#Alive (2020): Action / Drama / Horror

A sudden zombie outbreak will find two youngsters trapped in their flats opposite each other, making an escape plan.

I’m a sucker for build-up. You know, character and story development. Think of Train to Busan (2016) in this instance; patiently and suspensefully builds the narrative up before everything goes sideways. So, for horror fans who have watched countless zombie films, the opening sequence does not feel original or anything at all. I believe, the most impressive scene throughout the first thirty minutes is the police officer scene.

Things start getting interesting after the hero’s breakdown and big exodus. The action and thrill for the battle of survival pick up the pace and gradually get your attention. The pace is about to die out soon after though but is saved by the presence of Park Shin-hye’s character (Kim Yoo-bin). If you haven’t seen her in anything else, you should definitely try the same year’s and also Netflix’s production, The Call (2020) https://atomic-temporary-153424946.wpcomstaging.com/2020/12/06/the-call-2020-horror-mystery-thriller/

But then, pace, rhythm, suspense, and action all die out together faster than the film’s outbreak. It manages to pick up again, but the effort was nothing new. Shame really, I wish the filmmakers had decided what kind of film they wanted to make. It seems like the genres are cancelling one another. If it’s any consolation, the film was a shockingly huge commercial success!

RIP Kim Ki-duk  (20.12.1960 – 11.12.2020)

Stay safe… and alive!

P.S. Challenge: Try to count how many times the word ‘alive’ is said.

Run (2020): Horror / Mystery / Thriller

An ambitious disabled young girl starts getting an eerie feeling that her mother is not who she thinks she is.

Dark, dramatic, and promising opening sequence that sets the tone of Aneesh Chaganty’s suspenseful horror. A huge Stephen King admirer, Chaganty pays numerous tributes to him and co-writes and directs a down to earth, psychological horror about the strongest love in the world, a mother’s love, and juxtaposes it to a mother’s greatest suffering and its inconceivable effects.

Very well shot, very well edited, and very well acted! Sarah Paulson and real-life wheelchair-user Kiera Allen give quite the performances and should be highly praised. What’s more, the bold and provocative twist meets the expectations of the first act’s horrific drama and the second act’s build-up.

Run is yet another film whose world wide release dates were postponed due to the outbreak of the pandemic. Yet, even though it doesn’t really reinvent its kind, it definitely deserves a watch, and it does not disappoint! Some plotholes could be spotted throughout the story’s development but don’t let them get in the way as the film means well. I liked it better than Chaganty’s previous feature Searching (2018) – https://atomic-temporary-153424946.wpcomstaging.com/2018/12/06/searching-2018-drama-mystery-thriller/ whose target audience was for the… TikTok generation.

Stay safe!

The Call (2020): Horror / Mystery / Thriller

Two women from a different time, living in the same house, manage somehow to communicate and befriend each other over the phone; a friendship that will soon become torture.

Korean narrative does not fail. Ever! The Call is a drama first, and a mystery/thriller second. The heroine’s background is as heavy as they come and the current paradoxical pain only builds onto it. Remember The Lake House (2006)? Well, not a bad film to be fair but… this is better! This is actually the psychotic, gruesome version of it! Where the tables turn more than once and the drama matches the suspense and the agony.

The film explores the unpredictability of human nature but also the consequences of our utterances and actions – especially, when we don’t know what we are dealing with. Time travel, in all its variations, is only scientific school of thoughts that clash with each other. Coincidentally, this is the third film I’m watching the last couple of months that explores the time travel implications. Tenet (2020): https://atomic-temporary-153424946.wpcomstaging.com/2020/11/29/tenet-2020-action-sci-fi/ and Primer (2004): https://atomic-temporary-153424946.wpcomstaging.com/2020/11/26/primer-2004-drama-sci-fi-thriller/ were the other two.

The Call is by far not an original concept. Frequency (2000) was the first, I think. But it is the perfect example of”old wine, new bottle” with a non-Hollywood denouement. If I’m being honest, the twist in the very end is nonsensical and should have been left out. Lastly, Jeon Jong-Seo and Park Shin-hye are just incredible!

Therefore, turn the lights off, sit back, relax and for a couple of hours just forget the word “pandemic”.

Stay safe!

P.S. Watch the trailer! One of the best trailers I’ve seen in a long time.

Come Play (2020): Drama / Horror / Mystery

A creature called Larry, which uses mobile devices as portals, seeks to take an autistic kid back to the world it comes from.

The logline is not promising. We are talking about a creature that manifests itself through phones and tablets if one reads its illustrated story, blows fuses, and it’s called “Larry”. If that is not a millennials’ thing, I don’t know what is…

Where do I begin here…

  • Coming out of phones and tablets?! And a bit of a spoiler here, through TV programs chooses films to speak! I wish I knew what to say…
  • Who, how, and why wrote that illustrated that story? How did it circulate to other devices? And why now?
  • The “fuses” part is somehow explained but… called “Larry”?! Larry?!?!

Script aside, the filmmaking style is a pure homage to Tob Hooper (or Steven Spielberg) and Poltergeist (1982) and it’s a great feel seeing the low angle dolly shots, the protracted shots, the Dutch Angles, to say but a few, in a house that could have been haunted or include an old-fashioned monster. The experience of the horror through a kid’s eyes, especially autistic, would be something that would get my undivided attention in the blink of an eye. Young, Azhy Robertson is really great! Writer/director Jacob Chase does a brilliant job with the camera even though not with the typewriter. He adapts his own homonymous short horror Larry (2017) – which I haven’t watched – and, apparently, quite a lot of people liked it. Fair enough. Gillian Jacobs, other than obviously being an incredible woman, she’s an also incredible actress. If you haven’t watched Gardens of the Night (2008) you should definitely do so: https://atomic-temporary-153424946.wpcomstaging.com/2020/09/17/gardens-of-the-night-2008-drama/

To conclude, the directing is impressive, the acting is brilliant, the jump-scares not always necessary, and the script for people who never knew life without a phone.

Stay safe!

P.S. What about Spongebob, right?

The Psychology of Horror: Preparedness and Purpose

Tonight, I’m interviewing Dr. Mathias Clasen. Mathias, among other things, is Associate Professor at Aarhus University, teaching at the School of Communication and Culture, director of Recreational Fear Lab, and Associate Editor of Evolutionary Studies in Imaginative Culture. Literary Darwinism, Gothic, Horror, Science Fiction, Fantasy, Apocalyptic and Post-apocalyptic Texts, but also Cognitive and Evolutionary Theory are only but a few of the research areas he specialises in. Tonight, he is talking to me about a very interesting research of his on the pandemic and horror films but also explains what it is that attracts us to the genre.

https://pure.au.dk/portal/en/engmc@hum.au.dk

https://au.academia.edu/MathiasClasen

http://horror.dk/mathias/

https://esiculture.com/

Greenland (2020): Action / Drama / Thriller

A comet’s passing ends up being an extinction-level catastrophe and a battle for survival for an estranged family.

Fast-edited action films are a Hollywood trademark. There is a misconception though that the faster a film is edited the better results are going to yield. I’ll prove my point in a second. The beginning of the first act is quite formulaic with the camera set on the tripod, playing out exactly as it supposed to. But once I was about to sigh in despair, to my surprise, just before everything goes tits up, Ric Roman Waugh, dismounts the camera and goes on a road trip where the narrative’s delay of resolution stretches the suspense to very high levels. I don’t know if that was a conscious decision or not but I must say that Greenland becomes a quite realistic, intense thriller where most humans become scarier than the comet’s nucleus. But very touching is the vast minority who, till the very end, they dedicate and sacrifice their lives to do as much good as they can in times humanity needs it the most (Comparisons with our current pandemic are most welcome).

Gerald Butler and Moreena Baccarin go through absolute hell and with them the young Roger Dale Floyd. All three of them are absolutely thrilling! This isn’t like the Geostorm (2017) bullshit that even Butler didn’t wanna be in. Everyone believes in this one and works as hard as they can to make it work. And it does work, indeed. My breath was taken with Baccarin’s performance when her kid was abducted (no more spoilers). I can’t imagine a mother acting any other way.

The point I wanted to prove is that War of the Worlds (2005), by far my favourite apocalyptic thriller, is, arguably, the slowest edited film of its kind. Same applies for Jurassic Park (1993). So, don’t get fooled by multi-chopped action sequences; it’s an illusion. Greenland invests in both character and story development and is definitely worth a watch. The two things that seem problematic to me and could have changed are the title, which gives away a ton of information, and the ending, which like Signs (2002), it should have ended when cutting to the prolonged darkness. See and decide for yourselves.

Stay safe!

Tenet (2020): Action / Sci-Fi

A man is tasked to save the world with a mission that defies the laws of physics as we know them, given only the word, Tenet.

Like any other Nolan film, Tenet requires an analysis rather than a review. But I’ll simplify things as best I can. A type of film like this requires a humongous amount of time in preproduction. And they have spent that time wisely. That is why from both production and postproduction point of view, the film is immaculate and unlike anything you have ever seen. No matter what I say, it won’t make it better.

The problem lies right off the bat with the script though. The similar opening to The Dark Knight (2008) poses a significant issue. There is a preexisting knowledge on the Joker where you know who he is and what he is capable of. And if you don’t know the full extent, you find out in a brilliant manner in minutes. Then, the film cuts to people you have already met from Batman Begins (2005), and gradually, it escalates keeping everyone in the loop. In Tenet, no one is aware of anyone or anything, and without any ado, Nolan keeps bombarding you with more and more information where everyone seems to start getting it, but the viewer. Fear not, though. The science is fictional – pun intended – so please, don’t feel bad if you don’t get it. You won’t get it if you watch it a second time either. Nolan himself doesn’t really get it (hence, leaving our certain details) but the impressive filmmaking and the delusion that you might get it if you pay close attention compensates. The similarities in narrative can be compared to Interstellar (2014).

For a film that examines paradox, it is interesting how for something that no one knows anything about, no one thinks twice before they instantly and unhesitatingly say what they have to say. Same applies for planning and acting. At the end of one sequence they find out about something, at the beginning of the next one they have already the equipment, they have already traveled round the globe, and have already come up with a meticulous plan.

George Méliès was running the camera backwards over a hundred years ago so, even though from a filmmaking point of view, Tenet is not parthenogenesis, it surely is a unique concept, exteremely well planned, and amazingly executed. If it wasn’t for this goddamn pandemic, it would have easily joined the billion dollar club.

Stay safe!

P.S. The indie, and unfathomably much lower-budget version of Tenet is Primer (2004): https://atomic-temporary-153424946.wpcomstaging.com/2020/11/26/primer-2004-drama-sci-fi-thriller/

Mara (2018): Crime / Horror / Thriller

A female psychologist who assists the police in a series of murders comes across an ancient myth of a demon who causes sleep paralysis.

Hollywood… more often than not, it can be seen as a meat grinder. You put the meat into the funnel, and thin stands of that meat come out. There is no chance you put the meat in and something else comes out. Mara is that expected outcome. You know what is going happen, when is going to happen and there are no twists. The, whatever, attempt to surprise the viewer is simply doomed. Because both character and story development are based on clichés, and so is editing and sound – hence, the unfortunate jump scares. Don’t blame these departments though. It’s always the narrative that dictates the techniques.

I know there are reviewers who love annihilating films like Mara. I don’t. So, in a respectful manner, I will share with you my humble opinion, in one sentence: Mara is disjointed from possible every aspect. Olga Kurylenko has come a long way and her acting skills are remarkable so really look forward to seeing her in something like… what Andre Basin considered as cinema. Craig Conway delivers a powerful performance but he does’t have much to work with, really. Extra credits go to James Edward Barker and his impressive original score that finds no place in any of the epidermic attempts to scare or sensitize.

Stay safe!

Silent Era: The Foundation of Cinematic Horror

Tonight, I’m interviewing Rob Byrne. Mr. Byrne is a film restorer of silent films and is the President of the Board of San Francisco Silent Film Festival (SFFS). Tonight, he is talking to me about the silent film era in regard to the horror genre. How were the films we today call ‘horror’ described as back then? How were they perceived? Were filmmakers aiming at psychological or gory horror? Find out how everything started.

Spell (2020): Horror / Thriller

A family of four land crashes over the Appalachian mountains but when the man wakes up prisoner, injured, and alone in a sinister house, he’ll do everything in his power to rescue his family.

Has there ever been a comedy about the Appalachian mountains? Other than it was a horror, I didn’t really know anything about Spell. I thought was going to be about white inbred people who do… what white inbred people do, but boy was I wrong. Imagine a lovely Southern African-American, Christian community except that they are not lovely and they are not Christians. Kudos though to Loretta Devine for her amazing performance.

I think it started off decently and then it became somewhat pointless. Actually, now that I have watched it, I feel like I need to know more about why both black and white are depicted in such manner in these places. On second thought, how do the locals feel knowing that the rest of the world knows nothing about them but the Hollywood version of them?

Regardless, the film has many weak points. Without spoiling it to you, specifically, if I had just realized what I was eating, the film would have played out differently straight away. Overall, everything is laid out for you; nothing is left unexplained. Something that wipes out the mystery and, even worse, undermines the audience’s intelligence. Shame for the film, but also both the Caucasian and Afro-Appalachian people. One day, maybe they’ll make a film on Hollywood based on what they have heard about it. That’s gonna be a comedy/horror I’ll definitely enjoy. I might even kickstart it for them…

Stay safe!

P.S. Must say that my fellow Midlander Lorraine Burroughs looks, as always, absolutely stunning and look forward to watching her in Muscle (2019).

His House (2020): Drama / Horror / Thriller

A refugee couple escapes Sudan in a time of war, they arrive in England, only to have to adjust to a whole new reality and face a ghost that followed them all the way to their new house.

Welcome to a journey that no one is welcome. A soul-wrenching and haunting experience that no one should ever have. Yet, hundreds of thousands, unknown to us people do. To this very day. His House, feature debut for Remi Weekes, is a drama with horror elements whose natural drama is more horrifying than its supernatural horror. Sope Dirisu and Wunmi Mosaku carry the film on their shoulders and manage to pass on to the viewer all the survivor’s guilt and immigration’s hostility but also the sense of having nothing left! Matt Smith always adds flavour to everything he’s in.

It is not a “haunted house” horror film. It is a haunted conscience film and an introduction to a different set of beliefs and norms to the “civilised” world. Well written and brilliantly shot. Jo Willems’ cinematography deserves an extra credit.

Keep your mind open and expect nothing beforehand. Brave attempt from both Netflix and BBC Films that gives a taste of how it feels like to be a stranger and struggle into a world that sees you as a piece of s*it or a laughing stock at best.

Safe safe!

P.S. You can enjoy a lot more of Dirisu in Gangs of London (2020) and Mosaku in Lovecraft County (2020).

Borat: Subsequent Moviefilm (2020): Adventure / Comedy

Borat is released from prison in Kazakhstan under the condition that he will go to the US to offer his 15 y/o daughter as a bribe to Vice President Mike Pence during the pandemic and the 2020 Presidential election.

I don’t know what to say, really. It’s been a while since I dropped a film in less than thirty minutes into it. Simply put, I found it appalling, indifferent, pointless, horrendous, boring, ridiculous, and above all, absolute waste of money… and my less than thirty minutes.

It is funny as much as it is provocative. Which is not at all! Sasha Baron Cohen just managed to piss, again, some more Americans off. The first Borat (2006), not a fan at either, was at least… somewhat… funny and provocative… but… I’ll be damned, it had that uncensored naked men “brawl” who left everyone thinking how on earth are they shooting this, and, more importantly, why the f@ck am I watching it? This… subsequent film has nothing to it. Borat speaks in Hebrew, Tutar (Maria Bakalova) speaks in Bulgarian, the Kazakh premier speaks in Romanian, and the vast majority cannot tell, once more, the difference. If you managed to watch it all, by all means, prove me a liar. I thought it was… well, check the second paragraph. Cohen is a great actor and he has proved it time and time again, and The Trial of the Chicago 7 (2020) is the latest proof – review is on the way. Plus, I so much admired him going against Facebook.

If you really want to watch a proper funny mockumentary, This is Spinal Tap (1984) is the one! What an original comedy!!! Trust me on this one…

Stay safe!

P.S. Cheerio Trump!

The Last Route (2020): Horror / Thriller / Drama

A mysterious man and a group of passengers board an underground train on its last trip of the night that will prove to be nightmarish.

DISCLAIMER: This story contains strong language and violence, and is intended for an older youth audience. Listener discretion is advised.

Based on my homonymous short horror script, The Last Route.

Poems:

Tsibiskakis, P. (2010), Lucem Ferre, Dreary Lands, in: Αβλέμμων Βυθός, p.21, p.28, Ζήτη.

Tsibiskakis, P. (2016), Cain’s Stone, in: Πολλαχώς, p.22, Ζήτη.

Tsibiskakis, P. (2018), Ein Traum, in: Ατρέπτως, p.35, Ζήτη.

© 2020 Konstantinos Papathanasiou. All rights reserved.

Ava (2020): Action / Crime / Drama

A female assassin with a troubled past, after having accomplished numerous missions, becomes a target herself and has to fight for her life.

Ava a film that I will spend little to no time and I’ll be brutally honest. Geena Davis is the only actress who is exempt from what comes next. She’s the flower protruding from the swamp.

Ava is badly shot, miserably edited, poorly acted, and horribly produced. What saddens me is the fact that A-list actors agreed to do this after reading a fundamentally flawed and clichéd script. Was it money? Boredom? Everyone was simultaneously high? Regardless, the result remains the same: a messed up, destined to sink and stay at the bottom, wannabe, Vidal Sassoon, assassin film.

How could they?!

Stay safe!

Hubie Halloween (2020): Comedy / Fantasy / Mystery

A man who has always been mocked and bullied in his hometown takes it upon himself to save this year’s Halloween.

I hadn’t watched an Adam Sandler film in a while but I watched Uncut Gems (2019) last year, I was happily surprised, and I said “why not”? Well… now I’m saying “why”?! Hubie Halloween‘s audience is very, very, very, very restricted. The film’s level of humour barely scratches the bottom from start to finish but that’s not what bothered me the most. Hell, it wasn’t even Sandler’s voice.

The film’s theme is walking on thin ice. 99.7% of an American town, with a dark history of hunting down people with pitchforks and torches, in 2020, is making fun of and is brutally bullying someone having a mental illness – whatever that is. It gets worse though… That town’s once most beautiful woman – Julie Bowen, who still is that town’s most beautiful woman – happens to be that very same town’s nicest girl and part of that 0.3% that actually likes him; with the 0.2% being her nerdy son and the girl he wants to get who also happens to be as merciful and that town’s most good looking high school girl. The rest of the characters are just caricatures. Seriously messed up characters in regard to their role in society, sank at the dark pit of Hollywood’s cliché.

Sandler and Bowen worked together in Happy Gilmore (1996) and admittedly they are A-list actors. Ben Stiller, June Squibb, Michael Chiklis, Maya Rudolph, Shaquille O’Neal Rob, Schneider, Ray Liotta, Kevin James, Steve Buscemi, for better or for worse, become part of it. Almost everyone from Grown Ups 1 and 2 but also other films too. Sandler is a great collaborator and top-shelf comedian. Sometimes though, he just seems to be signing for everything under the sun, and Netflix seems to constantly condone such mentality. The movie is dedicated to the late Cameron Boyce who was meant to be part of it. It’s shuttering he’s not with us…

For films that can easily get misconstrued or go under the radar, I always advise to spend a couple of hours forgetting about the real world’s real problems and enjoy these films regardless of their flaws. This is not the case here. Go for all-time horror classics instead. The film’s message seems dumb, but deep down is actually mean-spirited, and I’ll dare to say harmful.

Stay safe!

The Invitation: Horror / Drama / Short

A young man recovering from a loss is invited for dinner by his boss and his wife during Halloween, but the night takes an inexplicable turn.

Halloween special episode!

DISCLAIMER: This story contains mature situations/themes and violence, and is intended for an older youth audience. Listener discretion is advised.

Based on my homonymous short horror script, The Invitation.

© 2020 Konstantinos Papathanasiou.  All rights reserved.

Books of Blood (2020): Drama / Horror / Mystery

A man looking for a priceless book, a young girl looking for redemption, and a mom looking for answers cross paths in a dark journey, leading to the unknown.

Have you ever wondered what distinguishes a film from a TV movie? Is it the narrative; the way the story is told? Is it the photography? The editing? The acting? Something else? Despite of what I believe or I may know, give it some thought while watching this one.

Books of Blood has the 80s scent, and how could it not? It is from Clive Barker after all. Well, the source anyway… The first story is ultimately all over the place. It seems that there is no beginning middle or end. And what disguises as an end does not give enough justice to what could have been a true Barker story on screen. The sound somewhat annoyed me. I know it was meant to be disturbing for Jenna but literally, on occasion, it was getting on my nerves. The night terror is, arguably, the best sequence even though the tribute to The People under the Stairs (1991) was quite suspenseful.

The second story is a lot tighter. No one deserves to die from cancer, much less a young kid. So yea, a single mom having to deal with that qualifies it as a strong drama. But strong is also the horror of what happens at the end of it. Shame that digital visual effects take away the atrocity it was meant to deliver. Regardless, think of the punishment’s gravity, especially, in regard to what he says afterwards. Did he deserve it?

The third story smartly stitches everything together and while watching it you might realise that my review as misleading as the stories themselves, and that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Or not. As I said, it is from Clive Barker after all…

Enjoy Halloween and stay safe!

P.S. You would never think to see Seth MacFarlane sitting at the producer’s chair next to Barker’s. It must be 2020…

Found Footage: The Beginning, the Escalation, and its Societal Impact

Tonight, Erik Kristopher Myers (ekm) is talking about the roots of the found footage subgenre, its evolution, its contribution to the cinema, and its effects on society. Myers is a writer and filmmaker. His film Roulette (2013) won numerous festival trophies and his latest feature Butterfly Kisses (2018) shot to the top of the Amazon charts for New Release Fantasy, scoring rave reviews. Myers has also won numerous awards for screenwriting and editing, and among others, he has been a producer for XM Satellite Radio, a reporter for WTOP News, and film critic for The Dagger and Ain’t it Cool News.

The Haunting of Bly Manor (2020): Drama / Horror / Mystery

A young traumatised American au pair is hired to look after two orphan kids living in a mysterious manor, in the English countryside where reality is nothing but deceitful.

As I was watching, I couldn’t help but think ‘how am I supposed to write about it without giving away spoilers’? I have tried to avoid hearing or reading anything about it but sporadic negative whispers managed to find their way to me. I would presume that the audience that has, is, and will be watching the Bly Manor is the same audience that has already adored the Hill House. Thus, a line must be drawn between the two.

Mike Flanagan, who once more proves to be a great filmmaker, as well as Amblin Entertainment and Netflix are still behind the mini-series – even though, past the first episode, Flanagan is not wearing the director’s hat. The same applies for most of the cast who we get to see in different roles. Also, both of them are parts of the same anthology, marking Bly Manor’s 35th adaptation for the film or TV of Henry James’ novella The Turn of the Screw – Flanagan pays a lot of tributes to The Innocents (1961). Due to the similarities, please don’t think or try to find connection between the two. The producers have announced more series and they have stated that there is no link whatsoever – if they go down the American Horror Story (2011- ) road or not, that is a different story.

Bly Manor’s directing, photography, editing, costume design, and make-up department win the impressions from the first episode and you’ll get no grief about their quality. The Newton Brothers have also done an excellent job with the film’s score and I guarantee you, you won’t be able to shake off the “O Willow Waly”; it will be humming in your ears for days. Furthermore, all actors deliver top-notch performances that will knock your socks off. All of them get enough screening time to unfold and develop their characters and make sure that each and every one of them will make your heart, one way or another, skip a beat. I mean, how can Amelie Bea Smith act this way is totally beyond me.

The narrative is left deliberately for the end because it is the source of comparisons, contrasts, controversies, and contradictions. I can understand all four of them but imagine if the Bly Manor was like Hill House. What would be the point? Some might prefer the latter because behind the ghosts there is a strong family drama that pins you down. And Flanagan’s protracted shots are giving that drama the justice it deserves (that’s why I missed his directing on this one). But here’s what I think it happened…

Convoluted narrative that will end up to a mind-blowing resolution requires hiding clues and overall information BUT, even while misleading with the fabula and syuzhet’s timeline, the filmmakers need to make sure they don’t leave their audience completely bamboozled. Because this is where they lose interest and even when something big happens in the end, they will have already missed a lot and, eventually, will not understand it or not care about it. That’s my two cents anyway. I highly recommend it and look forward to the next haunting.

Oh, before I go, there is actually something connecting the two; love or the lack thereof…

Stay safe!

P.S. Victoria Pedretti shone as Nell Craine, shines as Dani Clayton, and she very much reminded me of Piper Perabo when I first watched her in Coyote Ugly (2000).

P.P.S. My beloved Ioanna, as promised, this one goes out to you!

One Night in Bangkok (2020): Action / Crime / Drama

A man arrives at the airport of Bangkok, gets a gun, hires a young female taxi driver, and people with no obvious connection between them start dropping one by one.

One Night in Bangkok is more or less what you expect it to be. Producer/writer/director Wych Kaosayananda builds up the narrative slow enough for the audience to get to know Kai and Fha to justify the film’s denouement. The editing’s rhythm and pace put the film together harmonically, but quite early into the film one can realise that Kaosayananda doesn’t want to get rid of anything he has shot. And that becomes quite problematic. There is too much dialogue that could have been avoided, firstly, to tight the script up and reduce the film’s duration, and secondly, to edit out everything that the audience would have understood anyway without the heroes and villains saying it. The latter is a greater issue simply because, personally, I felt as if I don’t get enough credits as a viewer. I truly believe that about twenty minutes could have been cut out, leaving much to the audience’s imagination and also focusing on the action.

The action is another issue though that could have been done better too. By now, we have seen action films in the last couple of decades that are equivalent to a cinematic miracle. Prachya Pinkaew and Gareth Evans have offered us Thai and Indonesian productions that have left us gobsmacked. Ever since, action sequences have evolved and raised the bar sky-high. Going back to mediocre action scenes, especially starring Mark Dacascos, an avid martial artist, coming from a family of martial artists… lowers the expectations and generates mediocre reviews. Shame really.

The thing is that Dacascos is a good actor and I really hope that, even now that he is nearing 60 he can still impress us with something better written, directed, and produced. Lastly, Vanida Golten, who appears for the first time in a film, does a magnificent job. Lets hope that we see her in more projects.

Stay safe!

The Wolf of Snow Hollow (2020): Comedy / Horror / Thriller

Brutally savaged bodies pile up in a small mountain town during full moon and an alcoholic sheriff must solve the crimes, keep the town in order, and his estranged daughter safe.

Comedy/horror… How does one put the two opposites successfully together? I don’t know if there is a universal answer but, in this instance, it’s how actor/writer/director Jim Cummings puts them together. The comedic acting contrasts the dark and haunting photography and the soundtrack either adapts to the tone or interestingly causes antithesis. My round of applause though goes to the editing team not for the impressive flash forwards during the killings but for balancing Cummings’ vision on how to find humour in dramatic but also horrific situations.

I’ll deliberately keep this one shorter than usual. Turn the lights off and give it a go. Films such as The Wolf of Snow Hollow can be the escape we need against the depressing and abhorrent reality we currently live in even though we have to return to it eventually.

Last but definitely not least, rest in peace Robert Forster. You will always be remembered.

Death of Me (2020): Horror / Mystery / Thriller

After a night they don’t remember anything, a vacationing couple finds a video of them where the husband kills the wife.

The Hangover (2009) meets The Wicker Man (2006). Yes, the Nicholas Cage version.

Death of Me… a film where everyone aimlessly is running around. I’ll cut straight to the point, there are significant issues with the story development but also the editing. The story itself is more than decent but then the project collapses by the minute as it unfolds. The acting is also decent – considering, but the film is beyond saving. I think the intentions were good but the execution was bad. I mean… bad! I don’t want to slag it off more because, regardless, a lot of people put in a lot of effort and work. It just didn’t come out right, unfortunately. Maggie Q and Luke Hemsworth are really good actors so, don’t let that film define their skills.

Stay safe!

12 Hour Shift (2020): Comedy / Horror / Thriller

In a local hospital, a drug-addict nurse and her small organ trafficking business “partners” find themselves in dire straights when a transaction goes awry.

Should ever anything happen to you and you end up in the hospital, that is the nurse you need… NOT! And that applies to the rest of the staff, police, family, patients, villains, and every other caricature that decides to appear on screen and lower the IQ to the extreme. But don’t cast any stones yet…

Writer/director Brea Grant spent every penny she had in her pocket, and it wasn’t that many, very wisely. She knew exactly the kind of film she wanted to make and she did. 12 Hour Shift is (almost) as funny as it intended to be, maintaining the horror level to the point that it doesn’t overshadow the main genre – comedy. The editing is the first indicator of this, effectively controlling the pace and rhythm, and keeping the story’s development very tight. Angela Bettis, David Arquette (also the main producer), Chloe Farnworth (who you wouldn’t believe she’s British), Nikea Gamby-Turner, but also the rest of the cast, are meant to be funny and they most certainly are. Amazing chemistry between the actors that will make you, at times, laugh out loud.

Now… I will say that producer/cinematographer/composer Matt Glass knew what he was doing while composing the film’s score. I can see how the soundtrack could potentially come across as annoying, accompanying every sequence of the film but it is there to serve a purpose. And that is none other than to exaggerate on something that it is far-fetched already. The story’s level of implausibility is sky-high, the plotholes are lurking in every corner, and the acting is over the top… DELIBERATELY!

I really do recommend you to watch it. We live in abhorrent times where death is first news. 12 Hour Shift is a horror that will make you laugh, and certainly, for just less than an hour and a half, will make you forget about what’s happening out there. Grant’s intentions are noble and I for one admire her for making such a film.

Stay safe!

The Horror Inside Us: Leading Anxieties and False Certainties

Tonight, Dr. Michael Lee is talking about the horror inside us and why and how one’s inner certainties and anxieties can render the everyday person monstrous. Dr. Lee teaches courses on 20th-century music history, American music history, film music and film studies at the University of Oklahoma. Over the years, he has been teaching courses on the history of horror films and one of his many specialties is Vampire Cinema. He is music historian, loving horror movies with passion and began researching their film scores and their diversified styles, especially, from the 1930s and 1940s. Listen to how our perception affects the way we interpret horrors and what was Val Lewton’s contribution.

Alone (2020): Thriller

A woman who has suffered a personal tragedy decides to leave everything and everyone behind but a man with sinister intentions will turn her life into a living nightmare.

My stomach was tight and I could hear my heartbeat throughout all three acts and every chapter. If that film title referred to a drama, I would be depressed in advance just by speculating what it is about. In a thriller though, that I admittedly knew nothing about, I had no idea what to expect. It was tempting to cheat and read the logline but I didn’t.

The nonverbal opening sequence speaks volumes; when there’s nothing to say, say nothing. The sequence with the heroine trying to overtake the SUV is defining as it is the inciting incident that marks the way director John Hyams builds up suspense. From then on, it is like a heart attack waiting to happen. The moment Marc Menchaca knocks Jules Willcox’s window, you know that everything is gonna go tits up. I will not give you any spoilers but pay attention to the protracted shot at the pit stop, the close-up in the basement, and Menchaca’s monologue. These are but a few examples of sequences that indicate high quality level of pre-production, and meticulous execution during the production, and consequently, the post-production stage. Needless to say, excellent chemistry between Menchaca and Willcox.

Mattias Olsson, who wrote the original Swedish film Gone (2011), pens the script for the adaptation too, giving it the justice it deserves for the American audience. Well done to all cast and crew who seem to have worked under quite unfavourable weather conditions. My round of applause will go to the department of sound this time for their thorough work on the diegetic sounds. Keep your eyes peeled and your ears wide open for the last Oskar-level shot.

Alone is a spine-chilling thriller about loss and acceptance, and how catharsis can come as wolf in a sheep’s clothing. My challenge for you is to try and find what the villain wants… but also what the villain needs…

Stay safe!

The Devil all the Time (2020): Crime / Drama / Thriller

Dark, interweaving stories about faith, chance, innocence, and corruption that spring from the most corrupted part of the human soul.

West Virginia… WWII is over, the soldiers are back, and the Willards, not from West Virginia, have trouble adapting. As if the war hadn’t done enough damage, the understanding of Lord’s mysterious ways led people to be… set in their own ways. A result that brings irony and nemesis, a rhetorical device and a goddess respectively, from ancient Greece, that civilisations have been stumbling upon, in numerous shapes and forms, for millennia.

Almost an hour into the film, the new generation takes over the torch and builds on that wretched foundation, paving the path for and giving birth to menace and hypocrisy, two human “qualities” that the ancient Greeks “saw”chewing up man’s soul like locus. And there is only one offspring that can come out of such a sorrowful family tree… Tragedy!

Writer/director Antonio Campos, co-writer Paulo Campos, and editor and wife of the former Sofía Subercaseaux put their heart and soul into the film. The Devil all the Time has two strong suits. One, is the narrative. The exchange between the omniscient narrator who speaks people’s minds and connects interweaving stories, and the interchangeable restricted narration between the heroes and villains, and the audience.

The second one is the phenomenal casting: Tom Holland, Bill Skarsgård, Riley Keough, Jason Clarke, Sebastian Stan, Haley Bennet, Eliza Scanlen, Mia Wasikowska, Harry Melling, and Robert Pattinson. And guess what, most of them are not even Americans. Excellent chemistry between the actors and amazing work with the dialect coaching. Most of the cast and crew have worked together in other films before, with the most notable collaboration being Holland, Stan, and Jake Gyllenhaal, who’s wearing the producer’s hat – MCU. Donald Ray Pollock, the author of the homonymous novel, gets a special reference for voicing his first ever narration in the film.

I guess, in life, what goes around comes around. And The Devil all the Time is no short of literature on screen, believing, and strongly indicating it in the denouement, that we are trapped in an indissoluble delusion that we can run away from ourselves.

Stay safe!

Directors and Horror Films

Ashley Scott Meyers is a writer, producer and director and owns the blog sellingyourscreenplay.com where you can find practical tips and advice on how to sell your screenplay. He also runs SYS Select where you can subscribe to receive premium screenwriting leads, online coaching and mentoring, online courses, and more. Among other things, tonight, he is talking about the production and artistic differences between indie and studio level horrors, their perception by both audience and directors and the importance of narrative in filmmaking.

Ashley Scott Meyers: Writer / Producer / Director

http://www.sellingyourscreenplay.com/

Antebellum (2020): Horror / Mystery / Thriller

Slaves at a confederate quarter during the American civil war experience a horrendous reality, but nothing is what it looks like.

One of the most meticulous and intriguing opening shots I’ve seen in a while. Music, photography, and powerful acting set the tone for what is about to come. Unfortunately though, as we go through despicable times, for more than one reason, it is hard to focus purely on the artistic part and neglect the atrocious side of the human soul.

Leaving momentarily the politics and the comparisons with today’s depressing reality aside, I’ll go on with a disclaimer: I had no idea what I was signing up for. So, almost 40′ into the film, I started scratching my beard… I really wanted to see where the story was heading. And this is when my excitement disappeared. The story dragged and became so political that characters lost their interest. Janelle Monàe’s character became snobbish and everyone else indifferent. Nothing like the acting or story development of the first forty minutes. Politics were so forced into the film that became unwatchable. Whatever was not political, it was pure boredom. I’m particularly fond of both Jena Malone and Gabourey Sidibe and here their characters were, again, as snobbish and indifferent as Monàe’s – or worse. The reason I cannot relate to such characters is because I could never and I have never hanged around with so self-righteous and pompous people that like themselves that much and think of themselves so high, like they are Derek Zoolander. I am sure the people who value their ticket’s money feel the same way.

Half an hour after that, and having watched a particular film in 2004 (no spoilers), I kind of saw where the story was heading. But directors Gerard Bush and Christopher Renz just made it too obvious with the only difference that they over-politicised it. And that’s how the second part of the second act was doomed to fail. It didn’t make any sense whatsoever and undermined the audience’s intelligence. And the filmmakers should always keep in mind that the horror fans are extremely savvy. Ι can see how appealing it is to make a 12 Years a Slave (2013) meets Get Out (2017) but Steve McQueen and Jordan Peele have their own distinctive and unique style that it would be best to be left to them and not copied. Speaking of copying, did I mention the irrelevant reference to The Shining (1980) and the inexplicably identical poster with The Silence of the Lambs (1991)?

Stay safe.

The Importance of Dystopia in Sci-fi

“The World of Apu” is a bimonthly, diverse, and multilingual online film magazine which explores film cultures from around the world.

Below you can find my analysis on why constructing the perfect society is nothing like constructing a seemingly perfect society. In other words, why filmmakers see the future in a cataclysmic and calamitous light.

Stay safe!

Kids in Horror: Source of Evil vs Source of Resolution

Michelle Satchwell is Head of the Social Sciences Department at a large school in Derbyshire, UK. She is examining the use of kids on horror films and examines the genre through the prism of Evolutionary, Cognitive, Psychodynamic, and Social Psychology. She will definitely make you question yourselves why you feel the way you do when you watch a horror.

References:

Trypophobia – fear of irregular patterns or clusters of small holes or bumps, e.g. buttons, crumpets, sponges etc.

Evolutionary/Biological psychology

There’s not a named psychologist, but we tend to take Dawkins and apply to psychology.

Emamzadeh (2018) Origin of common fears: A review (Psychology Today)

Parapsychology

[ESP cards]

Utts (1991) Replication and meta-analysis in parapsychology.

Cognitive psychology

[Elizabeth Loftus pioneer in the field and expert witness in courts].

Loftus and Palmer (1974) Reconstruction of automobile destruction (I mentioned experiment 1).

Loftus and Pickerell (1995) Lost in the mall study.

Jean Piaget (1952) Assimilation and Accommodation in Schema theory.

Psychodynamic psychology

Sigmund Freud (1917) Introduction to psychoanalysis.

[Id, Ego, and Superego all part of the Tripartite model of the personality in our unconscious like an iceberg].

Social psychology

Haney et al (1973) Stanford Prison experiment.

Zimbardo (2007) Lucifer effect.

Piliavin et al (1969) Good Samaritanism.

[The bystander effect: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OSsPfbup0ac]

Behaviourism

Pavlov (1897) Classical conditioning in dogs

Social Learning theory:

Bandura et al (1961) Bobo doll experiment.

Michelle’s book: Psychology Review: A-level Exam Skills and Practice Paperback – 30 Oct. 2020 ISBN-10: 1398308013