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Monday, February 27, 2012

Boston Science Fiction Festival 8

On the Saturday before the marathon I went in for two feature films both premieres. The first was a film called Time Again (2011) written and directed by Ray Karwel it is a story of fixing the past. It is not a bad first time out for Karwel The imdb plot description, "A mysterious woman helps prevent a notorious underworld criminal from getting his hands on a set of strange coins that can tip the balance between life and death." Does not quite explain this story. After her sister Sam (Tara Smoker) is killed by a thug named Mr. Way, Marlo (Angela Rachelle) is visited by an old woman offering her a chance to change the past. Mr Way (Scott F. Evans) is trying to get his hands on some ancient coins that allow the user to travel back in time. hmmm wonder how pretty little Marlo travels back? Since Marlo attempts to head back to save her sister and get the four coins so guess how many chances she gets? So the cycles of her trying to change things are destined to fail at least until she gets to her last try. Now lets give credit where it is due, the director earned some credit through the editing of this film. Holding back some pieces of information in each of the cycles and showing others the film remains pretty entertaining. The lead Angela Rachelle is a beautiful woman although she still needs to grow more as an actress. I saw her in the film The Kiss (2008) where her stunning blue eyes caught my attention. The film although not the best acting and the easy to see twist at the end is also limited by location blues. Made for very little money 125k it pretty much stays in one building and so is very limited in scope. It feels like a small budget film and but still does a lot with very little. We at these science fiction festivals are audiences that have seen many time travel films so we are hard to please. This one showed some promised but ultimately needed more money and time than it had to get a recommend from Soresport Movies.
The second feature was a wonderfully complete story of time travel and love lost called Dimensions: A Line, A Loop, A Tangle of Threads (2011) - A brilliant physicist haunted by the loss of friend in the past figures out a way to travel back in time and change the past in one of the infinite time threads that make up our universe. The film is well written by Antony Neely and directed by Sloan U'Ren it builds slowly but with a care to develop the characters and motivations needed to hold the audience. Set between the first and second world wars the film follows three young friends as they play together on the edges of wealthy society. The setting where the fathers of the children have not returned from war is a world where their Mothers set the supervision of the children. It leaves the children with way too much unsupervised time. Young Steven (Sam Harrison) and Victoria (Hannah Carson) are close friends with Conrad the third wheel but all are welcomed in this almost "out of time" childhood. Their reality is shattered by a horrible accident that leaves poor Victoria dead and both boys blaming themselves. Years later and still troubled with the loss of their friend Steven (Henry Lloyd-Hughes) and Conrad (Sean Hart) work diligently on a time machine so they can go back and change their past.
Now that simple explanation is not even close to the depth that this film has. This is a film built through the characters and their relationships so it is not so easy to tell the story without giving too much detail. The young men driven through the genius of Steven are close to having their dreams come true. At this same time physics student Annie (Olivia Llewellyn) comes into the picture as an assistant to the men. She is soon very in love with Steven and her role is so heartbreaking. She ends up loving a man who can never return her love. Of course three people in interaction often create triangles and because of that new conflicts surface in the group. In the one really cliche moment in the film poor Conrad, falling for Annie walks in on a hug that sends his mind spinning. He moves towards a betrayal that leads to a death and leaves the three questioning the work.
When the climax of this film comes it is bittersweet but also a wonderfully and carefully built reveal. There are so many things I liked about this film. It deals with the idea of time travel a staple in science fiction. When "the Professor" (Patrick Godfrey) shares his ideas about it at the garden party he uses a mask with eye slits that becomes a visual queue throughout the film holding the time travel idea in the forefront. There is the use of the tree the children run around as a transition tool for moving forward in time to the adult versions of the characters. There were the mirror scenes of the fist fight at the well. The boys in the first occasion it being about the boys fear of going down the well and in the second about who should go down. The wonderful way film spends time with the characters and their motivations so every decision is organic and real.
Beautifully filmed it is an idyllic setting outside the turmoil of the world outside where the story is allowed to grow and come to completion. Cinematography is stunning and moody and the acting is excellent all the way through. If there were any criticisms that should be brought I would say that the music is a bit too strong and sentimental. It was strongly pushing the emotional impact points at times instead of accentuating them. Already mention the betrayal scene was initiated through a very cliche piece of writing and really was the only time I was pulled out of the story. Some may also point at the final scene and how it could come off as a bit gimmicky but I actual hope for that.
Overall this was a wonderful film and although received a bit luke warm at the Marathon I think the fact it was shown after a long night of films when people were tired that such a character driven film probably was not a good fit in the time slot. I loved it.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Boston Science Fiction Festival 7

On the Friday before the marathon I went in to see the feature Sol and the shorts program Steam punked. I was feeling a bit worn out at this point in the festival but really wanted to see Sol (2010). Made by the Obsidian Collective of North carolina, a multimedia group trying to make high quality productions for their clients. The film a world premiere is about a group of academy students left on a distant planet. They compete as teams each trying to be the first to spot the Earth's sun in the star filled sky. Opening with some impressive special effects as students come through the transport door, but something is wrong and not all the members of all the teams make it through before the door breaks. So we have a collection of roles from different teams all on the wrong planet (as they soon figure out). Quickly the leader from the team that has the most members, Gemini takes charge. Obviously leadership lessons did not really take with this kid as he blunders and bullies the students from the other academies to follow him. The only thing worse than his leadership skills is the actors acting. Stilted dialog through both acting and writing by Benjamin Carland made the interactions between team member very challenging to watch. The collection of young actors were probably the weakest part of the film but not totally because a couple of them certainly has enough credits to suggest that they should know what they are doing. The film becomes a survival movie very quickly, with the Gemini leadership moving the group away from the door only to be attacked by some giant rat/wolf creatures in the night. Why did the group move away from the door? It was really established that if some kind of rescue was going to happen that it is at the teleporting door that it will happen. So instead they move across a barren wasteland of sand with very little water in the middle of the day. Really? After the attack in the camp a small group of boys take refuge in the nearby ocean. No one notices it is a fresh water ocean even though they spend hours in it. Only later when we have the inevitable "we are out of water" scene do the test it. Eventually as they travel down the coast they are attacked by a sea monster so they now have a choice between dying inland and dying on the coast. While trying to find the sun they need to somehow phone home they just don't know enough about where they are to get the location in the sky to look. It is about this time I stopped taking notes, so put off by the "then this happened" storyline I was drifting thinking about getting a beer to dull the pain. It's not that the film did not try but the execution was just not where I wanted it to be. There eventually is an attempt to send messages back to earth that eventually leads to the survivors rescue. One thing though I have to mention since it was such a poor piece of problem solving through plot manipulation that it is truly note worthy. The group needs time to execute their plans and has been driven inland where the rat creature roam. So having figuring out the creatures don't like light and holding them off for several days with said lights, the batteries start to fade. So they find the hole where the creatures go during the day. Looking in we get a comment about it going all over the planet under ground. So they decide to build a fire in front of the hole, and low and behold it is magically the only way for the creatures to come out at night. Whatever is what I was saying to myself at this point. Anyway this is not a movie that I would recommend and really am surpirised I stayed through to the end. I am not sure it is the 2.8 of 10 rating it has on IMDB but it was not very good. The value was the effects were not horrible so there is something for the Obsidian Group to build on.
The second part of the night was Steampunk shorts, some good some not as good but the large and enthusiastic audience made for a good close to the night.
Schlonburger Certainty Postulator - was an amusing short about mixing of universes and the negative effects that can have. Wriiten and directed by Steve N. Bradford it was an enjoyable start to the shorts.
Molly and the Masked Storm - was amazing in the story behind it. Filmed by a group of middle school student this short showed what an amateur group can do. Written and directed by Ben Kadie it is a story about Molly Marlow and her attempts to protect Merlin's magic from a bunch of wind demons.
Doctor Glamour - Was a hilariously fun short about a scientist who has to travel to another dimension to save the woman he loves. In his travels he is help by a rock god and learns more about himself and his wants than expected when he set out.
Steam Driven - A romance between two factory workers and the troubles it causes them is explored in this silent(mostly) featurette. Really not my style of film the audience seemed to like it even while I was wishing it would just end. Maybe I was too tired at this point but a silent film love story was really not what I was looking for so late at night.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Aliens (1986) Action Suspense Alien

Aliens (1986) - Here we are again reviewing what we at Soresport Movies considers a classic. Where the 1979 Alien was a classic in horror science fiction the sequel that debuted a full seven years later was a classic in action suspense. Directed by James Cameron it is the perfect sequel to a great film. I watched the special edition and have to say at the outset, that the added scenes in this film were taken out with good reason. When they are included they do a number on the pacing and they also whack you over the head with the subtext of mother/daughter relationship that Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) has with Newt (Carrie Henn). So if you have a choice watch the theatrical release.
Like the first film I like how this one foreshadows the bad guy. Burke (Paul Reiser) is a company guy who as the film goes on really becomes a mirror of the Ash character from the first. Sure his motivations are a bit more personal and greedy but still he is the sleazebag willing to sacrifice human life in order to get the alien into captivity. The way the foreshadowing happens is an excellently executed scene. Ripley has been found drifting through space and she is brought back to an orbital space station. There Burke enters her room carrying Jonsey. "I guess you two have met huh. I'm Burke, I'm Carter Burke. I work for the company, but don't let that fool you, I'm really an okay guy." Anytime someone defines themselves as a good guy you have to wonder about them. Then Burke spills how long that Ripley was drifting in space in hyper sleep, 57 years. It doesn't come off as genuine regret to him that she learns about it this way. Sure he makes the motions of apologizing but you can tell he is a bit of a weasel. Ripley suddenly feels something. In her chest, the convulsions start and we know there is going to be a chest burst. An alien is inside her and she begs Burke to kill her. She wakes from this nightmare giving the audience a great fake out.
The fact that Burke is her representative at her hearing concerning the destruction of the Nostromo is also and indicator. He is the instrument of her loosing her license to fly ships in the guise of being her ally. He is the perfect company man, all smiling and friendly but ultimately he is just using those around him to try to climb that corporate ladder. The entire hearing is a sham a way to blame the little guy of the company for loss of revenue. It was after all in adjusted dollars a 42 million dollar loss. The important thing here is that we learn that there are colonists on the planetoid attempting to create an atmosphere.
Now not to let a really bad movie from outside the four that we are reviewing in playing along at home with the Zombiegrrlz podcast. I bit the bullet and watch Alien vs Predator, and in that film long before the goings on from the original aliens the Weyland company knew about aliens. Having sent a group to the multicultural temple buried beneath Antarctica they learned of both the Aliens from this movie and the Predators from its series. Question is did the one survivor from AVP tell anyone what she saw? If she did then this whole hearing and everything from the series is totally thrown out of whack. Lets pretend though that that movie was never made since that is what most Alien fans do. So although the company may have known or not known, Ripley was clear in her communications about the alien. There was no good reason to send people of to that location again other than to try to get someone else infected.
Several months later when the company loses contact with the settlers on the planetoid we have to assume they feel a certain amount of panic in the conference rooms of the company. Having been warned this would happen. It could be a PR nightmare to have Ripley on every newscast of earth talking about how she warned them of the dangers and they did not listen. They have to at least get her away where she can't blow the whistle. So offering her her flight license back to go on the mission to check out the colony is the perfect solution. She is not the perfect character though, still racked by nightmares she is barely functioning in the world. She really doesn't want this and knows it is going to turn out bad. She though in the end must face her fears and possible save some people in the process.
Playing off war movies, particularly Vietnam flicks we get the inexperience commanding officer inheriting a squad of experience soldiers. It is a great set up for this film giving the audience a reason to know thing are going to go wrong. Ripley gets to be the grounding force among these men and women. They are all piss and vinegar having killed many lesser species in the past. She tries to reality check them having experience the real horrors of war.
The special edition adds in many scenes first showing how Newt's family were the first to come in contact with the face huggers. They went out to lay claim on that part of the rock and after leaving the kids in the transport, the parents go and check out the ship only to come back with a creature on Dad's face. Trauma for sure for such a cute little girl. Of course when they get back to the settlement we can guess what happened. So this little girl survived and Ripley becomes her adopted mother, other scenes show Ripley finding out about the passing of her daughter and mourner her death. She floated out there for a long time and we see how James Cameron originally had way too much of the mother daughter connection in the film and then wisely took them out. It is a fine example how good editing works to improve a movie. The promise to Newt by Ripley to get her no matter what really was all that was needed. She follows through on that promise all the way until the end and when Newt grabs Ripley around the neck and cries "Mommy", it is a perfect connection even without the extra scenes of the special edition.
There is a distinct mother daughter parallel between the queen alien and the eggs she is laying and the Ripley, Newt relationship. They both care for their charges and want to protect them. When Ripley finally gets Newt back after she was cocooned she stands there looking at the queen, threatening her eggs with a flame thrower to get her guard aliens to back off. After Ripley torches the eggs anyway and they make their get away the screaming queen alien rips herself away from her birthing appendage and comes after Ripley for vengeance. On the ship as they leave the planet the queen does not come after Ripley but instead goes after Newt, she want Ripley to feel the pain of losing offspring. Of course then we get the great reveal of Ripley in the loader suit, "Get away from her you bitch!" and the fight is on.
We also see more about the Aliens, that there is a society in play here. It is not a bunch of insects to be exterminated in a "bug hunt". It is a hierarchy with a queen who rules with some kind of communication to her workers. She has Alien guards who stay close to her when she is laying eggs. Ripley saw her telepathically call them off in her confrontation with the queen. The aliens are smart enough to figure out how to test the automated gun, and then again to get into the compound by climbing above the hanging ceiling. There attacked are coordinated and planned. While the first film was about a lone drone alien fighting for survival the second film is about a colony well defined and controlled by the queen.
This is another excellent film
Rating (8.9) 5.0 and up are recommended

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Boston Science Film Festival 6

Boston Science Film Festival 6 - Well the event has past and since with the marathon and work and all happening in short order I failed to get my writing done as it went along. So here is an attempt to get caught up.
I caught the "Anything to Declare" short program on Thursday Feb 16th, Beside the behind the scenes footage of the upcoming animated movie(?) "War of the Worlds : Goliath" there was a film about a watch maker "Frankie" who receives a pocket watch that allows him to time travel. Unfortunately for him though he is not the only one who knows the secret. Unfortunately the sound was off on the downloaded version that was played. It seemed an interesting enough story but the sound being a few seconds ahead of the picture was very distracting.
Wonder Garden a S. Korean film about a virtual gamer who works in a convenience store and has to solve the problems in real life and then to her surprise also in her virtual garden. The short had a lot of personality but it was really not the style I like. It was quirky and strange but not in a way I enjoyed. I am sure some people liked it though. It was well put together and filmed.
The best of the night was a Italian entry called "Future in Your Hands" a wonderfully dystopian look at a future where people are forced to take daily urine test to make sure they are not breaking the ever increasing list of government rules. The main character is a young man with the horrible condition of the bashful bladder, Paruresis. Fear of peeing in front of others but he has to do it and the nurse watching him has to watch. It plays out well and all the way to a surprising ending.
The feature was a World Premiere called "The Golden Age of Science Fiction" Which was a refreshingly honest look at Science Fiction icon John W. Campbell Jr. The man who wrote "Who Goes There?" the story that would later become the films, The Thing From Outer Space, and influenced John Carpenter's "The Thing". He would then become the editor of Astounding Science Fiction magazine and was responsible for bringing many of the greatest hard science fiction writers of our time to audiences around the world.
Through interviews with many of great writers we learn of the many writers he challenged to be better and his methods to do so. The list of writers is amazing and includes Brian Aldiss, Samuel Delaney, Barry Malzberg, Harry Harrison, Isaac Asminov, Thomas Disch. Robert Heimlein, Ben Bova, Philip Jose Farmer, and more made a compelling piece about a complicated man. This film was not only talked about the Golden Age of Science Fiction, the 50s through early seventies, but also captured the importance of Campbell's magazine on the period.
Campbell was a complicated man and the film does not pull punches in exploring the man. An ego driven editor he challenged writers to improve their writing, often with his own ideas. He was an antisemite and racist who often made comments many people considered offensive. Film maker Eric Solstein does an excellent job bring the many hours of interviews into a cohesive storyline that fully explore the man and his effect on science fiction writing.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Alien (1979) Horror Alien

Alien (1979) - The main reason most blogs do not review the classics is because so much has been written that it is impossible to be original. Seriously what is there to write about this horror science fiction masterpiece that is loved by genre aficionados everywhere? Not being a professional writer I would not even know how to approach this from some fresh new angle. So instead I am going to give an attempt at least, to talk about what this movie has meant for me. In 1979 I was finishing my freshman year of high school, a pimply faced dweeb who already really liked the horror genre. Growing up in Boston meant I had an every Saturday dose of the "Creature Double Feature" so already had a background in seeing monster and horror movies. Sure they were the old films of the 50s and 60s but every week they were there to fill our imaginations. We were very poor as a family so going to the movies was a rare event. So I can't say that Alien was the first horror film I saw in theaters, I remember I sneaking into the theater as a boy and saw and was terrified by the Exorcist (1973), and did the same thing for Jaws (1975) so I already had the horror bug. What was unique I think is the fact that I was a teenager, trying to figure out what it was I was going to define myself as. Its a time when I think we see grab hold of many of the things we will love and honor for the rest of our lives. (Can you love and honor a genre film?) Looking back many of the films I love, whether good or bad I saw in my teen years. I do have to admit something though, Star Wars is not on that list. I don't think I saw it until VHS in the eighties and since I was drunk most of the eighties it just never made my canon. Alien though is a different story. I remember the buzz around this movie and how everyone talked about the chest bursting scene. How some kids bragged about not turning away. A startling scene for sure, even by today's standards but nothing compared to the stomach turning torture porn displayed on screens now. Still at the time it was state of the art and everyone wanted to see this movie. I remember loving every minute of it, a well thought out and executed science fiction horror movie. It also contained the iconic imagery of H. R. Giger's designs and the movies first real woman hero ( I know this is an arguable point). There were countless stories about Sigourney Weaver and how this role redefined women in horror and science fiction. I have seen this film countless times since then and have enjoyed it every time.
Written primarily by Dan O'Bannon there are several influences he cites primarily Planet of Vampires, The Thing from Another World and Forbidden Planet. O'Bannon worked on Dark Star(1974) with John Carpenter wanted to use a Hitchcock style and not show everything. Boy that's a lot of references in a short amount of time. You see that a lot in extras on the DVDs Hollywood people constantly referencing people the admire, worked with, or wish to work with. There were several years and many people working on this script. It was sort of in the works when Star Wars hit and was a giant hit. The studio wanted to follow up and this was a script that was pretty complete that could be the next space film.
Directed by Ridley Scott who has a good if somewhat mixed track record. This was early in his career and he does an excellent job setting the mood and pacing the film. Since I watched the special edition release in 2003 I saw a slightly different version of the film. Scott in his introduction was pretty clear that he felt the special edition with added scenes would not add to the story, more just give you more to think about. In fact I don't think directors like when there are "Special Editions" and they are expected to change the work they have already completed.
We all know the story basics by now, the deep space mining ship Nostromo picks up a signal of unknown origin on a small planetoid it is passing. The ship computer wakes the crew from hyper sleep to investigate. When one of the crew is infected with a face hugging creature he is brought back on board. In the most startling scene the seemingly recovered crew member has an alien pop out of his chest and go scurrying off into the ship. It grows really fast and the searching crew looking for it is killed off while looking for it. Eventually our heroine must face it one on one to survive.
Primarily the added scenes add some more depth to the film but kill the pacing a bit. There are a couple places where they actually ruin things, on is when Brett (Harry Dean Stanton) is searching for the cat Jonsey. He enters the room with the chains hanging from the ceiling. Washing his face with water the added in clip shows the alien hanging in the chains. The original is much more effective, the alien settles down behind Brett before we ever see it and is only revealed when it attacks him.
Another really large give away is a scene after Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) sets the self destruct for the Nostromo, she is moving through the bowels of the ship and hears a moan. She find Brett and Dallas (Tom Skerritt) cocooned in the alien silicon. Dallas pleads to be killed. This reveal more spoils the second movie Aliens where it is a major reveal to the alien behavior. Here it certainly adds depth to the creatures but where this is basically a survival horror film it is not needed and probably why it was cut in the first place.
I notice in this viewing how well cast and foreshadowed the Ash character was. Ian Holmes does an excellent job with his quirky but not outwardly menacing role as the android with the agenda to bring back the alien. He wants the investigation of the alien vessel. When he learns of the alien he is either reporting back to the company and they have every intention of bringing back the alien alive. The crew is expendable if necessary so this piece of information is an explosive reveal in the film. Early in the film Parker and Brett are talking about getting full pay shares since they are doing this unusual investigation which is really outside the limits of there normal work. Ash says to them "You'll get exactly what's coming to you."
He really begins to tip his hand a bit more when the away team is investigating the signal. Ripley continues to use the computer to try to decipher the signal, she says she wants to call back the team but the signals have gotten too static filled to communicate. She suggests to Ash that she should go out after them, he says nervously that they will be back by the time she gets there. So does he already know that there is an alien species out there? Does the company know ahead of time what they are getting this crew into?
Then when the crew returns with the facehugger on Kane (John Hurt) he is the one who breaks quarantine and manually opens the airlock letting the away team and the alien onto the ship. She confronts him about his actions and his motivations are clear in his comment that "I do take my responsibilities as seriously as you. You do your job let me do mine." This is long before he finally flips and attempts to kill Ripley by shoving a magazine down her throat. We also learn he is a synthetic robot so he is probably acting on programming and not making independent decisions. Ash and the company are as much of a bad guy as the alien is. They challenge the idea that human life is the most valuable above all else. Instead they choose the killing machine alien over the crew. Ash certainly repeatedly foreshadowed this but not in a too obvious way making the reveal of his motive very effective.
In talking to friends about this film I have gotten several reactions to the fact that Ripley risks a lot to save the cat Jonsey. My first reaction to saving the cat is "Fuck the cat" but one friend suggests that it is a more honest representation of Ripley and how a woman would treat the ships pet as opposed to how a male action hero would respond. I don't necessarily by this sure it could be in Ripley's character but I am not sure it is because she is a woman. Do you think the writers intentionally had the cat sequences to define the differences between a male and female hero? Was it a way to have Ripley be a strong character but not just a character that act like male roles more traditionally seen at the time? They certainly didn't just want a women playing a traditionally guy role just acting and making decisions as a man would. They wanted to write her to be a strong women making decisions that fit her character and they were succe3ssful in this.
So what do you rate one of your favorite all time movies? Now since I watched the special edition I do have to take off a fraction of a point for the reveal of the cocooning. Of course it is a recommended film and in the Zombiegrrlz rating system you should own this movie. Did I mention that this review is in support of the zombiegrrlz podcast. Check them out they do a great job.
Rating (9.5) 5.0 and up are recommended

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Boston Science Fiction Festival 5

After taking a day off on Wednesday to spend some quality time with my Valentine, 25 years with my lovely lady. I went back to the festival a bit tired. Either I am not sleeping well or the act of actively watching so many things is wearing me down so I was dragging a bit and decided to only stay for the shorts. Twisted Twisters was the title for the night and here are some tLinkhoughts.

Dr Grordbort Presents: The Deadliest Game (2012) - Taking the great white hunter to an alien planet and set the characters in 1920s garb and verve. Add some wonderful CGI and a playful script and you have this great short from New Zealand. Directed by Media Design 3D Program leader James Cunningham it was a great story of a female reporter talking to a expedition leader who seem the most callous and clueless chronicler of life on a foreign planet imaginable.

Haze (2010) - A fascist future world where two rebels attempt to get into positions of power to take down the regime. Alec is being looked at by the Colonel Berg more closely than he likes and his cohort Janine is up for the promotion she need to get into the right place to do real damage. When the colonel presents her with a morale dilemma she seizes the moment to fulfill her plans. The world presented is a scary dystopian world where everyone is watch all the time and no one is easily trusted. Somewhat standard stuff for Science fiction :)

Air (2011) - At the end of the world there is still room to fall in love. Meteors have been falling and creating poisonous gas areas where they pass over. It really could be the end of the world. Aaron (David Chrysanthou) and his mate Kenyon are working in the attic of a old man when he comes across an old gas mask. Goofing he puts it on, at this moment Kenyon convulses and falls dead in front of him. Aaron freaked wanders out into the world to see people dead everywhere. His lucky find saved his life but here he is alone as everyone else in the world dies. He sees a girl Emily (Adelle Addington) who looks to be a patient in the hospital and they get together, she too is alive by the lucky chance that she happened to be on oxygen. The two realize though that her take will run out in five minutes and go on a frantic search for a new source of air. Throw in Clown Bud(Rick Stupple) a bullying hulk who wants the safety they have to replace the helium he is breathing from his collection of balloons and you have a tense show down. Well paced and a small world in larger cataclysms make this an enjoyable entry. Shame about that damn car driving through the background of the final shot though.

Mirage (2011) - The sound was off on this one so not as enjoyable as I think it could have been. The story of a man who works in the projection room of one of the last old time theaters in a future world. Some how he manages to find his way into the film he is showing and through the experience finds love.

Attack of the Mutant Chickens (2011) - original Muri Keno Mutant, is a delightful cartoon short about what else, mutant chicken. Great personality in this one which was completely enjoyable. You can see clips at youtube, Trailer 02 and the Teaser.
Great to see pieces from around the world get some attention, this one by Nayeem Mahbub deserves a viewing.

Bugbaby (2010) - Little Sammy is a special child and not because he is the light in his parents eyes. Bugbaby is a playful short about a baby who just happens to be an insect and the parents attempt to get help from the government in dealing with him. I have to say I really marked this one down because there was no bug baby reveal but it was still entertaining.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Boston Science Fiction Festival 4

Monday night consisted of three features and my daughter's 20th birthday. So first off all the most wonderful wishes a father can send his little girl on her first day after her teen years. Like your name you are a Joy in my life. Of course she is off at college and could not be at today's program.

The Boston Science Fiction Festival is in full swing providing a steady stream of features and shorts to New England audiences, festival passes and passes to the Movie marathon can be found at the their website. Individual tickets to screenings can be purchased at the Somerville Theatre up until time of show.

The Collapsed (2011) - A family of four is hiding in a warehouse, the sounds of gunfire can be heard outside. They don't feel safe where they are and the father Scott Weaver (John Fantasia) leads them out into the streets to find a more secluded location. He takes point and stares them around people he sees, its the end of the world apparently and its a dangerous place. With him are wife Emily (Lise Moule) daughter Rebecca (Anna Ross) and son Aaron (Steve Vieira) and they eventually make it to a subway and sleep on the platform. The decide to make for Dovers Bend (or some such place) where they are hoping their other son Daniel is still surviving, it is a less populated center which could also be good. So the next day through the chaos they picks their way through the streets until they find a car they can take. Interactions at this point are about how to get where they are going and it seems Scott is unquestionable more paranoid than he should be. This viewer started to wonder if there wasn't something not quite right with him. Stopping at a gas station they collect supplies. When Dad spies a couple big guys with guns pulling into the gas station he pushes his family out the back door and off into the wood fleeing. Although armed with an old rifle and a revolver the family has limited ammo and fleeing seems like the smarter choice. What was noticeable at this point is that the only one who is actually seeing the threats is Scott which lead to the early conclusion that he is a bit delusional and may be taking his family on a fantasy ride through his paranoia. Then in the woods the family talks about a presence they all feel and you are brought back to the idea there really is a threat of some kind. Could there be an alien invasion of something like that. Conversations reveals that Dad may have killed Rebecca's boyfriend but that it was deemed necessary.
When the two guys head back to the store to find it empty and it is the Scott who checks the gas tank saying it is empty, well I was right back to it being Dad who is imagining things. As they get bad to camp Aaron stops to pee and when he arrives in camp he find his Mother and sister dead. One stabbed and the other with a broken neck, Scott blames the men from the store but his cover is blown. It was so obvious at this point that he has lost his mind and killed them. Now it is just a matter of time before he does the son and then realized that he is the killer. Long... before that though we get lots of walking in the woods by the two men. Scott's dreams push you towards believing his subconscious is feeling mighty guilty about his wife and daughter. Long before Aaron is shot dead by a mysterious sniper and Scott is captured by another group of paranoids it is clear what is going on. So the explanation handed to you of a virus making everyone paranoid killers is not a surprised at all. Scott's anguish at realizing his deeds is belittled because it was figured out way too early. The horrible cliche reenactments as he suddenly remembers his crimes means that this is not really very original. Still some credit is due for creating a mood and following through with the idea. The idea that we could finally be done in by some kind of virus that gives us all mental illness is a wonderfully frightful one. I just wish the script and execution of the script by director Justin McConnell was a bit more stealth. (3.6) 5.0 and up are recommended.

The Book (2010) - This film came with a warning to look past the over the top costumes and acting and pay attention to the plot. Okay if that is what has to be done, its a long festival and sometimes some patience is needed with some of the movies. The film completely created by Richard Weiss, who for some reason wanted to be known as a symbol so we will refer to him as the symbol former known as Richard Weiss, is not half bad. He did just about everything in this film from costume design to editing to directing and producing. This is obviously a film Mr. Weiss had to make. Yes you really have to get past the costumes and strange sets but after you do there is an alien invasion story here that is not bad. It's not good but is a passable little tale with some really rather fucked up ideas. What if we all shared one set of moral and religious values and all interpreted them the same. Would we have a peaceful world without violence and hate?
Sarah (Genevieve Antaky), her father and Bratt (Phil Baradat) are being taken to a secret ceremony where they are going to learn the story of The Book" In the voice over and reiterated at the ceremony we learn that the book has changed the world. All who have read it have were permanently changed by the book and released from negative thoughts. The ceremony has the The Keeper burns the book and then tell its story. The story, 200 years before of a writer Alex Paris (Stan Weston) who with his family, wife Cleo (Felecia Faulkner) and daughter Julie (Pamela Wycliffe) are replaced by aliens in a bit of a "Invasions of the Body Snatchers" style. This so they can get the book published and take over the earth through its ideas. You see once changed by the book you will no longer be the unhappy soul you are now but will be happy and without negative thought. The downside of course is the loss of free will. The majority of the film really looks at this man and his family, his publisher Romeo and his girlfriend Sally as the initial aliens take their places.
Then we come back to the ceremony to learn that these people tell this story as a warning. That none of them have read the book because they are all illiterate, so they still have free will. It is not quite ignorance is bliss but it is at least the dumb shall save the world.
This movie created more conversation afterwards than any so far. The strange style aside it has really a unique message. The illiterate burning the book and feeling they have free will only because they can't read was a turn not expected. When the movie started you thought it might be about the book itself but no, its a story being told by those who have not read the book and see it as harmful to the society. It was proposed that maybe the film was a anti Scientology message. The alien who inhabit the humans are the Thetans and the book is Scientology, the purging of negative emotions i mentioned in the film, and even possible an en meter. Could this be a reference to the engrams of consciousness Scientology believes in? Could the book be Dianetics? No, at his website for the film you can learn the motivations, and they are not about this. It was a strange little film with brightly colored costumes and makeup, strange camera angles (used to give the subconscious feeling of looking up as a child does) and cheesey special effects. I have not read The Book so all I can say is...
" Blessed are the illiterate for we were saved."
All in all not a horrible film but I would not seek it out either so Rating (4.5) 5.0 and up are recommended.

The Last Push (2012) - The last and best film of the night was this story by writer/director Eric Hayden about the first manned mission to find life on Jupiter's moon Europa. Hayden with mostly special effects credits certainly shows us some in this contemplative but compelling story. Nathan Miller (James Madio) and Michael Forrest (Khary Payton) are private astronauts working for Walter Moffitt (Lance Henriksen) a billionaire looking to be the first to send men out into the solar system. Having seen what appear to be whales of some kind on images of Europa he quickly puts his billions to work to get a manned mission to the moon. The idea is to put them into hypersleep and then shoot them around Venus to slingshot back past Earth where they will pick up more speed and head out to Europa a nine year journey. Once past earth they are at a point of no return and have to continue on to do their mission before returning nine more years later.
Unfortunately while in hypersleep on the far side of Venus the sleep / reentry module is struck by a micro asteroid and although Michael makes it into the living capsule Nathan is lost and the mission is a failure. Now awake without a hypersleep chamber Michael must fix the ship, and keep his sanity for the three year journey back to earth where the mission will be aborted. In the capsule without the window Michael only has the delayed interaction with mission control for interaction with other humans. His primary contact Bob Jansen (Brian Baumgartner) does his best to give him a friendly hopeful face in a somewhat hopeless situation. He also has problems to solve, that will mean life or death for him and his return home. The automatic switches that signaled the engine burn that will push him out of Venus' orbit has failed and he must find a way to rewire the system and do the burn manually. He has time and the film spends many scenes showing his growing frustration at failing to be successful. It is a marathon and if not for finding a few things hidden by his dead shipmate in the bowels of the ship he may have completely lost his mind. Still he loses it to an extent and we see his routine slowly deteriorate with each fail test at engine burn. Mixed in the film are messages to Michael of hope for his safe return from people all over the world that are poignant and build our connection to the character.
Through the journey we see Michael the more serious of the to men really become human as he struggles with creating and keeping a routine both physical and mental. He recites the Presidents of the United States, then by first name. He imagines a globe on the walls of the tiny room and where cities and countries would be, recites the periodic table and the seven dwarfs anything to keep his mind focused in the absolute loneliness of space. Still this kind of isolation will have its toll and the hallucination of voice from the burned out reentry capsule drive him a bit nuts. When next to Venus there are some stunningly beautiful effects of what the ship would look like passing that close to the planet. Michael for his part finally gets enough courage to reenter the burned module and clean it up and look out the window at the sites. It is calming to him seeing what no man has ever seen. It is a real reminder what he is there for, to be the eyes of man in the solar system. When after 25 failures or more he gets the burn to work next to Venus he is reinvigorated and just a couple years from home. He has renewed purpose and drive and one could say starts to flourish on the journey. His routines are reestablished with focus and drive. He fixes the landing capsule best he can and it is looking like he is going to make it back to earth. When the time comes though Michael has really been transformed by his experience. He understands who he is as he reaches the orbit of his home planet. He is completely in touch with his motivation for volunteering for this mission. He and Moffitt have there final conversation before the capsule returns to earth and the ship continues onto Europa. Acting was exceptional with Payton capturing the rigidness of a scientist and the frayed edges of a person alone in a desparate situation.The visuals are stunning, space never looking more beautiful and the sound and plot are winners here too. The real handicap was keeping the tension while so much of the film was just Michael in a room, but that was done pretty well. This is such a solid science fiction film just perfect for fans of the genre.
Rating (7.7) 5.0 and up are recommended

Monday, February 13, 2012

Boston Science FictionFestival 3

The Boston Science Fiction Festival is in full swing providing a steady stream of features and shorts to New England audiences, festival passes and passes to the Movie marathon can be found at the their website. Individual tickets to screenings can be purchased at the Somerville Theatre up until time of show.

Day 3 and I only went in for the shorts program. I already saw the film pig which was after this program and decided that staying for the third feature Neader-Jin so the apologies to the makers of that film in not giving it a look.
The program consisted of four longer shorts all may have been longer than 10 minutes. Here are the thoughts on those.

Geners (2011) from Sweden and by Tumpum Peters was a futuristic look at society where gene modification is a privilege only the wealthy have. Those who have been change and are not rich must take inhibitors so that their benefits can not be used. The film explaining this is really the look at two characters, Gener Girl (Mai Yamamoto) and the Gener Cop (Billy May) who wants to arrest her for not going to "relaxed controls" to inhibit her illegal modification. A chase and and long fight sequence was very cool to look at with extended underwater effects and at times freedom from gravity. The little twist in the end was okay but really it was the action that made this interesting. So hats off to Tumpum Peters on making a decent entry.

Mistaken (2011) - Story about a music star Nick mayers (Andreas Wilson) who on the night of his big concert gets the idea that he is the only real person in the world and everyone around him, only exist because he does. So he decides to skip the concert since no one is real but in the process of trying to escape the situation freaks out. Taking a reporter as a hostage (Jenni Banarjee) he tries to get away, he ends up in a hotel room in a standoff with police. There is a twist but it sort of was expected because it is sci-fi and we have seen a lot of these. The effects in this film are very good and the direction by Arsen Sarkisiants is tight and effective.

Breakaway / Backdown (2010)
Director Ralph Morang from Maine was present at this screening and certainly his love of the subject of space came through in this almost monologue. When I say space I mean off the earth and the main character, Cleo (Scarlett Ridgeway Savage) in the film is talking to the girl fixing her shoe, Jane (Katie Fitzpatrick) on the video phone about her time off the planet. Wrapped in the story is a personal story about her relationship while away, her motivations to go and her decision to come back to earth. Although well received at the showing I found the extensive expository monologue a bit tedious but to each their own.

The shortest and also the one I like the most was called Mobius (2011) excellently filmed story about a photographer whop wants to report on the killings on the US border. Unfortunately for him he ends up in an infinate cycle of thing going horribly wrong for him.

Hell Night (1981) Horror Freaks

Hell Night (1981) - This review is done in coordination with the wonderful and talented Stacie Ponder and her wonderful blog feature The Final Girl Film Club. This film with Linda Blair a decade after the highlight of her career in The Exorcist (1973)[If you don't count Savage Streets (1984 ) hee hee ] in a pretty see through horror film that lacks depth and surprises. Not that it can't be looked at with a certain amount of nostalgia, it is right in my sweet spot of years where horror films shaped me and my generation.
This somewhat forgettable film may have came and went pretty fast of course being drunk through most of the eighties I can only guess at that. This viewing left me unimpressed with a way too predictable plot, and somewhat stale acting.
The film starts with a giant out of control frat party, kids making out, beer drinking and the such. We are quickly introduced to the theme of the night. Its Hell Night the night when all the pledges to sororities and fraternities must face some mistreatment or challenge to be accepted into the clubs. On this night the head Frat guy Peter (Kevin Brophy), his accomplice Scott (Jimmy Sturtevant) and side kick girl May West (Jenny Neumann) have cooked up some real scares for the four pledges to Alpha Sigma Rho. Using the local haunted house as a place to terrify the four, they wire it up for sound and set up other frightening gags. Then when the time is right all the partiers are gathered and our pledges are locked in the grounds of the house. Still if you are attentive and listen to the haunted house story about the mongoloid children and the murder suicide then you will know exactly what is going on when all the shit hits the fan for the college students. Sleeping in the house with its sound effects and scares will be the least of their worries.
Two couples end up in the mix with our three pranksters, those pledges are Seth (Vincent Van Patten) who quickly hooks up with party girl Denise Dunsmore (Suki Goodwin) leaving good girl Marti Gaines (Linda Blair) to hang out with rich boy Jeff Reed (Peter Barton). The character development is scarce but we do get the rich boy / poor girl banter where we learn Marti is a capable mechanic and this little gem.
Jeff: What makes it so evil to be rich, and so noble to be poor?
Marti: Its just the rich capitalist feeds on the life of the downtrodden poor.
We also have a bit of dialog between Seth and Denise where they are frolicking in the bed and he does his surfing routine on her. So deep, wow just takes your breath away, his love of the waves that is. So before the killing starts this is the film, some mild character development then the pranks to be played on the pledges. This is a smart group though and they figure out the house rigging pretty easily. They quickly detach any rigs they find in the house never suspecting anything besides frat shenanigans is going on.
Peter and Scott give a bit of exposition to let us know that this house is special in that there are tons of hidden passage ways and tunnels in it and they can move around easily to perform their tricks. Still Peter and Scott have more than loud noises planned and send May off to create a diversion while they start the next prank. As she walks near the outer wall she is nervous and then suddenly arms reach out from a hole(vent?) in the ground and she is pulled below. Screaming and fighting she is pushed against a wall and her head is chopped off.
The killer is pretty obvious and once the killing starts it goes somewhat quickly through our pranksters. When a killer runs out of pranksters what is he to do? How about start in on the pledges. When Seth heads to the bathroom we know who is first poor Denise does not stand a chance. When he returns it is not Denise under the covers next to him but instead the head of May. Something I like about this film is how quickly the remaining three head for the gate. No shitting around here, Seth finds the head in the bed yells and boom the three head to the gates. With the gun given to them for emergency by Peter they shoot off the lock open the gate and escape with their lives. No wait... those are blanks in the gun, damn. So Seth has to climb over the sharp point tall gate to go get help. Will he impale himself? It is one of the few good moments of tension in the film. It is not disappointing to see him safely on the other side. He goes off to fruitlessly attempt to get some help. It is hell night after all and no matter what he says to the police about killers in the old mansion they are not going to believe him. In fact they threaten to arrest him for bothering them. He eventually has to steal a rifle from the police station (their security seems a bit lax) and car jack a car from some dude before driving back to rescue his new friends. Its a real shame though because of course it will cost him his life.
Jeff and Marti hold up in a room awaiting his return but when the killer raises from under a rug Jeff's fight or flight response kicks in and he shoves a pitchfork through the prick. The cloaked figure falls through the window into the garden and it is up to the couple to make sure it is dead. After a second encounter and sure the killer is dead they can relax. This is a horror film though and again if you were paying close attention at the house history story you know where the scythe comes from that impales Jeff.
Our final girl Marti while running from the new killer comes across all the bodies of most of the people who have been killed up to this point in the film. Its a lucky thing because she is able to pry the gate key from the cold dead hand of Peter and makes her way to the gate. She sees the stolen car waiting for her outside and clumsily gets through the gate. It is awesome to see her lock the gate behind her. After all she is being chased by a crazed killer. So often the killer is given one more shot at the final girl it is refreshing to see her get away clean. When the car won't start you know since she is a mechanic there is no problem; Awesome so no real hitches. The problem is in turning around she crashes into the gate knocking it down damn it! The final sequence commences with this opportunity for the killer to get to her. When she finally wins and collapses on the steering wheel in exhaustion we know her nightmare is finally over. She wakes to see the sun rise to officially end her Hell Night.
Rating (4.0) 5.0 and up are recommended in the Zombiegrrlz system Rent it for Nostalgia sake!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Boston Science Fiction Festival 2

The Boston Science Fiction Festival is in full swing providing a steady stream of features and shorts to New England audiences, festival passes and passes to the Movie marathon can be found at the their website. Individual tickets to screenings can be purchased at the Somerville Theatre up until time of show.
Day two started with a series of shorts, the problem with the short programs is if I don't take good notes I am really at a loss to remember all that was shown. I do remember these.
Grounded - a wonderfully strange and simple film about an astronaut crash landing on exosolar planet. The idea was original and the execution of the effects was exellent. You can see something at this Grounded VFX Breakdown
One Jump From Home - with director Robert Lypka in attendance to answers question this little space story lacked polish but as a first project was a decent entry.
Nexus - A bit of a predictable little story of insanity, what starts as an experiment in isolation is revealed to be insanity. Unfortunately this story has been done way too many times.
Chorebot - A sad but also heartfelt story about a robot and the dog he cares for.
The Looking - This one fits right into my liberal paranoia. The story of alien invasion told through a NA meeting. It was a bit talky to get all the political ideas out but in the end eyes were opened. Of course how could it not be preachy when it is a therapy group.
No Relation - Heady and concise presentation of ideas about and also by writer Philip K. Dick, I feel a full documentary coming. (You can hope)
Blind Spot - Wonderful look at how our problems sometimes cause a blind spot, even at the end of the world.
The first feature was a local (Massachusetts) entry called "In the Renaissance" an atmospheric story of an apartment building that lives and breathes and births children. The idea was solid enough with the caretaker and children of the building. Director Damien Ober creates a great moody feel that really holds you, for a while. The characters though are a bit one dimensional and the tone stays the same throughout the film. Unfortunately the movie is driven by the character of the apartment building instead of a true protagonist that the audience can get behind which made it hard to get behind this one in the end. Ober though does show talent and it will be interesting to see what he does in the future.

The second feature was the World premiere of the film Folklore by writer / director Justin Calen Chenn was a funny enjoyable story about a government agency designed to keep track of mythic beings on earth. Chenn mines the idea for some wonderful; interviews with a wild range of characters, an android, shapeshifter, alien twins, a vampire, Chinese God, werewolf, Icelandic troll, a Unicorn, a time traveler and a sea nymph. In the question and answer session Chenn said there were many more ideas but you have to limit it to make the movie's length reasonable.
The interviewers Collins Jahn (Brad Roller) and Merle Eppis (Laura Waddell) are spot on as straight man and comedic sidekick. Waddell is particularly enjoyable playing off the slightly exasperated exterior Roller holds so well. The character coming in for interviews make the film with highlights and in particular, the recently separated alien twins Collees (Rachel Rath) and Risa Ipsett (Sherill Turner) who banter and complete each other sentences while still drawing the difference that made them want to explore being separate beings. The over the top time traveler, Taryn Kamas (Napolean Ryan) in his pink shorts and bow tie was hilarious in his bombastic expressions of the coming end to the world we know. The unicorn in human form Eatha Haemm was so spot on it was scary. Actress Maria Olsen pulled off a physical performance that left you not needed to see her transform into a unicorn to believe it.
The beauiful Paulie Rojas plays the sea nymph Nairie Sleen who is destined to fall for our guy Collins Jahn. She channels Audrey Hepburn through a series of clips of her trying to find the offices. When they finally meet it is inevitable that they fall in love.
This was an enjoyable film really a perfect enrty into the festival. We all can look forward to this talented d writer / director Justin Calen Chenn in the future. The actors were all very good and I am sure we will see many of them also.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Boston Science Fiction Festival 1

It is that time of year where I spend 10 days on Science Fiction films. Most of the reviews will really be quick hits. There are so many things to see in such a short time that I wonder when I will have a chance to write. On top of it my video card went bad this week and I have to make some time to replace it or I won't have my regular workspace. I warmed up for this event by playing along at home with the Zombiegrrlz podcast and watching the four Alien films, Alien, Aliens, Alien3 and Alien Resurrection. I have draft reviews on those in the works at the same time hopefully I can get them out before long.
The first day at the festival was a mixed bag, one good and one tragically bad film. I missed the starting shorts program because silly me left my pass at home and had to go get it after work. The first feature I saw was called:
Pig (2011) -titled 1.2 A man (Rudolf Martin) wakes up in the desert his hands bound and a hood over his head. We see him struggle to free himself and make his way out. He is found by Isabel (Heather Ankeny) and hewr small sun. With the help of the area doctor (Steve Tom) they nurse him back to health. As he heals we learn that he has lost his memory but has a name on a piece of paper "Manny Elder". Is he Manny? How did he get in the desert? Isabel has some ideas about it, possibly he was invovled in the drug trafficing? There relationship grows as he takes the time needed to fully heal. She lives in the desert so he is far from town and the isolation adds to the ease of their getting to know each other. Still the lack of memory is eating at the man and the name Manny Elder may be the key. He can't let go of it so when she is in town she googles the name and when she comes back with a phone number for Manny he has the choice to call it. When he does he knows he is not Manny as the answering machine has someone elses voice. Still the need to know who we are is the driving force for the man. He eventually convinces Isabel to take him to LA to meet Manny. He has found her gun and brings it along without her knowing and when he approaches the door with the gun the film stops.
Title 1.3 Again he is in the desert and struggles to survive, a mountain lion in the dark. At this point I am thinking that this is some kind of time travel movie. We don't see the mountain lion get the man but it is implied. It is a smart turn by the film maker Henry Barrial, it sidetracks our perception of what kind of film this is making the eventual reveal more effective.
Title 1.4 again he wakes in the desert and this time we see him make his way to Manny Elder in LA. He is a nice guy who apparently was his landlord. He starts learning about his life by looking at his stuff and it seems he is making progress, he is Justin Reeves and not the greatest of people but looking at his stuff he definately was living a life. It seems although he still does not have his memories he is making progress. Then another great turn when while sitting outside a woman Anouk (Ines Dali) shouts to Justin speaking in German. He reponds perfectly in the same language and we start down a new trail where Justin discovers another life where he is a bit of an asshole, a guy named Lukas Ernst. She talks to him about how his personality is different, how he is kinder and softer. Certainly the film explores this how we are defined by the experiences we have. That our memories define us and help create our personalities. Still Justin is struggling with the idea that he could have two lives.
1.5 Again in the desert, he passes out and we see a couple pairs of boots move his body to where Isabel is going to find him. But wait there is a twist. Lets not get into it here as you will want to see this film but the Justin/Lukas is not who we think. The theme of how we are who we are is nicely explored and although the film seemed to drag just a bit at times it is an interesting enough film. I fell in love with Isabel in the first sequence and if only I could mneet the actress I know she would love me too. :) The acting in this film is very good, the plot interesting and it keeps enough under the covers for reveals that are surprising. A solid entry but as the first thing I viewed has the task of being compared to each thing I see this point on. So a rating (6.1)
The second film of the night was a hilariously bad monster movie called The Millenium Bug (2011) A story about the Haskin family who escape to the Sierra Diablos mountains to avoid the Y2K turning of the century. Unfortunately for them they run into some deformed "Hills Have Eyes" hillbillies who are looking for new blood to mate with to expand their family. Also just so happens Roger Patterson a scientist is also in the hills looking for a creature he is sure will rise from the earth. The creature does rise and it is very large and hungry. So as the kidnapping and bad acting runs rampant through this movie, the killing and gross practical effects take over. Then the monster starts feeding and there is yelling, running and screaming. There is a lot of screaming, and did I mention bad acting. Part of the problem is that the parts are such characatures that they are just horrible and limited. There also is just some really poor acting and it takes away from what might have been made iton a decent moster movie. There is a real strength to this film though. The practical effects are excellent and gross and just a please to cringe at. So I won't recommend this one but I have to say there is a soft spot in my heart for movies like this. I love a monster movie even if it is bad and I would probably watch this film again but add my own home commentary. Rating (3.2)

Friday, February 3, 2012

Sombre (1998) Thriller Serial Killer

Sombre (1998) - Writer/Director Philippe Grandrieux bring this quiet emotionally disturbing piece of transgressive cinema. The story of Jean (Marc Barbe) a puppeteer and compulsive serial killer, okay the puppeteer job really plays a small part in the story but is also very interesting. Early in the film before we know anything about Jean we see children in an audience, the faces tense with the nervous interest in what is happening in the show they are watching. They fidget and react to the puppet show we never see totally controlled by the master Jean behind the scenes. It is Jean, the man who needs to be in control who creates that reaction and we see later it is not the only control he is compelled to hold.
Jean is a serial killer, a man with a particular routine, compulsion that he can not control but controls him. The transference of that control onto the prostitutes his picks up and kills is a rigid ritual they and he must follow. Stand, small the midriff and crotch, sit and lay back, spread the legs, he command of the prostitute. The engulfing embrace from behind, the smelling of her hair, her struggles as she is strangled to death. His need to walk away from the body fulfilled and shamed. The Director establishes this three times so we are in tune with the killers need, each time he drives to a remote place to dump the body. Each time he finds a new victim. He seems to be following a bike tour in his driving and we see the people lining the roadways of France. Jean can prey more easily in this way, lots of people on holiday, easy to not be remembered in a crowd.
His third kill has a stunning reveal shot, beautifully framed and executed. We see Jean pick a women up at his hotel. She drives with him most of the day and we know her fate having seen his actions twice to this point. Jean is seen from behind, shimmering water frames his head the camera pulls back and you see at his feet the poor third victim. So well executed that you stick with this rather slow and deliberately scatter film making style. On his way from that experience Jean comes across Claire her car broken on the side of the road. He offers to help and give her a ride which she reluctantly accepts.
The film shifts here and more must happen off screen than we are allowed to see. Claire (Elina Lowensohn) and her sister Christine (Geraldine Voillat) are on holiday following the same bike tour? They seem to now be traveling with Jean although it seems a quick and risky thing to the viewer. There seems to be a connection between Jean and Claire. We learn she is a virgin and the more amorous Christine may be the one at risk with this guy. Late one night Claire unable to sleep notices Jean coming out of the club across the street from the hotel with a couple strippers. She watches from the shadows as his ritual plays out. Then she doesn't say anything? No police?
It plays out like this a scattered artistically interesting film that plods a bit. When the girls realize how crazy this guy is it is too late to flee. He has Christine tied in the hotel room and forces Claire to come out with him. His desire is for her and she for him but she also knows poor Christine will not stand a chance when they get back. So she parties hard and attracts a couple of bisexual men to try to get help, by getting them to take her and Jean back to their place for sex. It is a strange way to go about getting help but I suppose that since this is a world without cops it is a solution. The drunken party that happens as she leads the men on gets out of control and Jean is punched out by one of the men. This gives Claire the opportunity to get the car keys, get back to her sister and escape. Then at the train she puts her sister on it and goes back to find Jean? WTF?
Again with Jean she is offering him a chance at something more than what he has. An intimacy and acceptance he has never known. Her virgin body is his and he does not have to stay on the destructive path his is on. As he makes love to her he begins his ritual, but stops himself and forces her away with a women in a car he flags down. He can not be with her and he knows it she must be sent away before he kills her. It is an act of love that Claire can not comprehend but again she can live.
The woman tells her a story of love missed in her youth and the regret she carried in her life because of it. This make Claire go back to Jean one last time with forcing his final decision to either accept this new form of love or stick to his compulsion.
Like I said earlier this is a tough film to watch in it is a jagged style of filming, with limited dialog. It does have though a serious and formidable emotion heart that beats a steady rhythm throughout. I can recommend it but know you are getting into an artsy slower film that is not for strict pulse racing horror fans.
Rating (5.2) 5.0 and up are recommended