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Fantastic Fest Reviews: “Halloween”, “An Evening with Beverly Luff Linn” & “Cam”

Halloween (2018)

The opening night film at Fantastic Fest was none other than the highly anticipated sequel, Halloween (2018). Jamie Lee Curtis returns to her iconic role as Laurie Strode to come face-to-face with masked serial killer, Michael Myers, who has haunted her since the traumatic night four decades ago.

The film is inspired by John Carpenter’s classic. But filmmakers David Gordon Green and Danny McBride decided to ignore all the other sequels that followed the original Halloween from 1978, and create a story that changes Laurie’s past. In other words, 40 years later Laurie is a bad ass. Michael Myers is not her brother. And, she’s prepared to take on whatever he throws her way.

Laurie Strode is one hell of a grandma in Halloween (2018). Though her daughter (Judy Greer) still resents her for making her grow up as a survivalist since childhood, her granddaughter, Allyson, (Andi Matichak) adores her. This creates tension anytime the family is all together. It isn’t until Halloween night that Michael Myers returns to wreak havoc, and finally finish the job he started 40 years ago. Only this time he’s up against 3 generations of Strode women.

Halloween (2018) far from a stand out horror flick. We’re basically seeing the same formula just different ways of murder. However, this film is a lot of fun! McBride’s writing shines throughout the film, and it’s the comic relief that provides any sort of originality. But don’t get me wrong, I love this formula and it’s great to see Curtis back in action in a role she handles so naturally. The movie entertains the whole time through and will leave you satisfied.

Rating: 3.5/5

 

An Evening with Beverly Luff Linn

Surprisingly enough, the people that brought us The Greasy Strangler, which I hated; has now made An Evening with Beverly Luff Linn, which I really liked a lot. Jim Hosking is back with a second feature that maintain his same style and his same personal dialect. Only this time, he let go of the nauseating grease murderers and swapped it out for characters we could actually care for.

Aubrey Plaza (Parks and Recreation) stars a Lulu Danger, a recently unemployed woman who is unsatisfied with her marriage to sleazy Shane Danger (Emile Hirsch) and life all together. In an attempt to fix the couples financial troubles, Shane steals from his brother-in-law. Which then makes him the target of the world’s worst hitman (Jermaine Clement). But Lulu sees this as an opportunity, she runs off with the hitman in hopes that he can help her track down her old flame, Beverly Luff Linn (Craig Robinson).

This offbeat comedy takes a minute to warm up to. You might not be sure of the flow it’s taking. But once it gets going, it’s actually quite delightful. The all-star cast does a fantastic job, and this might be my favorite performance by Aubrey Plaza. There’s a very unique and corky chemistry between Plaza and Clement that’s almost endearing.

An Evening with Beverly Luff Linn is the light-hearted deadpan comic relief that I was craving during a marathon of graphic horrors at Fantastic Fest.

Rating: 4/5

 

Cam

After letting Cam marinate for a bit, it quickly became one of my favorite films of the fest. Daniel Goldhaber’s feature debut is smart, sexy, and disturbing.

The film stars Madeline Brewer (Orange is the New Black and The Handmaid’s Tale) as Alice, a young web cam girl who is on the rise to breaking top 50 rank on a pornographic site.  Alice lives a normal life by day, but at night she is “Lola” and constantly comes up with wild narratives to spice up her online shows. She is anxious to reach the top and beat out the other cam girls in the network. However, she never breaks her 3 rules: No public shows, no fake orgasms, and never telling “her guys” that she loves them.

Just when Alice is moving up in her ranking, she has an unwelcoming surprise when she sees a girl who looks just like her live on her web cam profile. Frantic and paranoid, Alice is on a mission to find out who has taken her identity and stolen her top rank.

Even though 60 percent of Cam consists of a bunch of web cam girls performing erotic acts, the film is incredibly magnetizing. It’s as if you’re in a trance the minute the film begins and you can’t stop watching. The neon lighting, the shocking sequences, and the captivating performance by Brewer is enough to suck you in.

Cam is the movie you didn’t know you wanted to see. It’s a tantalizing thrill-ride with a bone-crushing end that will leave you wanting more.

Rating: 4.5/5

Fantastic Fest Interview: Allison Williams & Richard Shepard talk “The Perfection”

Richard Shepard, Allison Williams, and Logan Browning on the red carpet at Fantastic Fest for the premiere of “The Perfection”.

 

This was my first year at Fantastic Fest and I was treated to a lot of great movies. But the one that stands above the rest was Richard Shepard’s (The Matador and Dom Hemingway) horror-thriller, The Perfection.

The film follows Charlotte (Allison Williams), a former child prodigy cellist, who after a decade returns to the people that helped train and groom her into the powerhouse sensation she once was. However, another woman Elizabeth (Logan Browning), has taken her place and what unfolds after the two’s meeting is better left a mystery until viewing.

Director Richard Shepard explained his inspiration behind the movie came from the structure of Korean movies like Old Boy and The Handmaiden. “American movies don’t do that sort of structure and I had been itching to do a film with horror elements.”

Allison Williams (Girls and Get Out) stars alongside Dear White People’s, Logan Browning. Both give unforgettable performances that will have audiences squirming in their seats. While the two were magnetic on screen, they were also helpful behind the scenes. “I invited both Allison and Logan in the editing room because I felt, Oh they’re going to be able to help me see things I may not see. Because an actor inherently has a bullshit detector that a lot of people don’t have. Because it’s so hard to be an actor. Actors really have to lose themselves and if something feels false, they know it almost more than anyone,” said Shepard.

Without giving too much away, you’re never certain which direction this intense thrill ride is going take until the very end. But the journey getting there is a good one. “I wish there was a way, and I guess there is, to attach some kind of monitoring system to audiences watching this movie. About like who they trust, what they think the plot is, throughout the movie; and it would be like an EKG and like spiking, you know? And I think that’s one of the things Richard does so well. As an audience member watching, you know that whoever made it is in control of it. So it’s not that awful feeling of I don’t know what’s going on and I think I’m supposed to know what’s going on. You’re like I know exactly as much as the filmmaker wants me to know in this moment, and it’s really fun not knowing anything more than that,” explained Williams.

Finding the balance of making a movie that keeps the audience on its toes while still maintaining focus is a rare skill.  And often times, a film that tries to trick the audience too much can result in a mess. Luckily, The Perfection never veers off track. “I believe that if that we can keep the audience off kilter, but at the same time have them care about the characters even when their doing stuff that they can’t believe their doing; they still care for them. It’s also challenging because you don’t want to lose your audience. You want to make the surprises feel fun as opposed to confusing.” said Shepard.

Williams then went on to explain how the film immediately will have you hooked, “It takes guts to start it off with the film’s opening shots of just static like locked frames, and its muted colors and it’s clearly a sad scene. For a film buff, there’s sort of an embarrassment of riches in there. It sort of tells you everything you need to know about the movie, but you just have no idea yet. Most opening scenes of movies are sort of tangential to the actual plot of the movie, but hopefully they’re of the same caliber. This is much more informative than anyone will know until they finish watching the movie.”

Williams added that The Perfection is a film that should be seen twice as you will gain respect for it after a second viewing and realizing how deliberate everything was. “We labored over this. We cared about every millisecond of the movie. And it wasn’t until yesterday. There was a group of us that thought about every second we put into this. And it’s so vulnerable to care so much about something. And now it doesn’t belong to us anymore; it belongs to you guys.”

Though The Perfection may be baffling at first, just relax and let the film string you along. This is a performance that’s worth sitting through.

Rating: 5/5 (The title is self-explanatory, this film is a perfect score)

Movie Review: “Blumhouse’s Truth or Dare” – A Convoluted Plot, Scattered with a Few Scares

I’ll be honest; when I first saw the trailer for this film, I was immediately intrigued. Turning a game that I have loved playing with my friends since childhood into a horror flick sounded surprisingly clever. Think about it. The actual game of truth or dare is kind of scary. You could be forced to share secrets that would ruin friendships, or do things that could ruin you. With that thought in mind, Blumhouse’s Truth or Dare had the potential to really shine. Unfortunately, the film is just a commercialized knock off of The Ring (2002) and Would You Rather (2012).

We first meet our protagonist, Olivia (Lucy Hale), while she is posting a video on social media about her Habitat for Humanity plans this spring break. But, those plans quickly change. Olivia’s best friend, Markie (Violett Beane), begs her to spend the break partying in Mexico instead of helping people in need of homes. After about five seconds of deliberation, Olivia agrees and the girls are off to Mexico with four other close friends.

Once they get to Mexico, we see a cliché montage of the group having fun, partying, and taking selfies. But of course, they couldn’t just leave it at that. Nope, the group foolishly decides to follow a stranger they met at the bar to “a fun place”. Yup, it was that easy. They are led to an abandoned church, and the mysterious new friend suggests they play truth or dare. They soon to come to find out that the game is haunted by a demon, and now they are forced to play the game forever or die.

As silly as the premise sounds, the film still manages to conjure up a few screams. The actual dares keep you on edge and can be a little gruesome at times. So in that sense the film is effective. But as a whole, the film flounders. The dialogue is cheesy, and feels more like a teen drama series. Dare I say like Pretty Little Liars? There is also way too much crammed into this movie. The few character backstories are rushed, and the journey to finding out how to the end the game is confusing.

The acting is decent; lots of controlled tear drops. There’s a ridiculous love triangle in there somewhere between Markie, her boyfriend Lucas (Tyler Posey), and Olivia. But I chose not to put much thought into that because, clearly, the writers didn’t either. I blame most of my qualms on the script. These young actors are capable of giving better performances in a more solid film.

Blumhouse’s Truth or Dare may entertain its target teen audience with its attractive cast and tense moments, but their money might be better spent if they save this one for a rental.

Rating: 2.5/5

“Blumhouse’s Truth or Dare” opens in theaters April 13.

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“Get Out” One Year Later – Free Screenings on President Day!

First-Come, First-Served Offer Valid at 55 AMC Theatres Nationwide to Guests of the 7:00 P.M. Screenings on Monday, February 19

Universal City, CA, February 13, 2018—Filmmaker Jordan Peele, in conjunction with Universal Pictures, today announced free screenings of Universal’s Get Out on Presidents’ Day, February 19, at 55 AMC locations nationwide.  Each guest who requests a ticket the day of the screening—at a participating location—will be given one free admission to the 7:00 p.m. showing, up to theatre capacity.

Since its release in theatres in February 2017, Get Out has been nominated for four Academy Awards®, while inspiring audiences and artists worldwide.  A compilation video was also released that showcases the artwork inspired by Get Out—featuring the hashtag #GetOutOneYearLater—to encourage audiences to share more of their artwork, experiences and discussions that were influenced by the movie.

The promotion will be available at each of the 55 AMC Theatres playing the special screening of Get Out at 7:00 p.m. on February 19.  Free tickets will be available on a first-come, first-served basis and may only be picked up at the AMC box office that day.  Each guest must present a valid ID to receive their ticket, with a limit of one free ticket for each ID presented, while supplies last.  This offer is valid for the 7:00 p.m. showing of the film on February 19, only.

Markets that will playing Get Out on Presidents’ Day include ones in Atlanta, GA; Baltimore, MD; Boston, MA; Charlotte, NC; Chicago, IL; Cincinnati, OH; Columbus, OH; Dallas, TX; Denver, CO; Detroit, MI; Houston, TX; Indianapolis, IN; Jacksonville, FL; Kansas City, MO; Los Angeles, CA; Miami/Ft. Lauderdale, FL; Minneapolis, MN; Nashville, TN; New Orleans, LA; New York City, NY; Oklahoma City, OK; Orlando, FL; Philadelphia, PA; Phoenix, AZ; Pittsburgh, PA; Raleigh/Durham, NC; San Diego, CA; San Francisco/Oakland/San Jose, CA; Seattle/Tacoma, WA; St. Louis, MO; Tallahassee, FL; Tampa, FL; and Washington, D.C.  To find out more information, visit www.getoutoneyearlater.com.

“When Jordan approached us about a way to thank fans one year after the release of Get Out, we thought a Presidents’ Day screening during Black History Month would be a wonderful way to commemorate the film’s impact,” said Jim Orr, President, Distribution, Universal Pictures.  “The success of his stunning vision would not have been possible without the audience’s passion for both Get Out’s groundbreaking storytelling and its deft use of art as society’s mirror.”

For more information and a list of theatres offering the special screenings, please visit www.getoutoneyearlater.com.  Broadcast-quality clips from Get Out are available at www.epk.tv, and stills are available at www.image.net.

 

About Universal Pictures

Universal Pictures is a division of Universal Studios (www.universalstudios.com).  Universal Studios is part of NBCUniversal.  NBCUniversal is one of the world’s leading media and entertainment companies in the development, production and marketing of entertainment, news and information to a global audience.  NBCUniversal owns and operates a valuable portfolio of news and entertainment networks, a premier motion picture company, significant television production operations, a leading television stations group and world-renowned theme parks.  NBCUniversal is a subsidiary of Comcast Corporation.

Interview: Tyler Perry talks “Boo 2! A Madea Halloween”

Tyler Perry made the rounds, promoting his new movie, “Tyler Perry’s Boo 2! A Madea Halloween”. I sat down with the writer/director/actor to discuss his new film, how to make kids respect their elders, and more!

“Boo 2! A Madea Halloween” hits theaters on October 20.

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Movie Review: “Happy Death Day” Delivers Laughs and Scares

“Groundhog Day” meets “Scream” in this surprisingly funny, mystery thriller.

Sorority girl, Tree Gelbman (Jessica Rothe) wakes up hungover on her birthday in a stranger’s (Isreal Broussard) bed. She discovers she stayed the night with nerdy classmate, Carter, and rudely exits his dorm room. Thus begins her rampage of being a narcissistic mean girl to everyone who crosses her path. As we get a peek into a day in the life of Tree, we learn she ignores her father’s call, she’s sleeping with her married professor, and constantly belittles others. I know, hard to believe someone wants to kill her. As the night draws near, Tree heads to a party and is quickly stabbed to death by someone in a disturbing baby mask–oddly enough, that is the school’s mascot.  She then wakes up, and is forced to keep reliving her birthday with each day ending in her being murdered in some gruesome way. As Tree grows weaker with each consecutive loop, she must unmask her murderer and stop them from finishing her off for good.

Writer Scott Lobell does a great job with this clever script, as he adds a lot of humor and makes the film self-aware to the fact that this is a cheesy horror. The self-awareness allows for the movie to go beyond cliché lines and really have fun with a decently, thought out mystery. At this point I’ve described more of a comedy, but director Christopher Landon achieves a handful of scares that will have audiences jumping in their chairs.

The film’s story is solid, but the key ingredient here is the engaging breakout performance by Jessica Rothe. She nails the strong bitchy exterior that actually allows us to not feel guilty when we laugh at her numerous deaths, yet still gains sympathy towards her hopeful victory. Rachel Matthews, who plays an even more awful sorority sister, might provide the most laugh out moments with her over the top bitchy lines.

Whatever “Happy Death Day” lacks in the horror, it makes up for it in its entertainment. Reminiscent of the “Scream” era, it provides the same kind of “whodunit” feel that keeps you guessing till the very end.

I can’t say that this film should be at the top of your must-see list, but if you are looking for a few scares and fun time during this Halloween season, then “Happy Death Day” is the perfect choice.

Rating: 3.75/5

“Happy Death Day” opens in theaters October 13.

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Movie Review: “Get Out” is an Excellent Mix of Horror and Comedy

Image result for get out movie

Every once in a while a horror flick comes along that not only scares, but also includes plenty of laughs along the way. In the past few years, films like “The Visit” and “The Guest” have provided this full package. And now at the start of 2017, comedian Jordan Peele (“Key and Peele”) has captured this rarity again, and presented us with the gift of his directorial debut, “Get Out”.

Based on the film’s trailer alone, audiences knew we were in for some race-savvy satire that would lead to a number of awkward scenes. But, these moments of comic relief are so subtle and well executed that they blend perfectly with the eerie tension, while still keeping you engrossed in the suspense of the movie.

“Get Out” follows Chris (Daniel Kaluuya), an African American photographer who’s planning to meet his Caucasian girlfriend’s parents for the first time. They are set to head upstate to her family’s secluded home, and of course, Chris expresses his concern by asking if they know he is black? Rose (Allison Williams) laughs it off and assures Chris that her parents are totally cool. To give him comfort, she lets him know that her dad would have voted for Obama a third term. Oh good, now we all feel so much better… Chris’ best friend (Lil Rel Howery) even warns him not go, but he does not listen.

On the drive to her parents’ house they hit a deer, foreshadowing an unpleasant visit ahead of them. And it’s here that we get our first act of racism with a cop who insists on seeing Chris’ ID after the accident, even though Rose was driving. Luckily, Rose diffuses the situation in a pretty knight in shining armor way.

Image result for get out movie

Finally, they arrive to her parents’ home, and both are welcomed with open arms. Rose’s mom Missy (Catherine Keener) and her dad Dean (Bradley Whitford) appear to be nice. Dean comes across a bit foolish at times with a few ignorant remarks when trying to “bond” with Chris, but other than that the parents seem harmless. However, their two African American servants, Georgina (Betty Gabriel) and Walter (Marcus Henderson) behave in a very odd manner with forced smiles and unusual emotional breakouts.

Things just continue to get stranger. Missy offers to hypnotize Chris so that he can quit smoking. Rose’s brother Jeremy (Caleb Landry Jones) makes it blatantly clear that he does not care for his sister’s new boyfriend. Then there’s a disturbing party in which Chris is hounded by the many white people in attendance. Soon enough, everything begins to unwind.

Jordan Peele’s script is sharp, witty, and an effective horror. There are subtle Hitchcock-like notes in his story telling. Peele’s cast only furthers his film with their well-rounded performances. Keener and Whitford do an incredible job maintaining their creepy, Stepford Wives composure. Major kudos to Lil Rel Howery for being the character that hilariously speaks on behalf of everyone in the audience.

“Get Out” is a refreshing horror-comedy that will keep you on edge till the very end!

Rating: 4/5

“Get Out” opens in theaters February 24th.

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Movie Review: “The Visit” is a Welcoming Comeback for M. Night Shyamalan

the visit

M. Knight Shyamalan was once known for his great films such as The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable, and Signs.  Unfortunately, his more recent projects have subjected us to some underwhelming, pieces of crap like The Happening and After Earth.  Well folks, I’m pleased to say that Shyamalan’s newest film, The Visit, succeeds as a highly entertaining horror-comedy!

Kathryn Hahn plays a single mother of two who has not spoken to her parents since she left home at the age of 19, and ran off with an older man.  Now, her parents have reached out to her through the internet and ask that her children come to visit their Nana (Deanna Dunagan) and Pop Pop (Peter McRobbie), whom they’ve never met.

Per the kids’ wishes, the mom sends them to their grandparents’ isolated, Pennsylvania farmhouse in the woods for a week while she goes on a cruise with her new boyfriend.  The eldest child, Becca (Olivia DeJonge), is an aspiring filmmaker.  She takes this opportunity to document her entire trip, and hopefully uncover exactly what happened the day her mother walked out on her parents and maybe even mend their relationship.  Alongside her, as a second camera operator is her younger, germ phobic, rapping brother, Tyler (Olivia DeJonge).

The trip starts all well and good, Nana makes plenty of tasty treats and Pop Pop enjoys listening to Tyler’s ridiculously, hilarious raps.  Seems as though it will be a great week for the kids; that is until they discover why bed time is at 9:30pm.  Nana goes from a harmless, nocturnal sleepwalker to a straight up psychotic, creepy, crawler within each passing night!  And what exactly is Pop Pop doing when he disappears inside his mysterious shed?

As things are turning eerie fast, the kids are desperate to have their mother come get them before anymore craziness unfolds.

Shyamalan has not only redeemed himself as a filmmaker, but he has also brought originality to the found-footage genre.  His combination of humor and terror will have audiences uncomfortably laughing while still on the edge of their seats as they nervously anticipate what’s to come.

The acting is good overall, especially when it comes to the two kids, who could have ruined the whole film if they were wrongly cast.  Oxenbould was given some cheesy lines and potentially bad jokes, but his delivery and timing is so on point that you can’t help but enjoy every second he’s on screen.  But the real stand out here is Nana.  Dunagan gives an incredible performance as the disturbing grandmother who seesaws from sweet and nurturing to plain insanity.

The Visit provides comedy, horror, family, and best of all, a startling amount of effed up sh**.  Literally!

Rating: 4/5

The Visit opens in theaters on September 11.

Coming Soon: “The Babadook”

The Babadook

Director/ Writer: Jennifer Kent

Stars: Essie Davis, Daniel Henshall, Tim Purcell

Synopsis 

Six years after the violent death of her husband, Amelia is at a loss. She struggles to discipline her ‘out of control’ 6-year-old, Samuel, a son she finds impossible to love. Samuel’s dreams are plagued by a sinister monster he believes is coming to kill them both. When a disturbing storybook called ‘The Babadook’ turns up at their house, Samuel is convinced that the Babadook is the creature he’s been dreaming about. His hallucinations spiral out of control and as he becomes more unpredictable and violent, Amelia is genuinely frightened by her son’s behaviour. But when Amelia begins to see glimpses of a sinister presence all around her, it slowly dawns on her that the thing Samuel has been warning her about may be real.

“The Babadook” just won the Best Horror Feature, Best Screenplay, Best Actor, and Best Actress Awards at the 2014 Fantastic Fest.

Be sure to catch this terrifying psychological thriller when it hits theaters November 28th!  Direct TV subscribers will have a chance to catch the film in their house on Halloween!

*Movie Review will be posted closer to release date.

“The Babadook” Official Trailer HD

Interview: “The Houses October Built”

The Houses October Built

Director: Bobby Roe

Writers: Bobby Roe, Zack Andrews, Jason Zada

Stars: Zack Andrews, Bobby Roe, Mikey Roe, and Brandy Schaefer

Synopsis

Looking to find an authentic, blood-curdling good fright for Halloween, five friends set off on a road trip in an RV to track down these underground Haunts. Just when their search seems to reach a dead end, strange and disturbing things start happening and it becomes clear that the Haunt has come to them.

I sat down with Zack Andrews, Bobby Roe, Mikey Roe, and Brandy Schaefer to discuss their new film, “The Houses October Built.”

Click here for “The Houses October Built” Interview