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.

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!

Open 24 Hours (2018): Horror

Having just been released from prison for setting her deranged boyfriend on fire, a young woman gets a night job at a petrol station, where her past catches up with her.

Promising opening shots that become too explanatory, too soon. The type of shots that fully increase the plot’s predictability. Keep watching and you’ll see that they also become repetitive too so, even if you spot a good one, chances are that you’ll watch it again (and again) minutes later and it will lose its authenticity. Do not be alarmed though because as you’ll keep watching, you’ll realise that the film is inundated with clichés that are the outcome of the aforementioned shots. Unfortunately, it all starts with the script which just borrowed parts from loving horrors of the 80s and 90s and stitched them, unnecessarily, together. I have the utmost respect for indie films as they do their absolute best for the tiny money they have managed to procure. And here, the film’s budget is not the issue.

The issue is that writer/director Padraig Raynolds decided not to leave a trademark on his film. Other than the above mentioned copies and pastes, the composer shouldn’t have tried to copy Psycho‘s (1960) staccato and the Raynolds shouldn’t have used music throughout the whole film. The power of the diegetic sound is immense, especially in narration, and it should have been used a lot more. Unfortunately, Raynolds raised the implausibility levels sky-high.

Full disclosure: I found Vanessa Grasse, who I first noticed in Leatherface (2017), very attractive so I’m a bit biased. I believe she has a lot to learn about acting and with the right guidance she’ll do really great. I for one, look forward to seeing her in more projects and I hope her natural beauty doesn’t get in the way of her promising career.

To cut the long story short, the story is original but its development screams all the cliches Scream (1996) is on about. Only “virgin horror eyes” will fall for these jump-scares and not even them won’t bother asking (more than they can count), “how the f@!$ did that happen?!” On the flipside, me counting the innumerable gimmicks, momentarily, forgot all about real life’s miseries so what the hell…

Stay safe!

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!

A Good Woman is Hard to Find (2019): Crime / Drama / Thriller

Having recently lost her husband, a young mother is trying to protect her children from poverty and her little town’s underworld.

Goddamn poverty! Goddamn misery! Goddamn drugs! Regardless which triggers which and in what order, the defining opening shot somehow is immediately understood by the shots that follow it. Or is it?

Writer/director of Road Games (2015), Abner Pastoll, directs a gritty Irish thriller with a realistic plague, a surrealist villain, and a down to Earth heroine that has to put up with both while protecting her children. And what a heroine’s journey that is…

Pastoll creates a dark for the audience yet healthy for the actors environment to showcase their chemistry and shine in front of the camera. Sarah Bolger, Edward Hogg, and Andrew Simpson lead the way but the rest of the cast follows and supports them as they should to create this thrilling crime/drama. Much respect for the whole crew that managed to bring this low budget, indie film to life.

Now… I cannot not comment on the dildo… probably the weirdest use(s) I’ve seen outside comedy. One is, unintentionally funny. Or dramatically funny – is there such a thing? Stealing your kids’ batteries from their toys to put them in your vibrator because you are a recently widowed young mum with urges isn’t funny… just funnily portrayed. Come on, I mean, I am sure they knew the mixed reactions the scene would stimulate. On the other hand, stabbing someone’s eye with the same vibrator you satisfy yourself to save yourself from rape is nothing but ironic (but relieving nonetheless).

Despite your feelings towards it, at least, you’ll witness a security system that uses VHS, and you’ll learn what a metaphor is…

Stay safe!

The Deeper You Dig (2019): Drama / Horror

A terrible accident haunts the man who caused it and blurs the line between the living and the dead.

This is why I love indie films. No major studio busting the cast’s and crew’s balls… only the director’s creative decisions… narrative that doesn’t have to abide by conventional rules… You know what I mean? If not, watch The Deeper You Dig and you’ll find out.

The tight script, shot and edited in an experimental American style, will get your attention from the opening shot. The music and the sound department get credits aplenty for truly understanding the writers’ and directors’ vision and creating an eerie and at the same time awkward atmosphere. For that awkwardness though and the weird dissonance there are two more people responsible: the two leading actors, John Adams and Toby Poser, who guess what? They are also the writers, directors but also the producers, editors, and composers. To top it up, they are also husband and wife in real life, and the daughter in the film, Zelda Adams, is their actual daughter as well. A family affair indeed. You wouldn’t believe how their production company is called… Adams Family!

Kudos to all three of them, they’ve done a brilliant job in every department. I wouldn’t call it a horror but definitely an interesting thriller. I will admit that past the… deep supernatural information (no spoilers), the convolution got me to scratch my beard more than once and the ending is nothing like I expected. This merely means that it’s a good or a bad thing but that’s how the creators envisaged it, that’s how they executed it, and I take it as it comes. Extra kudos to the photography and editing. That means, the quirks with the foibles. I hope you do the same.

Stay safe!

Silence (2017): Short / Drama

Silence

The impending apocalypse finds a mother and her autistic daughter spending their last moments together.

Silence is one of these short films that you watch and the first question that comes to your mind is: “What is happening?”. Upon establishing that, the question that follows is: “Why is this happening?” The answer to that lies in the hands of the filmmakers and their effort to get the funding they need to turn it into a feature. Official selection at the Los Angeles Film Festival, so I keep my fingers crossed to be seen by the right people who can add a solid setup and confrontation. Something along the lines of Knowing (2009)?

While discontinuous editing has proved to be innovative and effective in the past – see Breathless (1960) – in Silence this is not the case. I believe though that the strong message, the impressive photography (observe the changes as the doom is nearing), and the great performances by both Louise Rhian Poole and Riann Mutlow will win the impressions and writer Rachael Howard, director Lee Burgess, and producer John Ninnis will come out of the festival with a signed deal that will answer the “why”. You can watch it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=16Gwlb2-gw0

Stay safe!

Mohamed (2001): Short / Drama

Mohamed

In an attempt to save his life, a man enters an apartment building only to realise that his problems will only get worse.

First critical success for the – back then – young student, and writer/director Sergi Rubió who, despite the film’s little flaws, manages to clearly convey his message. It could be an excellent third act about a young man who has struggled his whole life because… he just looks different than the majority of the people around him. About a man who has so much love to give and no one to give it to. Unfortunately, there is so much hatred to get and everyone to get it from. You can watch it here: https://www.reelhouse.org/tropicanofilms/mohamed/4743014

Because some look like you or sound like you or have the same religion as you, it doesn’t mean that everyone else will or has to. No one can claim this world. We might be part of it, but it’s not ours. All of us can equally be a scourge on this planet or a blessing. Choose the latter. Mohamed did.

Stay safe!

Krisha (2015): Drama

Krisha

Having seen her family in years, Krisha returns for Thanksgiving to a seemingly idyllic reunion that couldn’t be more fragile.

Krisha is perception through the legacy of the lens that Hitchcock left behind. Directing, editing, acting, music, and sound mixing split the screen in half and let you into Krisha’s internal world. You will omnisciently follow her into the house, “hack” her cerebral cortex and see and listen through her what lies beneath the surface. Feature debut for actor, writer, editor, and director Trey Edward Shults who successfully pitched his concept to Kickstarter and adapted his own homonymous short Krisha (2014). Ever since the wheels have been set in motion and It Comes at Night (2017) – https://kgpfilmreviews.com/2019/02/02/it-comes-at-night-2017-horror-mystery – and Waves (2019) (review to follow) have become exceptional additions to the American independent cinema.

In the first act, from the opening shot (be it past or future) the tone is set. The protracted shots and the sound mixing add extra depth to the already relatable story and characters. The second act’s gradual escalation will patiently prepare the ground for what’s coming, and that is none other than an Aronofsky-esque confrontation and act three’s denouement. Watch it and make up your own mind as to what eventually happened. You can’t choose your family, they say…

Fun fact: In both the short and feature version of Krisha, Shults gathered his family members (and a couple of actors) and shot the films in his mother’s house. Yes, most of the people you see on screen are actually related.

Stay safe!

Hush (2016): Horror / Thriller

Hush.jpg

Real-life couple writer/editor/director Mike Flanagan and writer/actress Kate Siegel, beautifully collaborate for a second time making “Hush”. An indie, low budget, home invasion, one location horror with a simple premise that cuts to the chase: A deaf woman needs to survive a masked intruder’s invasion.

“Hush” stands tall amongst giants of the genre such as “The Strangers”, “The Last House on the Left”, “When A Stranger Calls” and more. Flawed, yet effective, proves undoubtedly that jump scares and unnecessary screaming are not horror’s obligatory elements for success. With Flanagan’s enthralling perspective and Siegel’s and Gallagher Jr.’s extremely engaging performances, a well-paced, thrilling hour and twenty minutes will fly-by.