The Hallow (2015)

HallowCreating a film that inspires a genuine sense of dread and tension, with a small cast and limited locations, is no easy task. There is no sure-fire recipe for success with this, but there are two components that are required if a film is to have even a remote chance of working. The first is a genuine sense of realism, regardless of how fanciful the story, and the second is characters you can truly connect to as human beings so you are invested in their struggle. It sounds simple yet it’s amazing how rarely it’s pulled off effectively. So, does director Corin Hardy (great name btw) manage to succeed with his Irish folktale inspired film, The Hallow? Well, let’s discuss.

The film centers around Adam (Joseph Mawle) a British scientist whose work with plant and fungal life requires him to move to a remote Irish village along with his wife Clare (Bojana Novakovic) and their baby son. Adam is initially dismissive of the locals’ warnings about the supernatural presence inhabiting the woods near their house, but before long finds himself and his family in a fight for survival with malevolent forces they can scarcely comprehend.

Right from the opening shots, this film does an excellent job transporting the viewer into the world of the story, through the gorgeous cinematography that showcases the emerald forest of Ireland in exquisite detail. As I previously mentioned, realism is an essential part of immersing the viewer in the experience and the rich, detailed image quality found in every shot is largely responsible for the excellent sense of realism that Hardy brings to the project. Of course, a quality image is only one piece of the puzzle but luckily the entire cast, down to the smallest role, is able to deliver top-notch performances that keep the viewer thoroughly engaged in the story as it unfolds.

Since the film itself is built on such a strong foundation, the scares have far more impact and I felt myself genuinely invested in the horrific ordeal the characters were facing. I am a firm believer that practical effects should be utilized over CGI whenever possible and this film is a shining example of how well that can work. Because of this, the creatures have a tangible, living quality to them that is far more menacing than the cartoony CGI abominations that pollute so many other films.

On top of all these other important attributes, this film has the most important of all, a tight, well-paced script that will keep you engaged and entertained throughout and makes you care about the characters without resorting to cheap, melodramatic dialogue. Overall, a great film that hits all the marks and will make you think twice the next time you want to take a walk in the woods.

4-stars-red

Hectic Knife (2016)

HK PosterSome films throw logic and reason right out the window and subscribe only to the bizarre new reality they have created. Films like that can be difficult to critique because the acting, continuity, special effects and even the plot itself are so askew that you can’t judge it’s success or failure by any standard measurement. As someone who loves unconventional, surreal cinema, I’ve seen a lot of films in this category and have found that they inevitably fall to one side of the quality spectrum or the other. Either a film succeeds wildly as an innovative, daring work of creative brilliance or it quickly becomes clear that the filmmaker has simply slapped together a bunch of nonsensical images without any meaning or intention. So, where does the utterly surreal insanity that is Hectic Knife fall on that scale? Well, let’s discuss.

The plot, such as it is, follows Hectic Knife (Peter Litvin), a knife wielding vigilante in a long blonde wig who has become completely frustrated and disenchanted with his brutal and relentless life of crime fighting. Things get even worse for Hectic when one of his only friends is murdered by the sinister Piggly Doctor (J.J. Brine), a super villain who seeks to dominate the world itself. But first he will need to get through a blonde maniac with a pair of knives in his belt and a score to settle.HK 1

Even though the summary sounds (mostly) like your standard anti-hero action flick it doesn’t even begin to describe the surreal madness that permeates every frame of this movie, and that’s what makes Hectic Knife work so incredibly well. Director Greg DeLiso commits so fully to the unhinged lunacy of the world he’s created, that the movie isn’t simply weird, it’s authentically surreal, nearly reaching Japanese Splatter Cinema levels of gleeful insanity. There are just so many little touches that keep the viewer unbalanced but utterly engrossed and curious to see what unpredictable direction the film will veer off into next.

HK 3From the small things like the living room couch that’s inexplicably vertical, the deliberately strange and repetitive dialogue, a character stopping in the middle of a fight to do a stand-up comedy routine complete with a laugh track, this entire experience feels like a stream of consciousness dream that only kinda obeys the laws of reality. One of my favorite scenes is when this black and white movie pulls out to reveal a random couple in full color watching and disparaging it. They in turn have their own scene that is just as intensely bizarre and violent as the rest of the film, but otherwise serves no purpose but to add yet another level of insanity to the experience.

In a film full of strange and surprising scenes, by far the most surprising of all, is how effectively funny it is, and I don’t mean in an unintentional The Room kind of way, either. Hectic Knife knows exactly what it’s doing and it’s fucking hilarious! This is not something I say lightly, as I am rarely amused by the antics in most films that are attempting to be funny, but the humor in this was so goddamn absurd and unpredictable that it had me laughing out loud the entire way through.Hk02

Of course, this film is what it is, and while the ride is an incredibly enjoyable surreal trip, there isn’t anything here that’s going to shatter your reality with its depth and significance. Still, I could go on for pages about the multitude of wonderfully strange touches in this movie, but truly there is no way to do them justice on the page, and this is one experience that has to be taken firsthand. This film is certainly not for everyone and definitely not something that mainstream movie goers are going to be able to appreciate. But for those of us who want to strap in for a unique experience of creative insanity, get the fuck in line for this one because Hectic Knife has “underground cult classic” written all over it.

4-stars-red

Once Upon a Time at Christmas (2017)

OUTAC UK Poster 3 - Santa & Mrs Claus (2)When a horror movie has a holiday-themed premise, especially holidays other than Halloween, that’s often a sign that the audience is in for a campy ride that is going to play up the novelty to extreme proportions. Of course, that’s not always the case and some notable exceptions include the well-crafted, emotionally developed slasher Silent Night, Deadly Night as well as the incredibly creative and bizarre Rare Exports. Today, I discuss whether or not Once Upon a Time at Christmas falls into the category of holiday classics or if it’s just another poorly crafted product that falls apart almost immediately.

The story is set in the small town of Woodbridge New York where a maniacal couple in Santa suits (Simon Phillips) and (Sayla de Goede) begin a murderous rampage a few weeks before Christmas. Now it’s up to the local sheriff (Barry Kennedy) and a group of high school students to try and find out the reason for the killings and stop them before it’s too late.

When judging whether or not a film works, you really have to take into account what the director was going for in the first place. Clearly, in this instance, this is a film that’s intended as a fun holiday slasher, so judging it in terms of it’s realism isn’t a fair assessment. But even when viewed through that lens, there are some significant issues that prevent this from succeeding.OUaTaC 2

I don’t require a lot from a campy slasher to be entertained, but if you are going to ask me to sit through a silly premise with flat, generic characters that only exist to be slaughtered, then you at least need to bring the fucking blood. There are a lot of kills in OUaTaC, but for some baffling reason, director Paul Tanter takes a very timid approach to the violence. Even though numerous people are axe murdered, burned alive, or dispatched in other brutal ways, most of the violence occurs off camera or with very little blood. When the blood splatter does come, the film commits the egregious sin of using cheap CGI in place of a simple practical effect.

These kinds of half-measures are indicative of the film’s general approach to any remotely edgy content. This is perhaps best exemplified in the strip club scene that features zero nudity. Why even have it in there? I honestly don’t understand these half-hearted attempts at adult content that stop short of anything even slightly provocative. Why not just bleep out the fucking swears too, while you’re at it?

These issues of self-censorship wouldn’t be glaring if the overall film had a more solid foundation. Unfortunately, with so much cringe-worthy dialogue and uninspired characters, the film doesn’t really have a leg to stand on. Even for a slasher, the Claus’ near supernatural ability to appear wherever they need to is pushed to utterly absurd levels, and when the primary concept is finally revealed, it’s so goddamn silly that you’ll want to stab your eyes out with a candy cane.

OUaTaC 3

It’s not all bad though, from a technical standpoint the film is well-crafted and some of the characters do put in solid performances, the sheriff and his deputy among them. The Claus’ also clearly get it and commit to their scenery chewing mayhem with the kind of unhinged enthusiasm that perfectly fits the tone of the film. And that’s the thing, there is fun to be had here and I wish there was a re-cut version that leaned into the gruesome madness instead of shying away from it. Had that version existed I would have wholeheartedly recommended it as a fun Xmas slasher, but as it is, this feels like the film equivalent of unwrapping a pair of socks on Christmas morning.

1-5-stars-red

Martyrs (2008)

Martyrs posterOne of the defining films of the New French Extremity movement, Martyrs, is a brutal endurance test that is not even remotely concerned with appealing to mass audiences or casual horror fans. Inspired in part by American Torture Porn films of the time like Hostel and Saw, writer/director Pascal Laugier has also credited the severe depression he was experiencing at the time he wrote this for its incredibly dark and nihilistic tone. While the raw, visceral depictions of suffering on display mean that Martyrs easily earns its Extreme Cinema stripes, the more important question is, of course, how well it actually works as a film.

The movie opens with a young girl, Lucie, who is bloodied and clearly abused, escaping from a building in an industrial area and running screaming down the street. She is subsequently rescued and raised in an orphanage but the bulk of the film takes place fifteen years later. Now, adult Lucie (Mylène Jampanoï) aided by her best friend Anna (Morjana Alaoui) is hell-bent on seeking revenge on those who abused her and believes she has finally found the culprits.

Since one of the best parts of this film is how unconventional and unpredictable the plot is I am going to give an official **Spoiler Warning** here for the remainder of the review. This is definitely a film that is best watched with fresh eyes and if you haven’t taken the time to watch it in the nine years since it’s release you should absolutely stop what you are doing and immediately experience it. As far as Extreme Cinema goes, this one is essential viewing.

Many films depict violence, but what sets Martyrs apart from most is how effectively it depicts suffering. Lucie herself is besieged by a demonic woman, a literal embodiment of her emotional anguish who repeatedly attacks her in viscous, horrifying ways. martyrs2Although represented as a separate entity, the film does eventually make it clear that she is a manifestation of Lucie’s internal pain and Lucie’s desire to be rid of her is the central driving force for her to murder those responsible for her abuse.

Another example of exquisitely represented suffering, comes in the form of the severely abused woman that Anna finds in the secret facility under the house. Seeing Anna trying to help someone whose life has been reduced to a state of severe and prolonged agony is perhaps the most upsetting part of this extremely disturbing film. Even though many films feature kills that are graphic and gory, the fact that Laugier dwells on the aftermath of extended suffering (both physical and emotional) makes the scenes in this film far more effectively disturbing.

It should also be noted that, in and of itself, graphic, brutal violence in a film is not necessarily something that is disturbing to see. When it’s done cheaply and poorly it ends up creating the opposite effect and comes across as laughable and silly. For violent scenes to deliver the proper impact on the viewer they have to be well done and the expert craftsmanship of this film is exactly why it ranks up there with disturbing masterpieces like A Serbian Film and Salo. This is due in large part to the incredible cast, every one of which down to the most minor parts delivers absolutely flawless performances. Laugier clearly understood that, regardless of how talented your leads are, amateur acting from ancillary characters can completely shatter the illusion of reality that has been so painstakingly crafted.

Another major reason that the violent scenes are so effectively disturbing is because Laugier wisely relies on expertly made practical effects rather than CGI. The result is a film that was not only shocking when it was made but still holds up perfectly nearly a decade later, and will for years to come. martyrs 1This is all within the structure of a brilliantly crafted script, which boldly bucks the conventions of a standard narrative, to keep you on your toes as the unpredictable plot develops. It even goes as far as (remember, spoiler alert) shifting protagonists halfway through, a risky move that completely pays off. The script also features one of the best sucker-punches in cinema history when the normal, affluent family is brutally gunned down by Lucie, seemingly out of nowhere. This is an outstanding example of a filmmaker carefully establishing a sense of safety and normalcy for the viewer, only to shatter it in the most jarring way.

As well written as this film is though, there is a glaring issue with the script that absolutely should have been resolved prior to shooting. After Anna meets Lucie at the house where she has just murdered an entire family that she believes was responsible for her torture, the two women don’t leave. I understand how from a plot perspective it was important that they remain in the house, but I fucking wish Laugier had devised a solid, logical reason for them to stay. It just stands to reason that anyone committing a quadruple homicide would try to get the fuck out of Dodge as quickly as possible and not, ya know, hang out, make phone calls…..take naps. It’s a baffling oversight in an otherwise incredible screenplay and really the only significant flaw with the whole production.

martyrs3There is just so much to unpack here, especially when it comes to the secret society; their quest for transcendent knowledge through extreme suffering, the casual way they inflict violence like it’s a routine job, and of course the brilliant end when the matriarch is so rattled by knowledge of what is actually awaiting us in death, that she takes her own life. Suffice to say, this film is a unique, complex and exquisitely crafted piece of highly disturbing art that ranks among the most brilliant horror films ever created.

4-5-stars-red

Twelve Pole (2017)

Twelve PoleA good opening scene that grabs the viewers attention is very important for setting the tone of your film, especially in a horror movie. Conversely, when the opening of your film is so misguided that the audience is already rolling their eyes at minute one, you’re not off to a great start. Unfortunately, this is the case for Twelve Pole, which makes an incredibly lame attempt to be edgy by opening the film with a voice-over, warning the viewer about how graphic the movie is. Problem is, actual warnings like that aren’t a thing! Legitimately hardcore films don’t bother with such gimmicks, and for a film that doesn’t even qualify as Extreme Cinema, they’ve got some nerve pretending that a warning is required. Still, you can’t judge an entire film by a single misstep in the beginning, so let’s see how well the film itself holds up.

In a plot that can be best summed up as “Redneck Amityville Horror” a group of good ol’ boys purchase a dilapidated house in order to fix it up themselves and sell it for a profit. The fact that a violent crime had been previously committed on the property means that the house is a real steal, but naturally, it isn’t long before the cursed property starts affecting the men in strange and horrifying ways.

The first thing I have to say about this film is that at least everybody tries, which is not something to be taken for granted. Being that it’s a micro-budget film, the acting is bound to fall on the wrong side of realistic, but there is at least a sense that the cast is fully committing. I also appreciate that, while it may not be the most ground-breaking concept, at least it doesn’t take place in the fucking woods, and the story itself is something that is well suited to a single primary location and a small central cast.

There is certainly nothing wrong with a classic haunted house set-up, and the fact that certain characters start behaving in drastically different ways after being in the house too long, is a time-tested concept that is effectively unsettling. In fact, the overall concept is a very solid one, and basing a film around real-world anxieties, such as buying a house, is a smart, logical setting for a horror film. Unfortunately, Twelve Pole also makes some very illogical choices, such as having two of the characters spend the weekend in the abandoned house to guard it (!) until the locks are changed. That’s also not a thing! Why would you need to guard an abandoned house that sat there untouched for years and doesn’t even have any of your stuff in it yet?

There is one key area that this film does really deliver in though, and that is the gore. While this may not be an example of Extreme Cinema, there is no denying that it is plenty bloody. That, in and of itself, isn’t always a wholly positive trait in micro-budget films, but what sets Twelve Pole apart from many of it’s contemporaries is that it pulls off the effects very well. From a gloriously realistic hanging to ripped out throats, graphically broken limbs, barbwire strangling, disembowelments, and so much more, the uncompromising violence is by far the best part of this experience.

Since the gruesome parts of this movie are so well done and many of the scenes in between are weighed down with lackluster static shots and awkward, stilted dialogue, I honestly feel that this would be far better if it was trimmed down to a short film. At 20-30 minutes Twelve Pole could be a visceral, kick-ass ride that grabs the audience by the throat and gets right down to business. As it is, the good parts are there, but the lack of convincing characters and a less than compelling plot make it hard to justify waiting for them.

*Reviewer’s Note: After my review posted, I was contacted by the film’s director, Sam Hodge, who let me know that he will be removing the opening warning from the final version of the film, which I think will be a substantial improvement.

2-stars-red

Murder Made Easy (2017)

Murder Made EasyEstablishing the proper tone for a film can be very difficult to get just right, especially when your film incorporates elements of black comedy as well as horror. When it works it can be a very entertaining blend of genres that properly balances both, and when it doesn’t, it quickly devolves into a confused mess that serves neither. Today we’ll see if Murder Made Easy is able to strike the right balance with its modern take on an Agatha Christie style murder mystery.

A year after her husband Neil’s death, Joan (Jessica Graham) and her good friend Michael (Christopher Soren Kelly) invite several of their friends over for dinner to discuss and remember Neil. Of course, as the title clearly suggests, there are far more nefarious elements at play here. That’s about as specific as I can get because with a film like this, twists and revelations are a big part of the central experience.

This film definitely does wear its theatrical influences proudly on it’s sleeve, even name-checking Mousetrap several times throughout. In fact, the experience of watching it was very reminiscent of watching a play, and with its heavy emphasis on dialogue and single location, this is a film that could very easily be adapted into a stage production. To be clear, this is not a negative, and the superb acting and engaging plot make use of the single location in the same manner that great theater productions do. MME pic 1

Since theater itself, and in particular a specific production of Mousetrap, are integral to the plot, the centralized location actually works in service of the film to help establish the desired tone and feel. Director David Palamaro is clearly shooting for a specific aesthetic and is able to capture the look and feel of a classy murder mystery incredibly well. The use of music here is spot-on and the different elements of horror, thriller and black comedy are well balanced to create a cohesive experience. Well, mostly…

MME pic 2While I can see why the overall plot itself was structured the way it was, the very device of having sequential guests show up does make much of the general plot rather predictable, and even a bit repetitive. Fortunately, as more of the larger story is revealed most of the characters have enough substance and variety to keep the interactions entertaining throughout…..with the notable exception of Cricket (Emilia Richeson). While most of the other characters are represented as slightly heightened archetypes, Cricket is full-blown New Age stereotype and her segment is the film’s most overt (and misguided) attempt at comedy, and a clear low point in the overall film itself. Had she simply been rewritten as a slightly more realistic character, her segment would have worked far better.

Regardless, this is a very entertaining film overall that knows what it’s going for and embraces it wholeheartedly. Well acted and enjoyable to watch, this is one dinner party you won’t want to be late for.

3-stars-red

The Small Woman in Grey (2017)

Small Woman in GreyAhhh the woods, the go to, ready-made set that is the favorite location for countless indie horror films. I understand the practicality of using this as a primary location, but aspiring filmmakers would do well to keep this advice in mind before they start lugging their cameras into the wilderness: If you are going to set your teen-massacring film in the woods, as we’ve seen countless times before, you’d better bring your fucking A game and show us a very creative and interesting twist on the most tired premise in horror. Otherwise, don’t bother showing up. So, even though it’s utilizing the most played out concept in horror cinema does The Small Woman in Grey elevate itself above the masses with a quality script and innovative filmmaking? Well, let’s discuss.

The film centers around a group of teens who go into the woods to party. Coincidentally, they happen to run into a man who got separated from the rest of his broad daylight ghost hunting group (!) and is conveniently able to tell them all about the ghost that allegedly haunts the woods. Predictably, it’s not long before members of the group start dying mysteriously, and it’s up to the remaining survivors to try and figure out why before it’s too late.

So, clearly writer/director Andrew Sean Eltham-Byers wasn’t looking to break any new ground with the concept here. But, even a film about (yawn) teens partying in the woods until a mysterious stranger imparts plot exposition can still be worthwhile if the characters are well-crafted and compelling. Well, that’s unfortunately not the case here because while the characters aren’t the overt caricatures we sometimes see in these kinds of films, they are still completely insufferable and uninteresting. The fact that this is a micro-budget film means that the painfully amateur acting is somewhat forgivable….but the generic, plodding script is not.

Still, I’ve seen plenty of films that may not have had the most innovative plot but still managed to deliver a high level of entertainment value through well-crafted kills scenes. Sadly, this is where Eltham-Byers commits the most egregious cinematic sin and opts for bargain-basement CGI effects over practical ones. Shame! Shame! Shaaaaame! Seriously, this is a decision that I can’t even wrap my head around. I mean, even CGI effects on multi-million dollar productions often end up residing in the dreaded uncanny valley, but when your budget is next to nothing, the chance of pulling off convincing CGI is about the same. It’s a lot smarter move to scale back your set pieces to what you can effectively execute so you don’t end up with cartoony graphics that look like they were made on a home computer in the 90s.

Okay, this film has a lot of self-inflicted wounds but there were still some aspects that I did genuinely appreciate. For instance, it was refreshing to see a film where the primary romantic subplot involved a homosexual couple but was presented as casually as a heterosexual relationship, which was a nice, progressive touch. There are also a few times that the film was effectively creepy, but they were the all too infrequent times that Eltham-Byers opted for the subtler, less-is-more approach. Any scenes where the ghost was on full display in all her CGI glory were just awful, but the couple of times she was limited to a sinister voice and a shadow crossing the scene were (not surprisingly) far more effective.

Between the terrible pop music, worse special effects, lame script and unironic use of montages there isn’t really anything about this film to make it worth recommending. It is clear that everyone involved put a lot of effort into the production, but if Eltham-Byers had spent a little more time on the script and effects and a little less time on figuring out how to make text bubbles pop up on screen then perhaps it would’ve paid off with a better finished product.

1-star-red

Inside (2007)

InsideThe New French Extremity movement created some incredible and daring films in the early 2000s, one of the most notable being Inside. This film along with Irreversible, Martyrs, Frontier(s) and many others defined the film movement that would give us some of the most extreme, taboo shattering films ever made. Much like The Human Centipede, Inside is a film in which the very concept is enough to make most people’s skin crawl. That alone makes it a must see for Extreme Cinema fans but the most important question is still “is there substance beneath the surface”?

The film starts with pregnant Sarah (Alysson Paradis) getting into a horrific car accident that takes her husband’s life, and things only get worse for her from there. Four months later, the night before she is to be induced, a mysterious woman (Béatrice Dalle) comes to her house with a single-minded purpose……to cut Sarah open and steal her baby.

The two keys things that all of the notable films of the New French Extremity have in common is that they feature gruesome brutality and are very well made. That’s an important distinction to make because if they were a collection of poorly-acted films with laughable special effects then they wouldn’t have been noteworthy in the first place. The fact that these films are so well executed, not only makes them far more enjoyable, but also makes the extreme violence something that is genuinely disturbing rather than laughable.

Inside definitely holds up on that front, with gorgeous shots, brilliant lighting design, and realistic, visceral gore. All of the actors involved do a great job, but Paradis and Dalle are exceptional and both deliver harrowing performances that take the film to the next level. I also enjoyed the simple yet innovative concept that manages to keep the tension high even with a small cast and one central location. It all culminates in an ending that is an absolutely perfect way to cap off this film.

Now, this film does have a great, tightly paced script that is very well written overall. However, there were still a few illogical moments that should have been tightened up before shooting. For instance, it seems very unlikely that a cop would bring a random perp he arrested with him into a house, where a potentially dangerous suspect was lurking, and give him a gun. This doesn’t make any sense, considering the fact that he could have easily just left him in the car. But it makes even less sense to tell the victim to wait alone in her bedroom while he turns the power back on, instead of just bringing her the fuck out of the house! In both cases these are oversights that could have been easily remedied with some logical justification that could have still achieved the same end result.

Regardless, the couple of minor script issues can be forgiven in an overall incredible film, and the fact that the film is so good in general, is actually what makes them stand out. If you are a fan of extreme cinema and you somehow haven’t seen this film yet, drop what you’re doing and fucking see it because this is daring, uncompromising cinema that must be seen to be believed.

4-stars-red

Baskin (2015)

BaskinWhen you think about the country of Turkey, ‘horror films’ probably isn’t the first thing that pops into your mind, but after the international success of Can Evrenol’s Baskin, that may be changing, at least a little. It certainly isn’t the first horror movie made in Turkey, but it is by far the most successful and just as A Serbian Film did in 2010, it puts an unexpected country into the international horror conversation. Based upon the 2013 short film of the same name, Baskin is a surreal and gruesome journey into a nightmarish world.

The central characters are a group of police officers who we first see hanging out in a small restaurant late at night, casually chatting about bestiality (!) and fucking trans hookers….like you do. After beating up the waiter and leaving, they receive a call for backup and head out to a decrepit house in the middle of nowhere, where they stumble upon a gruesome Satanic ritual and perhaps the gateway to Hell itself. Needless to say, shit starts to go south in a hurry.

The first thing that stands out about this film is how incredibly well shot it is. The cinematography is incredible by any standard but the fact that Evrenol was able to achieve such rich, gorgeous visuals in his first feature on a budget of only $350,000 is truly impressive. He also uses the surreal storyline to create some incredible set pieces such as the dream scene of Arda (Görkem Kasal) plunging into water and being rescued by giant hands. Most importantly though, the film is laden with grotesque imagery, genuinely unnerving set design, and gloriously brutal violence.

Beyond just the quality of the image itself, Evrenol also makes some smart stylistic choices that pay off very well. One of the most notable is the casting of visually striking character actors for some of the roles that give the film a surreal authenticity that you simply cannot replicate with latex. There are a few here, but the standout is, of course, the casting of Mehmet Cerrahoglu, who’s unique physical condition makes for one of the most memorable and interesting faces you will ever see on film.

The story itself is heavily imbued with dream logic and a surreal, almost Lynchian quality that gives the feeling of being trapped in a waking nightmare. Because of this, Baskin may require a few viewings to fully process it’s meaning but that’s okay because the twisted visuals and copious amounts of blood are entertaining enough to keep sick fucks (such as myself) coming back for more. Overall, a very interesting, unusual film that makes me excited to see what Evrenol (as well as Turkey as a whole) have in store for us in the future.

4-stars-red

Short Film Review: I Baked Him a Cake (2016) Duration: 5 min

I Baked Him a Cake - Official PosterCreating a short film that tells an interesting and compelling story within the span of minutes can be challenging. Shorter films don’t have to hold the audiences attention for as long but also have less time to develop the plot. In the case of I Baked Him a Cake, the running time of only five minutes requires that a lot of story is packed into a very short amount of time, so let’s see if director Vanessa lonta Wright is up for the challenge.

The first thing that I noticed with this film is that it’s very professionally shot and the opening scene sets the tone with some great high-contrast shots and excellent sound design. It also helps that the first shots are very engaging and leave you eager to see how it will play out. Of course, bad acting can instantly derail even the most interesting stories, especially when only two actors are involved. Luckily, in this case, both actresses do an excellent job with their respective roles and imbue the scenes with the realism, tension and underlying menace that is needed.

Everything here is competently done, so my only real complaint is that I feel like the film shies away from gore in some key places. Aside from the blood-soaked bathroom, we don’t really see any, and rather than having the opening scene represented with shadows, it would have been more effective to show a nice, graphic practical effect. I also felt that the ending was a bit abrupt and would have benefited from having a gruesome reveal to close it out instead. Obviously, these were stylistic choices made by the director, but unless there is a strong reason not to, it’s always best for horror films to really lean into the gore and violence, and it looks like this production had the means to do so.

It also could be that the film is deliberately open-ended in order to expand the story more with a future work. I’m hoping that the latter is the case, as there are a lot of questions about motivation and what happens next that would be very interesting to explore.

Thematically, the film brings up some interesting ideas such as how much influence a caretaker has over a child who must look to them to provide a sense of normality, even in a very abnormal situation. In the end, this is a short but sweet film that packs a surprising amount of emotion into its tiny runtime and actually made me feel for the character of the daughter quite a lot, which is not an easy feat to pull off in something that’s the length of two movie trailers. It also made me want to see more about what’s going on in these characters’ lives and look forward to hopefully seeing what Wright can do with a feature some day.

3-stars-red