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October 2021

Film Review - Aileen Wuornos: American Boogeywoman

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Just last month, writer/director Daniel Farrands was in theaters with “Ted Bundy: American Boogeyman,” which turned horrific details of suffering and personal loss into the helmer’s chance to make a “Halloween” sequel. It was a distasteful offering of genre entertainment, using the cover of a true crime tale to supply cheap thrills with an even cheaper production, watching Farrands fumble with the particulars of his no-budget endeavor. He’s an old hand with sleazy, clumsy efforts (including “The Haunting of Sharon Tate” and “The Murder of Nicole Brown Simpson”), and he returns with the awkwardly titled “Aileen Wuornos: American Boogeywoman,” which attempts to use the personal agony and burgeoning evil of the eponymous serial killer to inspire a sort of noir-ish take on troublemaking. As with other productions from Farrands, it’s a complete waste of time. Read the rest at

Film Review - The Last Duel


Director Ridley Scott loves his tales of masculinity run amok, achieving one of his greatest commercial and critical successes with 2000’s “Gladiator,” which explored the true price of honor and revenge. Scott returns to somewhat similar material with “The Last Duel,” which dramatizes the events leading to the “last legally sanctioned duel in France’s history,” following the development of an accusation as it grows bigger with years of resentment and launched with malice, creating a dramatic scenario where the audience is left with a “Rashomon”-style viewing experience to enhance the mystery at the heart of the story. “The Last Duel” is a long movie, far too long at times, but it does benefit from Scott’s practiced style and love of violence in many forms. There’s a vicious war between small men at the end of the feature, but there’s plenty more to the endeavor than the main event, offering a ride of humiliations and suspicion to those with patience. Read the rest at

Film Review - Survive the Game


“Survive the Game” is the latest release from producers George Furla and Randall Emmett, who recently brought titles such as “Out of Death” and “Midnight in the Switchgrass” to screens. The men specialize in low-budget entertainment for VOD providers, never going above and beyond when it comes to the quality of the work. “Survive the Game” (which doesn’t involve any sort of contest) is yet another offering of clumsy action and acting, with Bruce Willis once again appearing in an immobile supporting role, putting in zero effort while the rest of the cast tries to pretend they’re collaborating on a top-notch thriller. Director James Cullen Bressack has been here before, previously helming genere offerings such as “Beyond the Law,” “Blood Craft,” and “Alone,” and he’s not trying hard enough with his newest feature, which is basically a backyard production featuring a few chases, some gunplay, and a story that doesn’t go anywhere of interest. This is the Emmett/Furla way. Read the rest at

Film Review - V/H/S/94

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2012’s “V/H/S” was a low-budget attempt to restore a little unpredictability to the horror anthology film, offering a handful a moviemakers a chance to go wild with strange visions of violence and macabre events. It turned into a minor hit, inspiring two sequels (2013’s “V/H/S/2,” arguably the best in the series, and 2014’s “V/H/S: Viral”) and a spin-off in 2016’s “Siren.” There was a flurry of franchise activity for a few years, and then nothing, with the producers retiring their cinematic dreams for the brand name. Well, the time has come for “V/H/S” to rise from the grave, rebooted with “V/H/S/94,” which takes technology back to the heyday of video recording equipment, giving the feature a low-res resurrection that delivers big time on gory events and dark visions of death. As with the previous installments, not everything works, but the chapters that connect keep things interesting, supporting the viewing experience. Read the rest at

Film Review - South of Heaven


In 2013, Aharon Keshales and Navot Papushado collaborated on “Big Bad Wolves,” creating a hard-hitting revenge saga that genuinely disturbed, launching lofty expectations for their next feature-length project. It’s taken quite some time for the duo to figure professional opportunities out, but 2021 is their year, with Papushado taking command of last summer’s “Gunpowder Milkshake,” while Keshales delivers “South of Heaven,” which is a crime story about characters getting caught up in bad business, but remain more interested in confessional conversations. While Papushado contributes to the screenplay, “South of Heaven” is Keshales’s solo creative flight, using some of the darkness conjured for “Big Bad Wolves” for this periodically unsettling and somewhat leisurely endeavor, which tries to challenge expectations when it comes to tales of missing money, doomed romance, and men with guns. Read the rest at

Film Review - There’s Someone Inside Your House


Producers James Wan (currently in theaters with “Malignant”) and Shawn Levy (“Free Guy”) team up to bring “There’s Someone Inside Your House” to the screen. It’s an adaptation of a 2017 book by Stephanie Perkins, who delivers a YA-style story of teenagers struggling with their past while being hunted by a mysterious serial killer. The material deals with the power of secrets and the strangeness of relationships, but it’s also a slasher film directed by Patrick Brice, who puts in the work to create a passable threat level, which is periodically interrupted by rough acts of violence. “There’s Someone Inside Your House” is burdened by a large number of characters who need their backstories worked on, but when it comes time to deliver some brutality, Brice isn’t afraid to make a movie about youngsters that’s not for youngsters, delivering some forbidden fruit for the Netflix audience. Read the rest at

Blu-ray Review - The Time Travelers


The world of B-movies is loaded with tales of sci-fi and weird science, with most productions careful to portion out thrills, saving real action or suspense for the last five minutes of the film. 1964's "The Time Travelers" is the rare endeavor to hit the ground running with its oddity, rarely pausing to deal with melodrama or superfluous characters. Writer/director Ib Melchior is committed to a snappy pace for the effort, which largely details a countdown situation involving an escape from a destroyed Earth. There are pressure points to analyze, mutants to battle, and literal magic tricks to stage, giving "The Time Travelers" plenty to do as it attempts to mount a bravely downbeat study of time loop hell. Read the rest at

Blu-ray Review - Child in the Night


1990's "Child in the Night" endeavors to understand in the inner workings of a child traumatized by violence. It's a T.V. offering that's not engineered to go too deep into psychological pain, but writer Michael Petryni has a few ideas on the nature of compartmentalization in children that have merit, connecting the fantasy of "Peter Pan" to the horrors of a real-world crime. It's the execution from director Mike Robe that has some trouble figuring out how to bring such feeling to the small screen, creating a thriller that teeters on the edge of self-parody at times, but retains a moderate amount of dramatic power thanks to a cast of professionals who know how to do something with periodically mediocre writing. Read the rest at

Blu-ray Review - Calendar Girl Murders


"Calendar Girl Murders" is a film that could only be made in 1984. The made-for-television production attempts to bring elements from the world of Playboy Magazine to the small screen, giving the home audience some cheap thrills as "Paradise Magazine" parades around scantily clad women while the production works on a murder mystery to help support what's basically a display of beautiful actresses. The teleplay doesn't put in a significant effort to juice up the detective story, but the production has Tom Skerritt, who delivers a reasonably committed performance, matched well with Sharon Stone, who works hard to keep herself distanced from the ogling nature of the picture. Read the rest at

Blu-ray Review - Are You in the House Alone?


An adaptation of a Richard Peck novel, 1978's "Are You in the House Alone?" is a television movie that puts in some effort to come across as a horror event, tracking the increasing paranoia of a teenage girl as she's stalked by a demented individual. The endeavor dials up the sinister score, inserts criminal POV shots for maximum slasher impact, and deals with creepy characters. While the picture has a certain level of suspense, it's far more effective as an emotional journey for most of the participants, with writer Judith Parker ("L.A. Law") taking special care to explore the cruelties and frustrations of a sexual assault, trying to ignore the film's genre leanings for as long as she can. Read the rest at

Blu-ray Review - Crestone


IMDB and various online information related to "Crestone" label the feature a documentary. It's not, actually, with co-writer/director Marnie Ellen Hertzler making it clear throughout the endeavor that she's making a staged representation of possibly real people. "Crestone" follows the struggle of a Soundcloud rap group known as Deadgod, with its members electing to move to the middle of nowhere in Colorado, hoping to find the meaning of life through music and marijuana. Spoiler alert: they don't, but Hertzler tries to make a compelling commercial for the unit, channeling the spirit of Harmony Korine as she spends time with old friends(?) who need all the publicity they can get. Read the rest at

Film Review - The Addams Family 2


2019’s “The Addams Family” wasn’t a great financial risk for the producers, but it remained something of a creative gamble, working with source material that’s been kicking around pop culture since 1938. Without a Pixar or DreamWorks Animation budget, “The Addams Family” invested in weirdness, trying to capture the dark tone of Charles Addams’s original cartoon creation while amplifying broad antics for younger audiences of today. It did well with limited resources, brought to life with color, exaggerated character designs, and a committed voice cast who inhabited their creepy, kooky characters superbly. The picture found success at the box office, and the producers weren’t going to sit on the possibility of a sequel, returning to screens just two years later with “The Addams Family 2,” which tries to push the odd household dynamic into the everyday world, presenting a road trip premise that works well for these creations, combining interstate antics with weird science concerns. Read the rest at