Written Reviews

Written Review: For Her (2017)

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“For Her” is a short horror film by Director Daniel Young and Viral Films UK. The film follows the progression of a relationship between a young couple. What begins in the style of a romantic comedy, progresses into chaos before reaching it’s bloody climax.

The film revolves around a young man named Jonathon. Jonathon is seemingly good natured guy, whose undertake the responsibility of taking care of his bedridden girlfriend Elizabeth. As the narrator of the story, the film is presented through Jonathon’s perspective, essentially putting the audience in his shoes.

The relationship between Jonathon and Elizabeth slowly deteriorates as the film progresses, transitioning from endearing affection to annoyance and contempt. This deterioration is exacerbated by the growing severity of Elizabeth’s illness and her increasing dependency on Jonathon. The stress of caring for Elizabeth takes its toll Jonathon, causing him to question his own motivations. Meanwhile, Elizabeth’s attitude towards him changes from that of gratitude to aggression and self entitlement. A darker side of her personality unfolds through her actions towards Jonathon. Conversely, Jonathon’s personality develops through direct interaction with the audience via narration. This provided a greater understanding of the two characters. Both as individuals as well as in relation to each other.

As the film progressed, the care Jonathon showed towards Elizabeth has decayed from unconditional love to conditioned servitude. Losing all rationality and perspective he began unquestionably committing acts violence at Elizabeth’s will. He is exposed as weak willed and reliant on others for direction. By the end of the film, serving Elizabeth becomes his sole reason for living. He exist only “For Her”.

At a run time of twenty minutes, “For Her” covered a wide range of themes. Each scene builds off of the previous one in a manner that felt natural and kept the story moving at a consistent pace. It neither felt rushed nor slow.

Anyone expecting an unrelenting blood bath may be disappointed, as the gore is conserved for only a few scenes. However, the visceral effects that were present were done well enough to satisfy seasoned horror fans.

Overall, “For Her” provides a terrifying glance into the darker sides of relationships and the savage nature of love.

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Arte Factum “Wages of Cine” (Requested Review)

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“Arte Factum” is a sci fi anthology film by “Wages of Cine” productions. Written and directed by Dan Beck and Duane Brown.

As an anthology, Arte Factum is composed of several different short stories connected by a central theme. In this film, each tale revolves around an ancient relic referred to as the Arte Factum, a mysterious orb containing boundless power, which drastically alters the lives of all those who encounter it.

The central story is situated at the Seven Bowls Tavern. A western style bar located in the middle of a nameless desert. Seeking the power of the Arte Factum, a woman enters the tavern where she meets a mysterious cloaked man. The man reveals the secrets of the Arte Factum through twelve stories about people whose lives permanently altered through their interactions with the Arte Factum.

The most striking element of the film involves the chaotic nature of the Arte Factum itself. Defying logic and existing beyond the confines of time and space the Arte Factum can appear anywhere and during any time period, therefore the stories span various time periods and settings from the middle ages of Europe to a distant future set in the far reaches of space. There’s no apparent logic regarding where the orb will appear. It manifestations seem completely arbitrary.

The Arte Factum acts as a force of nature, free of moral judgement its influence is unbiased and acts without regard for anyone unfortunate enough to find themselves within its power. Through the Arte Factum, some characters find salvation, ultimately benefitting from its presence. Others are less fortunate find undue suffering at the orbs presence. No one safe from the unpredictable nature of the Arte Factum. Fate is taken away from those who find the orb as they unwittingly surrender their autonomy.

The themes showcased throughout Arte Factum are perfectly summarized in the word of author H.P. Lovecraft, which briefly appears on screen as the film transitions from its first half to its second half. “The world is indeed comic, but the joke is on mankind”. This quote encapsulates the futility of struggle and forced submission experienced by of the characters of Arte Factum, whose self-determination is abruptly stolen from them the moment they came into contact with the Arte Factum. The horror of finding yourself helpless in the face of forces beyond reason and comprehension is both intriguing and unsettling.

The acting in Arte Factum is exceptional overall. While some performances came off as more experienced than others, there were no performances that broke immersion of the experience. This was helped greatly by the professional sound quality which was clear and concise while also remaining consistent throughout the film.

Despite its overall high quality, there were two noticeable problems in Arte Factum that were difficult to avoid noticing. The first problem involved the action scenes. During the physical confrontations the scenes would inexplicable slow down just as a punch or a strike was launched. This effect unfortunately broke some of the tension in what was intended to be scenes. However, this scenes were few and when put into proper context, these scenes were done quite well when the budget of this independent film is taken into consideration.

The second issue was in regards to the usage of CG. In general, I am not a not a fan of CGI, preferring practical effects if necessary. However, I am aware that practical effects can only go so far in regards to things such as explosions and background effects. Unfortunately, with the vast array of multi billion dollar CGI film, it’s difficult to avoid noticing cheaper and less realistic looking CGI. This is just an unfortunate reality of modern day film, and should not be held against the film and detract from its overall quality.

In conclusion, Arte Factum is a well-constructed film that explores complex topics in an intelligent and entertaining manner. Each story helped build upon the mystery behind the Arte Facte, culminating into a satisfying film experience.

Arte Factum

*Special thanks to Dan Beck and “Wages of Cine” for their support of the show.

Written Review: Hellraiser (1987)

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“Hellraiser” is a film that manages to disturb viewers in all the right ways. It blurs the already nebulous line between pleasure and pain, mixing love with cruelty in a way that provokes curiosity into the raw vulgarity hidden within our subconscious. It’s a violent and visceral experience, but takes meticulous efforts not to waste a single drop of blood. Despite the plethora of carnage there is no excess. Every disgusting detail serves to further explore a reality in which sin and vice are unfiltered by societal norms and where people wander endlessly in the pursuit of materialistic satisfaction. Within the tumult of lust and greed exist an order of demons referred to as the Cenobites. The Cenobites act as the gatekeepers of chaos. They shield us from the harsh realities of human nature and maintain order between the savage beast and rational being that make up the contradiction that is mankind. Through the Cenobites, we are given a glimpse into the darkest corners of the human soul, where fear and desire intersect and become indistinguishable from each other. A place we try to deny and turn  away from, but is permanently engraved into our very being.

Written Review: Beyond Re-Animator

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“Beyond Re-Animator” is the final installment of Stuart Gordon’s
“Re-animator” series that began in 1985, Like most late installments, this movie comes off as unnecessary and a failed attempt to cash in on a popular title. In the fashion of “Jason goes to Hell”, “Freddy’s dead: The Final Nightmare” and “Halloween: H20”, Beyond Re-animator attempts to restart the series by trying to retcon certain plot elements while pretending to be a legitimate sequel. The result, as usual is a colossal mess of inconsistencies, leaving only the most superficial elements from the originals and leaving out the heart of what made the originals so beloved in the first place. We find our protagonist Herbert West imprisoned in a federal jail after his former assistant Dan Kain apparently turned him in to the authorities for his illegal experimentation. We never find out why Dan, a prominent character in the original films would do such a thing and Beyond Re-animator brushes off any details as unimportant. We’re also provided with no explanation as to how West escaped the cliffhanger conflict at the end of the last film “Bride of Re-animator”.
Jeffrey Combs reprises his role as the mad scientist, who continues his devilish experiments on whatever subjects he can gain access to within the confines of his small prison cell. However,
everything changes for West when Dr. Howard Philips (Jason Barry) takes
over as the prison physician. Philips had witnessed the power of West’s
reagent serum as a child and has since become obsessed with the science of re-animating the dead. Handing West his iconic syringe containing the glowing green reagent, it’s only a matter of time before West restarts his old experiments, and the entire prison is thrown into chaos. The film plays out in the typical fashion that we’ve
come to expect from this series. Characters die only to be used as test subjects for West and Philips who bring them back to life as vicious, murderous monsters. The style blends graphic body horror with ridiculous slap stick comedy. While entertaining at times, Beyond
Re-animator does little more than copy it’s predecessors and fails to
further the story of Herbert West in any meaningful way. The absence of
Stuart Gordon is obvious as the film feels more like a what if
scenario, rather than a genuine attempt to further an existing mythos.
The story is convoluted as the majority of scenes serve little more than excuses to get from A to point B. For example, there’s an ongoing joke about one of the inmates having a pet rat. We see West experiment on the rat which serves as an all to predictable
foreshadowing of the rat being re-animated as one of West’s
experiments and eventually attacking his former owner. The characters in this film, save for Herbert West, were all one dimensional and failed to establish meaningful identities for themselves. Herbert West is deranged and lacking in social graces as always, making him the sole source of entertainment. By comparison, the scenes without West were uninteresting and took up far to much of the film’s run time. It was fun seeing Jeffrey Combs reprise his
most famous role one last time. However, the unoriginal plot and hollow
performances by the rest of the cast simply couldn’t keep up with him
and ultimately dragged him down along with them and the rest of this film.
Beyond Re-animator attempted to bring new life to the Re-animator
series. Unfortunately, this experiment was a failure.

Play Violet for Me (2015)

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“Play Violet for me” is a murder mystery in the style of a classic Noir film. Foley, a stalker obsessed with a young woman named Violet, finds Violet murdered one night after following her home. He calls Violet’s identical twin sister Lyla to discuss the murder and affirms his innocence. The film transitions between the present day and the past, showing the exchange between Foley and Lyla as well as scenes of Foley’s increasing obsession with Violet up until her murder. The present is shown in black and white to portray the somber overtone of the murder being discussed. Conversely, the past is represented in bright and vibrant colors, symbolizing Foley’s idealized version of the past.  After listening to Foley’s story, Lyla confesses to murdering her sister and claims that she was actually Violet all along. Foley’s failure to identify Violet reveals his obsession as nothing more than him projecting character traits onto someone he never actually knew. This exposes his feelings as superficial and lacking justification in reality. Violet had used Foley’s obsession to set him up as the main suspect of her sister’s murder, placing him at the scene of the crime. In the end it’s uncertain whether the murderer was in fact Violet, or Lyla playing her sister and taking on Violet’s identity. This film questions the very concept of identity and whether our perceptions and the qualities we attribute to ourselves and others define reality.

The Curse of Blanchard Hill (2006)

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This movie is so forgettable that I’m having trouble coming up with anything to say about it. The plot revolved around an area in the woods called “Blanchard Hill”, that was cursed by the restless souls of a native tribe. The souls would possess people who entered the woods and have them kill any white people they encountered as revenge for how they treated the natives in the past. The story has potential, but the execution is extremely poor. Most of the scenes have little to no connection to the plot and are nothing more than filler intended to extended the length of the film to full length status. It’s obvious that the film crew had little to no budget while making this movie so they were unable to really include any nature related deaths. This resulted in the film looking more like a typical demonic possession story told poorly. The themes and moral lessons present in “The Curse of Blanchard Hill” are heavy handed and come off as trying to hard. There’s really no point in watching this movie, unless you plan on sleeping for an hour and fourteen minutes.

Absolution (2003)

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I’ve watched hundreds of low budget films. As such I’ve learned to
judge what I watch by how well executed the film is given the budget
and technology restrictions that the film crew had available.
Therefore, I feel secure saying that “Absolution” is such a terrible
film that I was barely able to sit through it. This movie is part of
the “Sub Rosa Extreme” collection, which consist low budget,
underground films shot on home video. Most of the films by this
production company are meant to imitate existing films, but with more
explicit and “extreme” content. These films consist of titles such as
“I Spit on your corpse, I piss on your Grave”, “Last House on Hell
Street” and “Killers by Nature”. All obvious rip offs of well known
films. “Absolution” attempts to be every Quentin Tarantino film ever
made all at once and fails miserably at it. Each scene consist almost
entirely of dialogue so forced and cringe worthy that it took every
once of will power I had not to turn it off or fast forward through 99
percent of it. The poor visual and audio quality only served to make
the experience even more unbearable. The plot is virtually non
existent, jumping from scene to scene with little to no transition. If
you wish to keep your sanity, then I suggest you stay away from this
one at all cost. This film isn’t bad just because it was made on a low
budget. It’s bad because every quality of it is offensive to the
senses.