on the same show never ever, never ever, never ever happens! This show did and it was good. It was probably the only adaption I have come across that I did not mind the deviations from the original origin. I enjoyed the fact that two successful universes were created from the same product with some similarities. More importantly, the alterations made were interesting enough to not incite pandemonium from not following the storyline exactly. Since the debut, the show has broken numerous ratings records, spawned a spinoff (Fear the Walking Dead), has a talk show (The Talking Dead) and helped conceive numerous novels expanding storylines from the show, thus creating new mythologies.

So why am I writing this article hating on this show? Well my complaints are numerous, although specifically target content and the effect on the genre.

When the show came on and the masses were watching it, I was so excited. People were finally going to see how great the maligned horror genre was. Finally, I was no longer going to be a weird outcast nerd! In all honesty, I probably earned that moniker all on my own and will never be able to shake it— and that’s a-okay. I imagined having great debates regarding slow zombies versus fast zombies, what would happen if zombies really rose from the grave because hell was too full, and if a zombie can beat a shark? We all know the zombie apocalypse is inevitable and not just some fantasy. C’mon people, wake the fuck up! It’s gonna happen!  Anyway, I couldn’t wait till all The Walking Dead lovers further pursued their love of all that is zombies, by going back and watching the Italian living dead library, the Blind Dead series and the George Romero Holy Trinity. I felt like Burgess Meredith at the end of the greatest Twilight Zone episode ever, “Time Enough At Last,” where the joy these conversations would bring was equated to his apocalyptic discovery, if not better. I couldn’t wait. In the end, what I got was The Twilight Zone twist. My glasses shattered on the floor, hope smashing it to bits.  I never got a discussion where I told someone that 28 Days Later is ABSOLUTELY not a zombie movie. I got no respect, nothing. Radio silence.

The masses obsessed over The Walking Dead television show, their obsession isolated to that rendition and that alone. From talking with other horror fanatics, they’ve experienced what I have. No matter how much I recommended the comics or novels as superior products, people just didn’t care. They only wanted to watch the show; some repeatedly over and over. For example, I work with a guy, who on Monday will watch the previous episode at least two or three times. Do you think he’d ever pick up the dirt cheap The Walking Dead Omnibus on Amazon to further his jones? Never! It drives me crazy! How and why did this happen? Most pop culture fads spawn numerous rip offs, but not this one. When I ask or tell people about other zombie products, I usually here “I don’t like horror movies.” “WHAT THE FUCK DO YOU MEAN!? YOU ARE CONSTANTLY TALKING ABOUT A HORROR SHOW!”

The Walking Dead television show is pretty good, overall. I was more or less consistently entertained, even though some seasons had an unnecessary lingering pace and flying by the seat of their pants scripting. But like most horror fans I am forgiving, and I am happy to have the show out there for a mass audience. But over the years, I’ve listened to podcasts and other people within the horror community who also seem resentful of this show. I’ve discovered a crucial issue. It’s not really a horror show and it never was.

The Walking Dead is a drama with a horrific backdrop. Now if you are reading this and saying “no shit Sherlock,” you are rightfully, but there was a modification in the show that started to become a problem. The languid pacing, the constantly lingering in one area and never really absolving issues in a timely fashion became padding. Andrew Lincoln’s acting style started getting on many folks nerves. He seems to       preach while standing sideways and waving a gun around in an extremely unsafe manner. Many in the horror community thought this revolutionary show was going to get us mainstream acceptance. Rather, it gave us a shit sandwich so many began to resent it— including me. I stopped watching the show midway through Season 4 and haven’t missed it one bit. Maybe I’ll go back and finish the series and enjoy my time with it, but at this point I don’t give a shit anymore. The mainstream still watches obsessively, while the horror community simply shrugs their shoulders. Comic book nerds got their time to shine with the success of their cosmos, so why are the horror nerds still condemned to live their lives in the shadows, especially when we have the most successful show on TV?

Then AMC and Robert Kirkman decide to do a spinoff, Fear the Walking Dead. I avoided it for awhile, but was definitely intrigued with a show about the beginnings of the zombie apocalypse. I watched the first 90 minute episode and wow. What a hunk of shit! Word is it gets better, but based on that first episode there’s nowhere to go but up. At least in The Walking Dead the dramatic elements are fairly interesting, where in this boring drivel we get a generic drug addict storyline where the kid is an unsympathetic dickbag. And on top of that, there’s basically zero zombie stuff until the end of the episode. Why the fuck did you expand this episode? So I can listen to 90 minutes of Kim Dickens argue why her obnoxious junkie son doesn’t suck ass? WTF? What a waste!

I just recently watched a new film from Denmark called What We Become, which is about the beginnings of a zombie apocalypse. I didn’t love the movie and actually thought it would have made a better TV episode, rather than a full blown feature. What it did do perfectly was create a balance between drama and horror. Horror fans have no problem with drama being in their horror, but what most despise is the dreaded soap opera. Fear of The Walking Dead should have taken a cue from this movie.

So in conclusion, FUCK YOU THE WALKING DEAD for turning a horror show into As the Zombie Turns! FUCK YOU THE WALKING DEAD FANS for not expanding your love of the show into a desire to find out more about all that is zombie! FUCK YOU THE WALKING DEAD most of all for the fact that you gave me hope that my nerd-like tendencies would finally be accepted by mainstream society and that my Rain Man like knowledge of obscure Japanese horror cinema would be looked at the same way some jerkoff in a bar rattles off some obscure baseball stat!