Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Lisa Ovies to Direct Beverly Hills Lizard People

Cthulhu Crush Productions have announced that filmmaker Lisa Ovies will direct horror-comedy Beverly Hills Lizard People.

Written by Cthulhu Crush’s Jody Wheeler, Beverly Hills Lizard People is described as a mix of Slither and Scream, and tells of an ancient race of shape-shifting Lizard People from the depths of the Earth who return to the surface to reclaim what was once theirs: Beverly Hills.

An estimated 12.5 million Americans believe in the existence of Lizard People.

Wheeler and Steve Parker produce for Cthulhu Crush Productions alongside I No.Films.

Ovies is an award winning producer, director and actress. Her feature Taking My Parents to Burning Man took home audience choice awards at the Sonoma International Film Festival, the Newport Beach Film Festival and the Maui Film Festival. Puppet Killer, currently in post-production, has gotten huge buzz and anticipation based on its unique premise.

“Lisa got BHLP from word one. She not only got the horror elements, but the moments of humor peppered through the script, laughs that emerged from the terror, not in spite of it,” Wheeler said.

“Everyone swears they’ve met people who were not quite human,” Parker said. “Who knows? They may indeed have been shape-shifting reptilians looking to rule the world.  Or just looking to improve their tan.”

“I had to direct this,” Ovies said. “It’s a crazy blend of horror, humor, and personal empowerment — precisely the kind of stories I love to tell. I’m looking forward to getting people to wonder what’s really beneath the skin of their best friends or loved ones.”

Ovies is represented by Moving Pictures Talent & Entertainment Group. Her IMDb page.

Beverly Hills Lizard People will be the fourth Cthulhu Crush Production, whose films include Love, Colin and the current horror flick WTF!. Wheeler and Parker were also creatives on cult hits Judas Kiss and The Dark Place.

Production is slated to begin Summer 2018, in Vancouver, Canada.

Official Synopsis

Disturbed from their ancient slumber by the excavation of a cross-town subway, the ancient reptilian masters of a faded empire strike out to reclaim what was once theirs: Beverly Hills.

Ground zero for their invasion? A once popular, though now faded, hotel, currently the site of a reality TV cooking show competition, and directly overhead of their secret city. Can the collection of unlikely contestants — ambitious, backstabbing, and determined — stop the shape-shifting Terrors From Below below before the reptilian ravagers achieve their goal of conquering first Beverly Hills and then the world?

Jody Wheeler
CEO & Creative Partner

Jody Wheeler is an award-winning creative, based in Los Angeles. He is the writer-producer-director of the 2014 mystery-thriller THE DARK PLACE, the writer of HEAT WAVE, the producer JUDAS KISS and the forthcoming WTF!. He wrote for the groundbreaking TV series “Inside / Outside The Beltway.” His short film “In The Closet” was nominated for the 2008 IRIS Prize. He’s a graduate of the UCLA MFA Screenwriting program.

Steve Parker
CFO & Creative Partner

Steve Parker is an award-winning editor and executive producer, based in San Francisco. He directed, shot and edited the music video of Tom Robinson’s “Loved By You”, produced  the shorts “Begging for Change”, and “Barbie Boy,” and the feature films JUDAS KISS, THE DARK PLACE, and the forthcoming WTF!. He recently directed the short “Love, Colin”, set to premiere in 2016.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Want Me to Promote Your Film with Cartoon Captions?

No, I'm not offering a pay for promotion service, or any kind of paid service. This is just something I do for fun, that coincidentally can help to promote your indie film using humor; and also sates my sadistic tendencies for torture. :)

Some of you, yeah the both of you, have probably noticed the captioned screencaps I have been using to promote Slashening 2's crowdfunding. I started this on my own initiative promoting the release of Fear Town, USA and the first The Slashening on Blu-ray. The reason why is because if you've seen their work you already know they have a damn good sense of humor. And frankly, having seen the ending of Fear Town, USA, they pretty much set a line that would be hard to cross. They promised to cross that line in Slashening 2, and I'm not sure I want to see what can cross that line. O.O

Of course the point of that rambling is that Brandon and Rey have provided me with screencaps to use, perhaps at times regretfully on their part, and I don't know if there is such a thing as going too far when the picture you're starting with has a plate of vagina on the wall. But to do the same thing with others' films might offend someone.

If you want me to promote your film with my captioning, you'll have to tell me, and of course either provide screencaps or provide a download I can screencap myself. And of course you'll have to have a good sense of humor.

Before you ask me, have a look at some of the captioning I did for Slashening 2:

If you still have the daring and gumption to ask, contact me on my Twitter or Facebook page. And don't forget you can support the making of Slashening 2 by donating on their GoFundMe page.

Toxic Fletch

Friday, November 17, 2017

Movie Review: Skybound (2017)

Skybound (2017) - USA - Action/Disaster - Not Rated (14+)
Written and Directed by Alex Tavakoli
Starring Scarlett Byrne, Rick Cosnett, Gavin Stenhouse, Tyler Fayose, Carla Carolina Pimentel, Morten Suurballe, Jerry Coyle

An interesting premise with good direction and cast is riddled with clich├ęs bringing it down like a jet plane out of fuel.

Five friends board a plane going from New York to California. What starts out as a joyride becomes terror as media outages and loss of contact with the ground leaves them to wonder what is happening below, and if they'll even be able to land.

It sounds interesting, and I don't doubt it could have been. With capable direction and a good cast it starts off promising. It's not long before "seen this...expected that" comes to the forefront of ones thoughts. You know you're in a nosedive to hell when you get the bravado rallying speech complete with musical accompaniment. I mean for Green Acres or Animal House this works because of the ridiculousness of it, but for something taking itself as serious it becomes its own self-parody.

Other elements in this with no bang for their buck include a love triangle which wilted the rose before it even had a chance, the most impotent bad guy I've seen in a movie of recent memory and a mixed bag of special effects from really good to video game quality, and I don't mean a good video game at that. And that is the film's problem in a nutshell is there was potential here too often ambushed by cheap one-offs.

From a standpoint of average fare for SyFy you could use to fill time, this would fit as it is entertaining enough for that. Perhaps I'm just being down on it as there was potential here to be more than that and it was brought down by screenwriting 101 checklisting: love triangle, check; bad guy, check; bravado speech, check; heroic sacrifice, check. To add to that the ending of this is truly "how the hell!?"

I would give standard SyFy time fillers 2 Fingers, but there are at least some better elements here such as the direction and a good cast.

My Rating: 2 Fingers Plus.

You can get Skybound on DVD or VOD from Amazon Video.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Movie Review: Hex (2017)

Hex (2017) - UK - Historical Thriller/Horror - Not Rated (PG)
Independent Feature Film - Rubicon Films
Directed by George Popov
Co-Directed by Jonathan Russell
Written by Jonathan Russell and George Popov
Starring Daniel Oldroyd, William Young, Suzie Frances Garton, Tony Broadbent

Tediously paced at times it overcomes this with nerve-racking tension in a story though set during the English Civil War is fresh and relevant in today's times.

Two soldiers on opposite sides during the English Civil War (1644) find themselves alone against each other in the forest. But they soon become suspicious they are not the only ones in this forest and that other one is a witch preventing them from getting out of the forest. Trust comes hard but fear and suspicion come easy.

Made for a staggering (wink) £1000, that's just over $1300 for us yanks, what these filmmakers have accomplished on a budget that wouldn't even buy lunch for a Hollywood film crew is simply outstanding. The use of lush woodland scenery, re-enactment period costumes and props, austere ruins and three top of their class actors imbues this film with quality components.

Up front, what doesn't work for Hex is tedium in some of the scenes, especially the nighttime scenes and not being well lit adds to it. It's just my feeling that having trimmed the running time of this could have improved upon it as it is a bit long for what could be an hour long Outer Limits episode.

What does work for the film is tension and story. From the first encounter of the two soldiers culminating in a brutal fight, which makes one wonder if some of the blood might be real, to a cat and mouse game between the soldiers early in the film the viewer's nerves are honed raw. Even as the film progresses reality and fear are often indistinct for the soldiers, as well the viewer. As much the soldiers fear the witch of the forest heightening their paranoia, even beyond that is the unsettling sense they might turn on each other at any moment.

What brings the story freshly into modern times is smartly using the English Civil War as a backdrop: most basically a war between political opposites the Royalists who sought to maintain a 'divine right' in leadership and the Parliamentarians who opposed a monopolistic monarchy and church. Congruency aside, even more germane in the face of xenophobia, building walls and decayed institutions is the rallying of distinct nationalities under a greater fear and hatred of another through a cloud of unknowing.

Despite some slowness in the film at places and dark nighttime scenes overall it is well done. A complete story that works as a whole gets my basic recommendation. But this additionally has rich dialogue, taut direction, beautiful cinematography and some of the best audio capture I've heard that captures every distinct sound, as well what lies beneath the story is thought provoking.


This is a first for me, at least on this blog, to change my rating of a movie. Some might consider my movie reviewing style to be a bit scopious, but it is for this very reason that it is such. I watch movies twice for a review. Usually I give myself a few days during that time for lingering afterthoughts, and especially to feel what staying power a film has. Usually it takes me several days to a week to review a movie. Being this film was being released on the 17th, I wanted to have it reviewed by the day before and really did not let it take time to sink in.

Yes, the film is tedious in several places as I said and that took it down a notch from 4 Fingers. Yet it has stayed with me. It has magnificent imagery and incredible sound quality where the slightest brush of grass or babble of a brook comes through with clarity; it's a pleasure in and of itself just to listen to this movie. I chose the screencap of Daniel Oldroyd as his expression in it defines the quality of acting in this. Of course there is the story central to the film which draws an allegory using the past as sort of a mirror for our present, and might I say beautifully done.

I've been having a lingering of conscience asking myself if I rated it fairly. Though it may be a fair rating something keeps clawing at me. Within the short time since I've seen this it has become one of my favorite films or 2017 along with Fighting Belle and Night Kaleidoscope. For these various reasons, to me, my rating has to go up a notch from the 3 Fingers Plus I originally gave it.

My Rating: 4 Fingers. That's 8/10 for IMDbers.

You can find out more about Hex on its Twitter and Facebook pages.

You can rent or buy Hex from Amazon Video.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

New Update on the Coming Grassroots Indie Blog

There is going to be a delay in getting the new blog up and running. I have a Blogger site I originally set up to use as the blog, but complications with some features are making it more optimal for me to look into using Wordpress or another service, and thus having to use a hosting service for the blog. This will delay it at least a month or two.

One of the new features I want to add to the blog is primarily what necessitates the delay. I am presently working on my current blog to put up a presskit and resource page for a specific indie film. This gave me the idea that having such a service on the new blog would be useful.

It's not so much that reviewers are lazy, though some most definitely are, but rather having a resource page with a poster image, screencaps, summaries, productions notes, credits, contacts and social media links for cast and crew would be useful to many reviewers. Some of this stuff is available on IMDb. some of it is available on Facebook, but in one handy location, unless you specifically have a website for your film or production company, it is more often not.

Often the most time consuming part of reviewing a film is writing the review and checking your information. Sure, a reviewer can be lazy and assume the actor named Tommie is a guy and playing the male character, but I'm pretty sure SHE doesn't appreciate that. Presskits, resource pages and especially social media links help reviewers to get things right in the first place, have images to use in their reviews, have social media contacts to tag in links to reviews, but most importantly removes hurdles making it easier and therefore more likely your film will get reviews and those reviews will lack misinformation (I said 'lack' not 'be free of').

So how does this feature create a delay?

As the blog grows, having resource pages can become cumbersome in setting them up. Ideally this can be fixed by allowing filmmakers to create their own resource pages rather than having me do it. However, Blogger only allows a certain number of users to be added to a blog, I believe it is 100, and depending on how successful the blog is that can be maxed out in only a few months or less. It would be much harder to fix such a situation on the premise of 'if it happens' than to assume it will happen and fix it in the first place. This means using a different blog system, and the more economical and user friendly option is to set up my own hosting rather than trying to use Wordpress's service which is simply bloated.

*A Note on Posters

Although it is not common, some grassroots filmmakers don't have posters for their films. I have been known to make a poster for a review in such cases, and occasionally where I just didn't like their poster. The reason I do this is unless I have an attention grabbing screencap to lead the review (the first image will be grabbed by social media for display) I want to have a poster image to grab a potential reader's attention.

I am not a graphic designer, and no I'm not offering a poster service. I just use an image editor and a bit of creativity is all. Outside of my main editor, PhotoImpact (shaddup, it rules) I have been having fun with a freeware editor, Toolwiz Pretty Photo, for simple posters and adding speech bubbles to photos I have been using to torture some of you with.

Like any other program, Pretty Photo does have some bugs to get used to. For one, the more fonts you have on your system, I have over 400, will cause it to lag when trying to change fonts. Using more than one font on an image will cause it to lag more, so don't assume the program has froze up, just be patient. It also has a maximum image height and/or width of 1024 pixels, pretty much rendering it most useful for web images. You can load any size image, but if it goes above 1024 pixels in either dimension it will resize down to 1024 pixels while keeping the aspect ratio intact. Depending on your screen resolution, the full image may not show while you are editing it. Use the zoom feature below the image to zoom out to show the full image as it has a tendency to crop the image incorrectly when you save it if you don't zoom out; took me a while to figure out why it was doing that.

Now that may sound like some work with those bugs, but compared to using my main image editor it is a piece of cake and makes it real easy to do a simple poster or add cartoon captions to photos; just try to find a simpler way to add speech bubbles, and that gives you full control over size, position and text. And don't overlook using shadow and bevel when adding a title to a poster image; the shadow, in any editor, makes the text stand out rather just looking flat.

Toxic Fletch

Monday, November 6, 2017

Coming Soon to a Blog Near You for Nov & Dec 2017

I have quite a few things on a checklist for the next few months. There is no hard and fast schedule, but I'm writing things down here both as a reminder for myself and to let the one or two of you who read this blog know what to expect.

Grassroots Indie Blog

I have already posted about this, but to reiterate it is going to primarily be a directory of movie reviewers who do indie film reviews. The main function is to connect filmmakers with reviewers. I hope to add other features as it grows, but I'm trying to stay focused on the directory so no promises beyond that. My main wrestling point is in how to organize the directory to make it more convenient to search.

An additional feature I am considering strongly for a later date is a screener newsletter to give indie filmmakers an additional option to reach out to reviewers. I regularly receive emails for screeners via promoters for various independent studios' films. Well a lot of grassroots filmmakers don't have that capability as money is tight enough. I hope to be able to offer a free service that uses an emailed newsletter telling reviewers what is new among indie films and where they can access screeners, and other resources (stills, posters, trailers) if available.

Thanksgiving Horror Movies

Well, at least that's the plan. Putting together an article again for GulfCoast.stream for the month of November, so obviously it's going to be about movies for Thanksgiving. We'll just see if I have enough horror movies to make an article or if I need to make it more generic.

Soon to be Reviewed

Antihuman - A spellbinding sci-fi horror film that knits Orphan Black with the Resident Evil franchise, premieres on VOD this October from Wild Eye Releasing.

A young woman returns to the secluded, abandoned psychological research facility where her deceased mother once worked. Accompanied by three friends, she discovers that the ghosts of the past have found their way to the present when the hospital's legacy of experimentation and madness tears away all known bounds of time, memory and space.

Anya Korzun, Danielle Arden, Andrew Jardine, Katie Keight, and Kathryn Goldsmith star in a film by Luke Gietzen and Mark Robins.

Antihuman is now available on VOD from Wild Eye Releasing.

Ballerina I'm Not - Written and directed by Francesca Zappitelli, the “exhilarating” (SportStop) and “inspirational” (EEDA) Ballerina I’m Not its way to VOD this October.

An underground, underdog story of the prolific journey that women take to follow their dreams and find their way in a male dominated fight industry, Ballerina I’m Not is now available on Amazon.

Ballerina I’m Not features a who’s who of the wrestling world including Stacy Keibler, Gail Kim,  Maria Kanellis and Francesca herself.

“A great film.. that will make you stand up and cheer”, Ballerina I’m Not is available on VOD from Amazon.

Blood Harvest - Writer-director George Clarke’s latest sweat-inducing scarefest comes to U.S shores this November. 

The award-winning Blood Harvest, out of Northern Ireland, premieres on Digital 11/21 from Wild Eye Releasing. 

Robert Render, Alan M. Crawford, Jean Paul Van Der Velde, Griffin Madill, Rachael Stewart and Matt McCreary star in a George Clarke film. 

A rural village is terrorized by an evil force that drains the blood from its victims. A discredited police detective, who believes the killings are the work of vampires, must team up with his former partner to uncover the truth.

Kepler's Dream - Sean Patrick Flanery (The Boondock Saints, Powder), Kelly Lynch (“Mr.Mercedes”, Charlie’s Angels), and Holland Taylor (The Truman Show, “Two and-a-Half Men”) star in director Amy Glazer’s highly anticipated feature adaptation of the hit YA novel by Juliet Bell, in theaters and InDemand December 1st from Leomark Studios.

Eleven-year-old Ella (Isabella Blake-Thomas) is a city girl forced to spend the summer on the New Mexico ranch of her reclusive grandmother, Violet Von Stern (Holland Taylor), while Ella’s mom (Kelly Lynch) undergoes chemotherapy in another state. As she tries to cope with her grandmother’s strict rules and snooty friends, Ella longs for her mother and begs her estranged father for rescue. But Ella’s dad (Sean Patrick Flanery) has his own reasons to stay away from his childhood home. Meanwhile, Ella finds allies in fatherly ranch hand Miguel (Steven Michael Quezada) and his down-to-earth daughter, Rosie (Esperanza Fermin). But when a priceless book is stolen from Violet’s collection, Miguel is the key suspect, and Ella must find the real thief in order to save her friends. Emotional connections are reshaped, and a family that was lost finds its way. The music of Patrick Neil Doyle helps tell this unusual and heartwarming story.

Steven Michael Quezada (‘’Breaking Bad’’), Kelly Hu (X-Men 2), and Isabella Blake-Thomas (Once Upon a Time, Rise of the Guardians) co-star.

Kepler’s Dream in theaters across America and available on InDemand from December 1.

Skybound - The sky’s the limit for The Flash’s Rick Cosnett this November with Skybound, out November on VOD from SP Releasing!

Flight Plan meets Non-Stop in director Alex Tavakolis’ airborne sci-fi action-thriller that sees some of today’s hottest young stars battling more in the air than just turbulence! 

Five plane passengers are unable to land after a mysterious disaster happens on the ground, but they may be in worse danger than they thought when a stowaway is discovered on board carrying a dangerous secret.

Scarlett Byrne (the Harry Potter series), Gavin Stenhouse (“Black Mirror”) and Morten Suurballe (“The Killing”) co-star alongside Rick Cosnett (The Flash) in Skybound, repped by High Octane Pictures, out 11/7.

There will be some more films reviewed including indie short subjects but these are the ones on my definite list.

Toxic Fletch

Friday, November 3, 2017

Update on the Grassroots Indie Blog

A while ago I had proposed the idea of joining with others to start a grassroots indie film blog. Nothing was cemented at the time, just wanted to see what interest was there. Now right up front I am probably going to piss off a few people here, but I have had only a taste of what indie filmmakers already know: that trying to get the attention of movie reviewers apparently requires dynamite.

Focus has shifted on the idea of a grassroots indie film blog from trying to be a collective for reviewers to being a resource site for filmmakers. Being that movie reviewers vary widely from very responsive to review requests to complete film snobs who won't even respond to someone if it has nothing to do with a major Hollywood movie, my focus is with the former group of reviewers.

The main feature of the blog is going to be a list, directory if you will, of reviewers who are responsive and review independent films regardless who makes them or how low budget they are. Having seen some filmmakers, on social media, trying to get their films reviewed and helping out myself, it's frustrating trying to get someone's attention only to be ignored; a hundred times over.

A springboard for the list I am putting together has been actor Timothy J. Cox. He has been in a lot of indie films and knows how to promote the movies he's in. You can check out one of his films on IMDb and see anywhere from a dozen to over 50 external reviews listed for short films made on a budget of less than $5000 with actors and directors many of you have never heard of, and I'm including many movie reviewers in that 'you', as compared to some recognizable names making films on their own outside of Hollywood for a $100,000+ and having no more than a handful of external reviews.

Piggybacking on the work of Cox and some others I am putting together a list of reviewers. I am not going to publish the list until I have over a hundred reviewers on it, for the simple fact that having more reviewers available keeps them from being overloaded with review requests.

The main focus of the new blog is the reviewers list and also to eventually include other resources for grassroots indie filmmakers; those working with little or no budget and no resources for promoting their own work much outside of the internet and social media. I hope to eventually add reviews to the new blog, splitting those off from this blog as I'll use the new one for strictly grassroots indie films and this one for those that don't qualify as grassroots indie.

No, the definition, or boundaries, by what is and is not a grassroots indie film is still in the works. Comparing the film made by a recognizable actor or director for a few hundred thousand to the one made by a local filmmaker for $15,000 or less, mostly put on a credit card or borrowed, is an easy distinction. It's the dividing line of at what point one becomes the other that requires some delineation, and even that won't be written in stone so to speak.

Additionally I will be adding a new Twitter account to go with the new blog. One obvious purpose of the new Twitter account will be to have an account that focuses strictly on indie film. An additional purpose of the new account will be to have an account name that feels more comfortable to share a Tweet from than one called Sex and Blood Show. Yes, my original choice of a Twitter url for my profile page does not rank among my brightest ideas.

Toxic Fletch

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Movie Review: Here Lies Joe (2016)

Here Lies Joe (2016) - USA - Drama - Not Rated (Family)
Independent Short Subject - Sweven Films - 23 Mins
Directed by Mark Battle
Written by Mark Battle and Pamela Conway
Starring Dean Temple, Andi Morrow, Timothy J. Cox, Mary Hronicek, J. P. Valenti, Kristie Stumpf Rork

A tactful approach to a sensitive subject that succeeds in flying high with feel good vibes.

Joe is another man in the walkabout of everyday life. Perhaps he is forgettable to anybody but himself, and those memories he carries with him. You see, Joe simply wants out of life, to end it, but on one day he joins a suicide support group and meets a disruptive young woman only calling herself 'Z'. This seemingly fearless woman with a swaggering pomposity gives Joe pause, not only about himself but about what Z hides beneath that facade.

Suicide is not an easy subject to approach in film, or TV for that matter. Hollywood and the networks are loaded with bad examples of tasteless portrayals of people with suicidal thoughts. One that comes starkly to mind is the short lived, thank goodness, TV show The Powers That Be in which David Hyde Pierce, pre-Frasier, played the suicidal son-in-law of a senator, to comical effect.

Though Here Lies Joe is a serious drama there is plenty of humor, but that humor is in the interaction of two people. These two might be looking for a way out, at first observation, but they just might be looking for an invitation to stay for a while.

Using a wraparound narrative, director Mark Battle begins at an advanced point in the timeline of the story and then goes back to events leading up to that point. Not events which are the cause of it, but events which put it into perspective, as well starting off with this part of the story puts the character of Joe and those few hours into perspective.

The acting in this is spot on. In the early part of the film at the suicide support meeting we are introduced to members of the group. Timothy J. Cox plays the tactful chair of the group as a man who is seemingly well balanced but does not like to have that balance tipped. Mary Hronicek is wonderful as the morose and attention seeking Carol. And of course Dean Temple plays the awkwardly polite Joe and Andi Morrow is simply a show stealer with her performance as Z.

The cinematography keeps the focus in check while blending supportive elements. One thing I want to particularly praise though, as often it is underscored until it is bad, is the excellent audio in this. I often overlook audio issues so long as I can hear the dialogue, but I just want to call out Robert Beal of BB3 Studio and Shawn McHenry for a job beautifully done. The audio on this is clear as a bell and so well balanced.

Here Lies Joe is a story that gives one something to think about in a presentation that is not only well done but is a feel good film. I can't say anything bad about it; hence my rating.

My Rating: 5 Fingers; I give it a High Five!

You can watch Here Lies Joe on Vimeo

Visit the Sweven Films official website.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Movie Review: The Shape Returns (2017)

The Shape Returns (2017) - USA - Horror - Not Rated (PG)
Independent Short Film - 12 Mins
Directed by Tony Crespo and Mykee Morettini
Written by Tony Crespo
Music by Mykee Morettini
Starring Chelsee Chauhan, Rob Sheppard, William Welch King, Desmond Huey

A fun and fitting tribute to the original Halloween film with pastiches of other films in the series worked in.

You know the story, if you're a fan of the Halloween films started by John Carpenter. It's Halloween night and among the trick or treaters is a guy wearing the scariest mask you can think of, William Shatner, as he stalks a teenage girl. Almost makes one think this is the story of a Hollywood producer.

A fan film is a different area for me. Back in the 80s a Halloween inspired fan film was the next slasher movie to show up at the drive-in. Unlike the glut of slasher flicks to hit the big screen in the 80s, the fan film of today is one which openly emulates its source. But perhaps the most important aspect of a fan film, I would think, is staying true to its source and not warping it into something it's not; a lesson Rob Zombie should have taken to heart.

The Shape Returns has the earmarks of a fan's love of the Halloween movie franchise. Taking from the first film the most basic plot of a masked stranger and the teenage girl he stalks for unknown reasons (again, from the first film) is the core plot. What ups the film is the infusion of elements from other films in the series including the post-Carpenter sequels and Halloween III: Season of the Witch.

One of the prime elements working for The Shape Returns is the attention to detail in the mask. Several of the official sequels did a poor job in recreating the mask from the original, and being the mask is like the trademark of the franchise you'd figure it would be important. For The Shape Returns, being the original 1975 Kirk mask, though available, was sold out, Mykee Morettini was left with buying the best Michael Myers mask he could find and modifying it to look like the original. And he certainly succeeded.

For the attention to detail to the original, and especially the mask, the filmmakers have brought the character of Michael Myers into the present. The Halloween theme is naturally present, and Morettini brings some up-tempo to it that makes it feel celebratory. There is a bit of an early 80s feel with the character of Jackie who rocks a Sarah Jessica Parker Square Pegs look, though that's probably just coincidental. The film doesn't break any new ground, as that is not their intention, but is a tribute to the original. In that respect alone I give it 3 Fingers, but because of some extra fun worked into the film from the other sequels I'll take that up a notch.

My Rating: 4 Fingers

You can watch The Shape Returns on YouTube and find them on Facebook

Monday, October 30, 2017

Movie Review: Dark Romance (2013)

Dark Romance (2013) - USA - Dark Thriller - Not Rated (PG)
Independent Short Subject - 8mm Films - 8 Mins
Entrant in 48 Hour Film Project New York City 2013
Directed by Matthew Mahler
Written by Matthew Mahler & Ross Mahler
Starring Timothy J. Cox, Cameron Rankin, Tiffany Browne-Tavarez, Brian Shields

Early work by Matthew Mahler is a dark passage of obsession, even darkly comedic, showing the promise he has as a filmmaker.

Tim Cooper and Cam are modern day mad men developing ad campaigns for clients between their office cubicles and board room. But neither Tim nor Cam are truly the one who is mad as Tim becomes the recipient of a secret admirer's attentions, that start off innocently enough but soon turn dark and obsessive.

Dark Romance was made as part of the 48 Hour Film Project film festival in 2013, New York City location. This festival has filmmakers compete by being given 3 required elements their short film must contain and then having 48 hours to script, shoot, and edit their film. The required elements for this competition were: a character named Cam or Cat Dean who is an advertising executive, a prop of a trophy, and to include the line "when do you expect her?"

IMDb lists this as Matthew Mahler's first directed short film. I can only go on that as I don't know the extent of Mahler's work beyond what is listed on IMDb. There are obvious shortcomings with Dark Romance that are most likely because of what he had available equipment-wise. The sound has a constant hum early in the film, though this does not hamper the dialogue which is actually quite clear. Additionally the handheld camerawork is obvious in places, though most likely necessitated by the space in which they had to work. Though Mahler's creativity does shine through; creativity he will put to even greater use in his masterful To Be Alone, also starring Timothy J. Cox.

Technical issues aside, Dark Romance is well scripted telling a complete story; I make a point of this as in a 48 Hour Film Project a filmmaker has to go with what they have, complete or not. The cinematography makes good use of framing, focus, follow, and mood. The actors in this are excellent in their performances with Timothy J. Cox showing how well he can transition from the light to the dark in a role.

Originally I was leaning toward a rating of 3 Fingers to 3 Fingers Plus for Dark Romance. Writing this review reminds me to count what's most important in the film, that is how well done it is as a whole and not the limitations of what they had to work with. If anything, working with handheld equipment on a budget under $500 and in only 48 hours shows what they overcame to tell a complete story that hits its marks. My rating is therefore based on what they have accomplished in this film, and what they have accomplished is very good.

My Rating: 4 Fingers

You can watch Dark Romance on Vimeo and also check out Mahler's other work.

Friday, October 27, 2017

Movie Review: What Jack Built (2015)

What Jack Built (2015) - USA - Mystery Thriller - Not Rated (Family)
Independent Short Subject - 8mm Films - 11 Mins
Directed by Matthew Mahler
Written by Matthew Mahler and Ross Mahler
Starring Timothy J. Cox

Loud and proud in its score with a hint of pastiche to 80s future noir What Jack Built is an energetic ride with an obsessed driver at the wheel.

*Since the filmmakers don't have a movie poster for this film, I made one. Being the screencap I used belongs to the filmmakers and all I did was add the obvious text, as far as I'm concerned the poster image belongs to them to use as they wish.

Jack has an obsession, with something. He's a packrat with all sorts of goodies scattered about his workshop. Monitors here, keyboards and parts there ...electronics and paint cans and gizmos, oh my! It seems Jack has everything, yet one thing eludes him; and that one thing frightens him too. Jack has a plan to get that one thing, but he has to build something first.

Though this is the first review I am doing of a film starring Timothy J. Cox, I am no stranger to his work as an actor. If you are into indie film you will eventually come across the work of Timothy J. Cox, dubbed 'the hardest working actor in indie film'. I am no stranger to the work of Matthew Mahler either and frankly consider him one of the most artistic and promising directors today.

Cox and Mahler working together is certainly fitting as Mahler drives a narrative of sight and sound, devoid of dialogue. Cox is a wonderful actor and among his strengths is a talent with body language and expression. Mahler and Cox working together is a marriage made in filmmaking heaven

Matthew Mahler has scored this film himself with vibes that hint at 80s sci-fi movies, to me, but is its own original composition. Timothy J. Cox has fun with this role both with spot on moments, and moments of chewing the scenery; and that's talented when you can chew the scenery without uttering a word.

Mahler's composition of scenes is contained. By this I mean his scenes are full and rich, but he does not let that distract from his focus. With Cox's performance, this additionally keeps the focus as it would be hard to not keep your eyes on Cox. I do feel that the story is a bit ambiguous, for me, but some do like that ambiguity of filling in blanks for themselves, and certainly if that's you, you can have a lot of fun with this one.

The music in this is four times louder than it needs to be. Leaving my media player settings at normal and putting on my headphones results in what I call screaming critic syndrome. The volume is not bad if you're using speakers because you can be assured to have room filling sound. But this is a word of caution to those who also might use headphones.

My Rating: 4 Fingers

You can watch What Jack Built and other of Matthew Mahler's work on Vimeo

For more on Timothy J. Cox visit his Official Website

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Movie Review: 72 Hours (2016)

72 Hours (2016) - USA - Horror - Not Rated (PG)
Independent Short Subject - Destination Desolation Productions - 9 Mins
Written & Directed by Andrea Dean Van Scoyoc (as Andrea Van Scoyoc)
Starring Andrea Dean Van Scoyoc (as Andrea Van Scoyoc)

A found footage film smartly uses vanguard conveyance of the author's narrative of a lone survivor and succeeds very well.

Many of us have seen, may even have, 72 hour survival kits; as a pre-packaged kit or customized. But what happens after that first 72 hours, like in the event of a zombie apocalypse? Are you prepared for the end of the world as you know it? Can you be? With 9 minutes of power left on her phone, a lone survivor shares her thoughts.

From pen and paper to the typewriter, various forms of audio recorders, film and digital video cameras to smartphones, varied are the technologies from antiquated to avant-garde but shared in common among all of them is the narrative, and therefore what that narrative conveys regardless of the means of transmutation.

Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, H. G. Wells and H. P. Lovecraft are among the progenitors of the survival narrative. Telling a story through journal entries or directed first person narrative was formalized in its art form in printed text, moved on to radio with a prime example being Orson Wells' production of War of the Worlds, and advanced into a visual medium with film and eventually digital video. But really, would someone reach for a typewriter (shaddup) or a video camera in their final moments?

The smartphone has become almost an extension of our hands. We break down on the road; smartphone to the rescue. We need to search an item to see if a local store carries it; smartphone to the rescue. We see an index card on the bulletin board at the laundromat that says "for a good time call"; uhm... wait... forget that one ..ahem.

Andrea Van Scoyoc has married these two premises of the sole survivor and the natural extension of the smartphone. She portrays a survivor hunkered down in a room in her home as the chaos still takes place outside. Just her and her thoughts, for what little time she has left on the battery of her smartphone. And her thoughts on this do paint a vivid picture for the viewer to follow.

I have not done a review of a smartphone movie before. The vertical format is obviously different than what I'm used to. And that's an important distinction in art, is not to be confined by limitations but to express oneself in different ways, and Andy succeeds in this very well and the vertical format makes sense. And where do I go in rating this? Actually I approached this from a different direction, starting with my highest rating and asking myself if there is anything that detracts from that rating. And the answer is no.

My Rating: 5 Fingers, I give it a high five!

Watch 72 Hours on YouTube

Follow Andy Van Scoyoc on Twitter

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Movie Review: John Schneider's 4:GO (2017)

4:GO (2017) - USA (Louisiana) - Action Thriller - Not Rated (Mature)
Written & Directed by John Schneider
Starring Kerry Cahill, Dean Cain, Marcus Bagwell, Jason Kirkpatrick, Johnny Lee, Billy Slaughter, Eddie Love, Jody Mullins, Don Shanks, Harrison St. John, Mickey Gilley, John Schneider

Keeps the viewer on their toes between bouts of falling down laughing in a fast moving mix of action, horror and comedy.

Four murderers escape from a maximum security prison with a hostage in tow as they head for the woods. Misjudging their hostage is only the first sign of their bumbling, matched only by the ineptitude of the posse trying to catch them. But they're not alone in the woods on this Halloween, and they will wish they had stayed in solitary confinement.

John Schneider is time and again proving himself to not only be a diverse actor and director, but also one of the top writer/directors of black comedy. In a genre that is easy to do, but difficult to do well, he does it very well taking the dark and tragic and approaching it with tongue firmly planted in cheek.

4:GO takes no prisoners (bwhahahaha) in bursting out of the gate at full gallop and not letting up on the pace. It begins with a mystery teaser of just audio that sounds like a couple and their child having a play day then moving straight into its story. It may seem confusing at first compared to some of things going on, but that's intentional as John Schneider uses bits and pieces of mystery to up the tension. Additionally he makes good use of the briefest of interstices, being he also edited this, which flash here and there, and though they seem to confuse in actuality he has creatively spiked the pace of the film with them. And before you know it, an 88 minute movie is over and you're like "wow, that didn't seem that long."

There feels like an occasional stumble, but this as much can be because of keeping the audience guessing and with its expeditious pace it is easy to get out of sync at one point or another, plus some ambiguity, but it does fall into place anyway. For me there's a point where it feels morose, losing its humor, but that does not affect the structure of the film, just the mood, as the film continues to move along as before.

Kerry Cahill, Johnny Lee and Jason Kirkpatrick shine is this. Cahill brings character to her performance with choice dialogue and spot-on delivery. Jason Kirkpatrick has his character of Forest nailed down providing humor in every moment he occupies. Johnny Lee is simply fantastic just being in this movie as he is a character unto himself and that adds to the fun. Eddie Love is a great foil for Lee's character often delivering some of the funniest lines. Special mention goes to John Schneider.. er.. I mean Harrison St. John who not only reminds one of a young John Schneider but his character is named Bo; well played.

The movie itself invokes that classic 70s revenge film motif as Schneider injects lots of humor, action, and bits of mystery. 4:GO is a fun movie to watch that has energy and abounds in laughs, and yes gruesome at times, but not too much. Though I watched it solo I'm betting this would be even more fun with several friends over for a movie night. Too bad my local drive-in has closed because this would be perfect for a fun night at the drive-in.

My Rating: 4 Fingers

You can rent or buy 4:GO on Vimeo

Get John Schneider music, movies and merchandise on his Official Website

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Movie Review: Demons (2017)

Demons (2017) - USA - Horror - Unrated (R)
Written & Directed by Miles Doleac
Starring Miles Doleac, Lindsay Anne Williams, Kristina Emerson,  Andrew Divoff, Steven Brand, Jessica Harthcock, John Schneider, Gary Grubbs, Caroline Baggerly, Yohance Myles, Megan Few

A tautly directed thriller brings together a talented cast and excellent writing that takes us on a journey of the underbelly of the human soul and like its namesake... Demons gets under your skin.

"He who fights with monsters might take care lest he thereby become a monster. And if you gaze for long into an abyss, the abyss gazes also into you". - Friedrich Nietzsche

Pending nuptials bring together six people for a wedding the following morning. Two of these people are Colin Hampstead, a now successful author of the book Demons, and his wife Kayleigh. But it seems a seventh guest is present, harking back nine years ago to when Colin and Kayleigh first met, as he was the priest attending to her sister's exorcism.

When considering screeners up for review, this being when you have several available, some things stand out which influence your selection rather than my usual and unoriginal method of just going left to right or top to bottom. Demons stood out to me because of several of the cast:

Miles Doleac - A recognizable face, which I was first introduced to him in Miami Magma, one of many signs I watch wayyy too many disaster movies, brings success to a too often unsuccessful venture in film. That would be writing, directing, and starring in your own movie.

John Schneider - I swears I'm not stalking him. I swears I'm not. He just keeps showing up in everything. It's always a pleasure to see John in a film. Even if he's being disgusting he always brings integrity to playing his roles.

Andrew Divoff - What can you say about Divoff that is not said by his performances? He brings a powerful presence to every scene he is in. His deep voice and the intensity of his look demand attention. His presence is so powerful on the screen that when he makes characters on the screen uncomfortable, you just hope he doesn't look your way.

Gary Grubbs - One of my favorite character actors. Like John, it is always a pleasure to see Gary in a role. He just simply brings something special to the screen.

Jessica Harthcock - My main reason for picking this first. Having seen her performance in Fighting Belle, I was impressed with what a natural she is. She is seemingly effortless in her performances as she doesn't act her characters, but becomes them. I personally think she is a rising star, and certainly someone to keep on your 'pay attention to' list.

Demons is outright a haunting film. Part horror, part exorcism movie, part ghost story, all psychological thriller. Doleac has painted a portrait using a dynamic and fluid camera, with cinematography by Ben McBurnett, in hues ranging from ethereal to gut-wrenching.

Out of the starting gate I feel it stumbles a bit. The narrative is told is parallel, the story intersecting past and present. It begins at a point nine years ago, post-exorcism, then leaps into the present. As events happen in the present a chronological timeline of memories lead up to that very point in the past where the movie started. And might I say thank you Miles for having the distinction of the beard to make the transitions easier to follow. Of course the priest outfit helps too, but I am at times dense in that way.

Once the movie gets its footing things fall into place and it moves forward with elegance. Doleac's direction in akin to Tobe Hooper's direction in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre in not putting the grotesque on screen as so many horror movies would do, but imbuing it within the story. The end result is more horrifying than any superficial treatment can accomplish.

Demons challenges preconceived notions, stripping away the vestments of conformity and brings the viewer raw into the uncomfortable. The last half hour is so tension filled that it grabs you by the throat and won't let go. The story is ugly, yes, yet so beautifully rendered that you may find yourself wanting to turn away, but you can't.

This is not your average horror movie. Demons will demand your attention. This is a story both subtle and unyielding. At times deceptively surrealist in its overt frankness. Dismiss nothing along the way, for eventually it will all fall into place.

My Rating: 4 Fingers

Check out the Demons movie website or follow them on Facebook or Twitter

You can buy or rent the movie on Amazon Video

Monday, October 9, 2017

Movie Review: Faithful (2017)

Movie Review: Faithful (2017)

Faithful (2017) - USA - Drama - Not Rated (Family)
Independent Short Subject - (PRE)FORMA-SE Artistic Productions - 13 Mins
Directed by Niklas Berggren
Written by Aleksandra Milanova
Starring Clarissa Hoffmann, Ellis Miller, Cynthia Aileen Strahan, Eve Coquillard, Eddy Lee, Sarah Schulte

A well written story crafted into an impactful drama with tight direction and top notch performances.

Lauren has always been faithful to Ron. Not only as a loving wife whose heart is given only to him, but in sacrifices she makes for his, their, benefit. But is there such as thing as being too faithful?

Up front, Faithful is an amazing short film. Berggren's direction is tight, taking the viewer exactly where he wants them to be for the best vantage point. There is a scene in here that, when I saw the framing, I thought was Kubrick-esque. I was wrong on that as it reveals itself to be something else and you can really appreciate the beauty of his composition in this. His direction is deliberate, not wasting space and yet bringing full composition to scenes.

The actors really put out in this. Clarissa Hoffmann brings an edgy pensiveness to the character of Lauren. Ellis Miller is necessarily detached as Ron feeding Lauren's need to hold on. Cynthia Aileen Strahan brings a duality to Mary-Anne in having a glib bluntness but with sincerity and an open heart. And Eve Coquillard brings a powerful performance as Lauren's mother, hers and Clarissa Hoffman's mastery of expressiveness tendering the fulcrum of the story.

Faithful uses a destructured narrative of fragmentary collusion which crystallizes at its most potent moment. Story, direction and acting combine into a presentation that impacts the viewer like a ton of bricks.

My Rating: 5 Fingers! I give it a high five!

Faithful's Facebook Page

Niklas Berggren's Facebook Page

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Movie Review: Nite Nite (2017)

Nite Nite (2017) - USA - Horror - Not Rated (Family)
Independent Short Subject - MaxiMeise Productions - 3 1/2 Mins
Written & Directed by Chad Meisenheimer
Starring Tommie Vegas, Brady Bond, Sarah Rhoades

A flashback to 80s horror movies, Nite Nite hits the spot in having an 80s feel and being spooky fun.

As his parents are out for the evening a young boy is being tucked in by his babysitter after a bedtime story. But things aren't so simple as that, being when his dad tucks him in he always checks for monsters. This night it will be up to the babysitter to make sure there are no monsters lurking.

At under 4 minutes Nite Nite defines the 'short' in short subject. When reviewing such short films, contrary to what one may assume, there is not a lot of difference in it and reviewing a feature film. The same basic questions need to be answered by the reviewer as to if it successfully tells its story and what it accomplishes in doing so. The only difficulty that is presented by a punchline skit such as Nite Nite, with regard to the way I review films, is in not giving away too much in my plot summary while still trying to introduce the plot of the skit.

Nite Nite does successfully tell its story. It additionally, being it is set in 1985, evokes the time period and the feel of the movies from that time period which inspired it. Chad Meisenheimer keeps it compelling with a dynamic camera, and keeps it spooky with tense composition.

Brady Bond (that's Bond, Brady Bond) plays the kid at the center of the story, is a natural and is as good as any actor his age, and being that Nite Nite hinges on his performance is exactly why this works so well. Tommie Lee Vegas (as Tommie Vegas) plays his exasperated babysitter perfectly being ever so subtly annoyed without being overt.

The only shortcoming of Nite Nite is it's obvious where this is going. But in the end that doesn't take away from it, and really it is fitting for its inspiration. It is spooky fun and the type of film you can watch over and over for that very reason, and perfect for the Halloween season.

My Rating: 4 Fingers

This is a post-production review of a film entering the festival stage. I'll update this when it is made available online.