Archive for the Independent Category

The Witch: Terror Felt but Unseen, Unknown

Posted in 8, Horror, Independent, New Releases, Ratings, Reviews, Sci Fi/ Fantasy, Thriller with tags , , , , , , , on February 27, 2016 by mducoing

The WitchIn modern cinema, audiences often rebuke films that leave nothing to the imagination, and yet, this is often exactly what they are asking for. The Witch is a slow burn horror film that is equal parts madness and supernatural and both gives too little and just enough to unsettle observers for far longer than its run time.

Premise: A family finds horror and a terrible fate alone in a Wood. Result: A brilliant, yet understated horror film that places tension in every crevice.

The Witch follows a devout family of Puritans in early established America, recently expelled from their Plantation Community for unclear reasons that appear to stem from the very devotion they hold dear. Father William (Ralph Ineson), mother Katherine (Kate Dickie), eldest daughter Thomasin (Anya Taylor-Joy), eldest son Caleb (Harvey Scrimshaw) and two horrid twins Mercy (Ellie Grainger) and Jonas (Lucas Dawson) and infant Sam. They are even more radical in their love of God than others and their reckless reproach has estranged them in a world where life is difficult enough without the terror of solitary.

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The ABCs of Death 2: Another Good Addition to Experimental Horror

Posted in 7, Horror, Independent, New Releases, Ratings, Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 5, 2015 by mducoing

ABCs2The latest entry into the experimental horror genre, a sequel to 2013’s The ABCs of Death, provides audiences with some really interesting, and unexpected horror experiences. While most of the vignettes are at least fair, there are about a dozen of the 26 overall that are frightening and intriguing in their own ways.

Premise: 26 horror shorts meant to chill, intrigue, but ultimately stick with you. Result: A good step forward for the sub-genre, with a few stories in particular we wish we could forget, but would still love to see more of.

The film opens with a very creepy introductory sequence that immediately gives a sense of legitimacy to the film, an eeriness that sets the mood. It is then followed by the requite 26 vignettes, each representing a letter, where part of the fun is trying to guess what the title of the story is, based on what takes place. For the purposes of our evaluation, there are really three main categories: Good, Fair and Pass.

Let’s start with the Good. The first story E.L. Katz’s “A” is quite intriguing, even if initially confusing. Focusing on a hitman’s meticulously planned job going quite differently than planned, Katz delivers the first shock of the film. Next, is Julian Gilbey’s “C”, a story that revolves around vigilante justice that is as terrifying for what takes place, as for how very depressingly plausible it could be.

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VHS – Viral: Not the Best, But Another Good Example of Experimental Horror

Posted in 7, Horror, Independent, New Releases, Ratings, Reviews, Sci Fi/ Fantasy, Thriller with tags , , , , , , , on December 15, 2014 by mducoing

VHS-ViralAs VHS: Viral bursts onto the horror scene, it is impossible not to recall and compare it to its two, strong prequels, VHS and VHS2. Like its predecessors, Viral is a strong step in the experimental horror sub-genre, where boundaries are pushed and creativity rewarded. While there is some uneven delivery (as with all the films) due to its anthological nature, the film, in general, is quite strong and worth a viewing.

Premise: Another submission into experimental horror that offers more vignettes meant to scare and inspire. Result: A few clear hits elevate this film overall beyond the obvious misses.

There are essentially four stories in Viral (a fifth, “Gorgeous Vortex” will only be available on Blu-Ray release), with an outer-ring and three inner tales whose only connection is a mysterious link to a horror collection of VHS tapes.

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Whiplash: A Stirring, Cathartic Masterpiece

Posted in 9, Drama, Independent, New Releases, Ratings, Reviews with tags , , , , , , , on December 2, 2014 by mducoing

WhiplashThere are some films that move you. There are others that shake you long after the screen has faded to black and the lights turn on. Writer/director Damien Chazelle has certainly delivered such a stunning cinematic achievement with Whiplash, a visceral, overwhelming exploration of obsession.

Premise: A young drummer enrolls in a top-tier music conservatory where his dream of mentoring from a great music director opens him to untold greatness and misery. Result: An intense, inspirational and terrifying account of the raw power of passion.

Practice makes perfect. While the majority of us think of this innocuous pet phrase that adults pour over children as a guiding principle, the young low-grade Aspergian Andrew (Miles Teller), intent on impressing Shaffer Conservatory Director Fletcher (J.K. Simmons) with his drumming skills, takes this quite literally.

The next Charlie “Bird” Parker he wishes to be (and rise above his father Jim’s (Paul Reiser) supposedly meager accomplishments), even if it means working with Fletcher, a man notorious for inflicting unimaginable emotional torment unto his vict- er- students.

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Willow Creek: Some Funny, Some Scary, Some Bad. OK.

Posted in 6, Horror, Independent, Ratings, Reviews with tags , , , on November 30, 2014 by mducoing

Willow CreekComedian turned horror writer/director Bobcat Goldthwait (Yes, THAT Bobcat Godthwait!) has delivered a fair found footage horror film with Willow Creek. Despite some cliché moments, plot issues and other minor missteps, the film is still worth the watch at least for the funny moments and certainly for the terrifying last few. .

Premise: A found footage doc about Bigfoot. Result: Some funny and some scary, it is better than expected despite many issues.

Bigfoot aficionado Jim (Bryce Johnson) drags his girlfriend Kelly (Alexie Gilmore) to film a documentary around his big-footed interest, at the notorious site of the original (and only) sighting.

Either an updated carbon copy or otherwise parody of The Blair Witch Project, the two enter the town at the foot of the mythical pass and begin a series of sightings and interviews. This segment of the film is hilarious and may offer the most interesting part of Willow Creek.

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The Babadook: A Stunning, Different Take on Horror

Posted in 8, Drama, Horror, Independent, New Releases, Ratings, Reviews, Thriller with tags , , , , , on November 30, 2014 by mducoing

BabadookWriter/director Jennifer Kent has delivered one of the most unsettling psychological thrillers of the year. Wrapped in a tale of children’s terror, the film explores a greater dread that lies at the center of one family’s struggle.

Premise: A single grieving mother, plagued death of her husband, battles with her son and his fear of a lurking monster lurking in the house, only to realize the terror goes far deeper. Result: A terrifying descent into madness and mayhem, The Babadook will delight audiences who still long to be surprised.

Amelia (Essie Davis) is struggling to raise her young son Samuel (Noah Wiseman) after the abrupt, traumatic death of her husband Oskar (Benjamin Winspear). Her days and nights are a blur, ever-filled with a deep sadness and the very real terror of her child, a seemingly psychotic creature with arguable roots to the Omen.

The boy spends days and nights in the basement crafting makeshift weapons, frightening all those around him, including his aunt Claire, and downright terrorizing his mother. Even neighbor Mrs. Roach (Barbara West) can’t help but skulk about in growing concern for them.

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Birdman (or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance): Peculiarly Brilliant; Brilliantly Peculiar.

Posted in 9, Comedy, Drama, Independent, New Releases, Ratings, Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , on November 24, 2014 by mducoing

BirdmanThere are typically limits to how an audience can relate to a film. There are natural constraints, visual elements, sound, a sense of reality and personal entertainment to name a few. But writer/director Alejandro González Iñárritu (21 Grams, Babel) somehow transcends normal viewer-film relationships with Birdman, delivering a cinematic experience that forces audiences to engage with his material in completely different, abrupt, immersive, often uncomfortable ways. And we are better for it.

Premise: A has-been actor who once played an iconic superhero must overcome his ego and madness as he mounts a Broadway play in a bid to reclaim past glory. Result: An exhilarating ride through insanity, although unclear whose.

Riggan Thompson (Michael Keaton), of Birdman fame, is going through a personal crisis. Long after starring in a super-hero film franchise that busted global box offices, Thompson feels the repercussions of his Faustian decision to become a “famous” actor, if not necessarily a good one. To remedy this, he has decided to pull off a risky Broadway debut, producing, directing and starring in the adaptation of one of his beloved plays.

While the idea of this is complex enough, the reality is far more troubling. Amidst the very real turmoil of pulling off such a project, he is faced with countless drawbacks: an injured actor, a recovering drug-addict daughter Sam (Emma Stone), an insane co-star Mike (Edward Norton), a neurotic and insecure co-star Lesley (Naomi Watts), relationship issues with Laura (Andrea Riseborough) and mounting pressures from his best friend and attorney Jake (Zach Galifianakis). And, of course, there are the critics, the most important of which is the looming NY Times gate keeper Tabitha (Lindsay Duncan), seemingly bent on his destruction.

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