Eugene (Jack Rowan) and William (Fra Fee) have been busy spending their days surviving unwanted construction work, racking up hearty pub tabs and swindling cash and beer from tourists at the grave site of Abhartach – a legendary Irish vampire who may have inspired Bram Stoker’s famous Dracula novel. After wrangling a duo of cash-rich Canadian Dracula-enthusiasts, Eugene alerts them to the local disdain for the infamous fictional character… insisting the pub from which they just departed ‘The Stoker’ is only named so to monetize the fact that Stoker pillaged their town and stole their local legend and reaped the fame and fortune.
The undead are inadvertently invited to join the drinking festivities once again when the boys’ construction crew accidentally disrupts Abhartach’s grave and a monstrous infection starts to spread through town, leaving the locals to face and overnight battle with the ORIGINAL legends.
“Boys From County Hell” is a perfect cocktail of horror and comedy from start to finish. A brief visit to sleepy, small-town Ireland where you’ll immediately want to open a tab and grab a pint with our misguided heroes even if their call to action means fighting vampires. Horror enthusiasts will immediately feel American Werewolf in London’s Slaughtered Lamb vibes from County Hell’s tourist-tailored watering hole but make no mistake, vampires are back and doing something entirely new and bringing a disarming level of gnarly gore out to play. These aren’t vampires that sparkle or seduce — these vamps are nightmare fuel and this film is simply delightful.
A reminder to research the origins of monster legends: lest you find yourself fleeing bloodsuckers armed with dangerous misinformation. “This is important shit to know.”
“Boys From County Hell” will stream exclusively to Shudder on April 22nd in the US and Canada, as well as via the Shudder offering within the AMC+ bundle where available.
As the mark of a full year of shutdowns and quarantines goes sloth-crawling by and we begrudgingly re-examine (for the thousandth time) the trials we’ve survived (however barely) … there’s still a piece of us constantly looking for a beacon of hope. There’s questions to be asked. Will you continue to mask up and socially distance or are you moving to Texas? Will you be getting the vaccine or waiting it out? If you’re a monster kid… you have one more important question: are you going to rent Psycho Goreman or buy the damn thing and watch it on loop until you break your Blu-ray player? Your answer better be BUY because this movie is that good. Except Psycho Goreman ‘PG for short!’ isn’t a blinding beacon of hope… he’s a foul-mouthed alien overlord sent here to destroy the universe and resurrect the creature feature genre.
Canadian Director/Writer Steven Kostanski, who previously delivered the Lovecraftian THE VOID in 2016, clearly has a tremendous affinity for practical effects and eccentric storytelling. Psycho Goreman takes us onto the battlefield in a crazy war of good vs. evil and evil vs. evil — with blood, guts and meme-worthy Gigaxian one liners flying everywhere. Ninety nine minutes that plays like an R-Rated visit with Power Rangers in the most hilarious and bonkers capacity imaginable. Psycho Goreman drop kicked exactly what I needed into my lap when I genuinely COULD NOT handle a single extra day of “2020 Part 2″‘s regularly scheduled SNAFU lineup.
I hereby present to you…my wish list for movies from BEFORE Psycho Goreman came to earth:
[✓] A resurgence of credit-roll theme songs. This was one of the greatest things about the 80s and 90s. Remember when they commissioned artists to write completely asinine lyrics and roll them into absolute BANGERS? It’s musical slapdash that I’m, honestly, 105% here for. Calling it now — this will be the next thing to make a comeback in cinema of a certain brand.
[✓] Millennial 80s/90s nostalgia vibes…with heart. Not something that feels like a filmmaker googled ‘what were the late 80s like?’ and used an immersion blender to make an on screen disaster. I’m honestly so exhaustively far past being done with branded cookie cutter faux 80s-kid content. I want someone and something to bottle the feelings I felt watching shows after school but bigger, grosser and more fucked up… because I’m not six, I’m thirty six. I’ve humbly traded in Pogs and Gushers for IcyHot and Tums and so NOW I want to see body parts flying. I want kids using bad language and monsters who talk dirty. I want to root for a kid who is authentically and effortlessly cooler than I ever was and a monster who is sexier than I’ll ever be able to be.
[✓] Practical effects out the yinyang. I don’t care what the story is… CGI in horror, generally, should be outlawed. Go big. Then bigger. Keep going. Did everything explode all over the place? Turn it up to eleven. More alien guts! Look at these costumes! We’re almost there. Make me look up who did the fx work. “Give ALL these people a raise!” Ahhh. That’s perfect. If this is the only redeeming element then so be it… but if it works in tandem with a story that makes me want to suspend disbelief in every capacity then all the better. I’m in.
[✓] A soundtrack that I need to buy, like, yesterday: I consume a lot of tunes and I appreciate the greatest cinematic needle-drops as much as the next dweeb but good lord, there is something to be said about an original score that lets me live my own personal version of on screen adventures with outrageously, bombastic earworms. I’m there. You wanna release it on vinyl in deluxe packaging? Take my money. I want you to deliver to my ears… big hair, big drums, big synth, big aural explosions and none of this Stranger Things nonsense. I don’t like being manipulated. Bring those things and mean it because I very much am paying attention to the man and the noise behind the curtain.
[✓] Yo, literally just anything to be excited about? I don’t have the mental or emotional bandwidth anymore to recreationally consume anything that requires work. I want something that’s easily digestible and leaves me feeling amazing. I’m just getting back to the point where I’m willing to roll the dice and try to connect with something media-wise but, directly, I’m telling you that I’m looking for lightning in a bottle. So much of what we’re getting now is just more of the same thing we’ve just recently seen: major IP fatigue up in my brain. Show me something new and weird and make him ugly but charming so I can do a hard swipe right. Give me light and snappy. Let me cheer for and also laugh at and with him. Anything that makes me feel bad is getting turned off.
[✓] Make me want a whole line of action figures and a series of school supplies. I need a trapper keeper with gay-friendly alien monsters and a thermos to take soup to work in. Why are things meant for adults never flashy or covered in drippy, neon, monster madness? I’m sad that I’m not represented.
[✓] Give me a monster-kid I identify with and hey… it’s 2021 so it better be a girl and no one better be sexualizing her. We’re done being here for that purpose. I want a little girl on screen who I believe, with every fiber of my being, could save or destroy the universe with her death-glare and smart mouth alone. Not a single super power required.
[✓] Make me LOVE this movie. I want to authentically insist that the people I care about see this movie so they’ll be able to have the same magical feelings I did. I’ve spent much of my adult film-watching experience itching for just one more opportunity to dip my toes into the syrupy pool of Spielbergian kid-adventure but that’s not really where I’m at anymore. You never TRULY outgrow the things you loved in your formative years but now, as a parent, I think I’ve dropped the desire for a newly packaged version of that. I want to see what someone like MY kid would do with an E.T. like experience. My daughter isn’t the Elliot type and, if we’re being honest, I never was either. Maybe if an alien comes to earth, I don’t want it to be a sob fest. Maybe I want it to be a party. Maybe I want to see aliens play rock music? Quick…add that to the list. [✓]
There’s a fine line when you expect originality. There’s formulas that flourish because they’re dependable. The Hero Cycle’s Call to Action will forever exist because deep down most of us want to be emotionally guided to a promised feel-good moment. We want to feel like our however-fleeting emotional investment to characters and their story has contributed to our own personal journey… and temporarily that’s totally fine.
For those of you who find your viewing habits to be influenced by the current social atmosphere, there’s absolutely something to be said about returning to things-familiar. Sharing a moment, or ninety, with characters who are in the time of their lives before developing a sense of reflexivity is really comforting. Envy inducing. I think we’ve all had many moments during this past year where we wish we were in our childhood and entirely unconcerned with adult stressors or problems. Re-examining things we loved as children seemed right and safe because we knew what to expect. However as movie fans we have to encourage the continuation of new storytelling. Steven Kostanski had the opportunity to go big and went huge. I think someone must’ve told him to go nuts and he really went for it. In a time when so many things within the genre lean hard into serious, dark and emotionally exhaustive arthouse-horror… this was a bold move that at this moment in time I’m incredibly grateful for. He made something new and he made it really damn fun. Fun: Little word. Means everything in this moment.
The world is seriously scary enough right now but that doesn’t mean we can’t still like horror. I’m happy someone lightened things up by making it weird, gross and thrilling. Go watch Psycho Goreman and keep an eye on Steven Kostanski. And Steven, (if you see this) can we make sure this toy line happens? We’re all here for tiny, plastic hunky boys!
PSYCHO GOREMAN, available on DVD and Blu-ray starting March 16.
NOTE: Hello readers – Mike Smith here. My apologies for the late posting of this review. It should have been posted over a week ago and I completely skipped over it.
TREMORS: SHRIEKER ISLAND
Starring: Michael Gross, Jon Heder
Directed by: Don Michael Paul
Running time: 1hr 43 mins
Universal 1440 Entertainment
No one could’ve predicted in 1990 that TREMORS, a box office flop that was essentially a rip-off of JAWS about sandworms would still be birthing sequels thirty years later. Yet, here we are in 2020 with the seventh installment in the franchise and a cult following that mostly doesn’t find the need to pass judgment no matter how bad the CGI gets nor how crazy the plotlines get. That fact will remain true beyond the release of Tremors: Shrieker Island. You either celebrate Burt Gummer or you’ll never voluntarily watch this film.
In this latest adventure with underground monsters, a billionaire hunter (Richard Brake) has begun shipping Graboids out to a private island for a group of wealthy outdoorsmen, a twisted spin on The Most Dangerous Game. When things inevitably go wrong, Burt Gummer (Michael Gross) is once again called in to save the day.
If you were a fan of the original Tremors and have been put off by the direct to video vibes the franchise have given, I may suggest now is the time to return for maximum time investment payoff. Although missing still are the charming practical effects of earlier installments, Shrieker Island is a hard divergence from the lighter atmosphere of Burt’s more recent battles with these monsters.
Frequently referential of Jurassic Park and Predator and, I can’t believe I’m writing this, Jaws: The Revenge… Shrieker Island borrows the dark bits and pieces of a lot of familiars and delivers a solidly entertaining adventure. Yes, you’ll need to suspend disbelief. Yes, this might be senseless cash grab. No, you’re not getting any side character development. Yes, Burt Gummer is still one of the greatest heroes ever and so no, you won’t care about any of the above.
The Tremors universe has gifted us with a bevy of wild creatures beyond the 1990 film’s original Graboid. Here you’ll get the biggest and messiest of them, with more modifications and maybe a score to settle? While his casting announcement initially prompted eye rolls from many, “Napoleon Dynamite” star Jon Heder aides in grooming a surprisingly nice dynamic alongside Michael Gross who is as outrageous as ever and, sometimes, surprisingly emotional.
Tremors: Shrieker Island will be available on Digital, Blu-ray, DVD and On-Demand on October 20th 2020.
Rounding out the initial four films released at part of Amazon’s “Welcome to the Blumhouse” package is twin-brothers Elan and Rajeev Dassani directed “Evil Eye.” Blumhouse once again delivering projects supporting diverse creators with inclusive casts, “Evil Eye” explores a culturally specific thriller that at first glance might seem centered around a practice that a majority of audiences won’t be able to identify with: arranged marriages – but the deeper theme here is one that unfortunately all too many will have experience with… making “Evil Eye” a film that feminists may champion
. Exploring spiritual concepts of reincarnation and karma inject fascinating albeit culturally specific supernatural elements into what’s basically a story of an overprotective mother constantly attempting to virtually connect and intervene in her daughter’s love life in efforts to redirect her perceived fate. Pallavi (Sunita Mani) is a young Indian woman living a modern Americanized lifestyle after her parents return to their home in Delhi, India. Her superstitious and paranoid mother, Usha (Sarita Choudhury) is in frequent contact and constantly in need of status updates on her daughter’s love life. Concerned that if she doesn’t find a husband before thirty her daughter will be alone forever, Usha goes to great lengths and frequent astrological consultations to attempt matchmaking for Pallavi. When Pallavi finally meets a promising young Indian man, Usha’s husband and family feels she should finally be content but we quickly learn that Usha’s past has forecasted the return of evil doing, taken form in Pallavi’s new love interest, Sandeep (Omar Maskati).
Usha’s paranoia is soon understood by audiences: she was the victim of long term emotional and physical domestic abuse. Secretly responsible for bringing her abuser to his death, Usha suggests that he has returned, reincarnated as Sandeep. Observing from across the ocean how he uses his charms, passively controlling and using his resources to convince Pallavi to relocate and quit her job, Usha sees must act quickly to save her daughter when no one believes in her visions.
“Evil Eye” is another installment of “Welcome to the Blumhouse” that’s hard to quantify as horror. While the heart of this film is assuredly one of the greatest horrors for so many people, especially females and parents of females, it is better to go in with appropriate genre expectations for this thriller which has only momentary touches of the supernatural but still succeeds in entertaining as tense and relevant horror-adjacent storytelling.
Starring: stars Sydney Sweeney, Madison Iseman, Jacques Colimon
Directed by: Zu Quirke
Running time: 1hr 30 mins
After tragedy strikes the student body of a prestigious boarding school, a pair of talented twin musicians return home to visit their parents. Whilst entertaining guests you learn that one of their classmates has died by suicide and, via their parents’ snobby friends inquiries, that the twins will be going separate ways the following school year. Shy and inexperienced Juliet (Sydney Sweeney) has to hustle to keep up with her more accomplished sister Vivian (Madison Iseman), whom everything seems to come naturally and more abundantly for — multiple suitors, praise from family and teaching staff and, most importantly, a coveted spot at Juilliard.
When the girls return to school, it is announced that the recently deceased student has opened a highly contested slot at the Senior Concert. Rumors fly that perhaps Juilliard will send scouts and both sisters decide to audition but during her preparation, Juliet finds a notebook left behind by their former classmate, billowing with dark scrawlings and chilling sketches.
After taking ownership of the notebook, a series of highly uncharacteristic social misadventures reveals that Juliet has seemingly made somewhat of a Faustian deal to propel her musical career towards stardom.
With a backdrop of unlikable adult figures insisting on managing expectations, railing against the social media narratives of achievable stardom for all, Juliet retorts that she doesn’t even have social media and should be removed from being lumped in with her generation’s sense of entitlement. But will she be able to resist the temptation as the world starts coming to her oh-so-much more freely?Sydney Sweeney shines here, giving a truly emotional performance.
Despite the supernatural elements at play, there is still very much a reminder of the pain and traumas that so many young girls have to survive while navigating the social hierarchy of high school. Even amongst a very specialized niche population, that “Mean Girls” chapter plays a hard hand between these sisters. I very much enjoyed Nocturne and won’t do it the disservice of suggesting anyone seriously compare it Argento’s “Suspiria” or Luca Guadagnino’s reimagining of it but horror fans would be hard pressed to not notice some at least basic themes pulled from there and I can easily offer it up as a modern companion to the 70s giallo classic.
Giving a solid swing into the horror universe as part of the first installment of WELCOME TO THE BLUMHOUSE films streaming on Amazon Prime is Director Emmanuel Osei-Kuffour’s “Black Box.”
When you meet Nolan (Mamoudou Athie) you immediately feel his struggle. He’s a young, widowed father who has lost not only his wife but a majority of crucial memories sustained from the car accident that killed her. It has also seemingly took his “eye” from his successful photography career… which has added just one more stressor to the pile of problems he’s facing in his new life. He routinely forgets to pick up his daughter, Ava (Amanda Christine), from school, traditions they have together and simply struggles to safely and efficiently navigate their daily schedule.
Becoming emotionally exhausted and worried about the effect it’s having on Ava, Nolan is looking for help to fill in the missing pieces. When Ava’s school threatens to call Protective Services after he forgets to pick her up for a third time, Nolan’s search becomes, simply, an act of desperation.
Reluctantly volunteering to participate in an experimental treatment, Nolan comes to know Dr. Lillian Brooks (Phylicia Rashad). The experiment uses a device they call the Black Box which allows the patient to recapture lost memories by submersing themselves in their own memories of adjacent experiences, hoping they will allow the missing pieces to fill themselves in. The visual process in which you arrive to these adjacent memories will not be unfamiliar to horror fans. Very briefly pulling atmospheric vibes a la Get Out’s The Sunken Place, but to be clear… the similarities end there. Not surprisingly, Nolan’s procedure isn’t without negative side effects and conceptually, I think most adult viewers will have an understood fear of the notion of memory loss, the mechanics involved in medical science should doctors ever want to play around in your brain for who knows what selfish reasons and most of all, imagining the desperation required to make a choice to participate in the above willingly.
Simply put, Black Box feels like a high concept story that might have best been left as an episode of Black Mirror. Or maybe it would’ve faired better expanded into an anthology; Nolan’s story alone doesn’t feel like it properly fills out 100 minutes and simultaneously feels like maybe there’s more behind the lab that viewers would be interested in seeing. Still, the acting is solid, especially from Osei-Kuffour. Atmospherically, this will tick off several boxes if you’re looking for new October horror stories — most notably some amazing physical acting from contortionist Troy James. Remember that with theaters closed, it’s our responsibility as viewers to set the scene and let these films do their job. Phones put away, lights off. Let the quiet and darkness replicate the scares that a movie theater can enhance… for now, at home.
Starring: Joey King, Mireille Enos, Peter Sarsgaard
Directed by: Veena Sud
Running time: 1 hr 37 mins
Amazon’s new series WELCOME TO THE BLUMHOUSE is dropping a series of genre films starting this week. Amongst them is the Parental Horror “The Lie” directed by Veena Sud.
Carefully straddling the lines between horror/thriller and Lifetime drama, “The Lie” explores the limits that two parents push in order to protect their only child after she confesses to a horrible crime.
Recently divorced Rebecca (Mireille Enos) and Jay (Peter Sarsgaard) are trying to find peace and balance in their new separate lives co-parenting fifteen year old, Kayla (Joey King). When Rebecca insists that defiant Kayla attend a weekend ballet retreat, Jay agrees to make the trek through the icy, frigid terrain to get her there. En route, in the middle of nowhere, they find Kayla’s friend Brittany waiting at a bus stop who reveals she’s also headed to the retreat although her dad refused to drive her and has left her to wait for a ride in the harsh winter air.
Brittany asks Jay to drive her but almost immediately begins inappropriately flirting with him, causing the girls to reveal their true “frenemy” relationship. Brittany also immediately demands Jay pull over, still very much in the middle of nowhere, so she can pee in the woods. Kayla accompanies her and when they don’t return, Jay starts to become concerned and then hears a scream.
After finding Kayla sitting alone on the railing of a rapid-covering bridge, she reveals in a panic that the two had fought and she pushed Brittany over the ledge in a fit of rage. Jay searches the area with no success other than finding her phone and coaches Kayla through the beginning of series of lies that spiral quickly way out of their control.When they return to Rebecca’s she initially resists in corroborating their story but is roped in anyway when Brittany’s father comes over looking for her.
The hours and days that follow are impossible to look away from. Kayla’s icy, sociopathic behavior is unnerving and infuriating, Jay and Rebecca’s frenzy of lies becomes the proverbial car wreck that you guiltily cannot take your eyes from. This familial trio guides you through the unbearable questions that no parent ever wants to have to ask themselves.
“The Lie” offers no jump scares, gore or autumnal markings but the terror is very much present. This was a highly worthwhile welcoming to The Blumhouse that will resonate with the over thirty crowd, perhaps enough to question whether the present climate will allow you to handle the anxiety that it delivers.
Starring: José Julián, Jeanette Samano and Danny Trejo
Directed by: Luis Iga Garza
Running time: 1 hr 30 minutes
This is an equation we’re all familiar with. Woodsy atmosphere plus amply endowed and oversexed girls plus alcohol, minus clothing divided by a grim anniversary equals amateur orgy meets bloodbath.
“Murder in the Woods,” from writer/director Luis Iga Garza, pulls a lot of familiar notes together with a Latina influence to deliver a safe but enjoyably brisk slash-y adventure. The film features a cast full of Latino actors intended for mainstream English speaking audiences. The absence of cultural stereotypes is refreshing and, frankly, demanded in 2020. It’s interesting to see how this story pulls cues from, essentially, an entire decade of slasher tropes whilst turning that genre on it’s head.
Pressing forward as audiences increasingly support (and insist on) elevating voices of creators of color it can be assumed that this will become more the norm. That said, I can only help that titles like this will prove to be a gateway for more original storytelling to highlight spooky delights from new ancestral wells. It’s imperative that if this route is important to you that you demand it with your support of projects like this. It may very well be the first American slasher featuring exclusively actors of color and that is very much an achievement of note.
That being said, “Murder in the Woods” is rather aggressively force feeding a large helping of nostalgic nods so your enjoyment of this film is going to be largely dependent on if throwbacks are still your jam or not. Although refreshingly diverse, this circle of youths is here to remind us that, no matter their skin color, entitled suburbanites can only behave so progressively.
The trusted roles of smart virgin, loose popular girl and frat-bros are still going strong here. Spooky local sheriff? They made sure Danny Trejo was strong-armed in for that quota too. So again, if the punishment of badly behaved teens via plentiful gore is still in your wheelhouse then this one is a go for you – and face it, sometimes that’s the comfort food that all horror fans crave. After a stint at drive-ins last month, MURDER is coming to VOD on September 18th and I think this might be a perfect title to recreate the drive-in atmosphere in your backyard via projector if that’s plausible. Some popcorn and an outdoor ambiance with flashlights and friends might be all you need to let this one headline a solid night of jump scares and fun.
“In the City of a Million Dreams….Nightmares Come Knocking At Your Door.”
Fans of the horror anthology subgenre have had plenty to feast on these past few years. A resurgence of the format has seen success in Netflix’s Black Mirror, Hulu’s Into The Dark and, most recently, horror-specific streaming service Shudder’s Creepshow. The short run-time format allows for creative risk taking in stories that might be a gamble as a full length feature and, often, the result is evidence of a focused passion for storytelling and intention with little to no room for any unnecessary fluff.
Soul City, a new anthology series from the streaming service Topic, delivers its first season of three psychological horror mini-sodes from creators and directors Coodie and Chike. The season specific landscape set to explore multicultural, urban populations: this inaugural season set in New Orleans. Each of the three episodes are a tight fifteen minutes, each succinctly exploring the New Orleans vibe in different ways. An easy time investment to soak in the ambiance of perusing the city and all its gritty corners, haunts within odd street shops, southern religious fanaticism and dark magic. While there is certainly room for Coodie and Chike to grow as directors within the genre, they’re most definitely a welcome addition to the scene where persons of color still remain a minority despite the demand for representation of the genre’s viewership demographics. Soul City is thrilling for providing a platform to showcase New Orleans on screen as a locale that’s perfect for genre lovers to further examine its lush, spooky history. Coodie and Chike’s previous history within the music video sector brings a definitive confidence in visual storytelling that shines in the series especially in its second episode.
The potential for a revolving city-specific format is intriguing and exciting. Think American Horror Story but regionally based. With New York and Los Angeles so outrageously over-represented on film it’s encouraging to see the possibilities for overlooked cities, domestic and abroad, to be dissected and celebrated for their own unique regional terrors.
SOUL CITY will be premiering on April 30, 2020 exclusively on Topic, the streaming service from First Look Media.
COLOR OUT OF SPACE Starring: Nicolas Cage, Madeleine Arthur Directed by: Richard Stanley Rated: Unrated Running Time: 1 hr 51 mins RJLE Films
Ladies and gentlemen, if you’re going to plunge into a pool of psychedelically deranged lunacy you might as well jump in feet first. Richard Stanley has arrived with a holiday gift that’s a little late but greatly appreciated and it’s gift wrapped in Alpaca fur. Its contents is the offspring of the trifecta of mania that no one imagined they’d ever see but secretly wished for: Cult-favorite director, Richard Stanley adapting a nearly century old tale of cosmically horrifying oddity by H.P. Lovecraft, top-lined by Nicolas Cage, who is maybe strictly here to ooze an excess of eccentricity (which is okay because it’s working!)
“Color Out of Space” opens with an excerpt of Lovecraft’s story, guiding us through a tour of rolling vegetative forestry, swollen from mist and fog. Combined with the onset of composer Colin Stetson’s majestic score (a follow up to his unforgettable work on Ari Aster’s “Hereditary”), it is clear that if nothing else the audience should buckle in for a highly satisfying visual and aural experience.
The Gardner family has moved into an inherited remote farmhouse to recollect and cope with matriarch Theresa’s (Joely Richardson) cancer diagnosis. Her husband, Nathan, (Nicolas Cage) has been dealing with his newfound domestic isolation by raising alpacas. Their three children are settling in individually via decidedly caricatured teenage ways – son Benny (Brendan Meyer) has started smoking pot with a local squatter-weirdo named Ezra (Tommy Chong, naturally) while their daughter Lavinia (Madeleine Arthur) has taken to theatrically carrying around a copy of Lovecraft’s omnipresent Necronomicon and practicing spells whilst cloaked on a white horse. Lavinia’s meeting of a local hydrologist turns the faucet on for a slow drip of Easter eggs that will please Lovecraftian fans everywhere, placing this story specifically just outside fictional Arkham, MA with references to H.P.’s Miskatonic University and other locations peppered in.
The Gardner family is barely settled in when a luminous meteorite crashes in front of their house. Curiosity not to be ignored, the family investigate and while the children complain of high-pitched sounds, Nathan continuously and independently notes it is emanating a horrific unidentifiable odor… right before remembering he has to tend to the alpacas.
Things progress quickly from here. The hydrologist advises the Gardners that he suspects the area’s water table may be unsuitable to consume, the meteorite deteriorates and disappears into the Earth, their farm is suddenly billowing with exotic, colorful and alien plant and animal life. So, yes, now there’s exotic animal life AND alpacas. We learn that whatever the meteorite was… it’s in the water, it’s in the soil and it’s universe altering. It’s part of the farm and now it’s become a part of the Gardners and if you’re here for the Nicolas Cage variety hour, now is the time to prepare for some full-force scenery chewing.
The family’s afflictions are all uniquely fashioned. Their youngest child is hearing voices coming from the family’s well, Nathan and Theresa become aggressively manic with their children and Lavinia can’t stop puking meteorite juice. Things are about to get a little… well, psychedelic.
There’s no time for a why, how or what else after because this movie is ultimately singularly about the destruction of this one family and their space. Color Out of Space’s third act brings a full artillery of body horror, gore and disgusting imagery that’s stitched together with brain-melting and fur-sliming sequences of fantastical imagery and effects. Did I mention the alpacas?! Nathan tells his family they’re the animal of the future and they are most certainly the apex of this glorious fever dream. At this juncture some viewers may feel that narrative has fallen casualty to special effect work, a sacrifice I’m happily willing to make if I must for a film like this, but ultimately the unknown is very much your co-pilot here.
There needs to be more Richard Stanley in Hollywood and certainly more Lovecraft. Arguably there’s probably JUST enough Nic Cage but when he hits, it’s a home run of wild eyed lunacy that’s always welcome in my universe.
The brilliance of Lovecraft’s story is that it’s terror is limited only by the confines of one’s imagination. Put to screen it will immediately never satisfy all fans and therefore this film is probably best utilized as an experience of your senses. This is a film to see in a theater if it all possible given its limited release. “Color Out of Space” will check all the boxes if you’re looking for satisfying cosmic horror, a colorful Lovecraftian journey or if you’re just scratching an itch for wanting to watch Cage’s mind unravel for awhile and it will do and or all of these things with the dial turned to eleven.
Starring: Simone Policano, Jeff Ayars, Drew Beckas Directed by: Omri Dorani Rated: Not Rated Running time: 1 hr 13 mins Uncork’d Entertainment
We meet Reina (Simone Policano) and Cory (Jeff Ayars) in what could be one of the most memorable moments of their relationship. Reina eagerly fidgets while trying to share the news that she’s pregnant. The next scene is something most parents will find touching and familiar… our couple, intertwined, in a playful and intimate baby-naming brainstorming session. Things are going well and we’re optimistic for these people who seem like a nice team. The next scene shares a fleeting and incredibly terrifying and intimate moment where you begin to watch the process of mourning that child. This moment alone will decide what how the rest of this film is received depending on the audience’s personal experience.
Reina and Cory head upstate to her family vacation home, secluded in the woods. A relaxing few days, of which we can only assume is intended to serve as a last-ditch effort relationship repair. Scene after scene they become more unbearable to observe together and then an unexpected third party joins them, a child who has seemingly emerged from the woods claiming to be their son. Drew Beckas, who portrays Zeke, brings a remarkable set of eccentricities to his new family unit. His arrival, received by his “parents” in violently varying ways, is agonizing to watch. His age, mannerisms, vocal cadence or the toddler-like prance that doesn’t match his adolescent body all make the second half of the film unsettling and strangely efficient.
After their initial agreement to call the authorities about his arrival, Zeke separates the couple for one on one time, finding Reina submitting to her maternal instincts (and grief) and Cory growing increasingly more agitated and threatened. Both drawn into different corners of madness, the story commits to serving as a psychological thriller when layers of their relationship are peeled back and you start to question how much of what you’re viewing is actually happening, where it’s happening and why?
“This is Our Home” is the equivalent to being a guest at a highly dysfunctional family dinner. You go home, glad you’re not related to these people but with a great story to discuss with others. It’s 73 minute run time falls just short of feeling complete. An early sequence involving the couple’s interaction with some backwoods-y motorists feels wedged in to an otherwise claustrophobic story. There’s additionally several unnecessary lingering shots that unnecessarily pad the film’s short runtime for style’s sake. Director Omri Dorani still makes a very worthwhile attempt at constructing a very horrific study of the demolition of a relationship. His storytelling commits to trusting his audience to piece together their own interpretation warranted a few days digestion and earned a second viewing dissection where it proved even more effective.
ANIMAL AMONG US Starring: Larisa Oleynik, Erin Daniels and Heather Tom Directed by: John Woodruff Not Rated Running time: 1 hr 30 mins Uncork’d Entertainment
“This is a movie about a monster.” Author Roland Baumgarner’s (Christian Oliver) first and only successful writing venture found him fame by exploiting the mysterious deaths of two young girls at the family owned Camp Merrymaker. His novel helped to simultaneously draw curious and fanatical Sasquatch hunters to the area and cause the camp to shut down. Years later, Roland is living his own personal blasé-suburban nightmare and, without a sophomore success to his name, has resigned himself to teaching creative writing to a group of uninspired young writers.
When Roland receives a strange fan letter in the mail – inviting him to return to Camp Merrymaker for it’s grand reopening – he jumps at the opportunity to use the event to get his creative juices flowing. However, upon his arrival, he quickly realizes the proprietors of the camp, sisters Anita and Poppy (Larisa Oleynik and Christine Donlon), shouldn’t rush to open their gates to guests just yet. As hidden agendas and bloodied Sasquatch investigators emerge from the depths of the woods, Roland finds himself spiraling into the kind of real life terror that, incidentally, would make for a great book.
Director John Woodruff is a lifelong genre fan and has crafted his first feature film with his bleeding monster kid heart on his sleeve. It’s filled with loving nods to a variety of classic horror films with all the key players of a traditional summer camp slasher present: the foreboding, woodsy atmosphere, creative special effects, the short shorts, the badly behaved counselors and the looming ever-present threat of death but “Animal Among Us” finds its own unique and emotionally honest voice by weaving in themes of obsession and revenge. It’s never exploitative or gratuitous, explores marital relationships with refreshing albeit uncomfortable honesty and stands out by utilizing every minute of its ninety minute run time to expand a creature feature into a multi-layer monster movie that will really keep you guessing who you’re rooting for.