Thursday, December 8, 2016
After deciding to ditch their after prom party, six high school friends find themselves prey to a sadistic killer when they have their own party at a secluded lake house in the woods.
Party Night doesn't set out to reinvent the slasher film or break new ground in a sub genre that has played by the rules it created for itself over 35 years ago. It instead is a loving tribute to all those teenage kill fests with a homicidal maniac on the loose that featured eye catching VHS art that we all couldn't stop glancing at during those trips to the video store as kids (or adults) back in the day. Writer and director Troy Escamilla demonstrates in Party Night that he is clearly well acquainted with these films.
First and foremost I have to give major recognition to the cast. All 6 of the high school friends have that all American boys and girls feel participating in an all American tradition: the high school prom. I loved watching this group onscreen, the chemistry between them was spot on and they all demonstrated impressive acting ability. Laurel Toupal as Amy and Drew Shotwell as Nelson are stand outs and have a real natural ability. But the real star is Laurel Toupal. Her performance is a remarkable mix of Jamie Lee Curtis and Amy Steel. She's simply incredible in this and is an absolute star in the making. Keep an eye on her.
There's a scene early on that shows the 3 girls walking down the street after school and it has a fantastic Halloween vibe to it. This scene is an example of how the rest of the film plays out as the group of 6 doomed high schoolers head to the lake house after prom. It's an entertaining and fun time that successfully captures the feel of those old “cheesy” slasher flicks, as one of the characters playfully refers to them.
There's lots of spilled blood and wonderfully done makeup effects by Heather Benson. Her effects and talent are on full display in Party Night and she does a fantastic job as all the kills look high quality and impressive. The picture looks timeless and slightly soft and faded to resemble the heyday of the slasher genre and the music is a wonderful fit for the youthful energy and carnage that mixes onscreen.
The one disappointment I had with the film was the look of the killer. I found the light jacket he wore to be a bit anticlimactic. The white and blue two tone of it seemed to be an odd choice and didn't quite mesh well with his actions. Perhaps it's a picky observation, but it's one that distracted me enough to mention it.
Kudos to first time writer and director Troy Escamilla for crafting a fun and bloody homage to the slasher flicks of the 1980's and assembling a great technical cast and group of actors. Party Night is good old fashioned horror fun and introduces fans to a number of new potential stars and filmmaker. Grab some beers at midnight and check out Party Night, it's a good time and a lot of fun. Just like those old cheesy VHS slasher flicks from the 80's.
The Monster tells the story about a mother and her young daughter who must confront a terrifying monster when they break down on a deserted road.
That's the basic set up for The Monster and it's incredible what an impactful and layered story comes out of that simple premise. The Monster is scary on multiple levels both human and unexplainable in nature. The story hinges on fear of things unknown and known and combines life and death in an emotionally startling way that puts the human condition front and center. All of this with a monster on the lose on a dark and stormy night.
The two lead actresses, Zoe Kazan and Ella Ballentine, are nothing short of phenomenal. The relationship between the two is critical to the overall impact of the film and I was blown away by the talent that these two actresses displayed. The result is touching and powerful and the performance of Ella Ballentine as the daughter is a small miracle that deserves recognition. Her performance is as eye opening and star making as Danielle Harris in Halloween 4. Zoe Kazan turns in an absolutely heartbreaking character who both angers us and earns our sympathy as the desperate mother battling alcoholism. The horror genre consistently provides women with strong roles and opportunities to show their skills and it's time the Academy and other award entities pay attention.
In addition to the top notch acting, The Monster offers a wonderful script and solid direction to present it with. Woven into the scenes of their struggle to survive the monster are flashbacks showing the troubled relationship between the mother and daughter. Most of the scenes are troubling, some are touching, and all demonstrate the fractured love between the two. You can see that the mother deeply loves her daughter and the daughter is desperate to feel that love from her mother.
The alcoholism of the mother is the other monster in this film and it's just as deadly as the beast that is hunting them on that dark and desolate road. The film tells us that monsters are real and they come in many different forms; some come after you in the woods or the dark and others reside within us all and it's up to us to fight them and protect the ones we love. This is beautifully shown as the instinct to fight for survival may be the first time in the mother's life where she cherishes being alive and this realization is passed on to her daughter and there is hope that she can fulfill her own potential in life as well as her mother's lost promise. It really is a beautiful horror story.
The Monster is a smart, layered, and emotionally engaging story that should be seen by not only horror fans but fans of film in general. The film has just as much heart as it does scares and contains two of the best performances I've seen all year. The Monster is of those films that proves the horror genre should be taken seriously and deserves more recognition for what it can accomplish.
House of Purgatory is from first time writer/director Tyler Christensen and revolves around four teenagers who go looking for a fabled haunted house on Halloween night. Once found, they slowly realize that the house knows each of their deepest secrets. One-by-one the house uses these secrets against the terrified teens that find themselves in a battle to save not only their lives, but also their very souls.
House of Purgatory is another fun and very entertaining film to add to your Halloween season rotation. It has a distinct and spot on 1990's feel as rock/pop music plays over early scenes of high school football games and hallway interactions between the characters. It's a movie that sets up the cocky/know it all yet oblivious and care-free existence of life in high school. This first act of setting up the characters this way makes the events to come that much more effective. Because House of Purgatory is set up like a cruel Halloween trick: bite into the sweetness of this apple and you're going to hit a razor blade.
Once the four teens leave a Halloween party to track down this haunted house with urban legend status, the tone of the film shifts gears into a masterful blend of 1950's haunted house spookfests fused with an 80's vibe and 90's look. It's frightful fun as they discover the haunted attraction and begin to walk through it.
But Halloween fun turns into a living nightmare as deep secrets of the characters work their way into the displays they encounter and it's clear that this is not a regular haunted house. Some scenes become blurred and washed out, confusing reality with nightmares to the point where the two realms become indecipherable. House of Purgatory becomes a scary story beyond simple ghosts and goblins as the story line progresses.
It was refreshing that the characters felt normal and act normal. Anne Leighton as Melanie should be a star, she's wonderful on screen and she was nominated for Best Actress in a feature at the Fear Fete Horror Film Festival for good reason. Aaron Galvin as Nate also puts in a solid performance. The strong acting all around really benefited the film as the characters became more and more distraught and scared as scenarios became more hellish.
Fears, guilt, and secrets terrorize the characters as a really smart script connects scenarios from each character in intelligent ways. It's a psychological thriller, a drama, and a horror story all in one. House of Purgatory makes two things clear: haunted attraction films are the new haunted house movies and people are their own haunted houses filled with ghosts they've created.
Check out House of Purgatory if you're looking for a new Halloween movie to watch, it's tailor made for this time of year and it hits the nail on the head. With solid acting, good looking Halloween set pieces, and a clever script that seamlessly shifts in tone from fun to scary, the film is a great midnight watch in the dark. And if you have surround sound all the better, it'll sound great!
Tuesday, November 15, 2016
The Id tells the story of Meredith (Amanda Wyss), a lonely woman caring for her domineering father (Patrick Peduto) who is pushed to the brink when a figure from her past re-enters her life.
The Id is an impressive psychological horror drama that is propelled by the performances of Patrick Peduto and Amanda Wyss. The film is a study in the descent of the mind into a repressed madness that can no longer be ignored. The Id is not an easy film to watch. It features many moments that are uncomfortable and explores themes that are difficult to see. A fractured father/daughter relationship with severe verbal abuse and simmering hatred about to come to a boil is shown without holding back, and I give kudos to the filmmakers and the cast for their willingness to be so open with a distressing subject.
Very touching and thoughtful music matches the touching and thoughtful performance from Amanda Wyss. She radiates pure and constrained emotion in this film that doesn't just let the viewer know of her pain but let's them feel it as well. This film belongs to Wyss, and the journey of her character Meredith becomes the journey of the viewer along with her, even as she begins to crumble to the situation and lose touch with reality. Her performance combined with the observant and lingering direction of Thommy Hutson made The Id and engrossing and powerful film.
Meredith is set apart almost immediately when a delivery girl named Tricia (Jamye Grant) comes to the door in the beginning of the movie and the stark contrast is immediately apparent. Tricia is very animated and happy, has her hair done with make up on and stylish clothes with accessories while Meredith is standing still in the doorway simply dressed and isn't allowed to wear makeup in the house. Another scene shows Meredith watching her favorite show on TV and we see how desperate she is to avoid her life while the show is on. Her hyperbolic response to the sitcom makes it clear this show is one of the few things she has to look forward to.
The only flaw the film has is the script runs a bit thin in parts towards the last third of it's run time as there is a change in Meredith that causes events to escalate. After the appearance of an old high school love, I felt the actions the character takes weren't completely earned and seemed rushed in execution and didn't quite convey the tension that I was expecting to feel. There is certainly a steady growth of madness taking place, but to get from Meredith in the beginning to Meredith at the end, I felt a noticeable disconnect of that journey somewhere in the middle. The saving grace is Wyss' performance and the unpredictability of Meredith and watching to see just how far her mind has slipped as she becomes more and more detached and semi hallucinatory.
The Id goes for broke in showing abuse, repression, regrets, and madness up close and for the most part the film succeeds. It's a difficult and bleak yet fascinating watch with strong performances from the entire cast. The film reminded me of Sun Choke starring Barbara Crampton that came out earlier this year, the two are similar in tone. If there was any justice in the world of movies, Amanda Wyss would be in discussion for an Academy Award for this. And that is reality.
Wednesday, October 19, 2016
Patient Seven is a rather clever anthology film that focuses on Dr. Marcus (Michael Ironside), a renowned psychiatrist who is researching mentally ill and dangerous patients in a mental hospital. Throughout the interviews, the 6 patients begin to tell of the horrors they committed as Dr, Marcus learns there is one patient who ties them all together.The set up of the film is ripe for the picking as far as horror anthologies go. We get 6 different stories from severely mentally disturbed patients being told to a doctor who just may be as crazy as they are. That's why Michael Ironside was a great choice to play Dr. Marcus, the guy just looks crazier than any of the patients he interviews and he plays the role perfectly.
The mental hospital has a sterile and dirty look at the same time. This is conveyed by the bluish florescent lighting that drapes over every scene giving the film an untouched yet grimy appearance. It's a fitting tone given the purpose and intent of hospitals as it also hints at the unconventional and dangerous methods used by Dr. Marcus. It's an uncomfortable and cold look that keeps the viewer at a distance and in a state of distrust toward anything that is happening on screen. It creates the perfect language for the film as events begin to unfold and the story plays out.
The stories being told here are creative and unpredictable. The best part is all of the patient's stories are all so different from each other. Some are funny, some are scary, some have action, and all are entertaining and populated with strong performances and great makeup an effects. Grace Van Dien plays Patient 5 and although she doesn't have a lot of screen time she really stood out to me. Her eyes and facial expressions were haunting and sharp and I'm curious to see what she can do in a larger role. Corpses, ghosts, zombies, demons and Vampires fill this surprisingly even anthology film that is all killer and no filler. Another surprising aspect of Patient Seven is how well the film gels together. Each segment is helmed by a different director but the movie never feels out of sync with itself and maintains a consistent tone throughout. Some segments being far better than others is often a fault of even the best horror anthologies I've seen; Patient Seven doesn't suffer that fate and for that I give it very high praise.
Horror anthologies like this seem to be getting more and more popular and when they are as enjoyable as Patient Seven it really benefits from the binge watching mentality that has come about the past few years. Movies like this are like watching several Tales From the Crypt or Are You Afraid of the Dark? episodes in a row. If that doesn't sound enjoyable to a horror fan than I don't know what does! Check out Patient Seven for several different and solid horror stories with an overarching connection, it's perfect for Halloween time!
She Kills is a tale of love and revenge in the most grind house way possible! When Sadie and her husband are attacked by a gang on their wedding night that leaves her husband dead, Sadie discovers she possesses a legendary curse known as Fire Crotch, a condition where Satan has laid claim to her vagina. After a failed genitalia exorcism, secret hidden powers are unlocked within her and she uses her lethal femininity as a deadly weapon in her revenge against the gang that killed her husband.
If that story line grabbed your attention then prepare yourself for an outrageously awesome and hilariously brutal time with She Kills! This movie is so over the top and so absurd that it would be easy to write off as just being plain stupid. But if you've seen a few grind house and exploitation films from the 1970's you should have nothing short of a blast watching She Kills. I appreciated the knowledge writer and director Ron Bonk displayed in crafting this comedy based off the style and tropes of the trash style films from the history of cult cinema. She Kills even has the look of those films with a very rich, over saturated, slightly grainy looking picture. It's not so much an homage as it is a spoof, a ridiculously over the top, and laugh out loud funny spoof.
The cast are all up to the comedic challenge and there isn't a weak performance in the ensemble. Jennie Russo is fantastic as the innocent turned revenge driven, Fire Crotch possessing Sadie who looks like a pimp and call girl in one with her big white furry jacket and tall black boots and heart covered eye patch. Trey Harrison as Dirk, the leader of the gang, sports the greatest mustache of all time and Martha Zemsta as Beatrice is wonderfully deadpan and eye catching. The effects are cheap, corny, and purposefully obvious and had me cracking up. The whole film is pure, gory, sex filled, whacky b-movie heaven.
One issue the film suffers from is it sometimes allows certain jokes or gags to play out too long. One scene features a Kung-Fu like fight that gets more silly as it progresses and while it admittedly has funny moments, it goes on for about 4 minutes and could have been cut back. There's a lot of potential for situational humor in a film like this and I can understand the urge to go all out to cover all the bases, but some tighter editing and slightly quicker pacing would have heightened the humor even more. In my opinion, of course.That being said, She Kills is a hilarious time. It relies on the lowest form of entertainment but is full of heart and an unabashed love for exploitation cinema and comedy in general. It's in your face and crosses comedic boundaries to great effect. It's on Amazon Instant Video and available on DVD, check it out and have a good time, I sure as hell did!
Blessed are the Children tells the story of Traci Patterson, who after getting an abortion begins to suspect that something sinister is following her and her friends.
It's a simple set up that never gets any more complicated than that but Blessed are the Children isn't just a simple horror film looking for scares and a body count. I was surprised to find the film is a character driven story centered around the struggles of the main character Traci (Kaley Ball). We get to know Traci over the course of a few days and see she is in a tough spot in her life and feeling a bit lost dealing with the loss of her father and feeling the pain of a recent break up.
As a viewer I really liked Traci and found Kaley Ball and her performance to be just wonderful. She comes across as both mature and naive and unabashedly dorky. And that is a compliment. She's real and she's naturally quirky at times and has a very patient way of delivering her lines.
The likability of Traci and the innocent, anything goes interactions with her friends Erin and Mandy sets up the carnage that soon follows in an interesting and unique way. The first half of Blessed are the Children plays out almost like a romantic comedy with elements of horror mixed in. The overall feeling of the film is a smooth cross between Sex and the City and Black Christmas and this mash up of genres is handled nicely by filmmaker Chris Moore.
When Taci gets an abortion the films tone shifts into full fledged horror mode as she starts to get followed by protesters who were outside of the clinic that she went to for the procedure. The masks the protesters were wearing have a truly unnerving, pouty, man-child look to them as if they were aborted fetuses stuck in infancy never to grow old. It was a thought out and powerful appearance.
The protesters begin to follow and hunt down Traci and her friends, referring to them as “sin enablers” through vicious phone calls with a voice that once again recalls the voice on the phone in Black Christmas. The kills are gruesome, the effects are solid, and the blood flies while a great, 1980's slasher style score plays over the horror. The filmmakers are students of the genre and that's on full display in the execution of Blessed are the Children.
There is one issue I had with the film and to say it outright would be a spoiler so I'll have to remain a bit vague. There's a surprising but very questionable choice made about half way through the film that is unexpected to say the least. This choice actually had me thinking if watching the second half of the movie was even necessary! It's a unique but questionable structural decision that unfortunately hindered the pacing and tension of the last half of the film.
With that said, and although I didn't agree with that particular choice, there's plenty to like about Blessed are the Children and the promise that filmmaker Chris Moore shows in this film. It pays homage without ripping off, boasts solid production value, and is executed with knowledge of the genre. The ending even offers some twists and turns that leaves the viewer guessing and wondering just who are these killers? That definitely makes Blessed are the Children worth checking out!
Wednesday, October 12, 2016
All Through the House is an 80's style slasher film that features the jolliest and merriest killer of them all, Santa Clause! When college student Rachel Kimmel (Ashley Mary Nunes) comes home for Christmas break, she finds her neighborhood being terrorized by a deranged, killing, masked Santa Clause. As the bodies pile up Rachel discovers the menacing secret behind the twisted Santa mask.
I had a good feeling right away with All Through the House as the film opens up swinging in true slasher style with 2 gruesome and "Oh shit!" inducing deaths that don't spare the blood and are not for the squeamish. It's a fantastic and fast paced opening that gets you ready for the carnage that will be unwrapped as the film continues. And I'm happy to say that All Through the House never lets up.
The group of 3 friends led by Ashley Mary Nunes are great fun to watch. They have a good chemistry between them and really do come across as lifelong friends. Danica Riner as Sarah is especially good as the privileged, valley girl/former prom queen type and Natalie Montera as Gia has an endearing girl next door quality and wonderful comedic timing. The trio are all together charming and as a viewer I liked these characters. And Melynda Kiring also gives a great performance as the sweet, older neighbor with a secret.
The tone of the film is a wonderful mix of Christmas cheer and inevitable dread. There seems to be a Santa decoration of some kind in every other scene and old, slow, and almost ghostly sounding at times Christmas music to go with them. There's something inherently creepy about an over saturation of Christmas decorations and All Through the House exploits this expertly. With the barrage of holiday decorations that convey an off kilter and obsessive tone and the old, mangy look and simple yet off-putting mask of the killer Santa Claus, the film rightly makes you uncomfortable in what is supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year.
Gore-hounds and lovers of practical effects will be thoroughly entertained with what All Through the House has to offer. The kills are creative, gruesome and brutal and the effects are top notch and don't hold back. The blood sprays and drips and gurgles while certain body parts hit the floor like discarded fruit cakes. As for the killer himself, think Jason Voorhees in a Santa outfit.
All Through the House really is slasher 101 and covers all the beats that the genre has become known for and that fans expect. Writer and director Todd Nunes draws from slasher history and there is a clear love for classics such as Maniac, Black Christmas, and Halloween. One scene towards the end looks exactly like a famous screen grab from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. This kind of smart and loving homage adds to the fun of All Through the House to make it one hell of a killer slasher flick and extremely entertaining! If you like your slashers dripping red (and your holiday horror as well), then All Through the House is a must watch.
It's Halloween 1989 and Sam and Josh are attempting to have one more memorable Halloween before graduating from high school. On their way to a rock concert, the two and a few friends find an old abandoned barn and accidentally awaken the evil creatures that lay dormant inside. Now they must protect their friends and the local town and defeat an evil curse before it's too late.
Writer and director Justin M. Seaman and the film crew involved did a remarkable job setting the tone and look of The Barn. Not only does the film look like it takes place in 1989 but it looks like it was filmed in 1989. It's apparent from the beginning that The Barn is an all out love letter to Halloween and the filmmakers don't hold back as the movie seems to be taken right out of our memories. From the cheap devil and skeleton face masks with thin strings to fit over your head to the decorative and colorful cardboard cut outs of smiling pumpkins and black cats, The Barn felt like Halloween when I was kid.
The film also makes use of all the Halloween specials associated with the holiday by creating the perfect late autumn atmosphere to fit the season. We are treated to the sound of distant crows and dried leaves crunching underfoot as well as gray skies and cornfields lined with old wooden fences. Like I said, it's a pure love letter to Halloween. To top off the 80's tone The Barn features appearances by Linnea Quigley and Ari Lehman. They both add a nice touch with Quigley playing against her sultry, scream queen persona and Lehman playing right into his loud, rock and roll image. And the music? Perfect!
As the first and second acts play out, The Barn is nothing short of a complete and total blast. To top off the wonderfully nostalgic and brilliantly realized 80's Halloween look, there's a story involving some new legends and folklore associated with Devil's Night as well as some rules that Sam (Mitchell Musolino) made up as a child. This nice mix creates a new and interesting story to be told and Justin M. Seaman does a fantastic job of both setting the story up and setting it into motion.
When the creatures come out to wreak their havoc the fun manages to kick up another notch. The creature designs are just awesome with a great mix of make up, costume design, and a touch of visual effects. They're memorable, they're scary, and I want to see more of them! The practical effects and gore is yet one more thing that will have fans smiling and yelling in their seats. The filmmakers demonstrate a strong and loving knowledge of 80's horror and I was in complete indie horror, Halloween heaven during the first two thirds of The Barn.
The unfortunate part of The Barn is the final act. The last 30 minutes feel just as long as the previous 60 as Sam and Josh figure out how to fight off the evil creatures. One problem is the ways they fight them off aren't creative or fun but rather very straightforward and frankly pretty dull and uninspired. For a character as creative as Sam with all his rules he made up to prevent the occurrence of ancient Halloween legends, I thought perhaps the ways of stopping these evil creatures would be more inventive.
Another issue that plagues the final half hour is the pacing. There were a few times where it felt like the film was ending only to gear up again for more action. I didn't feel as though each scene moved the action forward very effectively. It instead felt very choppy and back and forth trying to get to the end, which did have a nice little moment of revelation and keeps The Barn open for a sequel.With no bad performances and a fantastic first hour full of everything you'd want from a Halloween movie coupled with inventive creatures and great special effects, I'll gladly say The Barn is worth a watch. It's a shame the last half hour has the pacing issues and loses steam as much as it does because instead of being just worth a watch, The Barn could have been a classic.
Tuesday, October 4, 2016
Tales of Poe is another entry in the growing number of anthology films to be released lately and consists of 3 Edgar Allan Poe stories: The Tell Tale Heart, Cask of Amontillado (in the film as The Cask), and Dreams. The stories that make up the film each give a unique and new spin on the classic tales and showcase such horror favorites as Debbie Rochon, Caroline Williams, Amy Steel, and Adrienne King.
I'm not going to pretend to be an Edgar Allan Poe expert, but I am particularly fond of The Tell Tale Heart and I found this opening to the film a masterful portrayal of the classic story. Watching Debbie Rochon not only act out my favorite Poe story but narrate it as well was a complete joy. Her performance once again demonstrates why she is an indie horror icon. It's an effective spin on the classic and when Rochon says the line, "mad men know nothing," it's bone chilling and an incredible moment in the segment.
My own biased familiarity with The Tell Tale Heart left me thinking it was a dangerous choice to open the film with such a strong story; opting to hook the viewer right away instead of saving the more recognizable fare for later and building up to it as the film progressed. That said, the second tale in the film is The Cask and it did not disappoint.
All seems well in The Cask as a wedding celebration is in full swing with seemingly good time being had by all. However, the music and close ups let us know something isn't right and a claustrophobic feeling of paranoia quickly unfolds around the presence of a mysterious dark figure as the party descends into the cellar in search of more wine. Naturally this is where the party takes an extremely entertaining and deathly fun turn for the worse.
Randy Jones gives a fantastic, melodramatic, and exhausting performance in this segment as the doomed newlywed husband. The performance is the stuff of indie horror legend: gloriously and desperately over the top and spot on. This fun performance is capped off with plenty of blood and a wonderfully eerie and smile inducing un-dead corpse that recalls Creepshow and the best episodes of Tales From the Crypt.
The third and final tale starts off very surreal and quickly becomes nightmarish with haunting visuals and terrifying sounds. It's without question the most artistic story of the film with very few speaking parts and a lingering and visual style that fuses Argento, David Lynch, and Terrence Malick. Dreams is a complete visual nightmare and the costume design and art direction in this sequence are stunning.
This segment may lose a few viewers as it requires plenty of patience and a willingness to allow the imagery to sink in and trigger an emotional response and it's a sudden change of tone from the previous two short films. However, it is beautifully done and populated with the likes of Caroline Williams, Amy Steel, and Adrienne King so viewers of the Dream segment are rewarded in more ways than one.
As a whole, Tales of Poe does not shy away from making the viewer uncomfortable. Whether it be the prolonged dragging of a table across the floor, the incessant ringing of bells, or devilish and maniacal laughter, the viewer is kept in a state of unease and is constantly reminded of the dreadful unpredictability of the stories.
With October and the Halloween season upon us, Tales of Poe is a wonderful anthology for horror fans to enjoy and revel in. And after watching this, I'm positive that plenty of people will be pulling Edgar Allan Poe books off their shelves and paying overdue visits to the Master of the Macabre.
Monday, September 12, 2016
The Neon Dead is about an unemployed recent college graduate named Allison (Marie Barker) who discovers that her new home is occupied by a group of undead voodoo zombies. To get rid of the problem Allison calls on two paranormal exterminators, Desmond and Jake, who are eager to take the job. But this particular paranormal case may be more than they bargained for.
The Neon Dead has a rather obvious ode to the days of video stores and a bygone era of the home video explosion and the creative and imaginative horror films that came with it. The films main character, Desmond (Greg Garrison), works in a video store located in a supermarket (remember those days?), the title The Neon Dead is a nod to the 1981 indie horror staple The Evil Dead, and one scene displays a Tales From the Crypt comic. So the film does not try to hide it's influences, it instead wheres them very proudly on its sleeve. This nostalgia in horror, particularly indie horror, seems pretty common these days with varying degrees of success. I'm happy to say that The Neon Dead plays the nostalgia card pretty well and captures the fun and campy feel writer/director Torey Haas was most likely going for.
I'll start by pointing out the strength in the casting. Marie Barker as Allison is severely likeable in this film. She's an independent woman with a professional demeanor (recent college graduate living on her own) who also has a wide eyed child-like innocence about her that captures her character perfectly as a young woman ready to start her career. Greg Garrison also does a great job as the cocky but charming Desmond who has an apparent and immediate attraction to Allison. This attraction pushes Desmond, along with his partner Jake (Dylan Schettina), to get the job done no matter what. The likeable and somewhat clumsy acting of the three leads is endearing and we root for these characters.
The wonderful neon creature design is another thing The Neon Dead has going for it. This isn't Avatar-like technology here folks, but on a reported $17,000 budget the undead look like demented glowing Snapchat filters that look like a twisted masquerade party inside of a dead fun house rave. Just the sight of them is high energy and tons of fun and it's best to watch this in the total dark (duh) so the neon colors will be the most effective.
At the center of the film is a creative little back story that explains how the undead came to be in the house and tells how they are more than just zombies, this is mentioned several times throughout the film: they're zombies but...there's more to it than that! It's a fun little history that plays out like an episode of Tales From the Crypt.
The one aspect of the film that doesn't add anything to it was the music. I wish it had a more loud and energetic feel to it at times, combined with the loud look of the undead it could have enhanced several scenes. Instead the music feels flat at times and even seems to drag down the pacing at certain points.
The film and its characters have a nonchalant feel that is an oblivious and funny portrayal of the wacky and potentially deadly adventure that is playing out on the screen. The attitude throughout The Neon Dead is, “ok, we're going to fight some undead voodoo zombies and save the world today.” It plays off the youthfulness of the characters and combined with fun and campy lines like, “no one turns my friend into a zombie and gets away with it,” The Neon Dead is an all around great time.
The climax of the film has what looks like good old fashion claymation on display in a swirling video game-like world of racing red and green lights that caps off the film nicely and brings full circle the ode to a bygone era of horror that was mentioned earlier. Turn off the lights and grab some popcorn and just have fun watching this one!
And watch through the end credits.
Thursday, September 1, 2016
It's always exciting to see young filmmakers starting out who have the potential to become big names in the horror genre. This is the case with writer/director Tristan Clay and writer/star Destinie Orndoff as the two wrap principle photography on their first feature film Red Eye. The two have the know how and passion to take their production company, Deranged Minds Entertainment, and produce quality films for a long time. With that said I was happy to connect with Tristan and Destinie and discuss their experience on Red Eye as well as their horror inspirations and more.
First, explain what Red Eye is about?
"Red Eye" is a legend Gage use to be told as a kid. When Gage found out there was truth behind the legend he decided to take a group of friends out into the backwoods of Black Creek WV. He used this legend as the basis of his first film project as he is an aspiring filmmaker.
Were there any influences on the filming style for Red Eye? If so, what were they?
Destinie: One of my biggest influences was "The Devils Rejects" because the handheld, in your face, gritty look for the intense scenes was something we utilized in the second act of "Red Eye." "Evil Dead" (2013) was another influence because the lighting of the woods and camera work through the woods was visually stunning.
Tristan: I agree with Destinie on how influential the look of "The Devils Rejects" played a part in our film. I also think "Night of the Living Dead" was one that had some influence on the film with the use of shadows.
Were there any inspired moments on set that allowed for improvisation or the slight changing of a scene, or did you pretty much adhere to the script?
Tristan: We followed the script fairly well but there were a few things that got alternated or cut because various conflicts or reasons. All in the fun of independent filmmaking!
Destinie, as an actress how is it different preparing a character for a feature length film as compared to a short film?
Destinie: With a feature film, you definitely get to spend a great amount of time with your character opposed to a short that is usually done in a day or two.
You had a couple of popular names in the indie horror world on set with Jessica Cameron and Heather Dorff. What was it like working with them and what was the biggest takeaway you had from their experience?
Destinie: They are both very (very) sweet girls and definitely know how to have a good time. It was great working with them as they are very seasoned actresses that have years of experience. I learned a lot about the industry and craft with my time spent with them.
Tristan: Oh boy...where do I even start? These girls are a blessing. It was an absolute honor working with them. They taught me so much in such a short time. We were lucky to have them apart of our first film. And jeash, do they know how to have a good time!?
Was there a specific film or actor or filmmaker for each of you that made you want to make movies?
Destinie: Some directors would be Rob Zombie, Jen & Sylvia Soska, and Wes Craven. I'd say the twins because they started out the way we did with "Dead Hooker in a Trunk" with a budget of nothing then built themselves up. I'd also say Rob Zombie because I fucking love him and I aspire to make films as original and bad ass as his. And Wes Craven because "Nightmare on Elm Street" was the first horror film I saw as a kid and my favorite of all time, he is the reason I am the person I am today.
Tristan: I'm going to copy Des above but I do have to say Rob Zombie has inspired me to make original films that stand out as their own. Another inspiration of mine that I have to give credit to for helping me tremendously in making my first feature and inspiring me on the daily is my dear friend, Jessica Cameron. She is one of the most hard working people with such a beautiful soul and talented mind.
Having completed the filming on your first feature film, what's the most important thing other first time filmmakers should expect?
Destinie: I'd say other first time filmmakers should expect that its not a walk in the park. It takes hard work, dedication, and immense passion to make a feature film. But if you love it enough and never quit, its possible. Go out and kill it.
Tristan: I will definitely say making a film is not easy. We've faced so many challenges but they've only made us stronger and ready for the next one. Don't let that scare you though...because nothing worth it comes easy. Hit record and tell a story!
Tell us where we can find and connect with you guys, Red Eye, and Deranged Minds Entertainment. Also. do you have any other projects in the works or anything else you'd like to share?
Destinie: I have "Party Night" coming out next year and a few other films in the works. As for Tristan and I we are all "Red Eye" until we get it through post-production. Although, we do have another film idea for a future project.
Tristan: Ever since we've wrapped production I've been stuck on the creative train and wanting to begin writing. There is a project I've been offered a position on in LA that I am hoping happens and is green lit. Other than that, my focus is all on our film "Red Eye," getting it edited, and getting it to YOU!
I want to thank Tristan and Destinie for taking the time to talk with me! I encourage readers to check out all the social media sites and connect with Red Eye and friend Tristan and Destinie on Facebook and follow them everywhere else. It'll be fun to watch their careers grow and this way you can say you've been there since the beginning.
Tristan ClayFacebook: Tristan Clay
Facebook: Destinie Orndoff
Deranged Minds Entertainment
Tuesday, August 30, 2016
Hell Town is a fascinating, if flawed, horror/soap opera satire. The plot alone is brilliant: The film centers on three episodes from a fictitious prime time soap opera series called Hell Town. These episodes are the remastered episodes 7, 8,and 9 of season two. Seasons 1 and 3 are said to have been completely destroyed in a studio fire. And to top off the smart presentation of the film, Debbie Rochon plays herself as a host who introduces and concludes each of the 3 episodes.
Debbie Rochon playing host and introducing the film got me thinking how awesome she would be as a legit horror host a la Elvira or the Crypt Keeper. The best part is she is so good that she could just be herself! Just a side thought as well as a credit to the film on a fantastic casting choice.
The filmmakers were smart to break up Hell Town into 3 different episodes in a TV show style complete with opening and closing credits after each installment. The opening credits introducing the cast are very funny and properly lampoon the credits seen in so many soap operas and sitcoms over the years. Each episode is even separated by commercial breaks featuring projects that involve Debbie Rochon! It's indulgent, self aware, and very funny.
Hell Town is a soap opera satire with a horror film story line that makes no excuses for what it is. Every cast member was efficient in their role and, surprisingly, even in ability to portray the satirical tone and the film wasted no time getting to the killings and mystery of the story. With such a fun and glorious start I must admit that I was wondering if this fun energy and fresh feel could be successfully sustained throughout the entire film.
Unfortunately the smart set up of Hell Town couldn't make up for and mask the sluggish pace that seemed to take over as the film progressed. Even with the broken up segments I found the film seemingly start to meander within it's own story line and I was trying to figure out why. My conclusion was that the script and satire are so spot on and accurate that it started to feel like almost a normal world with relatively thin characters. I viewed Hell Town as more of a sarcastic satire than an all out comedy spoof with the humor being pushed to the limits of subtlety at best. I guess I'm saying that the script was almost too good at what it set out to do and the comedy or characters never seemed to break the mold of one note humor that is better suited for a short film or sketch. For me, the comedic elements in Hell Town just didn't have the legs or staying power to sustain it's run time, even at 90 minutes.
There are a lot of great little moments in Hell Town. I loved that the Prom Queen has pictures of herself on her mirror and that one character was changed to a different actress with the “the role of Laura will now be played by” announcement that is so common in the revolving door of actors on soap operas. Despite several moments like this, they couldn't save the overly long feel of the film and the fact that most of the comedy was in the set up and not necessarily apparent throughout. I also was left wanting some more horror from Hell Town as most of the story seems to lean on more dramatic elements.
Although a fine effort with notable moments and a great set up and smart presentation, I was left feeling a bit indifferent. I wouldn't go out of my way to recommend Hell Town, but I also wouldn't put effort into talking anyone out of seeing it either.
Monday, August 15, 2016
If you've ever wondered just how exactly you go about making a film or where to even begin, this interview with Troy Escamilla provides a lot of insight. Troy is the writer, director, and producer of the upcoming slasher film Party Night and the film is his first venture into feature filmmaking. Party Night is about six friends who become prey for a sadistic psychopath when they decide to ditch their high school's after prom party for their own celebration at a secluded house. I was happy to be able to connect with Troy as he took the time to share his experience of making Party Night with us.
Party Night was the first film you wrote and directed. What was the experience like bringing your story and characters to life?
Troy: Thanks so much for the opportunity to discuss Party Night! I honestly did not know what to expect at all when we began shooting Party Night. Believe it or not, it was the first film set that I have ever stepped foot on. Though I have always been a huge fan of film, I just never dabbled in the technical aspect of filmmaking. My passion has always been writing. Those who know me, know that it has always been a goal of mine to produce one of my screenplays. Though I have written four slasher screenplays, Party Night seemed just to be "the one" from the moment I finished it. With its dark and brutal tone, likable characters, and winks at several other slasher films, I knew I wanted to share it with other fans.
The first day on set was surreal, and I honestly do not think it has totally hit me that Party Night has actually been filmed. I have to give such major kudos to our cast. I am still amazed that I was able to assemble such a talented, passionate, and dedicated cast for my first feature. Seriously, the level of talent this cast possesses is mind boggling and to a level very rarely seen in low budget slasher films. They put so much trust in me and my vision, and I'll forever be grateful to them for that.
But back to that first day of true filming; the very first scene we filmed was a tuxedo shop scene with our three young male actors. Though short, it is one of my favorite scenes in the script and hearing the actors give life to the dialogue that I wrote was, to sound corny, magical. And then, the very next day, we did a bedroom scene with the three girls and they were equally brilliant in bringing these characters to life. The performances were extremely important to me because, and this is where the film does stray a little away from the 80's slasher formula, I wanted the audience to really care about these kids. To get to know them. To root for them, so that when what happens to them--and it is very brutal--finally does, it has that much more of an impact.
A few days into filming, the directorship fell into my lap. Along with Renee K. Smith, who co-directed with me, I forged forward with very little knowledge of how to actually direct a film. I just knew the vision I had for the film and how I ultimately wanted certain scenes to play out; I quickly found that I enjoyed having the input to shape the scenes how I saw them in my mind, and it helped drastically that Renee knew and shared my vision for the film. This would be a good point to give a major shout out to our talented Director of Photography, Derek Huey, who can only be described as a true artist. I have to mention as well that some of the best moments on set were the filming of the death scenes. Our special effects make up artist Heather Benson is amazing and also went above and beyond to pitch in other areas when needed. Her effects are gruesomely brilliant--I did not want any cop out off screen deaths, and Heather ensured that we are able to show every death in its bloody glory. It was a blast to see how these effects are put together or pulled off from behind the scenes.
The production of the film would not have gone nearly as smooth without the commitment and dedication of everyone involved. We truly did have a very small crew and cast and everyone eagerly wore multiple hats. We all stayed in the house that we filmed at for the sixteen days of shooting, and while this could have led to conflicts, instead it led to bonding and friendships. We all still chat on a regular basis and are all equally excited to share this film with audiences. I believe we all learned a great deal on set, and I know I am certainly more prepared for next time. In the end, I do not think I could be happier at how the production went and with the footage.
You raised money on Kickstarter to fund Party Night. What is it like running a crowd sourcing campaign and what challenges were there?
Troy: Running a crowdfunding campaign, as I quickly learned, is no easy task. Statistics show the majority of them do not achieve their goal which concerned me greatly before launching the campaign. Moreover, after tons of consideration, I decided to use Kickstarter, which is all or nothing and added to the stress of the whole experience. I did some preparation before launching the campaign, including getting a teaser trailer shot, researching similar campaigns to determine desired perks, and discovering how others promoted their campaign. Once I launched the campaign and the initial "excited for you" pledges wore off, I did get rather panicked. I was sharing the Kickstarter campaign several times a day and messaging and emailing all of my contracts, certainly exhausted them. Still, there were literally stretches of days when no pledges came it.
Halfway through the campaign, I gave the Kickstarter page a face lift. I added a video of myself and another producer, Renee K. Smith, discussing the film and our passion for the genre. I asked our cast to submit introduction videos that could be posted on the page as well. Additionally, I reached out to various blogs, etc.. to see if they'd be interested in interviewing me regarding the film; these actions did ignite interest and pledges increased. The cast and crew were also instrumental in obtaining pledges because they also shared the campaign extensively. Luckily, with two days of the campaign left, we reached out goal. I was ecstatic and vastly relieved and thankful.
I have been asked a few times if I would ever do another crowdfunding campaign. My answer is yes. I'd like to do at least one more so that I can put everything I learned from the Party Night campaign to use. For example, I'd definitely spend a lot more time planning and making contacts well before I launch the campaign. Most of my contacts didn't even know I was launching one until it was live.
But my big lesson, and one that I want to stress to those who are thinking of launching a crowdfunding campaign is this hard truth: your friends and family are not going to be enough for you to reach your goal (unless you have rich friends and/or family members). In order to be successful, you have to reach beyond your personal contacts and get fans of whatever genre or product you are trying to fund to WANT to support it. Though I tried not to take it too personal, many close friends and relatives who I thought would pledge something ended up not doing so. On the other hand, a vast amount of people I had no connection to did, which was an honor because it meant they were taking a chance on my dream.
Lastly, crowdfunding campaigns are very time consuming. I spent hours a day for 45 days doing something related to the campaign. And keep in mind, if your campaign is successful, the work doesn't end; you still have to remain in contact with your supporters and provide them with the perks that they earned for pledging (please follow through with this--if you don't, it makes people who have been burned not want to pledge to any other campaigns!). In the end, I can say the experience was very stressful, but I learned a great deal. I am so, so grateful to everyone who pledged to make Party Night a reality.
Party Night is a throwback to the Slashers of the 80's. What films influenced you most when writing the script and is there a specific movie in particular that made you think you wanted to make movies?
Troy: I grew up on 80's slasher films. Films like Sleepaway Camp, The Burning, Prom Night, Happy Birthday to Me, and Hide and Go Shriek are directly responsible for me being the huge horror fan that I am. Party Night, though, arose from my fondness for the film The Mutilator. There is something about the disturbing tone and atmosphere of that film that I have always found unique. Sure, it may not be the best film in terms of acting and production values, but I still find it to be one of the most effective slasher films to come out of the 80's. And let's not forget the gore; it is replete with gory and what many would consider mean-spirited death scenes. With Party Night, I wanted to create the same foreboding tone and impactful death scenes, but with a tad more character development. I would really call Party Night a cross between The Mutilator and Prom Night.
As far as films that inspired me to write screenplays, and now actually direct, I'd say Halloween, Black Christmas and Psycho are the three genre films I admire most from a filmmaking perspective. This is kind of ironic since each of these films thrives on the "less is more" concept and Party Night is pretty graphic and in your face.
Why do you think the 1980's is such a revisited decade for horror these days and what's the big difference, in your opinion, between the presentation of horror then and the presentation of horror in the films of today?
Troy: Undoubtedly, the 80's are the golden era for slasher films. I feel like what makes many fans long for the era and constantly revisit it is that slasher films released during that time period simply made no apologies for what they were. Fans knew what to expect: a group of young adults in an isolated setting being picked off one by one by a deranged killer. Though I love the film, since the release of Wes Craven's Scream back in 1996, it seems slasher films since then have felt the need to be self-aware, tongue-in-check, and somewhat apologetic for being slasher films. Though there are a few, it is really hard to think of a slasher film in the vein of Sleepaway Camp, Intruder, Slaughter High or The Prowler that has been released in the past few years. Sadly, the few that have been released have been widely ignored or criticized by a new legion of horror fans who may not be all that familiar with the 80's slasher formula.
Certainly I will be the first to admit that the slasher genre suffers from a lack of originality, but the fact is these films still possess a great deal of charm for many people. Honestly, how many different ways can you have a masked killer stalk a group of unsuspecting kids? But because it has been done before does not mean there is no place for true slasher films anymore or that filmmakers who like the genre should feel like they somehow water their film down or give it self-aware comedic undertones. Party Night is a true slasher film. I don't apologize for it. Of course, my hope is that fans will enjoy it and it will bring them a feeling of nostalgia.
You're also the president of the Fright Meter Awards, tell us about that and what the goal of that committee is.
Troy: In addition to being a horror fan, I am also a huge film awards buff. I am an Oscar trivia machine and diligently follow awards season. It has always bothered me massively that the horror genre is virtually ignored by mainstream awards. There have been some truly great performances in horror films—performances that rival, or are often time better than those that won Oscars their perspective years. Several years ago, I started a personal blog called Fright Meter, where I posted reviews of horror films, etc. I decided to combine my love of horror and awards by giving out my personal awards on an annual basis. After getting to know some other horror bloggers, I got the idea to put a committee of horror lovers together to help with the awards. The result is what you see currently; we have a committee of over fifty members involved in various aspects of the industry and are gaining notice and attention within the horror community. The goal is to become the premiere award given to the genre.
What's the plan for Party Night regarding a timeline for finishing post production? Are there any dream festivals you'd like it to play at?
Troy: The goal is to have the film ready to premiere in October. Editing is in the early stages, and we are also working on assembling a suitable and impressive soundtrack and score for the film. As far as festivals go, I definitely need to begin doing research on ones that could potentially screen the film, but I would absolutey love for Party Night to screen at Texas Frightmare Weekend next year! Honestly, I would be excited for any festival that screens Party Night because I just want to share it with fans.
Thank you so much to Troy Escamilla for taking the time to answer our questions in such an honest and detailed manner! We'll follow the progress of Party Night and encourage readers to connect with the film on social media and keep an eye out for this throwback slasher to screen at a festival near you in the future.
Watch the teaser for Party Night here!
Friday, August 12, 2016
Hills and Hollers tells the story of an expecting couple living in the Midwestern Rust Belt who are attacked and stalked in the woods by a group of masked men determined to kill them.
The film opens with several picturesque shots of woodlands in the Fall and presents a nice country setting followed by some humorous conversation between two city folk, fish out of water characters driving on a country road. When the two stop at a gas station in the middle of nowhere and are creeped out by the attendant, one character assures the other that "not everyone is a serial killer." These prove to be famous last words as the two are killed and the story for Hills and Hollers is set up.
It's a bit unfortunate that this fun opening sequence was followed by an introduction to the main characters that is less than compelling and spends a bit too much time showing them playing cards while visiting their mother/mother-in-law. It's a good set up to introduce who these people are, but the problem lies in the lack of interesting dialogue as they spend the time discussing how to play Go Fish. There's humor to be found in the fact that they make it so difficult to explain how to play a simple game, but the presentation is not executed in an impactful way as the scene plays a bit dull and doesn't offer the viewer much to take away from it.
The following scene in the truck after the two characters leave is a better introduction to who these people are as we hear some natural sounding dialogue that fills us in about their life and situation. The two actors have a good chemistry together as the married couple and that helps us sympathize with them when things go wrong.
Things get a bit interesting when one of the killers captures the main character after they stop to visit the grave site of their father/father-in-law. There's a nice dream like montage that brings together things that happened moments before in the truck and shots of the killer sharpening an ax. The montage just seems to go on for a bit too long.
This seems to be a running issue the film suffers from. The camera lingers on trees too long, the dream like montage takes too long, a character explaining a story takes too long, the card game scene takes too long. At 56 minutes the film is short, but it should move faster instead of having it feel as though the already short run time is being inflated.
The simplistic story that was created suits the film well and the filmmakers made good use of the natural environment and by the end it felt like a horror infused game of hide and seek as the characters try to escape the killers and are chased through the woods. Hills and Hollers is a real throwback to those killer on the loose slashers from the 1980s and hillbillies in the country films of the 70's. The killers have a Texas Chainsaw Massacre meets My Bloody Valentine appearance at times and that was a pretty cool combination to see. I also dug that the one killer had a little blowtorch and the rest had some nasty looking tools that made me uncomfortable just to look at.
Hills and Hollers is a solid no budget effort from Ben Arvin that only suffers from some editing issues that takes the viewer out of the film at times. It's got some interesting killers with rusty tools as weapons, some clever scene transitions, and some nice cinematography that conflicts with the horror playing out on screen. I'd be interested to see what Ben Arvin does next and if he can tighten up his next film a bit, because Hills and Hollers shows promise.
Friday, August 5, 2016
The Mind's Eye is about Zack Connors and Rachel Meadows, two people born with psychokinetic abilities who are patients at an institution headed by Michael Slovak, a doctor determined to harvest their powers. When Zack and Rachel escape the institution, the deranged doctor is obsessed with tracking them down to continue his research and gain control of their abilities for himself.
Graham Skipper and Lauren Ashley Carter are perfect for the roles of Zack and Rachel. The two convey a tortured demeanor that shows their psychokinetic powers as more of a curse than a gift, this is demonstrated nicely in the opening of the film in a scene involving Graham Skipper. Skipper has very expressive eyes which highlight many moments in the film and he gives a solid performance as Zack.
But I really want to focus on Lauren Ashley Carter who has a screen presence that is undeniable. She elevates every scene she is in and has an intensity within her that makes it impossible to take your eyes off her. After seeing her in Pod, Darling, and now The Mind's Eye, it is clear to me that she's a star, plain and simple. I can't praise her enough and she should be on everyone's radar.
The Winter landscape in the film is a nice symbolism for the studies being done at the Slovak Institute where the psychokinetic abilities of the patients lay dormant due to a created serum that is injected into them. But just like the snow will eventually melt, the serum too has a time limit and will eventually wear off. After Zack and Rachel escape the institute, it's only a matter of time until their powers are available to them again.
The lighting creates a contrast between subdued and vibrant colors, a mix of whites and beige's with well placed neon sprays that highlight faces or backdrops. It speaks to the two abilities of the mind in the film: the normality of everyday use and average thoughts and the heightened use of psychokinetic ability. It's a language that runs through the entire film and becomes more apparent as the story progresses.
Tying everything together is a soundtrack that is an energetic symphony of synth, science fiction sound brimming with action. It's powerful and big and plays well over the heart pounding emotions and action we see on the screen.
The Mind's Eye does not shy away from blood and gore and it doesn't disappoint with it's effects. There's a few moments in particular that will have gore hounds cheering and losing their heads.
The Mind's Eye is loaded with action, drips with blood, boasts awesome practical effects, has a killer soundtrack, and a mad scientist angle fused with a body horror aspect that is tons of fun to watch. Writer and director Joe Begos has created a classic in the vein of Cronenberg and Carpenter and there is something for everyone to enjoy in this movie.
You know that kind of movie you wish they still made? The Mind's Eye is it and it needs to be seen.
Monday, July 25, 2016
The Torment of Laurie Ann Cullom is about a woman named Laurie who after being attacked a year ago now suffers from agoraphobia. What she soon realizes over the course of 3 fateful days is that there may be more to fear inside her own home when an intruder begins to torment her.It's ambitious for such a low budget film to do a period piece like this. The 1980's don't seem that long ago but technology and style has changed so much that the production design would require a lot of attention to detail and the film crew pulled it off perfectly. The time period was presented wonderfully without any in your face moments that scream, "see! It's 1988, see!" I can't say the same for some bigger budget productions I've seen recently who go out of their way to make sure you know it's the 80's, so big kudos to the filmmakers here!
The Torment of Laurie Ann Cullom is also largely a one person show with Shannon Scott as Laurie on screen for almost the entire run time and she has the enormous responsibility of getting the viewer to care about what's going on. And Shannon Scott succeeds in a huge way. This actress is extremely likeable and very talented, She comes across as funny, sweet, and very charming. She's a classic girl next door who gives a tense, convincing, and heartbreaking performance once the 'torment' begins. This is one of those movies where you want to yell at the screen and jump in to help the main character, it's no surprise that Shannon Scott won best actress at Freak Show Horror Film Festival.
The music is a spine tingling mix of a distant emergency siren and the sound you feel when adrenaline rushes through your body when your scared. It's a compelling compliment to the dread and frantic antics of Laurie as she struggles keep her composure.
There's also some nice playing with light and dark in the film. Whenever there seems to be someone in the house early on it suddenly seems slightly darker than the scene before and when the intruder shows up he seems to come out of the darkness. In contrast, Laurie always looks bright and well lit until shadows take over the film as night falls. I can't say if these were concious decisions or merely happy accidents but it's something I noticed and it worked!
The Torment of Laurie Ann Cullom is an extremely satisfying watch and well made horror film with a well placed nod to Halloween, a villain who resembles Kane Hodder, and solid songs to represent the era and a musical score that does the same. There are creepy moments, scenes that are hard to watch, and a well paced build up of events all surrounding a sympathetic lead character. That's what makes this film such a great watch for horror fans. Luckily star Shannon Scott and writer/director Mark Dossett are working together again on his next film and based on what I saw in The Torment of Laurie Ann Cullom I can't wait to see it.