Friday, March 31, 2017

As They Continue To Fall






Today's short film is called As They Continue To Fall.

I'm going to be honest, right away, hate the title. It looks like it should be an album title for a NuMetal band from Iowa, the type where the lead singer girl still wears a cloth choker and velvet babydoll dresses with combat boots, and the rest of the band wears "scary" masks. It sounds like the type of self-published novel you could buy at the on-line Hot Topics store, one where an "artist" friend of the author has hand-drawn the cover. It feels like it was intended to be read aloud in a extremely meaningful voice to a circle of teens sitting in a basement with all of the curtains drawn, and all of them badly smoking clove cigarettes. I would assume there's a fake skull on the table somewhere close by. In a word, it sounds super lame.

But... I'm not going to let that initial reaction taint my response.

This film was directed by Nikhil Bhagat and written by C. Robert Cargill. Bhagat has done a couple of short films and, surprisingly, for a Short Film Director, he has done zero work in a visual effects department. That's unexpected. Cargill has written the movies Sinister 1 and 2, which I haven't seen, and the Doctor Strange film, which was pretty good. I enjoyed it quite a bit. He also used to write for the website Ain't It Cool under the name Massawyrm, which was a geek/genre/pop culture news site that was huge over a decade ago, and still looks exactly the same today.

I bet the C stands for Commandant.

Here's the synopsis: An aging drifter hunts fallen angels in a desolate city. Society may have turned its back on him, but that doesn't stop him from moving forward in his endless search for fallen angels.

That's kind of an oddly written synopsis for a film that is supposedly about a homeless dude with a rifle hunting down fallen angels. Let's see what we've got here...



I liked bits and pieces.

First off, it looked good. The designs were cool-looking. It was well shot. But mostly, the film felt kind of half-baked. After watching this, I assume it was a specific couple of cool images--the idea of the bum on the roof with his grungy old rifle, and probably the scene from the old Hellblazer comic where John Constantine cuts off the angel's wings--that were the main inspiration for this film,. I say this, because the whole sequence from the rooftop sniper shot to the alleyway de-winging all felt very focused, and everything after that felt like a bunch of second thoughts and add-ons.

The bum's motivation for hunting the angels? Wafer thin. And weirdly petty. It also felt completely unnecessary. Then the ending turned out to be not so much a climax as a slow slide to a stop. The angels show up, presumably for revenge, but say nothing and do nothing, and then leave. What power did the bum have, and why? Is he special? There's nothing established as to why the angels would fear him without his rifle. Was the knife special?

I don't know. The film doesn't tell us.

The film also doesn't tell us what the noises were supposed to be that he hears at the end. What were the angels doing? Tripping? Falling down stairs? Or was his last line just a joke? Without understanding what the noises were, I have no idea what he's rolling his eyes about. It's a weird beat to end the film on. It's played like we're all supposed to share a chuckle, but I have no idea why.

In the end, I think there's too much focus on things that don't matter, and not enough on things that do. There wasn't enough focus on the specific story they wanted to tell. Maybe a little more time would've helped the film out? Maybe? It's only six minutes long. I don't know. What I do know is, once again, it seems like the temptation to draw a larger world, and all for the vague idea of some benevolent studio god bestowing a franchise upon them, ended up hampering the short film that was the only vehicle they had to sell the idea in the first place. Ambition, it appears, is the bullet that most often shoots the genre short film creator in the foot.

Jon

But at least there's a couple of cool posters. Too bad shit like this wasn't actually in the film...





Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Night of the Slasher





Today's film is called Night of the Slasher.

I'm kind of interested in today's short film, because it supposedly has contains some commentary on the whole Slasher genre. This may not draw in a lot of real fans, I'm sure it probably gets done a lot, but the slasher genre is not really my thing, so I don't spend a lot of time following it, so... it's new to me! That's not to say that I'm totally uninformed. I recognize good ones, of course, but usually, when it comes to the Slasher stuff, I get bored by the common tropes pretty quickly. This is why the self-aware/self-referential thing appeals to me.

Another positive in this short film's favor is that it claims to have all been shot in a single take. They might be lying, of course, they might try to cleverly hide their edits in passing shadows or something like that, but they might be telling the truth too, which would be kind of cool. The downside, of course, is that these type of filming decisions--being too self-aware, or too concerned with complicated set-ups, for example--can sometimes lead a film to disappear up its own ass, but... hey... maybe not, right? I appreciate the effort, if maybe not the execution.

Also, a side-note, I really like that the killer is wearing a Leonard Nimoy mask. That's a nice little nod to John Carpenter's Halloween movie killer Michael Myers, who is famous for wearing a William Shatner mask.

So, here we go... Shant Hamassian is the writer/director of this film, and his name sounds familiar. I can't place from where, and it doesn't seem like I've seen any of his stuff before now, so... who knows, he just seems familiar to me. Maybe it's nothing. Anyway, other than that bit of memory fluff, I have no insight into his ability or talent. I like the idea he's going with. I like some of the ballsy stuff he's trying to do. I hope he can pull it off, because it sounds ambitious.

We shall see.

Here's the synopsis: A teenage girl must commit horror movie sins such as drink alcohol, do drugs, and have sex to lure a killer and finish him off.

Let's watch...



Okay, so I forgot to watch and see if it was all really done in one shot until right before the end, so I can't be sure, but I think it was. In fact, it would go along way towards explaining why some of the kitchen fight choreography seemed kind of odd...

So, not bad, huh? Kinda fun.

At first I was kind of annoyed that the actress didn't speak at all, but I liked the end reveal of why. I obviously wasn't paying close enough attention at the start, as the reason why never occurred to me. For such a short run time, there was a good mix of humor and blood. The beer drinking scene, and the "some kids say I look like I'm 30 years old" line was pretty damn funny. I also liked the nod to all of the dumb classic "rules" too, the sudden disappearing and reappearing of the killer, their refusal to die, the negating effects of parents returning home, that was all good stuff.

I don't think they quite nailed the balance between commentary and titillation, but it's hard to complain about them lingering on the lead actress's butt for a moment or two too long. Also, the fight itself was kind of oddly paced. This is obviously due to the whole "single shot" thing, but it made for a less than satisfying fight. But those are nitpicks, for the most part, this was all right. Like I said above, I appreciate the attempt to say something--even if it's just to highlight some of the genre's worn-out but beloved tropes--and I appreciate even more the fact that they challenged themselves to make their statement in an interesting way. I also like that they told a pretty self-contained story too.

One thing though... if the girl had survived a previous attack--hence the scar--wouldn't this encounter be "Round 2" and the implied sequel actually be "Round 3"?

Rule breaker,
Jon



Friday, March 24, 2017

A Movie for Every Year


This has been a thing going around lately: Make a list of your favorite movie for every year of your life. Lord knows I love joining shit, especially Internet fads, so I thought I'd try it out. There weren't any other attached rules or anything, at least, not that I saw. I assume it's not required to have seen that particular movie within that particular year, just pick one movie per year. You probably shouldn't lie about your age either.

I mostly based my choices off of pure love and enjoyment, with "re-watchability" as the secondary factor. This obviously resulted in certain types of films coming up over and over, but then, that's the point, right? Pick your favorites. One interesting thing I noticed while making this list was that a lot of the "great" films of that particular year, upon reconsideration, just have not aged all that well. Many of them now seem dated and overwrought, formulaic in that insincere award-driven kind of way. Some of them, for all of their supposed greatness, I couldn't imagine ever sitting down and re-watching them again. 

So, here we go...

Some years, the choice was glaringly obvious. Other years, there were almost zero good choices, which led to a couple of weird picks. And in still other years--I'm looking at you '81, '84, and '14--were surprisingly difficult, because there were so many good choices. Honestly, being forced to choose between Predator and Robocop? That's just cruel. Anyway... Make a list of your favorite movie for every year of your life.

This is mine...

A MOVIE FOR EVERY YEAR

1974. Chinatown
1975. Monty Python and the Holy Grail
1976. The Outlaw Josie Wales
1977. Star Wars
1978. Dawn of the Dead
1979. The Warriors
1980. The Empire Strikes Back
1981. Raiders of the Lost Ark 
1982. Conan the Barbarian
1983. The Return of the Jedi
1984. Terminator 
1985. Pee Wee’s Big Adventure
1986. Aliens
1987. Predator 
1988. Die Hard
1989. Say Anything
1990. Goodfellas
1991. Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey
1992. The Last of the Mohicans
1993. Dazed and Confused
1994. Pulp Fiction
1995. 12 Monkeys
1996. Trainspotting
1997. Jackie Brown
1998. The Big Lebowski
1999. Being John Malkovitch
2000. Battle Royale
2001. The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
2002. City of God
2003. Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World
2004. Shaun of the Dead
2005. Munich
2006. Children of Men
2007. No Country for Old Men
2008. Iron Man
2009. Watchmen
2010. True Grit
2011. Drive
2012. The Avengers
2013. Blue Ruin
2014. Guardians of the Galaxy
2015. Mad Max: Fury Road
2016. Green Room
2017. So far… Get Out? Logan?

And there you have it,
Jon

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

The Blackcoat's Daughter







Today's film is called The Blackcoat's Daughter.

I keep saying I'm not a big horror fan, but I've noticed that I do seem to be posting a lot of horror stuff lately. Maybe I'm a medium horror fan. To be fair, a lot of the stuff I have posted crosses over into my regular interests, so maybe it's not the horror that attracts me. It does seem like there's been a lot more apocalyptic survival horror lately, not to mention some good zombie stuff, and a few strong social critique laden films too. Must be the world we find ourselves living in now...

Anyway, that's usually my deal with horror. The genre doesn't really do it for me, unless it merges with something else. Usually. But that's not the case this time.

At least, as far as I can tell. From what I've seen so far, The Blackcoat's Daughter seems like it's a more traditional horror film. There appears to be a big house with creaky floors and dark hallways and a weird basement that you probably shouldn't go down into. There might be some sort of malevolent force involved. Maybe its a ghost, maybe it's the devil, or maybe it's just puberty. There's a drawerful of potentially bloody knives.

Like I said... traditional.

I don't know Oz Perkins' work. He's had a lot of background roles as an actor in a lot of things--some of them very high profile--and all of which I have zero memory of him being in. It looks like it's only recently that he's started writing/directing his own stuff, and that mostly looks like low budget slasher/ghost type horror, so no big surprise at my lack of familiarity. So, I can't tell you if it's any good or not. His cast this time is interesting though... Emma Roberts, Lucy Boynton, and Kiernan Shipka... They're all very talented. Emma Roberts is Hollywood nepotism defined, but she seems like she might be actually talented. Nerve wasn't exactly great--it kind of shits the bed at the end--but she has potential. I guess it's just a question of her finding the right part. Lucy Boynton, on the other hand, she was fantastic in Sing Street, so I'm ready to see more of her. And everyone loves Kiernan Shipka, right? Especially in a film like this. It'll be nice to see little Sally Draper finally become the crazy murderer we all assumed she was going to be. Seriously though, I wonder how you pronounce her name?

The point is, I'm interested...

Here's the synopsis: Two girls must battle a mysterious evil force when they get left behind at their boarding school over winter break.

Sparse, but interesting. Let's watch...



That's a good trailer.

It was creepy. It liked the look. I liked the tone. What else is there to say? That was well done. Maybe I'll see if I can listen to the song that was playing, to see if there's any plot clues in it. It didn't look overtly supernatural, at least not beyond the oppressive malevolence of the setting. There was a mention of Satan, sure, and it might be used in that classic "oops, turns out the urban legend is real" kind of way, but maybe not. This felt more grounded. We shall see, of course, I could be wrong, but I'm betting that, when it comes to who's ultimately responsible for the inevitable bloodshed... I think Sally Draper just quits pretending and finally starts cutting some motherfuckers up.

I'm looking forward to this.

The Blackcoat's Daughter opens March 31st, 2017.

Jon



Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Lasiurus






I'm generally not a huge horror fan. I don't avoid it or anything. It's just the genre isn't really my cup of tea. Despite this, when I do watch it, one sure way to get me interested is for the setting be apocalyptic in some way.

So today, we have Lasiurus.

The writer/director is Marcus Alqueres. I don't know his stuff, of course, but like most short film writer/directors, he seems to have done a lot of visual effects work. Also, Alqueres apparently has some kind of deal with Sony at the moment due to one of his older shorts called The Flying Man. I've seen The Flying Man, and it definitely looked good, but its main problem was a pretty common one when it comes to short films... there's too much "potential", and not enough "delivery".  I don't want to knock the effort or anything, there was some definite talent involved, the film was well done, and obviously with very little money too, I just wish thee guys would tell a full story in their short films, instead of making what amounts to a vague teaser for a franchise that will probably never happen.

So, right from the start, I'm a little unsure about Lasiurus. Just in setting up this post, I see a lot of potential red flags popping up in a lot of the usual places. The first red flag comes from the fact that I read a press release about Lasiurus that said this short film is supposed to feature a story/world that is intended to be explored more in a feature length narrative, so... that's a bummer.

The synopsis for Lasiurus reads simply: What if you are the last one to know? 

This is the next big red flag, of course. Here we have a synopsis that is underwritten and not intriguing at all. It feels like there was no effort put into it at all. So, the question becomes... why is there no effort? Do they just not care? Or is there actually no story at all? Hands down, this is a shit synopsis, but while either option is problematic, the latter is definitely worse than the former. And that's not to say that the synopsis doesn't raise any questions, just that it doesn't do it in the good way. "Last one to know" what? I assume it means "what if you were the last one to know the apocalypse was happening" but the only way I know that is because I read it in an article about the short. If I had just been scrolling through short films, I would've barely stopped for it.

Bottom line? Synopses matter, put some effort into that shit...


It's hard to get behind a really dumb protagonist.

You could probably make the argument that he's just oblivious, maybe, not dumb, but he's so oblivious that it just strains credulity. I hate to be the guy who questions the timeline of a bat-demon apocalypse, was this the neatest and quickest and quietest apocalypse ever? This question may seem nitpicky, but it's also an indication of the film's main problem...

Like The Flying Man, Lasiurus looks good, but the story is non-existent.

There's almost nothing here, narrative-wise. After watching it, I have all the questions possible as to what was going on, and the film answers pretty much none of them. It doesn't even try to. Granted, the stated purpose of the film is to pitch a feature length project, but what have you really got here? A vague vampire/zombie apocalypse with bats? Does that really need a pitch? It's kind of like saying: "I want to make a movie where a lady meets an unlikely guy, and at first they don't seem like a good match, but guess what? ...They are." Who's wowed by that? "It's a monster movie. Full stop." Why would anyone need this short film to sell the concept?

In the end, Lasiurus is well shot, but it doesn't give you much to hold onto.

Jon

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Voyager







Today's short film is called Voyager.

This is a Stop-Motion short film from SUPAMONKS STUDIO. They're French, something I have come to be able to identify when watching short films, and here's what they have to say about themselves: We are an animation studio based in the Paris Area. Formed in 2007, our varied and rapidly expanding portfolio includes animated commercials, short films and work for the gaming industry. Above all we love beautiful images and telling stories. Always committed to improving what we do, we aim to deliver industry-leading products that our clients are happy with. 

They seem nice. And it looks like they're putting out good looking work too. I will say that I'm a little leery of this one. French animation, especially of the short film variety, tends to focus on the aesthetics, rather than the narrative, and the stylized look of the stop-motion makes me think that's what we're going to end up getting here.

Not that that's a bad thing necessarily, I'm just more of a narrative guy.

Here's the synopsis: Sent in 1977, the Voyager Golden Record was intended to introduce Humanity to possible beings in outer space. But centuries later, Voyager is back on Earth...

Let's watch...



The Stop-Motion in this film looks amazing. It really looked great.

But... ah, big surprise, but... what the fuck was going on here? A young cyborg girl in a dead city, a city that she may be the only inhabitant of, who seems to spend most of her day either looking for food and keeping the power grid running. At least, she did, until the day the Voyager probe crash/lands in the middle of the city, apparently unharmed, and then some old music and images off of its famous Gold Record in order to... inspire her to... remove her cyborg parts? Maybe? But she still had a leg underneath the cyborg leg? And then she left the dead city for the country? Or was it a metaphor? Did the beauty of the old, lost world drive her to let herself power down and thus, die? Is she leaving the city for the country, or heaven?

Is it deep? Is it simple? Or is it just half-baked?

It's hard to tell, because it gets a little muddled and vague at the end, and the fact that it never really shows us what really happens with the cyborg leg is a really odd Directorial decision. I mean,  that's your climax, right? Maybe? I'm not sure, because I couldn't tell what was going on, or why the red light blinking off turned out to do nothing to her.

But, like I suspected above, maybe the point of the project is just the technique, and the beauty of it. Maybe there's a simpler metaphor of... leaving behind the demands of modern life for the simplicity of nature...? I don't know. Maybe all of that is true, AND it's also half-baked. In the end, while I appreciate the artistry and skill needed to create something like this, these types of short films are a bit like hallmark cards for me, there's a nice sentiment, but very little  in the way of content.

Enjoyable, but half-baked.

Jon

Monday, March 13, 2017

The Belko Experiment











I've always been a fan of James Gunn.

He's responsible for Slither, for Super, and for the re-imagining of Dawn of the Dead (a major personal favorite), among many others, not the least of which are both of the Guardians of the Galaxy movies, which I'm sure you'll recall... I'm a bit of a fan. His work is funny and smart and silly and dirty and bloody as hell, all the things you need for a good time at the movies, and, at least according to the trailer, all the things you'll find in today's film: The Belko Experiment.

I'm not familiar with Greg McLean's work. He's the Director. He's done a lot of horror stuff from the look of it, and I think I remember people saying that they liked the Wolf Creek stuff, so maybe he's good. Personally, I would assume he's pretty good, as Gunn seems to work with good people. Plus, he made this after coming off the Guardians of the Galaxy win, so it's not like he didn't have options.

It doesn't really matter, either way, I'm a fan of Gunn's work, so I'm interested in this.

Here's the synopsis: In a twisted social experiment, 80 Americans are locked in their high-rise corporate office in Bogotá, Colombia and ordered by an unknown voice coming from the company's intercom system to participate in a deadly game of kill or be killed.

Sounds good to me. Plus, thanks to this synopsis, the fact that it's set in another country goes a long way towards smoothing over the one concern I had with the idea, and that was that this thing appears to be happening in apparent isolation, or at least with the Government's cooperation, and I couldn't see that quite working in America, although now we're in Trump's Amerikkka, so maybe it's a moot point... Whatever. Either way, I'm good.

Also, this may be complete nonsense, because I don't know if the two films are similar in any way or not, but the synopsis and tone really put me in mind of the movie Cabin in the Woods, and that's always a good thing...

Let's watch.



Relatable, amirite?

So, yeah, there's a definite Battle Royale feel going on here, but that's understandable. That particular set-up is a good formula for human drama: Take a bunch of ordinary people, lock them in some place, and tell them they all have to kill each other in order to survive. Will they comply? Will they resist? Who will be the first to take that big step? Who will hold onto their humanity? Who will live? Who will die? You get multiple layers of tension as the characters all respond in different ways, and no matter what, eventually... you get a bunch of carnage too. And like I said, that's really all you need in a good movie, right?

The Belko Experiment opens this Friday, on March 17, 2017.

Ready,
Jon