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CHILDREN OF THE CORN Blu-Ray Review

From the mind of celebrated horror author Stephen King, the man behind such classic terror tales as THE SHINING , CARRIE, and IT , comes one of his most iconic offerings- CHILDREN OF THE CORN . This was a film that prior to this release I'd only seen on VHS. I remember renting this film when I was about 11 or 12 and it was the most brutal film I'd ever seen. The meat slicer scene thoroughly scarred my impressionable young psyche. I buy sliced lunch meat from the deli every Saturday and I always think about this film when I watch the butcher do his thing. Revisiting this film close to 30 years later, I went in with some trepidation. I didn't want to undo the impression this film had left on me. I didn't want to see it as a schlocky B film with dated effects and TV movie of the week acting. Fortunately, CHILDREN OF THE CORN rose to the occasion and stood up surprisingly well. A painstaking 2K restoration from the original negative gives the film a polished look th

DARKLAND review

2017 Directed by: Fenar Ahmad Starring: Dar Salim Country: Denmark A motion picture about requital that puts aside its comeuppance for as long as possible, DARKLAND highlights a deep dive into character that revenge tales rarely allow. Fenar Ahmads' disturbing follow-up to Γ†kte vare does deliver on its promise of a masked vigilante, but not before exploring all the loss, guilt and even internal prejudice driving a well-to-do doctor Zaid (Dar Salim) down a path of both self-destruction and violence against his own people. Zaid, the child of Iraqi migrants, has had it great in Denmark. He's an all-around happy guy. A well-regarded specialist and an eager father living in the midst of the more elite classes of white European culture; he's moved far from his parents neighborhood and its nearby Arab gangsters. His more youthful sibling Yasin wasn't so fortunate, using petty theft and low-level drug dealing just to remain above water. He turns to Zaid after getti

TIFF 2017 review DOWNRANGE

2107 Directed by: Ryuhei Kitamura Starring: Kelly Connaire, Stephanie Pearson, Anthony Kirlew, and Rod Hernandez Kitamura wastes no time in DOWNRANGE. The tension in the film starts almost immediately and never lets up. I felt like I was holding my breath for 89 minutes, this film is utterly relentless. Six college-aged students are taking a cross-country trip when they have a blow out on one of their tires. In the middle of changing that tire, they happen across the shell casing from a long range rifle and realize, it wasn't a blowout. The tire had been shot. Within moments bullets are flying towards the young travelers and they are pinned down. Unable to move out from behind the vehicle, the elusive sniper unloads a barrage of fire. On an empty rural road, in the middle of nowhere, with inconsistent cell service, they are alone with this determined assassin. Their only hope seems to wait him out, to see if another car happens along their path. The marksman is frustrati

TROPHY interview w/ directors Shaul Schwarz and Christina Clusiau

Shaul Schwarz’s and Christina Clusiau’s Trophy explores the complex heart of contemporary issues of animal conservation and commodification at a time when endangered African species such as elephants, rhinos and lions march ever closer to extinction. This provocative follow-up to Schwarz’s acclaimed Narco Cultura journeys viewers across lush African forests and vast plains and into the world’s largest hunters’ convention in Las Vegas to meet breeders and hunters who passionately believe in animal conservation. A common mantra of these businesses – “if it pays, it stays” – sums up the controversial notion that if you assign monetary value to an animal, it is worth protecting. Trophy follows Philip Glass, a Texas-based sheep breeder and life-long hunter who is on a quest to collect the “Big Five” (elephant, buffalo, lion, leopard, and rhino). Philip is deeply connected to the land and animals. He spends days or weeks tracking animals in their natural environment before getting his

AGAINST THE NIGHT review

2017 Directed by: Brian Cavallaro Starring: Hannah Kleeman, Tim Tore, Luke Persiani and Frank Whaley Hank is an ambitious young filmmaker who convinces a group of his friends to set out "ghost hunting" in an abandoned prison. He pays them each $200 so can film them and use the project as a calling card to move on to bigger things. Or what he sees as undertakings more worthy of his perceived talent. He wants to make it as a legitimate director but in his estimation, the only way to make money in indie film is in ghost hunting and porn. I'm not sure if the location was found or built but it goes a long way in separating AGAINST THE NIGHT from other genre films. The prison is dripping with a rich history that feels somehow lived in and forgotten. The characters even mention how filming in this location will add "production value" to their project, and it does. The prison is setup like a wheel with the guard's station being the circular center and the

TIFF review PORCUPINE LAKE

2017 Directed by: Ingrid Veninger Starring: Charlotte Salisbury and Lucinda Armstrong Hall PORCUPINE LAKE opens on Bea (Salisbury) as she rests in the back of her parent’s station wagon, peacefully unaware of the quiet tension that fills the front half of the vehicle. The juxtaposition of a picturesque countryside and her parent’s uncomfortable silence evokes a strange feeling of melancholy while staring through the lens of something utterly beautiful. The family is traveling across a Norman Rockwell like landscape to take over a restaurant bequeathed from Bea’s grandfather. The “Snack Shack”, situated in Port Severn Ontario, represents a missed opportunity for this struggling young family to start over. Scotty sees this as a chance to fix up the place and make a go of it, while Ally is only interested in selling. Ally and Scotty, absorbed with their own problems and mounting tensions from the restaurant leave Bea mostly to her own devices. One morning, while Bea

THE SLAYER - Blu ray Review

1982 Directed by: J.S. Cardone Starring: Sarah Kendall. Fredrick Flynn, and Carol Kottenbrook IS IT A NIGHTMARE? OR IS IT... THE SLAYER? Amongst genre fans, THE SLAYER is the stuff of legends. Not 1985's Larry Choen film THE STUFF but rather a legendary slasher film that is often cited as one of most influential horror films of the era. Previously only available on home video in truncated or full-screen versions, THE SLAYER (whose nightmares-seeping-into-reality theme predates a certain Wes Craven classic by several years) comes lovingly restored from the original negative in a stunning transfer that will be a revelation to fans both old and new. A pair of young couples heads off to a remote island home for what by all designs should be a relaxing vacation. But all hopes for a peaceful getaway are short-lived: as a storm threatens the island, anxious artist Kay can't shake the feeling that an unnatural force is in every corner of the island, aware of their every move

MIFF 2017 review SHUT UP ANTHONY

2017 Directed By: Kyle Eaton Starring: Robert A. D'Esposito, Katie Michels, Jon Titterington We've all had a moment where we just didn't know when to stop. When we've said too much, not taken the time to read the people we are interacting with, and just refused to get out of our own way. Anthony perpetually lives in that moment. His anxiety causes him to spew information all over the people he crosses paths with and letting words out seems to be something of a pressure relief. The only problem is the tool he uses to avoid anxiety creates situations that are highly uncomfortable and induce more anxiety. After being fired and dumped in quick succession Anthony heads to his family's remote timeshare to get some time alone. Much to his surprise he finds an old family friend Tim, a college professor who has a predilection for straight vodka at 2 in the afternoon, in the house. The two men are clearly using their families secluded co-op to avoid their current sit

LOGAN LUCKY review

2017 Directed by: Steven Soderbergh Starring: Channing Tatum, Adam Driver, Katie Holmes, and Daniel Craig 30 years into to his critically and commercially celebrated career Steven Soderbergh shocked film fans around the world four years ago when he announced his retirement from movie making. One of the most successful directors in Hollywood decided to focus his creative energy on television projects after BEHIND THE CANDLEABRA failed to secure a theatrical release. LOGAN LUCKY marks Soderbergh's return to the big screen. He credits this decision to “a convergence of a couple of things, one technological, and one creative.” His frustration with the release models that all the major studios subscribe to pushed him out of their system but when he saw digital technologhy could allow a filmmaker to put a movie in wide release without involvement from a major studio, he wanted back in. On the creative side the screenplay written by Rebecca Blunt was originally given to Soderber

EFFECTS Blu-ray Review

1980 Directed by: Dusty Nelson Starring: Tom Savini, Joe Pilato, and John Harrison Certain genre fans will have nostalgia, not only for oddball films that might not stand up to the test of time, but for special effects from those films. When I've shown friends the original DAWN OF THE DEAD a common comment is that the blood looks fake. I grew up with that melted crayon looking blood and it holds a special place in my heart. It doesn't have the same effect as CGI squibs exploding into the camera lens but it does have a tactile nature that computers haven't been able to replicate. I was aware that Tom Savini did the makeup for EFFECTS, but I was genuinely surprised when I saw a blood effect from DAWN OF THE DEAD in this film. It would be like taking a drive through Pittsburgh and accidentally happening across the Monroeville Mall. I was taken back to a middle school version of myself, but while watching something I've never seen before. Cobbled together with loos

THE TRANSFIGURATION review

2017 Directed by: Michael O'Shea Starring: Eric Ruffin, Chloe Levine, and Aaron Moten Very seldom is a vampire film, just a vampire film and more often than not a genre film is not just a genre film. Writers and directors have used the macabre to explore ideas and comment on society in ways that mainstream films ignore. First-time feature director Michael O'Shea has used the vampire myth in THE TRANSFIGURATION to explore poverty, violence, gangs, rape, and the many facets of inner city adolescence. It's clear from the get go that O'Shea is fully aware of the blood sucking tropes that fill this particular sub-genre of horror films. He isn't nervous about subverting those standards or using them as he sees fit. It's knowledge of what has come before that allows O'Shea to make something unique that stands completely on its own. Milo (Eric Ruffin) is an isolated teenager living in a densely populated city. An outlier that doesn't fit in with the oth

FANTASIA 2017 - SMALL GAUGE TRAUMA - Selected Shorts

BIRTHDAY 2017 Directed by: Alberto Viavattene Italy Night. An abusive nurse wanders through the halls of a nursing home. She integrates her salary by secretly selling prescription drugs to junkies and stealing from the most vulnerable patients. The only thing she hates more than her job is old people. Upon entering room 12, occupied by three sisters, she discovers that one of them has just turned one-hundred years old: there must be a birthday present somewhere… that will change their lives forever. THE PECULIAR ABILITIES OF MR. MAHLER 2017 Directed by: Paul Philipp Germany East Germany 1987: Special investigator Mahler, who is said to possess paranormal abilities, is assigned to solve the case of a missing 6-year-old before this issue leads to political tensions with the West. PUMPKIN 2017 Directed by: Jay Rathore Canada Eric is your average suburban teenager, obsessed with the internet and constantly glued to his phone.

RONIN Blu-ray Review

RONIN. Noun, historical. A samurai who no longer serves a daimyo, or feudal lord. From director John Frankenheimer (SEVEN DAYS IN MAY, THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE) comes RONIN, a pulse-pounding, action-packed crime thriller featuring an all-star cast headlined by Robert De Niro (TAXI DRIVER, HEAT) and Jean Reno (LEON: THE PROFESSIONAL). On a rain-swept night in Paris, an international crack team of professional thieves assembles, summoned by a shady crime syndicate fronted by the enigmatic Deirdre (Natascha McElhone, The Devil's Own). Their mission: to steal a heavily guarded briefcase from armed mobsters, its contents undisclosed. But what begins as a routine heist soon spirals into chaos, with the group beset by a series of double-crosses and constantly shifting allegiances, and it falls to world-weary former CIA strategist Sam (De Niro) and laconic Frenchman Vincent (Reno) to hold the mission together. A latter-day return to form for Frankenheimer, the film evokes the sam

FANTASIA 2017 review M.F.A.

2017 Starring: Francesca Eastwood, Clifton Collins Jr., Marlon Young and Peter Vack Directed By: Natalia Leite A couple weeks ago, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos announced plans to roll back title IX protections for victims of sexual assault established under the Obama administration. Instead of helping victims of rape to navigate the legal process she hopes to protect the innocent victims of false accusation. Rape statistics vary greatly from source to source but I've yet to come across any study that postulates the number of false accusations out numbers actual assaults. And yet here we are. In a time where an equivalency is being drawn between the two. M.F.A. is the story of Noelle (Eastwood) an art student who is raped and decides to take decisive action when she sees a system that turns a blind eye. Early in the film Professor Rudd (Young) tells Noelle to "make something ugly." He encourages her to fail. He asks her to push herself outside of the comfort

PERSON TO PERSON review

2017 Written and Directed by: Dustin Guy Defa Starring: Abbi Jacobson, Michael Cera, Tavi Gevinson, Philip Baker Hall, Bene Coopersmith Self-examination and exploration are the way individuals hope to understand the reasons behind their motivations, desires, purpose, and personality. These are people analyzing life and the world, looking for the things that speak to them. Often these people are seeking objects, relationships, professions, or in some cases redemption to help define who they are. They use the external as a means to scrutinize the internal. PERSON TO PERSON uses a split narrative structure to study the lives New Yorkers who are all looking for something. Benny (Coopersmith) is a record collector hunting down a rare Charlie Parker LP and an honest opinion of his shirt. Claire (Jacobson) is a rookie reporter looking for a paycheck under the tutelage of Phil (Cera), a pushy but sensitive reporter who looks for every opportunity he can to talk about his metal band.

FANTASIA 2017 review POOR AGNES

2017 Directed By: Navin Ramaswaran Starring: Lora Burke, Robert Notman, and Will Conlon Written By: J. Gordon Ross Put simply, an unreliable narrator is a storyteller whose trustworthiness is questionable. An audience following a tale created by a compromised character is left unbalanced and questioning almost everything they see. POOR AGNES is told from the point of view of a delusional young woman (Burke) who has a less than firm grip on reality. She is vicious and cruel but oddly poetic in her personal philosophy. Through voice over and monologues performed to the camera we hear Agnes justify her indefensible actions. She kidnaps, kills, and rapes with no sense of remorse or regret. The only things she seems to feel are utter satisfaction and self-righteousness. She has pure conviction and lacks any self-doubt, a luxury not often granted to the emotionally stable.      Early in the film, Agnes crosses paths with Mike (Notman) a private investigator following up l

FANTASIA 2017 preview (Part 3) 78/52, FRITZ LANG, FASHIONISTA, and SEQUENCE BREAK

21st EDITION – JULY 13-AUGUST 2, 2017 — Since its inception in 1996, the Fantasia International Film Festival is now recognized as the largest and most influential event of its kind in North America, a leader on the genre film scene and one of the country’s most popular film festivals. With a varied programming and an emphasis on the imaginative cinema of Asia, Europe and the Americas, Fantasia’s offerings range from unique and powerful personal visions to international commercial crowd-pleasers rarely seen in North America. As the festival gets started we want to highlight some of this years must see films. 78/52 2017 Directed By: Alexandre Philippe Screening July 20th An unprecedented look at the iconic shower scene in Alfred Hitchcock’s PSYCHO, the 'Man behind the Curtain', and the screen murder that profoundly changed the course of world cinema. 78/52 references the number of set-ups (78) and the number of cuts (52) in the shower scene from Alfred Hit

FANTASIA 2017 preview (Part 2) DEAD SHACK, BITCH, LET THERE BE LIGHT, and TOKYO IDOLS

21st EDITION – JULY 13-AUGUST 2, 2017 — Since its inception in 1996, the Fantasia International Film Festival is now recognized as the largest and most influential event of its kind in North America, a leader on the genre film scene and one of the country’s most popular film festivals. With a varied programming and an emphasis on the imaginative cinema of Asia, Europe, and the Americas, Fantasia’s offerings range from unique and powerful personal visions to international commercial crowd-pleasers rarely seen in North America. As the festival gets started we want to highlight some of this year's must-see films. DEAD SHACK 2017 Directed By: Peter Ricq Screening July 22nd On a weekend getaway at a rundown cabin in the woods, Jason, a cautious teen, his crude best friend Colin and his fearless older sister Summer are forced to work together, grow up and save their hard-partying parents from their predatory neighbor intent on feeding them all to her undead family