Monday, May 22, 2017

Movie Review: Night Kaleidoscope (2017)

Night Kaleidoscope (2017) - Scotland - Horror - NR
Directed by Grant McPhee
Written by Megan Gretchin and Chris Purnell
Starring Patrick O'Brien, Mariel McAllan, Kitty Colquhoun, Jason Harvey, Robert Williamson, Craig-James Moncur, Gareth Morrison, Ashley Sutherland

A psychedelic fueled antipathy through Dada Land, luridly lensed in sanguinary obscenities, escalates vampiric cinema into something that is as ghastly as it is sensual as it is a unique commentary on art and depravity.

A man sits alone in a room. Alone from the living that is, for his only companion is a corpse under a bloody sheet. Soon, though, he will be joined by vestiges of past events as he inhales a thick smoke, its psychedelic properties unleashing his ability to see into the moment, to see a frightened young woman become the very corpse before him at the hands of bloodthirsty butchers living in the night. These butchers cut at the flesh of their victim, drinking her blood and ripping skin wth their teeth, and they are strangely aware even in the absence of their watcher that he can look into this moment; he is hunting them and they will be hunting him.

Night Kaleidoscope takes a distinctly different approach to the vampire movie in its representation of vampires not as the supernatural entities of films past but as killers who pleasure themselves in the brutal slaughter of their victims. It takes an even more distinctive approach in its darkly atmospheric and surreal approach to filmmaking. Appearing to be shot mostly with available light, and handheld, it is filled with discordant vibes from scene to scene harmonizing (pretend it's not a contradiction for just a moment) the viewer with a world of wanton drug use and hallucinatory clarity.

A cognitive dissonance in film where at once it is rich in visual stylings, horrifying as they may be, yet devoid of much of the narrative dialogue we have been conditioned to expect. Within the first 10 minutes the narrative moves almost entirely frame by frame rather than word by word. Beyond that preamble take no comfort still in the narrative structure, as this is surrealism in cinema; by design devoid of control, the expected, the comfortable.

Richly drawn in speculative style it is. Minimalist in character definition, it is that also. It's the body of work as a whole holding together the disparately rich visual acuity and minimalist script. The viewer is dropped into the middle of an ongoing story as though walking into a strange home only intending to get directions and finding yourself in the midst of something intense. You want to get out but something holds your curiosity. Knowing is something that only comes from observing, without the benefit of a roadmap. Uncomfortable it may be, but it starkly tells its story in an unforgettable manner.

Observation may be a blessing or a curse, and that is up to you. As with any surreal film the details are in the underpinnings of the story, or maybe not. The vampire in story and in legend is very old indeed. At the core of all vampire legends is something that takes an essence of life from another to further itself. That very essence, by legends broad and far, has been provided by an even greater power. At the core of all religion is something that emanates from a higher source and hence everything, to be read as everyone, is subjugated to that source. The mandalas of religion and of social structure are indistinct. 'Higher up' may sound administrative, but it may just as well be provincial; for only the inner circle can afford the perversions it exacts on the proletariat.

Of course interpretation is entirely up to the viewer. There is not necessarily a right or wrong interpretation, as anything's value ultimately lies entirely in what it means to you. There may be an underlying message in Night Kaleidoscope. Images may just exist for the visual style and symbolism solely for the narrative. For sure though, Night Kaleidoscope takes pleasure in happy humping the leg of metaphor all the way down the bunny trail. 

On the whole, Night Kaleidoscope is a visually stunning movie, morbid in its obsession, and vibrantly pulsed by a synth soundtrack keeping straying scenes in check. Its story is complete, but not full, leaving room for interpretation. In comparison with other directors Grant McPhee has made a film with the chilling vision of Murnau, the esoterica of Anger, the destructuring of Roeg, and liberally sprinkled with the violent insanity of Jodorowsky. Night Kaleidoscope ultimately is genre setting.

And where do I go in rating this movie? Somehow, appropriately, my review has been written as fragmentary and disjointed as the film is at times. It surely has taken longer to write what I hope is an appropriate review. Even before I have written a review I know where my rating for a film lies; the review just explains how I got there. I knew my rating was on the positive side, 3 to 3 Plus, after the first viewing. For sure this movie is a different experience which at first had me wondering what I had gotten myself into, to something that has lingered and grown in its lasting effect.

The movie and imagery stayed with me after the viewing; though not necessarily unusual for some films, the degree to which this movie stayed with me and instilled in me a drive to want to understand it more was intense. This drive alone had me upping my rating to 4 Fingers. Through writing most of the review I have been conflicted about staying with 4 Fingers or taking the bold move and upping my rating; again this is unusual for me.

What has pushed up the final rating definitively for me is in myself referring to Night Kaleidoscope as being genre setting. It is its own unique film. Elements of horror, vampire cinema and surrealist cinema are here, but it goes beyond its inspirations to create, in my opinion, its own genre. It's not defined by any other film than itself, and when a film sets its own template for others to follow, that defines a genre and that is more than worthy of one more tick up on the rating scale.

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

If you would like to watch and/or review Night Kaleidoscope, it is available to view or download for free during the rest of the month of September on Vimeo.

You can stream or download the movie from Amazon.

Visit the movie website for more information.

Grant McPhee on Vimeo.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Indie Film Crowdfunding: The Electra Complex

The Electra Complex is a feature length film written by Clarissa Jacobson and Jessica Janos, directed by Jessica Janos and starring Violet Paley and Kansas Bowling as two punk rock conceptual artist strippers destroying Hollywood circa 1992.

Time and Place: Hollywood, 1992.  

What Was: Beepers were in, G.G. Allin was alive. Ecstasy was cool and a sick house in the hills was selling for under half a mil.

What is: Too bad Rachel Keith, squatter punk, 19, only has five...  


Jessica Janos, from an interview on We Are Moving Stories talks about her upcoming project:

"Electra Complex, a feature film I wrote with Clarissa Jacobson. Set in early 90s Hollywood, it’s about two punk rock, conceptual-artist strippers. Our logline is: Pussy. Brains. Punk. FUCK YOU!!! I’m yet to see how effective that logline is, but this is a funny, deep, dirty, sexy, sad, victorious story and so fun to read."

Guy Jackson said of the screenplay:

"For my money, THE ELECTRA COMPLEX is also one of the single best feminist screenplays I have ever read. It pulls off that win by setting its audience up for a Sleaze-A-Thon of sex, drugs, strippers, and women making seemingly horrific life decisions, and all seeming for the benefit of the leeriest of audience members...THEN reverses that flow in A Flow Reversal Miracle that'll make men question every dark thought they've ever had about women and make women cheer. It's a reversal that also achieves an extraordinary substance, it turns a new angle of spotlight on maltreatment of women."

This is Independent Filmmaking. There are no billionaire studios getting big business support in exchange for screen credits. These are filmmakers who have to pay their own way, and pay for everything. They depend on the support of regular people like us and not freebies from big business. As such, this film is being made in parts, as many independent films are, as they are able to get the funds. You can help them to make the next part.

Support this indie film by donating on their IndieGoGo Page.

Keep up with The Electra Complex on Twitter and Facebook.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Movie Review: Night of Something Strange (2016)

Night of Something Strange (2016) - USA - Horror Comedy - NR
Directed by Johnathan Straiton
Starring Trey Harrison, Rebecca C. Kasek, Wayne W. Johnson, Michael Merchant, Toni Ann Gambale, Nicola Fiore, John Walsh, Janet Mayson, Tarrence Taylor, Kera O'Bryon

Through its uber gross-out facade is an actually entertaining horror comedy that is mostly well done.

A janitor at a hospital makes his way to the morgue where he proceeds to mount and have sex with a female corpse. Had he checked the toe tag on the corpse he might have seen that this female died of radiation exposure, but now he has contracted some super-STD turning him into a zombie killing people and spreading the disease. Meanwhile a group of teens on their way to beach week stop over at a roadside hotel for the night only to encounter walking hard-ons among other dangers.

Let me be as frank as I can right up front; this is one of the grossest movies I have seen. Within the first 20 minutes I shut it off. Forcing myself to return, and I really didn't want to, I discovered the movie improved, and considerably at that. Surprisingly this is actually quite well scripted. As annoying as I thought these teens were going to be, they weren't, and the whole lot of them did a fine job acting, and Nicola Fiore did a damn fine job of getting naked. Let me just say that again; Nicola Fiore did a damn fine job of getting naked.

Beyond the actors and the writers there are some professionals at work here. The cinematography does not linger into distracting corners but stays on target, even though taking place at night the movie keeps its light levels up, the special effects despite being gross are well done, and the editing keeps things moving briskly past the first 20 minutes.

There are continuity errors in this. There's something disgusting done to the character of Brooklyn (Tarrence Taylor) then just seems to have disappeared; and I'm not complaining as it was so disgusting I'm glad it disappeared. Continuity errors abound in the makeup and costuming. The SFX makeup in this is very good, but several times it doesn't quite match the action of previous scenes. The most obvious of continuity gaffes is in the outfit of Cornelius von Zombie (Wayne W. Johnson). Some of it may be the dark color of the outfit, but his jumpsuit seems to stay relatively clean compared to what he goes through in this. And I sure hope they gave Wayne hazard pay as they focus a lot on kicking him in the balls.

In a rare move for me, I am actually giving a movie a passing grade that I don't recommend. It is well made, scripted and acted as I have said, but it is so gross, particularly in the opening minutes, I cannot recommend for somebody to watch this, at least not without having a vomit bag handy. Additionally I take umbrage with the writers being stuck in 80s attitudes. I mean this was released in 2016, not 1986. 30 years later homophobia and the all too stereotypical token black guy strike me as being out of place.

My Rating: 3 Fingers. There are talented people at work here; writers, cast & crew. I would like to see more from them, once they get past their gross-out phase. And once they do get past it I'm pretty confident they've got a Four or Five Finger movie in them somewhere.

For more on the movie and to get copies of it, visit their website.