Documentary

TGoF Hangover: Fantasia Film Festival (Final Round)

anotherevil_posterThe last batch of Fantasia Reviews is a doozy, so why don’t we just hop right in, shall we?

Another Evil

As a huge fan of HBO’s Silicon Valley I was extremely intrigued to check out one of the show’s sporadic writers, Carson Mell’s, directorial debut. Another Evil explores the uncomfortable world of bringing in an emotionally fragile individual into your vacation home to exorcise ghosts that are cramping your style–we’ve all been there, am I right?

The film is bolstered by a uniquely unsettling performance from Mark Proksch as Os, the socially challenged exorcist on the verge of divorce and a potential midlife crisis. In many ways his work calls to mind the great Mark Duplass and his performance in Creep, except…ya know, there are demons. As the audience we know there’s something supernatural afoot so Os’ intentions at first seem on the level, but after a while it’s unclear if he really has a gift or if he’s a lunatic with a glove that emits radio static. It all culminates with a troubling finale that drives home the ultra dark comedy by transforming into an even darker horror/thriller–with a touch of drama. (more…)

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TGoF Hangover: ’71, Child 44, The Nightmare, and The Gallows

On this edition of TGoF Hangover I take a trip into “The Troubles” in Belfast during 1971, go on the hunt for a child killer with Tom Hardy, experience sleep paralysis, and watch some Nebraskans completely botch found footage horror.

’71: I’m simultaneously the best and worst audience for movies with historical heft. The best because I tend to be more engaged as I feel like I’m catching up on a topic I previously was ignorant on, and the worst because I usually can’t even begin to view it with truly honest eyes. By that I mean since sometimes I watch movies about something I had no or little knowledge on I can’t have a discussion on its realism. All that said ’71 is a tense and gritty telling of true events that sometimes feels a little overlong. The film opens incredibly with an über tense riot sequence before slowing down into a stealth sneak around thriller. In the end, it’s a film that deserves a watch even if just for the extended chase sequence (even though shaky cam almost unravels it’s tension). (more…)

Movie Review: Digging Up The Marrow

themarrow_posterComing from a fan of horror, the first time I watched Adam Green’s HATCHET I just didn’t get it. I didn’t like it all that much, I had a hard time forcing myself to finish it and I didn’t understand what so many horror buffs saw in it. Fast-forward to a time when I had much more knowledge of the genre and more cheesy movies in my rearview, I gave HATCHET another chance. I still can’t say that I connected with it on the same level of other people genre nerds, but I started to understand a little more. It wasn’t until FROZEN that I finally started to get excited about Adam Green’s work. It had praise from reviewers at the time I placed a lot of faith in, at least when it comes to what films to keep an eye on. I remember hassling my local movie theater to get a hold of print so that I could see it on the big screen instead of waiting for DVD. This was at a time that On Demand wasn’t really the new ‘thing’ and small indie horror movies didn’t have the exposure they currently have.

It’s not even like it was that long ago that VOD started giving these movies the opportunity to play to a larger audience long before DVD. And though I still prefer to see my horror on a big screen, there are certain markets- such as mine- that just don’t see movies in limited theatrical releases. DIGGING UP THE MARROW only hit my radar recently as I stumbled across Adam Green’s industry podcast The Movie Crypt and heard him talk about it and doing some searches to figure out what was coming up to look forward to. Much to my surprise it hit VOD shortly after discovering it and while I am still an advocate for the theater experience, with the right preparation, horror movies still have their qualities on a smaller screen.

DIGGING UP THE MARROW is a faux documentary that stars Adam Green and many of his industry pals as themselves. Green beings by digging through a pile of fan mail and pulls out a piece from a fan by the name of William Dekker (played by Ray Wise). Dekker claims to know of an underground sanctuary where monsters (or deformed outcasts) really exist and live as a society. Green decides to seek Dekker out to hear and film his stories assuming that he is crazy, but hoping to get a glimpse of a real life monster should Dekker not be pulling his leg.  (more…)

2015 Academy Award Predictions

81st Academy Awards® Press Kit ImagesThe two most telling things I can possible say to anyone getting ready to read my ramblings about the Oscars is that (1) as of writing this I haven’t seen all the movies nominated and therefore can’t accurately speak for many of the nominations those movies have gotten (but I will try), and (2) I don’t necessarily care about the Oscars. I know what movies I saw in 2014 that I loved and many of them would have never had a chance to even enter Oscar discussions. Therefore the Oscars are more of a “cherry on top” should any of the movies I loved actually get recognition- and I’m not that big a fan of cherries.

I will say I do enjoy watching the Oscars….some of the time. I feel like the ceremony is too long and there are too many categories I don’t really care that much about. However, I do enjoy watching seasoned actors giving their acceptance speeches, especially if I’m a big fan of said actor/actress. In the event any of my favorite movies, actors, actresses, scores, and writers get recognized for movies I enjoyed during the year I get a pretty satisfying rush even having not been involved in their success. But seeing as how I don’t really hold the Oscars near and dear to my heart it’s more of a momentary celebration than anything I remember long after its over. So…all that being said aren’t you pumped for my predictions now? (more…)

Movie Review: The Imposter (2012)

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I don’t spend a lot of time tracking down documentaries, at least not as often as I probably should. My problem is that not a lot of topics seem compelling enough to hold my attention for a full hour and a half or so. When I heard so many great things about THE IMPOSTER I couldn’t help but check it out, if only to see what all the hype was about. To a certain extent, the documentary earns all the praise that’s been heaped about it, but I can’t help but feel like it dies out at a less than desireable note.

The topic of THE IMPOSTER is told from the perspective of a family’s three year search for Nicholas Barclay only to have a man overseas randomly claim to be the missing teenager and somehow fooling the family and even some government agencies that he indeed is Nicholas. The problem eventually comes that the man’s story inevitably falls apart when he is constantly questioned by professionals trained to spot inaccuracies and behavior which leads to something a little more disturbing bubbling beneath the surface of the disappearance of Nicholas Barclay.

The things that really standout about THE IMPOSTER for me is that the recreated footage of events in the film are filmed beautifully as are almost all the scenes included that are not from archived footage. The way that the story is presented has its fair share of ups and downs- from the get go I was questioning just where it was going which made me wonder what exactly was so compelling about this story. It is shocking enough that a 20 something man can infiltrate this grieving family with no remorse and even talk his way around the governement, but I wasn’t feeling that it was leading to anything substantial- until about the last half hour.

THE IMPOSTER slowly creeps into something a little darker in the final 25 minutes to a half hour where I was fully engrossed and 100% on board with how the topic was unfolding which elevated the first half of the film because everything it presents towards the end makes the opening the more interesting. I felt tense and intrigued for the rest of the film until the final shot, which then presents another issue I had. As engrossing as the final minutes are I feel like it leaves the audience suspended in mid air with no closure or clear opinion on the information presented in the last half hour. It could be argued that you are supposed to make your own presumptions about the information and let the movie live on its own with your opinion and the conversations you might have about it, but I felt a little empty at the end with no strong opinion either way. With that kind of interpretation it makes subsequent conversation a little fruitless if you can’t have a meaningful set of opinions to add to the subject. In some ways I suppose a case could be made about the deceitful nature of the imposter himself and the assumptions he presents, but the extent to which that conversation would lead me toward a clearer point of view is still questionable to me.

I did appreciate the use of recreated footage as a means to give the film a really vibrant look as it is beautifully filmed and to an extent worth checking the film out just to admire the photography, though the shots themselves add little to the way the story is told. The extra footage in some way may seem transparent as a way to add more tension and interest to the film instead of just stock footage and voiceover as would normally be used, but I think in the case of THE IMPOSTER it greatly elavates the least interesting moments. There’s a number of technical aspects that might cause distraction where the voiceover of the imposter syncs with the mouth movements of the recreated moments which I found to be a nice touch at least on a technical level, but not at the storytelling level.

As documentaries go THE IMPOSTER takes a few liberties with the way that the story is told, but in ways that work to its benefit. The topic on display here is one that unfolds in a patient manner and slowly creeps into your brain and in the last half hour really takes hold until the very last shot. To be perfectly honest, as compelling as the film is I still cannot shake the empty feeling I felt once the credits roll- rather it was by design or not I feel THE IMPOSTER end with unfinished business that for better or worse will leave the viewer with plenty of unanswered questions. It is the job of a good documentary to reel us in and keep us engaged from beginning to end and this film does that better than I would have admitted at the beginning, but masterfully winds down to a endpoint that made me wish there were more story to tell. I don’t normally have a feeling that I want to watch a documentary more than once, but THE IMPOSTER I feel is one that rewards a second viewing if to watch the opening interviews with a new perspective and gain a more rounded opinion on the topic.

Rating: A-